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Modi tells UK Inc it is wiser to be in India today

London, Nov 13  Assuring a transparent, predictable and an easy policy environment for doing businesses in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Britain’s corporate leaders here that it was wiser today to be in India today, with endorsements no less from institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary fund and the World Economic Forum.

Addressing the Indo-UK Business meeting at the 15th Century Guildhall, home to the City of London Corporation, the prime minister also sought to allay all such apprehensions of the global investment community over India’s tax regime and other issues and said they all had his personal attention to address any matter that may cause concern.

“There were a number of regulatory and taxation issues which were adversely impacting on the sentiments of foreign investors. We have taken very decisive steps to remove a number of long pending concerns,” the prime minister said in his address, listing a host of areas where some concrete action has been taken since his government took over in May last year.

“We want to make sure our tax regime is transparent and predictable. We are also keen to see genuine investors and honest tax payers get quick, fair decisions on tax matters,” said the prime minister, adding this led to India being ranked Number One investment destination by Ernst and Young and top country for growth and innovation by Frost and Sullivan, among others.

“Necessary conditions for take-off of the Indian economy have been created. Never before, India was so well prepared to absorb talent, technology and investment from outside. I can assure you that it will get better and better in the coming days. We will be open to welcome your ideas, innovations and enterprises.”

Modi also backed his speech with some solid numbers on the Indian economy. Against the backdrop of global slowdown, he said, the World Bank had recently projected India’s growth at 7.5 percent for this fiscal and even better in the coming years, even as the International Monetary Fund saw the country as a “bright spot” of the global economy.

He also listed some specific examples of how the investment climate had been made better, some just before he arrived here — 100-percent foreign equity is now allowed in railways, the cap has been raised to 49 percent in defence and insurance and major policy changes have been carried out in 15 sectors ranging from the process of approvals to removing conditions.

“With this round of reforms, I can say that India is among the most open countries for foreign investments,” he said at the historic landmark known for playing host to glittering banquets and receptions for visiting heads of state and governments, royal occasions and historical anniversaries.

Among India’s challenges, he listed infrastructure on the the top and said his government was keen on a futuristic model on this area by allocating more resources through self-imposed discipline in financial management. “We are also setting up an India Investment and Infrastructure Fund,” he said and specified the targeted mop-up at $3.5 billion annually.

“We have also come up with tax free infrastructure bonds for projects in rail, road and other sectors. We will work together with the British government, industry and the financial markets to deepen our relationship and harness their interest in India’s infrastructure . Very soon, these bonds will become strong instruments for engagement between our financial markets.”

The prime minister also gave a glimpse into some of his pet projects — “Make in India”, “Digital India” and “Skill India” and “Start-up India” — and said every effort was towards making India an easy and simple place to do business in, as also to improving the lives of ordinary citizens.

“Many of you belong to India. Many of you are in India already. But for those who are not there, I must say that: At this point of time, it is wiser to be in India. Further, we are making it easier to invest in India.”

Earlier in the day, India and Britain signed a civil nuclear agreement following delegation-level talks between the two sides. After this, Modi addressed a joint session of the British parliament, becoming the first Indian prime minister to do so.

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