Posts tagged ‘Arun Jaitley’

03/10/2016

India tax amnesty draws $9.8bn in asset declarations — FT.com

Modi government claims progress in fulfilling election vow to crack down on ‘black money’

A four-month amnesty for tax evaders in India has resulted in the declaration of hidden assets worth nearly $10bn, the government has said, as it seeks to fulfil an election pledge to crack down on illicit “black money”.

The Income Declaration Scheme, which ran from June through September, allowed citizens to report assets previously undeclared to the tax authorities, without risk of prosecution. A charge of 45 per cent was to be levied on the assets declared under the scheme — one of the most conspicuous initiatives in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s drive to tackle widespread corruption that is seen as a significant drag on the economy.

Arun Jaitley, finance minister, told reporters at the weekend that assets worth Rs652.5bn ($9.8bn) had been declared under the scheme, implying a boost to government revenue of Rs294bn. The amnesty attracted 64,275 declarations, with the average amount declared standing at Rs10.2m. Mr Jaitley cited this to rebut prior fears that the initiative might not elicit a response from wealthy Indians.

New Delhi had not publicly stated a revenue target, but some media reports had said officials were aiming to uncover about Rs1tn in previously undeclared assets.

The initiative followed a similar one launched in 1997 that yielded revenue of Rs97.6bn, but Mr Jaitley said that the latest drive was firmer in its treatment of evaders, arguing that the previous effort had allowed them to make payments based on unduly low valuations of their assets.$9.8bnA

mount of assets declared under India’s four-month tax amnesty

Only about 4 per cent of Indian adults pay income tax, according to the government’s latest economic survey. While the annual income of most Indians is below the Rs250,000 threshold beyond which income tax is due, the slender income tax base also reflects the extent of economic activity that occurs through informal transactions beyond the oversight of tax officials. Such activity amounts to about 20 per cent of gross domestic product, according to a recent report by analysts at Ambit Institutional Equities. That report argued that heightened official scrutiny of domestic transactions had encouraged tax evaders to keep money in cash, hitting demand for formal banking services as well as for property and gold — asset classes commonly used to launder money. Liases Foras, a property research company, estimated in 2014 that 30 to 40 per cent of Indian real estate transactions involved an illicit cash payment.

Firm progress in reducing tax evasion would boost the credibility of Mr Modi’s government, which made this a key part of its 2014 election manifesto. $343bnEstimated amount of assets Indians sent abroad illicitly between 2002 and 2011Central to the drive has been the pursuit of funds concealed in offshore accounts, of which Mr Modi pledged before his election “to bring back every rupee … and use it for the welfare of the poor”.

The US-based group Global Financial Integrity has estimated that Indians sent $343bn of assets abroad illicitly between 2002 and 2011.Last year India’s parliament passed a law imposing criminal penalties for the illicit concealment of overseas assets. This year the government scrapped a treaty with Mauritius under which investments from the island state were exempted from capital gains tax: an arrangement that had been criticised for allowing wealthy Indians to “round-trip” illicit funds back into the country.

Source: India tax amnesty draws $9.8bn in asset declarations — FT.com

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03/08/2016

India’s biggest tax reform GST looms, many companies unprepared | Reuters

Throughout years of political gridlock, the risk that India might pass its biggest tax reform since independence appeared reassuringly remote for many businesses.

Until now.Suddenly, the prospect that a new Goods and Services Tax (GST) could enter force next year has bosses panicking at the likely impact and seeking advice on how to cope.

The expected passage by parliament on Wednesday of a key constitutional amendment would resolve crucial issues needed to transform India’s $2 trillion economy and 1.3 billion consumers into a single market for the first time.

The amendment is likely to clear the Rajya Sabha after the opposition Congress party, which originally proposed the GST while in power, wrung concessions from Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s government.

Yet the vote will only fire the starting gun in a legislative marathon in which the national parliament and India’s 29 federal states have to pass further laws determining the – still unknown – rate and scope of the tax.

At the same time, a huge IT system needs to be set up, tax collectors trained and companies brought up to speed on a levy that experts say will force them to overhaul business processes from front to back.

