Saturday 13 September 2014

Madhya Pradesh seeks Singapore expertise

Indian state plans vocational training hub, industrial towns
By Nirmala Ganapathy India Correspondent In Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh), The Straits Times, 12 Sep 2014

THE Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Mr Shivraj Singh Chouhan, sought Singapore's help to set up a vocational training centre and develop industrial townships during a meeting with Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong yesterday.

Mr Goh is the first top leader from Singapore to visit the state, the last stop of his five- day trip to India.

Mr Chouhan said Madhya Pradesh could benefit from Singapore's expertise in areas such as urban management, vocational training and tourism, including creating a resort similar to Sentosa.

"We will try to see how we can help," Mr Goh told the three-term chief minister, who is from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, "but let's take it step by step."

Officials from Madhya Pradesh will travel to Singapore to work out areas where cooperation is possible.

India's central state, which has a population of 75 million, was once known as a Bimaru state, an acronym for the states of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

The name was also a play on "bimar", which means sick in Hindi. The states had lagged behind the rest of India in development and had high poverty levels.

Today, Madhya Pradesh is one of India's fastest-growing states, enjoying double-digit growth mainly due to fast-paced agriculture growth.

While it is seen as an emerging state for investments, industrial activity is still low.

Mr Chouhan is working to attract foreign investors to the state, besides pushing the manufacturing sector and creating jobs.

An investors' meeting is planned for next month with Singapore as one of the partner countries.

"Madhya Pradesh was an unknown state four to five years ago outside of India. Today there is progress... and opportunities," he said in his presentation on the state to the Singapore delegation.

Mr Goh's trip was aimed primarily at touching base with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who took office following a landslide election victory in May.

Mr Goh met Mr Modi in New Delhi on Wednesday to, among other things, explore new areas of cooperation for both countries.

Earlier, in Hyderabad, he had separate meetings with Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu and Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao of Telangana, India's newest and 29th state.

Said Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee: "We need to get a feel of the direction India is heading… We hope it plays a significant role in Asia. There are lots of opportunities for cooperation and economic development that will be fruitful for both Singapore and India."

Modi can spur India's growth: ESM Goh
Suggestion for India to join ASEAN's economic group to tap larger market
By Nirmala Ganapathy India Correspondent In New Delhi, The Straits Times, 11 Sep 2014

VISITING Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong yesterday suggested that India, under the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, could add another 3 percentage points to its growth in the next two to three years.

Mr Goh said one way the government of Mr Modi, with its focus on manufacturing, could do this is by joining ASEAN's Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

"With the intention to turn India into a manufacturing centre for the world, he (Modi) could add more than 3 per cent to India's growth," Mr Goh, in India on a five-day visit, said in remarks to Singapore and Indian media.

"He can turn growth into something nearer to 7 to 8 per cent. That's possible in my view, not immediately but over the next two to three years."

India has seen sluggish growth in recent years. This fell to 5 per cent last year, the worst economic performance in over a decade.

But there have been some positive signs for the government, which took power in May - growth rose 5.7 per cent in the quarter ending in June.

Still, many challenges remain as it tries to push manufacturing, create jobs and attract foreign investments.

In their 45-minute meeting, Mr Goh and Mr Modi discussed how India could move to become a manufacturing hub and also ways Singapore could help it in implementing ideas such as creating "smart cities".

"I suggested to the Prime Minister that India can play a part in RCEP, which is ASEAN plus six members. India should study how it can use this as a way of forging a larger regional market," Mr Goh said, adding that it would send "powerful signals to potential investors outside".

He also said that apart from the ASEAN grouping, the big economies of India and China were needed to lift Asia.

Singapore, he said, is ready to help with India's plan to build 100 smart cities. Singapore would look at helping to build two to three new cities, including the new capital city of southern Andhra Pradesh state, he added.

The two leaders have known each other since Mr Modi was chief minister of Gujarat.

Mr Goh told Mr Modi how he could feel the earth move due to the frenetic pace set by the new government, sending the Prime Minister into peals of laughter.

"He (Modi) can get things done," said Mr Goh.

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