India emerges as strong investment destination

Davos: As the annual World Economic Forum summit heads for close on Sunday, the India story has emerged even stronger with the business world appreciating the country`s fine balance between democratic processes and economic growth. A few even foresee the possibility of the country hosting a Davos-level congregation of the world`s rich and powerful at some point in the future.

The votaries of the Indian growth story include the likes of global rating agency S&P, which not long ago faced the ire of the US administration for downgrade of America`s top-notch sovereign credit worthiness rating. S and P President Douglas Peterson said that the agency has an investment grade rating on India, with a stable outlook and the country is more likely to improve further on this.

Brushing aside the concerns of slow reforms and the perceived notion of `policy-paralysis`, he said, "In a democracy, the policies are made after a prolonged dialogue and that is indeed a healthy practise." Apparently, impressed with the positive discussions about India, Peterson went on to say that it was quite a refreshing change that the talks have moved away from the European crisis to India at Davos. Still, India on its part reaffirmed its commitment to the economic reform agenda.

Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said reforms would certainly take place and even the much-talked about FDI decision for retail was only on a pause and not a reversal. "And, remember that a pause cannot be for a long time," he said. Senior industrialist and Bharat Forge group chief Baba Kalyani said that India can certainly grow by 8 per cent.

Kalyani said, "We have managed even bigger challenges in past and there should be no doubt that we would not be able to tackle the prevailing challenges". Although a vocal opponent of India`s stand at WTO negotiations, US Trade Representative Ron Kirk said the US does not consider India as an emerging market and perception in the US is that Indian can do whatever job the American can.

"They can make their own iPads and do much more, while seeking to assert his point that India was much more than just an emerging market," he said. Barry Eichengreen, Professor of Economics and Political Science at University of California, said India can grow by 8 per cent over the next 5-10 years, if it gets certain things right.

"But that would require certain policies and buffer against external shocks, it would have to work on expanding its manufacturing growth. The services sector is doing great in India, but it would need to do something similar to China on manufacturing," he noted. Consultancy giant PwC`s India Chairman Deepak Kapoor said the global economic slowdown should not be seen as a concern for India.

"It is rather an opportunity. My sense is that India would become a large player in global M&A scene. Indian entrepreneurs are very smart and they know how to take advantage of the prevailing economic conditions," he said, while noting many Indian companies sold assets just before the global crisis of 2008-09, and many are now looking to acquire assets abroad to take advantage of distressed valuations.

There have been concerns about the impact of European crisis, but there is almost an unanimity that India would be able to weather the storm in an easier way than many others. Industry chamber CII`s Chandrajit Banerjee said India will be affected if there is crisis anywhere.