Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said his government will leave no stone unturned to make India a preferred global investment destination as he pitched for foreign investment to modernise urban centres, offering a business friendly climate and a huge market.

The prime minister said India and some African countries were going to witness a huge wave of urbanisation in the next two decades. However, he said, that the coronavirus pandemic has posed an enormous challenge before the world.

“The very things which represented living in a city are facing a question mark. Things like community gatherings, sports activities, education and recreation are not the same as before,” he said, addressing the Bloomberg New Economy Forum. “The biggest question before the entire world is how to restart? The restart will not be possible without a reset. A reset of mindset. A reset of processes. And a reset of practices.”

As the world looks ahead of a post-Covid era, Modi said that we can learn from the historic reconstruction efforts after the two world wars. He said that the pandemic has given us a similar opportunity to develop new protocols in every field. “This opportunity should be grabbed by the world if we want to develop resilient systems for the future,” Modi said. “We should think on post Covid requirements of the world. A good starting point would be the rejuvenation of our urban centers.”

The prime minister said that Indian cities presented an “extraordinary example” during the pandemic. “There were worldwide incidents of resistance against the lockdown measures,” he said. “However, Indian cities meticulously followed these preventive measures. This is because, for us, the biggest building block of our cities was not concrete, but the community.” The prime minister added that pandemic showed that our biggest resource, as societies and as businesses, is our people.

On the development of cities, Modi said they cannot prosper without Affordable Housing, adding that his government launched the Housing for All programme in 2015 to meet this need. “We will deliver more than one crore or 10 million houses to aspiring families in urban areas before the targeted deadline of 2022,” he said.

Modi also said the metro rail work was under way in 27 cities. This will deliver about 1,000 kms of metro rail system in the country by 2022, he said.

He further said that during the pandemic, technology helped us maintain continuity in our work, citing video-conferencing as an example. Modi said this posed an interesting question for a post-Covid world: “Will we continue with the learnings of the Covid-times like video-conferencing? Or will we travel across continents to participate in a conference?”

The prime minister pointed out it is necessary to empower people with the ability to work from anywhere and to live anywhere. He added that his government announced simplified guidelines for the technology and knowledge-enabled services sector to meet this purpose.

He said that we need to be ready for the convergence of the physical and digital worlds. “Our programs – Digital India and Start-Up India Missions are helping create capacities towards this,” Modi said. “We have selected 100 smart cities through a two-stage process. It was a nationwide competition upholding the philosophy of cooperative and competitive federalism.”

The prime minister added that these cities have prepared projects worth around Rs 2 lakh crore, of which work of Rs 1.4 lakh crore is completed or near completion.

“India is well on its way towards urban transformation,” Modi said. “I have no doubt that with the help of all stakeholders, the civil society, academic institutions, industry and most importantly the citizens and communities, we will achieve the dream of resilient and prosperous global cities.”