Advocating an open set of rules for overseas investors, NRI industrialist Lord Swraj Paul has said that India should just specify the level of permitted foreign investment in each sector and let the companies accordingly invest without any individual approval procedures.

Terming the current economic problems as a course correction and a passing phase, he also said that India’s economic growth prospects remain intact and the country needs to channelise the energy of its highly competent workforce.

“My view is that the government should make the rules that say that these investments are allowed in these industries and these are not allowed in these industries.

“Nobody should be required to apply for any approval,” Paul said.

“If they fit into the rules, they are most welcome, if they do anything different, they would be punished. This should be an open policy. So, take action, not selectively, but take action that is within the law. But make laws that are completely transparent and open,” he said.

“Tell the investors – We will not bother you if you follow the rules, but if you don’t follow, we will hang you.

“This will help the foreign companies take their investment decisions as per the existing laws,” said Paul, who heads UK-based over Rs 10,000 crore conglomerate Caparo Group that is present across the US, Europe and Asia including India.

“As far as investment is concerned, it is the government’s job to promote India, but the investments do not come solely because of that,” he said.

“Investments come when a company sees scope, and they want to go to a country where they feel there is safety, they see growth prospects,” Paul added.

Problems before Indian economy

Asked about the prevailing problems before the Indian economy, Paul, who lives in London and is currently on a visit to India, said that one of the major issues has been a huge jump in the non-performing assets of the banks, which in turn had arisen due to over-leveraging by the companies.

Noting that the problems abroad have been because of the greed of the bankers, he said that banks in India have ended up with “lots of NPAs that is becoming almost impossible to manage”.

“This situation has arisen because of companies expanding blindly into new areas and a phenomenon of every company wanting to get into every business. The thinking had become that every company wants to be in every business that the other company is into,” the Caparo Group Chairman said.

“India and China are the two countries that will lead the world economy. China has a much better handle on its working than we have in India, but we have very competent people in the government, as well as in the opposition,” he said.

Indian Democracy among the best in world

Paul said that the Indian democracy was among the best in the world and the country’s political leaders were also as good as those from any other country in the world.

“Nobody in the world should underestimate the capabilities of our people. We have eminent leaders like Manmohan Singh and P Chidambaram in the government. Even in the BJP and other Opposition parties, there is no shortage of good people. There are people like Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, Narendra Modi.

“We have Nitish Kumar, all of whom are very competent and as good as any other country in the world,” he said.

“Despite all the noise, the quality of debate in Indian Parliament is as good as any other country that we can be proud of. I place Indian democracy among the top democracies of the world and there is no argument about that.

“However, we need to ensure that all of us start thinking about the country as a whole and not about themselves individually. I believe that sooner or later, a little crisis like this would make us think like that.

“The problems would be solved not by a handful of people, but the entire country would need to work on that. There are issues like poverty, corruption, safety of women and education that needs to be tackled,” he added.

“When it comes to corruption, it is not only the takers of the bribe, but even those giving the bribe are equally big a problem,” Paul said.

(This article was published on April 8, 2013)
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