Goodbye Traffic Jams, India’s First ‘Pod Taxis’ To Debut In Gurgaon Soon!

Pod taxis, an idea with which Indian states have flirted for years, will finally debut in Gurgaon.

A 13 km stretch, for 850 crore

The National Highways Authority of India has laid the groundwork to roll out India’s first personal rapid transit (PRT) network and will invite global bids for the project within the next fortnight. The pilot project will span a 13 km stretch from the Gurgaon-Delhi border to Badshapur Mod on Sohna Road and is estimated to cost Rs 850 crore.

A project called the Metrino, a PRT system in which pods are suspended from an overhead rail – has been under consideration for a while. Every pod can take up to five passengers. For the pilot project route, 16 stations have been planned, starting near Ambience Mall. A personal rapid transit (PRT) network is made up of small automated vehicles running at close intervals on a guide-way with docking stations for passengers to get on and off. While a pod can accommodate up to five people, there is also an option to hire an entire pod that will take a passenger straight to the destination, skipping the scheduled stops. The average speed of the pods is 60 kmph.

A senior NHAI official said the network would be built within a year of the contract being awarded. “Pod taxi systems are best suited for this. We are keeping our options open, though, so that private players can come up with best system, including skyrail,” the official said. A skyrail is also a PRT system, but is more similar to a ropeway .

Investment to be recovered in 25 years

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The NHAI official said land required for the project is already available with it and Haryana government agencies. The project does not need forest and environmental clearance. As for financing, the entire investment will be made by the private company that sets up the PRT. Under the terms of the agreement, the company will recover its investment in 25 years through tickets.

Union road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari had announced last year that Metrinos will run between Dhaula Kuan in Delhi and Manesar. The overhead network for Metrinos has been planned along the expressway. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had travelled in a pod in Masdar City during his last visit to the United Arab Emirates.

The Punjab and Haryana governments had, in the past, announced a roll out of pod taxis in Amritsar and Gurgaon, but these never came to fruition. According to estimates prepared by the NHAI, while building a kilometre of Metro costs at least Rs 250 crore and of monorail Rs 200 crore, the Metrino system can be built with just Rs 70 crore. It’s lighter as well. “The NHAI will roll out the project soon. We have set a target of a year. Subsequently, we could extend this to Dhaula Kuan and Manesar on each side,” said the NHAI official.

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For Budget 2016, 5 expectations from the common man

1454603948-3955660Budget 2016 countdown has begun and all eyes are yet again on Finance Minister Arun Jaitley with many more expectations. Below is the list of 5 expectations from the common man.

 

1) Interest on housing loan:

 

Currently, the deduction of interest on a self-occupied house is capped at Rs. 200,000.

Further, if the construction of the house is completed after 3 years then the deduction is restricted to just Rs. 30,000. This 3 year period is calculated from the end of the year in which the loan was taken. The deduction is allowed only from the year in which the buyer obtains the possession of the house.

 

Lately there have been significant delays, often well beyond the 3 year period, in completion of housing projects. These delays have caused significant hardships to the property buyers.

 

In order to provide them some relief, the government may consider allowing interest deduction in such cases without the cap of Rs. 30,000, and from the year in which the possession was due to the buyer as per the terms of the agreement.

 

2) Rationalize HRA exemption:

 

HRA exemption is calculated as the amount which is least of rent paid minus 10% of basic salary, actual rent paid and 50% of basic salary if you stay in a metro city or 40% if you stay in any other city. Currently metro cities include Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata.

 

Considering the current scenario of many cities like Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Gurgaon and Pune where rents have skyrocketed in the past decade, the rule of 50% of rent can be extended to these cities as well. These cities attract a lot of qualified individuals from across India who stay in rented accommodations and lose out on the tax benefit in spite of paying a high rent.

 

3) National Pension Scheme or NPS:

 

The tax laws provide for a deduction on contribution to the National Pension Scheme. NPSis unique in a sense that the investor has discretion over the type of investments (debt, equity or hybrid).

