India, EU establish Investment Facilitation Mechanism

Jul 14, 2017 0

New Delhi– India and EU on Friday announced the establishment of an Investment Facilitation Mechanism (IFM) to promote investments from European Union, an official statement said.

“The mechanism will allow for a close coordination between the European Union and the India with an aim to promote and facilitate EU investment in India,” the Commerce Ministry said in a statement.

This agreement builds on the joint statement of the 13th EU-India Summit held in Brussels in March 2016, where EU had welcomed India’s readiness to establish such a mechanism and leaders from both sides had reaffirmed their shared commitment to oppose protectionism and to work in favour of a fair, transparent and rule-based trade and investment environment.

As part of the IFM, the EU Delegation to India and the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) agreed to hold regular high level meetings to assess and facilitate “ease of doing business” for EU investors in India.

“This will include identifying and putting in place solutions to procedural impediments faced by EU companies and investors in establishing or running their operations in India,” the statement said.

“The establishment of the Investment Facilitation Mechanism is a right step in the direction of strengthening the trade and investment ties between the EU and India. The EU is the largest foreign investor in India and this initiative helps ensuring a more robust, effective and predictable business environment for the EU investors,” said EU Amabassador to India Tomasz Koslowski.

DIPP Secretary Ramesh Abhishek said: “Ease of doing business is a fundamental priority of government’s Make in India campaign and the establishment of IFM for facilitating EU investments in India is another step to achieve this goal.

“The IFM has been established with the key objectives of paving the way for identifying and solving problems faced by EU companies and investors with regard to their operations in India.”

The IFM, which will cover new investors as well as those already established in India, will also serve as a platform for discussing general suggestions from the point of view of EU companies and investors with regard to ease of doing business in India, to boost and encourage the EU investors to avail the investment opportunities available in India, he said.

Invest India, the official Investment Promotion and Facilitation Agency, will also be part of the Mechanism, which will create a single-window entry point for EU companies that need assistance for their investments at the central or state level.

The DIPP will also facilitate participation of other relevant ministries and authorities on a case-to-case basis.

Trade and investment are key elements of the EU-India Strategic Partnership launched in 2004. Along with being the first trade partner in goods and services, EU is one of the biggest provider of foreign investment in India, with a stock exceeding $81.52 billion (over Rs 4.4 lakh crores) as of March 2017.

There are currently more than 6,000 EU companies present in India, providing direct and indirect employment to over 6 million people. (IANS)

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World Bank keeps 2017 global growth forecast at 2.7 percent

Jun 4, 2017 0

Washington– World Bank on Sunday maintained its forecast for global growth in 2017 and 2018 unchanged at 2.7 per cent and 2.9 per cent, respectively, as manufacturing and trade are picking up and confidence is improving.

“A bright spot in the outlook is a recovery in trade growth to 4 per cent (in 2017) after a post-financial crisis low of 2.5 per cent last year,” Xinhua quoted the World Bank’s Global Economic Prospects (GEP) report as saying.

The recovery in trade growth in 2017 is supported by stronger demand from major advanced economies, increased trade flows to and from China, and a diminished drag from weak demand from commodity exporters, said the World Bank.

Stronger trade also reflected the improved outlook for global growth. According to the forecast, advanced economies are expected to grow 1.9 per cent in 2017, accelerating from the 1.7 per cent growth in 2016, said the World Bank in its flagship Global Economic Prospects (GEP) report released on Sunday.

However, it expected the advanced economic growth to slow to 1.8 per cent in 2018 and 1.7 per cent in 2019, in line with its forecasts in January.

In emerging market and developing economies, growth is expected to accelerate to 4.1 per cent in 2017 from 3.5 per cent in 2016. The growth is projected to pick up pace in 2018 and 2019, and will reach 4.5 per cent and 4.7 per cent respectively.

“After a prolonged slowdown, recent acceleration in activity in some of the largest emerging markets is a welcome development for growth in their regions and for the global economy,” said Ayhan Kose, director for the GEP program at the World Bank.

Growth among the world’s seven largest emerging market economies, namely China, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia and Turkey, is expected to surpass its long-term average by 2018.