One boss who isn’t ready is G.R. Ralhan, head of Roamer Woollen Mills in the northern city of Ludhiana.

“Companies, particularly smaller ones, are apprehensive,” Ralhan told Reuters, calling for more time to adjust and saying a high rate of GST could put his firm out of business.

Countries that have introduced GST in the past have often faced a relative economic slowdown before the benefits of a unified tax regime feed through.

India is already the world’s fastest growing large economy, expanding by 7.9 percent year-on-year in the March quarter. Economists at HSBC forecast a boost of 0.8 percentage points from the GST within three to five years.

80-20 RULE

Tax experts say that only 20 percent of – mostly big – firms are getting ready for the GST. The rest are taking things as they come in a country where coping with a changing tax regime has been a way of life for decades.

Yet even those actively preparing must contend with a series of unknowns as the national and state parliaments tackle the task of transforming a “model” GST law into the real thing.

The first hurdle will be for a majority of state parliaments to pass the GST amendment, which would establish a GST Council to finalise key terms of the new tax.

That could take until November and mean that the legislation to put the GST into force would only come before the national parliament’s winter session.

Hitting the government’s target launch date of next April 1, the start of the fiscal year, looks ambitious. Slippage to July or October 2017 is increasingly likely, say experts.

Source: India’s biggest tax reform GST looms, many companies unprepared | Reuters

28/07/2016

With eye on China, India doubles down on container hub ports | Reuters

Indian conglomerate Adani Group has started building the country’s first transshipment port, conceived 25 years ago, and the government will construct another $4-billion facility nearby to create a shipping hub rivalling Chinese facilities in the region.

New Delhi will grant billionaire Gautam Adani 16 billion rupees ($240 million) in so-called “viability gap” funding to help the new port at Vizhinjam in Kerala win business from established hubs elsewhere in Asia.

Once Vizhinjam is operational the central government will start building the port of Enayam in neighbouring Tamil Nadu, said a senior shipping ministry official. Enayam alone will save more than $200 million in costs for Indian companies every year, he said.India’s 7,500-km (4,700-mile) coastline juts into one of the world’s main shipping routes and Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to capitalise on that proximity by developing ports that can shift freight on to huge vessels capable of carrying up to 18,000 20-foot containers.

By bringing onshore cargo handling now done at entrepots in Sri Lanka, Dubai and Singapore, Modi’s government expects cargo traffic at its ports to jump by two-thirds by 2021 as India ramps up exports of goods including cars and other machinery.

The lack of an Indian domestic transshipment port forces inbound and outbound containers to take a detour to one of those regional hubs before heading to their final destination.

New Delhi expects the new ports to save Indian companies hundreds of millions of dollars in transport costs, as well as ease concerns over the growing strategic clout in South Asia of rival China, which has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Sri Lankan ports at Colombo and Hambantota.

Adani wants the Vizhinjam port, which an arm of his Adani Group is building at a cost of around $1 billion, to be operational in 2018. The port lies hard by the Gulf-to-Malacca shipping lane that carries almost a third of world sea freight.

“The port can attract a large share of the container transshipment traffic destined for, or originating from, India which is now being diverted primarily through Colombo, Singapore and Dubai,” said an Adani Group executive who declined to be named.

But officials acknowledge that it would be difficult for the new ports to win international clients unless they offered discounts.”A major part of transshipment is happening at nearby ports. We can win some of that business,” said A.S. Suresh Babu, who heads a government agency set up by Kerala to facilitate the construction of Vizhinjam.

“There’s a viability issue in the first few years. Already the Chinese are operating there. So unless you give some discount you can’t attract these ships. So that’s why the government of India has approved the viability gap funding.”

Source: With eye on China, India doubles down on container hub ports | Reuters

27/07/2016

Parliament passes controversial child labour bill | Reuters

Parliament on Tuesday approved a controversial law that would allow children to work for family businesses, despite widespread concern by the United Nations and other rights advocates that it will push more children into labour.

A week after the bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha, the Lok Sabha approved the measure that brings a raft of changes to a three-decade-old child labour prohibition law. The bill now goes for the President’s assent before becoming law.

