x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Indian diaspora has a duty at home

India's economic vitality concerns the entire region, which is why successful Indian businessmen and women must do more to jump-start India's stalled economic miracle.

India's greatest testament to love is 200 kilometres south of Delhi. It can take six hours by train to travel from the capital to the Taj Mahal in Agra, and about as long by car. Indeed, if the Taj is a monument of India's past, the journey is an example of what is holding India back.

For a nation struggling to sustain an economic miracle that seems to be grinding towards a halt, the inability to move goods, people and products quickly and reliably is a crippling liability.

Years of neglecting the infrastructure, coupled with a series of poor economic decisions over the last half decade, has sent inflation soaring and the value of the rupee tumbling. First-quarter growth was just 5.3 per cent - which would be considerable for other countries, but is India's worst rate in nine years.

As The National reports on its business pages today, even the Indian expatriate business community is nervous. Pure Gold, a UAE-based jeweller, has put its India expansion plans on hold indefinitely. India is in trouble if it is unable to convince its own overseas business interests - a community with the means and influence to exert change - to invest.

Reversing India's economic slide is a priority for the country. So far, however, the ruling Congress party has been incapable of rooting out corruption and standing up to domestic interests that oppose easing rules for foreign investment - both critical for India's sustained growth.

India passed a budget this year that added tax liabilities and other red tape for foreign investors. Some prospective investors in the UAE understand that it's politics that is holding the country back. "The problems with the Indian economy are pretty clear," says Shaji Ul Mulk, the chairman of Mulk Holdings in Sharjah. "India's problem is basically the lack of decision."

So what is the solution? The place to start is improving the roads and the rails, conduits for propelling India's economy. Spending more on improvement to ports and transport systems, as well as filling gaps in energy shortfalls, will be essential. Parliament must also move swiftly to loosen rules that are restricting foreign investment across the board.

India's economic vitality concerns the entire region; it is, after all, the UAE's largest trading partner. Successful Indian businessmen and women who have contributed so much outside the country should use their considerable influence to advocate reforms at home.