The Union Minister for Commerce, Industry and Textiles, Mr Anand Sharma, on Saturday said that five States have indicated their willingness to go ahead with giving licences for foreign companies in retail. (Foreign retailers require licence from the respective State Government.)

Answering a question at a press conference here, Mr Sharma said that Punjab was very upbeat about FDI in retail. The other four States are Haryana, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Orissa. He said four Chief Ministers had already written to the Union Government saying that they were game for FDI in retail.

“It is only two days since the policy was announced,” Mr Sharma said, expressing hope that more States would open up their retail markets for foreign participation.

Observing that the presence of large retailers who would buy directly from farmers would be good for both farmers and consumers, Mr Sharma said that he sympathised with farmers in States that are not ready to allow FDI in retail.

On the order of investments expected to flow in terms of FDI in single brand and multi-brand retail, the Minister said that it would be “not in hundreds of millions, but in billions.”

Guidelines

Mr Sharma said that the guidelines for implementation of the FDI policy would be issued within a week.

Asked about dissent among political parties over the FDI policy, he said, “policy-making is the remit of the UPA Government.”

PTI reports: Mr Sharma said that the policy is “distinct and different” and interest of small retailers has been taken into consideration.

“The FDI policy is distinct and different and has the Indian signature,” he said.

The interest and sensitivities of small retailers have been taken into consideration and “they are part of the policy embrace”, he said when asked whether the Government would take steps to allay fears over the measure, which has drawn sharp reactions from political parties and retailers.

Mr Sharma said the political parties would “certainly realise” the benefits of the Government's bold move, and added that such opposition was common.

He recalled that the previous Congress governments in the 1980s and 1990s, led by the late Rajiv Gandhi and late P.V. Narasimha Rao had gone ahead with reforms in IT and communication and economy, only to reap benefits now.

Mr Sharma insisted that the decision on FDI was not an “overnight policy” and said no policy rollout would be without opposition and criticism. He added that a sincere effort had been put in to take on board concerns of all stakeholders.

On consensus in the Cabinet over the FDI policy, he declined to respond to media reports but said there would be “discussions and debate.”

(This article was published on November 26, 2011)
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