Archive for ‘India alert’


So What Does Obama’s Immigration Reform Mean For India’s High-Skilled Workers? – India Real Time – WSJ

President Barack Obama’s immigration reforms unveiled Thursday in the United States bring little sunshine for those in India’s technology outsourcing industry who are waiting for him to boost the number of skilled-work visas or H-1Bs.

The president’s reform plan bypassed Congress to protect millions of illegal immigrants from deportation.

To be sure, the reform measures also contained minor benefits for businesses with workers from overseas. “We will make it easier and faster for high-skilled immigrants, graduates, and entrepreneurs to stay and contribute to our economy, as so many business leaders have proposed,” said Mr. Obama in a prime-time address in the U.S.

But that means very little for India’s outsourcing firms that have long been lobbying to increase the number of H-1B visas so they can send more Indian programmers and engineers to their clients in the U.S.

Indian software exporters such as Tata Consultancy Services 532540.BY +0.35%, Infosys and Wipro send thousands of skilled Indian workers to the U.S. every year to cater to the technology needs of their clients.

The immigration reforms bill, introduced last year, sought to triple the number of H-1B visas available to 180,000 a year but was pulled after many lawmakers argued that the changes would result in an influx of illegal immigrants. It is still uncertain when the reform bill will be considered again.

As a result, industry and market watchers weren’t expecting the president to make any path-breaking changes to increase the number of skilled-worker visas issued annually. In fact, most of the changes announced are on expected lines.

via So What Does Obama’s Immigration Reform Mean For India’s High-Skilled Workers? – India Real Time – WSJ.


How Indians and Chinese Study in the U.S. Shows Degrees of Development – China Real Time Report – WSJ

A record number of international students—close to 900,000 scholars–studied at U.S. colleges and universities last year and more than four out of ten of them were from India or China.

How the best and brightest from China and India choose their expensive American degrees demonstrates the differing levels of development between the world’s only billion-person economies.

Chinese students tend to choose undergraduate courses focused on business, while Indians opt for short graduate programs in more technical subjects like science and math.

A report from the Institute of International Education published this week has the figures. China continued to be the biggest exporter of students to the United States by far. It had more than 274,000 students stateside, which was a 17% increase from the previous year.

India was a distant second but still had more than 102,000 college and university students to America. That was a 6% increase from the year before, and the first rise in the number of students from the subcontinent in five years.

Back in the school year which ended in June 2010, China passed India as the biggest source of foreign freshman in the U.S.—a title India had held for years. China has been adding to that lead ever since.

China’s rise to the top—it had 200,000 more students last year to the U.S. than it did just eight years earlier—reflects the growing incomes and increasing globalization of the country’s citizens, analysts say.

Chinese students were much more likely to go to the states for undergraduate studies than Indian students. Only around 12% of Indians that study in the U.S. were there for undergraduate studies during the past school year, compared to 40% of Chinese students, the IIE study showed.

It makes sense, said Akhil Daswani, chief operating officer of OnCourse Vantage, an education consulting company in India, an undergraduate degree is a luxury few Indians can afford.

“If you are going to spend $250,000 over four years you have to have a considerable amount of disposable income,” Mr. Daswani said. “Undergraduate schools are marketing heavily (in China). It is the first place they want to go because they are getting so much business.”

When they go for an international degree, Indians prefer to get more bang for their rupee, they tend to go for two-year graduate courses that lead to high-paying jobs.

Close to 80% of Indian students in the U.S. last year were aiming to get technical degrees in science, technology, engineering or math, the study showed. That figure for China was 42%. Chinese students, meanwhile, leaned more towards business degrees. Around 28% of Chinese students were studying business compared to 12% of Indian students.

via How Indians and Chinese Study in the U.S. Shows Degrees of Development – China Real Time Report – WSJ.


Cheap Electricity for Poor Squeezing Out Solar in India – Businessweek

The villagers of Dharnai in northern India had been living without electricity for more than 30 years when Greenpeace installed a microgrid to supply reliable, low-cost solar power.

Cooking By Candlelight

Then, within weeks of the lights flickering on in Dharnai’s mud huts, the government utility hooked up the grid — flooding the community with cheap power that undercut the fledgling solar network. While Greenpeace had come to Dharnai at Bihar’s invitation, the unannounced arrival of the state’s utility threatened to put it out of business.

“We wanted to set this up as a business model,” said Abhishek Pratap, a Greenpeace campaigner overseeing the project. “Now we’re in course correction.”

