01/09/2014

China imposes harsher punishment to ensure workplace safety – Xinhua | English.news.cn

China’s top legislature on Sunday adopted a revision to the Workplace Safety Law which imposes harsher punishment on offenders.

Members of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress adopted the revision through a vote at the bi-monthly legislative session held from Monday to Sunday.

The amendment further increased fines for enterprises involved in serious workplace accidents from the maximum of 5 million yuan (810,000 U.S. dollars) proposed in its original draft to 20 million yuan.

The quadrupled fine cap is stated in an added article which stipulates fines ranging from 200,000 yuan to 20 million yuan, depending on the losses incurred in the accident.

Under the old Workplace Safety Law, fines for enterprises violating the law were no more than 100,000 yuan or below five times the income earned from illegal operation.

Managers in charge of such enterprises who are found to have failed in their duty to ensure safety will also now be fined between 30 and 80 percent of their annual income corresponding to losses in the accidents.

This is a massive raise compared with the former law, under which managers faced fines between 20,000 yuan and 200,000 yuan.

The revised law states that managers responsible for “serious” and “extremely serious” accidents will be banned from serving as principals in enterprises in the same industry.

The regulation on work safety issued by the State Council in 2007 defines “serious accidents” as those causing 10 to 30 deaths, 50 to 100 serious injuries, or direct economic losses of between 50 and 100 million yuan.

via China imposes harsher punishment to ensure workplace safety – Xinhua | English.news.cn.

01/09/2014

State-owned enterprises: Fixing China Inc | The Economist

JIN JIANG is one of the world’s biggest hotel groups, managing five-star properties across China, a budget motel chain and a travel agency. It is also a state-owned enterprise (SOE), controlled by the Shanghai government. It has seen better days. The company’s best hotels played host to hundreds of foreign leaders in the past century, including Richard Nixon in 1972, when America and China began their historic rapprochement. But in recent years visiting dignitaries have opted for newer hotels over Jin Jiang’s musty rooms and tired furnishings.

When people think of Chinese state companies, they often have its giant banks or oil companies in mind. But most of the 155,000 enterprises still owned by the central and local governments are more akin to Jin Jiang: they are businesses that have little to do with the country’s economic or political priorities, and they have had a run of bad years, losing ground to private-sector rivals. That may be about to change. China is in the midst of the biggest attempt in more than a decade to fix the country’s brand of state capitalism, attempting to breathe new life into Jin Jiang and dozens, if not hundreds or even thousands, more like it.

There are two main problems with China’s SOEs today. First, they have failed to comply with the government’s order to focus on what are deemed to be “strategic sectors” such as aviation, power and telecommunications. These are industries that the Communist Party believes it must dominate in order to maintain control of an increasingly complex economy. But fewer than half of state companies occupy these commanding heights. Some 80,000 are instead in the economic lowlands: they run hotels, build property developments, manage restaurants and operate shopping malls. The temptations to branch out have been too great: relative to their private-sector peers, they have benefited from cheaper financing from state-owned banks, favouritism from local governments in land sales and a lighter touch from regulators.

Second, despite these advantages, SOEs have given progressively less bang for their buck. Faced with mounting losses in the 1990s, China undertook a first round of drastic reforms of its state-owned companies. There were mass closures of the weakest firms, tens of millions of lay-offs and stockmarket listings for many of the biggest which made them run a little more like private companies. That initially paid dividends. SOEs’ return on assets, a gauge of their productivity, rose from barely higher than zero in 1998 to nearly 7% a decade later, just shy of the private-sector average. But over the past five years, their fortunes have ebbed. Profitability of state companies has fallen, even as private firms have grown in strength. SOE returns are now about half those of their non-state peers. For an economy that, inevitably, is slowing as it matures, inefficient state companies are a dangerous extra drag. Jian Chang of Barclays says that putting SOEs right is “the most critical reform area for China in the coming decade”.

Until recently, however, few analysts thought that China had the desire or the ability to get back into the muck of SOE reform. Companies under the central government, such as PetroChina, the country’s biggest oil producer, were believed to be strong enough to resist the changes that would erode their privileges. At the provincial and municipal levels, local officials were thought bound to government-owned companies by ties of power, patronage and money. China was not expected to sit entirely still: gradual deregulation of interest rates and energy pricing was placing indirect pressure on state companies to operate more efficiently. But a direct, frontal assault on them of the kind waged by Zhu Rongji, then prime minister, in the 1990s seemed out of the question. Even when the party unveiled a much-ballyhooed reform plan last November and vowed to target SOEs, there were doubts about how far Xi Jinping, China’s president, could go. People close to the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC), the agency that oversees China’s biggest SOEs, say that it was still dragging its feet at the start of this year.

