India to propose futher opening up insurance and aviation sectors

A man walks past an airBaltic Airbus A220-300 aircraft at Indira Gandhi International Airport in India on Nov 12, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI (BLOOMBERG) - India is considering further opening up its insurance and aviation sectors to foreign investors to help spur the economy, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Finance Ministry has suggested increasing the limit on foreign direct investment (FDI) in insurance and pension companies to 74 per cent from the present 49 per cent and allowing foreign airlines to own Indian carriers, the people said, asking not to be identified as the plan is not public.

It also wants to allow 100 per cent foreign investment in railway operations, education, and rental housing management companies, the people said. FDI is currently prohibited in railway operations.

The government wants to increase the amount of FDI to as much as 6 per cent of gross domestic product, the people said, compared with less than 2 per cent now.

A spokesman for the Finance Ministry wasn't immediately available to comment.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to double the size of the economy to US$5 trillion (S$6.8 trillion) by 2025. With government revenue under pressure amid an economic slowdown, authorities are banking on private investment to drive growth.

Relaxation of FDI restrictions in the aviation sector may help attract bidders for national carrier Air India, which the government is trying to sell after a failed attempt previously. The government also plans to dispose of Bharat Petroleum Corp, the country's second-largest state refiner, and Shipping Corp of India, the biggest shipping company.

Last year, authorities eased foreign investment rules in retail, manufacturing and coal mining to attract investments from companies such as Apple and BHP Group.

While FDI equity inflows into Asia's third-largest economy have risen 15 per cent to US$26 billion in the six months to September, the ratio to GDP has declined over the years to 1.5 per cent in 2018, according to World Bank data.

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