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Narendra Modi hard-sells GST, other reforms to woo investors in Russia

LiveMint logoLiveMint 02-06-2017 Elizabeth Roche

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday hard-sold India as an investment destination, underlining the strengths of its young workforce as well as enormous capacity to absorb investments, skills and technologies.

In a speech at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum in Russia—billed as the Davos of the East—Modi noted that rating agencies rated India as one of the top three investment destinations in the world.

Modi is in Russia on the third leg of his four-nation tour that has also taken him to Germany and Spain. He is to travel to France later on Friday and meet newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday.

On Thursday, PM Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled a bilateral vision document aimed at boosting economic and trade ties between the two countries. Despite having a “special and privileged strategic partnership”, trade and economic ties have languished. Bilateral trade currently stands at $7.7 billion. But both sides have set a target of $30 billion by 2025.

Attracting investments has been a recurrent theme at each stop of Modi’s current foreign visit.

“Growing at 7%, India is one of the fastest growing emerging economies in the world,” Modi told an audience packed with industrialists from some 60 countries, besides dignitaries like UN secretary general António Guterres and Putin.

Listing the steps taken to make the economic environment more attractive to foreign investors, Modi said his three-year-old government had abolished more than 1,000 obsolete laws and introduced some 7,000 reform measures, in all, at the central level to improve the ease of doing business.

In this context, the Prime Minister mentioned the goods and services tax (GST) that the government is looking to roll out on 1 July.

“This will be beneficial to foreign investors,” he said of the reform that will dismantle interstate barriers to trade. Once implemented successfully, the indirect tax reform is expected to add up to 2 percentage points to gross domestic product growth.

Noting that security of investment was one of the prerequisites to attract foreign capital, Modi said that India’s “vibrant judiciary” guarantees a stable and secure environment for businesses to flourish.

The Prime Minister, in his speech, listed infrastructure, particularly railways, solid waste management, the Clean India mission and the Skill India programme that aims to equip the country’s burgeoning youth population with vocational skills as some of the areas where India was looking for foreign direct investment.

The government has also liberalized norms for companies to manufacture in India under the “Make in India” programme, Modi added.

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