Palaniappan Chidambaram is veritably a man on a mission if his very recent peregrinations both across the country and abroad are anything to go by. The Finance Minister has always been known for his sound knowledge of economics but his recent avatar as global jetsetter - he has held investor meets in Hong Kong, Singapore, UK, Germany, France, Japan, Qatar, Canada, UAE and the US to attract foreign investment into India - has demonstrated a remarkable sales pitch for India Inc that would do any true blue businessman proud.
Chidambaram has aggressively parleyed with oil billionaires and sovereign wealth funds to impress them on the unlimited opportunities for investment in the country in areas like roads, airports and sea ports, and to invite them to invest in the infrastructure sector and in corporate bonds.
Much before all this, his visits to Karnataka to meet heads of public sector banks and promoters of delayed infrastructure projects has set the tone for an agenda which impresses with its clarity and direction. As many as 21 infrastructure projects in Karnataka - related to steel, metals and alloys, power, road and gas and oils projects collectively worth Rs 7,00,000 crore and that are faced with delays have come under his scanner. The Minister has identified the reasons for the delays in projects and has been quick to convey the Centre's willingness to help stakeholders to speed up the works.
It is therefore easy to see him as a go- getter as compared to his colleagues in government who have mainly been perceived as tourists. What is laudable is the fact that he is not swayed by encomiums heaped upon the country by foreign economic analysts and remains connected to ground realities.
That said it is easy to be carried away by positive reports about the country. According to a recent research by Timetric there is the prospect of considerable revenue growth in 2013-14 than in the previous year, the flow coming on the back of increased investments in IT infrastructure, public and private sector construction projects.
Which is not to suggest that things are not on the mend. Far from it. Buoyed by global sentiments Indian markets have rallied substantially during the past month. Aditya Birla Money, in its latest report, has cited six reasons why the market rally will continue. These include loose monetary policy in the developed world leading to increased investor risk appetite; shift of speculative money from commodities to equities; the easing of inflation into the comfort zone and paving way for more flexibility in monetary policy; corporate earnings bettering analyst expectations and projection of a normal monsoon for the season. That assessment should certainly bring cheer to the country.
And as if proving the Timetric prediction of consolidation and acquisition true, an Indian firm, which produces concrete sleepers, turnouts and level crossings, and conducts flash butt welding of rails, has acquired European track specialist Rail.One, only underlining the fact that Indians are adept at doing smart business at home or abroad. The giant step of using a business opportunity at the right time has catapulted Siliguri based PCM Group to the position of world's leading conglomerate in railway infrastructure and brought to an end its search for a strategic investor.
This issue of CW focuses on the opening up of opportunities in the burgeoning metro rail sector. With Rs 200,000 crore worth of investments lined up for development of metros across several cities of India it is easy to see why some of the previous gloom has lifted. The track ahead offers a lot of hope.