 

However, the NPS is structured as an Exempt Exempt Tax (EET) scheme meaning that while deductions (or exemptions) are provided at the time of making the investment and when returns are earned on the investment, there is taxation when the corpus is encashed. This element of taxation makes this scheme less attractive, especially compared with public provident fund or employees’ provident fund schemes which allows for tax free withdrawals.

 

Therefore, for a wider participation in NPS, the scheme should be made exempt.

 

4) Widen tax base: 

 

In a country of over 120 crore people, there are only about 4 crore taxpayers. Theoretically, the narrow base of tax payers results in higher rate of income tax on the compliant taxpayers who develop a sense of unfairness.

 

While widening of tax base has been an important objective for the government, and the government indeed has taken certain steps in the direction, some more concrete measures would only help in bringing more people under the tax net and help evenly distribute the tax burden.

 

Some measures could be in the form of more awareness campaigns how taxes help in nation building, providing some form of social recognition to the taxpayers, and maybe even routing some social benefits through the tax filing mechanism like what US has done.

 

5) Standard deduction for foreign salary and credit of state and municipal income taxes paid: 

 

If an individual takes up employment outside of India and is a resident in India for that year then he has to report his foreign salary in the Indian tax return and pay income tax thereon in India. The tax laws do allow credit of foreign income tax paid on such salary.

 

The employees, despite spending significant amount on rent, do not get any deduction for HRA as HRA is often not a part of the salary component. They can claim deduction of rent only under section 80G which is restricted to a small amount of Rs. 2,000 per month. Plus his overall living expenses are also increased. Therefore, to reduce the burden of taxation for such employees, the government can consider an ad-hoc deduction of say 30% of the foreign gross salary.

 

Further, sometimes such employees have to pay state or municipal income tax in addition to the federal (or Union/National) income tax. The government should explicitly allow credit of such income taxes too to avoid onerous double taxation.

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HUDA to speed up Dwarka expressway work

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In order to expedite work on the Dwarka expressway, which is running behind schedule, Huda administrator Anshaj Singh on Wednesday inspected ongoing work from Chouma Village to Kherki Daula and said the urban development agency would speed up the process of allotment of alternative plots to the families affected by the project.

“Some families have already been allotted alternative plots and now we are expediting the process for remaining families,” Singh said.

“We want to complete construction of the road in Huda area by March 2016. The under-construction railway over-bridge near Basai crossing is likely to be completed by June,” he said, adding officials have been directed to hold a meeting with the Indian Railways to streamline the work and ensure completion of over-bridge on time.

The expressway was sanctioned in 2007 and was expected to be ready before the 2010 CWG. But in 2008, some 350 out of 500 families living in and around New Palam Vihar, Tek Chand Nagar, Daultabad and Kherki Daula, and affected by the project, had filed petitions in the high court asking for a stay order on the acquisition of their properties, which was granted in 2010.

Huda had subsequently offered to resettle the petitioners in sectors 37C and 110A. The stay order was lifted in July after the petitioners accepted the rehabilitation plan, paving the way for construction of a 2.5km stretch of the road.

The expressway was planned to decongest traffic in Gurgaon by allowing vehicles from Jaipur to skip the expressway and head towards Dwarka and IGI Airport. NPR will be the third link road connecting Delhi and Gurgaon.

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4 Homeownership Myths, Real Estate Mental Traps To Avoid

Fear and anxiety are common when buying a home. After all, it’s a serious decision that comes with life-long responsibilities.

However, it’s also not healthy to worry about things that you shouldn’t really be worrying about. Trulia listed these 4 homeownership myths and real estate mental traps that you should avoid so you don’t get stuck in real estate limbo:

Assuming that buying is always better than renting

Renting is not always “throwing money away” as what most of us are made to believe. The truth is, the decision to buy or rent should be based on several factors (along with your willingness): the average housing and rent prices in your area, the amount of time you plan to spend on that dwelling, your tax bracket, the mortgage rate you qualify for, property tax, homeowners’ association (HOA) fees and insurance rates in your area, projected appreciation in your area, and inflation assumptions.

