Let politics not block valuable foreign equity retail: Pranab

New Delhi : Famers and consumers will be the casualties if foreign equity in retail trade is blocked due to narrow political gains, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said Friday, calling for a debate at the right forum rather than confrontation.

Speaking at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit here, the finance minister said global experience showed how organised retail, with integrated supply chains, cuts post-harvest wastage and gets remunerative returns to farmers and competitive prices to the consumer.

“But that needs appropriate technology and investment in a large scale,” he said.

“Yet, despite this recognition, often narrow political gains take precedence over early implementation of a policy framework, even when it is being done in a calibrated and sensitive manner,” Mukherjee said, referring to opposition over foreign retailers.

According to him, such policies were needed for an emerging economy like India to ensure improvement in efficiencies to vigorously pursue and sustain high growth that can also be equitable across states and between urban and rural areas.

“But in the absence of timely action or no action at all, it is the farmer and consumer who will suffer, as the nation would miss out on an opportunity.”

Opposition parties have stalled functioning of parliament ever since the federal cabinet, in a meeting presided over by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, approved up to 51 percent foreign equity in multi-brand retail and 100 percent in single brand format.

Even some allies of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) such as West Bengal Chif Minister Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress and former Tamil Nadu chief minister’s M. Karunanidhi’s DMK have opposed the move.

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