Appreciating rupee both an opportunity and cost

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New Delhi, Dec 2 (UNI) Industry leaders assembled at the India Economic Summit here today made out a strong case for lowering of interest rates, but felt that strong rupee and a weak dollar have opened the door of opportunities for Indian companies to invest abroad.

''There can not be a strong country with a weak currency,'' Chairman Bajaj Auto Rahul Bajaj said addressing a session at the summit. It was entitled '''The Rupee's Rise: Time to worry?' . The summit has been jointly organised by the World Economic Forum (WEF) and CII.

Others who participated in the session included Mr Gerard Lyons, Chief Economist and Group Head, Global Research, Standard Chartered, The United Kingdom, Mr B Ramalinga Raju, Founder and Chairman, Satyam Computer Services and Mr Suman Bery, Director General, National Council of Applied Economic Research.

The experts were, however, unanimous that the appreciating rupee was hitting exports and as a result there have been stupendous job losses. The spokesmen of the industry cried howl about sluggishness in exports, despite the government announcing three packages to compensate them.

Mr Anand G Mahindra, Vice-Chairman and Managing Director, Mahindra and Mahindra, went so far as to say the India growth story could evaporate, if the rupee continues its northward march at the same pace. His remarks came at a press conference held at the WEF venue.

Yet the appreciating rupee and a weakening dollar provided an opportunity to invest abroad, with Finance Minister P Chidambaram saying that outward flow of Foreign Direct Investment would exceed inward flows this fiscal.

The Finance Minister urged the Indian companies to go out and invest abroad. Growth through the organic way was not the only way to grow and suggested toventure out and acquire companies abroad.

Mr Bajaj, now also a Member of Parliament and a key person of the erstwhile Bombay Club, made out a case for creating a level playing field and fair competition for Indian industry.

The Bombay Club was formed somewhere around the big bang reforms of 1991 to ensure that Indian industry was not metted out a rough deal in the era of liberalisation and globalisation.

Mr Bajaj argued that it would be unwise to allow the real economy to suffer on account of high short-term foreign flows.

Mr Lyons was of the view the currency was likely to further strengthen in the coming years.

He advised Indian businessmen not to put all the eggs in one basket and explore opportunities of putting their money not just in dollar but other assets as well.

Mr Raju emphasised the need for investing globally and responding to the consumer driven growth.

Mr Bery said the watch words for policy need to be growth, inflation and productive investment.

UNI

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