The U.N. Children’s Agency (UNICEF) as well as many others have raised alarm over two particular amendments – permitting children to work for their families and reducing the number of banned professions for adolescents.

A 2015 report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) put the number of child workers in India ages 5 to 17 at 5.7 million, out of 168 million globally.

More than half of India’s child workers are employed in agriculture and more than a quarter in manufacturing – embroidering clothes, weaving carpets or making match sticks. Children also work in restaurants, shops and hotels and as domestic workers.The new legislation extends a ban on child labour under 14 to all sectors. Previously, only 18 hazardous occupations and 65 processes such as mining, gem cutting and cement manufacturing were outlawed.

It also stiffens penalties for those employing children, doubling jail terms to two years and increasing fines to 50,000 rupees ($740) from 20,000 rupees ($300).

While child rights groups have welcomed such changes, there has been concern over other amendments proposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s government.

For example, children will be allowed to work in family businesses, outside of school hours and during holidays, and in entertainment and sports if it does not affect their education.

Also, children 15 to 18 will be permitted to work, except in mines and industries where they would be exposed to inflammable substances and hazardous processes.

The government says the exemptions aim to strike a balance between education and India’s economic reality, in which parents rely on children to help with farming or artisanal work to fight poverty or pass on a family trade.

“The purpose of this very act is that we should be able to practically implement it,” Labour and Employment Minister Bandaru Dattatreya told parliament. “That’s why we are giving some exemptions.”UNICEF had urged India to exclude family work from the proposed law and include an “exhaustive list” of hazardous occupations.

“To strengthen the Bill and provide a protective legal framework for children, UNICEF India strongly recommends the removal of ‘children helping in family enterprises’,” it said in a statement on Monday.

“This will protect children from being exploited in invisible forms of work, from trafficking and from boys and girls dropping out of school due to long hours of work,” it said.

Source: Parliament passes controversial child labour bill | Reuters

01/07/2016

India factory growth at 3-month high in June on strong demand | Reuters

Indian manufacturing activity edged up to a three-month high in June, driven by stronger demand, but firms barely raised prices, a private survey showed, leaving the door open for another rate cut by the central bank this year.

The Nikkei/Markit Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) rose to 51.7 in June from May’s 50.7, its sixth month above the 50 mark that separates growth from contraction after it fell below that level in December for the first time in more than two years.

“The domestic market continues to be the main growth driver, as the Indian economic upturn provides a steady stream of new business,” said Pollyanna De Lima, economist at Markit.

“There were also signs of an improvement in overseas markets, as new foreign orders rose. However, it looks as if lackluster global demand remains a headwind for Indian manufacturers.

“While retail inflation hit a near two-year high in May, the survey’s output prices sub-index fell to a three-month low of 50.1 in June versus 50.5 the previous month, as input costs rose at a weaker pace.

There was also broadly no change to manufacturing employment in India during June, the survey showed.

“This lack of inflationary pressures provides the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) with further leeway to boost economic growth through cutting its benchmark rate,” said De Lima.

According to a Reuters poll, RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan could deliver another rate cut before his term ends in September. After cutting rates in April, he has left the key interest rate unchanged at a five-year low of 6.50 percent.

However, at the June policy meeting he signalled another rate cut later in the year if monsoon rains were sufficient enough to dampen upward pressure on food prices.

Rains are expected to be above average this year which could keep prices in control and give the government room to focus on key economic reforms in tandem with low interest rates.

Source: India factory growth at 3-month high in June on strong demand | Reuters

24/06/2016

Two stumbles forward, one back | The Economist

LAST November, two days after India’s ruling party suffered a drubbing at local polls in the state of Bihar, the government unexpectedly opened a dozen new industries to foreign direct investment (FDI). A gushing official called it “the biggest path-breaking and the most radical changes in the FDI regime ever undertaken”.

On June 20th, two days after Raghuram Rajan, the respected governor of India’s central bank, abruptly announced that he would soon step down, the government covered its embarrassment with another impromptu salute to FDI. The slim package of enticements, amounting to a slight lowering of barriers in some of the same industries, has made India “the most open economy in the world for FDI,” said the office of Narendra Modi, the prime minister.

