The government is discussing a number of policy measures to insulate India from the impact of the global financial crisis including further banking reform, industrial de-control, auctioning all loss-making public sector units, foreign investment in retail, amending labour laws and notifying important pending legislation like the Delhi Rent Control Act.
These and other measures (see chart), sources said, have been put up for discussion by the government to ensure that the Indian economy returns to a trend growth rate of 9 per cent from the next financial year.
India recorded annual GDP growth of 9.4 per cent in 2005-06, 9.6 per cent the next year, and 9 per cent in 2007-08. Growth projections for the current year are markedly more cautious on account of lower expectations from agriculture, industry and services.
(What's on the table for discussion)
|Minority stake sale
in profitable, smaller
PSUs to public,
auction of loss-
|Raise resources for|
fund, help firms expand
|Sugar, fertiliser, drugs,|
|Firms will get greater|
flexibility to rationalise
|Convert it into genuine,destination-based tax that tracks inter-state |
sales, provides refunds
In recent weeks, forecasters have revised estimates downwards. The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy now pegs 2008-09 growth at 8.7 per cent, the National Council of Applied Economic Research at 7.8 per cent and Citigroup India at 7.4 per cent.
By implementing pending reforms and moving to liberalise newer areas of the economy, the United Progressive Alliance government believes India can insulate itself from the biggest global crisis since the Great Depression of 1929.
The broad thinking is that the measures be introduced from next year onwards in a calibrated action with continuing monetary measures by the central bank. The steps, however, will be timed in tune with the investment and macro-economic environment.
Among the policy measures under discussion is allowing 100 per cent foreign direct investment in green-field private rural-agricultural banks. Such institutions would be free to set up any number of branches in rural, semi-rural and semi-urban pockets, and in the process lend to farm and allied sectors.
It has also been suggested that such banks be allowed to take over regional rural banks and rural branches of public sector banks.
The government is also pushing for completing the process of selling 5 to 10 per cent equity in previously identified profit-making non-navratna public sector undertakings like hydro-power generator NHPC and Oil India. Navratna companies are profit-making state-owned companies that enjoy a degree of autonomy.
Similarly, the government has called for greater de-control of several industrial sectors, adding that no further tax incentives should be granted unless this takes place.
Among other policy changes under consideration is a modern bankruptcy law to facilitate the exit of failed managements.
A suggestion has also been made to allow foreign direct investment in multi-format retailing starting from food retailing. This suggestion comes with a rider that entrants set up wholesale outlets from which small, unorganised retailers can buy items for at least five years.
An idea has also been mooted to set up an independent environment regulator with complete autonomy and accountability for implementing environmental regulations.