Narendra Modi to hard-sell India as engine of global economic growth at Davos

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi will showcase India as one of the key engines of global economic growth and outline the reforms his administration has carried out to make Asia’s third-largest economy a seamless and more investor-friendly market at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meetings beginning in Davos on Tuesday.

Modi, who leaves for the Swiss Alps resort on Monday, will be the first prime minister to represent India at the forum in over 20 years. The last visit by an Indian prime minister to Davos was in 1997 when Deve Gowda led the Indian delegation. That visit took place as India’s economy was yet to take off, with Deve Gowda heading a weak, unstable coalition government and the US and Europe perceived as the main drivers of global growth.

Two decades later, as Modi prepares to address the WEF, the dramatic changes in India and on the global front could not be starker.

“The existing and emerging challenges to the contemporary international system and global governance architecture deserve serious attention of leaders, governments, policy makers, corporates and civil societies around the world,” Modi said in statement on Sunday.

“In recent years, India’s engagement with the outside world has become truly and effectively multi-dimensional covering the political, economic, people to people, security and other spheres,” Modi said. “At Davos, I look forward to sharing my vision for India’s future engagement with the international community.”

In an interview with Times Now on Sunday, Modi said India had demonstrated its economic prowess to the world, which is keen to learn about India directly. “I look at this as an opportunity. When 1.25 crore Indians received a proper ecosystem and clear policies, they started taking risk and initiative. In three years and a half, India’s turnaround from being part of the ‘fragile five’ to being a ‘bright spot’ is the result of the efforts of those 1.25 crore Indians.”

India currently is a $2.3 trillion economy and poised to be the fastest growing in 2018 with expected growth of 7.3%—ahead of China—according to World Bank’s Global Economic Prospects report released earlier this month. Modi is heading India’s first majority government in three decades, and despite India’s growth rate expected to drop to 6.5% in 2017-18, it is still regarded as a global growth hotspot.

The four-day Davos event, the theme of which is “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World”, opens on Tuesday with Modi addressing the plenary session. It closes on Friday with US President Donald Trump’s address, which comes after the US Senate passed the Tax Cut and Reform Bill 2017, slashing the US corporate tax rate to 21% from 35% in a bid to attract back home businesses settled abroad.

While Trump is expected to talk about his “America First” policy, Vijay Gokhale, secretary, economic relations, in the Indian foreign ministry, told reporters on Friday that Modi is expected to “articulate his vision of how he sees the Indian economy contributing not only to the benefit of the people of India but also on a global scale”.

“The message that essentially we are going to deliver is that we are an open economy, we have done significant reforms. We offer market, we offer talent and we would like the world to come and invest in this country,” he added.

The Modi government has undertaken a series of structural reforms to stimulate growth including in banking and taxation. It revamped the bankruptcy regime to help failed companies turn around quickly, decided to recapitalize state-owned banks saddled with Rs10 trillion of stressed assets, cracked down on black money and rolled out a landmark goods and services tax (GST) that eliminated inter-state barriers to trade.

Modi is also expected to talk about “a new, young and innovative India” besides his experiences with “cooperative federalism”. He is also expected to urge world leaders gathered in Davos for a unified approach to deal with terrorism, economic imbalances and cyber threats.

“The existing and emerging challenges to the contemporary international system and global governance architecture deserve serious attention of leaders, governments, policymakers, corporates and civil societies around the world,” Modi added in his statement.

Besides addressing the WEF, Modi will sit down for a round table dinner organized for interaction with 60 CEOs, including some from India.

Of the 60, “40 of them from 18 different countries and 20 from India. These 60 companies are across 26 different sectors and the market cap of all these companies is $3.3 trillion,” said Ramesh Abhishek, secretary, department of industrial policy and promotion. The list includes Airbus group CEO Dirk Hoke, BAE Systems chairman Roger Carr, IBM chairman, president and CEO Ginni Rometty and Carlyle Group co-founder and co-CEO David Rubenstein.

“We are looking forward to prime minister’s interaction with the CEOs of such scale and stature because of the opportunities that India provides today,” Abhishek said.

On Tuesday, Modi will interact with another set of 120 international business leaders who are members of the International Business Council, which is part of the WEF. Key names expected to be present at this event include top executives of General Motors, Salesforce.com, Royal Dutch Shell, BASF, Nestle and JPMorgan Chase, Abhishek said.

So far, officials in New Delhi have only confirmed one bilateral meeting that Modi will have—with his Swiss host, president Alain Berset. Gokhale ruled out a meeting between Modi and Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who will also be in Davos.

Other world leaders expected to be at the WEF include German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, French President Emmanuel Macron, UK Prime Minister Theresa May and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.livemint