Believing your current needs reflect your future needs

When buying a home, it is important to consider that you are doing so to suite your future needs and your current needs. You may be single who like to travel and have minimal possessions and don’t have time to spend maintaining a home, but is this the same situation you will be in five years from now? Other factors to anticipate include maintenance costs, HOA fees, proximity to jobs (and potential future job sites), school district, yard size, neighborhood safety, and walkability.

Fear of getting priced out of the market

House prices have skyrocketed in the past five years and this can be reason enough for you to buy a home today in fear that you get priced out of the housing market. However, just like any industry, real estate is cyclical: Prices rise and fall. Additionally, housing is local; which means that Kansas and Jacksonville can have very different market price and appreciation. Considering this, the wisest action you can do is to buy according to your family’s budget and needs, not your guesses on what the future may hold.

Believing all renovations are profitable

Updating your kitchen, bathroom, landscaping and other features will definitely make your home more attractive, but that doesn’t always mean that you will recoup the cost of your renovations. Choose your renovations wisely; there are renovations that will fetch you a higher price while others simply lack a return on investment.

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The incredible rise of Gurgaon’s commercial real estate

Stoked by swiftly expanding startups and multinational corporations, Gurgaon is fast emerging as the rising star of India’s commercial real estate market, but the old guard in New Delhi and Mumbai’s central business districts (CBD) is still holding strong.

In the last year, commercial rental prices in Gurgaon’s MG Road shot up by a staggering 30%—the highest in the country—according to real estate consultants Colliers International. During the same period, prices in Gurgaon’s DLF Cyber City and the institutional sectors also went up by 22% and 24%, respectively.

“Major corporates like Snapdeal, NTT Data, Zomato, Arvato, BCG Group, SAP together took around 1.17 million sq.ft which is about 66% of the total office absorption,” Colliers said in its report about Gurgaon. And except for Delhi’s Nehru Place, no other commercial area in the national capital or Mumbai found itself among the areas with the highest change in rental prices. Meanwhile, four locations in Gurgaon were listed among the top ten locations where rental rates surged.

  1. Gurgaon MG Road
  2. Gurgaon DLF Cybercity
  3. Gurgaon Institutional Sectors
  4. Grgaon Golf Course Road

Once a nondescript village on the outskirts of New Delhi, Gurgaon emerged as a satellite city to the capital in the late 1970s when Maruti Suzuki, India’s largest carmaker, set up its factory a little away from the city. Since then, a number of multinational firms, including Google and Microsoft, have set up their offices in the suburb.

Gurgaon also saw a 60% jump in the absorption of office spaces during the April-June quarter in 2015—the third highest after Mumbai and New Delhi—compared to the January-March quarter this year. Absorption in real estate parlance refers to the total occupancy of commercial properties that are sold or leased. During the quarter, Mumbai saw absorption of 2.93 million sq.ft while Delhi’s absorption was at 0.21 million sq.ft.

But rental rates in many of these upcoming cities like Gurgaon are still very low compared to New Delhi or Mumbai, which continue to command sky-high rents. Delhi’s CBD, which comprises Connaught Place, and Mumbai’s CBD, which comprises Nariman Point, Fort and Ballard Estate, were among the most expensive office locations.

India’s top 10 most expensive office locations
Area Price (Rs per sq.ft)
Delhi CBD 185-450
Bandra Kurla Complex 225-320
Mumbai CBD 200-250
Mumbai-Worli/Prabhadevi 185-225
New Delhi-Nehru Place 175-250
Mumbai-Kalina 150-200
Mumbai-Lower Parel 145-190
New Delhi-Saket 130-190
Gurgaon-MG Road 110-150
Gurgaon-Golf Course Road 100-150

“The office market recorded approximately 19 million sq.ft of office absorption in the first half of the year across major cities in India,” the report said. “With an expanding economy and the introduction of the REIT (real estate infrastructure fund) regulation, the demand for office space is increasing and so is the demand from institutional investors to acquire income yielding office property.”

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Haryana to develop Gurgaon as smartest city: Manohar Lal Khattar

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Wednesday said that Gurgaon will be the ‘smartest city’ and the state government will spare no efforts in this direction.

While addressing the Nasscom Product Conclave in Gurgaon, Khattar said though Gurgaon lagged behind as two other cities – Karnal and Faridabad – have been ranked above in the smart city race, but “this is not final”.

