Sunday 28 September 2014

Singapore businesses well-placed to venture further into India: PM

They can take advantage of the good bilateral ties and new opportunities
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 27 Sep 2014

PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday encouraged businesses in Singapore to make further forays into India, where optimism has risen following the electoral victory of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May.

Businesses here, particularly members of the Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, are well-placed to do so, he said at the SICCI's 90th anniversary dinner yesterday.

The reason is that many share a cultural heritage with India and have built up networks of contacts and partners in the country.

"I hope companies will take advantage of the favourable relations between the two countries, and the new markets and business opportunities in India," PM Lee said.

Leaders and officials of both countries visit each other regularly and have good rapport, he noted. Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong called on Mr Modi two weeks ago and the Indian Prime Minister "expressed strong interest in and support for a more comprehensive and strategic economic partnership between the two countries", Mr Lee said.

Singapore is India's top investor, and more than 6,000 Indian- owned companies are here.

Mr Lee also noted that since Mr Modi came into power, capital flows had rebounded, stock markets were at an all-time high and consumer sentiments had improved. Factors in India's favour include its large domestic market and a young and expanding workforce.

Mr Lee said: "A key factor is the decisive mandate Prime Minister Modi has, and his determination to make fundamental changes to progressively promote growth and investments."

But difficult structural reforms - such as cutting red tape, eliminating graft, strengthening infrastructure and connectivity - are needed in India, he added. "These will take some time, and there is a long way to go. But Singapore has every interest in India succeeding."

Mr Lee also expressed confidence that Singapore's Indian business community will continue to thrive with the support of SICCI, which was founded in 1924 by a few Indian businessmen.

Membership has grown to more than 800, and it has helped many local companies expand in Singapore and abroad.

SICCI chairman R. Theyvendran told The Straits Times that the chamber helps its members meet clients and partners.

"Because of our visibility in India, companies there use us as a conduit to do business in Singapore. This contributes to Singapore's economic growth."

At the dinner, which was attended by 800 businessmen and community leaders, Mr Lee paid tribute to the prominent role Indian businesses have played in Singapore's history.

He presented awards to six outstanding individuals and entrepreneurs from the community.

They included Singapore's non-resident ambassador to Turkey S. Chandra Das, former SICCI chairman Murli K. Chanrai and former president S R Nathan, who was not present but whose award was received by a representative.

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