FDI in retail a must: PC

Written by fe Bureau | Pune | Updated: Nov 25 2012, 07:25am hrs
Union finance minister P Chidambaram on Saturday brushed aside criticism of FDI in retail, saying it is not an option, but an imperative. The question is not whether we shall have FDI or not The question is how to bring foreign investment into India.

Referring to the disruption of Parliament for the second consecutive day over the issue, Chidambaram said: The future of the country depends on the path we take. Argue all that you want, but, at the end of the day, there has to be a consensus and unity of purpose. I am confident that after my talks with the Opposition, we will be able to get over the hurdle and we would be able to push through more reforms.

The minister was speaking at a special Reinventing India lecture series organised by the Pune International Centre ( PIC) on Challenges as Opportunities: The Experience of Liberalizing the Indian Economy.

The current account deficit has burgeoned to $70 billion and has to paid for in hard currency and not in rupees. Of the three ways of raising funds FDI, FIIs and ECBs FDI in retail is our best bet. This is because the money that comes to India stays in India and is not debt. It is risk investment and is the confidence shown by other countries in our economy, he said.

How do you find $70 billion or hard currency unless we have to run down our reserves of $ 290 billion he asked.

Citing examples of how India earlier converted challenges into opportunities, Chidambaram said the huge bill of current account deficit could turn out to be an opportunity for reforms and this, in turn, could bring in reforms in many other sectors of the economy, including infrastructure.

India is slated to become the third largest economy in the next 15-20 years with two options a poor country with a large per capita income or a middle income country with a large per capita income. I hope that India becomes the third largest economy and a middle income country with a large per capita income, he said,

No reform in India has been pushed without opposition, the minister said, citing examples of the opposition to computerisation of railway ticket bookings.No reform would have been possible if the reformer flinches in the face of opposition. There have been several examples of these in the past when challenges were converted into opportunities, when the wheat imports helped usher in the green revolution, industrial licensing policies were abolished, he said.

Key takeaways

* P Chidambaram wants bankers to take the annual bankers conference (Bancon) more seriously

* Notes poor participation from private sector banks

* Says the Indian Banks' Association should do innovations of its own and have a chairman from a private sector bank

* Banking industry takes note of more and more Indians using mobiles for interacting with banks

* Government has launched single-number dialing from GSM phones across the whole country. You need to dial *99# for accessing bank services. So far, 23 banks and two telecom companies, BSNL and MTNL, have joined in

* The *99# service is a new unified platform from the National Payments Corporation of India; does not need downloading of any mobile banking software applications

* Banks have also launched a new RuPay Kisan card that enables cashless payments

* FM says consolidation in the banking sector inevitable, but local area banks also need to be revived

* He also wants regional rural banks to behave differently and not become just like their parent banks

* The department of financial services will not impose any uniformity on banks and they are free to innovate and find new models, says Chidambaram