July 1, 2015 – Washington D.C. – U.S. industry executives from the U.S.-India Business Council (USIBC) met with the Minister of Urban Development, M. Venkaiah Naidu, to discuss opportunities in the recently launched schemes of the Government of India that will have a significant impact on India’s urban development for the next few years. Minister Naidu engaged with members on a range of topics, including the Smart Cities Programme, reforms undertaken by the Government of India to improve the Ease of Doing Business, prospective passage of the Goods & Services Tax (GST) and Land Acquisition Bill.
Speaking about the resurgence of India under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Minister Naidu said that “India is fast transforming itself in every sphere of public life. The economy is back on rails, inflation is under control, and growth rate is at 7.3% and likely to cross 8% in the coming years”. He noted that the Indian Parliament had passed a record number of 47 legislations in the past year, including some that had been pending for a long time, like the increase in FDI cap in insurance sector.
Minister Naidu outlined various initiatives of the government including the Make in India, Skill India, Digital India and Clean India programmes. He also highlighted efforts to build a partnership between the Centre and the States to move forward on reforms like the GST. He noted that the Government is linking bank accounts with the unique ID and mobile telephones to stop leakage in subsidies. It is focusing on greater transparency and accountability. He emphasized the human face of reforms, including social security schemes and affordable housing.
Noting that India has prioritized the creation of 100 smart cities, which will incorporate the use of solar energy, rain water harvesting, good sanitation, drinking water and smart public transportation, Minister Naidu explained the recent guidelines for selection of smart cities, financing infrastructure development and incentives for private sector participation. Expressing appreciation for the U.S. support for smart city development of Ajmer, Allahabad and Vishakhapatnam, he urged the U.S. businessmen to take advantage of the business friendly atmosphere and the great investment opportunities in India, and invited them to invest in smart cities and AMRUT projects.
“American enterprise is eager to participate and deepen its commercial dialogue through the 100 Smart Cities initiative launched by Prime Minister Modi and led by Minister Naidu. In his role as Parliamentarian, investors are confident that, under Minister Naidu’s leadership, the monsoon session of the Parliament will continue progress toward economic and regulatory reforms that are key to India’s economic progress,” said Purna Saggurti, Chairman of Global Corporate and Investment Banking at Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, and a member of USIBC’s Board of Directors.
Expressing hope and optimism in Minister Naidu’s vision, USIBC President, Mukesh Aghi said, “Flagship programs such as Smart Cities, Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) and Housing for All reflect the Indian government’s dedication to innovation and technology, while not overlooking the urgent need to provide all citizens with access to basic necessities such as sanitation, water, power and means to earning a livelihood. Reforms in taxation and land acquisition remain central to the success of these schemes.”
Lauding Minister Naidu’s progress with the Smart Cities Initiative, Dr. Sreedhar Potarazu, CEO of Vital Springs said, “There are immense opportunities for innovation in India’s digital space. Smart cities will be the transformation India has been waiting for. Healthcare is at the nexus of this new digital economy that can expand the reach of quality care.”
Minister Naidu interacted with USIBC members and answered their queries. Representatives of many top US based business houses, who were present in the round table discussions, expressed keen interest in India. Prominent among them were, iTECH, IBM, Honeywell, Genworth, UTC, AECOM, Tyco, Systems Soft, Apple, AT&T, Dell, Qualcom, Cognizant, Capital Novus, Moody’s, Bank of America, McLarty Associates, etc.