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Easy, affordabale internet access is key for growth: Bharti Enterprises Chairman Sunil Mittal

Bharti Enterprises Chairman Sunil Mittal on Sunday called on leaders of the world’s biggest 20 economies (G20) to ensure Internet access for all saying easy and affordable connectivity is a key driver for growth.

Bharti Enterprises Chairman Sunil Mittal

Bharti Enterprises Chairman Sunil Mittal

Speaking at the B20 session, held on sidelines of the G20 Summit, he also highlighted the need for simpler and easier global trading norms and investments in infrastructure and said the world needs to create more employment opportunities for women and youth.

For revival of global business environment, he said the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement needs to be ratified and implemented. India is yet to ratify the WTO pact.

Mittal, who is also the Vice Chairman of International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), urged world leaders to commit and invest in developing digital infrastructure to deliver a brighter and more prosperous future to their citizens.

Stating that Internet can become the cornerstone of a more inclusive global economic growth, he underlined “the need to bridge the global digital divide and provide easy and affordable access to Information Communication Technologies.” “If we want to help people feed, heal, educate and employ themselves, we need to ensure they can connect to the Internet. The challenge of connecting the world will require us to take many different and complimentary actions in the coming years,” he said.

Highlighting the four-point agenda outlined by the ICC B20 for the revival of the global business environment, Mittal said new WTO research suggests that the TFA could boost global trade flows by an unprecedented $3.6 trillion, creating more than 20 million jobs in the process.

“The impact of implementing the TFA would be greater than eliminating all remaining tariff barriers the world over-and could lead to an increase in SME exports by up to 80% in some economies as the Internet opens up new market opportunities,” he noted.

Although 51 countries have ratified the TFA to date, 108 are required to do so for the agreement to enter into force.

IBAC members are calling on the G20 economies to do all they can to speed effective implementation of this landmark agreement in the months ahead.

Mittal also called for country-specific infrastructure strategies to boost investment in much needed infrastructure projects worldwide.

“The world’s leading economies need to articulate coherent national strategies to repair and invest in their infrastructure,” he said.

The size of the problem requires urgent action: the worldwide spending gap on infrastructure is forecast to reach $15-20 trillion by 2030.

“Filling this gap will require unprecedented amounts of private capital and IBAC members are calling on G20 governments to set out credible plans in order to attract investors,” Mittal said.

He also stressed upon the need to support the growth of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), which generate 60% of the world’s private sector employment.

“Globally, 95% of the enterprises are SMEs and these should be at the core of the global growth strategy outlined by the G20 nations. The SMEs can become a major source of employment opportunities for youth and support a more inclusive economic growth,” he said.

He said there is a need to bring more women and youth into the mainstream economic growth to ensure balanced growth within economies.

Skilling and education infrastructure must be developed through enhanced public-private partnerships to ensure a viable talent pool for SMEs.

“The global economy is facing considerable headwinds and the unemployment rate amongst youth across the world is at a high of 13%. We must create meaningful opportunities for the young people to avoid social unrest,” he said.

Mittal also wanted concrete actions to create more opportunities for women and young people in the labour market.

The global unemployment rate stands at 5.9%. For young people it’s 13.1%. Women are also much more likely to be unemployed, under-employed or in less secure jobs. All of this has a major economic as well as social cost.

“The global business community is therefore calling on the G20 to commit to a comprehensive strategy to boost youth and female participation in the workforce. A key aim should be to reduce mismatches in skills, not least through better public-private collaboration on national skills strategies and education plans,” he said.

On improving SME’s access to finance, he said recent research shows that the enormous potential of small businesses is being held back by limited access to reasonably priced finance.

In their outreach to governments over the past few months, ICC CEOs have emphasised that if the G20 is serious about creating jobs it must urgently help deserving businesses get financing for their viable investments.

“A prudent starting point for the G20 would be to commit to exploring whether the implementation of tougher financial regulation has inadvertently stymied the flow of finance to small businesses. A cogent strategy to deepen SME access to alternative forms of financing must also be established,” he said.

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