New Delhi: Former Union Minister Arun Shourie on Thursday backed the hike in diesel price but felt that the decisions to allow FDI in multi-brand retail and aviation sectors were "neither here nor there" as they were only intended to send positive signals abroad.

He said he supported the diesel price hike because the current budgetary deficit was unsustainable. "The budgetary figure for petroleum subsidies is Rs 43,500 crore, but at the current levels, it is running at Rs 1,70,000 crore."

 Shourie said that for the subsidy figure to be brought down to Rs 43,500 crore, the prices of petroleum products should be raised by 76 percent.

He said the budgetary deficit was unsustainable because of subsidies. "We are importing 70 percent of our oil requirements which makes us very vulnerable. If you are creating a slew of industries, it perpetuates our dependence on fossil fuel which is estimated to last for just another 30-40 years and what would you do after that."

The former Disinvestment and IT Minister said if government wanted to help the poor then the subsidy for them could be made through bank transfers.

On FDI decisions, he said it was "neither here nor there" as they were not going to bring any benefit nor was it going to create harm as "everybody is saying".

He said all similar arguments were made when big companies entered the retail sector that the local kirana stores could be wiped out.

But, Shourie said, the companies which were getting wiped out were big retail firms and cited one of them which was in Rs 5,000 crore debt.

"I think the FDI in retail is only for sending signals abroad that we are taking reforms measures. But these are not real reforms," he said.

The FDI in aviation would help two-three companies and may accelerate the process of consolidation as was happening in media and telecom.

"But it does not affect the common man. Again, this reform is neither here nor there."


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