Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
I am delighted to be here this evening, to present the regional export awards to some of South India’s top engineering companies.
I will shortly present the awards for the year 2007-2008. And what a year that has been for Indian exports! Between 2007-2008, India’s engineering exports topped $30 billion. This is a staggering amount, considering India’s engineering exports were worth just $3 billion in 1995. Between 2008-2009, India’s engineering exports are likely to grow again – to $40 billion.
These sorts of economic indicators show the speed at which India is becoming an economic superpower. India is clearly rising. And the companies represented in this room are powering this rapid growth.
I am especially pleased that you have chosen the Maldives to host this year’s export awards. India and the Maldives are developing something of a special relationship. Over the past year, Indian investments to the Maldives have skyrocketed.
We have recently signed agreements with GMR to build an international airport in the north of the country. We have reached agreement with Suzlon to build a wind farm in the southern tip of the Maldives. And we are working with Tata to develop housing.
And it is not just in the field of trade and investment that co-operation is growing. Our two countries have also deepened collaboration on security issues, to help keep our waters free of terrorists, pirates and smugglers. As the Indian-Maldivian relationship goes from strength to strength, it is with great pleasure that I welcome you here today. Indian business is always welcome in the Maldives.
And I hope that outside this ceremony, you get the chance to sample some of the things for which the Maldives is famous: our beaches; our tropical waters; and our stunning coral reefs.
India’s engineering exports are a signal of the country’s growing economic prowess. In some ways, India’s rise was inevitable. With a population over 1 billion, and a landmass larger than Western Europe, independent India was always destined to rise.
But India’s ascent has not been accidental. It has been the result of economic reforms that have unleashed the creative power of market forces. Over the past fifteen years, India has removed the red tape and regulation that restricted free enterprise. And India has opened itself up to the world. As a result, India is booming. India’s reforms are lifting millions out of poverty. The reforms are creating new opportunities for young people. And India now leads the world in industries as diverse as textiles and automobiles; to renewable energy and information technology.
I believe that the Maldives can learn from India’s economic transformation.
For too long, the Maldives’ economy was centrally planned and heavily regulated. This prevented growth, repelled investment and thwarted people’s aspirations.
By opening up our economy to the world, the Maldives can also enjoy economic success. Last month the Maldives signed an agreement with Apollo Hospitals of India, to upgrade Male’s main hospital with a $25 million investment. That agreement makes good business sense for Apollo. For the Maldives, it means our people will have access to high quality and affordable healthcare.
In other sectors of the economy, private sector investments are also reaping profits for business, while providing crucial services for local people. In transport, private investments are spearheading the creation of the Maldives’ first public transport system, with ferries soon to connect every inhabited island in the country. And in housing and energy, private investments will provide new homes and cheaper electricity.
We do not believe that the state can or should be the engine of economic growth. Nor do we believe that the state should provide the goods and services that the market can better deliver.
This is why in almost every aspect of our reforms we are looking to the power of the market. Rather than building a large state bureaucracy, we are providing incentives to private firms to deliver the goods and services that people need. We welcome Indian investments in the Maldives and we hope to work closely with more Indian companies in future.
I would like to end by focusing on an issue of mutual concern to our two nations. This issue also provides both our countries with huge opportunities. The issue is climate change.
Climate change threatens both our countries. Rising seas threaten to submerge the Maldives. And more erratic weather patterns threaten the Indian monsoon, undermining India’s ability to feed its growing population.
The world is slowly waking up to the dangers of climate change. And countries are starting to ditch dirty development and embrace environmentally friendly technologies. Climate change has become the world’s number one international concern. Over the next few years, the international community will become increasingly preoccupied with trying to solve the climate crisis. Nations will be forced to cut pollution. And companies will be penalized for the pollution they cause.
We are therefore witnessing the start of a huge and seismic shift, as the entire world economy starts to move away from fossil fuels. We are on the brink of another industrial revolution - in energy and environmentally friendly technologies. We are on the brink of a rush towards green technologies.
The winners of this century will be those people who realize that the door is closing on the fossil fuel economy. The winners will be those companies that corner the market in eco-friendly products. The winners will be those countries that have the foresight to embrace this change.
We did not leave the Stone Age because we ran out of stones. We progressed because we found better technologies. Similarly, we will not burn every last drop of oil, or every last piece of coal, before we adopt new technologies.
India is developing very rapidly. But I wonder do we understand how vulnerable India’s development is to the unpredictable price of foreign oil? As oil becomes scarcer, and fossil fuels are taxed more heavily, we will need to find other sources of energy. We will have to develop environmentally friendly products and services.
The Maldives has announced plans to become carbon neutral by 2020. We will achieve carbon neutrality by switching from oil to 100% renewable energy. We have decided to go carbon neutral not because it is trendy… but because it makes economic sense. Embracing green growth is also in India’s national interest.
After all, it is not carbon we want but development. It is not coal we want but electricity. It is not oil we want but transport. Green technologies now exist to produce every good and service that we require. The winners of tomorrow, will be those companies that corner these green markets today.
As Indian firms rise to become the 21st Century’s equivalent of Ford, Rockefeller and Coca-Cola, I believe they have the entrepreneurial vision to lead this change.
And as India rises to become an economic giant, I believe India has the intellectual capacity, the vision, the creativity and the power to lead the green revolution.