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Speech By Mrs Lim Hwee Hua, Minister In Prime Minister's Office, Second Minister For Finance And Transport, At the SICCI's 69TH AGM & Board Induction Ceremony

27 Apr 2010

Mr Vijay Iyengar
Outgoing Chairman of SICCI,

Mr R Narayanamohan
Chairman-elect of SICCI,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1.           A good evening to all of you. Thank you for the invitation to join you this evening for the Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry's (SICCI) 69th Annual General Meeting and the Board Induction Ceremony.

2.           The Chamber has a long and distinguished history. Over the course of the last 86 years, it has emerged as an established and progressive institution at the forefront of business and investment for the Indian business community in Singapore. The SICCI plays a significant role by helping to create a conducive environment for businesses, particularly the small-medium enterprises (SMEs) in capabilities development and pursuits of new opportunities in emerging markets.

3.           One of SICCI's strategic advantages is its profound knowledge and understanding of India - one of the fastest growing economies in the world as predicted by the World Bank. India has undertaken extensive liberalisation and reform programmes in the last two decades. This has led to the Indian economy transforming itself into a highly vibrant and lucrative consumer market, with a middle class of more than 300 million people. The average Indian consumers of today have growing disposable incomes and are increasingly credit savvy. Complemented by their keenness and ability to adapt to and assimilate global trends, Indian consumers have multiplied, making India one of the world's largest markets for manufactured goods and services.

4.           Over the last 15 years, bilateral relations between India and Singapore have been on an upswing. This is characterised by closer associations across a myriad of areas such as the signing of the India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) in 2005, defence and strategic collaborations, co-operation in education and knowledge transfer, even in intangible issues centering on societal and cultural ties. Today, Singapore is home to more than 4,000 Indian companies and more than 200,000 Indian expatriates.

5.           FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) flows from Singapore into India have seen exceptional growth in recent years. Cumulatively, from January 2000 to November 2009, FDI flows from Singapore stood at US$9.3 billion, including a quadrupling from 2005. In 2009, Singapore ranked 2nd in FDI inflows to India, with US$2.9 billion invested. Indian investments into Singapore have also seen a dramatic 8-fold increase since 2005 to reach about S$11 billion in 2008 making India our 7th largest investor in 2008.

6.           The Chamber has played a pivotal role in creating and helping Singapore businesses gain access into the emerging Indian market. The SICCI has done a commendable job in enhancing this relationship through frequent and fruitful business missions to India and other emerging markets such as Sri Lanka, Myanmar and China.

7.           The establishment of SICCI's official representative in New Delhi back in 2008 reflected the foresight of the leaders of the Chamber. Being the first chamber in Singapore to appoint a local representative in India, it plays a crucial role in facilitating engagements between SICCI's members and the business community in India. The SICCI Indian Internship programme, launched last year, has also helped to create greater awareness of the Indian business landscape amongst young Singaporeans. The Women's Indian Network and the Youth Wing were also set up to fan the spirit of entrepreneurship among Indian women and young Indians, and to encourage them to look at India as a potential business and investment destination.

8.           On the political front, the Singapore and Indian government have been actively promoting and pursuing bilateral cooperation. Senior Minister, Goh Chok Tong, recently visited India and proposed to the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, that Indian businesses should use Singapore as the platform for corporate expansion and networking with major Asian leaders and businessmen. An increasing number of small and large Indian businesses have responded to such calls. As they look beyond their own borders and undertake acquisition of foreign assets, Singapore is emerging as the preferred venue for their expansion.

9.           While the SICCI has been actively promoting the internationalisation of the Singapore Indian business community, it is also an important partner of the Singapore government. It has regularly provided valuable feedback and suggestions on government policies, and reflects the views and concerns of its members on economic-related issues to the government. I am pleased to note the high level of enthusiasm and support given by SICCI and I look forward to your continued involvement towards helping SMEs access capital, build capabilities, establish networks and nurture talent.

10.         Today marks an important chapter in the history of the chamber. It will witness the passing of the baton from Mr Iyengar to the new Chairman, Mr Narayanamohan, and the induction of a new Board of Directors. I am confident that the SICCI, under the new leadership, will continue to sustain the momentum to develop new strategies to meet the ever changing economic landscape and needs of the businesses.

11.         To conclude, let me congratulate the SICCI on this occasion and for the good work done over the years. I encourage the Chamber to seek out new opportunities that will benefit members, especially the SMEs.

12.         I wish SICCI and all its members the very best in your future endeavors. Thank you.