NEW DELHI, Nov 20 (Reuters) - India's government aims to
pass bills opening up the insurance and pension sectors to
foreign investors in parliament's forthcoming session, a
minister said on Tuesday, the next step in a reform programme
seen as key to reviving economic growth.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath, addressing a news
conference, said the government would give top priority to a
package of financial bills in the month-long session that starts
Two of the bills, which would allow up to 49 percent foreign
ownership of insurance companies and pension funds, have long
been sought by investors. Foreign investors are now barred from
buying into pensions, and the cap for insurers is at 26 percent.
Such reforms have been fiercely resisted by opposition
parties and members of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's own
coalition and criticised as helping foreign firms at the expense
of Indian companies and ordinary people.
The government also aims to pass a bill that paves the way
for the Reserve Bank of India to issue new banking licences, as
well as increase its regulatory powers over Indian banks.
However, Singh's minority coalition is expected to struggle
to pass many, if any, of the 25 bills it wants to clear
parliament in this session.
Recent sessions have suffered frequent shutdowns and
walkouts by lawmakers protesting against a slew of issues
including reforms, inflation and corruption scandals, meaning
that scant legislation has been passed. A row over a decision
taken in September to allow foreign supermarkets such as
Wal-Mart set up shop threatens to stall business once
(Reporting by Nigam Prusty; writing by Matthias Williams;
Editing by Ron Popeski)