Yashwant sticks to his guns, finds support from Shatrughan Sinha

Sep 28, 2017 0

New Delhi–A defiant Yashwant Sinha on Thursday stuck to his stand on his criticism of the government, saying he had to go public with his views on the state of economy because the doors of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP were shut for him.

Sinha also felt that if his son and Union Minister Jayant Sinha was asked to write an article rebutting his views as published in a newspaper, then it was a “cheap trick” of pitting a son against the father. If Jayant was competent to answer the questions raised by him, why was he removed from the Finance Ministry, the senior Sinha asked.

Talking to TV channels a day after his stinging critique of the government’s management of the economy created a storm, the veteran BJP leader said the previous Congress-led UPA regime could no longer be held responsible for the mess Indian economy was in today.

He had a word of advice to the government: If people like former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram speak on the economy, the government should listen to them.

Civil Aviation Minister Jayant Sinha, without naming his father, claimed on Thursday in an article in the Times of India that his father had missed the fundamental structural reforms initiated by Modi that were transforming the economy.

Modi re-tweeted Jayant Sinha’s published article.

Yashwant Sinha

The government also rubbished Yashwant Sinha’s criticism, citing that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and UN bodies were hailing India as one of the fastest growing economies.

Stepping up his attack against the government, Yashwant Sinha, who was Finance Minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government and is still in the BJP, reiterated that the Finance Ministry failed to address the problem of reviving stalled projects and sort out issue of non-performing assets (NPAs) of banks.

He again said that demonetisation and the GST that followed were massive disruptors of the economy, which had been growing slowly in the last six quarters.

He said the fall in growth in the latest quarter made him speak up in national interest.

“I am not frustrated. I deliberately chose this. I will speak on national issues. I cannot be kept silent on national issues.”

He said last year he went to Jammu and Kashmir as part of efforts to find a solution to the festering unrest and wanted to meet the Prime Minister. “It is 10 months since I had sought an appointment and I am yet to get it.

“There was a constant downfall in the economy but I did not speak. We cannot blame the previous government any more because we have been in power for 40 months and got full opportunity to correct things,” said Sinha, responding to claims that it inherited an economy in a bad shape from the UPA.

He blamed Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for the mess and said Jaitley should take the primary responsibility for the economic slowdown though Modi was a participant in the decision making.

“The first serious task of the government should have been to solve the NPAs issue plaguing the banking sector and holding back the economy. Around 40 months have elapsed since the government took over and the bad loans crisis looks nowhere near resolution.”

His son Jayant Sinha, the Aviation Minister, argued that newspaper articles written recently on the Indian economy were written from “a narrow set of facts, and quite simply miss the fundamental structural reforms that are transforming the economy”.

The senior Sinha said he had not judged the economy on the basis of one quarter.

“The economy is not something that can be fixed overnight. No one has a magic wand. It took us four years to get the economy back on track (during the Vajpayee government).”

Asked about the defence of the government by Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, Sinha said: “Rajnath Singh and Piyush Goyal seem to know the economy better than me. So they think India is the backbone of the world economy. I politely disagree.”

The former minister got support from within the BJP when MP Shatrughan Sinha described Yashwant Sinha as “a true statesman and a tried and tested man of wisdom” and said he showed the mirror on the Indian economic condition.

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad rejected Sinha’s criticism. “Forget us, why is the IMF saying India is the fastest growing economy in the world? Why are UN bodies saying India has the fastest economic growth not just in 2016 but also in 2017…” (IANS)

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Indian economy in downward spiral, hard landing inevitable: Yashwant Sinha

Sep 27, 2017 0

New Delhi–Senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha in hard-hitting remarks has lashed out at “superman” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for making a “mess” of the Indian economy which is headed for a “hard landing” as sector after sector is slipping into distress.

In an editorial page article in The Indian Express, Sinha, who was Finance Minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi “claims he has seen poverty from close quarters (and) his finance minister is working over-time to make sure that all Indians also see it from equally close quarters”.

Sinha said Jaitley had been luckier than his predecessors to hold the Ministry at a time when lakhs of crores of rupees were at his disposal following the depressed global crude oil prices.

But he wasted the oil bonanza which “was waiting to be used imaginatively”.