It’s a scenario playing out at dozens of ventures across India’s hinterlands. Competition from state utilities, with their erratic yet unbeatably cheap subsidized power, is scuppering efforts to supply clean, modern energy in a country where more people die from inhaling soot produced by indoor fires than from smoking.

About as many people in India are without electricity as there are residents of the U.S., and the number is growing by a Mumbai every year. Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to bring electricity to every home by 2019 by leapfrogging the nation’s ailing power-distribution infrastructure with solar-powered local networks — the same way mobile-phones have enabled people in poor, remote places to bypass landlines.

via Cheap Electricity for Poor Squeezing Out Solar in India – Businessweek.


India Worst Slave Country, Says Global Slavery Index – India Real Time – WSJ

More than 14 million people in India are estimated to live in modern slavery, according to a new index on global slavery that ranks the country first out of 167 countries based on the number of people subject to abuse such as forced labor, servitude or sexual exploitation.

The other countries with the highest numbers of people in modern slavery are China, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Russia, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Thailand. Together with India they account for 71% of the estimated 35.8 million people in modern slavery, says the 2014 Global Slavery Index, a report produced by global human rights organization the Walk Free Foundation. It defines modern slavery as “one person possessing or controlling another person in such a way as to significantly deprive that person of their individual liberty.”

Modern slavery in Asia, particularly in countries such as India and Pakistan, often includes entire families who are enslaved through bonded labor in construction, agriculture, brick making, garment factories and manufacturing.

In India, lower castes and tribes, religious minorities, and migrant workers are disproportionately affected by modern slavery the Indian section of the report says.

In 2014, the Ministry of Home Affairs launched the ‘anti-trafficking portal’, which includes  information on criminal justice statistics, anti-trafficking police units, government and law enforcement training, the anti-trafficking legislation, and reporting mechanisms, including the ChildLine hotline number.

India has also improved law enforcement efforts by establishing 215 anti-human trafficking units across the country to investigate human trafficking cases.

Legislation on its own though is not enough to ensure success of a criminal justice response to modern slavery, according to the report.

via India Worst Slave Country, Says Global Slavery Index – India Real Time – WSJ.


Why India is doing better than most emerging markets | The Economist

INVESTORS have fallen out of love with emerging markets. Since the start of last year emerging-market stocks have trailed their rich-world peers. Currencies are falling. Worst-hit is the Russian rouble, which has fallen by 30% against the dollar this year. The currencies of other biggish emerging markets, such as Brazil, Turkey and South Africa, have also weakened. For such economies growth is harder to come by. The IMF recently cut its forecasts for emerging markets by more than for rich countries. But India is a notable exception to the general pessimism. Its stockmarket has touched new highs. The rupee is stable. And the IMF nudged up its 2014 growth forecast for India to 5.8%. That figure is still quite low: growth rates of 8-9% have been more typical. But in comparison with others it is almost a boom. Why is India doing better than most emerging markets?

In part optimism about India owes to its newish government. In May Narendra Modi’s Baratiya Janata Party (BJP) won a thumping victory in elections on a pro-growth platform. Since then the BJP has strengthened its position in some key states. So far reform has been piecemeal. Procedures for government approvals have been streamlined. The powers of labour inspectors have been curbed. Civil servants now work harder. That has been enough to sustain hopes of further and bigger reforms. Yet much of the continued enthusiasm about India is down to luck. The currents that sway the global economy presently—the dollar’s strength; slowdown in China; aggressive money-printing in Japan; stagnation in the euro zone and falling oil prices—are less harmful to India than to most emerging markets.

Start with the dollar, which has been buoyed by a resilient American economy and the prospect of interest-rate increases by the Federal Reserve. Past episodes of rising interest rates and dollar strength (for instance in the early 1980s or mid-1990s) have not been kind to emerging markets. Bond yields rise and currencies fall as capital is drawn back to America. India has a bit less to fear from such a rush to the exits; its bond markets are tricky for foreigners to enter in the first place. India is also less harmed by slowdown in China, as only around 5% of its exports go there. It is not part of China’s supply-chain, which takes in much of South-East Asia. Nor is it a big exporter of industrial commodities, as Brazil is. And a weaker yen in response to quantitative easing by the Bank of Japan hurts Asia’s manufacturing exporters more than service-intensive India. The misery in the euro zone is of greater concern to Europe’s trading partners in Turkey and Russia than to faraway India. And the fall in crude-oil prices that hurts oil exporters, such as Russia and Nigeria, is a boon to a big oil importer like India. Indeed the deflation that is stalking large parts of the world is helpful to India, which has suffered from high inflation.

