Sandeep Joshi

NEW DELHI: Union Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath said on Tuesday no foreign direct investment (FDI) would be allowed in the retail sector and that the government was open to reviewing the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) Act if the need arose.

He said India would not succumb to pressure from the West during World Trade Organisation (WTO) trade talks and the government was committed to safeguarding the interests of farmers, industry and other sectors.

Replying to a discussion in the Rajya Sabha on the functioning of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Nath said the government was cautious on the issue of FDI in the retail sector and had cautiously decided not allow it. Almost 97 per cent of the retail business was in the unorganised sector and nothing would be done that could lead to job loss or have an adverse impact on those involved in this sector.

Referring to charges by the Opposition members and also from the Left regarding loopholes in the sanctioning of the SEZs, Mr. Nath said that so far around 80 SEZs had become operational; when this number reached 100, the government would carry out a detailed review to find out whether the law needed to be strengthened further. Defending SEZs, the Minister said it was wrong to compare Indian SEZs with those set up in other nations. “So far, there have been encouraging results. Exports from SEZs are projected to go up to Rs.1.24 lakh crore this fiscal compared to Rs.65,000 crore in 2007-08. It has so far produced over 1.6 lakh jobs and attracted investments worth over Rs.67,000 crore. It has succeeded in generating tremendous economic activity in the country,” he asserted.

He also clarified that the Centre had nothing to do with land acquisition for SEZs.