Jaitley takes 'clone' shot at Rahul's Hindu avatar

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday took a dig at Congress leader Rahul Gandhi over his visits to temples in poll-bound Gujarat. Referring to BJP’s pro-Hindutva leanings, he asked why would people prefer a “clone” when the original is available.

“The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has always been seen as a pro-Hindutva party, so if an original is available why would one prefer a clone,” Jaitley asked at a press conference in Surat. Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi has visited several temples in Gujarat during his campaign in the state for the assembly polls on December 9 and 14. The BJP has accused him of visiting the temples only for electoral gains. Jaitley also said that the Congress was slowly getting extinct as it had lost several elections since its debacle in 2014 Lok Sabha polls. “While the BJP has maintained its credibility, the Congress is slowly becoming extinct,” he said. Answering a query on allegations about possible EVM tempering, he said: “The results haven’t been out yet and they have already started making excuses for their defeat.” The BJP leader said that foreign investments in the country had ebbed during the UPA government. “Today, we have come up 42 positions in the world ranking of Ease of Doing Business. In 1990s, the reforms were taken under compulsion, but the government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is undertaking the reforms by conviction.” He said the UPA government was “the most corrupt government we ever saw”. “It was a leaderless government. It was said that the-then PM was a PM in office but not in power,” Jaitley said. He said Gujarat was a very important region for the BJP because the party had been winning and serving the state for more than two decades. “During the eighties, politics of social polarisation was rampant here. The region got rid of that under the BJP government and we have been constantly trying to take it on the path of development,” Jaitley added. (IANS) // ]]>

Top-class infrastructure in two decades: Jaitley

Expressing hope that India will be able to create “world class infrastructure” in another 20 years, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday said that his confidence in the timeline was based on how the country has become an “aspirational society” whose energies have been unleashed by the 1991 economic liberalisation.

Delivering the annual Defence Estates Day Lecture here, Jaitley said that in the quest for economic growth which would help improve the Indian state’s resources, the country hoped to gradually come up to the level of a middle-income nation as defined by multilateral agencies. “In the next two decades, hopefully, India will be able to say that it has developed infrastructure, which is as good as anywhere in the world,” Jaitley said. Noting that pre-1991, the country’s regulated economy and the “very modest rate of growth” did not permit much public spending on infrastructure, he said the situation had changed and “India today has the ability to afford world class infrastructure”. “Post the liberalisation of 1991, we were able to unleash the energy and potential of the Indian economy. India has standardised itself to a growth rate of seven to eight per cent and is now a nearly $2.5 trillion economy,” the Finance Minister said. Coupled with this, Indian society has become aspirational and supported reforms such as Aadhaar, demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax (GST) — all of which are promoting greater formalisation and digitisation of the economy and, therefore, greater resources for the state, he said. Declaring that investment in infrastructure is essential for growth and attracting foreign investment, Jaitley said that success areas in infrastructure like highways, airports and roads are where private investment has come in and consumers are willing to pay for use of the infrastructure. “It is a virtuous circle… without infrastructure, foreign investors will not come, so there is need to invest in this sector,” he said. “In Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh, for instance, private ports have become more efficient and commercially viable than major ports. The Shipping Ministry now lets out berths to major private sector players,” he added. (IANS) // ]]>

After Moody's pat, S&P keeps India at stable rating

S&P ratings on India affirmed at ‘BBB-/A-3’; Outlook stable. S&P also affirms India’s reforms and growth story.

— Ministry of Finance (@FinMinIndia) November 24, 2017 It said the stable outlook reflects its view that, over the next two years, growth will remain strong, India will maintain its sound external accounts position, and “fiscal deficits will remain broadly in line with our forecasts.” “Upward pressure on the ratings could build if the government’s reforms markedly improve its net general government fiscal out-turns and so reduce the level of net general government debt. Upward pressure could also build if India’s external accounts strengthen significantly,” S&P said in the statement. “Downward pressure on the ratings could emerge if GDP growth disappoints, causing us to reassess our view of trend growth; if net general government deficits rose significantly; or if the political will to maintain India’s reform agenda significantly lost momentum,” it added. Boosting investor sentiments, US credit rating agency Moody’s on November 17 upgraded India’s sovereign rating to Baa2 from its lowest investment grade of Baa3 after 13 years, a development Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said was “an extremely encouraging” global recognition of the structural reforms of last three years. India Inc too lauded it. (IANS) // ]]>