“The legacy problems like stalled projects and bank NPAs were no doubt there and should have been managed better… But the legacy problems have not only been allowed to persist, they have become worse.”

Arun Jaitley

Illustrating the picture of the Indian economy today, Sinha said private investment has shrunk “as never before in two decades” while industrial production has all but collapsed.

“Agriculture is in distress, construction industry, a big employer of the work force, is in the doldrums, the rest of the service sector is also in the slow lane, exports have dwindled, sector after sector of the economy is in distress.”

Continuing his tirade against the government’s demonetisation decision, Sinha said spiking large currency notes “has proved to be an unmitigated economic disaster” which coupled with “a badly conceived and poorly implemented GST” has played havoc with businesses and sunk many of them.

“Countless millions have lost their jobs with hardly any new opportunities coming the way of the new entrants to the labour market. For quarter after quarter, the growth rate of the economy has been declining until it reached the low of 5.7 per cent in the first quarter of the current fiscal.”

He said if the government had not changed the methodology for calculation of the GDP in 2015, the growth rate of 5.7 per cent would have actually been 3.7 per cent or less — according to the old method of calculation.

He came down heavily on the government’s view that the slowdown was for technical reasons and cited the SBI, the largest public sector bank of the country, as stating “with unusual frankness that the slowdown is not transient or ‘technical’, it is here to stay”.

He said it was not difficult to anticipate the reasons for the slowdown and counter measures taken to deal with them.

“But that called for devoting time to the task, serious application of mind, understanding of the issues and then working out a game plan to tackle them.”

He noted that Jaitley, who holds the department of disinvestment, and also held the Ministries of Defence (which was given to Nirmala Sitharaman in the last cabinet rejig) and Corporate Affairs, was carrying the heavy burden of so many extra responsibilities and it was “perhaps too much to expect from” him.

“I have handled the Ministry of Finance and know how much hard work there is in that ministry alone. Finance Ministry, in the best of times, calls for the undivided attention of its boss if the job has to be properly done. In challenging times it becomes more than a 24/7 job. Naturally, even a superman like Jaitley could not do justice to the task.”

Sinha said he was speaking about the mess after realizing that “I shall be failing in my national duty if I did not speak up even now”.

“I am also convinced that (it) reflects the sentiments of a large number of people in the BJP and elsewhere who are not speaking up out of fear.”

He said the SME sector was suffering from an “unprecedented existential crisis”.

“The input tax credit demand under the GST is a whopping Rs 65,000 crore against a collection of Rs 95,000 crore. The government has asked the income tax department to chase those who have made large claims.

“Cash flow problems have already arisen for many companies specially in the SME sector. But this is the style of functioning of the Finance Ministry now.

“We protested against raid raj when we were in opposition. Today it has become the order of the day.” (IANS)

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With 95 mobile companies setting up plants, India becomes manufacturing hub for mobile devices

Sep 24, 2017 0

New Delhi–Information Technology (IT) Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Sunday said 95 mobile manufacturing companies have set up their plants in the country.

“Today 95 mobile manufacturing factories have come up in India and India is becoming a big hub of electronics and mobile manufacturing. Of these, 32 units have come up in Noida and Greater Noida,” Prasad said at the Capital Foundation Annual Lecture here.

“Every day we are adding 3-4 start-ups. They are IITians, they left their jobs in America and have come back to India,” he said.

“In Silicon Valley (US), 51 per cent of new inventions are IT-based and 14 per cent of those are created by Indian minds there. That is how India is emerging,” he added.

Ravi Shankar Prasad

The minister also said the government plans to make 6 crore families in the country digital-literate as part of the Digital India plan.

Prasad, who is also Law Minister, also lauded the Supreme Court for leveraging digital technology in expediting judicial processes.

“We have created digital data grid. Today we have got about six crore orders of judgements on the digital data grid and about 4 crore of pending cases are also there. At a click of the button, you can monitor it, how many of them have been disposed,” he said. (IANS)

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I may have resigned if note ban was thrust: Rajan

Sep 7, 2017 0

New Delhi–Former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan said on Thursday that he would have resigned if the demonetisation decision was thrust on him but made it clear that the government can bypass the central bank if it wants to push ahead with such a decision.

