Post poll wins, Centre may take tough reform decisions



Emboldened by a good showing in the Assembly elections, the BJP-led government is expected to announce some tough decisions pertaining to economic reforms in the second leg of the Budget session.

Top on the agenda is labour law reforms and easing of FDI in areas including raising its limit in print media from the present 26% to 49%, and allowing 100% FDI in single-brand retail.

The blueprint for reforms are ready and the government was waiting for the state polls to get over, official sources said.

They said the government has started a consultation process on 49% FDI in print media. This will bring print at par with television news. The limit for television news was raised to 49% in 2015.

Currently, the FDI policy permits 26% investment in publishing of newspapers and periodicals with news and current affairs through the government approval route.

FDI in single-brand retail

A 100% FDI is also under consideration through automatic route in the single-brand retail. FDI will mainly help in improving the balance of payments and also to strengthen the rupee against the dollar.

At present, FDI up to 49% is allowed under the automatic route in single-brand retail. The government’s approval is required beyond 49%. These approvals are granted with stiff conditions such as the said product must be ‘single brand’ and must be sold under the same brand globally. Certain local procurement norms are also levied under Indian laws for single-brand retail.

Some foreign companies including Apple have recently sought relaxation in procurement norms. Sources said the government is thinking of liberalising some for foreign brands to easily set up shop in India.

Under labour law reforms, the government has notified the ease of compliance rules by reducing number of registers required to be maintained under labour laws. These have been eased keeping in mind foreign investor concerns of compliance burden.

On the labour laws front, the government may introduce the Industrial Relations Code Bill and Wage Code Bill of 2016, to push easier hiring and retrenchment norms in factories and allow fixed-term employment in labour-intensive sectors.

The Wage Code Bill will also reduce various definitions of wages in different sectors.

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