Dubai – MENA Herald: India’s Finance Minister Mr. Arun Jaitley today opened the highly anticipated inaugural edition of the UAE-India Economic Forum, which is taking place in Dubai over two days starting today at the Burj Al Arab hotel.
Addressing a distinguished gathering of senior dignitaries, government officials and business leaders, Mr. Jaitley in his keynote address stated that as a frequent visitor to the UAE, he has been witness to the build-up of this region almost brick by brick and the transformation it has gone through to become a global hub employing the most entrepreneurial techniques.
“Over the last four decades, the great relationship between the UAE and India has evolved greatly in various directions of human life and civilization supported by the two nations’ strength of human resource, culture, geography and economy,” he said.
Outlining three key challenges facing India’s economic growth, Mr. Jaitley stated that world economy is under great stress with almost every forecast indicating a negative trend in terms of growth statistics. The global slowdown impacts the world market, which in turn poses challenges for large economies like India. Second, 55% of our population is still dependent on agriculture and with the unpredictability of monsoon, their purchasing power has been reduced significantly.Third, while public and foreign investment in India has grown by 30% and 40% respectively, the rate of growth in terms of private investments is still sluggish.”
To address these challenges, Mr. Jaitley highlighted the structural changes brought about by the Indian government on the back of country’s consistent drive for growth, credibility of India’s decision-making processes, bigger aspirations, greater stability and support in the direction of policy, quick approvals, and a positive shift in terms of ease of doing business in India.
Welcoming Mr. Jaitley to the forum, H.E. Eng. Mohammed Ahmed Bin Abdulaziz Alshehhi, Undersecretary – UAE Ministry of Economy, said: “India and the UAE share a very special bond of friendship and partnership and we welcome the improvement in legislation and laws in India to promote business in the country. There are many success stories of UAE investment in India. The Indian community in the UAE is quite active and we welcome their contributions in the growth of the UAE economy. We look forward to more investments and increased trade opportunities between the two countries.”
Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Jyotsna Suri, President, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), said: “Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the UAE and his interaction with His Highness Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan brought a transformation in India-UAE relationship. We are looking at each other with renewed understanding and focus and are committed to leveraging the opportunities for mutual prosperity.”
Dr. Suri further highlighted that India has emerged as the number one FDI destination ahead of China and the US and that the country has also moved up in the latest rankings on ‘ease of doing business’ brought out by the World Bank – providing an added impetus to foreign investments. As part of her talk, she discussed a number of cooperation possibilities between India and the UAE, including infrastructure, energy and information technology.
Commenting on the significance of the forum in strengthening the economic ties between the two countries, H.E. Sharief Habib Al Awadhi, CEO and Director General, Fujairah Free Zone Authority, said: “At Fujairah Free Zone Authority, 40% of our businesses are from India and forums like these serve as great platforms for the UAE and India’s business communities to boost collaboration on a number of economic fronts. We are already India’s #1 partners in business and India stands as our second largest trade partner. India and the UAE enjoy a strong sense of comfort with each other, which facilitates stronger business associations between our economic sectors. The Indian business community in the UAE is quite robust and is constantly raising the bar with innovative business concepts and solutions.”
“Our objective with UAE India Economic Forum was to deliberate and debate the Indian opportunity which remains the bright spot in the global market. The insights of the honourable finance minister certainly emphasised this and we see this platform as a launching pad for bilateral investment” said Ravi Raman, Associate Publisher, Bloomberg Businessweek Middle East media partner and host of the event.
India’s historic ties with the UAE were significantly enhanced with the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the country in August of this year and this was followed by the setting up of a joint business council (JBC) in September. UAE has an important place in India’s energy security as the sixth largest import-source of crude oil in 2014-15. Bilateral trade has grown significantly from a level of $180 million in the 1970s to around $60 billion per annum now, making the UAE India’s third-largest trading partner for 2014-15.