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April 2017 Economic Affairs


  • Centre drafts model Agricultural Produce Market Committee legislation
    The Centre has drafted a model Agricultural Produce Market Committee, APMC legislation, 2017. According to the State Ministers of Agriculture Marketing in New Delhi, Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh the new model law includes establishment of private market yards, direct purchase of agricultural produce from farmers and promotion of e-trading. 

    Under it, livestock has been included and fruits and vegetables have been excluded from its purview. The new model act has been sent to the States for its implementation. 

    To double the farmers' income, the government is implementing National Agriculture Marker, E-NAM scheme which provides an online trading portal to farmers to have an access to transparent sale transactions and price discovery. 

    So far 417 markets of 13 States have been integrated with it and by March 2018, the number will be increased to 585. As of now over 42 lakh farmers and 89 thousand traders have been registered on the portal which registered a turnover of over 16 thousand crore rupees. 


  • Bihar becomes second state after Telangana to pass GST bill
    The Bihar Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill, 2017, was passed by the bicameral state legislature on 24th April, making Bihar the second state after Telangana to adopt the new tax reforms. 

    With the lone exception of Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist), all the political parties backed the Bills associated with the GST. Bihar was also the second state in the country, after Assam, to rectify the constitutional amendment Bill. 


  • NITI Aayog advocates big expenditure hike
    A big portion of Centre's total expenditure in the next three years should be on roads and railways where the total spending should rise from Rs 40,000 crore in 2015-16 to over Rs 1.18 lakh crore in 2019-20, the NITI Aayog's three-year action agenda has envisaged. 

    The agenda's draft, which was shared with chief minister's in a recent meeting on 23rd April, also said the expenditure on health sector should increase from Rs 30,000 crore to atleast Rs 100,000 crore to attain the health goals set by the government. 

    The agenda replaced the five-year plan process, a legacy of the Planning Commisison. 

    On health, the document also advocated delinking the Drug Price Control Order from the National List of Essential Medicines to enable the Centre powers to impose price control on more drugs and make drugs affordable for people. 

    At present, only drugs that are part of the National List of Essential Medicines are brought under the Schedule 1 of the Drug Price Control Order (DPCO) 2013, subsequently brought under price control by the NPPA. In the past, the NPPA has brought down of essential drugs by 85 per cent like in the case of cancer drugs. 

    The government has already started meeting industry officials to bring about amendments in the DPCO, hence make medicines affordable to all. 

    The Aayog meanwhile in its agenda also favoured creation of separate cell or department in the health ministry to deal with issues related to public health. 

    On expenditure in other sectors, officials said the document, which hasn't been made public yet also advises raising the capital expenditure on agriculture and rural development from Rs 1.03 lakh crore in 2015-16 to over Rs 216,000 crore in 2019-20. This would mean an increase of 1.8 per centage points as share of total government expenditure. 

    From 2015-16, the agenda envisaged a scenario where defence capital expenditure would rise from Rs 95,000 crore, or 5.3 per cent of total spending, to Rs 1.72 lakh crore, or 6.2 per cent. 

    Allocation for education is expected to rise from Rs 66,000 crore in 2015-16 to Rs 1.12 lakh crore in 2019-20, or from 3.7 per cent of total budgeted expenditure to Rs 4 per cent. 

  • GST compensation payout to exceed Rs 1.2 lakh cr
    The Niti Aayog projects central government to pay nearly Rs 1.23 lakh crore as compensation to states for loss of the nationwide goods and service tax over a three-year period from 2017-18 to 2019-20, higher than the Rs 90,000 crore that has been demanded by the states. 

    The Aayog's draft three-year action agenda for India projects a payout to compensate states of Rs 37,500 crore for 2017-18, Rs 45,000 for 2018-19 and Rs 40,000 crore in 2019-20 from the centre. The compensation for states from the projected losses arising from the implementation of the nationwide GST regime was originally projected at Rs 55,000 crore. 


  • RBI issues new draft rules for mergers and acquisitions 
    The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on 26th April proposed a fresh set of regulations regarding mergers and acquisitions which seek reporting of such actions to be more stringent and time-bound, and provide for mandatory permission for all deals, which are not on the automatic route. 

    This follows the new regulations notified by Corporate Affairs Ministry under the Companies (Compromises, Arrangements and Amalgamation) Amendment Rules of 2017 issued on April 13. 

    The proposed regulations will be brought in under the FEMA rules of 1999 and seek to address the issues that may arise when a domestic firm and a foreign firm enter into scheme of merger, demerger/amalgamation/rearrangement. 

    The regulation makes reporting of any cross-border activity mandatory within 180 days from the date of sanction. 


  • Mumbai, Chennai among top 20 tourist destinations in Asia Pacific
    Mumbai and Chennai have been named among the top 20 tourist destinations in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region. The rankings have been based in terms of total number of international overnight arrivals, number of nights spent at each destination and cross-border spending, according to Mastercard Asia Pacific Destinations Index 2017. 

