I have learned a lot in the last couple of days. For instance, that India is short of about 20 million homes at present. Her cities are growing at the rate of 5% per annum (on average). The investment required to build the homes and supporting infrastructure the country needs in the next ten years is enormous. One speaker at the conference I have been attending in Singapore estimated that the country will need 23 million homes for "LIG" (Low Income Group) families. With a startling lack of political correctness, he helpfully clarified that this meant "the homeless and the slum dwellers." He thought another 56 million homes will be needed for HIG families. He estimated the costs (including infrastructure) at $22.5 trillion US.
There is precious little chance of that kind of investment (particularly, to be fair, for so long as the Indian people continue to see foreign investment as a threat to be controlled). The Indian government seems to understand the need, but peasant farmers' protests at their land being compulsorily purchased for "Special Economic Zones" have caused that programme to be put on hold, for example. If Karl Marx were to come back to life, even he would have to admit, after the global experiment of the last century, that his ideas were barking mad. Yet major Indian states are still ruled by Communist Parties - albeit their members seem to be otherwise more sensible chaps than our own New Labour.
Frankly, India is such an attractive proposition at present that I am not sure any special Foreign Direct Investment programmes are needed. All the Indian Government would have to do is remove the legal barriers so that investors can come and go without restraint. That seems, alas, to be politically impossible.
Marx has a lot to answer for.
The Indians at the conference were all, by the way, utterly charming. I have not heard such polite English spoken for a long time. They would apologise in advance for making a "strong statement" in their speeches, before going on to say something utterly innocous.
After the conference ended, I went last night for drinks and dinner at Raffles Hotel. That may seem crass, I know, but I can assure you that no Indians were harmed in the exercise. Here are some pictures.