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Keynote Address by Vice President at the India-Paraguay Business Forum (March 07, 2019)

March 07, 2019

Namaste,
Her Excellency Ms. Liz Cramer, Minister for Industries and Commerce of Paraguay,
Mr. K J Alphons, Hon’ble Minister of State for Tourism, who is accompanying me and also Our Indian Ambassador Shri Sanjiv Ranjan,
Ambassador of Paraguay to India, Mr. Mr. Ram Kumar Kashyap,
Member of Parliament, who is part of the delegation and
Mr. Gustav President of the Union of Industrial of Paraguay and my dear friends of the business community of Paraguay as well as India,


We feel sorry that the Indian delegation will miss it today and they will be reaching tomorrow, I am told, otherwise they would have made a presentation of what is the situation even in India also.

It is my great pleasure to be here amongst this august gathering. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the business chambers of India, the FICCI and the CII and the Paraguayan chambers for arranging this event.

The ideas flowing from this forum will form basis for economic growth by boosting business opportunities between our countries. Political and economic progress go together to make this happen.

We are happy to be here in this beautiful and dutiful country. It is not only beautiful but also dutiful.

We had an opportunity to meet with your Hon’ble President, Vice President and also the delegation yesterday.

I must be frank with you. I have 40 years of political experience but I was so impressed by the discussions that we had with your President. He is very clear, clever and very good at knowing the background of India and he was able to put forth the point of view of Paraguay in a most effective and beautiful manner.

The Latin America and Caribbean region is rich in resources essential for India’s energy and food security.

Paraguay is an important partner of India in the Latin American and Caribbean region. Our bilateral relations are on an upward trend and in my meeting yesterday with H.E the President of Paraguay, H.E the Vice President of Paraguay and H.E the President of the Paraguayan Senate, we have discussed at length the ways in which we can further strengthen our trade relations and widen the trade basket.

There has been a welcome growth in economic and trade ties between our two countries. Yet there is an enormous potential to further increase this engagement.

With yesterday’s meeting I am confident that that cooperation will grow further. And with today’s this interaction with business community and tomorrow’s interaction you will be able to understand each other better and the opportunities and avenues available to each other.

There are several sectors where complementarities exist between our two countries which need to be explored for mutual benefit.

India needs to leverage its strengths in manufacturing, services, and strengthen its linkages with Latin American Countries through various global and regional forums, multilateral Banks, etc. to get more involved with LAC priorities and projects.

The India-Paraguay Business Forum aims to provide such platforms for policy makers, think tanks, academics and business people to engage in a manner that encourages fresh policy thinking and innovative solutions to the challenges facing the region.

The geographic location of Paraguay at the very heart of South America is well acknowledged by the Indian business community.

Yesterday evening I had an interaction with the Indian community of Paraguay. They are very much happy and told me they are very comfortable here and Paraguayan people and government has been very affectionate in taking care of them.

Paraguay is the 10th leading trading partner of India in Latin American region. Paraguay is a major source of vegetable oil for India.

In 2017-18, my friends, the bilateral trade between India and Paraguay increased by around 20 percent to US$ 335 million. During this period, India’s imports from Paraguay reached US$ 167 million whereas India’s exports to Paraguay reached US$ 168 million registering an increase of 35 percent over the previous year.

I believe there is immense scope for the Indian companies for investments in Paraguay, especially in Automobile, Pharmaceuticals & Engineering Goods. Given its strengths in agriculture, Paraguay can become an important partner for India as a source of agro products.

On the other hand, the farm machinery and equipment developed by Indian companies could be of benefit to Paraguay. Paraguay leads the World in the export of renewable energy and thus offers interested Indian investors opportunities in the sector of small and medium sized energy-generation-components.

For the Indian companies to cooperate with Paraguay companies and government has a small hydel project. We have experience and we have expertize and we discussed with the Hon’ble President also yesterday about the same.

I am sure that Paraguay’s high quality deposits of limestone and gypsum, coupled with the availability of electricity at highly economical prices would be an attraction for both Indian cement and fertilizer industries.

Indian pharmaceutical products are recognized globally for their high quality and affordable prices. What is costing a thousand rupees in west, India is producing and selling that in 100 rupees.

So that is the vast difference and for the benefit of the Latin American countries and South Americans also, encouraging Indian generic medicine will really be very helpful to the common people because they will be getting it at affordable prices.

There are world class products approved by agencies like the US-Food and Drug Administration and European Directorate for the Quality of Medicines.

India-Paraguay Joint ventures in the pharma sector could greatly benefit Paraguayan consumers and not only that as opined by your Hon’ble President yesterday, Paraguay can be a gateway to reach the other Latin American Countries. Exports to other countries in the region could also be thought of, as I suggested.

Business- and investment-promotion and scouting visits from India to Paraguay and the India-LAC conclaves conducted by CII and FICCI in India and LAC region have been providing a platform for newer opportunities for businessmen on both sides.

Trade flows between MERCOSUR and India grew 252% since 2008. India is keen to diversify trade with Paraguay and also with MERCOSUR through the expansion of the existing PTA.

We look forward to Paraguay as one of the active members of MERCOSUR to push for expediting the expansion of the list of items under PTA.

