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This is not the right time for FDI in multi-brand retail: Nirmala Sitaraman

Thursday, 19 June 2014 - 7:20am IST | Agency: dna

Union commerce minister Nirmala Sitaraman, who is also minister of state for finance, speaks to Amish Devgan on a variety of issues linked to inflation, growth, CAD and trade. Edited excerpts:

The prime minister has stressed on good governance and assured the nation of "good days ahead". How is this going to be implemented?
After the new government has taken over, we have been working day in and day out, and every ministry is trying to churn out its best possible results. We are trying our best to improve the economic situation of the country.

BJP says we have inherited only worst economic conditions from the Congress government. PM has talked about the 'bitter pill' as a remedy. What impact will it have on the common man?
On the basis of available resources, we are making our best efforts. Our focus would be on reviving the major sectors of economy, especially the manufacturing sector.

How are you tackling the issue of inflation?
The first and foremost measure that we have taken is de-listing, which means that the farmer will now be able to go anywhere and get the best price for its produce. He is not only bound to sell his produce through APMC. Additionally, we are planning to flood the market with crucial commodities such rice, onion and potato so that the prices can go down and be controlled in the short term.

How will you seek a balance between inflation and growth?
It is not just a single factor that decides the growth of the economy. Manufacturing, agriculture and several other factors are together responsible. The farmer must get immediate relief. An important point that I would like to make here is that even if growth rises to 10%, but there is no employment then the figure is a complete waste.

Finance Minister had earlier said that hoarding is flourishing in some of the states. At the outset, it appears as if the Centre is trying to shift the blame on to the states.
I disagree. We are not shifting our responsibility to the states. However, there are certain predefined division of the states for which only the state government is responsible; for instance, controlling hoarders and black-marketeers. We are working in tandem with the state governments. We are not saying that it is only the state governments' responsibility to keep a tab on hoarders and black-marketeers; we are insisting on the joint ownership of the matter.

It is a triple attack by inflation, weak monsoon and Iraq terror. Crude prices are going up. As a commerce minister how much does this concern you?
It is certainly worrying for me. We are monitoring the situation, and will take control of it soon.

Will you lift restrictions on gold imports?
Due to the existing gold import policy, jewellery and gems export sector has been badly impacted. We have received several recommendations to review the gold import policy. Whether the duty will be reduced would be soon announced in the Budget, and we are reviewing the matter on priority basis.

There have been differences regarding implementation of Goods and Sales Tax. How are you planning to put this through?
We are going through a complete exercise, and are trying to work on the differences of opinion with the opposition. We are quite clear that we have to get it rolling soon. We are in the process of consulting state ministries. Indeed, there are going to be some legislative and constitutional amendments involved in the same.

FDI in multi-brand retail was opposed by the BJP, even when your party was not in power. Now that you hold the chair, will you change your stand?
We believe this is not the right time for FDI in multi-brand retail to be implemented, and our stand on this matter has been consistent with the statements that were mentioned in our manifesto.

Being a corporate affairs minister, what is your reaction on chit-fund scams that are happening a lot recently?
We are waiting for investigations both from the state and central governments. We do understand that there are serious implications of such matters and a lot of small investors lose their life-long savings. We will try hard to provide immediate relief to small investors.

NSEL scam was close to Rs 5,000 crore. Jignesh Shah has been jailed and nothing has been done to the borrowers?
I have been flooded with appeals from the victims through social media. We are taking it very seriously, and I have presented it before the finance minister. Once the Budget preparations get over, we are definitely going to take strict measures to rectify the situation.

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