“It (demonetisation) happened in 1978. Government brought in demonetisation through an ordinance. The government can completely bypass the RBI,” he told the media ahead of the launch of his book “I do what I do – On Reform, Rhetoric and Resolve” in the capital.

Asked what he would have done if the government wanted to bring in demonetisation and whether he would have said “No, only over his dead body”, Rajan replied the government does not need the RBI’s nod and if it still wanted to go ahead with it, “then the only option is – take my resignation”.

Raghuram Ranjan

“It is not fair to answer this question unless you are in that position. Any civil servant, regulator or a central banker…to the extent they have to implement a policy they don’t believe in, basically (they) should not be sabotaging the policy because it is for the elected government to do what it wants. The only option is opting out.”

Rajan said during his tenure in the RBI, which ended in the first week of September last year, “absolutely there was no date fixed for implementing demonetisation”.

In his book, Rajan has talked of an informal verbal discussion with the government on demonetisation that was announced on November 8 last year.

Rajan said if the government wanted to implement demonetisation without disruption, then it should have all the currency it wanted to replace from day one.

Asked about his views on the impact of demonetisation on the economy, he prefaced his reply with a caveat that he would be extremely careful about what he would say because the country still did not have all the data.

But he did concede that the note ban did affect the economy and eat into investment and threw out a lot of business on the margins.

“We don’t knock the economy for a six. We don’t do that,” he said.

He said while the intent of the government in doing demonetisation was to bring a lot of people not paying taxes into the tax net, the Rs three to Rs four lakh crore extra that has come into the formal banking system would cost the RBI because interest has to be paid on that sum. While tax compliance was welcome, the short term impact of the note ban decision was it could have cost the GDP growth by 1 or 1.5 per cent.

While successive finance ministers have tried to go after tax dodgers, the government could find some way of doing it better but “avoid a shock like demonetisation”, he said.

While the unaccounted money was serving the economy, by now coming into the banking system it would involve an interest outgo of Rs 20,000–Rs 22,000 crore a year. Also the dividend payment of RBI has come down from Rs 65,000 crore by half.

The former RBI Governor said the move to link Aadhaar with bank accounts was welcome subject to concerns expressed by the Supreme Court judgement in the privacy case, which he described as “splendid”.

To questions about what was discussed between him and the government before he exited from the RBI and whether he would have liked to continue for another term, Rajan said as his tenure was nearing an end he wanted to know from the government about their plans for him as he would have to tell the University of Chicago from which he had taken leave.

He said it would be inappropriate for him to give the details of the discussion, but did acknowledge that there was no agreement between the two sides.

In fact, he said, he wanted to continue at the helm of the RBI to work on two things — banks clean up and the Monetary Policy Committee. “I was open.”

He dismissed a report by a noted columnist recently that the Modi government was open to giving a fresh term but leave considerations in the University made him hesitant. “False,” he said on the report, adding that the University would have given him leave if he had wanted. (IANS)

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Vasant Narasimhan appointed CEO of pharmaceutical giant Novartis

Sep 6, 2017 0

Basel, Switzerland – Vasant Narasimhan has been appointed CEO of pharmaceutical giant Novartis. He will replace current CEO Joseph Jimenez, who has informed the Board of Directors of his desire to step down as CEO in 2018, after eight years in position.

The Board of Directors has appointed Narasimhan, M.D., Global Head of Drug Development and Chief Medical Officer, as CEO of Novartis, effective February 1, 2018. Dr. Narasimhan is a member of the Executive Committee and joined Novartis in 2005.

Mr. Jimenez, who has been CEO since 2010, joined the company in 2007. He first led the Consumer Health Division, and then held the position of Division Head, Novartis Pharmaceuticals. Mr. Jimenez will step down as CEO, effective January 31, 2018, and will be available for advice and support at the request of the Chairman of the Board of Directors or the CEO until he retires from Novartis on August 31, 2018.

Joerg Reinhardt, Chairman of the Novartis Board of Directors, commented, “I would like to express my sincere appreciation for Joe’s achievements as CEO. During his tenure, Joe focused Novartis on leading global businesses, while divesting non-core divisions. Under his leadership the innovation pipeline was rejuvenated, and we successfully navigated the patent expirations of our two largest products. We anticipate a smooth transition as Joe built a strong leadership team and mentored his successor. Novartis will be well positioned to continue its momentum.”