“Recovering activity in these economies should have significant positive effects for growth in other emerging and developing economies and globally,” said the report.

World Bank expected Chinese economy to grow 6.5 per cent this year and 6.3 per cent in 2018 and 2019, in line with its forecast in January.

Fiscal support is expected to continue to offset monetary tightening, said the World Bank. It expected government policies will continue to support growth, contain financial risks, and encourage a rebalancing of the economy to more of a focus on consumption.

The US economy is projected to grow 2.1 per cent this year, 0.1 percentage point lower than the World Bank’s forecast in January. However, it raised the forecast for US growth in 2018, up 0.1 percentage point to 2.2 per cent. The growth will again slow to 1.9 percent in 2019, as it moves closer to potential.

Tax cuts and infrastructure programs could lead to stronger-than-expected growth in the short term, but also to a more rapid increase in interest rates. (IANS)

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India-Russia annual bilateral summit begins

Jun 1, 2017 0

St Petersburg–Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin headed the 18th India-Russia annual bilateral summit that got underway here on Thursday.

“Intensifying the Spl & Privileged Strategic Partner’p. PM @narendramodi & Prez Putin @KkremlinRussia_E review entire gamut of bilateral coop’n,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay tweeted.

Trade and economic reforms are likely to be the areas of focus during the discussions.

Despite efforts to take bilateral trade to $10 billion, the figure has been hovering around $7 billion for various reasons.

After the talks, Modi and Putin will be addressing a CEOs’ forum.

On Friday, Modi will for the first time attend the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, a business event.

The Prime Minister arrived here on Wednesday evening on the third leg of his four-nation European tour.

From here he will go to France on the fourth and final leg of his tour and meet newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron for the first time.

Before going to Russia, Modi visited Germany and Spain. (IANS)

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Czech Republic, Kerala to join hands in tourism, ayurveda, IT

Jun 1, 2017 0

Thiruvananthapuram–The Czech Republic and Kerala governments will be working together in sectors of tourism, ayurveda, IT and in the promotion of environment friendly projects, they jointly announced here on Thursday.

The decision on collaboration was taken at a meeting of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan with the visiting Czech delegation led by Ambassador Milan Hovorka. Deputy Speaker of Czech Parliament Radek Vondracek was also present.

The Chief Minister’s Office told the media that the cooperation between Kerala and the Czech Republic gained importance with the opening of the second Czech Visa Application Centre in Thiruvananthapuram, early in the day.

With this Kerala became the only state with two such centres. The first centre in Kochi was opened in March.

Vijayan discussed with the Czech delegation world class ayurveda research and treatment facilities besides cooperation between the two sides to promote tourism.

Kerala also showed interest in solar energy based projects and the IT sector. Both teams agreed to take forward their discussion on implementable projects. (IANS)

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UK needs more immigrants to avoid Brexit catastrophe

May 19, 2017 0

London–The British economy needs a net inward migration flow of 200,000 people a year if it is to avoid the “catastrophic economic consequences” linked to Brexit, a study revealed on Friday.

The Global Future study said the UK’s low productivity, ageing population and shortage of labour in key areas, such as the National Health Service (NHS), show that net migration of 200,000 will be needed annually, the Guardian reported.

The report criticises Labour and the Conservatives for refusing to be honest with the British public about the level of migration the UK requires.

It warns that if the UK refuses to be flexible about its sources of labour, it could face a decade of slow growth.

The Conservatives recommitted themselves to a target of limiting net migration to tens of thousands in their election manifesto on Thursday, promising to double the cost to an employer of hiring a skilled worker from overseas.

The report said that even with a later retirement age, Britain faces a demographic time bomb, and needs migration of 130,000 a year to maintain the working population at its current level, reports the Guardian.

“The dependency ratio — the number of people of working age (16-64) versus those over 65 — is worsening. Between 1950 and 2015, this fell from 5.5 to 3.5. Only the recent increase in net migration has prevented it from falling even more precipitously,” it said.

