Dec 10, 2012 07:18 PM IST | Source:

Walmart lobbying report sparks stir, BJP, Left demand probe

The Opposition is crying foul over reports of global retail giant Walmart lobbying US lawmakers to get into India.

The Opposition is crying foul over reports of global retail giant Walmart lobbying US lawmakers to get into India. The BJP and the Left Front joined hands to collectively take on the government, demanding an inquiry into reports that Walmart had spent Rs 125 crore on lobbying with US lawmakers to facilitate its expansion into markets including India over the past four years. The BJP, in fact, compared it to the Bofors deal.

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"It is an official confirmation that Walmart paid bribes. Lobbying is prohibited in India. Bribery is crime. People of the country want to know what action was taken against them. Who are the middlemen? This should be investigated. The Prime Minister himself should explain why he didn't initiate an enquiry," BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said.

The Congress pointed out that Walmart had only lobbied with US senators and not got in touch with Indian leaders. "The report tells that Walmart lobbied US senators to pass FDI in retail. It doesn't question any politician, administrative officer or institution of India," Congress leader Jagdambika Pal said.

There was uproar in the Rajya Sabha over the reports following which the Upper House had to be adjourned till 2 pm. The issue rocked the Rajya Sabha after reports that Walmart, waiting for years to open its supermarkets in India, has been lobbying with the US lawmakers since 2008 to facilitate its entry into the highly lucrative Indian market.

As per the lobbying disclosure reports filed by Walmart with the US Senate, the company has spent close to $25 million (about Rs 125 crore) since 2008 on its various lobbying activities, including on the issues related to "enhanced market access for investment in India".

In the last quarter ended September 30, 2012 itself, the company spent $1.65 million (about Rs 10 crore) on various lobbying issues, which included "discussions related to FDI in India". During the quarter, Walmart lobbied for its case with the US Senate, the US House of Representatives, the US Trade Representative (USTR) and the US Department of State, as per its latest quarterly disclosure report.

The companies are allowed to lobby for their cases in various departments and agencies in the US, but they are required to file their lobbying disclosure reports every quarter with the US Senate. So far in 2012, Walmart has spent more than $3 million or about Rs 18 crore on its various lobbying activities, including those related to India.

As per Walmart's lobbying disclosure reports, the company has continuously lobbied for its India entry since 2008, except for a few quarters in 2009. Indian government recently opened up its multi-brand retail sector for foreign companies after years of political opposition and a Parliament motion against this decision was defeated last week in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.

The US-based supermarket chain operator Walmart Stores, which has an annual turnover of $444 billion and a world-wide headcount of 2.2 million, has been eyeing for a long time to enter India. The Indian retail market is estimated to be worth about $500 billion currently and is pegged to cross $1 trillion mark by 2020, given the rising personal income and growing consumer spending trends.

According to a report by global consultancy major AT Kearney, the organised retail is expected to reach 25 per cent of the overall market by 2020. The report also said that India remains one of the most favourable destinations for international retailers and an accelerated retail growth of 15-20 per cent is expected over the next five years.

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