But a flurry of announcements in the past few months shows that reforms are getting on track. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Sinopec, Asia’s biggest refiner, is close to selling a $16 billion stake in its retail unit, a potentially lucrative opening for private investors. CITIC Group, China’s biggest conglomerate, is poised to become a publicly traded company by injecting its assets into a subsidiary on the Hong Kong stock exchange, for $37 billion. After its initial reluctance, SASAC announced reforms at six companies. They are to experiment with larger private stakes and greater independence for directors.

via State-owned enterprises: Fixing China Inc | The Economist.

01/09/2014

India Outpacing China’s Oil Demand – India Real Time – WSJ

India’s oil demand has grown faster than China’s so far this year, highlighting slowing energy demand in the world’s most populous country and fueling expectations that India may pick up the slack over the medium-to-long term. The pace of India’s demand also reflects optimism about India’s economic growth under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In absolute terms China is Asia’s largest oil consumer, having burned 10.76 million barrels a day of oil and accounting for 12.1% of global oil consumption in 2013, according to BP PLC. The second-largest oil consumer in Asia is Japan, though its oil consumption has been declining as its economy has matured.

India ranks third at 3.7 million barrels a day and accounted for about 4.2% of global oil consumption in 2013.

India’s oil demand has shown steady growth through July at an average of 3%, or 101,000 barrels a day. China’s oil demand has declined at an average of 0.6%, or 62,000 barrel a day, in the same period, Barclays PLC analyst Miswin Mahesh said.

Indian oil demand growth has “organic, domestic, economic activity-linked factors still driving it,” he said. Mr. Mahesh expects the south Asian country’s oil demand to accelerate to 210,000 barrels a day next year, spurred by healthy construction activity, government-financed industrial projects and strong growth in car purchases.

China’s oil-demand growth, on the other hand, remains uncertain, with a large portion of its imports this year going into strategic stockpiling instead of consumption. Its oil demand fell into negative territory in July and its oil imports declined for the first time this year.

“This surprise drop in crude imports further supported our view that [China's] full-year oil demand could be weaker than current market expectations,” Thomas C. Hilboldt, head of Asia Pacific oil research at HSBC Holdings PLC said last week.

The disparity of the demand drivers in India and China is also telling.

The bulk of oil demand in both countries is for diesel, the most widely consumed liquid fuel in Asia. China’s diesel consumption has shown a sharp decline because of its industrial slowdown, while India’s diesel demand rose sharply in the last few months because of power shortages and delayed monsoon rains.

Despite this, the extent to which Indian energy demand can compensate for China’s decline remains doubtful.

Markets are looking for the next emerging-market economy to take over as China moves into its post-industrial phase. Yet India has a fundamentally different economic structure and growth model, Janet Kong, head of market analysis at BP Singapore’s trading division pointed out last week.

“It’s very much a service-oriented economy…not relying on a lot of infrastructure investments or manufacturing,” she said.

The manufacturing sector in India has underperformed for many years, contributing to about 15% of gross domestic product and 12% of employment, compared with 25% or more of GDP in countries like China, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, according to the Asian Development Bank’s 2014 report. Meanwhile, China is transitioning from an industrial economy dependent on exports to focus more on domestic consumption.

via India Outpacing China’s Oil Demand – India Real Time – WSJ.

01/09/2014

Japan and India vow to boost strategic ties during summit | Reuters

Japan and India agreed on Monday to strengthen strategic ties as Asia’s second and third biggest economies keep a wary eye on a rising China, and said they would accelerate talks on the possible sale of an amphibious aircraft to India’s navy.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shake hands before their talks at the state guest house in Tokyo September 1, 2014. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/Files

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi also agreed to speed up talks on a so-far elusive deal on nuclear energy cooperation, welcoming what they called “significant progress” in the negotiations.

“The two prime ministers reaffirmed the importance of defense relations between Japan and India in their strategic partnership and decided to upgrade and strengthen them,” Abe and Modi said in a statement after a summit in Tokyo.

Modi, on his first major foreign visit since a landslide election win in May, arrived on Saturday for a five-day trip aimed at capitalizing on a personal affinity with Abe to bolster security and business ties in the face of an assertive China.

In a sign of their warm ties, the two leaders greeted each other with a bear hug when they met on Saturday in Japan’s ancient capital of Kyoto for an informal dinner. Modi is one of three people that Abe follows on Twitter, while the Indian leader admires Abe’s brand of nationalist politics.

