Prime Minister Narendra Modi is all set to be the first Indian head of government in 20 years to attend the annual World Economic Forum summit at Davos, which begins on Monday. Modi will be addressing the opening plenary of the summit, while the keynote address will be given by US president Donald Trump on 26 January.
The Central government and a few states are all set to pitch for investments at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos starting Tuesday, with investor round tables and conferences lined up. The Indian push in Davos comes at a time when the NDA government is entering the last year of its current term, with global growth rebounding and interest shifting to other emerging markets.
Apart from Prime Minister Narendra Modi members of his delegation who will engage with global investors in the Swiss town include Commerce and Industry minister Suresh Prabhu, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal and Petroleum Minister Dharmedra Pradhan, besides senior government officials.
With printing of the Budget papers underway, Finance Minister Jaitley is expected to attend the forum on Wednesday.
The Indian presence will also be bolstered by the country’s top businessmen, including Mukesh Ambani, Tata Group chairman N Chandrasekharan, Anand Mahindra, Gautam Adani, Azim Premji and his son Rishad, Rahul Bajaj and his son Sanjiv, and Baba Kalyani of Bharat Forge. UK-based Lakshmi Mittal, Anil Aggarwal and the Hindujas are also expected to attend.
Senior bankers on the Indian side include SBI chairman Rajnish Kumar, ICICI Bank CEO Chanda Kochar and Kotak Mahindra Bank vice-chairman Uday Kotak. The country’s soft power will be showcased with the presence of Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan.
Ahead of his maiden visit to the forum, which is being attended by over 70 heads of states and governments, Modi said that he will share his vision for India’s future engagements with the international community during his trip.
Describing the theme of the forum, ‘Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World’ as “both thoughtful and apt”, the Prime Minister said that India’s engagement with the outside world in the recent years has become “truly and effectively multi-dimensional covering the political, economic, people to people, security and other spheres”.
Modi also took to Twitter and in series of a tweets with ‘IndiaMeansBusiness’ hashtag, said, “At Davos, I look forward to sharing my vision for India’s future engagement with the international community.”
Modi, who arrives in Davos Monday, will deliver the keynote address at the plenary session the next day, when he is expected to showcase the “New India” theme and the opportunities for global investors.
In the statement, Modi said that he was looking forward to separate bilateral meetings with Swiss President Alain Berset and Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven. “I am confident that these bilateral meetings would be fruitful and give a boost to our relations with these countries and further strengthen economic engagement,” he said.
From the Indian delegation, the railways and the petroleum ministries have huge investment plans, which will need to be bankrolled by investors.
Goyal, who indicated that the upcoming Budget could mark a big turn in capital investment, has said that the Railways will need $150 billion over the next five years to upgrade its infrastructure and create jobs. Similarly, Pradhan is expected to reach out to investors after the recent changes in the new exploration policy which, the government says, is far more attractive. The government recently launched the first auction of the new exploration blocks with 55 blocks on offer.
According to Yoginder Alagh, who was a minister in the Deve Gowda-led United Front government and who accompanied him to Davos in 1997, one of the big takeaways then was in energy investments, with follow-up meetings. The government had then provided individual project-level details and told investors how it would resolve problems while inviting them to meet officials, he said.
This time, apart from the investor round table organised by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant will speak on the use of big data in policy making in India, such as using railway traffic data to understand migration patterns.
The Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) will be led by its president Shobhana Kamineni.
With growing competition among states to attract investment and create jobs in the backdrop of slowing growth, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Maharashtra, which is at the top of the table in terms of Foreign Direct Investment flows, are hoping to make a mark this time.
The presence of the political GenNext of Andhra and Telangana at the forum is an interesting sidelight.
K T Rama Rao, son of Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao and in-charge of information technology, industries and commerce, will head the Telangana team. The Andhra team under Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu includes his son N Lokesh, who is the state’s information technology minister.
Incidentally, Naidu was one of the first chief ministers from India to head to Davos years ago when he described himself as the CEO of the state. The Andhra team is scheduled to meet top executives of many global companies in several sectors with MoUs being planned during this visit.
Telangana is hoping to ride on the back of its top ranking in the ease of business survey and the global entrepreneurship meet it hosted recently. Andhra, which got automobile firm Kia to invest in the state, will pitch for investments in the IT sector and manufacturing.
Maharashtra’s focus will be on infrastructure-led growth, which can help “open the doors for other sectors of the economy to prosper”.
On the eve of his second visit to WEF, Fadnavis said that his government is looking to build a “future ready” state that features consistently among top investment destinations. The state plans to invite global industry leaders and chiefs for the upcoming Global Investment Summit — Magnetic Maharashtra in the third week of February where Prime Minister Modi is scheduled to attend.
With growth slowing down over the last couple of years from 7.9 per cent in 2015-16, and with investment to GDP sliding to 26 per cent from the mid-30 levels in the days of the previous government, the Indian delegation is keen to convince investors that growth is on track.
The summit is also being attended by US President Donald Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emannuel Macron and UK Prime Minister Theresa May and Others.