There is no denying that Gulf countries have huge sovereign funds at their disposal. Among them, Qatar accounts for the largest share. But India has not found the right way to attract those funds.
In a panel discussion ‘Financing India — with focus on Qatar’, which was organised by Free Press Journal and SIES in association with Invest India, the need for synergising investments requirements was discussed.
The panellists for the session were (in alphabetical order) Gopal Balasubramaniam, Partner, Head of Audit, KPMG, Qatar; Deepak Mittal, Indian Ambassador to Qatar; and R Seetharaman, CEO, Doha Bank. The session was moderated by R N Bhaskar and the closing remarks were delivered by Vaneeta Raney, head of BMM department, SIES.
Commenting on investments, Deepak Mittal said, “The exposure from the Qatar side to the Indian market is limited but it is increasing.” India has improved its ranking on the Ease of Doing business score and amended policies mainly relating to the Finance Act which allows long-term investments by sovereign wealth funds (SWFs), especially in the priority infrastructure projects. Other measures were also being undertaken. These will open up new opportunities for financing relationships between India and Qatar, stressed Mittal.
Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) manages over USD 300 billion worth of sovereign wealth funds globally. “2019-2020 has been a good year (for India) as far getting the attention of QIA is concerned,” stated Gopal Balasubramaniam. “Prior to that, investments (into India) have been sluggish as investments did not do well in the past.”
But Balasubramaniam is optimistic that QIA may revisit its India strategy by considering investing USD 1.5 billion in Reliance Jio.
Understanding the pattern of the QIA funding model, Mittal said, “There is good interest in the healthcare, capital market, technology, pharmaceutical, among other sectors (in the case of investments). But it looks at projects which are mature and have less interest in green and brownfield projects.”
While Mittal and Balasubramaniam were suggesting ways to attract sovereign funds to India, R Seetharaman suggested that India should work with Gulf countries to develop GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) Development Bank or Gulf-India Development Bank and GCC NRI fund. He suggested if you can manage USD 500 billion paid-up capital, GCC Development Bank or Gulf-India Development Bank, that is an opportunity. “It is time that you convert the debt into equity.” Seetharaman further stated, “I suggest the GCC NRI Fund. It can be set up using sovereign funds and NRI base.”
Globally, there are USD 6.6 trillion sovereign funds and from that USD 2.2 trillion lies in the Gulf. Qatar is managing around USD 300 billion. Seetharaman suggested this is an opportunity that India should tap.