'Govt ready to face any challenge on FDI'
Commerce Minister Anand Sharma made it clear that there will be no going back on allowing 51 per cent FDI in multi- brand retail as it is a "decision cast in stone" and said the government is ready to face any challenge in Parliament.
Speaking ahead of the Parliament session when Opposition is planning to press motions, including No-Confidence Motion over the FDI issue, he asserted that a government cannot be expected to have "vetting of its policy and endorsement of executive decisions either by ideological opponents, some of whom have blinkers on or those who have partisan agenda."
Talking to journalists en route to Phnom Penh along with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Sharma said, "It is high time that a realisation dawns upon all concerned that shrill discourse and sensationalisation in recent years has caused enormous damage to India's image, the investment climate and hurt India's economy."
He maintained that "In a constitutional democracy which is rule-based and rule-governed, if there is any issue those get addressed. We do not need opposition discourse for the concerned institutions and authorities who will look into such matters. It does nobody any good."
Asked to comment on a move by former UPA ally Trinamool Congress to bring No-Confidence Motion on FDI during the Winter Session of Parliament beginning on November 22, Sharma said, "in a democracy, there can be difference of opinion and it is expected of the opponents of the government to take a position with regard to policy decisions.
"(But) here is a decision which is in executive domain which requires no legislative approval. In the history of Indian parliamentary democracy, an executive decision has never been dragged into Parliament motions."
At the same time, the Minister asserted, "the government is confident" of demonstrating its majority in Parliament and "facing any challenge and continuing with its good work."
To questions over whether timing of FDI decision was right, Sharma shot back, saying he was surprised over such queries.
"Are we not the same government which has been unfairly targeted for not taking decisions? An atmosphere was created that decisions were delayed, decisions got trapped in controversies and one cliche was commonly used – policy paralysis. So when you take decisions, timing is questioned. When you are deliberating on a decision, you are called indecisive," the Commerce Minister said.
He asserted that the government had taken the decision on allowing FDI in multi-brand retail in a "considered manner" looking at the interest of farmers and jobs and after thorough consultations spread over two years with stake-holders like farmers, consumers and all the states.
"We have government that is confident, strong and stable and committed to carrying forward with those major initiatives which are in supreme national interest," Sharma underlined.
While talking about the damage caused to India's interests by "sensationalism," the Minister hoped that the confidence of investors in India's policy regime has been "bolstered and reinforced with the firmness" and "clarity of mind" that the government has demonstrated in taking decisions and to make India one of the most investor-friendly countries.
"I do not see any situation where enthusiasm of investors would be dampened," he said.
Sharma maintained that the Central government, while taking the decision on FDI, has respected the federal character of India and it has been left to states whether or not to implement it.
"The states which have reservations or are not ready, they are free not to implement. At the same time, big agrarian states which want (FDI in retail), cannot be deprived or denied. That is the position we have made clear," the Commerce Minister said, while noting that 10 states have given in writing that they want it.
He sought to dispel the perception that enough FDI proposals were not coming, saying there was good progress since third week of September when the Union Cabinet decided to remove the "pause" button and go ahead with the decision originally cleared in November last year.
"Proposals are coming. In single brand, major proposals have been cleared. the last FIPB (Foreign Investment Promotion Board meeting) had cleared three major proposals," he said.
Specifically referring to IKEA's proposal, he said it has been "approved by us, now it is with the FIPB." It will meet the parameters of the policy and all the conditionalities.
"The same will happen in multi-brand," he said.
On allegations of corruption involving Walmart, the Minister said, "allegations are allegations. In a rule-based and rule-governed country, if there is any violation there are agencies who are there to look into it."
At the same time, he said there would have been no violations since September when the FDI decision was notified with only one change about dispensation of landlocked states which do not have cities with population of five million.
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