Who is he?
Anand Sharma is the Minister of Commerce & Industry for the Government of India, initially assuming the role in May 2009. He has been a prominent public face of the Indian National Congress (INC), initially elected to Parliament in 1984.
Minister Sharma helped to re-start the stalled Doha talks and has overseen the signing of economic agreements with ASEAN, South Korea, Malaysia, and Japan during his tenure. He has represented party and country in diplomatic exchanges at all levels and has organized various international conferences. Sharma is especially recognized for his commitment to the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa.
Why is he in the news?
Mr. Sharma has emerged as a spokesman and contributing architect for a raft of highly anticipated FDI reforms, which PM Singh’s INC-led United Progressive Alliance introduced on September 14. These “big bang” reforms would allow (among other things) global firms such as Wal-Mart, Tesco, or Carrefour to enter India’s lucrative multi-brand retail market as majority stakeholders in local Indian partners and sell directly to consumers for the first time. Previous attempts to enact such policies were overturned after facing stiff opposition from coalition partners.
These reforms come at an opportune time, as India faces a potential credit downgrade (which would make it the first BRICS country to be rated at junk status) resulting from slowing economic growth, rising inflation, in the midst of policy paralysis in New Delhi.
What can we expect?
As expected, the UPA has suffered a weakening of its position in Parliament as reform opponents have withdrawn from the coalition (such as the Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee). Nevertheless, we should expect to see others reforms geared towards solidifying India’s economic position and integration into the global economy.
Sharma will continue to play a pivotal role in these reforms and present himself as the front man in not only crafting the policies, but also delivering them to the public and defending PM Singh, the INC, and the UPA (as he has done thus far) against political opponents.