US' South Asian diaspora can invest up to $130 bn: Burki

Written by Agencies | Singapore | Updated: Jul 16 2011, 17:45pm hrs
The US-based South Asian diaspora has the capacity to invest as much as USD 130 billion in projects designed for the economic integration of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, former World Bank Vice-President Shahid Javed Burki has said.

"Various estimates and studies suggest that about 3 million Indians and slightly less than 1 million Pakistanis have built USD 1.3 trillion worth of assets from the high income earnings since the 1980s, at least 10 per cent of which can be invested through venture capital and private equity funding in projects in their home countries," Burki said, who also served as Pakistan's Finance Minister from 1996-97.

Though not all of the USD 130 billion should be seen as funding South Asian economic integration projects, the availability of such huge amount of funds would be significant for the region, said Burki, adding that the Indian diaspora was looking towards investing in venture capital type of projects in India.

India offers the best investment opportunities in the South Asian region, he added Burki as speaker at South Asian Diaspora Convention 2011 scheduled here from July 21-23.

The diasporas would traditionally invest in the respective home countries, he noted.

Elaborating on the type of regional economic integration projects in South Asia, he said the proposed gas pipelines from Iran and Turkmenistan through Pakistan to India would create investment opportunities for the Indian and Pakistani diasporas.

These diasporas funding could also go towards the revival of the rail and power links between India and Pakistan, which had been suspended since the partition, according to Burki.

The South Asian markets, with a total population of 1.75 billion, or 25.7 per cent, of the world total of 6.8 billion, make the region more attractive for these investors, he added.

Among other potential projects, Burki highlighted a past proposal by businessmen to use Pakistan's depleted salt mines in the Jhelum region to store crude oil for India's mega refineries.

He pointed out that depleted salt mines were the best choice for storing crude oil as was being done in the United States.

Though politically such projects were kept far from reality, academic and business analysts were keeping in minds the viability of such mega projects with the support of rich overseas South Asian origin businessmen.

Richard Armitage, former US Deputy Secretary of State, Han Seung Soo, former Prime Minister of South Korea and Senior Advisor, and former Prime Ministers of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong would be address the gathering of 1,000 delegates at the Convention.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong would open the convention on the morning of July 21.