    Overall, Bangkok remains the most visited in the list of 171 destinations across 22 countries in the APAC region. Chennai ranked 14 with 5.2 million international overnight arrivals, while Mumbai stood 15 with 4.9 million arrivals. 

    In terms of total night spent, Mumbai ranked 13, with tourists stayed for 30.7 million nights in 2016, while Chennai was at 15 with 29.6 million nights. Chennai ranked 13 with an expenditure of $4.6 billion by international tourists. Mumbai was at 15 with $4.4 billion. 


  • PM flags off Shimla-New Delhi flight under UDAN scheme
    Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched a scheme to boost regional air connectivity UDAN, which he said that it would make air-travel affordable for common man. 

    Earlier, Prime Minister inaugurated the maiden Shimla-New Delhi flight under a government scheme to boost regional air connectivity Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik (UDAN). 

    He inaugurated the flight by flagging off the Alliance Air's flight on Shimla-Delhi sector from Jubbar Hatti airport near Shimla. Alliance Air, a subsidiary of Air India, has deployed its 42-seater ATR plane on this sector. 

    The prime minister also simultaneously flagged off regional connectivity scheme flights on the Kadapa-Hyderabad and Nanded-Hyderabad sectors through video-conferencing. 

    The government aims at connecting 45 unserved and under-served airports and make flying affordable by capping fares at 2500 rupees per seat per hour. Five airlines were awarded 128 routes under the scheme last month after a bidding process. 


  • NITI Aayog for more budgetary allocation for health, agriculture, rural development
    Government’s policy think tank arm, NITI Aayog, has proposed a higher budgetary spend on sectors that would otherwise not see massive investments from the private sector. In its Three-Year Action Agenda for fiscal 2017-2018 to 2019-2020, it has suggested “shifting the composition of expenditures by allocating a larger proportion of additional revenues that become available over time to high-priority sectors.” 

    The sectors include education, health, agriculture, rural development, defence, railways, roads and other categories of capital expenditure. 

    Investments in machinery, fertiliser and steel have been named sectors that crowd out investments in activities such as railways, ports, irrigation, power and digital connectivity. 

    The proposed agenda also notes that the share of non-developmental revenue expenditure in total revenue expenditure would decline from 47 per cent in 2015-16 to 41 per cent in 2019-20. At the same time, the share of capital expenditure, which is more likely to promote development, would rise significantly. 


  • Belgium to open Honorary Consulate in GIFT City
    Belgium has become the first country to open an honorary consulate office in Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT City). The consulate was inaugurated by Belgian Secretary of State for Foreign Trade, Pieter De Crem. Hari Sankaran was nominated as Honorary Consul of the Kingdom of Belgium to the state of Gujarat. 


  • GST to push Indian growth to over 8%: IMF
    International Monetary Fund has said the ambitious Goods and Services Tax, GST to be implemented from July 1 would help raise India's medium-term growth to above eight per cent. It also said that reforms being done is expected to pay off in terms of higher growth in the future. 

    According to the Deputy Managing Director of the IMF, Tao Zhang: 
    • Indian government has made significant progress on important economic reforms that will support strong and sustainable growth going forward.
    • GST will help raise India's medium-term growth to above 8 per cent, as it will enhance production and the movement of goods and services across Indian states.
    • India is the "fastest growing emerging market economy" and the IMF believes that India is going to continue to grow at a fast pace, with a projected 6.8 per cent rate for Financial Year 2016-17 and 7.2 per cent in 2017-18.
    • Lower global oil prices have boosted economic activity, and helped lower inflation and fiscal and monetary policies have helped foster economic stability.
    • After demonetization, there are initial signs of recovery as the currency exchange has been progressing.
    • However, a key concern for the IMF in India is the health of the banking system, which is still dealing with a large amount of bad loans, as well as heightened corporate vulnerabilities in several key sectors of the economy.
    • India persists with its strong reform efforts labour market reforms should take priority.



  • India to surpass Germany as 4th largest economy by 2022: 
    India will surpass Germany as the world's fourth-largest economy by 2022 and push UK out of the top five in 2017, according to an analysis of growth projections by the International Monetary Fund. The IMF has predicted a robust growth of Indian economy post GST implementation. 

    The agency said that the ambitious Tax system once implemented from July 1 would help raise India's medium-term growth to above eight per cent as it will enhance production and the movement of goods and services across Indian states. 

    IMF also lauded the work in terms of strong economic policies and said that it will pay off in terms of higher growth in the future. 


  • NITI Aayog bats for more nuclear capacity
    NITI Aayog has called for ‘actively pursuing’ works on new nuclear power projects and suggested fresh capacity addition of 2.8 GW by the year 2019. 

