South Asian Diaspora seen as powerful force

The power of the South Asian Diaspora in promoting regional cooperation and in boosting economic growth is well recognised and appreciated, Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean has said.

Speaking at the South Asian Diaspora Convention held at Suntec Singapore Exhibition & Convention Centre last fortnight, he emphasised the strong historical ties between Singapore and South Asia and the importance of continued cooperation between the two regions in various sectors.

“Diasporas are now recognised as a significant resource and potential agents for socio-economic transformation,” he said.

High-power platform

His speech was followed by a Ministerial Dialogue on the importance of Building a Connected Asia with Singapore’s Foreign Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam.

‘Connecting Global South Asians,’ was the theme of the Convention, second in an annual series, held on November 21 and 22, 2013, to provide a high-powered global platform for creative thinking, debate, and purposeful action to forge deeper links with contemporary South Asia.

It also aimed to encourage greater engagement and identify growth opportunities to boost the economies of the region.

Eminent Speakers

The big draw was a special address by two of Asia’s outstanding Finance Ministers – Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister & Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and India’s Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram.

They spoke about exploring opportunities and challenges for diaspora investments in India. Mr Chidambaram reiterated that India’s resource allocation system had helped the economy grow for the past 60 years, despite long-standing perceptions that the system was tainted with corruption, red tape and bureaucratic inefficiencies.

Later, they responded to a number of questions from the delegates.

India’s growth

Alongside cultural themes, the perspectives of leading Indian chief executives on what needs to be done to revive India’s growth in 2014 amidst economic downturn took centre-stage.

This session examined the role that corporate India could play in reviving growth and in improving the country’s competitiveness.

Another session titled ‘People Power: Social Entrepreneurship and Change’ debated if social entrepreneurship could boost inclusive growth to drive change in South Asia. Several successful South Asian social entrepreneurs discussed the challenges faced by this sector

Various sessions

Other sessions included: ‘Capital Flows: Investing in the Region’ (featuring economists and financial experts) ‘Inclusive Banking: The Model for South Asia’ (addressing the development needs of South Asia) ‘Reimagining India’ (McKinsey Panel and release of ‘Reimagining India’) and ‘Shared Narratives: The Cultural Underpinnings of a Region’ (a discussion about South Asia’s literary arts).

Ministerial Dialogue

The second day’s proceedings included a presentation of Singapore’s Indian Heritage Centre to be opened in 2015, as well as a discussion on cross-border regulations and access to financial markets.

A number of plenary sessions discussed business and investment opportunities and challenges for the Diaspora in the region as well as how South Asian media and the arts could contribute to greater peace and stability in the region.

The Convention concluded with a Ministerial Dialogue, at which Mr Shanmugaratnam suggested ways and means of building the export manufacturing sector helping India grow deepening its integration with South East Asia.

More than 1000 persons representing a cross-section of the communities resident in Singapore and other countries attended the two-day convention organised by the National University of Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) of Singapore.

Institute Chairman Gopinath Pillai was the Chairman of the Organising Committee of the convention.

More than 40 persons of eminence were among the keynote speakers and panellists, while the delegates included policymakers, business leaders, celebrated authors, artists, award winning journalists and civil society leaders.

Debates, Questions

The Convention featured a series of debates and discussions focused on the lucrative investment opportunities in the region and the concomitant advancement of inter-regional trade and investment fuelled by a growing middle class economy. The discourse also focused on growing collaboration across socio-cultural exchanges to promote greater understanding between the South Asian economies and the diaspora. In brief, issues of diaspora, connectivity, integration and business opportunities highlighted the proceedings.

Businessman honoured

Singapore President Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam presented an award to Murli Kewalram Chanrai recognising him as the ‘Outstanding Member of the South Asian Diaspora.’

Seated in a wheel chair, the 91-year-old top businessman received the honour at a gala dinner held at the venue on November 21.

Mallika Sarabhai, a speaker at the convention on ‘South Asian Representations of the Media and the Arts,’ presented dance items in Bharata Natyam style at the dinner.

Main Speakers at the convention

President Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam presenting the Special Award to Muril Kewalram

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