Foreign Direct Investment in India

By: EconomyWatch   Date: 29 June 2010

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With strong governmental support, FDI has helped the Indian economy grow tremendously. But with $34 billion in FDI in 2007, India gets only about 25% of the FDI in China.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) in India has played an important role in the development of the Indian economy. FDI in India has in a lot of ways enabled India to achieve a certain degree of financial stability, growth and development. This money has allowed India to focus on the areas that needed a boost and economic attention, and address the various problems that continue to challenge the country.

India has continually sought to attract FDI from the world’s major investors. In 1998 and 1999, the Indian national government announced a number of reforms designed to encourage and promote a favorable business environment for investors. 

FDIs are permitted through financial collaborations, through private equity or preferential allotments, by way of capital markets through euro issues, and in joint ventures. FDI is not permitted in the arms, nuclear, railway, coal or mining industries.

A number of projects have been implemented in areas such as electricity generation, distribution and transmission, as well as the development of roads and highways, with opportunities for foreign investors.

The Indian national government also granted permission for FDIs to provide up to 100% of the financing required for the construction of bridges and tunnels, but with a limit on foreign equity of INR 1,500 crores, approximately $352.5 million.

Currently, FDI is allowed in financial services, including the growing credit card business. These also include the non-banking financial services sector. Foreign investors can buy up to 40% of the equity in private banks, although there is condition that these banks must be multilateral financial organizations. Up to 45% of the shares of companies in the global mobile personal communication by satellite services (GMPCSS) sector can also be purchased.

In 2007, India received $34 billion in FDI, a huge growth compared to the previous years, but significantly less than the $134 billion that flowed into China. Although the Chinese approval process is complex, China continues to outshine India as a choice destination for foreign investors. Why does India, a country with resources and a skilled workforce, lag so far behind China in FDI amounts?

Physical infrastructure is the biggest hurdle that India currently faces, to the extent that regional differences in infrastructure concentrates FDI to only a few specific regions. While many of the issues that plague India in the aspects of telecommunications, highways and ports have been identified and remedied, the slow development and improvement of railways, water and sanitation continue to deter major investors.

Federal legislation is another perverse impediment for India. Local authorities in India are not part of the approval process and the large bureaucratic structure of the central government is often perceived as a breeding ground for corruption. Foreign investment is seen as a slow and inefficient way of doing business, especially in a paperwork system that is shrouded in red tape.

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