The gloves come off to reveal Walmart fist
By Balbir Punj
21st July 2012 10:55 AM
The Obama lesson to Dr Manmohan Singh in economic policy for India has rattled even the Congress leaders. It specifically mentions, among others, New Delhi’s lack of progress on FDI in retail. That gives out the real purpose of President Obama’s criticism of Indian economic policy.
The US retail giants are over-eager to penetrate India’s growing retail market and capture it before it blooms into a trillion-dollar business for a consumer collective which is 300 million people now and could be at least 500 million in another five or six years.
The massive dollar clout of the US would surely eclipse India’s own trading community which should be the legitimate inheritor of this humongous market. The world’s largest retailer, Walmart, is waiting to leap into this market and is aware that India’s own retail traders are reorganising their business to make it more modern and customer-friendly. It is the livelihood of millions and millions, from street vendors to wholesalers, that Walmart and other American retail giants want to usurp.
Look at Indian investors like Reliance, Future group, the Aditya Birla group etc who have set up malls, as well as middle-level retailers who have scrapped their old shops for the new customer-friendly, air-conditioned, product-differentiated rows and rows of products for the Indian middle class. It cannot be mere coincidence that the Obama warning comes just a week after Time magazine’s cover on Dr Singh with the title, ‘The Underachiever’. The inside text had nothing new except a cut and paste effort about the Indian Prime Minister’s lack of achievement in almost every field of the economy.
The focus was clear: it was a veiled warning that the US financial community had taken note of the global assessment of the Prime Minister as weak and vacillating. For this again, the UPA government is responsible: no impartial observer can ignore not just under-performance but the lack of performance at all.
Consider, for instance, the power situation. Throughout the country, there is a power crisis. The public sector power producer NTPC finds 6,000 MW of its 32,000MW capacity idle and the rest working erratically because there is no assured coal supply. The coal major CIL, again a government monopoly, is unable to guarantee even 80 per cent of the supply needed by the power generators. So in a year of adding some 19,ooo MW of new capacity, the power situation is worse than what it was earlier. After the Prime Minister took direct interest in the power situation, three meetings held in his office have failed to find a way out of the fuel crisis for the power plants which in turn is reducing output of industries, raising their costs and unleashing inflationary forces from the supply side.
Only the other day Cabinet minister Ajit Singh exposed the weakness of the Prime Minister’s authority by sacking civil aviation regulator Bharat Bhushan just a week after the Cabinet Committee on Appointments presided over by the PM extended his services till November 2012.
This is, on the one hand, a clear instance of crony
capitalism of the UPA and on the other, yet another Cabinet minister defying the Prime Minister. Even Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal refuses to tie down Coal India to guarantee coal supply to the power sector despite the Prime Minister’s intervention. And Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid openly calls for a change in the leadership of the government.
With his own ministers defying and ignoring him, Manmohan Singh obviously does not need the Time magazine to tell the world that he is an underachiever. No wonder, the world’s number one power, USA, has taken note and now revealed to the world what it dictates to New Delhi privately.
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