    For this to be achieved, the Aayog states that work on new nuclear power projects under construction at existing location and Kudankulam Phase 3 and Phase 4 would have to be actively pursued. 

    In its draft three-year Action Agenda from fiscal 2017-2018 to 2019-2020, circulated for views, the Aayog has said that by, “By 2032, India wants to increase the nuclear power capacity from 5.8 GW to 63 GW.” Regarding the coal sector, it has suggested that the government explore 25 per cent of the untapped 5,100 km square balance coal bearing area to ensure availability of more mining blocks. 

    For the oil and gas sector, the agenda suggests that there is a need to expand domestic exploration and production. This can be done by awarding another 25 per cent of the present 3.14 m sq km of sedimentary area. The Aayog has also stated that exploration should be initiated in all the remaining 8 sedimentary basins. 


  • Tamil Nadu tops in rural job guarantee scheme
    Tamil Nadu has made use of the current spell of drought to create an all-India record in the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). 

    During the financial year of 2016-17, Tamil Nadu emerged as the top State in generation of person days under the scheme. Against the revised target of 35 crore person days, the State had recorded about 39.59 crore person days. The original target was 31.5 crore person days. 

    Due to the drought, the Centre agreed to the State government’s request for extending the number of days of employment from 100 to 150. With regard to the generation of person days, Rajasthan finished second with 25.95 crore followed by West Bengal with 23.46 crore. 


  • CSR spend rose by 27% in 2015-16: CII
    There was substantial improvement in the corporate social responsibility (CSR) performance of most companies in 2016-17 over the previous year, says an analysis by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). 

    The analysis, based on disclosures of close to 1,270 companies listed on BSE, shows that these companies collectively spent Rs. 8,185 crore, which is 27 per cent more than Rs. 6,400 crore in FY15. 

    Out of these, 35 are public sector enterprises, whose contribution amounted to 32.16 per cent ( Rs. 2,632.5 crore) of the total CSR spend. On the route of CSR spend, the analysis found that the number of companies spending exclusively through corporate foundations had increased to 72 from 60 in FY15. Companies exclusively spending money directly marginally increased to 233 from 227, whereas spending money exclusively through implementing agencies stood steady at 249, compared with 251 in FY15. 

    Among the areas of CSR spends, health and sanitation, education and skill development, and rural development were the preferred ones. However, the absolute amount of money contributed to Prime Minister’s Relief Fund declined by 25 per cent to Rs. 80.55 crore. 

    Out of the 32 industry categories, absolute spends decreased in just two industries —commercial services and supplies, and oil and gas — while big increases were reported in automobiles and auto components, consumer durables, metals and mining, financial services, pharma and biotech, telecom services and equipment, textiles, apparels and accessories, transportation, and utilities. 


  • PM Modi inaugurates phase-I of Link-II pipeline canal of SAUNI project
    Prime Minister Narendra Modi has inaugurated phase-I of the Link-II pipeline canal of the ambitious Saurashtra Narmada Avtaran Irrigation SAUNI project at Botad in Gujarat. This is the second milestone in the 12,000 crore rupees project to pump Narmada water in 115 Dams of arid Saurashtra region. The ambitious scheme will provide Narmada water to Botad and other surrounding districts. 

    This entire project is divided in four phases to fill up 115 dams of arid Saurashtra region with overflowing water of Sardar Sarovar Narmada Dam through a web of pipeline network. Earlier, Mr Modi had dedicated phase-I of the Link-I canal at Jamnagar in August last year. 

    The Link-II canal is designed to pump Narmada water in 17 dams spread across Botad, Bhavnagar and Amreli districts. 253-kilometre long pipeline of Link-II originates from Limdi Bhogavo-II dam near Limdi and is planned to terminate at Raidy dam in Amreli district. 

    The phase-I of this pipeline covers a distance of 51 kilometres and brings water from Limdi Bhogavo-II to Bhimdad dam in Gadhda taluka of Botad district. 

    According to official release, the phase-I of the Link-II had been completed at the cost of 1,313 crore rupees. The phase-I will fill up Bhimdad dam and Krushnasagar dam. The entire SAUNI project will cover the 10.22 lakh acres of land in Saurashtra region for irrigation purpose. 


  • World Bank optimistic about India's growth to be 7.2% by 2017
    South Asia remains World's fastest-growing region', says a World Bank report. World Bank seems to be optimistic about Indian economic growth story. 

    According to a latest report by World Bank, India's economic growth is expected to pick up speed from 6.8% in 2016 to 7.2% by 2017. The report said growth is expected to further gather momentum by 2019 when the Indian economy is expected to expand by 7.7%. 

    Report also says timely and smooth implementation of the GST could prove to a significant benefit to economic activity. However World bank says there are certain challenges in the growth path. It says India faces the challenge of further accelerating the responsiveness of poverty reduction to growth. 

    The report also confirms that South Asia remains the fastest-growing region in the world, gradually widening its lead relative to East Asia. 


