Wal-Mart has an easy day

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SummaryHelped by the Samajwadi Party and the BSP, the UPA government on Wednesday managed to convincingly defeat two opposition-sponsored motions against foreign direct investment in retail and related Foreign Exchange Management Act amendments in the Lok Sabha.

the SP and BSP, with respective strengths of 22 and 21, did not participate in the voting as they walked out alleging that interests of farmers and small retailers had been ignored.

Earlier, replying to the debate, commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma said all relevant factors were taken into account before allowing foreign retailers to open stores in India, to ensure investors were protected irrespective of who comes to power. “FDI is made in accordance with the investment regime in force at a point in time, which can normally not be amended with retrospective effect,” he said.

Sharma clarified that the foreign investor would not be vulnerable to political power shifts in states after they established their presence in India’s retail sector under this policy.

The minister reiterated this was only an “enabling policy” and state governments were free to take their own decisions regarding its implementation. “Establishment of retail sales outlets is to be undertaken in compliance with applicable state/union territory laws/regulations, such as the Shops and Establishments Act,” he added.

During the discussion on the motion moved under Rule 184 that entails voting, BJP questioned government motives behind allowing 51% FDI in multi-brand retail. Trinamool Congress, AIADMK, TDP, CPI and CPI(M), SAD, Shiv Sena, BJD and JD(U) also spoke against the government’s decision, alleging it would hurt small retailers in India and lead to loss of jobs and price increases.

Several reform Bills are listed for the winter session, which is nearly half way through. These include the insurance Bill seeking to increase the FDI limit from 26% to 49% – the move could address capital constraints in the sector which needs an estimated $10-12 billion for expansion – and the pension Bill allowing FDI up to the same level in pension. Other Bills listed for consideration include the Banking Laws (Amendment) Bill, which will pave the way for the Reserve Bank of India to start issuing new bank licences, and the Companies Bill that seeks to usher in a regime of non-intrusive regulation of corporates, balanced with greater shareholder democracy and more disclosure requirements. Legislation regarding tax reforms (the GST

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