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Budget 2019: Finance minister Sitharaman proposes opening up insurance, aviation sectors to boost growth

File photo. Photograph:( Reuters )

Reuters New Delhi, Delhi, India Jul 05, 2019, 01.37 PM (IST)

Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman today proposed giving foreign investors a bigger role in India's insurance and aviation sectors to help spur growth.

Sitharaman unveiled the proposals while presenting the Budget for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2020 to Parliament.

PM Modi has set a target of growing India into a $5 trillion economy by 2024/2025 from $2.7 trillion in the Economic Survey presented before Parliament on Thursday said will be done on the back of higher investment, savings and exports.

"The government will examine suggestions of further opening up FDI (foreign direct investment) in aviation, media, and insurance sectors in consultations with stakeholders," Sitharaman said.

The finance minister said 100 per cent foreign ownership will be permitted for insurance intermediaries and local sourcing norms will be eased for FDI in retailers selling a single brand.

India currently allows foreign direct investment in single-brand retail but mandates investors to source locally 30 per cent of the value of good purchased.

At present, India allows 49 per cent foreign ownership through the automatic route in the insurance sector, which is worth billions of dollars and has been tightly controlled for decades for fear of a backlash from the unions.

"It is high time India gets fully integrated into the global value chain of production of goods and services but also becomes part of the global financial system to mobilize global savings mostly institutional in insurance, pension, and sovereign wealth funds," Sitharaman said.

During the budget speech, Indian markets were down. India's benchmark BSE Sensex fell 363 points as finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the tax policy and levied additional excise on petrol and diesel.

Asia's third-largest economy grew at a much slower-than-expected 5.8 per cent in the last quarter, the weakest growth in five years and far below the pace needed to generate jobs for the millions of young Indian's entering the labour market each month.

And the unemployment rate rose to a multi-year-high of 6.1 per cent in the 2017/18 fiscal year.

Story highlights

Sitharaman said 100 per cent foreign ownership will be permitted for insurance intermediaries and local sourcing norms will be eased for FDI in retailers selling a single brand.