He said that as per the laid criteria of the Union Government, one of the main reasons for Gurgaon trailing behind in race for smart city was it’s non inclusion in Jawahar Lal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JNURM), which alone carries 20 marks, so Gurgaon has to compete out of 80 marks.

However, the state government has requested the Central Government that if Rs 100 crore, the amount to be given by Union Government annually for developing smart city, is provided to Haryana government, then Gurgaon can be included in the list of smart cities, Khattar said.

“The Central Government is considering this proposal. If accepted, Haryana might have three smart cities instead of two. Even if it is not accepted, then also the state government is committed to develop Gurgaon as ‘Smartest city’ because it is already a ‘smart city’,” the Chief Minister said.

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Pakistan stumps India; rolls out South Asia’s 1st REIT while we still try to axe the tax

India 0 Vs Pakistan 1. It’s not the outcome of a ODI series between the traditional rivals but a progress card on reforms in the world of real estate. At a time Indian realtors and investors are struggling to roll out real estateinvestment trusts (REIT) amid regulatory complications and tax uncertainties, Pakistan has gone ahead to launch South Asia’s first REIT at a premium of 10% to the offer price, earlier this month.

A REIT is a financial instrument where the underlying asset is real estate. The rental income from the property assets are distributed by the Trust as dividends to the investors or unit holders of the trust. Typically therefore, a REIT invests in completed, revenue generating commercial realestate assets.

Mid-June, Pakistan-based Dolmen City launched its REIT offering that got subscribed 1.7 times. It owns a commercial property which has a mix of mall and office space and an occupancy of 96%. The company expects a net income of $21.9 million in first year while dividends are expected at $20.7 million. This was also the first REIT listing in Pakistan after the country came out with the regulations.

Interestingly, yields for the Dolmen City REIT’s investors in the first year are a percentage point lower than the current yields on Pakistan’s government securities (GSec) that are now trading at 9.75%. Typically,world over REITs notes trade at positive spread. This was based on estimation of rental income from the asset, 90% of which are to distributed back to investors. But even then, there were few global investors who bit the story — only 0.6% of HNIs/Institution allocation.

For starters, Pakistan has streamlined the process significantly to make it attractive for investors. For example, their REITs attract a withholding tax of 10% (in-line with Mutual fund taxation) with no further tax liability for individual investors. Moreover, the regulators there have agreed to concessional tax regime for transfer of an asset into a REIT with significant reduction in stamp duty across the region.

In comparison in India — despite the recent relaxations on taxability like MAT exemption, tax pass through to REIT – and simplification of structuring, the REIT controlled special purpose vehicles are still subject to corporate and dividend distribution tax ( DDT) which limits the pass through nature of REITs. This makes it imperative on the SPV to restructure to reduce the tax blow. Analysts feel while debt infusion at SPVs could improve the yields of the instrument, a simplified structure allowing tax pass throughs would improve transparency and improve visibility of returns to investors.

“Indian REITs in the current form have a significant tax disadvantage with double taxation in SPV-REIT structure and high transaction cost in direct holding structure,” said Abhishek Anand of JM Finance in his report on India REITs on June 12. “We believe tax regime needs to work towards simplifying the domestic REIT structure, and needs to reduce double taxation in order to make returns more attractive for investors.”

“Typically REIT is successful in the mature economies where it gives returns of 7 to 9% and government securities gives returns in the range of 1.5 to 2.5%,” says Hemal Mehta, senior director of Deloitte. “While, in India, government securities gives risk free returns in the range of 8 to 9% and hence, to make this instrument very attractive fiscal benefits like dividend distribution tax, minimum alternate tax and capital gain should be waived off to make the REIT attractive for Indian investors.”

Echoing this, a senior official of a leading real estate focussed PE fund says if the government considers such waivers, REITs alone have the potential to attract investment in the range of $15 to $20 billion from FII and NRIs.

According to Chandubhai Mehta, Managing Partner of Mumbai-based law firm Dhruve Liladhar & Co, which advises many developers, complexities in taxation to unit holders in REIT as well as to owners of the assets are the hindrance in the way of making this a popular instrument.

