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Corruption does not hamper growth: Chidambaram

Suggestions that corruption is hampering economic growth and prosperity in India are incorrect, India’s Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram has said.

Speaking at the inaugural session of the South Asian Diaspora Convention (SADC) held at the Suntec Singapore Exhibition & Convention Centre on November 21, he discounted perceptions of corruption, bureaucratic red tape and a lack of integrity were impeding his country’s progress.

“The resource allocation process across the sectors is not tainted,” he said.

Wealthy Diaspora

Mr Chidambaram underlined the importance of the South Asian Diaspora to the Indian economy.

“The Indian Diaspora, which commands an estimated wealth of US$ 1 trillion, should seize the investment opportunities in India. Our Government offers a series of incentives and facilities for Foreign Direct Investment, in addition to those offered by various State Governments,” he said.

He hoped that the Diaspora would become a part of an ‘Unfolding India Story’ that would make India the third largest economy in the world by 2030.

Mr Chidambaram participated in a panel discussion held under the theme, ‘Building a Connected Asia’ with Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam as the Moderator and Foreign Affairs Minister and Law Minister K Shanmugam as a participant.

The panellists stated that US shale exports could help deepen connectivity in Asia.

Rising middle class

The two-day Convention, second in an annual series took note of the burgeoning middle class and the tremendous business potential that this segment of the population offers for improving economic and social prospects of South Asia.

Gopinath Pillai, Ambassador and Chairman of the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) and SADC Organising Committee said in his opening address that there was a need to identify opportunities for increasing trade and investment between South Asia and Southeast Asia to foster a greater regional integration to deliver greater prosperity and stability in this region.

Diaspora advantage

SADC 2013 also highlighted the role of the Indian Diaspora in stimulating trade and investment opportunities in the region.

Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean (who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security and Home Affairs Minister) reinforced the strong historical ties between Singapore and South Asia and spoke of the importance of continued cooperation between the two regions in various areas.

The ensuing Ministerial Dialogue set the stage for exchanging perspectives on developing areas of connectivity such as infrastructure demand, energy as well as science and technology research in the region.

Bookings launched

Two books launched at the evening session highlighted the importance of strengthening regional cooperation and utilising existing and emerging opportunities for investors, manufacturers, traders and communities in general to achieve higher levels of progress and prosperity. They included “The Encyclopaedia of the Sri Lankan Diaspora” (released by Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam) and ‘Reimagining India’ (by McKinsey Panel).

Rebooting India

A symposium on ‘Can India’s growth be revived in 2014?’ hosted by the Delhi based Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) enabled a number of corporate executives and experts to exchange views and establish reference points.

The participants included Panel Chairman Girija Pande (Executive Chairman, Apex Avalon Consulting, Singapore) and S Gopalakrishnan (CII President and Co-Founder & Executive Vice-Chairman, Infosys Limited).

A session devoted to arts and literature, witnessed the participation of a number of eminent men and women. Held under the theme, ‘Shared Narratives: The Cultural Underpinnings of a Region,’ the panel, which comprised prominent writers, journalists and academia including Bangladeshi novelist Dr Tahmima Anam, discussed the ways and means of using diverse writings and cultures to achieve greater understanding and mutual respect.

The remaining sessions dealt with capital flows, economic prospects for South Asia after the global financial crisis, encouraging social entrepreneurs to contribute more substantively to the Indian Subcontinent and the importance of inclusive banking to cater to the developmental needs of South Asia.

Classical Dance

A fitting finale to the day’s proceedings was a brilliant dance performance by Dr Mallika Sarabhai at a Gala Dinner held at the Convention Centre.

Dr Tan, who attended the event with Ministers, delegates and a number of invited guests, honoured prominent Singapore businessman Murli Kewalram Chanrai with the ‘Outstanding Member of the South Asian Diaspora’ Award.

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