Ministers discussing FDI liberalisation: Sharma

New Delhi: As government faces heat on skyrocketing onion and vegetable prices, senior ministers have held discussions on a proposal for opening of multi-brand retail stores to the foreign direct investment (FDI) and hiking the FDI limit in defence production, reports PTI.

The discussions on the key issues of liberalising the FDI in the two sectors were held on Wednesday at a meeting attended by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, home minister P Chidambaram, defence minister AK Antony and commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma.

"We will be having more meetings. Policy (formation) is dynamic...we are very progressive and forward looking," Mr Sharma told reporters here.

While Mr Sharma said there was no connection between the soaring onion prices and the FDI in multi-brand retail, the demand for opening up the sector has been intensifying, especially in the wake of wide gap between the wholesale and retail prices.

The commerce and industry minister said the government has followed a "progressive approach and the liberalisation (in policy) have been incremental".

The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) had floated discussion papers on opening FDI in multi-brand retail and increasing it in defence production. Consultations with the stakeholders have been completed.

Giving an annual review of performance of exports and the industrial production, Mr Sharma said the government would give further incentives to the exporting sectors which are labour intensive and have not fully recovered from the last year's slowdown.

"Reviews have been completed. We will now be making final analysis in the first half of January. Where further incentives are required, (they) will be announced," he said.

India's exports in the April-November period of this fiscal have crossed $140 billion, growing by about 27% and the annual target of $200 billion would be met, he said.

Mr Sharma said the country was on course to doubling its exports by 2014 from 2008-09 level of $168 billion.

The government has already taken various steps to help the export sector by giving incentives for market diversification, he said.

However, the FDI inflows have been lower at $12.5 billion for the April-October period this fiscal against $17.6 billion because of sluggish global recovery and "very weak flow of capital".


Cabinet to discuss issue of ‘no-go’ mining areas next week

New Delhi: Amid the Plan panel seeking 'sensible' definition of 'no-go' mining areas, coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal today said the issue will come up before the Cabinet next week to work out a solution, reports PTI.

"We have circulated a cabinet note 15 days back.

Hopefully, it will be taken up by the Cabinet next week for discussion and some way out will be found," Mr Jaiswal told reporters here on the sidelines of a meeting of Parliamentary Standing Committee on safety of mines.

"We have explained in the cabinet note about the impact that how much (coal) production is being affected," Mr Jaiswal said.

ministry of environment and forests Jairam Ramesh has defined 'no-go' areas for mining as those that have over 30% gross forest cover or over 10% weighted forest cover.

As per the guidelines, the mining is allowed only in the 'go' areas.

Due to this classification, 206 coal blocks spread across 4,039 sq km in nine coalfields, involving a production potential of 660 million tonnes (MT), have been designated as 'no go' areas.

Plan Panel deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia had said on Wednesday that "if we get a sensible definition of what is 'no-go'...something that is called 'no-go' for now does not have to be 'no-go' forever. But the main point is that they should be flexible."

He had also said, "The criteria that we use to establish what is 'no-go' should be very carefully defined and should be based on some scientific considerations."

The coal ministry, in its note, had said that "all the proposals should be considered for forestry clearance unless these are insurmountable issues on grounds of biodiversity, wildlife reserves and rich forests."

Debarring such big areas with production capacity of 660 million tonnes coal from mining will adversely impact power generation capacity, the coal ministry proposal has argued.

It was also of the view that the country could see a coal shortage of 500 million tonnes in the next few years on account of such a classification.

Such categorisation has also put several existing and upcoming coal mining operations, including captive mines of two ultra mega power projects on bidding in Chhattisgarh and Orissa, under 'no go' besides affecting Coal India's operations.


Many independent directors have quit MFIs fearing persecution: Parekh

Mumbai: HDFC chairman Deepak Parekh has decried Andhra Pradesh government for "hastily" passing a legislation regulating micro lenders, stating many independent directors of microfinance institutions (MFIs) have quit in its aftermath, reports PTI.

The passing of the Andhra Pradesh Microfinance Institutions (Regulation of Moneylending) Act on 15th December has led to "consternation" among independent directors and many of them have resigned fearing arrest, Mr Parekh said in a public lecture on governance at the Indian Merchants' Chamber (IMC) here.

"...the hastily recently-passed AP Act of microfinance has led to consternation among independent directors of certain micro finance agencies and many of them have resigned in the last week under fear of being arrested," he said.

The AP government moved in with a law to regulate MFIs following allegations of suicide by some borrowers in the coastal state due to pressure from collection agents of MFIs.

The legislation has led to wide scepticism among banks which lend to microfinance institutions and a majority of them have stopped fresh loans to MFIs since an ordinance for the act was made public two months ago.

MFIN, an umbrella body of MFIs, had said repayments from borrowers in AP-the biggest MFI market in the country-have stopped and feared a wipe-out of the once sunrise sector.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) stepped in yesterday, asking banks to continue funding MFIs in a bid to contain the problem within AP.

Mr Parekh said there should be some distinction between the liabilities of independent directors and executive directors and highlighted the fact that 340 independent directors had resigned from companies after the Satyam scandal, fearing "persecution".

As a solution, Mr Parekh said, "I believe India Inc and the government need to work towards rebuilding a sense of mutual trust."

Mr Parekh's comments come within a fortnight of him expressing reservations on the functioning of administrative machineries following the second generation (2G) scam.

In his speech, Mr Parekh reiterated the stance, saying India Inc has got a feeling of "mistrust" these days and CEOs are fearful of who "could be the next target".

"Where does one draw a line between privacy and right to information?" he asked.

The veteran financial sector expert also asked for more co-ordination in the functioning of government departments.

"Right now ministries function in silos, with little co-ordination. There has to be equilibrium between infrastructure development and environmental considerations.

Mr Parekh also quipped that looking at the burgeoning cases of corruption, India may soon need to start a Supreme Court exclusively for handling corruption cases.

Among other issues, he demanded the installation of chief executives for cities and the need for government to "extricate itself" from running businesses.


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