  • FSDC panel reviews global, domestic factors impinging financial stability
    The sub-committee of financial stability and development council (FSDC) on 17th April reviewed major developments on global and domestic fronts that impinge on the country's financial stability, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said. 

    The sub-committee also reviewed the status of implementation of recommendations of Financial Stability Board, a mix of global bodies that sets financial stability policies across financial sectors

    The progress of Financial Sector Assessment Programme 2017 was also discussed in the meeting. Issues such as setting up Computer Emergency Response Team for the Financial Sector, road map for National Centre for Financial Education and macro-prudential framework in India were also discussed

    The government has set up the FSDC to strengthen and institutionalise mechanism to maintain financial stability, enhance inter-regulatory coordination and promote financial sector development. 


  • IMF retains India’s growth forecast at 7.2% for FY18
    India is pegged to be the fastest growing economy in the world in 2017-18 and will be a key driver for global growth, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). 

    Retaining its growth forecast of 7.2 per cent for India for the fiscal year, the IMF, in its World Economic Outlook, also estimated that India would grow at 7.7 per cent in 2018-19 and said that 8 per cent growth in the medium-term is within reach. It pegged India’s growth rate at 6.8 per cent in 2016-17. 

    Concerned about the impact of demonetisation on the economy, the IMF had in January trimmed India’s GDP forecast by 0.4 percentage points from its earlier forecast of 7.6 per cent growth this fiscal. 

    Moreover, praising India’s efforts at structural reforms that would drive domestic growth, the IMF has listed it as one of the factors that could help boost the global economy. 

    It has pegged world output at 3.5 per cent in 2017, rising marginally to 3.6 per cent in 2018. By 2022, it estimates global growth to rise to 3.8 per cent, led by developments in the emerging market and developing economies, where growth is projected to increase to 5 per cent by the end of the forecast period. 

    However, the IMF has also listed further reforms that India must undertake, including replacing the demonetised currency and reducing labour and product market rigidities, expanding the manufacturing base, and gainfully employing the abundant pool of labour. 

    Further, it said steps should also be taken to address NPAs and recapitalise public sector banks, reduce subsidies and for timely implementation of GST. 


  • India jumps to eigth spot on Global FDI Confidence Index
    India has jumped one spot to rank 8th in the 2017 AT Kearney Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Confidence Index with 31 per cent of the surveyed respondents being more optimistic on economic outlook over the next three years. 

    Investor confidence in India has been growing steadily over the last two years, making it one of the top two emerging market performers on the FDI Index. 

    India's vast domestic market is an added attraction for foreign companies. Investors are looking at India's phenomenal economic performance as a key selling point. It is forecast to be the fastest-growing major economy in the world in the coming years, which should provide a variety of investment opportunities to global firms. 

    Among the investors surveyed, over half said a successful GST implementation would cause them to significantly or moderately increase their investment in India. 

    More broadly, 70 per cent of the respondents plan to maintain or increase their FDI in India in the coming years

    India's government is considering further policy reforms to further boost FDI inflows. A proposal to loosen FDI regulations on the retail sector is being evaluated, in part to support the country's 'Make in India' initiative and bolster the manufacturing industry, said the consultancy. 

    The government is eliminating the need for FDI approvals in sectors where licenses are also required, such as defence, telecommunications and broadcasting. 


  • Centre clears way for Indian firms to merge with foreign companies
    Paving the way for a broader merger and acquisition (M&A) landscape, the Centre has allowed Indian companies to merger with companies abroad. However, such outbound mergers will be allowed only with the prior approval of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). 

    Indian companies will now be able to merge into foreign companies based in Mauritius, the Netherlands, Singapore, UK, US, Abu Dhabi, DIFC (Dubai) and UAE. 

    The Corporate Affairs Ministry (MCA) has passed the necessary executive orders under the new Companies Act, 2013 to bring this into effect from April 13

    While explicitly allowing Indian companies to merge with companies abroad, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs has also reaffirmed the existing legal position of allowing foreign companies to merge with Indian firms here through a scheme of arrangement (inbound mergers). 

    The erstwhile Companies Act 1956 had no specific provision allowing Indian companies to go for outbound mergers. Only inbound mergers (foreign companies merging into Indian companies) were allowed under this law, which was replaced by the new Companies Act, 2013. 


  • Govt forms panel to review UGC recommendations on 7th pay commission implementation
    The HRD Ministry has formed a committee to review the recommendations made by a UGC panel on implementation of the seventh pay commission in educational institutions. The committee will have officials from Finance Ministry and other relevant offices and it will submit its final recommendations which will go to Cabinet. The pay review committee of UGC had recommended scrapping ad-hoc and temporary appointments of teachers across universities. 


  • Govt raises Rs 1,200 cr through sale of 9.2% stake in NALCO
    The government on 20th April raised 1,200 crore rupees through the sale of 9.2 per cent stake in National Aluminum Company Ltd, NALCO. 

