Millennium Post

Govt should focus on FDI: Rajan

Cautioning against over-dependence on FIIs, which brings in hot money, chief economic adviser Raghuram Rajan on Tuesday said that the government should focus on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and open more sectors to such inflows.

'We have to be careful that we are not overtly dependent on external investors that this is an environment when the external investor is quite fickle...,' Rajan said in his first media interaction.

Betting high on India's reform initiatives, foreign investors have pumped in more than Rs 9,000 crore (about USD 1.67 billion) in the country's equity market this month. 'The safest form of financing is through FDI, without any doubt because its long term... If you can make more financing through FDI, you are safer and so to the extent we can open up more to FDI... There will be efficiency, because there will be more competition in local economy,' Rajan said.

In the last couple of days, the government has taken a number of reform initiatives, like opening the multi-brand retail chain to FDI, hiking diesel prices by over Rs 5 a litre, capping the number of subsidised LPG cylinders to six per family a year,
allowing foreign carriers to pick up stake in domestic airlines and liberalising FDI rules for broadcasting sector. Besides, talks are on to increase the FDI cap in insurance sector to 49 per cent, from the existing 26 per cent. 'More FDI is good thing at this point, not in every sector but in many sectors ... So in general there is scope for more FDI in many sector, like insurance,' he added. Rajan also underlined the need for aligning domestic petroleum prices with international rates with a view to reducing subsidies and containing fiscal deficit.

‘The more we reduce our CAD, which means the more we reduce our overall spending, including fiscal deficit, the safer we are.

So the moves to narrow the fiscal deficit, by reducing subsidies is important,’ Rajan said. The fiscal deficit, the gap between expenditure and revenue, was 5.76 per cent of GDP in 2011-12.

The Centre aims to bring it down to 5.1 per cent in the current fiscal.

‘The best policy is move towards true cost of the fuel rather than go through second or third option. If do not tackle problem directly... the problem with diesel versus petrol is not vehicle, its fuel cost. If we can bring both to international prices or market prices, then people would make choice,’ Rajan said.

Referring to the proposal of hiking excise duty on diesel cars to check consumption of the subsidised fuel, Rajan said, ‘creating a new distortion by changing the price of diesel vehicle is a sort of second best solution. If you can not move prices towards international level then you may resort to differential tax on vehicle’. Replying questions on inflation, Rajan attributed high food prices to rising purchasing power, driven mainly by rapid economic growth in the recent past.    
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