Vasant Narasimhan

Mr. Jimenez said, “Both from a professional and a personal perspective, this is the right moment to hand the leadership reins of the company to Vas. Our strong pipeline and the strategic moves we have taken to focus the company have put Novartis on a strong path for the future. On the personal side, after 10 wonderful years in Switzerland, my family is ready to return to Silicon Valley and the US. I’m confident that Vas will be an excellent successor.”

Dr. Narasimhan has held numerous leadership positions across Novartis in commercial, drug development and strategy roles. Prior to his current role he served as Head of Development for Novartis Pharmaceuticals. Before joining Novartis in 2005, he worked at McKinsey & Company. He received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School in the US and obtained a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. In addition, he holds a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from the University of Chicago, also in the US. During and after his medical studies, he worked extensively on a range of health issues in developing countries. Dr. Narasimhan is an elected member of the US National Academy of Medicine. He is a US citizen born in 1976, married with 2 children, and lives in Basel, Switzerland.

Mr. Reinhardt added, “The strength of Novartis is our ability to drive science-based innovation. Vas is deeply anchored in medical science, has significant experience in managing the interfaces between Research and Development and commercial units and has strong business acumen with a track record of outstanding achievements. As a physician, he has a strong patient focus and a genuine humane perspective and care for the mission and values of Novartis. As a result, the Board of Directors is confident that Vas is the right choice to lead Novartis on our expected next growth phase, driving innovation and further strengthening our competitive position.”

Dr. Narasimhan said, “I would like to congratulate Joe and express my gratitude to Joe, Joerg, and the Board of Directors. I feel honored and humbled to be asked to lead Novartis. We will continue our legacy of bringing leading innovation to patients around the world. With our recent launches, our strong pipeline, broad capabilities, world-class leadership team, and committed people, I am very confident about our future.”

Novartis provides innovative healthcare solutions that address the evolving needs of patients and societies. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Novartis offers a diversified portfolio to best meet these needs: innovative medicines, cost-saving generic and biosimilar pharmaceuticals and eye care. Novartis has leading positions globally in each of these areas. In 2016, the Group achieved net sales of USD 48.5 billion, while R&D throughout the Group amounted to approximately USD 9.0 billion. Novartis Group companies employ approximately 119,000 full-time-equivalent associates.

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Modi, Putin discuss trade, bilateral ties BRICS summit

Sep 4, 2017 0

By Gaurav Sharma

Xiamen, China–Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin held a bilateral meeting here on Monday with trade and investment, natural gas, tourism and youth exchanges featuring in their discussions.

The two leaders, who met on the sidelines of the BRICS summit here, “basically touched upon several aspects of the bilateral relationship”, Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, briefing reporters here.

“President Putin recalled the Prime Minister’s visit to Russia earlier this year,” he added.

He said that Putin thanked Modi for India’s high-level participation at the Eastern Economic Forum, being held in Russia’s eastern port city of Vladivostok.

Both leaders discussed several aspects of bilateral issues in sectors like cooperation in the natural gas and oil sector, Kumar added.

Both sides also discussed how to promote bilateral trade and investment.

The meeting comes three months after the two leaders met, in St Petersburg for the annual India-Russia summit, and later at the SCO meeting in Astana in the same month where India was made a permanent member of the organisation.

At the St Petersburg summit, the two nations had signed an agreement on setting up Units 5 and 6 of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP) in Tamil Nadu and decided to give a new direction to their defence cooperation.

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GST India’s biggest economic reform measure ever: Modi

Sep 4, 2017 0

Xiamen, China– Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said that the Goods and Services Tax (GST) introduced in July this year is the biggest economic reform ever in India.

“India is changing fast into one of the most open economies in the world today,” Modi said while addressing the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) Business Council meet here as part of the 9th BRICS Summit.

“Foreign direct investment inflows are at an all-time high, rising by 40 per cent,” he said.

Stating that India has moved up in the World Bank index of ease of doing business and up 32 spots in last two years in the Global Competitiveness Index, Modi said: “The Goods and Services Tax that was introduced in July is India’s biggest economic reform measure ever. In one stroke, a unified market of 1.3 billion people has been created.”

