Hindustan Times (Jalandhar)

Make it easy in India

NR Narayana Murthy is spot on: Despite changes, it is still difficult to do business in this country


B y most measures, India is set to become the world’s fastest growing major economy this year, outpacing China. Yet, India remains not an easy place to do business in. Infosys co-founder NR Narayana Murthy’s comments about how companies end up losing money in government projects need to be seen in this context. In many ways his remarks mirror India’s poor ranking of 142 in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report. Getting a power connection for a new business takes 105 days, more than three times the Singapore average of 31 days. It takes 47 days to register a property in India compared to 4.5 days in Singapore.

It’s not just about private business. It is about government projects as well. Mr Narayana Murthy’s observatio­n that unless the government comes up with an attractive and competitiv­e set of clauses, large companies may not be keen on working with it, should serve as a reminder that GDP growth rates could be masking a few rough edges that need ironing out. While adverse policy pronouncem­ents can spark fears among global investors, domestic entreprene­urs also have a similar tale to tell on India’s business environmen­t.

The infrastruc­ture sector is a case in point. The slow pace of implementa­tion is partly attributab­le to the relatively muted response from private developers and looming questions over the effectiven­ess of the much-touted public private partnershi­p model over the last few years. Government projects need to have clauses on a par with internatio­nal best practices to attract Indian players. Initiative­s such as ‘ Make in India’ and ‘Digital India’ are as much an invitation to domestic and foreign companies as a promise to rectify everything that has kept the country at almost the bottom of the ‘ease of doing business’ index. From energy shortages and land problems to ambiguous tax laws and byzantine labour rules, a barrage of hurdles have kept away large-scale private investment­s in what should otherwise count as a massive, attractive market. Lack of cooperatio­n between the Centre and states also turns off investors. These issues remain central to the ambition to turn India into a manufactur­ing powerhouse and make the country more investor-friendly.

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