| LONDON, July 26
LONDON, July 26 India's government is committed
to opening its retail sector to foreign investment and will not
reverse its stance, the country's trade minister said on
Thursday, declining to say when the long-delayed reform could be
Investors were rattled by fresh signs this week that India's
government coalition may hold off on widely anticipated reforms,
especially on the $450 billion supermarket sector, because of
renewed opposition from coalition allies.
Anand Sharma, in London to attend a pre-Olympics conference,
declined to say if the decision could be announced, as many have
expected, before the next parliament session on August 8.
"We are committed, we have taken the decision and we are
building a strong consensus and we are not reversing our
decision," he said. "It is being held in abeyance, it is on
pause button... But it is a political call. We want to do this
and I am not the only one."
India last year scrapped plans to allow up to 51 percent
foreign ownership of multi-brand retail because of political
opposition, just days after opening up the sector.
The situation is seen as make-or-break for India and vital
for foreign investment, economic growth and the current account.
Opening up retail is expected to unleash massive inflows from
foreign retailers such as Tesco and Wal-Mart but some Indian
politicians fear losses for small local stores.
"Policymaking is the right of the executive..(But) we are
trying to have a large consensus... Some political parties have
reservations, they remain disconnected with the rest of the
world," Sharma said.
While India's stubbornly high inflation has come off peaks,
a poor monsoon this year with rains some 22 percent below
forecasts has raised the spectre of drought and renewed
This was a serious concern, Sharma said though he added that
India had sufficient buffers of cereals. Oilseeds and pulses
were the most affected and imports could rise.
"We will ensure availability is there to make sure
speculative inflation doesn't take place," he said. "My worry is
if we import more, our import bill goes up."
(Reporting by Sujata Rao; editing by Ron Askew)