Modi: Saudi Arabia has turned ‘sands of Arabia into gold’

PM delivers a keynote address in Riyadh for FII 2019

Riyadh: Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses at the Future Investment Initiative Forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Oct 29, 2019. (Photo: IANS)

RIYADH (Rahnuma) India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while delivering the keynote address at Future Initiative Investment Forum, said Saudi Arabia radiated ‘positive energy’ and has converted the ‘sands of Arabia into gold’.

Speaking on Saudi Arabia’s rich culture and status as global energy hub, Modi said, “I thank Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and my brother Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman for inviting me to participate in the forum.”

Citing the age-old historic links between India and Saudi Arabia, Modi said. “Saudi Arabia is the place of the two holy mosques which is the center for millions of the faithful. This land is a source of energy for the world economy. Today, in this forum in Riyadh, I too am feeling the positive energy of this land.”

He continued, “The theme for FII selected in this forum is not only to talk about the economy of the Kingdom but is to understand the emerging trends in the world, and to find in them avenues for the welfare of humanity.

“It is for this reason this dynamic platform has become an important calendar of the business world. In less than just three years this forum has come a very long way.

“My friend and brother Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman deserves the heartiest congratulations for this success. This forum is know as “Davos in Desert” and in the last century the hard work of the people of Saudi Arabia and the bounties of nature it is blessed with has converted the sands of Arabia into gold.

“The leadership of the Kingdom has worked for the next generation. I would like to congratulate Muhammad Bin Salman for his vision. He not only used the word future in the summit, but the concept is forward looking and oriented to the future.

“As his brother and neighbor it is natural to represent one of the world’s largest goring economy in this remarkable forum.

Modi, while stressing that he was always thinking on how India could contribute to global good, reiterated that whatever we are doing in India would strengthen global initiatives too.

He spoke about the 5 big trends for global business and spelled them out to the audience. “I will talk about the 5 big trends in global business, first, the influence of technology and innovation, second, for global growth infrastructure is key. Third, human resources and the changing nature of future of working, fourth, compassion for environment and fifth business friendly governance.”

Modi highlighted the fact that India is a ‘land of opportunities’ for global business. “In this forum, I have the opportunity to place before you’ll the resources and opportunities in India, our expectations and aims, where India will be in the next 5 years, when it will double its economy to reach five trillion dollars.”

The Indian prime minister was instructive on the transformative impact of technology and innovation. He said, “We are witness to the influence of technology and innovation. Transformative technologies like Artificial Intelligence, genetics and Nano-technology are becoming a part of our daily lives.

He linked that transformation specifically to India by stating that competition and innovation are key drivers for the India economy. “Competitive, innovative and dynamic business sector needs proactive and transparent government that can play the role of a facilitator. Clear rules and fair system are needed for the growth of the private sector,” he said.

He added that investments by Saudi companies in India are a welcome trend that is set to deepen. “Aramco has invested in India’s West Coast Refinery Project, Asia’s biggest refinery, and we have liberalized the norms in downstream sector, specially retailing which will increase the ease doing business in this sector. We need investments in energy to sustain our growth, and we request the energy companies present here to profit from our liberalization.”

Modi highlighted the fact that energy security remained a national priority, adding that India is investing in infrastructure of gas and oil sector. “We foresee by 2024 an investment of $100 billion in refining, pipelines and gas terminals,” he said.

On a ‘silo less governance’ vision, Modi said, “We do not think in silos on infrastructure, but we are trying to effect an integrated approach. One Nation, One Power Grid, One Nation, One Gas Grid, One Water Grid, One Nation One Mobility Card, One Nation, and One Optical Fiber Network are the areas in which were are taking an integrated approach.”

Modi spoke on the need on fostering a new innovation culture in the next generation. “The success of the change brought by technology is evident in nations that have embraced new technologies and it has spawned a culture of further innovation.

“India has strengthened this culture by focusing on various efforts like start challenges, hackathons, or for school children’s’ Atal Tinkering Labs where they experience innovation.”

He also said that India believed that free global mobility of labor should be encouraged. “Free global mobility of skilled manpower will enhance growth of world’s economy. International trade agreements should not be limited to only goods, but should include easy manpower and talent mobility.”

In this, he added, Skill India is a comprehensive vision document to develop our Human Resources. “To hone skills in India, we have introduced a comprehensive vision, and we are constantly working on it. Through Skill India initiative we will train, in the next three to four years, 400 million people in different skills. Thus companies investing in India will get a ready made pool of skilled workers.”

He also stressed that skilled manpower adds to company valuations, stating, “Today international investments depends on quality manpower.” Skilled manpower is the measure for the valuation of the company. To train people in different skills quickly is a challenge before us. The nature of work is fast changing, for that a cycle of learning, unlearning and relearning will become a must in the future.”

On India’s emergence as the new start-up nation, Modi said, “Today in India along with research and development, technology entrepreneurship a comprehensive eco-system is being readied. And results of our efforts are bearing fruit. Today India is the third largest startup ecosystem, such that startups are there in tier 2 and Tier 3 cities.

On global recognition of India’s economic successes, Modi said, “India has bettered its performance in every global ranking. We have jumped 10 places in Logistics Performance Ranking, have improve 24 places in Global Innovation Index, and we have reached 63rd rank, from 142 in 2014, in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business. In addition for the past three years we have been in the top ten in reforms.”

He also discussed some major economic and financial reforms undertaken in India recently. “We have taken hard decisions such that India’s tax structure and IPR regime compares with the world’s top business regimes, “ he said, adding, we have taken steps to further liberalize India’s FDI policy.

“Easy FDI policy and liberalization has helped India to become one of the biggest foreign investment destination. In the past five years India has received $286 billion FDIs,” he said.

He also said a body like the UN shouldn’t merely be an institution but also an instrument for positive change: “We have to think whether the UN has risen to the occasion when it comes to conflict resolution. I had raised this issue when the UN turned 70 but much discussion couldn’t happen. I hope this topic is discussed more actively when the UN turns 75.”

He also provided a glimpse of the changing global equation. “Earlier expansionist tendencies determined strength. Today development oriented polity, the quest for innovation is determining what strength is. The times of a bipolar world have gone. We live in a time where every nation is connected and dependent on each other. The need of the hour is to strengthen a multi-polar order. For each and every nation is important today.”

Earlier, Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz Bin Salman met with Modi and discussed partnerships between their countries.

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