As naturally as night follows day, the Congress-led UPA government’s overnight decision to allow foreign direct investment (FDI) in single and multi-brand retail has led the Opposition to oppose it. And, as naturally as day follows night, a move that was meant to be a way out of the policy paralysis has resulted in a paralysis of Parliament.
In together opposing FDI in retail, both the BJP and the Left have willy-nilly managed to paint the Congress as the natural party of reforms, that party having also opened the doors of the economy in 1991. But in rushing through the decision without building a consensus, the UPA has once again displayed a natural instinct for harakiri, with several key States going to the assembly elections in the next few months.
The pros and cons of FDI in retail are too wellknown to bear repetition. That it will bring in investments, that it will create jobs, that it will offer greater choice, and that it will hurt small stores, that our markets will be flooded with cheap foreign imports, etc. The government for its part claims it has introduced safeguards, like allowing it only in cities of over 10 lakhs’ population and so on.
In all the batting for the neighbourhood trader, not too much attention is being to the person whom FDI in retail is really being intended for: you, the consumer.
Do you want multinational corporations to sell you salt and milk? Or do you not care? If the mom-and-pop store in your neighbourhood could stave off the threat posed by Big Bazaar, Reliance and More outlets, is he really so dumb as to let the MNCs to run over him now? And is the mom-and-pop store really the embodiment of all things good?
Is it healthy for our democracy if policies are implemented on the basis of the parties in power? Are the established big Indian players protecting their investments using politicians? Or has the government raised the FDI bar so high so as to roll it back to reasonable limits when faced with opposition?
External reading: Who wants to shop in a big store anyway?