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RCEP: Private sector given responsibility to identify opportunities

CEOs to boost bilateral to US$250bn


CEOs to boost bilateral to US$250bn


Participants in the India-Singapore CEOs Forum.

The private sector has a responsibility to identify the new areas of cooperation in goods and services and not only leapfrog the bilateral trade, but also create opportunities for jobs and upgrading skill set, said Harshavardhan Neotia, past President of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

He made the comments as the governments and regulators are working together for the early conclusion of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

Neotia also underlined Singapore as a gateway for Indian companies for their ASEAN outreach.

“Together our countries have the potential to forge partnerships that advance traditional strengths and is fit for the digital and innovation- led future,” he said after hosting the first Singapore – India CEO’s Forum on 14 Nov 2018.

“Singapore is a strategic partner of India and the launch of Singapore – India CEO’s Forum (SICF) as a high-level bilateral consultation mechanism will support the enormous potential for expanding bilateral trade and investments between the two countries,” he said.

Neotia also noted: “India and Singapore are both taking decisive steps towards the digital future, with rapid adoption of innovative solutions and practices across a vast range of sectors. The combined capabilities and competency in advanced and digital technologies creates unparalleled potential.”

FICCI and Singapore Business Federation (SBF) has established the forum to broaden strategic cooperation between the two organisations.

SICF hopes to deepen and strengthen partnerships in eight priority sectors – Infrastructure, Renewable Energy, Advance Manufacturing, Education and Skills, Fintech, IT & ITES, Healthcare and Life-sciences and Defence and Space.

SICF will promote business collaborations and recommend solutions to overcome barriers to business with the goal to double bilateral investments to US$250 billion in five years.

The forum elevates Singapore-India business relations further, said SBF in a media release on 19 Nov 2018.

Co-chaired by Gautam Banerjee, chairman of SBF’s South-Asia Business Group and Neotia, the SICF represents diverse interests in various business sectors ranging from aviation, banking and finance, energy and engineering to infrastructure, information and communication technology (ICT), manufacturing, education to professional services.

Leading Singapore companies represented in the forum include Ascendas–SingBridge, Blackstone, Crimson Logic, Meinhardt Group, Sembcorp Industries Ltd, Singapore Airlines and Singtel Group, while India’s business community was represented by top corporations such as Adani Group, Ambuja Neotia Group, Bharti Enterprises and Edelweiss Group.

SICF will issue joint recommendations to the Indian and Singapore governments.

Neotia and Banerjee, as SICF co-chairs, signed a “Joint Intention Document” with a goal to help double bilateral investments to US$250 billion over the next five years.

Key recommendations of Indian business leaders to the Singapore government include a proposal for India to collaborate with Singapore on applying artificial intelligence to domains like smart cities, 5G, electronics manufacturing, infrastructure, and prevailing social issues in health and education.

Additionally, both parties can explore emerging technologies and disciplines like blockchain, machine learning and smart manufacturing to promote bilateral trade and investments between India and Singapore.

Business leaders from Singapore also made two key recommendations to the Indian government. The first includes the reduction of the withholding tax rate under the Singapore-India Tax Treaty, from the current 15% to 10% (which is in line with other countries) or even 7.5% given the strategic relationship between Singapore and India.

The other involves the removal of salary requirements that cannot be justified from a market perspective for Singaporeans to obtain visas into India.

One area where both countries could benefit from closer cooperation is mobile payments. Arthur Lang, CEO International of Singtel shared the company intends to collaborate with Bharti Airtel – a leading global telecommunications company headquartered in New Delhi, India – to expand VIA, its regional cross-border mobile payment alliance. VIA is envisaged to eventually connect all mobile wallets in Asia with those in India.

Lang said, “VIA will promote more cross-border transactions, and promote financial inclusion, and thereby support the Indian government’s ‘Digital India’ vision.”

The SICF delegation also called on Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies, and Suresh Prabhu, Commerce and Industry Minister.

The co-chairs presented the joint report and briefed the ministers on the forum meeting.

Banerjee said: “Singapore companies have long recognised opportunities in India, which is one of the largest economies in Asia. While sectors such as aviation, information technology, real estate, manufacturing, construction, renewable energy, pharmaceuticals and telecommunications have progressively attracted capital, we hope to leverage SICF to take bilateral investments a step further.”

To be held annually, the second SICF is expected to take place in India next year.

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