Four Ministers also go into the merit of hiking investment ceiling in defence production

Despite a furore over the zooming prices of onion and other essential commodities, the United Progressive Alliance government is discussing a proposal for allowing foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail stores and increasing the FDI limit in defence production.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Home Minister P. Chidambaram, Defence Minister A. K. Antony and Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma took part in the discussions held on Wednesday.

“We will be having more meetings. Policy formation is a dynamic process, and we are very progressive and forward-looking,” Mr. Sharma told journalists here.

While Mr. Sharma rejected the argument that there was a link between the soaring onion prices and the opening up of multi-brand retail to foreign direct investment, the demand for liberalising the sector has been intensifying, especially in the wake of the wide gap between the wholesale and retail prices.

He said the government followed a progressive approach, and policy liberalisation was incremental to it.

The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) has floated discussion papers on allowing FDI in multi-brand retail and increasing the FDI limit in the defence sector. Consultations with the stakeholders have been completed.

Giving the findings of the annual review of exports and industrial production, Mr. Sharma said the government would give more incentives to the export sectors that were labour-intensive and yet to fully recover from last year's slowdown. “Reviews have been completed. We will now be making a final analysis in the first half of January. Wherever further incentives are required, they will be announced.”

Exports during April-November of this fiscal crossed the $140-billion mark, up by 27 per cent, and the annual target of $200 billion would be met, he said. The country was on course to doubling its exports by 2014, from $168 billion in 2008-09.