India is back in the reckoning at the global centre-stage and the huge build-up in positive sentiments among investors should soon start converting into real investment flows on the ground, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has said.
With a packed agenda of meetings with investors and the government representatives from various countries here at WEF annual meeting, Jaitley said that many of these investors were looking at India either to invest or to expand their presence.
When asked how much credit goes to the new government for India coming back into reckoning at Davos, Jaitley said, “I am quite happy about this fact. We all are enthused about this fact that India seems to be coming back to the centre-stage.
“Several years ago this was the trend and thereafter we had suddenly fallen off the radar. This year I think a series of things have happened.”
“Investors are viewing India as a country where there is, after 30 years, a government which has an absolute majority, a government which is led by a Prime Minister who is decisive.
They see it as a government which is reform oriented and therefore its a right place to invest in,” Jaitley told reporters last night after a series of bilateral meetings here on the sidelines of WEF.
“This sentiment is additionally aided by several global factors. The US economy has revived and it is doing very well.
But there are several other economies in the world which compete with India for attracting the investment and they are facing their own challenges.
“Therefore there is investment available in the world.
(Domestic) investment in India is still a costly investment and therefore for investment in infrastructure, manufacturing and Make in India programmes, we need the investments from all over the world.
“So I am glad that all these factors have helped revive a huge amount of interest in India,” he added.
Jaitley said he is meeting the existing investors and potential investors, those who are looking at India, those who are looking to expand, while Power Minister Piyush Goyal has been meeting several people concerned with the power sector.
“Two of very progressive chief ministers, Chandra Babu Naidu and Devendra Fadnavis are here. Naidu had a series of engagements and Fadnavis had a packed agenda. So I think India is back in reckoning and hopefully we are able to move expeditiously on track that we are moving so that this sentiment converts itself into investments and converts itself into resource for the economy,” he added.
Jaitley, who has a series of meetings further lined up for today and tomorrow along with other engagements, said he has met top officials of Cisco and Microsoft, while Lloyds chief during his meeting wanted to know about the insurance issue.
“There are a series of meetings lined up further and I am meeting representatives of the government. I had meetings with Brazilian Finance Minister and also had a detailed meeting with the Finance Minister and Economic Minister of Switzerland. These meetings are going to continue with various governments during next two days,” he added.
Among others, he will be meeting heads of companies like Walmart, Barclays and Novartis, while his bilaterals also include those with UK Chancellor.
Besides, he is addressing two WEF sessions today, and another one tomorrow, in addition to an India Investment Roundtable and a meeting with a group of Indian business leaders attending Davos meet of the World Economic Forum.
Talking about the budget preparations and whether global economic environment were putting any pressure, he said, “There is showing of a challenge.
“The world cannot move on only one engine. It has to move on more than one engine and India has to convert this opportunity into one of the favourable circumstance for itself.
“Today, except for the US, other economies are facing serious challenges and therefore if we can afford to reform and we can demonstrate that we are a very important destination which is not only reforming but also growing at a much faster face..
“We need the investments, we need it in manufacturing, we need it in infrastructure. We need it. Investment is globally available and compared to our domestic investment, it is cheaper investment that is available. and therefore if we have the ability to attract it, I think we can see results on the ground,” he added.
On whether he expects global portfolio flows to continue into India in 2015, he said, “The global situation changes but if we make the fundamentals of our economy very sound, I don’t think we have too many fears.
“Today the efforts of our government has been that we concentrate on making the fundamentals of our economy very safe and sound.”
On global CEOs having their own budget expectations from him and if he was working against a truckload of expectations, Jaitley said: “I am not building up the expectations, you are.
“Therefore I will say, I am going to keep up the pace. I have always said budget is just one day but it is an important opportunity to outline its intentions and its policies.
“But then there are 364 other days and in the last 7-8 months we have demonstrated that we have done much more even after the budget.”
To a question as to why Budget was happening on a Saturday although capital markets have always been given a big thumps up to the government’s reform agenda, Jaitley said, “We are maintaining the old tradition of the last day of February for budget. It just happens to be a weekend. Its for the market to decide.”
Asked if he would mind if markets have a special trading session on that Saturday, he said, “That we do not decide.
That is for the markets to decide.”
On his meeting with the Brazilian Finance Minister and whether BRICS was failing, he said, “I don’t think you can write off such blocks. Its a very powerful and important block. Even if Chinese growth slows down, it is still a very significant growth.
“Brazil is certainly facing a challenge. Their minister discussed how Brazil is trying to get out of its current fiscal deficit and other problems and I am sure that Brazil will get out of those problems.”