Committing itself to reforms which are in national interest, the BJP on Thursday said it was unfortunate that the country was being led in a direction determined by the western powers.
“BJP is committed to reforms which are in national interest. Reforms are not what western powers define them to be... It is unfortunate that we accept the definition that foreign nations give to reforms,” Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said while moving the party’s economic resolution at the BJP National Executive meeting in Surajkund.
The resolution demanded immediate reversal of the decision to allow FDI in multi-brand retail, cancellation of allotment of coal blocks since 2004 among other things.
Mr. Jaitley said that “reforms should be pro-people and it is unfortunate that the word reform is being brought a bad name... Every change is not a reform and what goes against the grain of the country is a counter-reform and we must reject it.”
It said that “the government was expected to carry pro-people reforms like bringing back black money and taking tough decisions against corruption, instead it is advertising its anti-people administrative decisions as big bang reforms.”
“The government had an option of large number of domestic reforms which are pending. There is a broad consensus on these reforms.
“The government has chosen to ignore these reforms but implemented a decision which will hurt the national interest.”
Mr. Jaitley also suggested that the western powers which are “dictating reforms” to India should themselves undergo some reforms like elimination of agriculture subsidy, removal of restrains on outsourcing, removal of unreasonable restriction on visas and dismantling of unfair trade barriers on products of smaller economies.
The economic resolution which was later adopted by the BJP National Executive also demanded instituting an independent and impartial probe into the coalgate scam.
The resolution also sought an immediate rollback of diesel price hike and capping of LPG cylinders and asked the government to immediately take effective steps to urgently bring down prices of fertilizers.
The BJP said if government de-allocates all coal blocks, it will add Rs. 2 lakh crore to its coffers through auction of these coal blocks, as had happened in the case of 2G auction.
The opposition party said real reforms are needed in governance to bring in efficiency and transparency.
“We need FDI in strategic sectors and high-end technology… We should also encourage FDI in infrastructure which is facing a huge capital crunch. The government of the day has failed to arrange large public investments in these sectors,” the resolution reads.
Giving a detailed reasoning for the party rejecting the FDI in multi-brand retail, Mr. Jaitley said manufacturing sector jobs will be lost due to the decision as India has not carried significant reforms in the sector.
“International structured retail doesn’t create additional retail jobs, it merely displaces existing jobs,” he said, adding that only 18 per cent of Indians are in Structured jobs while 51 per cent of the country’s working population is self-employed.
“Structured international retail will be harmful to job creation in India,” Mr. Jaitley said, adding fragmented markets are always pro-consumer but cautioned that when the markets consolidate it goes against the consumer and cited the example of Thailand where the first 12 years of opening trade for FDI witnessed 38 per cent of consumer market consolidate in favour of three large retailers.
He also said that the example of China was “misconceived” as it has a low-cost economy predominantly supplying to big retailers.
Mr. Jaitley said international retailers proceeded on the principle of “buy cheap and sell costlier” and initially lowered prices that resulted in eliminating competition and then raised prices.
“It is a myth that middlemen will be eliminated and the benefits will go to producers and farmers. The benefits of elimination of middlemen will go to the retailer and not the farmers,” he said.
Mr. Jaitley also cited a study conducted by the International Farm Companies Network which showed that in the U.S., a milk producer gets 38 per cent of every consumer dollar spent.
“In the U.K. this figure is 36 per cent. In India, riding on the strength of the cooperative movement, milk producers get 70 per cent of every rupee spent by the consumer.
“If farmers in the U.S. and U.K. have become prosperous due to retailers, why does the U.S. or the E.U. subsidise their farmers to the extent of $400 billion annually? This a staggering Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 6,000 crore per day.”