India is not impervious to bad news. Some of its recent economic data have looked a little soggy. Exports slumped in October. Car sales have fallen for two consecutive months and there is little sign yet of a meaningful recovery in business investment. This explains, in part, why there have been growing calls (including from the finance minister) for the central bank to cut interest rates soon in response to a drop in consumer-price inflation. The troubles in other emerging markets ought to counsel caution. Any sign that policymakers might be ditching discipline in favour of quick fixes might see India fall from investors’ favour. But for the time being, it is riding high.

via The Economist explains: Why India is doing better than most emerging markets | The Economist.


Narendra Modi Is in Fiji. This Shows Why – India Real Time – WSJ

Pristine beaches, blue skies,  it’s not hard to imagine why Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi would want to stop by the island nation of Fiji after a hectic few days at the G-20 summit in Australia.

But there’s another reason Mr. Modi has made the newly-minted South Pacific democracy his final port of call during a three-nation tour that concludes Thursday: China.

In 2012, there was an influx of Chinese investors and companies expressing and registering their interest in setting up businesses in Fiji, according to Investment Fiji’s annual report for the year.

Chinese investors accounted for 20% of the projects registered by foreign companies in Fiji in 2012, while Indian investment accounted for 10%, the report said.

China has tried to raise its profile across the South Pacific over the past decade. The 12 South Pacific island nations that make up the region are much less populous than other parts of Asia, but have vast fishing grounds and potentially large deep-sea mineral deposits.

Chinese companies have bought stakes in Fiji’s largest gold mine and invested in its bauxite industry. Foreign direct investment by Chinese companies in Fiji accounted for around 37% of the value of projects registered this year, compared with just 2.9% in 2009.

Trade figures from Fiji’s Bureau of Statistics show that India lags far behind. In 2013, China exported $27.29 million in goods to Fiji, compared to $4.76 million imported to the island from India.

via Narendra Modi Is in Fiji. This Map Shows Why – India Real Time – WSJ.


‘Exceptionally Low’ Female Labor Participation Holding Back India’s Economy – India Real Time – WSJ

Women’s empowerment hasn’t featured prominently so far in Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s program for economic revival. It probably should, according to the latest overview of the Indian economy by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The report, released Wednesday by the Paris-based club of rich nations, suggests that enlarging economic opportunities for women could be a new “growth engine” for India, accelerating GDP growth by around two percentage points each year. India has narrowed the gender gap in health and education, the report says. But Indian women still lag far behind men when it comes to participation in both the formal and informal economies.

Just a third of working-age women in India were employed or looking for a job in 2010, a lower share by some distance than in Brazil (around 65%), China (75%), Indonesia (55%) or South Africa (45%). The figure for Indian men was over 80%.

More strikingly, female labor participation in India has actually fallen over the last decade: According to Indian-government data, the working-age populations of both men and women increased by around 100 million between 2000 and 2012. But the number of women employed or seeking employment only grew by 7 million over that period, whereas the number of men in those categories expanded by 70 million. Just a quarter of the increase in the number of women outside the labor force was accounted for by more women staying in school.

Indian women who do work don’t have great jobs, the OECD report shows. More than a third are unpaid helpers, as opposed to just 11% of working men. Women are also overrepresented in low-productivity agriculture and traditional, small-scale manufacturing. Only 6% of employed women get formal benefits like pensions or maternity leave. There aren’t many female entrepreneurs. (The report notes, though, that there aren’t many entrepreneurs in India, period, relative to other countries at the same stage of development.)

Illiterate women are more likely to be in the labor force than better-educated women, though participation is higher among high-school graduates. The relationship between female participation and income is similar: The richer a woman’s household is, the less likely she is to work.

Those patterns suggest “exceptionally low” female labor participation isn’t fully explained by simple measures of worker productivity.

On a 2012 OECD index of social obstacles to gender equality, India scores poorly relative to other large developing countries. Families’ preference for sons is stronger. Violence against women is more common. Women’s access to credit, land and property is more restricted. Marriage and inheritance laws favor men more.

Other social norms matter, too. As men’s incomes have risen over the last decade, their wives may prefer housework to a low-paying job, the report suggests. One study cited by the report finds that a family’s social status is considered higher if the woman stays at home.

via ‘Exceptionally Low’ Female Labor Participation Holding Back India’s Economy – India Real Time – WSJ.


US, India end impasse that threatened WTO pact – Businessweek

The United States and India said Thursday they reached agreement on stockpiling of food by governments, clearing a major stumbling block to a deal to boost world trade.