“The 21st century belongs to Asia … but how the 21st century will be depends on how strong and progressive India-Japan ties are,” Modi told Japanese and Indian business executives earlier in the day.

“The 18th century situation of expansionism is now visible,” Modi said, referring to incidents such as encroachment of others countries’ territories and intruding in other countries’ seas, in a veiled reference to China, with which India shares a long disputed border.

“Such expansionism would never benefit humanity in the 21st century,” he said.

Sino-Japanese ties have also been chilled by a row over disputed isles, feuds over the wartime past, and mutual mistrust over defense policies as China seeks a bigger regional role and Abe loosens the constraints of Japan’s post-war pacificism.

Abe is keen to expand Japan’s network of security partnerships with countries such as India and Australia to cope with the challenge presented by China.

via Japan and India vow to boost strategic ties during summit | Reuters.

01/09/2014

Independence for Intelligence Bureau, tackling Maoism are Home Ministry’s biggest challenges

The Home Ministry is possibly the most crucial cabinet portfolio after the prime minister’s seat. Under Narendra Modi‘s leadership, veteran Bharatiya Janata Party stalwart Rajnath Singh bagged the coveted spot on Raisina Hill, an appointment that was widely predicted during post-poll speculation in the capital, New Delhi.

Singh played the part of Modi’s right-hand man for much of the former Gujarat chief minister’s gruelling campaign. But Singh did much more than help with Modi’s election trail; he was effectively Team Modi’s chief executive, managing the power games and personality clashes erupting in the party and, above all, placating the old guard’s resentment toward Modi’s popularity and apprehension about their status.

For many days after the BJP-led National Democratic Front swept the election, Singh said that he would be glad to continue as the party president and was not angling for a cabinet berth. Yet he got possibly the most important cabinet position, besides the prime minister’s, and accepted it with great alacrity.

But many people did advise him against moving to Raisina Hill’s North Block, where the ministry is located, and to stay on as the party president, a position they said was more powerful than a cabinet berth. But Singh has his own political ambitions and the cabinet berth certainly has greater national prestige.

Today, it’s unclear why exactly Modi’s right-hand man is in the government, especially after Singh’s outburst last week following reports that his son had been upbraided by the prime minister for allegedly accepting bribes in exchange for arranging police postings. The battle for that primacy is between Singh and Arun Jaitley, the finance minister who is doubling up as defence minister, both wily politicians who know how to navigate the BJP and its various spheres of influence.

via Scroll.in – News. Politics. Culture..

30/08/2014

Houses in Shanghai are not built, they’re printed[1]- Chinadaily.com.cn

A Chinese company recently built 10 full-sized houses using a giant printer.

Houses in Shanghai are not built, they're printed

The detached, one-story houses now standing in the Shanghai Hi-Tech Industrial Park, in the city’s Qingpu district, look like ordinary buildings. But they were “printed out” in less than a day with “contour crafting“, commonly known as 3-D printing technology.

‘Mirror’ perfect fit for shoppers  Four huge printers measuring 32 meters long, 10 meters wide and 6.6 meters tall were used to make the houses, which were built layer by layer.

“It’s not only cost-effective but also environmentally friendly,” said Ma Yihe, inventor of the printers, who is also president of the Shanghai Winsun decoration and design company.

“Unlike traditional construction, the new technology doesn’t produce any waste,” said Ma, who has been working in the 3-D printing construction industry for 12 years.

The materials used to make the houses are a mixture of quick-drying cement and recycled industrial waste, which help lower construction costs by up to 50 percent. For the moment, the company is keeping the recipe for the cement a secret.

Meanwhile, the houses can withstand just about any safety test, Ma said.

via Houses in Shanghai are not built, they’re printed[1]- Chinadaily.com.cn.

30/08/2014

The backup power in Indian apartments are funded in the name of a poor Indian farmer

In India’s urban areas, you can tell the interruption in power supply by an accompanying noise – a diesel genset whirring into life somewhere nearby, releasing plumes of dark smoke into the air. Power failure is so endemic in some areas that factories, call centres, hotels and apartment complexes all install large gensets to provide back-up power.

So much so, that the installed power generation capacity of diesel gensets in India has now exceeded 90,000 megawatts, or the equivalent of 36% of India’s total power generation capacity. This estimation by the power regulator, the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission, in fact takes into account only large units with over 100 kilo volt ampere. If smaller units in apartment complexes and household are taken into account, the figure could be much larger.

