Kamal Nath seeks French investment in India's urban development

Paris, June 27 (IANS) India's Urban Development Minister Kamal Nath Thursday urged French companies to seriously explore the "exciting opportunities" his country's booming urban development sector presented, saying India's growth still remained "very attractive".

Addressing a gathering of the French employers association here, Kamal Nath said the Indian growth rate of over 5 percent was still "very attractive in today's context". Most economies were struggling to reach even a 2 percent growth rate and some others, like France, were in recession.

"I am sure that it will climb back to its earlier rates of about 8-10 percent. But even today, India is an attractive destination for investments. Everything that is not boom is not gloom either," he told the captains of the French industry.

Kamal Nath arrived here Wednesday on a two-day visit to France, a country that prides itself on its excellent urban infrastructure including metros, civic amenities and well-planned cities and towns.

The meeting at Medef was attended by over 70 large and medium sized French companies. The visit is in continuation of the agreement signed in October 2012.

"Basically, we would like to see the French companies participating in a much bigger way in India," the minister said.

"This is very important as 50 percent of the urban infrastructure investment has to come from the private sector," Kamal Nath told IANS.

He dismissed fears that there were increasing uncertainties about the economic policies of the Indian government and that was scaring the French and other foreign companies away.

"There is no uncertainty in our policies. We have always adapted a very calibrated approach to reforms, and we carry the process on in a smooth, uniform and transparent manner and that is why you see it is successful and India has never done a u-turn on the reforms put in place.

"With this calibrated approach, we also give time to our private sector to absorb the changes that are brought about in reforms.

"It is because of this approach that the economic liberalisation or reforms in India have been the most successful in the world," he added.

Kamal Nath said the enormity of the "Indian opportunity" could be understood from the fact that the total cement production in France was less than the cement produced by Lafarge in India. He said there were many projects in the pipeline and his objective would be to attract more and more French companies into taking up more projects in the urban infrastructure space in India.

He said one of the key objectives of his visits was to attract medium sized French companies to invest in India as well.

"As the large companies invest more in India and they are successful, the medium sized companies will follow suit," the minister told IANS.

(Ranvir Nayar can be contacted at ranvir.mediaindia@gmail.com)

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