He said that programmes like Digital India, Start-up India and Make in India were changing the economic landscape of the country.

“They are assisting India turn into a knowledge based, skill supported and technology driven society,” Modi stated.

He said that the BRICS Business Council played a vital role in giving practical shape to the vision of the bloc’s partnership.

“The partnerships you have forged and the networks you have created are energising the economic growth stories in each BRICS country,” he said, while praising the council for entering into a memorandum of understanding with the New Development Bank (NDB), the multilateral development bank established by the BRICS member states.

Modi also voiced his appreciation that the BRICS Business Council has matching priorities of trade and investment facilitation, promoting skills development, infrastructure development, small and medium enterprises (SME) development, e-commerce and digital economy.

He said that the council’s work towards establishment of a BRICS Rating Agency, energy cooperation, green finance, and digital economy was noteworthy.

“Let me conclude by saying that as governments, we will offer full support to your endeavours. And we also count on the BRICS Business Council to take us closer to our common objective of improving business and investment cooperation,” the Indian Prime Minister.

The council’s meeting was also attended by host Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Brazilian President Michel Temer, and South African President Jacob Zuma.

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Finance to Freedom: A businesswoman finds salvation in Buddhism

Sep 1, 2017 0

By Saket Suman

Thimphu, Bhutan– Twenty years ago she was a chartered financial accountant in a fund management company in Hong Kong — and before that in New York and London — smoking cigarettes and dressing fancy. Today she wears maroon monastic clothes, her head shaven, asking people to buy her book, whose royalties go to the welfare of disabled children in Bhutan.

Emma Slade, 51, is an unusual Buddhist nun in Bhutan. The course of her life changed drastically after a visit to Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, in 1997.

“I was on a business trip to Indonesia. I was staying in a lovely five-star hotel and I opened the door, only to see a man with a gun! He pushed it to my chest, I saw the door close and yes, there I was in the room with him. It was a very shattering experience which has now turned into something very useful.

“You don’t expect something like that to happen to you, especially in a five-star hotel. I was there for about three hours. It doesn’t sound a very long period of time perhaps, but I think what happened was a really very odd situation. He was there to rob me but in the end he was quite confused. We ended up being trapped in the room together. I was being held hostage by somebody who himself was trapped in many ways,” Slade told IANS in an interview on the sidelines of the just-concluded Mountain Echoes Literary Festival here.

Emma Slade, 51, is an unusual Buddhist nun in Bhutan.

This incident left a profound impact on her. Only a few days later she was shown a picture of the hostage taker, surrounded by a pool of blood. This photograph, shown to her by Indonesian police, is firmly etched in her memory.

“I escaped alive, that was a great deal. I had terrible flashbacks, experienced lots of traumatic visions. His smell lingered in my head for many, many months. The feeling of him being very near to me was hard for a long time and I had to recover from that. It did shatter my trust in the world entirely.

“I felt as if I had been very lucky to survive and that I could not go on with finance any longer. I didn’t want to go on thinking about dresses and money because I had been given, gifted and granted my life back. I sold my place, all my possessions and I just travelled around the world,” recalled Slade.

She describes this realisation — that she was gifted her life — as an important moment in her spiritual journey, one that led her to abandoning her trouser-suits and high heels to become a Buddhist nun in Bhutan.

So for the next two to three years, she was travelling around the world in quest of answers to questions that she herself didn’t know. “Probably I was just looking for myself,” she added.

“I discovered yoga, discovered this very profound feeling of being connected to the natural world, and that’s what I did for about two years around the world. Then I realised that it was time I should go into retreat and meditate. Since then most of my life has been in and around meditation and yoga,” she elaborated.

Her book, “Set Free”, narrates the tale of her extraordinary life and its changed course.

“Buddhism was of great interest to me since a very young age. Any picture of the Buddha or even the prayer flags sort of pulled me towards them. They seem to express such peacefulness. Gradually, my interest and understanding grew with time — and also my efforts. I came to Bhutan in 2011 to be in Buddhist culture, not as a separate entity with boundaries but to experience it in a natural habitat where that is the way of life,” she recalled.