“Between 2000-2050, the number of people over 65 will double, whilst the number of over-85s will quadruple. The working population would need to double in order to maintain the ratio at its current level.” (IANS)

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Tata Technologies to acquire Sweden’s Escenda Engineering AB

May 8, 2017 0

Mumbai–Engineering services company Tata Technologies on Monday said it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Swedish engineering and design specialist Escenda Engineering AB.

“The acquisition helps Tata Technologies accelerate its plans to expand in Europe due to the rapid growth opportunity the region offers in both the automotive and industrial machinery sectors,” the company said in a statement.

Following the acquisition, Escenda Engineering will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Tata Technologies Europe, it said and “will maintain the same management team and full workforce under the new ownership”.

The company elaborated that through this acquisition, it will leverage its global expertise in engineering services to support key accounts in Sweden and the European market, and help them create better products for their customers.

“The acquisition is an essential component in Tata Technologies’ European growth strategy and follows the recent $26 million investment in the development of a new European headquarters in the UK,” the statement added.

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Indian success stories abound in Saudi Arabia

May 2, 2017 0

By Ambassador Saud Al Sati

Economy, culture and human bonds are the most important ties that bind Saudi Arabians and Indians together. Our association is one of the fondest and one of the oldest in the world, going back all the way to the third millennium BC. There had been ancient peaceful contacts and interactions between the two peoples, including immigrations from both sides.

India has for many centuries welcomed Arabs, who have come here to settle, study or for trading. Over the years that I have proudly served as Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the Republic of India, I have come across so many stories of the deep human bonds that exist between the peoples of Saudi Arabia and India. I have heard stories of Arabs who came decades ago to Gujarat, Bombay (now, Mumbai), Delhi and Hyderabad for learning, trade and work. No wonder the name of India, “al-Hind”, is very common in Saudi Arabia and the Arab world. Several Indian goods that entered the Arab world were named after their place of origin. Indian swords, a favourite in the Arab world, were known by names such as Hindi, Hindawani and Muhannad.

Saud Al Sati

Evidently, Saudi Arabia and India have a shared history of culture and of people’s ties. As recently as the beginning of this century, there were approximately 1.5 million Indians working and living in Saudi Arabia. That number has now risen to over three million people. Doctors, engineers, IT professionals, workers, academicians, scientists and chemists are all part of the Indian community in Saudi Arabia, working hard to establish themselves in almost all economic sectors, given the plethora of opportunities. We look at them as partners. Ravi Pillai is a good example that comes to my mind. Mr. Pillai moved to Saudi Arabia in the late 70s, and since then, he has established himself as one of the most successful businessmen across the region — in construction, hospitality, education and retail. His businesses today employ more than 70,000 people.

Consider this as an example: A billionaire industrialist who owns multiple hospitals in the region, a visionary doctor, a multi-millionaire in retail business, a successful investment banker, all have one thing in common — they all are Indians who have established their fortunes in Saudi Arabia and the region.

Success stories around Indians are not an exception in Saudi Arabia. They are highly regarded for their educational and technical achievements; for their integrity and sense of discipline; for their honesty and devotion to work. The contribution of Indians in economic development has been acknowledged by our government and we have made significant efforts to make them feel at home. Employees of large companies have access to state-of-the-art housing facilities and their children have access to schools with a board of education of their choice. For instance, the Indian board of education of CBSE following NCERT curriculum is taught in many schools across the country. Be it education or housing, jobs or lifestyle choices, there is access for everyone — natives or expatriates.

We have worked diligently to ensure that the guests of the Kingdom have an accessible redressal system to protect them from any violations. When it comes to the rights of workers, all contracts that each of them gets into with their employers are detailed out addressing every aspect of their work life. Saudi labour law provides to all expatriates full legal protection, which includes a unified labour contract, and provisions that prohibit employing persons in jobs different from the profession stated in the contract or holding their payments. Article 61 of the labour law requires the employer to “treat his workers with due respect and refrain from any action or utterances that may infringe upon their dignity and religion”.

