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India's opening to Wal-Mart, other foreign retailers sparks outrage

November 25, 2011 |  7:28 am

 

The Indian Parliament adjourned in an uproar over the government's decision to let large international retailers enter the country's long-protected market
REPORTING FROM NEW DELHI -- The Indian Parliament adjourned in an uproar Friday over the government's decision to let large international retailers enter the country's long-protected market.

The government predicted the move would generate 10 million new jobs, but an opposition leader threatened to burn down any Wal-Mart that opened in India.

The fury underscores the gap between the shiny India of glitzy shopping centers, conspicuous consumption and increasingly efficient service catering to a rapidly emerging middle class, and the traditional India of dusty shops, limited inventory and five-cent shampoo packets serving hundreds of millions of poor.

It also reflects the debate about whether the world's second-most-populous country should embrace economic reform, globalization and competition, or remain true to its socialist roots, protecting small shopkeepers at the cost of innovation.

Under the government's revised rules, single-brand retailers such as Sweden's IKEA can be 100% foreign-owned, while foreign retailers who sell other companies' brands -- such as Wal-Mart, France's Carrefour or Britain's Tesco -- are allowed 51% foreign ownership. 

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-- Mark Magnier

Photo: A worker adjusts goods inside a Wal-Mart/Bharti joint-venture store in Amritsar, India. Credit: Altaf Qadri / Associated Press

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