Economy, Moody's upgrades, Manmohan downgrades, Jaitley elated

Moody’s has expressed confidence in in the continued progress on economic and institutional reforms over time and sees that this will enhance India’s growth potential and its large and stable financing base for government debt. Moreover it predicts that this will lead to a gradual decline in Government debt burden over the medium term. Although India’s high debt burden remains a constraint on the country’s credit profile, Moody’s believes that the reforms put in place have reduced the risk of a sharp increase in debt, even in potential downside scenarios. Moody’s has also raised India’s long-term foreign-currency bond ceiling to Baa1 from Baa2, and the long-term foreign-currency bank deposit ceiling to Baa2 from Baa3. While critics have taken the Mody government to task for the GST, demonetisation and Aadhaar card controversy rages on, Moody sees these as positive structural reforms that will reduce informality in the economy. Moody’s website acknowledges that demonetisation and GST have undermined growth in the near term through disruption but sees these measures to be beneficial in the longer term. Moody’s even predicts that GDP growth will increase in Fiscal year to 7.8 in Fiscal year 2018 and will continue to grow robustly 2019 onwards. It sees reforms to continue to strengthen India’s institutional framework and is encouraged by Government efforts to reduce corruption, fomalise economic activity and improve tax collection. Congress, however continues to dampen this news, pointing to the immediate impacts of the policies. Its spokesperson said that both Modi and Moody’s had “failed to gauge the mood of the nation”. “After destroying India’s economy, the Modi government was clutching at straws to claim los‘ credibility. Modiji and Moody’s ‘Jodi’ have failed,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala tweeted. [caption id="attachment_21933" align="alignleft" width="236"] Jaitley looking happy[/caption] Jaitley meanwhile was jubilant, having come under constant attack from the media for the policies. He felt vindicated saying, “It is extremely encouraging that there is an international recognition… This is not something that is happening in isolation.” Jaitley told reporters: “It is a belated recognition of all the positive steps taken in the last few years. It is a recognition and an endorsement of the process that India has undergone in the last three-four years where a number of structural reforms have placed India on a higher growth trajectory.” He said the government had shown fiscal prudence through a series of steps in the last few years like demonetisation, introduction of Aadhaar, Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, recapitalisation of public sector banks and smooth transition to the GST that have led to better economic situation. Jaitely said: “Smooth transition of GST is universally recognised as a landmark reform in Indian tax structure. All these steps which constituted major reforms are directional in nature. All steps taken in the last few years had a roadmap. “For three years we were doing a lot of structural reforms. Even we have moved up 30 places in World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business. Now after a long spell of 13 years, India gets rating upgradation,” he added. The minister said that with the introduction of GST, market barriers had been removed. Also, demonetisation had made the country less cash currency oriented and made it more digitised. “Our track record for the last three years speaks for itself and we intend to move on that. We will maintain fiscal prudence,” Jaitley said. In a hard hitting speech at Kochi, Dr Manmohan Singh, former Prime Minister, attacked Mody Government, saying that the three-and-a-half year rule has ruined all sectors and also created a wedge in the secular credentials of India. His speech turned to erosion of secularism. The Business community however was happy with Moody’s upgrading and satisfied with Jaitley. (with IANS) // ]]>

More GST relief likely at Guwahati council meet

The GST Council is likely to consider lowering rates on various goods including on many items of daily use at its next meeting later this week, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley hinted on Tuesday. He noted that while fixing the Goods and Services Tax slabs initially, the Council had been guided by the principles of equivalence and revenue neutrality but had later lowered the rates on many items over its last few meetings. “In the old regime, the central excise was embedded in the cost, so people didn’t realise and with the cascading effect of excise, VAT, the taxes added up to 31 per cent. Keeping with the equivalence principle, that is how the 28 per cent GST slab was born,” Jaitley said at the India Today Conclave Next here. “The GST Council in the last 3-4 meetings has slashed rates on over 100 items, thereby bringing them down either from 28 per cent to 18 per cent, or from 18 per cent to 12 per cent,” he said. “We have been gradually bringing them down. The whole idea is as your revenue collections neutralise, we must prune it and that’s the pattern in which the Council has so far been functioning. I see that as a future guide as far as the Council is concerned,” he added. Officials said here last week that the Council could consider cutting rates on a variety of items like handmade furniture, plastic products and daily use items like shampoo, and simplify return filing rules. It is scheduled to meet on November 10 in Guwahati. At its previous meeting last month, the Council adopted a concept paper that laid down guidelines for changes in rates. As per the paper, no manufactured goods should be given outright exemption as this would hinder the ‘Make in India’ initiative. Besides, states should opt for direct subsidy transfers if they wanted to reduce the tax on any item. Under the new indirect tax regime, most goods and services have been bracketed in the five, 12, 18 and 28 per cent categories.

