"Retail FDI will boost food security"

Maryland governor Martin O’Malley in conversation with Governance Now


Trithesh Nandan | December 13, 2011

Governor Martin Joseph O’Malley of Maryland, United States witnessed some of the fiery debate on FDI in multi-brand retail while he was in India on a seven-day visit. The governor was here leading a 100-member delegation for initiating business and economic development ties. The group consisting of businessmen, educationists and elected officials was the largest ever in it league to have visited India.

In an interview with Trithesh Nandan, O’Malley says that opening up the retail sector for foreign investment would strengthen food security in India. Edited excerpts of the interview:

You have brought a large delegation to India on a seven-day long trip. How and where do you see the future of Indo - US relations?
We believe in Maryland what US president Barack Obama had said. He believes that relationship between people of India and United States can and should be the defining relationship of our times. I am hugely impressed with what I have seen in India. The market here is so strong and so powerful that the only responsible economic action to take is greater engagement with India. As we face big challenges of securing the world, we feel sometimes that the so-called developed nations can become very adverse to new innovations and new technologies because the entrenched and established way of doing things see those innovations as disruptive and as threat to predictable profit flow.

But what fast-emerging nations offer to this world is the ability to  lead from existing technologies and implement more sustainable and more efficient and more effective new innovations in a place that has such a giant market that it can be readily capitalise once the new innovation is proven. These are the most exciting things foreseeable for Indo-US relations.

You are here at a time when there is a big debate on FDI in retail. Our government cleared a proposal to allow international hypermarket chains like Wal-Mart and Tesco to acquire a 51 percent stake in multi-brand retailers. Even Parliament has been paralysed for nine consecutive days because of the raging debate. What is your thought?

Yes, I have seen some of the debates on the proposed FDI norms. It is a matter of balance and given the potential that India has on moving on foods that grow here to the markets where the food is needed, foreign direct investment (FDI) would be a way to strengthen food security and food supply chains. It is all about the balance in approach.

In Maryland, we invite FDI and Indian companies like Jubilant Biotech and few others also have operations there.

India is experiencing a dip in growth. Business confidence had slumped. What helps your faith in economic relations with India?
Our businessmen see India as a strong, emerging economy that people of India are bringing forth to this world.  We are a global economy and should help each other if we have to succeed. We must become more engaged with this world economy. In order to create jobs, modern economy needs modern investments. Both our economies are based on innovations.

We have chosen to come to India so that, most importantly, we can make a new start. We need to write a new story. It would be economically irresponsible on our part to not to be engaged with India. Our challenge really is to seize the opportunity and to become more engaged with India rather than being less engaged.



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