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Aug 04, 2006

SA firms invited to participate in Indian infrastructure overhaul

© Reuse this South Africa’s infrastructure – the lack and poor condition thereof being the sub-ject of much debate currently – is still a paradise compared to Indian infrastructure, says Indian High Commissioner Satyabrata Pal.

He notes that India’s current economic growth of 9%, with 10% possible next year, could have been 2% to 3% higher, had the country’s infrastructure been better.

“India always used to say ‘education, edu-cation’; now the mantra is ‘infrastructure, infrastructure’.” Pal says the Asian country’s infrastructure hunger means there are many opportunities for South African companies to work in what he notes will be the world’s second-largest market within the next ten to fifteen years.

An Indian investment commission has selected some areas where the need is most urgent.

Pal says the country needs an additional 100 000 MW of electricity by 2012, as well as 60 000 km of transmission lines, which translates into an investment of $200-billion.

“Here we allow 100% foreign investment.” This is also valid for the $50-billion to $60-billion investment needed in road infra-structure.

Pal says Indian ports require an investment of $18-billion, airports $15-billion, with $50-billion of real-estate development planned over the next five years.

It is in the mining industry, however, where the most immediate opportunities lie.

“There are enormous mines lying dormant in India, because we do not have the tech-nology to go deeper,” says Pal.

India requires technical expertise in deep-shaft mining, but South African companies, the world leaders in deep-level mining, are noticeably absent in the Indian mining sector. Instead, the Australians are present, pro-claiming that the South Africans’ skills are no better than their own, says Pal.

Between $20-billion and $40-billion has been earmarked to develop and upgrade coal mines alone.

Pal laments that South African/Indian rela-tions are not stronger than what is currently the case. He describes political relations as being “warm” and “close”, but regards economic relations as being in need of a “wake-up call”.

“The level of trade is not where it should be.” Last year bilateral trade between India and South Africa reached R14,5-billion, or $2,5-billion, which was a 75% leap from the 2004 level. The aim is to increase this substantially, up to around the $10-billion mark by 2010.

Pal says there are many efforts being made for the countries to increase trade activity, with the Indian prime minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, for example, likely to visit South Africa in the next few months.

India is also set to participate in several South African trade shows over the coming months.

“This shows that South Africa is very much at the centre of our radar screen; this should have happened earlier.”
Edited by: Irma Venter
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor
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