Arun Jaitley significantly ramped up India’s ties with Japan in one of his last major foreign visits before handing over the defence portfolio to Cabinet colleague Nirmala Sitharaman.

India’s outgoing defence minister, Arun Jaitley, left no doubts about India’s close ties with its neighbour Japan during a recently concluded tour of the country in early September.

The bilateral Defence Ministerial Meeting in Tokyo saw Jaitley and his Japanese counterpart, Itsunori Onodera, clinch a range of significant tie-ups in the field of defence cooperation, combat exercises and exchanges and counter-terrorism. The significant ramping up of ties is undoubtedly being viewed as a counter-balance to the increasingly volatile situation in the region, with India’s continued tensions with China over Doklam and North Korea’s increasingly belligerent overtures with missile tests.

Demographics, rising incomes and a low existing base all point towards a paradigm shift in the fortunes of India’s still fledgling food retail sector.

It can potentially become the largest recipient of foreign direct investment (FDI) and will definitely play a major role in realising the Prime Minister’s goal of doubling farm incomes by 2022. Food retail, the largest component of India’s more than $500-billion retail sector, is standing at the cusp of greatness. How its fortunes play out over the next five to 10 years could well decide the success of the government’s ambitious Make in India initiative as well as the direction of politics by influencing how the critical farm lobby votes in future elections.

Some heavy hitting from the Finance Minister puts the Indian economy on a winning wicket, writes India Inc. CEO Manoj Ladwa.

After all the excitement over the Bharatiya Janata Party’s 4-1 sweep of the recently concluded Assembly elections, it is time once again to focus on the nuts of bolts of governance. In the latest issue of ‘India Investment Journal’, we turn our attention to India’s growth story and the man in charge of shepherding the country to greater economic heights.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, as our cover implies, has to bat both like Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid at the same time. I know cricket enthusiasts will pillory me for that statement because these two batsmen are as alike as the proverbial chalk and cheese, but let me explain.

As the election results proved once again, the ordinary Indian appreciates, among other things, the management of the economy by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Jaitley and is willing to give them more time to make good on the promise of providing greater opportunities and more jobs.

In that sense, Jaitley, who is now wearing the additional hat of the country’s Defence Minister as well following Manohar Parrikar’s triumphant return to Goa as Chief Minister, has used the first two years of his tenure to “build his innings” a la Dravid. But with the next General Elections looming – they are due in a little over two years – Jaitley has already increased the tempo and stepped up the scoring rate as Sehwag was wont to do. And that is what we are focusing on in this issue.

The massive $90 billion he has allocated for infrastructure building in this Budget for 2017-18 is, in my opinion, like the proverbial volley of sixes that will take him closer to a winning score. This figure is quite close to the average investment (public and private) of $95 billion that fuelled the 2007-2011 boom. Yes, I know economists will cite inflation to argue that the present value of $95 billion from a decade ago is a lot higher than the nominal figure, but I would urge such people to look up another very important statistic.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) flows into India in the current year are at an estimated $53 billion.The target for 2017-18: $100 billion. And almost all of this figure will go into the generation of productive assets.

Taken together, I feel this massive dose of foreign and public investment can surely make up for the still poor investment rate of the Indian private sector and get the wheels of the economy rolling at a much higher velocity. Read about Jaitley’s growth gambit in our cover feature of this month’s ‘IIJ’.

Let me add a point that is not covered in that report. As I have written previously, I feel analysts and even Jaitley’s own government is erring on the side of caution while estimating the growth rate for the coming year.

Given the empirical evidence of how investments of about $100 billion per year over a three-four year period can send the growth velocity soaring, I feel Jaitley’s thrust on infrastructure building combined with the rising levels of FDI inflows into India will almost definitely take the annual GDP growth rate beyond 8 per cent in the coming year. You can hold me to that – a year and a bit from now.

Elsewhere in the latest edition, we have put together a Sector Focus package on the Indian defence aeronautical industry, which has both foreign defence contractors such as Lockheed, Boeing, Rolls Royce and SAAB, among others, as well as large Indian groups such as the Tatas, L&T, M&M and Reliance waiting eagerly for large orders to take forward the Make in India dream.

I would also like to draw your attention to our analysis on how the Jan Dhan scheme and demonetisation are coming together to take India closer its goal of becoming a digital (and largely cashless) economy.

Meanwhile, as Jaitley and the Modi government approach the final stretch of their five-year “Test match”, we could see some real heavy hitting from the Finance Minister to push the investment cycle into a faster trajectory.

Manoj Ladwa is the founder of India Inc. and chief executive of MLS Chase Group @manojladwa

The Year 2017 had been ear-marked as UK India Year of Culture by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his tour of Britain in November 2015. That announcement became a reality when Indian Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs, Arun Jaitley, represented the Government of India at a historic reception in Buckingham Palace in London recently.

While the year is set to be packed with an array of cultural events, both in India and the UK, the key message amid all the glitz and glamour is a familiar one: that India is crucial to the British economy, which is on the brink of breaking away from the European Union (EU).

India’s Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs, Arun Jaitley, just completed a packed tour of the UK during which Prime Minister Theresa May dropped in to a Downing Street meeting with his British counterpart, Chancellor Philip Hammond. ‘India Investment Journal’ caught up with the senior Indian Cabinet minister in London to explore his message for foreign investors, a possible free trade agreement (FTA) with post-Brexit Britain and the next phase of his dramatic reform agenda for the Indian economy.

Is post-Brexit UK a more, or less, attractive trading partner?

There is a considerable amount of interest in India, particularly after Brexit. Correspondingly my discussions in the past have also indicated that both investors and the government here [Britain] are looking for expanding opportunities of trade with India.

Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has carefully nursed the country’s economy back to sound health.

He is equally at home rubbing shoulders with the world’s leading industrialists and investors in Davos, London and Singapore and inviting them to invest in India as he is strategising the nitty-gritty of how to win elections in hinterland Indian states. And all this when he isn’t dispensing advice to some of the thorniest legal problems of the land.

The Budget has allocated almost $90 billion for building new infrastructure. This will help restart the stalled private investment cycle and spur demand but the absence of serious efforts to resolve the non-performing assets (NPA) problem in the banking sector will hurt.

Indian finance minister Arun Jaitley, who reiterated his earlier statement that private investment remains sluggish despite incentives, has done his bit to revive the entrepreneurial instincts of private entrepreneurs, both domestic and foreign, by announcing a massive $90-billion infrastructure building programme – covering roads, highways, railways, inland waterways, ports, rural infrastructure, broadband, toilets and more – that promises to boost corporate top and bottom lines, create jobs and fuel a consumption and demand revival.

He has also addressed the demand side by lowering income tax rates in the lowest slab from 10 per cent to 5 per cent.

Foreign investors often complain about India’s byzantine bureaucracy and demands for unaccounted cash to grease the system and speed up decision making.

Though ministers and senior bureaucrats in New Delhi no longer make such demands, there are reports that there has been little improvement in the lower bureaucracy and in some states.

The GST is still several crucial steps away from reality but the Modi government is moving methodically for its rollout from April 1 next year.

On September 1, 2016 Odisha became the 16th state to ratify the Constitutional Amendment Bill that will pave the way for the passage of the Goods and Service Tax (GST) Bill, thus, fulfilling the constitutional requirement of at least half of India’s 29 states approving the bill. The President has, since, signed the 122nd Constitutional Amendment Bill into law soon.