NEW DELHI (AFP) – India’s cabinet on Wednesday approved an executive decree to hike foreign investment in the funds-starved insurance sector, bypassing squabbling lawmakers to push ahead with economic reforms.
The ordinance, a rarely used measure, raises the foreign direct investment cap in insurance companies to 49 per cent from 26 per cent but must be approved by both houses of parliament within six months to take permanent effect.
“The ordinance demonstrates the firm determination of the government for reforms,” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told reporters in New Delhi.
Foreign investors have been long eyeing the lucrative sector, which analysts say has huge potential thanks to a fast-expanding middle-class and the fact that only around four per cent of the 1.25-billion population has insurance cover, according to industry figures.
“Large investment is waiting to come,” Jaitley said, while government officials say they expect billions of dollars in foreign funds to flow into the sector in coming years.
The traditionally fractious parliament has been stalled by rows over alleged “forced” religious conversions of Christians and Muslims by Hindu hardliners, many of them close to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party which took power in May.