India liberalizes foreign direct investment to boost economy

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India decided Wednesday to liberalize foreign direct investment in domestic manufacturing, coal mining, and digital media, and also allow single-brand retailers to start online sales to infuse capital into the country and boost its economy.

Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said the Cabinet approved 100 percent foreign direct investment in coal mining and associated infrastructure. He said it also approved a 100 percent foreign investment in contract manufacturing and up to 26 percent investment in digital media.

The government made the decision as it grappled with a slowing of economic growth to a five-year low of 5.8 percent in the January-March quarter, with consumer spending and corporate investment faltering. Declining industrial output and automobile sales also raised fears of a deeper slowdown.

The government also relaxed the 30 percent local sourcing requirement in single-brand retailing and permitted online sales without the prior opening of brick-and-mortar stores.

“Online sales will lead to the creation of jobs in logistics, digital payments, customer care, training, and product skilling,” Goyal said.

The decision may come as a relief for multinational companies like Apple which are facing tough times in the Indian smartphone market because of stiff competition from Chinese makers.

“The changes in foreign direct investment policy will result in making India a more attractive FDI destination, leading to the benefits of increased investment, employment, and growth,” Goyal said.

Last week, the government rolled back a surcharge on foreign portfolio investment and announced steps to lower interest rates on home and auto loans to shore up the economy.

Rajiv Kumar, chairman of the government-run Policy Commission, called for immediate steps by the government to tackle poor liquidity and weak private investment. He warned that India has not faced this kind of a situation for 70 years.

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