Piloting the Insurance Amendment Bill was not just a political and professional challenge for Jayant Sinha as he also faced “teasing” and “taunts” over the stand his father as a former finance minister took on allowing foreign investment in the sector.
Recalling the debate in Parliament on the passing of long held-up Insurance Amendment Bill, Sinha, Minister of State for Finance, said he often faced “taunts” about his father and senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha favouring only 26 per cent foreign investment in the sector while the Bill was for allowing 49 per cent.
The senior Sinha during his term as Finance Minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee NDA government had proposed 49 per cent cap in foreign investment in the insurance sector.
But he made a climbdown to 26 per cent during the UPA II regime as the head of the Standing Committee on Finance saying it may not have the desired effect and could expose the economy to global vulnerability.
“When I was piloting the Insurance Bill, and the debate was happening in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, I found this very strange (thing)…I was not dealing with just the professional matter, legislative matter but was also dealing with personal matter as well.
“Because many of the speakers who spoke in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and at some level one could say that they were teasing, at some level you could say they were also taunting because they said your father said in the Standing Committee on Finance that it should not be 49 per cent. And yet you are coming forward and saying there should be 49 per cent FDI,” he said.
As a result of that, he said, “of course, they were wrong and I tried to explain that when I spoke. First thing I spoke of was 40 per cent to 49 per cent when my father introduced the Bill in 1999.”
Very often, he added, in Parliament “you have a debate which is not sort of blessed with facts. So, people take on whatever position they want to but very often it is not based on facts.”
He was speaking at an event organised Skoch here.
Referring to the fiscal consolidation, he said: “We would have never been able to do it (fiscal deficit target) if it had not been for the gift of low oil prices. So the low oil prices have basically enabled us to hasten (fiscal) consolidation process by at least one year,” he said.
During the current fiscal, the government has projected the fiscal deficit target of 4.1 per cent of the GDP helped by lower crude oil prices.
Crude oil prices plummeted to less than USD 50 for first time since 2009 earlier this year. It had touched a high of USD 140 in 2008.
Crude oil prices are at present hovering around USD 55 a barrel.
“But because of oil prices being where they are, we now have a chance to put in place, a third generation of reform. That’s the generational change that I am talking about,” Sinha said.
“Not just a globally competitive economy, and this is the next generation of Swadeshi, an economy that can be not just strong, but smart,” he said.
“An economy that is innovative, an economy that can manufacture. An economy that can be a solution provider, not just for top 1 billion people of this planet, but for next 5 billion and that’s what we’ll do in the third generation reforms,” he added.