It also lays down guidelines of giving workers the time required to exercise their rights without any deductions from their wages. Further, Article 101 lays down provisions for rest periods wherein “no worker shall work for more than five consecutive hours without a break of no less than thirty minutes each time during the total working hours for rest, prayer and meals”.

In fact, we always aim to ensure best practice. For instance, the Ministry of Labor and Social Development announced on April 23, 2017, that they will open bank accounts for domestic workers in the country. This has been done to ensure that all domestic workers get their wages and entitlements on time and that employers honour their contracts. Job security will also improve through this move, as employers will have to register their contracts electronically.

We also have one of the most progressive corporate policies around employees serving their notice period. In such situations, these employees are entitled to eight fully-paid hours per week or a full day per week to look for alternative employment.

I will re-emphasise that there are provisions and guidelines for any employee in any sector to seek legal redressal in case of dispute or violation of their labour rights. Violators in Saudi Arabia are penalised and punished for violating labour laws.

The Kingdom also has a very strong law prohibiting the trafficking of humans. In 2009, Royal Decree number M/40 dated 21/7/1430H declared that any person who was convicted would be liable to face imprisonment and pay a huge fine. The law was further strengthened last year ahead of the anti-human trafficking day (August 9), reinforcing the commitment of our government against this injustice. The Ministry of Interior also issued an order regarding human trafficking, emphasising the need and the importance for everyone to come and work together, to prevent it.

“Treat people as you would like to be treated” is an Islamic principle. You have a similar saying in the Indian text of Hitopadesha which states that, “one should always treat others as they themselves wish to be treated”. This principle, and the bond of friendship have been brought to life many times. One such instance that immediately comes to mind is that of an Indian guest worker in Saudi Arabia, who was jailed for two months after getting into an altercation with his colleague in a third country. His parents sought help from his Saudi-based employer, who readily made all arrangements to get him out of prison, including physically travelling from Riyadh to Abu Dhabi to secure his release. This is just one of the many examples of friendship and goodwill that exist between the people of the two countries.

A bilateral agreement on labour cooperation for recruitment of General Category Workers was signed during the visit of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Saudi Arabia in April 2016. The two countries are constantly working together to improve the situation of workers. An agreement on Labour Cooperation for Domestic Service Workers Recruitment was signed between Saudi Arabia and India in 2014. Additionally, in 2014, the two governments signed a bilateral agreement that allows prisoners to spend their sentenced term in their home country if they wish.

Also, a Joint Working Group on consular issues was established under the umbrella of the India-Saudi Arabia Joint Commission to discuss consular issues on a regular basis.

Recently, while going through news clippings from across the Kingdom, one particular news item caught my attention — a Saudi Arabian employer threw a wedding reception for her help and even paid for her honeymoon. Stories like this are not rare in our country and employers across Saudi Arabia recognise and appreciate the hard work and dedication of those that work for them.

There is always a significant reward for hard work and perseverance, and that is true for most of our Indian guests who have come to Saudi Arabia and have embraced us as their own, collaborating with us in our journey of growth and development.

(Saud M. Al-Sati is Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to India. The views expressed are personal.)

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Sunil Mittal meets UN Chief Guterres, discusses sustainable development

Apr 20, 2017 0

New York– International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal met UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to discuss the role of world business to promote Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

It was their first meeting since the decision to grant ICC Observer Status at the UN General Assembly in December 2016.

During the meeting, Mittal mentioned about ICC’s commitment to use its newly granted status in the UN system to “deploy fully the resources, expertise and knowledge of world business” in the implementation of the UN SDGs.

Sunil Bharti Mittal

The SDGs are the most ambitious development agenda ever agreed upon at the international level – and it is widely recognised that their successful implementation would hinge on widespread business action.

Guterres welcomed ICC’s commitment to the SDGs and noted that partnerships with the private sector would be vital to address major global challenges from climate change to mass-migration.

Mittal also talked about the importance of rule-based policy making to enable trade, innovation and job creation in the context of the SDGs.

They also discussed the challenges posed by growing populism and anti-globalisation sentiment.

Following the meeting, Mittal said: “Given the complexity of today’s global challenges, it’s vital that business has a clear voice in UN decision making.”

