Singapore Says India Must Make Strategic Decision To Open Up Economy

October 7, 2016 – For trade to grow, India must make a “strategic decision” to encourage interdependence, more openness and a more trade-based economy, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

In an interview with Indian daily newspaper The Hindu, Mr Lee said India was not as open for business as investors hope, with land acquisition, over-regulation and legal hassles among the biggest bottlenecks.

The Singapore Prime Minister said that India’s growth rate has increased because India was prepared to open up the economy, loosen government control, enable investments and encourage entrepreneurship.

“But you have to allow other countries to operate in India too. It cannot be a one-way exercise,” Mr Lee commented.

On the plans that have been put on hold for a Singapore consortium to buildAmaravati, the new capital of the southeastern state of Andhra Pradesh, amid a court case by a local builder against the appointment of the Ascendas-Singbridge and Sembcorp consortium, Mr Lee said that Singapore was still hopeful of the project going through.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for the city project in 2015, and the consortium had planned to develop 6.84 square kilometres of the capital’s core area as a “smart city”. The case by the developer is set to be heard on Oct 31 at the Hyderabad High Court, said The Hindu in its report.

“We hope we get the contract and we will be able to help and show what we can do,” Mr Lee told The Hindu.

He added that the politicising of land issues in India hindering developments were “important issues that must be addressed”.

“If you look at the Singapore projects, we wanted to do industrial parks. They have taken very long to clear the issues of land and these become politicised and you can’t settle it, and eventually the project languishes and nothing happens,” he said.

Mr Lee however noted that India’s bureaucracy had changed in terms of “will” and “direction” in the past few years. “I think Mr Modi is trying very hard to change the ethos of the bureaucracy, and I wish him all success with that,” he added.

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