The City has much to gain from India’s huge infrastructure investment plans

 
Mark Boleat
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CITY MATTERS

IT might have been a simple coincidence, but I was delighted that my visit to Mumbai and New Delhi last week took place when the country was gearing up for the start of the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Not because - I hasten to add - I managed to watch any cricket in between meetings. But more importantly because this sport, and the IPL in particular, is a potent symbol of how rapidly India is developing and adapting to globalisation. This pace of change is perhaps best embodied by the fact that a tournament that started only five years ago is now one of the most watched and lucrative in the world of sport.

India is also on the verge of a similar transformation in its financial sector - albeit at a more controlled pace. Announcements on economic reform made by the Indian government in the recent budget were a positive signal to international investors.

Of course, City firms want to work more closely with their Indian counterparts, and that is why we are pressing for further progress on measures such as the Insurance and Banking Bills. Accelerating action on this will both show that the reform process is firmly back on track, and help boost growth.

The Financial Sector Legislative Reforms Commission's recent report to the Indian government offers some sensible recommendations to comprehensively modernise legal and regulatory structures, rather than approach reform on a piecemeal basis. This will help to ensure India's business environment stands the test of time by adapting to the growing sophistication of financial markets and to rapid technological change.

That said, there are already considerable opportunities for partnership between India and the UK, particularly when it comes to the delivery of infrastructure projects. The City is the natural centre for global business to look to draw on expertise and sources of capital and investment - and it is the natural place for India to look for support and partnership. For this reason we were delighted to host officials from the Ministry of Finance, led by secretary Arvind Mayaram, to London in January for the third annual Financing India's Infrastructure conference.

The scale of India's plans is astounding when seen from the UK. Its twelfth five-year plan projects a requirement of $1 trillion (£656bn) dollars expenditure on infrastructure - with an assumption that half of this will be raised from private sector investors.

India has an extraordinary future as an economic success story. It even has the potential to match the fast-growing influence of the IPL as a global standard bearer. Working with the most international financial centre in the world can only help it fulfil these ambitions.

Mark Boleat is policy chairman at the City of London Corporation.