House panel No to FDI cap in insurance

New Delhi: In an another instance which may stall reforms, a Parliament panel has rejected the government proposal to hike the FDI cap in the insurance sector to 49 per cent, saying this may not have the desired effect and could expose the economy to global vulnerability.

The Standing Committee on Finance in its report on the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2008, said the proposal to increase the FDI cap to 49 per cent in insurance companies seems to have been decided upon "without any sound and objective analysis of the status of the insurance sector following liberalisation".

"The Committee feel the suggested policy stance of enabling a greater role for foreign capital in the insurance sector, may not necessarily have the desired impact…," the report, tabled in Lok Sabha, said. The panel, headed by senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, however, agreed with the need to bring in comprehensive changes in the archaic laws governing the insurance sector. "Increased role of foreign capital may lead to the possibility of exposing the economy to the vulnerabilities of the global market,…flight of capital outside the country and also endangering the interest of the policy holders," it said.

It further said that in view of the fact that the Finance Ministry could not convincingly justify the proposal, the Committee considers that any further hike in FDI cap in the present global economic scenario, may not be in the interest of the Indian insurance industry. It noted that the common man too would not stand to gain through insurance, particularly as a means of social security.

The Bill was introduced in Rajya Sabha in December 2008 with an aim to bring improvement and revision of laws relating to insurance business in the changed scenario of private participation. It was referred to the Standing Committee. Last month, the government had to shelve its plan to allow 51 per cent FDI in the multi-brand retail amid stiff opposition from different parties, including some of its own allies.