From insurance to pension, more reforms on Cabinet table today

Manmohan Singh

Maintaining the momentum of its reforms agenda, the Manmohan Singh government is planning to seek Cabinet approval on Thursday for a slew of proposals aimed at further opening up of the insurance and pension sectors, amending the legislation on forwards contracts, companies Bill and the competition Act, as well as creation of a national investment board.

The proposals — coming after decisions on FDI in multi-brand retail as well as in civil aviation, broadcasting and power exchanges — signal the Prime Minister's intent to persist with the reforms programme notwithstanding opposition from within the UPA. While the Trinamool Congress quit the alliance on the issue of FDI in retail, the DMK has said it would support any resolution in Parliament against it.

While conceding that the amendments would have to be passed ultimately by Parliament, a senior minister said the government was resolved to shake off accusations of a policy paralysis. "When these reach Parliament, let us see what happens," he said.

On insurance, the Union Cabinet will seek approval for amendment of the Insurance Laws Amendment Bill 2008 and raising of FDI to 49 per cent from the existing 26 per cent. The Bill has been pending in the Rajya Sabha as the government has not been able to get the BJP on board besides facing opposition from allies. More significantly, the proposal goes against the recommendation of the Standing Committee on Finance headed by senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, which has suggested that the FDI ceiling in insurance be maintained at 26 per cent.

In the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Bill 2011, the Cabinet will seek to bring amendments to allow 26 per cent FDI in the pension sector. The government had encountered hurdles from Mamata Banerjee on this Bill too besides opposition from the Left.

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