Cabinet set to approve pension, insurance bills

New Delhi - The cabinet is set approve bills that would raise the cap on foreign direct investment in insurance firms and open the pension sector to foreign investors, a government minister told reporters on Wednesday.

The bills, which require parliamentary approval before becoming law, will likely be taken up in the forthcoming parliamentary session.

Their approval on Thursday will come weeks after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh unveiled measures aimed at shoring up government finances and attracting foreign investment to revive economic growth.

Foreign groups are not allowed to invest in the pension sector, while investment is capped at 26 percent in the insurance sector.

Financial sector reforms including pension and insurance have been pending for years for want of a political consensus.

Earlier this year, Singh had to put on hold a similar bill after failing to win over allies and opposition parties.

Domestic and foreign insurers, which have invested billions of dollars in India over the past decade, have been lobbying for years to raise the foreign direct investment limit.

The minister, who declined to be named, said the bills would raise the cap on FDI in insurance firms to 49 percent and permit 26 percent foreign investment in the pension sector.

Faced with a slowing economy, Singh has been trying to push ahead with stalled reforms to boost growth.

Earlier this month, the government raised the price of heavily subsidised diesel and cut supplies of subsidised cooking gas despite strong political opposition, including from within the ruling coalition.

It also opened up the retail sector to global supermarket chains, allowed foreign airlines to buy stakes in local carriers and raised the bar on foreign investment in broadcasting. (Agencies)

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