(IANS) // ]]>

Govt, Opposition slug it out on demonetisation

 Jaitley won’t disclose ‘all facts’

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday declined to disclose all the facts that went into the decision to undertake demonetisation last year. “I am chosing not to answer it for the reason that it is not necessary for me to disclose all facts to which I myself am privy (to) in discussions within the government on a sensitive issue,” Jaitley said while responding to a query about former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan’s criticism of demonetisation. On being asked about whether the government is thinking of providing compensation to those died or suffered during the process of demonetisation, he said: “The remonetisation has taken place almost instantaneously and therefore the pick up of trade began thereafter.”
While Prime Minister Modi did not mention about the aim to reduce cash transactions in his November 8 speech last year, the government, however, later said the note ban was also aimed at to make India a less-cash economy. Jaitley took a dig at Manmohann Singh, saying “anti-black money drive is (an) ethical drive, a moral step and what is morally and ethically correct has to be politically correct”. He said the BJP believed that economic status quo needed to be shaken up to end corruption. “Less cash in the system may not end corruption but makes corruption difficult,” he said, claiming terror funding had been “squeezed” after demonetisation. “Demonetisation is not a one-stop solution to end corruption. It cannot be, but it did change the agenda. And that changed agenda is that we should go towards less-cash economy. Individual tax payers’ number has increased, digital transactions have gone up and terror funding has squeezed,” Jaitley elaborated. The Central government also came under a sharp attack from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who changed the display picture of her Twitter account to black in a protest against note ban. She has instructed Trinamool Congress workers to observe “Black Day” on Thursday to mark its first anniversary. “Demonetisation is a big scam. I repeat, demonetisation is a big scam. If thorough investigation is conducted, this will be proved,” Banerjee said. She said demonetisation was not to combat black money but was aimed at to “convert black money into white money for vested interests of the political party in power”. In a harsh criticism against the move, she branded it as a “devil act” and said the Indian economy has been “ruined”.


  ((Reproduced tweets do not reflect Lokmarg editorial policy)
(IANS) // ]]>

Rahul brings Ghalib into economy debate

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s sharp criticismof the government—including a Ghalib spoof— over a World Bank report on ease of doing business and the state of economy on Wednesday triggered a bitter war of words between him and the BJP.

While Gandhi rejected India’s improved rank in the latest World Bank report on ease of doing business, asserting the government’s demonetisation and GST decisions wreaked havoc with the economy, the BJP hit back, saying the Congress leader was clueless on the subject. Addressing a public meeting in poll-bound Gujarat, Gandhi said: “Jaitleyji sits in his office and listens to outsiders. I would request him to visit small traders or mid-sized business persons and ask them whether ease of doing business has improved for them or not. “The entire country will scream in unison that there is no ease of doing business. Your demonetization and GST have hit us hard,” he told the gathering of mostly farmers and small traders in Jambusar town of Bharuch, the home district of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel. “What is spoken abroad is truth for this government but what the poor say in India is farce,” he said, referring to the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report released on Tuesday that saw India jump 30 ranks to number 100. He said no section of the society in Gujarat and elsewhere was happy with the Modi government’s sudden note ban last year and tardy implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). “They have destroyed the economy by demonetization and have ensured that the GDP fell by 2 per cent. But he (Prime Minister) did not stop at that. He introduced GST with multiple tax slabs and a high rate of 28 per cent in one go. “I have given GST a new name. Gabbar Singh Tax. It means that poor who sweats it out sees his money snatched away from him,” the Congress leader said. Jaitley shot back at Rahul’s tweet, pointing out the difference between the Congress-led UPA and BJP-led NDA governments. “The difference between the UPA and NDA — the ease of doing corruption has been replaced by the ease of doing business,” the Finance Minister tweeted. Replying to Gandhi’s charges, the BJP in Delhi said the Congress leader was exposing his lack of knowledge on economy with his “shallow statements”. “Should I presume that he has absolutely no knowledge about what world organisations like the World Bank have to say about India’s economy,” said Union IT and Law Minister Ravishankar Prasad. Prasad said Gandhi ought to know that India had been in the range of 130-140 previosly. “In the last two years, we made it to 131 and 130 spot. This year, we have jumped 30 points to 100. Does he know that this is the highest jump any country has made in World Bank’s ease of doing business ranking? He doesn’t do any home work, anyway. Those who do it for him also don’t have their facts correct,” the minister said. He also mocked at Gandhi’s likely elevation to head the Congress, saying he owed this to “the family he belongs to”. (IANS) // ]]>

