Indian Lawmakers in Uproar Over Retail Reforms

Posted November 28th, 2011 at 5:10 am (UTC-5)
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India's parliament abruptly adjourned for the day Monday after an uproar among the lawmakers about the government's recent decision to allow foreign retailers into the country.

Lawmakers from opposition parties and from within Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's coalition opposed the new foreign investment rules.

Foreign retailers are now allowed to own up to 51 percent of multi brand retail companies, such as supermarkets. Foreign companies can also own up to 100 percent of single brand retailers.

India's Commerce Minister Anand Sharma said Friday the government has built in safeguards to protect farmers and small shopkeepers, while allowing foreign retailers like Wal-Mart and Tesco into the country.

Critics of the reform say smaller retailers will be wiped out, leading to higher unemployment.

The new foreign superstores will be allowed to set up shop in cities with a population of at least one million. They must invest at least $100 million and half of this would have to be invested in rural infrastructure and refrigerated transport and storage. Thirty percent of their produce would also have to come from small and medium enterprises.

Global retail giants have waited for years for India to open its $450 billion domestic retail market, which is dominated by family-run stores.

India's retail sector is the country's second biggest employer after agriculture.