“REIT is beneficial to both the investors and the industry because it provides the investors with an investment avenue, which is comparatively less risky than investing in under construction properties and provides regular income,” says Mehta.

In India, many marque PE investors including Blackstone together with real estate JV partner Embassy or developers DLF were reportedly planning to go ahead with mega REIT listings, but till date have stayed away due largely on account of the tax complications. But realtors are hopeful of an early resolution. “There are issues related to taxation but as the market evolves, am sure the government will also change the rules according to market needs,” said Rajeev Talwar, Group Executive Director, DLF.

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NRIs Showing Renewed Interest in Indian Real Estate

Stability in housing prices and favourable rupee movements are bringing back the NRIs in a big way to the real estate market, mortgage giant HDFC has said.

To tap their interest, HDFC and also a number of property developers are undertaking special marketing campaigns including organising property fairs in places with high NRI population such as the US and the UK.

Interestingly, the non-resident Indians living abroad are showing a renewed interest in the Indian housing market at a time when the local demand is relatively sluggish.

“We are seeing a lot of interest from the NRI community. The rupee depreciation against the US dollar is also helping, for the prospective home buyers from the American continent,” HDFC Ltd managing director Renu Sud Karnad told PTI.

HDFC, the country’s largest mortgage lender, has planned ‘India Homes Fair’ exhibition in London on May 30-31, which will have more than 100 projects on display from across India.

Ms Karnad said that housing prices have stabilised, while softening of interest rates have helped make the home purchase much more affordable.

Property consultancy major CBRE’s South Asia Head (Residential Services) A S Sivaramakrishnan said that NRIs have become extremely important for the Indian real estate market and they contribute 8-10 per cent of the total housing sales volume across India.

Stating that the contribution of NRIs in housing sales varies from city to city, he said the NRIs account for 30-35 per cent of apartments sales in Kerala.

Their contribution in Hyderabad and Delhi-NCR markets are 10-12 per cent, Mr Sivaramakrishnan added. Cushman & Wakefield’ executive director (residential services) Shveta Jain also said that investments in the real estate sector by NRIs have gained momentum over time with prices being stable or reaching bottom in select cities and markets, rupee devaluations and attractive long term returns.

“With city limits expanding to peripheries, investors have a variety of products ranging from affordable to luxury developments and special housing projects like senior homes to choose from.

“Given the tepid demand from resident buyers and investors, developers have also undertaken special marketing efforts to target NRIs, whose investor confidence in Indian real estate market will get a further boost with the introduction of the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill,” Ms Jain added.

Ms Karnad said that the projects on display during its London fair are from Bengaluru, Chennai, Gujarat, Goa, Hyderabad, Kerala, Mumbai, NCR, Pune, Punjab and Kolkata, among others.

The options include flats, villas and plots and customers would be given exclusive offers and value-added benefits.

HDFC would be holding such exhibitions for the eighth year in a row at a foreign location, showing its popularity amongst the NRI and PIO (Person of Indian Origin) community in London and other cities abroad. (PTI)

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India’s top 50 real estate investment destinations of 2015

Makaan.com, conducted a research to identify top areas for property investment in 2015. The research was conducted to help the investor community identify & shortlist areas that hold the promise of good returns based on their past performance. The analysis was conducted basis data compiled in March 2015 and tracked the residential property price movement over the past one year and came up with a list of 50 localities / areas with maximum price appreciation (please see the table below). The research also gave property recommendation for people falling under different income brackets.

There are 14, 11, 9 and 7 localities / areas from Mumbai, Delhi NCR, Pune and Bangalore respectively making them the most favored among the investor’s community. Chennai and Ahmedabad are represented by 3 areas each whereas Kolkata and Hyderabad got represented in the list with 2 and 1 area(s) respectively. We hope you benefit from this analysis.

