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``Do not shortchange Indian farmers''

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IT'S ONLY BUSINESS: Singapore Foreign Affairs Minister George Yong-Boon Yeo, Union Minister for Commerce and Industries Kamal Nath and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) Chairman S. Gopalakrishnan, at the Partnership Summit organised by the CII in Bangalore on Thursday.
IT'S ONLY BUSINESS: Singapore Foreign Affairs Minister George Yong-Boon Yeo, Union Minister for Commerce and Industries Kamal Nath and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) Chairman S. Gopalakrishnan, at the Partnership Summit organised by the CII in Bangalore on Thursday.

Staff Reporter

Globalisation not bed of roses, there is a need to be watchful always: Singapore Minister

Bangalore: Triggered by globalisation, the growing social divide would unleash a new ideological counter-current, Singapore Foreign Affairs Minister George Yong-Boon Yeo told business leaders at the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) Partnership Summit here on Thursday.

Ideological counter-currents

He said that while the Indian cities were booming, the countryside was suffering. Calling this "a global phenomenon," Mr. Yong-Boon Yeo said the Indian farmers should not be short-changed. "If we are not concerned of the stresses of globalisation, ideological counter-currents will emerge. Globalisation is not a bed of roses. There is a need to be watchful, always," he said.

Identifying China as the only country that could challenge the United States in any way, the Singapore Minister underscored the significance of Sino-U.S. relations for the future development of Asian economics. But in the longer term, the Sino-Indian relationship would become even more important, Mr. Yong-Boon Yeo said.

Changing polarity

He said the rapid economic growth of India and China was changing the polarity of the world, and this would eventually determine all other relationships in Asia. "We in the ASEAN region don't want India and China to deal only with each other, without taking our interests into consideration. The East Asia Summit is, thus, significant," the Minister said.

Mr. Yong-Boon Yeo said former enemies had turned friends in the post-Cold War new age of globalisation. The only interest that mattered now was business, he added.

At a session on `Does the 21st Century Belong to Asia?' Union Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath referred to the new century as one of interdependence of nations, leading to massive economic activity. Globalisation had integrated economies and created a new global economic architecture unheard of in the last century, he said.

The new century was also characterised by a shifting of traditional manufacturing bases and R&D from Europe and the West to East Asia. "There will also be a demographic dividend for countries with lower age profile. India, for instance, will be in the forefront of clinical research in the next few years. Big countries in East Asia such as Bangladesh and Indonesia will emerge as huge markets," he said.

Mr. Kamal Nath said new equations would emerge both in economic and political terms.

The past, he said, was not a model for India's future. "The challenge is to simulate the future looking at the present."

Urban-centric growth

He said development should be inclusive to be acceptable to the people and to avoid imbalances in income distribution. In the next five years, he said, the Government would strive to move away from urban-centric growth. "All our urban centres are bursting at the seams."

Trade with East Europe

Jean Lemierre, President, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, mooted an increase in trade between India and the East European region. East Europe had oil and India required energy.

"Energy is a good reason for development links and investment. But you cannot build relationships based on oil and gas alone. There is steel, aluminium."

Leadership vacuum

For Francois Loos, the French Minister Delegate for Industry, the problem with globalisation was a leadership vacuum.

"Today, there is no clear leadership. Vision who has that? The United States is good in cultural leadership. Globalisation is on track. But we are multi-polar in our ideas, vision, culture," he pointed out.

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