N-deal in bag, PM asks EU business titans to invest in India

Paris, Sep 30 (IANS) With a nuclear pact with France in his bag, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday underlined India’s “investor-friendly policy regime” as he asked top European business leaders to raise their stakes in emerging areas in his country, including infrastructure and power generation.

“Our government is placing special emphasis on infrastructure development – both urban and rural infrastructure. Huge investments are needed in the areas of energy, power, roads, railways, airports and ports,” Manmohan Singh told business leaders at the concluding session of the 9th India-EU business summit held at Hotel de Crillon.

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“We hope that foreign direct investment would contribute substantially. I urge you to look at the investor-friendly policy regime we have created, including by encouraging public-private partnerships,” he stressed a day after India and the EU agreed to double their bilateral trade to 100 billion euros in the next five years.

“Civil nuclear commerce is another area that has opened up for cooperation. Today we signed a bilateral agreement in this area with France and we expect to finalise agreements with other European countries,” he said.

Commerce Minister Kamal Nath was also present at the business summit that brings top Indian and European business leaders together in an annual conclave aimed at enhancing business ties between the two sides.

A 60-member strong delegation from the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) participated in the business conclave.

Manmohan Singh, a renowned economist who opened India’s economy in the early 1990s, admitted that the Indian economy, growing at an average rate of nine percent in the past four years, is expected to slow down in 2008-09, reflecting the trend in the global economy.

But he underlined that medium-term prospects of India’s growth remained strong based on “sound fundamentals”.

“We have weathered the current credit crisis facing the global banking and financial sectors. Our savings rate is touching 35 percent,” he said.

“Our direct tax collections for the first five months of the current financial year grew by 48 percent compared to last year. India would, therefore, continue to provide a stable platform for businessmen and investors,” he added.

Stressing that technology transfers would be key to promoting synergies between India and the EU, he singled out power generation, cooperation in services, skill development, solar energy, nuclear commerce, agricultural productivity and research and space.

Admitting that the democratic system in India can be “a little unwieldy at times” leading to infrastructure bottlenecks and delays, the prime minister assured the European business leaders he will address these issues “in a transparent manner”.

“But for every project that faces problems, there are hundreds that take off. So I urge you to have faith and to invest in the future of our relationship,” he said.