New Delhi: India shared the limelight on climate action, economic growth and several other matters as the curtains came down on the five-day-long discussions on global issues here on Friday, with WEF chief Klaus Schwab describing the country as a bright spot in the fragile world. Most business and political leaders from India and other countries lauded India’s commitment to climate goals and its return to a growth path after the coronavirus pandemic. All said, there were also some sceptical voices about India’s becoming a global growth engine as they felt that China could play that role in the immediate future.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting returned to the Swiss Alps with the theme ‘Cooperation in a Fragmented World’ with more than 2,700 participants after the pandemic-induced disruptions.
“I commend the country’s decisive action on the climate case for renewables, its contribution to the global healthcare ecosystem, the focus on an economic model for women-led development, and its leadership on digital public infrastructure. India remains a bright spot amid global geoeconomics and geopolitical crises,” Schwab, WEF Founder and Executive Chairman, said at an India reception here on Thursday.
He lauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership in a fractured world and said the country is promoting just and equitable growth for all in the world during its G20 presidency, while also making significant progress on the most pressing domestic challenges.
“India’s G20 presidency comes at a crucial time, Prime Minister Modi’s leadership is critical in this fractured world,” Schwab said.
During the five days, Indian ministers as well as business leaders highlighted the country’s progress and potential.
On Tuesday, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya invited global leaders to partner with India to make the world a healthier place and said the government is institutionalising medical tourism through a new ‘Heal In India’ initiative.
He invited all the stakeholders to look at India as a land of opportunities and take advantage of the same by partnering with India.
Union Minister for Women and Child Development Smriti Irani on Wednesday said India is open for business round the clock and so is the Indian government.
She also said that India runs the largest healthcare system in the world in the form of Ayushman Bharat that covers 100 million families. India engaged with the world for building its own indigenous Covid vaccines but it was not done with a commercial intention but with compassion, she added.
“We also offer business opportunities to the entire world also in the form of nutraceuticals,” she said.
Union Communications Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on Wednesday said that India’s pragmatic response to pandemic-triggered crises ensured moderate inflation, high growth.
“As the pandemic hit the world and triggered an economic as well as humanitarian crises, many countries began unleashing their purses with big stimulus packages but that led to a gold-plated rush resulting in huge inflationary pressures.
“However, India took a very pragmatic approach, while understanding that capital is very scarce, irrespective of what some experts may say,” he said.
About the government’s own investment plans, Vaishnaw, on Thursday, said the government itself is putting in USD 10 billion and it has chalked out a long haul programme.
“We see a huge potential for India to become a key semiconductor supplier for the entire world, that too for the latest requirements including for electric vehicles and for all cutting-edge technologies. We are convinced that the demand is going to be huge,” he said.
India has gone through a major attitude transition in recent years and is now in a position to take the lead in bringing resilience back to the global economy, Tata group chief N Chandrasekaran said on Wednesday.
At a session, he said the country has mastered the art of leveraging technology.
“The country has gone through an attitude transition and it was at its best show during the Covid pandemic when we saw our own vaccines getting manufactured in India. The digital transition we saw has also been phenomenal,” he added.
Geopolitical developments and developed countries also came up during the discussions.
Union Minister for Power, and New and Renewable Energy R K Singh on Wednesday said developed countries should walk the talk on transforming food systems by helping small farmers in developing countries with cheaper access to irrigation, fertilisers and markets.
Asked why India is continuing to import cheap Russian gas despite international opprobrium, Singh said India imports less gas from Russia in a month than Europe does in a day.
“India had a conflict with its northern neighbour; did the West do anything about it? Stop importing from it?” he said.
Not just business opportunities, the strides made by the country in terms of financial inclusion were also highlighted during the annual meeting.
State Bank of India (SBI) Chairman Dinesh Kumar Khara on Thursday said that robust mobile and internet connectivity has helped India in a big way to expand financial inclusion.
“We are a country of 1.3 billion and the mobile phone connections we have are about 1.2 billion. We also have some 800 million internet connections and that has helped us a lot expand financial inclusion… during the pandemic period, we also did another excellent job, that is distributing foodgrain also, rather than just distributing cash. That helped us contain inflation,” he said.
Indian renewables major ReNew Power’s chief Sumant Sinha said that energy security may be driving the transition towards new sources at present in the developed world, but sustainability should be the key factor in the longer run.
Noting that the energy transition in India began quite early, Sinha said the efforts got a further boost when solar power became much cheaper while wind price also came down significantly.
In a strong pitch to foreign investors, Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde has said that his state is a ‘Gateway to India’ that promises a stable and booming economy.
On Monday, WEF’s Chief Economists Outlook survey said that a global recession is likely in 2023, but pressures on food, energy and inflation may be peaking.
At the same time, some economies in the South Asia region, including Bangladesh and India, may beneﬁt from global trends such as a diversiﬁcation of manufacturing supply chains away from China, it said.
Meanwhile, former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan said it is too premature to think that India will replace China when it comes to influencing global economic growth.
“The argument that India will replace China is very premature as India is much smaller economy as of now… but over a period of time, that may change as India is already the fifth largest economy and it can keep growing,” he said.
About the global economy, IMF’s Gita Gopinath said on Wednesday said the global economy is facing a unique situation due to an unprecedented level of high inflation and that is causing tension between monetary and fiscal policies.