“We look forward to using the unique platform that the Observer Status provides to positively shape important debates on issues such as trade, financing, technology and corporate responsibility,” he added.

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Mali seeks more Indian investment for gold mining, agriculture

Apr 18, 2017 0

By Francis Kokutse

Accra–Mali offers good opportunities and prospects for Indian entrepreneurs and investors in the gold mining and food processing space, among others, the Indian Embassy in capital Bamako has said.

“Mali is Africa’s third-leading gold producer (after South Africa and Ghana) and has an estimated reserve of 600-800 tonnes. There is considerable scope for joint ventures between the two countries for the production of gold and fabrication and marketing of jewellery in Mali,” the embassy said in an email interaction with IANS.

The West African country currently produces 60 tonnes of gold per year.

“For Indian businessmen, Mali has great scope of investment especially in the field of agriculture (cotton, food processing, abattoirs and tanneries); mining (gold, iron ore, phosphates, uranium, bauxite, zinc, manganese, tin and copper); automobile (two-wheeler segment), and pharmaceuticals (generic drugs),” the embassy said.

With a population of around 15 million exposed to tropical diseases, Mali is also a good market for Indian generic medicines and pharmaceutical products.

“There is already an awareness of our capabilities and competitiveness in this area, the Embassy said, adding that this needed to be translated into commercial contracts for Indian companies.”

“Malian economy is primarily based on agriculture and livestock husbandry which together account for almost 50 per cent of the country’s GDP,” the embassy said, adding that “Mali is the second largest producer of long staple cotton in Africa, after Egypt.”

It said the country is also one of the largest producers of mangoes in Africa but lacks processing facilities.

“Mali also has one of the largest livestock in Africa with 35 million cattle heads inclusive of eight million cows, 26 million sheep and goats and approximately one million camels,” the embassy said, adding that this provided opportunities in the food processing sector, including meat — processing and setting up of modern abattoirs.”

The Malian government also welcomed investments in modern tanneries.

“India’s total trade with the West African country has grown steadily over the past few years culminating in $350.72 million for the 2015-16 financial year. It represents 64.87 per cent increase over the previous year’s $212.72 million,” the embassy said.

It said India’s exports during 2014-15 totalled $134.12 million, whilst imports from Mali accounted for $78.59 million.

During 2015-16 however, Indian exports slumped to $107.93 million whilst imports suged to $242.78 million.

The trade figure for the first 10 months of 2016-17 is at $167.54 million, with India’s exports at $87.13 million and imports at $80.41 million.

The Malian government is keen to undertake exploration and exploitation of its mineral resources and has formally offered the rights on lease to the Government of India or government-designated companies, said the Embassy.

“This provides our public as well as private companies with ample opportunities to exploit the rich mineral resources of Mali,” it added.

Businessman Seydou Brahima said: “Most businessmen would want to do business with India, but the fact that we are a Francophone country has been a challenge.”

“A few of us have tried to get into business with Indian partners and the response has been good.” (IANS)

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India, UK to strengthen tie-up in green energy, climate change

Apr 7, 2017 0

New Delhi–Britain and India on Friday committed to support their collaboration in the power and renewable energy under the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in the Energy Sector, which was signed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to London in November 2015.

Last Tuesday, the two countries reaffirmed their commitment to anchor investment up to 120 million pound each in the joint fund which aims to raise around 500 million pound.

Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal and Britain’s Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Greg Clark on Friday chaired the inaugural India-UK “Energy for Growth” Dialogue here.

They agreed areas include innovation in smart technology to improve performance and reduce losses in India’s power sector, support for increased energy efficiency.

Two countries also agreed to a enhanced energy access, work to accelerate deployment of renewable energy and its integration with the grid; financing for clean energy; decentralised energy scale up and sustainability.

Meanwhile, both ministers appreciated the strides taken by Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), which established operations in Britain by investing around 7 million pound in seven energy saving projects after intense technical and financial due diligence.

Two ministers welcomed the work of the G20 Green Finance Study Group promoting green finance encouraged the issuance of green bonds, among other forms of green finance. (IANS)

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