Retail reforms will make India a 'nation of sales boys and girls': Jaitley

Last Updated: Fri, Nov 23, 2012 04:39 hrs

New Delhi: Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Arun Jaitley has said that the opening of the country's retail sector to foreign supermarkets will make the nation 'hub of sales boys and girls'.

Speaking on the sidelines of an event here, Jaitley said: "International retail imports goods from outside, from where they get the cheapest and it is obvious that China has a low interest rate, low electricity tariffs, better infrastructure is there, labour laws are different and they are known as low cost manufacturing hub and that is why their goods will be sold here. So, I have been saying this again and again that these stores will be of Europeans and Americans, the goods will be from China and the India will be called as the country of sales boys and sales girls."

Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury and Janata Dal (United) party chief Sharad Yadav were also present at the event and expressed their protest against FDI.

For the moment, there is no threat of the government falling. But an obstructive opposition and unreliable allies could mean there is little progress on reforms like opening up insurance and pension businesses during parliament's month-long winter session.

The Manmohan Singh government has been criticised in the past for cold-shouldering allies and opponents.

Yechury said: "The government doesn't want a debate over these issues. We want it a debate over FDI (Foreign Direct Investment), and on that basis, if government's view is justified then explain us, nobody is illiterate and we have not come here to do politics and if we have come here to do politics then Arun Jaitley, me and Sharad Yadav wouldn't have come here on the same platform. We have come to talk on the issues. The question here is not of government, the question here is of issues and policies. If government changes and policies will not, then also we will fight, so the big question is to change the policies and introduce policies in favour of the people of this country."

Yechury also added that the motive is to change wrong economic policies and to introduce beneficial reforms for the welfare of the people of this country.

The CPM is pushing hard for a symbolic vote against the measure. If the government lost the vote, it would be an embarrassing setback for a policy on which it has staked so much political capital. It could also sap its political will to pursue more difficult reforms to cut high spending and reduce a ballooning budget deficit.

Most of the initiatives Singh has announced to date have required only an executive order, so this session of parliament poses the biggest test yet of his reform drive. If he fails to get key allies and the BJP on board, his reformist legislative agenda could stall.

Among the reform bills due to be introduced are measures to allow up to 49 percent foreign investment in local insurance companies and domestic pension funds. Currently, the cap for insurers is at 26 percent and foreign investors are barred from buying into pensions.

The economic bills can be passed in parliament's lower house with the support of two big regional parties - the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) - which are not part of the ruling coalition but often give it support in parliament. However, the SP has previously opposed the pension and insurance bills while the BSP is keeping its cards close to its chest. 

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