Category: Deccan Herald

NPAs: is the axe going to fall on the common man?

Under the erstwhile UPA dispensation, particularly during its second term, 2009-2014, public sector banks [PSBs] gave loans recklessly to corporate houses without assessing the viability of projects and conducting due diligence. Tens of thousands of crores were pumped into power, steel, telecommunications, textiles and infrastructure. In many cases, the ability of the projects or businesses to generate cash to service the loans was in doubt from day one. There was an element of ‘inevitability’ in such loans becoming non-performing assets (NPA). Indeed, these did become NPAs but were not recognised in the balance sheet as such. In 2015, the Reserve Bank of India, under its former governor Raghuram Rajan, ordered an asset quality review (AQR) of all banks to identify...
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FDI in food retail: To draw in investors, do away with restrictions

Every year, farmers are forced to sell their produce, especially perishable items such as fruits and vegetables, at throwaway prices, causing loss of income and even suicides. A major bottleneck that forces them to do so is the lack of infrastructure for handling and storage of these items, which results in the loss of output worth Rs 1 lakh crore annually, a fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi alluded to while addressing a conclave of young CEOs]. The problem has been festering for decades despite both the Union government and states recognising the dire need for setting up the infrastructure and umpteen committees making recommendations in this regard. Even domestic private companies have hardly taken any initiative despite being allowed...
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Don’t switch-on DBT for power without reforms

Recently, during an interaction with a leading economic daily, Union power secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla gave an indication of the government’s intent to launch direct benefit transfer (DBT) to disburse power subsidy. Alluding to a clutch of pilot projects for DBT-Power to be launched soon, he exuded confidence that this will help curb wasteful electricity consumption, limit subsidies to the really needy, stem losses of state electricity boards (SEBs) and power distribution companies (PDCs) and reduce tariff for industries. The move is prompted by the claimed success of DBT for giving LPG subsidy and similar initiatives in fertilisers and food grains. Has the idea yielded the desired outcome in LPG? What is the current status in other areas? Is it...
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‘Branded generics’, where patients are fleeced

The 2017 Trade Policy Agenda unveiled by the Trump administration on March 2, 2017 pushed for a stricter regime for intellectual property rights (IPRs) and patents. While agreeing that India’s reforms on IPR are encouraging, it said “India’s new National Intellectual Property Rights Policy [NIPRP] should protect US innovations”. India’s defence is based primarily on the flexibilities available to the developing countries under WTO agreement on Trips [trade-related intellectual property rights] to ensure availability of drugs to patients [majority of them are poor] at ‘affordable’ prices. If the concern for the poor is so overwhelming, then the government must ensure that on ground zero, patients should get medicines at prices they can afford. Are they really getting? The manufacturers of...
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Exporters’ trail of woes continues under GST

Some relief is offered via input credit. But a seamless tax credit chain is inevitable in a regime of taxes coming under different jurisdictions On the midnight of June 30, 2017, the government flagged off the most revolutionary economic reform, viz. the Goods and Services Tax (GST), ever undertaken post-independence. Even as expectations run high, the GST Council is having a tough time dealing with a plethora of exemptions particularly in the export sector — a baggage that got deeply entrenched under the existing system of taxation. Under the extant system, the Indian industry had to pay multiple taxes such as Excise Duty, Countervailing Duty (CVD), Special Additional Duty (SAD), Central Sales Tax (CST), Value Added Tax (VAT), and a...
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Self-sufficiency in fertilisers or building castles in air?

Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers Ananth Kumar has announced the government’s decision to revive five closed plants of Fertiliser Corporation of India (FCIL) and Hindustan Fertiliser Corporation Limited (HFCL). They are: Talcher (Odisha), Ramagundum (Telangana), Sindri (Jharkhand), Barauni (Bihar) and Gorakhpur (Uttar Pradesh). To be commissioned by 2020-21, their revival is expected to add 7.5 million tonnes (mt) of urea capacity. The minister has also exuded confidence that the decision for mandatory neem coating of urea (2015) will result in 10% improvement in the efficiency of fertiliser use. Taking urea consumption of about 33 mt annually, this will save about 3.3 mt. He also referred to steps for increasing utilisation of the existing capacity. This has led to increase...
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New visa regime to hit growth, competitiveness of US firms

A senior official of the Trump administration has lambasted three leading Indian information technology companies — Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Infosys and Cognizant Technologies — for resorting to ‘trickery’ for allegedly grabbing most of H1-B visas issued by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The H1-B visas are issued to foreigners who have ‘theoretical’ and ‘technical’ expertise in specialised areas to work in local (read American) companies for a temporary period. The US issues 85,000 such visas every year — 65,000 hired from abroad and 20,000 from those enrolled in the US universities/colleges. Due to the heavy demand, the USCIS which runs the programme, receives several times more applications than it can grant and uses an electronic lottery to...
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Disband subsidy delivery mechanism, switch over to UBI

In the Economic Survey (2016-17) presented in Parliament on January 31, 2017, Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian advocated Universal Basic Income (UBI) instead of a plethora of subsidies given under extant dispensation. But the idea found no mention in Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s Budget for 2017-18, presented on February 1, 2017. Meanwhile, in an interview given to a group of economic editors on February 1, Jaitley opined that “UBI is an idea whose time should come, but politics of this country is not mature yet for its implementation.” He could have taken the idea on board at least on a trial basis, but avoided it. So, what are the constraints? What will be the opportune time? Will it come at...
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Royalty liability: milching of ONGC, OIL ends

In an unprecedented move, the government has exonerated its undertakings in the oil sector — Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) and Oil India Limited (OIL) from a potential liability of about Rs 22,000 crore in royalty dues to Gujarat and Assam governments. ONGC had to pay Gujarat Rs 8,392 crore and Assam Rs 1,404 crore in royalties for the period April 1, 2008 and January 2014. Together with interest Rs 2,868 crore, the total liability was Rs 12,664 crore. OIL had to pay to Assam Rs 4,902 crore in royalty dues plus Rs 4,355 crore in interest adding to Rs 9257 crore. The Union government has settled this pending liability of ONGC and OIL by paying the royalty amount...
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GST architecture is only getting worse

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and chairman, GST (Goods and Services Tax) Council must be credited with spearheading requisite efforts like draft of all related laws — Central GST (CGST), state GST (SGST), integrated GST (IGST), legislation on compensation to states for loss of revenue, delineation/apportionment of powers for administering the tax, determination of rate structure etc in a time-bound manner to ensure that this revolutionary tax reform is kicked off from April 1, 2017. The pace at which the GST Council was progressing, it was almost certain that the government would meet the deadline. But, the announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 8, 2016 to demonetise Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 currency notes came as a spoke...
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