Slade now splits her time between her hometown of Whistable in Kent and Bhutan. She is also learning Tibetan and has founded a charity for disabled children in Bhutan. The royalties from her book will go to this charity and she hopes to reside permanently in Bhutan soon.

She is currently the only Western woman to have been ordained as a nun in Bhutan. “Now things make a lot more sense to me,” she concluded. (IANS)

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India’s Q1 GDP growth slows down to 5.7 percent

Aug 31, 2017 0

New Delhi–Pulled down by sluggish manufacturing, growth in the Indian economy during the first quarter of this fiscal fell to 5.7 per cent, clocking the lowest GDP growth rate under the Narendra Modi dispensation, official data showed on Thursday. Industry expressed disappointment at the numbers, saying it anticipated a rebound from the ongoing quarter.

The previous low of 4.6 per cent was recorded in January-March 2014.

According to data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO), India’s gross domestic product (GDP) for the first quarter at Rs 31.10 lakh crore grew 5.7 per cent over the same quarter last year. During the previous quarter the GDP had grown by 6.1 per cent.

The country’s GDP had grown at 7.9 per cent in the same period a year ago.

“GDP at constant (2011-12) prices in Q1 of 2017-18 is estimated at Rs 31.10 lakh crore, as against Rs 29.42 lakh crore in Q1 of 2016-17, showing a growth rate of 5.7 per cent,” a CSO release here said.

Pankaj Patel, President, FICCI

In terms of Gross Value Added (GVA), which excludes indirect taxes and subsidies, the growth was even lower at 5.6 per cent over the GVA for the corresponding quarter of last year.

The principal reason for the decline in growth is a fall in manufacturing sector, where GVA fell sharply to 1.2 per cent, from 10.7 per cent a year ago, Chief Statistician T.C.A. Anant told reporters here after the release of the numbers.

“Principally, the major sector that has seen a sharp decline in industry,” he said.

“The major reason for slowdown in growth at 5.7 per cent is on account of manufacturing, where GVA is largely contributed by the private sector. In all, 74 per cent of the GVA comes from corporate sector. Its performance has been poor, though the sales growth is good,” he added.

Anant said the slowdown in the first quarter to 5.7 per cent was due to de-stocking by firms as caution ahead of the GST roll-out on July 1.

He said there was a likely revival from the second quarter onwards as subsequently stocks would be restored to normal levels as the GST regime progressed.

The GVA in manufacturing was showing a declining trend from Q2 of the last fiscal, which has continued, he added.

Anant noted that another reason for the fall in growth rate was rise in costs on account of prices in intermediate inputs, which has been much higher than last year.

He said services and crop production have seen an increase in the first quarter.

The financial, insurance, real estate and professional services sectors also slowed to 6.4 percent in the April-June quarter from 9.4 per cent a year ago.

Activities that registered growth of over 7 per cent in the first quarter were trade, hotels, transport and communication and services related to broadcasting, public administration, defence and other services and electricity, gas, water supply and other utility services.

Growth in agriculture, forestry and fishing, mining and quarrying, manufacturing, construction and financial, insurance, real estate and professional services is estimated to be 2.3 per cent, (-)0.7 per cent, 1.2 per cent, 2 per cent and 6.4 per cent, respectively, during this period.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley also blamed the fall in growth on the de-stocking of inventories by industry in anticipation of the GST and said this process is ending and manufacturing is expected to pick up from the current quarter.

“That manufacturing has fallen is essentially due to the anticipatory impact of GST (Goods and Services Tax). Since it came in July, most manufacturers were de-stocking,” Jaitley told reporters here, noting that services growth had, however, improved during the quarter in question.

“De-stocking of the manufacturing sector seems to have been completed, so the dip in manufacturing could be bottoming out from this quarter,” he said.

“Gross fixed capital ratio turned positive, investment improved… services improved,” during the first quarter, he added.

India Inc on Thursday expressed disappointment over slowing down of India’s GDP growth to 5.7 per cent in the June-ended first quarter of the current fiscal, as the industry was anticipating a rebound from low growth numbers.