Hyperbole is not unexpected from a government keen to burnish its liberalising credentials. But it has not lived up to its cheery slogans (“Startup India”, “We Unobstacle”, “Minimum Government, Maximum Governance”). Two years after clinching a sweeping electoral mandate, and with the opposition in disarray, Mr Modi’s reform agenda should be in full swing. Instead, as with previous governments, his ill-focused initiatives have run up against India’s statist bureaucracy.

To be fair, much of what has been done is useful. Corruption has been stemmed, at least at ministerial level. A vital bankruptcy law has been approved. Yet for all the evidence that Mr Modi’s team is doing a better job running the existing economic machinery, it has shown limited appetite for overhauling it.

Pessimists see Mr Rajan’s departure as evidence of a further wilting of ambition. After all, as a former chief economist of the IMF, he is an enthusiastic advocate of structural reform. Then again, at the central bank he has focused chiefly on bringing down inflation. Optimists hope he is being eased out because of his habit of speaking his mind, thereby occasionally contradicting the government line, rather than to pave the way for retrograde policies.

Thanks to a mix of lower oil prices and prudent fiscal policies (and perhaps also flawed statistics) the economy grew by 7.9% in the first quarter, compared with the same period the year before, the fastest pace among big economies. Ministers think further acceleration is possible.

That may prove difficult. India’s public-sector banks, which hold 70% of the industry’s assets, are stuffed with bad loans; the central bank reckons that some 17.7% are “stressed”. That Mr Rajan forced them to disclose this fact will not have endeared him to politically connected tycoons now being badgered to repay the banks. Bank shares rose after he said he was leaving, presumably in the hope that his successor will go easy on them. Rating agencies fret that they will still need recapitalising, blowing a hole in the government’s finances. In the meantime, credit to industry has all but ground to a halt.

India’s overweening bureaucracy is another drag on growth. Copious red-tape and poor infrastructure put India 130th out of 189 countries in the World Bank’s “Ease of doing business” rankings. Getting permits to build a warehouse in Mumbai involves 40 steps and costs more than 25% of its value, compared with less than 2% in rich countries. It takes 1,420 days, on average, to enforce a contract.

A slew of liberalising reforms in 1991, when India was in far worse shape than now, were left unfinished as the economy gradually recovered. Whereas product markets were freed from the “licence Raj”, which no longer dictates how much of what each factory can produce, inputs such as land, labour and capital are still heavily regulated. Having once sought to prise those open, the Modi government now encourages state governments to take the lead with their own reforms.

One result is that there is no proper market for land: businesses that want to set up shop are best off wooing state governments to provide some. Chief ministers with a presidential approach (a model Mr Modi espoused in his previous job running Gujarat) scurry around scouting for plots on behalf of the private sector in a manner that would have seemed familiar to the central planners of yore.

That India is pro-business but not necessarily pro-market is a frequent refrain. “The government wants to create jobs, not the environment in which job-creation flourishes,” says one investor. Special economic zones are set up as sops, sometimes to entice single companies. Even big foreign investors are essentially told what to do: Walmart can only open cash-and-carry stores closed to the general public, Amazon must sell mostly other merchants’ goods rather than its own, and so on.If businesses cannot get things done themselves, even the most energetic politician will struggle to set up enough factories to general public, Amazon must sell mostly other merchants’ goods rather than its own, and so on.

Source: Two stumbles forward, one back | The Economist

29/02/2016

India unveils fire-fighting budget to placate voters, sustain growth | Reuters

The government unveiled a fire-fighting budget on Monday that seeks to win back support among rural voters for Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s government and sustain growth against a grim global backdrop – all without borrowing more.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley‘s third budget marked a strategic shift by addressing rural distress in a country of 1.3 billion, where two-fifths of families rely on farming and are reeling from two years of drought.

At the same time it hiked public investment in India’s woeful infrastructure by 22.5 percent, while taking further steps to revive corporate investment that Modi needs to create new jobs for India’s burgeoning workforce.