Policymakers thus far believed that the installed capacity of such units was just over 1,000 MWs, while in reality it was 90 times as much. And so there is no estimation of how much fuel is consumed by these gensets.

There should be. Because these gensets all consume subsidized diesel.

Fuel subsidies were a little under 2% of India’s GDP in 2011-12, according to IMF calculations. Diesel subsidies accounted for nearly half of it.

The rationale for subsidizing diesel is two-fold. Farmers use it to operate motor pumps to irrigate their farms. And second, cost of transporting essential goods and food needs to be kept down to rein in inflation.

Both these reasons are undermined by the situation on the ground and what researchers have shown.

Nearly 27% of diesel sold in India is consumed by vehicles, the economist Kirit Parikh estimated in 2013. All of these are not trucks transporting vegetables. Many are sports utility vehicles owned by the rich. Parikh estimated that an SUV owner received an annual subsidy of Rs50,000 on account of the diesel subsidy in the name of the poor.

Researchers at the thinktank Integrated Research and Action for Development showed in 2012 that a 10% increase in the price of diesel would only result in a 0.6% rise in consumption expenditure of the poorest 10% of people both in the rural and urban areas. A 4% rise in wholesale price index, which can be caused by fiscal deficit-fuelled inflation, can have a much greater impact, they found.

The government recently set up an expenditure reform commission to streamline spending and ensure better targeting of subsidies.

via Scroll.in – News. Politics. Culture..

30/08/2014

India posts highest GDP growth figures in over two years

GDP up by 5.7 per cent in April-June quarter

India’s Gross Domestic Product increased by 5.7 per cent in the April-June quarter, up from 4.6% in the previous quarter. Growth in this quarter was the highest since March 2012, and it was sparked by a boost in the manufacturing and service sectors. However, economists said that this rebound could be temporary and stifled by poor monsoon rains and rising food inflation.

via Scroll.in – News. Politics. Culture..

29/08/2014

In India, Slum Dwellers Move Into High Rises – Businessweek

Indian developer Babulal Varma’s job requires the human touch. The company he co-founded, Omkar Realtors & Developers, specializes in coaxing Mumbai’s slum dwellers from their hovels, then bulldozing the slum and erecting a mix of luxury condominium towers and free new homes for the slum dwellers on the cleared land. Omkar has completed 12 projects, rehousing 40,000, with 12 more in the works, making it the most successful business in this niche. Mumbai’s slums still house 6.5 million people.

One of Omkar’s luxury high rises, under construction

In one slum several years ago, an old woman wouldn’t leave her home. Omkar was keen to develop the site into a $1 billion complex of six luxury high rises and modern housing nearby for the slum dwellers. As Varma recounts it, he visited her and learned that the woman wanted two free apartments, not one. The woman lived with her two sons and their wives in a 90-square-foot shack. The wives argued constantly. Yet the law regulating slum redevelopment says a family that proves residency since 2000 can get only one new, 269-square-foot home on the same land.

Varma came back with a piece of paper showing a line drawn through the unit they’d be moving into, with a second door cut into the hallway. The wives could live separately, he explained. Agreement came in 45 minutes. “If you can understand their problem, if you can understand their issues, all the issues are very small, like a peanut, but to them this is the biggest thing,” says Varma, who cites karma as his operating philosophy as he sits beside an incense-burning Hindu altar.

By law, Omkar and other developers must secure the consent of 70 percent of a slum’s inhabitants before a project can go forward. Slum dwellers who have lived in the same spot since 2000 hold rights to the land but can sign them over to developers.

Omkar (the long form of the Hindu mantra “om”) contributes to the city’s efforts to get its slum dwellers into the middle class. “There is all-round social upliftment as people move from slums into proper apartments,” says Nirmal Deshmukh, chief executive officer of the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA), which selects the developers for the slum projects.

Since her marriage to a postal worker 13 years ago, Swarangi Pingle had lived in a 90-square-foot bilevel hut with her in-laws, her husband’s two siblings, and her daughter, now 11. On May 1 she and her family became homeowners in the development where Varma persuaded the old woman to go along. Pingle’s home on the top floor of a 23-story building has plenty of ventilation and sunlight. In the slum, Pingle would wait an hour to fill water jugs at the communal tap and for her turn at the common toilet. “This is much better,” she says as she shows off the private bathroom, kitchen sink, and aqua-painted living room. The new homes allow space for children to study, she says: “I may have married into a slum, but my daughter won’t go back to one.”

via In India, Slum Dwellers Move Into High Rises – Businessweek.

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