“Growth numbers indicate a moderation in agriculture and industrial sectors. The uncertainty surrounding implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST) did impact industrial production in the first quarter. However, we are confident that this effect will wane off in coming months,” said Pankaj Patel, President, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci).

Industry lobby Assocham suggested the policymakers to take urgent steps to revive private investments following the recent push to accelerate infrastructure spending, to improve the business climate and (eventually) less leveraged corporates’ and banks’ balance sheets.

“Continuous fall in fixed investments, unsolved problem of banks’ NPAs (non-performing assets) in India, global policy and political risks and tightening financial conditions on account of deleveraging financial institutions and slowdown in real estate could weigh negatively,” the industry lobby said in a statement.

According to Anis Chakravarty, Lead Economist, Deloitte, the fall in the latest growth number was possibly on account of the temporary shocks in combination with an overall slowing of the economy.

“Financial services show a worsening trend, while government-led services have done well with front loading of expenditure,” said Chakravarty. (IANS)

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India, Switzerland to enhance cooperation in fight against tax fraud

Aug 31, 2017 0

New Delhi–India and Switzerland on Thursday agreed to enhance cooperation in the fight against tax fraud while acknowledging the need for a global level playing field for implementation of the international standards on tax transparency.

A joint statement issued following delegation-level talks headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visiting Swiss President Doris Leuthard said that “both leaders emphasised their willingness to further enhance cooperation in the fight against tax fraud and tax evasion”.

“They acknowledged the importance of a global level playing field for effective implementation of the international standards on tax transparency,” the statement said.

“They noted with satisfaction the signing of the Joint Declaration in November 2016 on the implementation of Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI) and, in this context, President Leuthard briefed Prime Minister Modi about the ongoing parliamentary procedure in Switzerland,” it said.

Addressing the media with the visiting dignitary after the delegation-level talks, Modi said India will continue to work with Switzerland to combat black money while the Swiss President stressed that her country has one of the strongest laws against money laundering.

“Transparency in financial transactions is an issue of concern in today’s world, whether it be black money, dirty money, hawala or arms and drugs financing,” Modi said.

“To combat this global problem, we will continue to cooperate with Switzerland,” he said.

Modi said that with two countries signing a joint declaration for automatic exchange of tax information last year, India will get such information on an automatic basis once it is internally ratified in Switzerland.

On her part, Leuthard said that the law was now with the Swiss Parliament for ratification and hoped that such information can be shared with India from 2019 onwards.

“This is important because Switzerland is, and will be, an important financial place and we have all interest to be transparent, cooperative, and a good reliable partner,” she said, adding that both her country and India can go hand in hand on this.

Leuthard said Switzerland had one of the strongest laws against money laundering and hoped other countries will follow suit.

According to the joint statement, Modi also expressed his expectation that Switzerland will implement the recommendations of the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information in Tax Matters with the view to further improve mutual administrative assistance in tax matters, the statement said.

In his address to the media, the Prime Minister said foreign direct investment is an important pillar of economic cooperation between India and Switzerland. “We specially welcome Swiss investors in India.

“We agreed to continue discussions on a bilateral investment agreement. Swiss companies have a lot of expertise to partner India in its road to development.”

Modi said that in a meeting of business leaders of the two countries he attended along with Leuthard, it was clear that both sides were eager to have business-to-business collaborations.

The Swiss President said she discussed with Modi the issue of an investor protection agreement on which negotiations were underway.

Switzerland is the seventh largest trading partner for India with a total bilateral trade, including merchandise exports, bullion and IT services and software exports, of $18.2 billion in 2016-17.

From April 2000 to September 2016, Switzerland invested approximately $3.57 billion in India, thus becoming the 11th largest investor and accounting for about 1.2 per cent of total foreign direct investment (FDI) in India.

Stating that the proposed free trade agreement between the European Union and India also came up for discussion, Modi said that both sides were committed to an early conclusion of this.

He also said that both countries have agreed to work together for the full implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Following Thursday’s talks, the two countries signed two agreements on cooperation in the railway sector.

Leuthard arrived here on Wednesday on a four-day visit to India. Swiss Presidents have earlier visited India in 1998, 2003, and 2007.

Modi visited Switzerland in June 2016 in what was the first prime ministerial visit from India to that country in several decades. (IANS)

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