Reform to transform, says PM Modi at ASEAN Business Summit

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday pitched India as an ideal investment destination for ASEAN nations, saying his government had launched a second wave of reforms that would make the country a “land of immense opportunities”.

Addressing the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit hours after his arrival in the Malaysian capital, Modi sent out a message that India is open for business and his government is intent on transforming the country through reforms.

Describing India and ASEAN as natural partners, he reiterated his message that the 21st century belongs to Asia. “Reform to me is just a way station on the long journey to the destination. The destination is the transformation of India,” he told the gathering.

To buttress his argument that India is a “land of immense opportunities”, Modi rolled out a list of the big ticket infrastructure projects that are in the pipeline. He said 50 cities across India were preparing to build metro rail systems while there was also a need to build 50 million affordable houses.

The country also has plans to generate 175 GW of renewable energy, he said. The government intends to complete all these projects within a “short span of time” and is also working to make India the “easiest place to do business”, he said.

“Our democratic values and an alert judicial system ensure the safety of your investments,” he said. India, he added, is also committed to protect the intellectual property rights of all innovators and has launched campaigns like “Make in India” and “Digital India” to make the country friendly to investors.

Modi said his government had launched the second wave of institutional and structural reforms to revitalise the flow of investment. These reforms cover areas such as agriculture, housing, transport and investment.

He also presented several arguments to support his contention that the Indian economy is performing better at a time when the global economy isn’t doing well, saying GDP growth, foreign investments, tax revenues are up while inflation, interest rates and current account deficit are down.

“And we know that our time has come, we are at a take-off stage. I invite you to come and see the winds of change in India,” he said.

Modi addressed the business summit weeks after his Bharatiya Janata Party suffered a humiliating defeat in polls to the Bihar assembly, with some observers saying the electoral loss could hit the government’s planned economic reforms.

Several reforms pushed by the Prime Minister, including a planned law that would make it easier for business houses to acquire farmland for development projects, have been stuck in Parliament due to a pushback by opposition parties.

But Modi exuded confidence about the reforms, saying there is increased confidence in the Indian economy within and outside the country. “Winds do take time to cross the borders. That is why I am here to invite you,” he said.

“Most of the ASEAN economies have done their bit for Asia’s resurgence. Now, it is India’s turn. We know that our time has come,” he added.