GST, note ban killed economy: Chidambaram

Former Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram on Saturday asserted that demonetization and Goods and Services Tax (GST) have had a “sledgehammer” impact on the small and medum businesses as well as slowing down job growth in the country.

In “Samvad”, an interaction with businessmen in Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupanis’ hometown, he said the twin measures had destroyed the economy completely. Questioning the description of demonetisation as “a bold step”, he said it was actually reckless and foolish. “What’s a bold step? A farmer who commits suicide is also a bold step? Do you welcome it? Committing suicide also requires courage. I call it rash, reckless and an adventurous step. Demonetisation has destroyed lives. “For two to three months, millions of people stood in queues to exchange notes. Nearly, 140 people lost their lives. Carpenter, rickshaw pullers, plumbers, who depend on daily cash earnings, went without business for two months. Demonetisation was a foolish step.” The Congress leader said the note ban had failed to achieve its much-touted objectives like ending black money and curbing terror funding, adding India did not have black money but a tax-evading “shadow economy”. “There is nothing like black money but merely income which is taxed and income that is taxable but escapes the tax net. India’s shadow economy is around 12 per cent. There are many European countries whose shadow economy is more than 12 per cent. Even the US has around eight per cent shadow economy. What is shadow economy? It is income that your tax system is not able to capture,” he said. “The answer to shadow economy is to make your tax system more efficient. If you put cruel tax rates, people will avoid it. People will say why should I pay. If you make the tax system friendly, they will pay. “The answer is not demonetisation. It’s like saying there is a mosquito in my house, so I am going to burn down my whole house,” he added On the GST, Chidambaram said it was a good move but hastily implemented, while the requirement to file three returns online every month had forced small and medium businesses to shut down. Attacking the government over lack of employment generation, he said: “There are no jobs today. Jobs will be created only if small and medium businesses grow. To help them grow, small businesses should not be required to register. Medium businesses must be given the right to self-certification.” Ridiculing the government’s claims that the economy was on a strong wicket, he asked why it had announced the Rs 5 lakh crore Bharatmala project and bank recapitalisation all of a sudden. “In your heart, you know things are not good. In the last six quarters, the growth rate has gone down from 9.1 per cent to 5.7 per cent, a drop of 3.4 per cent. “India doesn’t deserve growth rate below 5.7 per cent and it is possible to take it up by taking right steps and not taking wrong steps. But for that to happen, the government must acknowledge that they committed a mistake through demonetisation and GST. The government must hire someone from outside to correct the mistakes. Those in government can’t do it as they are the ones who have committed the mistakes.” On agricultural distress in Gujarat, he claimed that 1,326 farmers committed suicide in the state over the last four years. Taking a dig on the Modi government’s talk about “vikas”, he said, “People talk about growth. But what is the use of rozgar-mukta vikas (jobless development).” Terming the Modi government’s priorities misplaced, Chidambaram said: “They will invest Rs 1 lakh crore on bullet train between Mumbai and Ahmedabad. How many people will travel in it. Around 300 or 400? Can’t we give Rs 1 crore to each school so that new buildings are built, toilets are built, teachers are hired?” “Our priority is education, health, employment. Instead, they could have focused on making the existing rail network better, cleaner and efficient,” he argued. I (IANS) // ]]>

Markets zoom on move to recapitalise banks

Economy is in so much danger that Sensex breaches 33,000-mark for the first time and Nifty hits all-time high of 10,340..

— TheFrustratedIndian (@FrustIndian) October 25, 2017 Besides new intra-day highs, the S&P BSE Sensex which opened at 32,995.28 points, closed at a new high of 33,042.50 points, up 435.16 points or 1.33 per cent from its previous day’s close at 32,607.34 points. The index had slipped to a low of 32,804.60 points during the trade session. Similarly, the NSE Nifty 50 closed at a new high of 10,295.35 points, up 0.86 per cent or 87.65 points.

