Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said governance reform is his number one priority, during a meeting with a group of top American CEOs with a collective net worth of USD 4.5 trillion.
"Reform in governance is my No 1 priority. We are for simplified procedures, speedy decision making, transparency and accountability," Modi told over 40 CEOs of Fortune 500 companies over a dinner as he presented a page-long fact sheet of the steps taken by his government in the last one year.
Among the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies attending event were Lockheed Martin Chairman and CEO Marillyn Hewson, Ford President and CEO Mark Fields, IBM Chairman Ginni Rometty, Pepsi Co Chief Indra Nooyi, and Dow Chemical Chairman Andrew Liveris.
Some of the CEOs attending the dinner described it as "report card," adding that this reflected the great transparency of the Modi Government.
"Please continue to do more what you are doing. May be slightly faster," External Affairs Minister spokesperson Vikas Swarup said.
Briefing reporters after the day long meetings, Indian Ambassador to the US Arun K Singh said the comments made by some of the CEOs was that a lot of progress has been made in the last one year, but it has been inaccurately assessed and reported.
During the meeting, the Prime Minister said the foreign direct investment (FDI) all over the world has fallen but in India it has increased by 40 per cent.
"This reflects confidence in the Indian economy," Modi said.
During the meeting, Swarup said the Prime Minister listened from each one of the CEOs present in the room on what their plans are for India and what are the problems they are facing and how that can be resolved.
"By and large the mood was very upbeat. There is general consensus that the Prime Minister is effecting change in India. The only thing all the CEOs said is that please make that change faster," the Indian diplomat said.
Modi told the CEOs that fundamentally he believes in deregulation, the government should allow the private sector to develop and that he is for predictable, transparent and accountable governance.
Giving a sense of day long interactions that the Prime Minister had with the corporate world, Singh said that it came through clearly that most people felt that this was a very good moment for India in the global context.
"If you look at the global trends, this was the unique opportunity to move ahead, attract capital and finds moments in terms of market access and ability to produce both for domestic and for exports," he said.
"There was also a sense that the unique position of digital technology today and in the coming period provided a special opportunity for India with its strength in this sector," Singh said.
The Indian talent, which is contributing in a major to the development of this technology in a global context, could provide a very special opportunity for India to leapfrog technology and to move ahead in terms of economic strategies, he said.
"There was support and appreciation expressed for the make in India program, the skills India program and the work related to smart cities, the focus on renewable energy. Some emphasis on the needs in the infrastructure sector and appreciation for the way in which the concept of smart cities has been approached," Singh added.
During the meeting, Modi circulated a one-page fact sheet summarising the bold steps that the Indian government has taken for deregulation, reform and consistency in the tax administration.
"That note is based on hard facts, on what the government has actually done, what it has done for ease of doing business, where we all expect that when the next report comes, India should have jumped several places up," Swarup said.
The fact sheet also lists efforts made by the government in increasing FDI, efforts towards making a bankruptcy code, he said.
"Change is afoot. Change is visible. That is why the CEOs were in such an upbeat mood," the Indian diplomat asserted.
Singh said many of the CEOs in their comments said that a lot has been done in the past year.
"And that what had been done was inaccurately assessed and reported. And therefore when they looked at the steps that the government had taken clearly there was a sense that a lot has been achieved," said the Indian Ambassador to the US.
In the context of the global trend, India certainly is in a moment to provide opportunity including in terms of India's own developmental needs and priorities, he said.
Responding to a question, Singh said there were some suggestions made about the additional steps that can be taken in terms of ease of doing business.
"Those are things that the government would access," he added.
What top CEOs feel about PM Modi, India
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has carried out some significant economic and governance reforms after coming to power last year, but needs to do more, top American CEOs have said here after meeting him.
Kicking off his second visit to the US in one year with a meeting with eight of the top 10 financial entities in the US, including JP Morgan and Blackstone, Modi outlined efforts made during the last 15 months to increase investment in key areas like infrastructure.
Modi, who kicked off his second visit to the US in a year with a meeting with eight of the top 10 financial entities in America including JP Morgan and Blackstone, outlined efforts made during the last 15 months to increase investment in key areas like infrastructure.
Some of the CEOs, after the meeting, said on Thursday that they were satisfied with the progress of the reform.
"The government has already undertaken a massive amount of reforms. Key message from the US companies was keep doing what you are doing. I had a great meeting, there was a constructive dialogue in the spirit of collaboration. We are looking at India trying to get foreign direct investment," J P Morgan CEO James Dimon said.
"Our goal is to make sure that we are seeing enough change so that we feel we are comfortable in investing our capital.
We would continue to watch and wait. For the amount of time he has been in office, there has been a lot of changes he has made. So clearly more to come, but as a potential investor, we are optimist," said Vicki Fuller of New York State Common Retirement Fund after her meeting with Modi.
When asked if she is satisfied with the pace of economic reforms in India, Fuller replied in positive, "Yes I am."
Black Stone CEO Stephen A Schwarzman said that he felt the Prime Minister was open to the suggestions the CEOs put before him to improve access to the country.
"There are various, in terms of ability of US companies to take IPOs, the ability to have more capital going to rural areas," he said when asked on the kind of reforms US companies would like to have in India.
"I think, things tend to overshoot. People tend to get exceptionally excited. I am hopeful as is everyone that things would be on track," Schwarzman said.
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