Sydney: President Ram Nath Kovind, while stressing the need for strengthening the economic ties between India and Australia, on Thursday said that Indian market offered the “companies and investors island continenta huge consumer base and the prospect of considerable returns.”
Addressing the Australian Financial Review India Business Summit here on Thursday, the Indian President said that Australian super-funds or pension funds have a reputation for careful, calibrated investment decisions. “They will find the Indian infrastructure space worth their while – with long-term investments, steady to high returns, confidence in growing consumption, and security in contractual adherence,” he said.
“India is in the midst of an infrastructure push of unusual urgency. A determined accretion in highway construction; a nation-wide urban and rural broadband roll-out; creating new railway and freight corridors; an ambitious programme of modernizing ports; high-speed train networks in major urban centres; expanding air connectivity using upgraded as well as green-field airports; industrial corridors that are gathering momentum – the buzz of construction is everywhere. Large cranes and armies of workers in hard hats dot the Indian landscape,” he said.
President Kovind said that bilateral trade numbers have grown but remain below potential. India-Australia trade was valued at about USD 21 billion in 2018. “Our trade basket must grow. I am confident that we will make progress on the Australia-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement,” President Kovind added.
“India is positively and constructively engaging in the negotiations and will contribute to the conclusion of RCEP by 2019. India looks forward to a balanced outcome that results in a modern, comprehensive and mutually beneficial economic Partnership,” President Kovind said.
The Indian President also mentioned the contributions made by the Indian Diaspora to the Australian economy, majorly in sectors of local business eco-systems as well as opening job and innovation avenues.
“I have been told that here in Australia, India-born migrants are the second-highest tax-paying diaspora after the United Kingdom born migrants. That must please the Prime Minister and in India too,” President Kovind said.
The Indian President also praised the Australians as ‘a growing part of the work-force’ in fields as far apart as software and entertainment. The Indian Premier League, perhaps the hottest cricket start-up of all time, recruits many high-performing and highly-paid cricket professionals from Australia -players, coaches and support staff. In their own way, the Indians in Australia and the Australians in India are showing us the future, he said.
“They say cricket is a metaphor for life. I believe it is also a metaphor for business. Australian business-persons and investors looking to India should borrow from the methods of cricketers,” President Kovind mentioned.
“The most successful Australian batsmen in India have been those who have shown patience, read the conditions carefully, settled down for long innings, nurtured dependable partnerships – and not fallen for spin. Come to India. The pitch is ready!” he added.
Speaking in terms of investments, President Kovind said, “Australia and India have too much at stake in each other to not up to their game. We can collaborate and benefit from each other’s expertise in fin-tech and logistics, in industrial design and biotech, in the capital markets and in the farm-to-fork management of the food chain – even in space tech and satellite launch services, where India’s long-standing space programme will be happy to support the new Australian Space Agency. It’s not that Australian companies are not present in India – it’s just that there is still enormous room for us to work together.”
The Indian leader, in his speech also mentioned India drew about USD 62 billion in the financial year 2017-18. This was one of the important reasons behind India’s high GDP growth, 8.2 per cent, in the previous quarter.
President Kovind also noted that the fiscal and regulatory processes in India were also significantly revamped. The Goods and Services Tax regime and Make in India programme has marked a more structured business system in the country.
“In parallel, on the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index India has moved up from a rank of 142 in 2014 to 77 in 2018. This 65 step jump is the biggest for any single country. Such investment policies and infrastructure promotions have made India a hub for new, exciting and global businesses,” President Kovind said.
“We are the first major country that is seeking to make that leap into industrialization while also combating climate change, and while reducing the intensity of dependence on fossil fuels,” the Indian President said. “India has set itself a target of 175 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2022, of which 100 giga-watts will comprise solar energy. We are on course to not just achieving that target but exceeding it,” he noted.
President Kovind also praised Australia’s economy that has expanded strongly in the past quarter-century. India’s economic integration with the global business system and international corporation too has strengthened. “In recent years, India has renewed its commitment to a liberal, transparent and globalized economy. In terms of openness to foreign capital and international investors, India is in the top league. Business sector after the business sector, from aviation to mining to defense production, has had doors thrown open to global players and investors,” he said.
In the end, President Kovind thanked the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison for the warm hospitality shown towards him and his official delegation. “I gather that Prime Minister Morrison has a taste for Indian food and in fact cooks a mean curry. I am sure he can help us come up with a recipe for even better Australia-India relations,” he said.