Of FDI in multi-brand retailing

The government is looking at allowing foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retailing as part of a slew of measures to make the country more attractive to overseas investors. Senior government officials said that the thinking was that a gradual opening up would be a better strategy with global chains first allowed to open stores in metros, and wholesale cash-and-carry being limited to smaller towns and cities, at least for the moment. The move, being piloted by the department of industrial policy and promotion, is at the stage of discussion, with political clearance yet to be accorded to the proposal. Once there is consensus on the issue within the UPA, which is unlikely until the elections in five states are over, states will need to be taken on board, a senior government official said. The Economic Survey, which was tabled in Parliament last month, had also suggested gradual opening up of the retail sector with the initial go-ahead limited to a few cities. At present, the government allows 51% FDI in wholesale cash-and-carry where global players such as Wal-Mart and Carrefour are only allowed to sell to bulk customers such as hotels, canteens and even local retailers.

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