Govt seeks allies' support for FDI in retail
New Delhi: With the "crisis"-ridden economy posing "testing times" for the country's leadership, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma has appealed to UPA allies to allow FDI in multi-brand retail and support other key reforms.
"These are testing times for the country, for the leadership (both in the government and industry)...We recognise with absolute clarity that we are going through a crisis ...," Sharma had told reporters after unveiling annual supplement to the Foreign Trade Policy (FTP) here.
However, the minister said while the government would be intervening to turn around the situation, the parties across the entire political spectrum should help the nation move on the reforms and growth agenda.
Sharma sought to link the controversial issue of foreign direct investment (FDI) with the economic slowdown and appealed to the political parties, mainly the UPA allies such as Trinamool Congress to allow implementation of the Cabinet decision.
The minister said he would continue with "consistent political persuasion since more than half the states are keen (on FDI in retail). Mamata Banerjee (Trinamool Congress chief) has her strong reservation, I do respect". But, he said, there are chief ministers who have conveyed their support and want to open retail to foreign investment.
"The states which want to embrace their rights must be respected, those who do not want must also be respected...," he said.
Although the Cabinet approved 51 percent FDI in retail on November 24, the government was forced to put it on hold in the face of strong opposition from key ally Trinamool Congress.
Asked whether the Cabinet need to vet the decision again, Sharma replied in the negative.
Sharma said in the given difficult circumstances, pressure on economy multiplies if trade deficit widens.
The country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth touched a nine-year low of 5.3 percent in the last quarter of the previous fiscal, which ended with 6.5 percent expansion.
However, Sharma said the situation can be retrieved. I do not see a situation where the industry will shut shops".
On the sharp depreciation of rupee value, he said, both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee are concerned. "I am sure we will be able to turn around.. As a government, it is one of our concerns."
Asked if achieving USD 500 billion trade target by 2013-14 would be a difficult task, the minister said, "If I do not give a target, how are we motivating... If we are lucky, we will be there."
During 2011-12, India's exports grew by 21 percent to touch USD 303 billion.