“We have a shared responsibility to spend prudently and wisely for the people, especially for the poor and downtrodden,” the 63-year-old finance minister told lawmakers in his 100-minute address.

India holds several state elections this year, including in the farming state of West Bengal, with the country’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, going to the polls in 2017. A strong showing will be vital to Modi’s chances of a second term.

Despite commanding a large majority in parliament’s lower house, Modi’s government has failed to pass several key measures since sweeping to power almost two years ago, raising doubts over the impact of its reform agenda.

Jaitley called Asia’s third-largest economy a bright spot in a gloomy global landscape, and reiterated a forecast that it would grow by 7.6 percent in the fiscal year that is drawing to a close.

Source: India unveils fire-fighting budget to placate voters, sustain growth | Reuters

01/01/2016

Launching of odd-even scheme in New Delhi: Overwhelmed by response of odd-even scheme, says Arvind Kejriwal – The Hindu

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday said he was “over-whelmed” by the response of people towards the odd-even scheme in New Delhi.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejrwal The scheme has been successful so far, the Aam Aadmi Party convenor said. “I am truly overwhelmed by the response we have received so far. There are very less even-numbered cars on the roads. The plan seems to have been successful,” Mr. Kejriwal told the media. He said the people of Delhi have accepted the scheme “whole-heartedly”, adding “I am confident that in next five years people will show the way to rest of the country”.

The odd-even scheme for private vehicles started in New Delhi on Friday. The move aims at reducing air pollution levels.

Source: Launching of odd-even scheme in New Delhi: Overwhelmed by response of odd-even scheme, says Arvind Kejriwal – The Hindu

09/09/2015

Modi Tells Nervous Business Leaders the Global Shakeup Is India’s Time to Shine – India Real Time – WSJ

Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Indian business leaders to his official residence Tuesday to discuss how to bulwark the country as China’s slowdown continues to send shock waves through the global economy.

In the three-hour summit, executives and economists ran through a long-standing wish list that includes investing more in infrastructure, expediting government clearances and lowering capital costs. Some executives suggested an interest-rate cut was overdue from the central bank, and that domestic companies should be given more protection from inexpensive imports.

“We have to be cautious, while we take some bold steps on the economy to increase growth,” Rana Kapoor, chief executive of Yes Bank Ltd., told reporters after leaving the meeting. “At the same time, you have to make sure that India has a soft landing after the severe impact of the yuan devaluation.” There has been a jump in foreign direct investment in India this year. But the executives told Mr. Modi that local companies need to see long-delayed improvements in economic management before they can ramp up capital spending. “Domestic investment is at a standstill, and that’s largely because there is no demand,” said Jyotsna Suri, president of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

Mr. Modi reiterated that the world-wide turbulence is an opportunity to highlight India’s resilient growth, vast domestic market and government policies geared toward promoting investment, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said.

Source: Modi Tells Nervous Business Leaders the Global Shakeup Is India’s Time to Shine – India Real Time – WSJ

08/07/2015

India to roll out $20 billion food welfare plan by December | Reuters

India will roll out its multi-billion dollar food welfare plan by December, the food minister said, allowing 67 percent of its 1.2 billion people access to cheap rice and wheat.

Labourers unload sacks filled with wheat from a truck at the Punjab State Civil Supplies Corporation Limited (PUNSUP) godown at a wholesale grain market in Punjab, May 6, 2015. REUTERS/Ajay Verma/Files

The previous Congress-led government approved the National Food Security Act (NFSA) in August 2013. India’s 29 states and seven union territories had to implement it within a year.

After missing several deadlines, only 11 states could introduce the plan and the rest sought more time.

“Finally most states have agreed to implement the NFSA by December, after the latest deadline ends in September,” Ram Vilas Paswan told reporters after meeting his counterparts from states on Tuesday.

In his February budget, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley earmarked 1.24 trillion rupees ($20.11 billion) for food subsidies.

Although Prime Minister Narendra Modi is implementing the expensive food welfare plan approved by his predecessor Manmohan Singh, the government is now trying to rein in overall subsidies to focus on investment in manufacturing and infrastructure.

via India to roll out $20 billion food welfare plan by December | Reuters.

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