    In the disinvestment, the offer for sale was pegged at 5 per cent of paid-up capital, but seeing the overwhelming response from the market, the government exercised the option to retain over-subscription and raised the offer to 9.2 per cent 

    With this transaction, the Government's shareholding in the NALCO has come down to 65.37 per cent. 

    An official release said, the government has set a record target of realizing 72,500 crore rupees through disinvestment during this fiscal. In 2016-17, the government had fetched 46,247 crore rupees from disinvestment. 


  • Finance Ministry approves 8.65% interest rate on EPF 
    According to the Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya the Finance Ministry has approved 8(point)65 per cent interest rate on EPF for 2016-17. He said, the government will immediately issue the notification and credit the rate of interest to over four crore subscribers. 

    The ratification of the 8.65 per cent on EPF will enable the retirement fund body EPFO to credit this rate of return into the accounts of the subscribers. The Employees' Provident Fund Organisation trustees had approved 8.65 per cent rate on EPF in December last year. 

    The Finance Ministry has been nudging the Labour Ministry to lower the EPF rate for aligning it with the rates of small savings schemes like PPF. 


  • CII signs MoUs with 3 Singapore Universities
    The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) on 21st April signed agreements with three Singapore universities to provide training opportunities to students. 

    The Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) will allow the universities and International Enterprise (IE) Singapore, a business promotion agency, to tap into CII's network of over 8,000 members to create overseas attachment opportunities for enrolled students. 

    IE Singapore, a statutory board under the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the lead MoU signatory, will be supporting these attachments under its Young Talent Programme. 

    The MoUs signatories are Nanyang Technological University, National University of Singapore and Singapore Management University. These MoUs were signed at the ASEAN-India Business Forum in Singapore. 


  • Service charge not mandatory as government approves guidelines
    Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said that the government has approved guidelines on service charge. As per guidelines service charge is totally voluntary and not mandatory now. Hotels and restaurants should not decide how much service charge will be paid by the customer and it should be left to the discretion of customer. 


  • India, ADB ink loan agreement to improve Solar Energy
    India and the ADB sign loan agreement to improve the India's solar power transmission system. Loan is worth $175 million to support construction of high voltage transmission systems. 


  • Unemployment rate in Uttar Pradesh higher than national average, says govt
    The unemployment rate in Uttar Pradesh is higher than the national average and the Centre will soon join hands with the new state government to deal with the problem, according to the Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya. 

    The national average of unemployment stood at 5.8 per cent. While the unemployment rate in rural areas of the country was 3.4 per cent, in the urban areas it was 4.4 per cent. In Uttar Pradesh, the rate of unemployment in rural areas was 5.8 per cent and in urban areas 6.5 per cent, which "is quite high".


  • Centre clears proposal to buy Barak missiles for Indian Navy
    Government has approved procurement of a fresh batch of Barak surface-to-air missiles for Naval warships to enhance India's maritime capability. 

    A meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), chaired by Defence Minister Arun Jaitley in New Delhi, approved capital acquisition proposals totaling over 860 crore rupees, including for the purchase of Barak missiles. The missiles will be procured under Buy Global category from Rafael Advance Defense Systems Limited of Israel at an approximate cost of around 500 crore rupees. 


  • Lok Sabha passed Collection of Statistics (Amendment) Bill, 2017
    The Lok Sabha on 11th April passed the Collection of Statistics (Amendment) Bill, 2017.The Bill seeks to extend its jurisdiction to Jammu and Kashmir for the collection of statistics pertaining to subjects under the Union or the Concurrent list of the Constitution as applicable to the State. 

    The subjects include citizenship, education, banking, labour and forests. It allows the central government to determine the manner in which such information collected will be used, for statistical purposes. The Bill also provides for the appointment of a nodal officer to coordinate and supervise statistical activities under the government. 


  • N.K. Singh committee recommends 2.5% fiscal deficit target by FY2023
    The N.K. Singh panel to review India’s fiscal discipline rules has recommended favor debt-to-GDP ratio of 60% for the general government by 2022-23, 40% (38.74%) for the central government and 20% for state governments. 

    Within the framework, the committee has recommended adopting fiscal deficit as the key operational target consistent with achieving the medium-term debt ceiling, at 3% of GDP for three years, between 2017-18 and 2019-20. The panel has recommended enacting a new Debt and Fiscal Responsibility Act after repealing the existing FRBM Act, and creating a fiscal council. 

    In 2016-17, India’s debt-to-GDP ratio for the central government was 49.4% and fiscal deficit at 3.5% of GDP. The government is hoping to end 2017-18 with a fiscal deficit that is 3.2% of GDP, marginally higher than the 3% mentioned in the FRBM Act. Revenue deficit-to-GDP ratio has been envisaged to decline steadily by 0.25 percentage points each year from 2.3% in 2016-17 to 0.8% in 2022-23. 