India had insisted on its right to subsidize grains under a national policy to feed its many poor, while the U.S. and others in the World Trade Organization were more focused on liberalizing agricultural trade.

The two countries did not announce details of their new deal, which will be reviewed by the WTO’s general council.

Both countries said, however, their agreement should clear the way for immediate implementation of a global deal that’s designed to increase trade by reducing customs red tape.

“We are extremely happy that India and the U.S. have successfully resolved their differences related to the issue of public stockholding for food security purposes,” the Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry said in a statement.

The WTO has said the Trade Facilitation Agreement could boost global trade by $1 trillion, but the possibility of failure in the negotiations had threatened to render the WTO irrelevant as a forum for negotiations after a decade of inertia in trade talks.

via US, India end impasse that threatened WTO pact – Businessweek.


Modi’s Make in India Push to Take on China Faces Red Tape – Businessweek

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking to turn India into a global manufacturing hub by curbing red tape. Tell that to Tata Steel Ltd. (TATA), which closed one of its largest iron-ore mines in September over permit delays.

Close up - Clothes marker - Made in India

India’s largest maker of the alloy isn’t alone. Steel Authority of India Ltd. (SAIL) shut one of its top-yielding quarries the same month pending renewal of its lease. JSW Steel Ltd. (JSTL)’s plan to start mining in eastern Jharkhand state has been hampered by a probe begun last month into mine allocations.

Modi is set to trumpet his “Make in India” initiative at the Group of 20 summit in Australia this week as he vies with China to woo manufacturers. The mine closures show lingering bureaucratic obstacles to his push, stemming from court rulings and officials in India’s 29 states that lie beyond Modi’s direct control. India slid two places to 142nd out of 189 economies in the World Bank’s latest ease of doing business rankings.

via Modi’s Make in India Push to Take on China Faces Red Tape – Businessweek.


Who’s Who in Narendra Modi’s New Cabinet in India – India Real Time – WSJ

In his first Cabinet reshuffle late Sunday, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi expanded the number of ministers in his government from 44 to 65.

That takes him just six shy of his predecessor Manmohan Singh’s coterie before his Congress party was ousted in national elections earlier this year by Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party that campaigned with a mantra for “minimum government, maximum governance.”

The enlargement nudges up the number of women ministers to eight from seven and gives key posts to members of parliament from states that are due for local elections in the coming months.

Here are the main moves, promotions, demotions and new arrivals in the modified Cabinet.

Major Cabinet Minister Moves

Suresh Prabhu becomes railway minister replacing Sadananda Gowda. Mr. Prabhu, 61, a former member of the Shiv Sena party, resigned from the regional party to join the Bharatiya Janata Party on Sunday. A chartered accountant by profession and also a law graduate, Mr. Prabhu served as a cabinet minister in the previous BJP-led National Democratic Alliance for six years, handling key portfolios such as power, heavy industries and public enterprises and environment and forests among others. Mr. Prabhu has often been described by many as that “un-common whiff of much needed fresh air on the horizon of Indian public life,” according to his official website.

Manohar G. Parrikar is the new defense minister. Mr. Parrikar quit as Goa’s Chief Minister last week and takes charge of the defense ministry from Arun Jaitley.

A technocrat-turned-politician, Mr. Parrikar joined the BJP in 1988 and went on to become the chief minister of Goa for the first time in 2000. During his time as chief minister, he was credited with improving the western state’s infrastructure  overseeing the construction of major bridges, building bus stands and improving the road network across the state. “Known to be a man of action and principles, Mr. Parrikar is known as Mr. Clean in Goa,” his website said. As the new defense minister, Mr. Parrikar faces the daunting task of closing the country’s pending defense deals.

Arun Jaitley was relieved of the defense portfolio but was given an additional charge of information and broadcasting ministry previously held by Prakash Javadekar. Mr. Jaitley also continues as the head of the finance and corporate affairs ministries. A lawyer by profession, the BJP leader is known to be media-savvy.

Dr. Harsh Vardhan was deprived of his health and family welfare ministry in the shuffle and shifted to a low-key science and technology, Earth sciences ministry. Dr. Vardhan ran for the post of Delhi chief minister in elections in December but was beaten to the position by Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal who stepped down only a few weeks in to the job.

Prime Minister Modi remains in charge of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, the Department of Atomic Energy Department of Space; all important policy issues and all other portfolios not allocated to any minister, according to the press information bureau.

more on Cabinet Ministers and Ministers of State …

via Who’s Who in Narendra Modi’s New Cabinet in India – India Real Time – WSJ.


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