NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Ratan Tata on Thursday joined a growing list of business tycoons to vent their frustration at the wrangling and perceived policy footdragging among the country’s politicians that they say could hold back the country’s economic rise.
Shouting matches and walkouts over a reform to allow foreign retailers into India’s supermarket sector have shut down parliament for the past week. Some commentators now fear Prime Minister Manmohan Singh could roll back or water down one of his biggest reforms in years due to political pressure.
When it was announced last week, the policy was cheered by India Inc as a sign that Singh’s government was shaking itself of out policy inertia at a time when the country was grappling with corruption scandals, high inflation and slowing growth.
“Political differences and vested interests should never be allowed to stand in the way of India’s economic progress,” Tata, the head of India’s biggest corporate house, wrote on the social networking site Twitter.
“It would be a question of national pride for every Indian to rebuild the past glory and re-establish the country’s economic leadership,” he said in another tweet.
Moves to open the supermarket sector to foreign retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores (WMT.N) have sparked a huge backlash from opposition parties, who say such a policy would cause mass job losses among smaller, neighbourhood stores and shacks.
One opposition politician from the Bharatiya Janata Party vowed she would set fire to any outlets that Wal-Mart opens in the country, according to local media reports.
“Amazing how politics work. Several MP’s across party lines agree that FDI in retail is good but are compelled to object to (toe) party lines,” Vijay Mallya, the flamboyant head of a business empire that spans beer to the struggling Kingfisher Airlines (KING.NS) airline, wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.
Such frustration has been echoed by some of India’s most prominent magnates, in a year when the government has struggled to fend off perceptions of policy paralysis amid a slew of corruption scandals that sent prominent politicians to trial.
When growth slowed to its slowest pace in more than two years in the September quarter, Anand Mahindra, vice chairman of the Mahindra conglomerate, said on Twitter: “Q2 GDP figures are a brutal wake-up call. Time for policy turbochargers.”
Business leaders openly fret that the government may be squandering India’s chance at the big time.
Azim Premji, billionaire chairman of outsourcing giant Wipro (WIPR.NS) recently attacked a ”complete absence of decision-making among leaders in government.
Mukesh Ambani, head of Reliance Industries (RELI.NS) and India’s richest man, said in November at the World Economic Forum:
“We shouldn’t say that because the institutions of democracy are there, we will be paralysed.”
“And because there is an opposition and a party in power, we would do nothing. That’s what worries me,” he added.
Reporting by Matthias Williams; Editing by Ron Popeski