    However, to deal with unforeseen events such as war, calamities of national proportion, collapse of agricultural activity, far-reaching structural reforms, and sharp decline in real output growth of at least 3 percentage points, the committee has specified deviation in fiscal deficit target of not more than 0.5 percentage points. 

    The committee’s report, which was submitted before the Union budget presented on 1 February, was made public by the finance ministry on 12th April. There’s no indication as to whether the government will accept these recommendations. 

    The proposed three-member fiscal council will prepare multi-year fiscal forecasts for the central and state governments (together called the general government) and provide an independent assessment of the central government’s fiscal performance and compliance with targets set under the new law. 

    It has noted that Reserve Bank of India governor Urjit Patel had favored 0.3 percentage points. However, the government has to commit to come back to its stated path of fiscal discipline the following year. Similar to the escape clause, this buoyancy clause can be invoked by the government after formal consultations and advice of the fiscal council. 


  • Union Cabinet hikes MSP of raw jute by Rs 300 per quintal
    Union Cabinet approved hike of 300 rupees per quintal in Minimum Support Price of raw jute for 2017-18 season taking it to a level of 3500 rupees. The decision will benefit the jute industry which supports the livelihood of 40 lakh farm families and provides direct employment to 3.7 lakh workers. These families are mainly concentrated in West Bengal, Bihar and Assam. 

    The Cabinet also approved setting up of Government e-Marketplace Special Purpose Vehicle (GeM SPV) as a national portal for procurement of goods and services required by the Central and State government organizations. 

    The GeM SPV shall provide an end to end online marketplace for central and state government departments, central and state PSUs, autonomous bodies and local bodies for procurement of common use goods and services in a transparent and efficient manner. The Directorate General of Supplies and Disposal (DGS&D) will be wound up and it will cease to function by 31st of October this year. 


  • Cabinet approves listing of 11 CPSEs on stock exchanges
    The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has given its approval for listing of 11 Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs) on stock exchanges. The listing of CPSEs will be done through public offer of shares upto 25 per cent of Government shareholding, which may include offer of fresh shares for rising of resources from market. 

    They include Rail Vikas Nigam Limited, Indian Railway Finance Corporation Limited, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) Limited, Bharat Dynamics Limited and IRCON International Limited. However, actual disinvestment in respect of each CPSE along with the mode of raising resources has been delegated for decision on a case to case basis by the Finance Minister. 


  • Panel to suggest norms for virtual currencies
    To examine the existing framework for virtual currencies, the Department of Economic Affairs in the Ministry of Finance has constituted an inter-disciplinary committee chaired by Special Secretary (Economic Affairs) with representatives from the departments of revenue and financial services and the ministries of Home Affairs as well as Electronics and Information Technology. 

    The committee is to recommend an action plan for dealing with such currencies within three months. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had also cautioned users, holders and traders of virtual currencies (VCs), including Bitcoins, about the potential financial, operational, legal, customer protection and security related risks that they are exposing themselves to. 

    In its February advisory, the RBI had said it has not given any licence or authorization to any entity or to operate with Bitcoin or any virtual currency. 


  • President gives assent to four GST related legislations
    President Pranab Mukherjee has given his assent to four supporting legislations related to Goods and Services Tax, GST. The legislations are the Central GST Act, 2017, Integrated GST Act, 2017, GST (Compensation to States) Act 2017, and Union Territory GST Act, 2017. It paves the way for the roll out of one-nation-one-tax regime from 1st of July this year. 


  • DIPP, World Bank suggest more reforms to improve ease-of-doing business in States
    Over hundred new reforms focusing on issues such as central inspection system, online land allotment system and online single window system for granting construction permits have been recommended by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) in partnership with the World Bank Group for implementation by States and Union Territories in the current fiscal. 

    The 103 new recommendations are part of the 405 recommendations for reforms included in the Business Reform Action Plan (BRAP) 2017 released on 13th April. States/UTs will be evaluated and ranked on the index of Ease of Doing Business based on how they fared in executing the identified set of reforms. 


  • Indian Export growth touches 5-year high
    Export growth touches a five-year high of 27.6 per cent in March 2017 on account of better performance of petroleum and engineering sectors; Exports rise for a seventh straight month in March. This is an indication of the robust growth of the Indian Economy an indication that the trend in growing export may continue and drive economic growth. 


  • Pedapulipaka village covered by medical insurance
    Pedapulipaka in Krishna district is the first village where all residents are covered under a medical insurance programme. This achievement is because of Texas-based Non-Resident Madhavi Medi. She has sponsored annual insurance coverage for all residents of Pedapulipaka village. The village’s universal health insurance coverage scheme was launched on 14th April. 


