Confer industry status to retail sector: Assocham

The status would entail greater focus on retail development, fiscal incentives, availability of organised financing and establishment of insurance norms

Industry body Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) today said it has urged the government to confer industry status to the retail sector at a time when the industry ministry has thrown open a debate for allowing foreign direct investment in the sector, reports PTI.

The chamber said it has submitted a note to ministries, including finance, commerce and industry and consumer affairs, urging them to confer industry status to the retail sector, which would lead to its further development.

The advantages of the status would encompass greater focus on retail development, fiscal incentives, availability of organised financing and establishment of insurance norms, it said.

"The status will increase focus on retail development and provide fiscal incentives to it. Also, ensure availability of organised financing and establishment of insurance norms," Assocham secretary general D S Rawat said.

It said, there is also a need to bring the retail sector at par with that of other countries.

"There is a need to study the fiscal and regulatory mechanism adopted by other countries in terms of development in the retail sector," Assocham said.

It said the status would also help in increasing the organised retail sector's share in the overall retail industry.

Currently, the organised retail's share is merely 4% in the $330 billion Indian retail industry, the chamber said.

It said the government should consider treating the retail sector as a thrust area, on the lines of food processing sector, as retail has both forward and backward linkages.

Further, the chamber said, there is a need of a comprehensive legislation in order to eliminate obtainment of multiple licensing.

Currently, retailers need to obtain multiple licences and permissions ranging from basic trading licences to product specific licences and pollution clearances for setting up retail outlets.

In June, the industry ministry sought the views of various stakeholders asking whether foreign direct investment (FDI) in the sector should be permitted. The ministry has sought stakeholders comments by 31st July.

At present, FDI in multi-brand retail is prohibited in India.

However, the government allows 51% FDI in single brand retailing and 100% in wholesale trade.


Ministry wants ban, immediate duty hike on iron ore exports

Steel minister Virbhadra Singh has advocated conservation of non-renewable minerals and export of value-added products rather than selling iron ore at throw away prices

Steel minister Virbhadra Singh today called for a complete ban on exports of iron ore and sought an immediate hike in the prevailing duty to 20% as an interim relief to the domestic industry, reports PTI.

"The steel ministry's considered view is a ban on iron ore exports than selling it at throw away prices. We should conserve the precious minerals and export value-added products," Mr Singh told newsmen in New Delhi.

As an immediate step towards restricting exports, a "flat 20%” duty should be levied on iron ore consignments shipped out of the country, Mr Singh said. At present, export duty on iron ore fines is 5% while it is 15% on lumps.

Last month, the ministry had written to the finance ministry seeking duty hike on iron ore exports, besides raising the issue with the prime minister to contain rising prices and ease input cost of steel makers. Iron ore prices are currently hovering around $120 a tonne, up more than 50% over the past year.

When pointed out that the mines ministry has a diametrically opposite view on exports, with minister BK Handique saying the country doesn't have the technology to consume fines, Mr Singh said, "well, it could be their view. We are in favour of a ban. A decision on this will be taken by the government."

Steel secretary Atul Chaturvedi, who was present on the occasion, said his ministry would raise the issue of banning iron ore exports at an Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) meeting scheduled for 22nd July. A 10-member inter-ministerial panel headed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee is scheduled to meet next week to debate on the proposed Mines and Mineral Development and Regulation Bill.

Mr Chaturvedi further said there should be a deterrent on exports. "We want a deterrent, whether it be in the shape of complete ban on exports or increase in duty," he said.

Domestic production of iron ore stood at 230 million tonne last fiscal out of which 106 million tonne were shipped out. The 72-million-tonne domestic steel industry mainly consumes lumps, as it lacks the expensive finex technology required to refine the fines on the lines of China and others.

About 50% of the iron ore produced in the country is exported and fines constitute 85% of exports.


Food inflation to fall in 2 weeks: Basu

Food inflation inched up to 12.81% for the week ended 3rd July from 12.63% in the previous week. But overall inflation for June stood at a higher 10.55% against 10.16% in May

Amid protests over surging prices of essential commodities, chief economic adviser Kaushik Basu today said food inflation will fall substantially in the next two weeks, reports PTI.

The chief economic adviser however, admitted that non-food inflation is on a slow pick-up.

Addressing the press, Mr Basu said the economy will grow faster than 8.5% this fiscal and the first quarter is likely to show up around 9% expansion.

"Food inflation continues to slow down and non-food inflation is on a slow pick-up," Mr Basu said, adding food inflation will be substantially lower in the next two weeks.

Food inflation inched up to 12.81% for the week ended 3rd July from 12.63% in the previous week. But overall inflation for June stood at a higher 10.55% against 10.16% in May. He added the food inflation has virtually flattened since last November but added non-food inflation has been picking up.

On growth, he said, "right now I believe growth will be faster than 8.5% this the first quarter it will be around 9%."

The government had earlier projected 8.5% growth for the current fiscal. Besides, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) last week upped the country's gross domestic product (GDP) growth estimate to 9.5%, from 8.8% in 2010.

On the withdrawal of stimulus measures, Mr Basu said he favoured a slow and gradual exit from the fiscal and monetary stimulus.

Basu said the immediate upward pressure on prices from petrol decontrol has already partly got registered in the June inflation figures and rest will be visible in the July data.

He also opined that if more private players come into the oil space petroleum prices will decline in the long term.


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