InvestmentDestinations

City wise analysis of Top 50 areas for property investment in India

Mumbai: Mumbai seems to be the most favorable investment destination as 14 areas feature among the top 50 list. Chembur East in Mumbai Central Line, Vile Parle (East) & Bandra (East) in Mumbai South-West and Goregaon (East) in Mumbai Andheri-Dahisar have posted over 20% price appreciation. Mumbai has seen stabilization in property prices on account of un-sold inventory and delay in new project approvals. Areas in Thane and Navi Mumbai are finding favor among the investors who want to invest in sub 10,000 psf properties with the promise of high returns

New Delhi: A total of 11 areas from Delhi NCR feature in the research. It seems the city has been able to hold on to the momentum inspite of the overall fall in property transaction in the past year. Most of the high growth areas are in the NCR region of Noida, Greater Noida, Ghaziabad and Gurgaon. Prominent areas in the top 50 list include Techzone – 4, Pari Chowk, Noida Expressway in Greater Noida; Sector-46, Sector-120, Sector-110 in Noida; Sector 54 and Sector 73 in Gurgaon. All these have appreciated by between the range of 45% to 21% in the past one year essentially because of infrastructure development, connectivity and lower base price. Rohini in North Delhi is the only locality that is in main city of Delhi and has featured in the top 50 investment list, the area has given 11% price appreciation. Areas in Delhi NCR that have given the best returns to the investors are Sector 46 Noida, Sector 54 and 73 in Gurgoan. Property prices in these areas have appreciated in the range of 35-45%.

Pune: The top areas that have appreciated the most in Pune are Ambegaon, Bibewadi, Chinchwad. These areas have shown an appreciation ranging from 22-26% over a period of one year. Pune has seen a continuous influx of IT companies and the city is emerging as a viable option for investors from Mumbai. This trend is likely to continue for the next few years.

Bangalore: Bangalore has 7 area which are featured in top 50 investment list of which RMV in Bangalore North, Rajarajeshwari Nagar from Bangalore West, HAL Layout from Bangalore East, are the 3 areas in Bangalore that have given the best price appreciation. Property prices here have appreciated by between 7-21% in past one year. The ongoing metro corridor is casting a positive rub off on some of the nearby areas which might have caused favorable sentiments.

Ahmedabad: Prahlad Nagar and Satellite Road from Ahmedabad West and Gandhi Nagar from Ahmedabad Central are the 3 areas in Ahmedabad that feature among the top 50 list. The city’s localities have shown an increase in prices in the 11-16% range

Chennai: Porur in Chennai West and Pallavaram, and Thoraipakkam in Chennai South are also featured among the top 50 list. Property prices in these region have appreciated between 11-28%. The top investment locality of Chennai is Thoraipakkam which has shown 28% appreciation.

Others: Kondapur from Hyderabad, Garia and Tollygunge localities from Kolkata are other areas that have made it to the top 50 most investor friendly areas in India. These areas have given an appreciation between 8-11%

Commenting on the research, Aditya Verma CEO of Makaan.com said “Over the past 12 months property prices in India have moved in a narrow range with a slight negative bias. Just like one can identify good stocks in a depressed stock market, one can identify good investment areas in the current property market. Overall property prices in India are likely to remain stable over the next 12 months. Investors can take advantage of this situation and strike a good bargain”

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What China learned from Lee Kuan Yew… and India didn’t

One of the asymmetries of history is the lack of correspondence between the abilities of some leaders and power of their countries,” Henry Kissinger famously wrote of Lee Kuan Yew. Kissinger’s contention was that a technocrat like Lee deserved to lead a bigger country than Singapore, the city of 5 million he ruled for three decades. Yet, given the huge influence Lee had on the late Deng Xiaoping’s policies after Deng decided to move away from Communism in the late 1970s, it’s possible to argue that Lee’s economic principles helped create the Chinese juggernaut.

Deng’s decision to open up special investment zones for foreign investors, starting with Shenzhen at the tip of southern China in late 1979, was prompted by a visit toSingapore in 1978. Deng quickly dispatched several hundred Chinese officials to study Singapore, a special economic zone all its own, soon after. Today, Shenzhen boasts one of the busiest ports in the world, total foreign direct investment of $30 billion, skyscrapers and tropical gardens, and looks like a Singapore knock-off. Several elements of the Singapore development formula laid the foundation of what Beijing calls “capitalism with Chinese characteristics”.