  • Indian billionaires richer by $19.8 billion
    Indian billionaires, led by Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani, are richer by $19.8 billion or Rs. 1.28 lakh crore in fiscal 2017, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. 

    Mukesh Ambani added the maximum, $6 billion to his personal wealth to retain the tag of India’s richest with a net worth of $28.7 billion. Steel baron Laxmi Nivas Mittal with a personal wealth of $15.9 billion is second in the list. Mr. Mittal added $1.5 billion to his net worth growing 10.4% over last year, as steel prices recovered in FY17. 

    Pharmaceuticals leader Dilip Shanghvi is the third richest with personal wealth of $14.7 billion. He added $1.9 billion to his kitty in FY17 growing 14.8%. This is despite Sun Pharma shares trading lower at Rs. 687 as on March 31, 2017 compared with Rs. 854 about a year ago. 


  • Centre sets up National Board of Electric Mobility
    The Centre on 3rd April notified the constitution of a National Board of Electric Mobility (NEBM). It also nominated six members of eminence and expertise from the automobile industry to the Board, including Vikram Kirloskar (Toyota Kirloskar Motors), Vinod Dasari (Ashok Leyland), Pawan Goenka (Mahindra & Mahindra) and Sudarshan Venu (TVS Motors). 

    The nominated members will have tenure of two years or until a further government order, whichever is earlier. The members can be re-nominated for additional terms. 


  • Japan officially Recognises Bitcoin as Currency
    A new Japanese law that defines digital currencies as a legal payment method goes into effect on April 1, 2017. That law applies the country’s know-your-customer and anti-money-laundering regulations to Bitcoin and other crypto currencies, requires exchanges to meet capital and cyber security requirements, and will subject those exchanges to annual audits. 

    Virtual currencies are enjoying growing population in Japan, where domestic circulation of bitcoin, Ripple, Litecoin and others amounted to 185 billion yen ($1.67 billion) in the 2015 – 2016 fiscal year. By 2020, the amount of bitcoin in circulation in Japan is expected to reach 1 trillion yen ($9 billion), the Nikkei Asian Review reports. 


  • Uttar Pradesh Govt to waive off farmer's agriculture loan upto to Rs 1 lakh
    Uttar Pradesh government on 4th April decided to waive off farmer’s agricultural loan up to 1 lakh rupees. The first cabinet meeting of Yogi government held on 4th April in Lucknow, has also decided to provide free electricity to BPL families in urban areas. Meeting was chaired by the Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. 

    About 86 lakh small and marginalized farmers of the state will be benefited with decision of state cabinet and about 36 thousand crore rupees of financial burden will be on the public exchequer to meet out the decision of waiving off the agri-loans. 


  • Madras High Court directs TN govt to waive off loans of all drought hit farmers
    The Madras High Court has directed the Tamil Nadu government to waive crop loans availed by all the farmers from cooperative banks. Hearing a petition filed by a farmers association at the Madurai Bench of the High Court, a Division Bench comprising justices S.Nagamuthu and MV Muralidharan have said irrespective of the land holding of farmers, all crop loans from cooperative banks should be waived. 

    The court has also asked the authorities to halt any penal action against the defaulters who are in distress due to unprecedented drought. The verdict comes at a time when farmers are agitating in Delhi Jantar Mantar for the past three weeks seeking relief packages and establishing Cauvery Management Board. 


  • Cabinet approves setting up of independent RDA in New Delhi
    Union Cabinet on 5th April approved setting up of an independent Rail Development Authority (RDA) - Regulatory Mechanism in New Delhi. The RDA will have broad function of tariff determination, ensuring fair play and level playing field for all stake-holders investments. 

    It will also work for the setting efficiency and performance standards and dissemination of information. The initial corpus of the Authority will be fifty crore rupees. The RDA will have a chairman and three members besides experts from relevant areas. 


  • Parliament passes GST bills
    Parliament has passed the passed Goods and Services Tax Bills with the Rajya Sabha considering and returning to the Lok Sabha. Before returning the bills, it rejected all the amendments moved by the TMC and CPI(M). The Bills are Central GST, Integrated GST, Union Territory GST and GST Compensation. 

    The Central GST deals with taxation related to Centre, integrated GST deals in taxation of inter-state movement of goods and services while the Union Territory GST Bill covers taxation in Union Territories. The compensation law has been prepared to give a legislative backing to the Centre's promise to compensate the states for five years for any revenue loss arising out of GST implementation. 


  • Lok Sabha passes Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill 2017
    The Lok Sabha on 6th April passed the Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill,2017 which seeks to amend the Customs Act 1962, the Customs Tariff Act 1975, the Central Excise Act 1944, the Finance Act, 2001 and the Finance Act, 2005 and to repeal certain enactments. 

    The Customs Act is proposed to be amended to include warehouse in the definition of customs area" to ensure that an importer would not be required to pay the proposed integrated goods and services tax at the time of removal of goods from a customs station to a warehouse. 

