Why FDI: A suited booted new driver of market called is allowed to pay back India`s loan ?

Rakesh Manchanda

Is this a war with bullets to ensure better Governance ? Or is this a war against people to protect Corporate and bail out American economy in India ? Our `honest` PM is demanding more sacrifices to counter new price rise. He safeguards FDI backdoor entry and asks the nation to be prepared. “Bite the bullet and go down fighting courageously”-is the sudden war cry of our PM. Bomb shells can be heard in the middle class kitchens. A housewife is heard shouting “ How can I manage a full month with only one cooking gas cylinder ?” The alarming price of each cooking gas cylinders shall be approx.Rs.800.On one hand Government declares war against people by rising prices and on the other hand it wishes to hoodwink and put FDI as the `Big Bang`. A `magical medicine` for the national debts and loans !

Endless price rise in Petrol, milk vegetables, dal , cooking gas, railway tickets, electricity and water bills was already finding no resonance with people. With no increase in salary, wages and profit Aaam Admi (common man) feels cheated. Congress argument is that subsidy to middle class in line with International prices must stop. This means the cooking gas cylinder must cost Rs.800/-. Does this mean that poor with no access to loans should continue to use kerosene and wood for cooking?

FDI, communication, technology and transport are progressive chains.FDI is only the driver of the economy, not a player but a new driver as a support system. Drivers may speed up the accelerator and may reach the target in time at a lesser cost initially but drivers do not cure the future survival in the market alone. Industry and Agriculture are the major players and stakeholders together with technology and science. Finally it is the squeezed pocket of the majority people that decides the future of any services in the market. Let us stand to be understood. New foreign retail stores and food chains are going to the new drivers of the economy without any skills to generate more wealth. Drivers are not the `sole breadwinning champions` of the market -we must never forget. How can a `chotu` or a delivery boy from a retail shop can become a tie wearing Wal Mart salesman ? Rural consumers in America say they have to travel not less then 30 kms to big Marts as the small retails have been wiped off. Wal mart in future may replace the old network of services in retail by their new network and new employees but FDI in retail can never increase the purchasing power of people and provide more jobs to repair sick economy.

Recently in November-2011 on Television we see Punjab farmers blocking roads and showing protest by dumping their unsold Potatoe stocks. Farmers argument was the selling price of potatoes in villages remain Re1/- per Kg. Then we saw Rahul Gandhi with a potaoe in his hand promoting FDI as the magic solution for the future. Interesting debates in Parliament took place and issue was closed by the then Finance Minster Pranab Mukerhjee because Government got no support from its allies. All this debate amoung 1 % took place but the consent of the common man with shrinking pockets was still missing. Without increasing the pocket power or living standard of aaam admi this action of FDI entry on retail network replacement is a senseless dream.

India needs a more balanced agriculture-industrial policy instead of FDI in retail market to arrest suicides and agitations involving unlimited greed for selling land to developers and making selective 1% more powerful.

Both BJP-Congress are silent on more & more subsidy to few favoured Corporate like KG-Basin Reliance in India.It is not difficult to understand politicians and their disconnect with the Market and with loans. Government called UPA-2 is taking pride to display their `no controls` on Market Prices ? Ministers say that price rise is natural and is beyond their control. Print and Electronic Media is full of such false story of `courage` where FDI entry=Loan waiver of India.

Blind Loan Model of the Economy in support of FDI forces me to see a huge disconnect. Allow me to remember my childhood in early 1980s. My parents refused to send me to an expensive three day school tour outside Dehra Dun. The logic given by my father was clear : `We Cannot Take Loan To Meet Your Luxury`. No Indian Middle class takes loan to meet their luxury expenses. The poor class per day income of Rs.26/- in village and Rs.32/- in city keeps majority Indians out of loan category. Loan driven American government now with 9% unemployment is still better in Governance. American Mayor in small towns calls a weekly meeting in Town Hall. People are asked to audit town expenses and approve whether to install fountains in the village park or not. Whether to allow Wal Mart Retail Food chain to open its stores in American cities or not? This is decided by American citizens. Is it not true that American Citizens do not allow Business Houses to run private Banks ? So participation of people decides in America unlike in India. Here in India only Finance Minster or PM decides whether to allow Wal Mart Retail Food Chain or not. Ministers must stop shedding Crocodile tears and stop painting FDI as a future loan waiver. Why should FDI- a suited booted new driver of economy be painted as our future loan payer ?

Why FDI is allowed to enter retail and farming and not Indian Investors who have lot of Kalla Dhan or hidden black money waiting to be put in the market ? This again is not a mystery.

The fear of multinational retail chains forecasting lower prices to consumers and higher prices to farmers is a false trick. This raises a number of questions. Is FDI indeed a disadvantage? Do we want to ensure higher margins to traders? What about the horror tales of exploitative and non-value adding middle-men in different tested countries? The forecast of eventual `squeezing’ of the consumer is equally bizarre. If there is more competition, prices will drop ! How, then, would FDI in retail favour monopolistic pricing? In any event, if large-scale retailing does squeeze the consumer, is it that a desi (Indian) squeeze is more bearable than a foreign bear-hug of Wal Mart? One section of opinion in the past was that there is plenty of money for investment in retail and, hence, foreign participation is unnecessary. This section is powerful but is silent now due to unending recession. If this is true why is the huge opportunity in food processing and packaged branded low-cost edible products still unexploited? The cold chain of refrigeration and the logistics support required to make fortunes for farmers out of fruit and vegetables demand heavy investments. If money in black domestic market is in plenty, this avenue should have been explored indigenously by now. When America economy is in problem why this love for FDI to help revive Americans more and Indians less.

Let us see the Employment bullet as put foward by my friend Divinder Sharma: The Indian retail market is estimated to be around $400 billion with more than 12 million retailers employing 40 million people. Ironically, Wal-Mart’s turnover is also around $420 billion, but it employs only 2.1 million people. If Wal-Mart can achieve the same turnover with hardly a fraction of the workforce employed by the Indian retail sector, how do we expect big retail to create jobs? It is the Indian retail sector which is a much bigger employer, and big retail will only destroy millions of livelihoods.

What India need is systemic reforms in favour of 99% people and their pockets and not in favour of 1% supported by Multinationals and their hidden pockets in Tax Havens. Income and Purchasing power of majority needs to be repaired first.

How government sustains to save people by stoping this `short cut` `slap` kitchen politics of FDI and Prise rise needs to be seen at ground zero.