New Delhi, Aug 12 :
Visiting Equadorian minister Leonardo Arizaga Tuesday sought to lure Indian business to his South American nation, saying his nation of 16 million was one of the fastest-growing in the region and would love to have Indian investment in pharamaceutrical, infrastructure, Information technology, hydrocarbon and mining.
Arizaga, the country’s vice minister of foreign affairs, said in an address at the India International Centre here that the aim of the government of President Rafael Correa, seen as one of the region’s most popular leaders with a consistent popularity rating of 60 to 85 percent for the last six years, was determined to make the country a “South Korea of the region” by moving from traditional oil and commodities-based economy to a “knowledge-based” one.
Arizaga, a former Equadiorian ambassador to China who was instrumental in drawing Chinese investment to his country in energy and infrastructure to the tune of $16 bn, said he saw “huge potential” in the relationship with India and the government had hence nominated one of its seniormost diplomats, Mentor Villagomez, as his country’s ambassador to India.
“I have come to India with a $28 billion portfolio and we are open for business, particularly in areas of pharmaceuticals, information technology, hydrocarbon, mining and infrastructure,” he said.
He also added, for good measure, that public sector companies do not have to go through the tendering process, hinting that some of India’s public sector giants might get preference if they showed interest.
The Correa government, he said, had moved away from neo-liberal policies of the past, during which “everything was privatised”, to one that was more tuned to social welfare economics, believed in inclusive growth and had reached out to sections that stood marginalised by the previous government.
He gave the example of how the government had reached out to “each and every disabled person” in Equador, who were 10 percent of its 16 million population, and gave them allowances and support for them to lead a life of self-reliance and dignity.
He said Equador had a 4.2 percent GDP growth, compared to 3.4 percent for Latin America, and had been able to reduce both poverty and unvemployment significantly in the last six years.
The talk was moderated by C Uday Bhaskar, Director, Society for Policy Studies, who said that India needed a “forward-looking” Latin America policy, similar to the Look East policy directed at south and east Asia.
The talk was attended by many envoys from South American countries, who are now showing a renewed interest in India following the recent meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and leadars of Latin American countries in Brazil on the sidelines of the BRICS summit last month.
Arizaga met Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj Tuesday and will hold foreign office consultations with his Indian counterparts Wednesday.