    The Customs Tariff Act is proposed to be amended to provide for levy of integrated goods and services tax and goods and services tax compensation cess on imported goods. The Central Excise Act is amended to propose to levy duty only on a certain kind of petroleum products such as motor spirit, high speed diesel, aviation turbine fuel, and tobacco products. 

    In the Finance Act, 2001, the bill seeks to propose to limit the levy only to tobacco products and crude oil. Currently, the Finance Act, 2005 levies additional Excise Duty on several items such as pan masala and tobacco products and the bill proposes to remove petroleum oils, crude and other related products from this list. The Bill also seeks to repeal laws which include the Sugar Cess Act, 1982 and the Jute Manufacturers Cess Act, 1983. 


  • RBI maintains status quo on repo rate
    The Reserve Bank left its benchmark lending rate, Repo rate, unchanged at 6.25 per cent for the fourth monetary policy review in a row citing upside risk to inflation. It however increased the reverse repo rate which it pays to banks for parking funds with it by 0.25 per cent to 6 per cent. 

    The Marginal Standing Facility, on the other hand, has been revised downwards by 0.25 per cent to 6.5 per cent. MSF is RBI's lending rate for banks against government securities. On the gross value add (GVA) basis, RBI sees the economy accelerating to 7.4 per cent in the current fiscal, up from 6.7 per cent in 2016-17. 

    The monetary authority however said it is worried on three fronts with regard to inflation as well as the economy. The first stems from a possible El Nino impact on the monsoon. The second worry arises from the GST implementation, while the third upside risks to inflation comes from the 7th pay commission award, according to the Monetary Policy Committee. 


  • India jumps 12 places to be ranked 40th globally in travel & tourism
    India has jumped 12 places to be ranked 40th globally in travel and tourism competitiveness list released by World Economic Forum. Tourism Minister Dr Mahesh Sharma informed this in New Delhi on 7th April. The Minister said, there was no effect of demonetization in tourism sector and rather a increase of 6 per cent in revenue was recorded. 

    The World Economic Forum said, India continues to enrich its cultural resources, protecting more cultural sites and intangible expressions through UNESCO World Heritage lists and via a greater digital presence. 


  • Govt inaugurates Multi-Sensor Aero-Geophysical Surveys for mineral exploration 
    The conventional geological methods for mineral exploration based on surface manifestations in hard rock areas are getting exhausted gradually. Keeping this in mind, Government has inaugurated Multi-Sensor Aero-Geophysical Surveys over Obvious Geological Potential Areas for mineral exploration which is both time efficient and cost effective. 

    Minister of Mines Piyush Goyal has launched two aircrafts equipped with geophysical sensors from Dr. Babsaheb Ambedkar International Airport in Nagpur for the aero-geophysical data acquisition. 

    Geological Survey of India has planned to engage international agencies through global tender process. Under this project called National Aero-Geological Mapping program, around 8.13 lakh square km area for the survey is divided into 12 blocks. Four blocks have been taken up for the survey on a pilot basis. The total cost of the project is estimated as Rs 111.34 Cr. 


  • Rs 1.37 lakh crore of tax evasion detected over last 3 years
    Law enforcement agencies have detected Rs 1.37 lakh crore worth of tax evasion (Income Tax Rs 69,434 Cr, Customs Rs 11,405 Cr, Central Excise Rs 13,952 Cr, and Service Tax Rs 42,727 Cr), began criminal prosecution in 2814 cases, and have arrested 3,893 people in the last three years, according to a statement by the Central Board of Direct Taxes. 

    The Enforcement Directorate also intensified its anti-money laundering actions, registering 519 cases, conducting 396 searches, making arrests in 79 cases and attaching properties worth Rs 14,933 crore. More than 245 benami transactions have been identified under the Benami prohibition law and properties worth Rs. 55 crore have been provisionally attached across 124 cases. 


  • Aditya Birla Group gets RBI licence to start payments bank
    Aditya Birla Idea Payments Bank Ltd becomes the seventh entity to receive a final licence from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to set up a payments bank, according to a stock exchange notification. 

    Among payment bank licence holders, two entities namely Airtel Payments Bank and India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) have started operations so far. While Airtel is offering 7.25% interest on its savings account, IPPB is offering three types of accounts where interest rates will vary from 4.5-5.5%. Aditya Birla Idea Payments Bank is a 51:49 joint venture (JV) between Aditya Birla Nuvo Ltd (ABNL) and telecom major Idea Cellular. 


  • India to Invest Rs 20,000 Crore, Turn Brain Drain to Gain
    The Centre will be spending about Rs 20,000 crore in the next three to five years to stop brain drain and ensure brain gain, according to the Union HRD minister Prakash Javadekar. Of this, the Centre will contribute Rs 2,000 crore while the remaining amount will be pooled from different sources, including the industry, for this challenging initiative.

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