The anomalous hybrid of state capitalism led by what Beijing believes is a benign dictatorship in China should more truthfully be called “capitalism with Singaporean characteristics”. Singapore remains the busiest port in the world, but half the world’s largest ports are now in China. Hewlett-Packard (HP) and its computer assembly factories were among the earliest foreign investors in Singapore along with Texas Instruments. Today, HP is a big investor in Chongqing, a 30 million city-state of a sort in China, where one in every four laptops in the world is made.

The Chinese bureacracy’s ‘build it, investors will come’ approach to infrastructure was perfected first by Singapore’s trade promotion arm, the Economic Development Board (EDB) in the 1980s and 90s. No other country in Asia pursued economic diplomacy quite like the EDB did. By the mid-1990s, half of Singapore’s output was electronic products. China’s obsession with exports and electronics assembly can also be attributed to having learned from the Singaporean textbook. Consider the outsized imprint China and Asia has on global trade: in 1990s, Asia accounted for a little over a quarter of global manufacturing output. By 2013, that figure was about 46 per cent — with China responsible for half of that.

In repeated visits dating back to the death of Zhou Enlai in January 1976, Lee reached out to China in a way that the leaders of Japan, colonial Hong Kong and Taiwan were neither inclined to nor able to for complicated historical reasons. Nor did these countries display the Singaporean-style single-mindedness that China does in courting foreign investors today. Recently, Vivek Chaand Sehgal, chairman of Samvardhana Motherson Group, the massive Indian auto parts multinational with operations in China and Europe, recounted how surprised he was to receive a visit in New Delhi some years ago from the mayor of a city near Shanghai who was not only prepared to provide land, but even ensure that it had the right vaastu.

Like Lee, who was famously a critic of Western values of unbridled democracy and relaxed social policies, Deng was agnostic about using capitalist ideas to help transform China. Emblematic of this attitude of pragmatism were remarks Lee made in an interview with Fareed Zakaria in Foreign Affairs in 1994: “If we did not have the good points of the West to guide us, we wouldn’t have got out of our backwardness. We would have been a backward economy with a backward society.”

Much of Lee’s notions of ‘Asian values’ and democracy not being right for Asia were nonsense and proven wrong when the baton of free elections and a free press was passed across Asia, from Korea to Taiwan to Indonesia. His idea pushing graduates to marry graduates was even worse. President Xi Jinping’s current plans to ‘reform’ the Chinese judiciary while rounding up most human rights lawyers are not dissimilar to Lee’s tendency to use the courts in Singapore to impose ruinous damages for libel on opposition politicians and Western publications, while ensuring the courts were efficient in enforcing contracts. Even when governing Hong Kong, Beijing is guided not by Hong Kong’s own liberal values and its history of independent courts and a free press, but by Lee’s problematic political legacy in Singapore, a much tamer city.

In occasional dispatches from Singapore, I could not help ridiculing editorials in The Straits Timesthat called on people to be punctual in the horrified tones of someone criticising thievery. Its malls, seemingly erected above every other metro station, drove me insane. But look how shopping dominates the landscape of Dubai, Hong Kong and parts of Mumbai and Delhi today and it is hard not to conclude that we are all Singaporeans now. Photos in the local newspaper shaming people who did not flush in public toilets seemed absurd, but perhaps less so when you are an inhabitant of a country with a shortage of public toilets and where clean public loos are only to be found in Singaporean-styled shopping malls. Having listened to Lee address American Fortune 500 CEOs in Singapore two decades ago, I can attest that few leaders sermonised quite as annoyingly as he did, but he was often right.

When India started opening its economy in the early 1990s, Singapore rushed in with offers of help. The Singaporeans were rebuffed time and again by India’s sclerotic bureaucracy. By contrast, China’s good fortune was that it had leaders who adapted the successful blueprint that city-states such as Hong Kong and Singapore offered because they realised China urgently needed employment for hundreds of millions in just the labour-intensive industries those two cities had built their fortunes on decades earlier. Perhaps Deng’s pragmatism in importing ideas from the tiny city-state Lee built would never have worked in a country as uniquely complicated as India. The tragedy is none of our leaders really tried.

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