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Manmohan seeks $150 billion U.S. investment

By Harish Khare

NEW YORK, SEPT. 22. Invoking his reputation as a reformer, the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, today invited the American financial aristocracy to invest as much as $150 billion in the infrastructure sector in India.

He told the American industry leaders that India was a success story, that his Government remained committed to an open and reformed economy and that he personally headed a Committee on Infrastructure, meant to eliminate policy bottlenecks.

Dr. Singh was speaking at a luncheon meeting with the American Chief Executive Officers at the New York Stock Exchange Board Room. Among those present included some of the most powerful bankers and investors, like Charles O. Prince and Robert E. Rubin of the Citigroup, Inc., Maurice R. Greenberg, Chairman of American International Group, inc., Henry M. Paulson, Jr., CEO of The Goldman Sachs Groups, Inc., Harold McGraw III, Chairman, President and CEO of the McGraw-Hill Companies, William B. Harrison, Jr. of JP Morgan Chase & Co, Sy Sternberg of New York Life Insurance Company, John Rutherfurd of Moody's Corporation, Kenneth Chaenault of American Express Company, Peter R. Kahn of Dow Jones, and John Thair, CEO of the New York Stock Exchange.

By one estimate, the CEOs gathered over the luncheon accounted for over a trillion U.S. dollars of assets.

Earlier, the Prime Minister gave an interview to the editors of the Wall Street Journal, America's most influential financial newspaper. The two interactions saw Dr. Singh at his best, articulating competently and even passionately the strategy of economic reforms and growth in a democratic India.

The Prime Minister made his sales pitch for American investment, as a complement to a politically important partnership between India and the U.S. He also sought to dispel doubts about his Government's capacity to stay the economic reforms course, notwithstanding the political constraints of the coalition Government. Dr. Singh told his interlocutors that there was maximum political consensus on investment in the infrastructure sector. He even cited the National Common Minimum Programme to that effect.

`A success story'

He made a good case for American investment. India, as he put it, was an English-speaking, open society with a highly developed rule of law system; there was an excellent potential for research and development base, India had the one of the largest pools of trained technical manpower, a large domestic market, and low operational costs. The economy itself was vibrant, demand was strong and growing, and that the Government had set a target of 7-8 per cent growth.

The manufacturing sector was emerging out its protected shell and joining the global competition. Calling it the "hidden success story happening in India," Dr. Singh noted that the manufacturing had shown excellent capabilities in automobiles, auto components, engineering goods, steel and metals, etc.

The bottom line of his sales pitch was that every international business must necessarily have an Indian strategy. "There is an India story which must be a part of every company's story," he concluded.

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