‘Modi govt has put economy in ICU’

The Congress on Wednesday hit out at Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for giving a “factually wrong picture” of India’s economy and said the Modi government has put the “economy in ICU”. “Whatever the Finance Minister said about the economy is not true. It is wrong to say that the country’s economic fundamentals are strong. Jaitley’s claim that India’s economy is the world’s fastest growing is incorrect and factually wrong,” said Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma while briefing mediapersons. The Congress alleged that 33 per cent jobs have been lost in the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector, which is 3.7 crore jobs, after last year’s demonetisation. The party also hit out at the government for hasty implementation of GST and causing hardships for the farmers, businessmen, labourers, youth and others. The government has no plan to put the economy back on track, he added. Sharma asked: “Who is responsible for contraction of GDP from 9.2% to 5.7% resulting in a loss of over Rs three lakh crore? Actually the GDP had fallen to 3.7 and 4.1 per cent. “China is growing at 6.9 per cent. The Finance Minister should have used the words before understanding it,” he added.  
“Markets zoomed higher on Wednesday to close at new life highs. The index had opened on a strong note in the morning session on the back of positive sentiments due to various measures taken by the government to spur economy including capitalisation of public sector banks and a massive road building programme,” Deepak Jasani, Head – Retail Research, HDFC Securities, told IANS. “It corrected a bit early in the morning but later resumed the uptrend closing near the intra day highs. The Sensex settled above the psychologically important 33,000 level for the first time in history.” Even global cues supported the Indian indices as major Asian and European markets ended on a positive note, barring the Nikkei index. However, the day’s trade session belonged to the PSBs. Dhruv Desai, Director and Chief Operating Officer of Tradebulls, told IANS: “Almost all PSBs’ stocks like those of SBI, BoB and PNB rose to touch their new 52-week highs during the intra-day trade.” “The rise in PSB stocks not only lifted the sectoral index but also the benchmark indices — BSE Sensex and NSE Nifty — to touch their all time highs during the intra-day trade.” “SBI was the top percentage gainer in the NSE Nifty, surging as much as 27 per cent to its highest since January 2015. L&T was the third-largest gainer in the index as it rose as much as 6.3 per cent,” Desai said. Market observers pointed out that almost all the major PSBs like SBI, PNB and BoB rose in the band of 20-40 per cent. The S&P BSE bank — BANKEX — zoomed by 1,274.17 points or 4.71 per cent. On bank-specific basis, SBI’s scrip gained Rs 70.20 or 27.58 per cent to Rs 324.70 per equity share. Other gainers include — PNB whose shares rose by Rs 63.80 or 46.20 per cent to Rs 201.90; BoB’s stocks edged higher by Rs 45.05 or 31.47 per cent to Rs 188.20; Bank of India’s scrip was up Rs 47.70 or per cent 33.96 per cent to Rs 188.15 and Canara Bank’s stock was up Rs 120.70 or 38.05 per cent to Rs 437.90. A healthy inflow of foreign funds and a strengthening of the rupee’s position against the US dollar kept the market trajectory northwards throughout the session. In terms of investments, provisional data with the exchanges showed that foreign institutional investors (FIIs) bought scrip worth Rs 3,582.50 crore, whereas domestic institutional investors (DIIs) sold stocks worth Rs 155.71 crore. On the currency front, the rupee strengthened by 16 paise to close at 64.89-90 against the US dollar from its previous close at 65.06. Sector-wise, the S&P BSE capital goods index surged by 581.28 points, followed by the automobile index higher by 156.80 points and the oil and gas index augmented by 76.56 points. On the other hand, the S&P BSE consumer durables index plunged by 239.38 points and the healthcare index receded by 154.64 points. Major Sensex gainers on Wednesday were: ICICI Bank, up 14.69 per cent at Rs 305.60; Axis Bank, up 4.61 per cent at Rs 472.70; Bharti Airtel, up 2.76 per cent at Rs 515.50; Adani Ports, up 2.18 per cent at Rs 414.95; and Tata Motors DVR, up 1.62 per cent at Rs 234.65. Major Sensex losers were: Kotak Mahindra Bank, down 5.43 per cent at Rs 1,009.70; HDFC Bank, down 3.76 per cent at Rs 1,794.50; HDFC, down 2.60 per cent at Rs 1,677.90; Lupin, down 2.22 per cent at Rs 1,003.75; and Sun Pharma, down 2.10 per cent at Rs 523.25. (IANS) // ]]>