Concessions to India in the sectors of its export strength like engineering goods & machinery, auto vehicles, textiles, two-wheelers, four-wheelers, commercial vehicles, pharma, and leather products & footwear will open market access in MERCOSUR countries in these areas. The early holding of negotiations through the proposed video conference in this context will help early finalization benefiting businessmen from both sides.

The likely integration of MERCOSUR and Pacific Alliance is a welcome sign which would bring greater opportunities for all countries within the region and also for India whereby each country will be gaining more by enhanced market access.

Liberalization of visa facilitations for our businessmen will provide easy travel with direct impact on trade. This issue we have discussed with the President and the Vice President and the delegation level talks are going on, we hope that these are settled at the earliest.

Sisters and Brothers,

In addition to working on the complementarities and opportunities that exist in specific sectors, my belief also owes to the business- and investment-conducive environment created in both countries.

I am glad to note that Paraguay has demonstrated strong and stable macroeconomic policies that have strengthened economic performance in the last ten years.

As a result, Paraguay’s economy has grown at an average of 4.28 per cent per year between 2013 and 2018. I am happy that Paraguay is one of the few Latin American countries that maintains a stable risk rating by three main rating agencies (i.e. Moody’s, Standard and Poor’s, and Fitch). All the rating companies are giving good rating to Paraguay.

My dear Sisters and Brothers,

I would like to apprise you of what is happening in India. I am pleased to inform you that India today, a country of 1.25 billion people, is going through a great transformation.

Today India is a land of opportunities that is transforming its governance in diverse ways.

The results are now clear to an objective viewer.

Let me quote the World Bank’s ‘Doing Business 2019’ report published recently which said, "India, which is a top improver for a second consecutive year, implemented six reforms in the past year and advanced to 77th place in the global ranking.

India is now the region’s top-ranked economy. Starting a business was made easier through consolidation of multiple application forms and introduction of a Goods and Services Tax (GST).”

GST is a massive, revolutionary taxation transformation that has taken place. In the entire country, no check-post, no stoppage, you can go through and then pay one tax.

India is among the fastest growing major economies in the world.

Go through the report by World Bank, World Economic Forum, Asian Development Bank, International Monetary Fund, Moody’s rating, everybody is saying that at this speed India will become third largest economy in another 10-15 years.

The world economy is largely averaged around 3-3.5 percent. Our neighbor, powerful economy, China is also going through negative 6.8 percent. India is the only country which is moving at 7.3-7.4 percent, that is a happy news about Indians.

Earlier people used to complain about red-tape. Now the Prime Minister has converted red-tape into red-carpet. Whoever wants to come and invest in India, red-carpet welcome for them. Ease of doing business, ease of approvals these are the priority concerns of the government.

The Prime Minister gave a three line advice, very important, he said, Reform, Perform and Transform. Transform the nation in every spectrum things are changing, transforming.

In 2018 $38 billion FDI flowed into India to make it top ten host economies of the world.

Numerous international companies are setting up their facilities in India on account of various government initiatives like Make in India and Digital India, Skill India and Clean India. He gave a program called MISIDICI.

MISIDICI is not the name of the program that is the program. I was minister at that time so I gave that name MISIDICI. MI – Make in India, SI – Skill India, DI – Digital India, and CI- Clean India. All these things are happening simultaneously in the country.

With a country wide sweep of digital connectivity, transformative economic reforms, favorable demographics and a vibrant start-up ecosystem, India is expected to be the third largest consumer economy in the coming years.

We have started work to build next-generation infrastructure including 100 Smart cities, 7 high-speed train corridors and a nationwide broad-band connectivity.

You will be surprised to know 2 lakh 50 thousand villages are going to be laid with optic fiber line. National highways, railways, bullet trains, airports, regional connectivity, inland water transport, what not, everywhere in every sector there are lot of opportunities for anyone who wants to invest in India.

Transformative reforms such as the introduction of Goods and Services Tax has turned India, a country of 1.3 billion people, into One Nation, One Tax, One Market for the first time in its history.

The similarity between India and Paraguay is that in India 65 percent of its population is below 35 years. Specialty of Paraguay is that 70 percent of the population of Paraguay is below 38 years, this is a similarity between both.

Both want to grow, both are pursuing reforms, both are having able leaders and stable government. So let us work together, take advantage of opportunities that are available and take our both countries forward, that is my appeal to all of you.

Our financial inclusion program JAN DHAN YOJANA has ensured that 340 million bank accounts are opened in a matter of 16-18 months. 128 million loans worth 90 billion US dollars have been disbursed in the last three years.

74% of these beneficiaries are notably women! All these initiatives have unleashed a new momentum for the growth of micro-enterprises, entrepreneurship and self-employment.

We have a skill development ministry to upgrade the skills of the youngsters. I find there is a need for Paraguayan youth also to upgrade their skills and India is willing to extend support for training youngsters in their skill upgradation.

Another area of cooperation is capacity building, we can train youngsters to increase their capacity. One more areas is, as mentioned by Hon’ble Minister is in the IT sector. Another area is to train the youngsters and children in English, that is also required.

India also can offer training for diplomats, the young officers as foreign diplomats that we agreed on yesterday.

There is an opportunity for visits between both the countries so that the tourism of both the respective countries can grow faster.

So my dear friends,

I am very thankful to you this morning, in this early hour, you all have gathered in large number to receive me and my delegation.

Let us take this opportunity to come closer and also understand each other and move together, that is my advice.

Thank you very much.
Namaskar,
Jai Hind.

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