"Reforms are like cricket scores, once they are scored, you just cannot erase them from the scoreboard," Finance Minister P Chidambaram said on the final day of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas held at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi.
He was taking part in the discussion on 'How to get $1.5 trillion capital investment: The Resource Hurdle for Development'.
Tracing the route of India's growth, Chidambaram said that the most difficult times of Indian economy were faced by Dr Manmohan Singh when he was the finance minister.
"India has seen an amazing growth over the years," he said, "but the question is can we sustain this rate of growth? If so, how?"
Chidambaram mentioned that two key instruments of economic progress are investment and knowledge. "We need the NRIs' help in this respect. There is no denying that the value of knowledge is far more than material resources."
In his bid to attract NRI investment in this country, Chidambaram said, "Today, the financial sector offers you instruments designed to receive your money, make it work for longer term and keep it safe. The fact that Tatas could think of a Tata-Corus deal now is a case in point."
Stressing that the great challenge of this country is agriculture, the finance minister said he would expect the NRIs to share their resources and knowledge and help it grow by no less than 4 per cent a year.
Expressing confidence that the Indian economy would clock close to 9 per cent growth this fiscal, he promised non-resident Indians with new financial instruments for attracting their remittances for longer duration.
Pointing out that NRI remittances to India, on an average are of three-year duration, Finance Minister P Chidambaram asked them to expand their horizon to bring longer term money for at least 10 years, as well as their expertise in various fields into the country.
Taking part in the discussion, Ratan Tata, chairman, Tata group expressed his intent to talk from a businessman's perspective. "We are living in a borderless economy and the Indian industry is tending to globalise as reforms have made it possible," he said.
"A few years ago, I could not bid for a company abroad but now I can, thanks to the changes in the foreign exchange rules. While expanding your business, one thing that strikes you the most is how poor our infrastructure is compared to that of other countries," said Tata, adding that "Trade policies need to be more investment-friendly."
The consuming population being 250 million now, Tata said that the NRIs have to work hand-in-hand to address the huge potential of this country.
Taking the cue from Tata, Swadesh Chatterjee, CEO, Swadesh Chatterjee & Associates, USA. Chatterjee stated that foreign direct investment was a critical issue for India's development.
"When I left this country 25 years ago, I had to make a very hard decision and 25 years later I am just stunned by the progress my country has made. If this were the case, I probably would have changed my decision then."
He endorsed the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's view that FDI holds the key to India's development and it is time the NRIs came together to work towards strengthening India's FDI reserve.
"India as a country and NRIs as a population have huge potential and we should not waste a minute in unleashing the latent creative possibilities," said Chatterjee.
Dato Seri S Samy Vellu, cabinet minister of works, Government of Malaysia was the guest of honour. Ashok Lahiri, chief economic advisor, government of India, and OP Bhatt, chairman, State Bank of India also took part in the discussion.The event was moderated by T N Ninan, editor and publisher, Business Standard.