London: NRI industrialist Lord Swraj Paul has called for granting Indian passports to expatriates who invest a certain minimum amount in industries in India and help ignite the engine of economic growth.
"We now have a one-party government (in India), and a prime minister who appears determined to make Indian expatriates feel welcome in their homeland. Encouraging expatriate involvement could help ignite the engine of economic growth," Lord Paul said while speaking at the 14th London Global Convention on Corporate Governance and Sustainability.
In his address at the event organised here by the Institute of Directors India, he emphasised that for too long India has been burdened with an old, cosy, family-and- favourites, under-the-table style of doing and managing business.
"For the first time I now have confidence that that is going to change. Symbolic gestures are also very important. I hope the next step will be to grant expats an Indian passport. If not for all of them, then surely for those who invest a certain minimum amount of money to set up industries in India," Paul, the Chairman of the Caparo Group, said yesterday.
"It would probably be too late to be of any benefit to me, but it will certainly help and encourage the younger generation of entrepreneurs," said Paul, who was one of the first NRIs to invest in India substantially in the 1980s.
Paul highlighted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has pledged to end corruption and end the illicit flow of funds which are a "disgrace to a proud nation".
"We have a mature and very experienced President (Pranab Mukherjee), having held every important portfolio; a deeply committed Prime Minister, and a Finance Minister (Arun Jaitley) who is widely regarded as highly competent. All of them are determined to make India a fairer society, and secure for the nation its due place in the world," he said.
Noting that their efforts have generated high hopes, Paul said, "For the first time in a long while, these expectations appear to be within reach."
He stated that if these expectations are to be realised, a few basic changes are needed and India has to simplify the rules and make sure that all inward investment whether in infrastructure, business, health, education, research etc conforms to those rules.
"When it does not, it must be disallowed," Paul said.
Investment that enriches itself but does little or nothing for society does nothing for India today, he said.
Noting that it is also time to end the process where every case has to be individually considered by the government before approval, Paul said that "this is time consuming and opens the door for local lobbyists to stall proceedings."
"It also creates opportunity for corruption. A lot of companies trying to invest in India have suffered from this and it has unfortunately given India a bad name. Yet major opportunities for business are in prospect. The Prime Minister has said that just like Corporate Social Responsibility there should also be Corporate Government Responsibility. And this is something we should strongly support," Paul said.
He stated that many of the top universities are extremely keen to forge links with India.
"The two universities of which I am Chancellor -- the University of Wolverhampton and the University of Westminster -- have been working with India to set up new programmes and opportunities for our young people. Both the rewards and the reciprocity have been very encouraging," he said.
"Such initiatives must be vigorously advanced. I feel strongly that only by providing top class education can a nation build a sustainable future. We need to draw on every resource to accomplish this," Paul said.
"As someone who has been in the manufacturing business for a long time, I am glad the Prime Minister is concerned that manufacturing business has been leaving India in the past four years. He is committed to its return and has asked businesses that were thinking of moving out to stay and prosper under his new regime," he said.
Paul called for help to provide stable manufacturing base which will give jobs to young people.
"Let us manufacture and invest in the goods that India needs and can also export to other nations - things like ecologically sound low cost construction, low cost vehicles, solar energy, clean biological sanitation and water management systems," he said.
Stating that "we are now at a turning point in modern India history," Paul said, "if we make the best use of the present opportunities, we will achieve what I know everyone in this room wants -- India that is good for its people, good for the global Indian community and good for the world."