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India gets USD 42 billion FDI inflows in 2018: UN report

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New Delhi: India received foreign direct investments worth USD 42 billion in 2018, helped by robust inflows in manufacturing, communication and financial services, a United Nations trade report said.

In South Asia, FDI inflows increased by 3.5 per cent to USD 54 billion, said the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) World Investment Report 2019. So, India attracted over 77 per cent of the total foreign direct investments that came to the South Asian region.

“Investment in India the subregion’s largest recipient rose by 6 per cent to USD 42 billion with strong inflows in manufacturing, communication, financial services and cross-border merger and acquisition activities,” said the report.

 

The UN trade report said the prospects for FDI inflows into South Asia are largely determined by expectations of growing investment into India.

In India, the growth in cross-border merger and acquisitions (M&As) grew to USD 33 billion in 2018 from USD 23 billion a year ago, primarily due to transactions in retail trade (USD 16 billion), which includes e-commerce and telecommunication (USD 13 billion).

The acquisition of India’s biggest e-commerce platform Flipkart by Walmart was a notable mega-deal, along with the telecommunications deals by Vodafone of the UK and American Tower (US) amounting to USD 2 billion.

Among others in the South Asian region, FDI flows to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka rose to a record level, to USD 3.6 billion and USD 1.6 billion, respectively, while Pakistan witnessed a 27 per cent decline in investment to USD 2.4 billion.

FDI inflows in developing countries in Asia registered a rise of 3.9 per cent to USD 512 billion during the last calender, the report said.

Many countries adopted policy measures to promote and facilitate investment with India amending the model concession agreement on public-private partnerships in the port sector, UNCTAD said, adding the country liberalised rules on inward investment in several industries, including single-brand retail trading, airlines and power exchanges.

The report also highlighted that of the 5,400 special economic zones (SEZs) in the world, more than 4,000 are in developing countries in Asia.

In the developing countries in Asia, China topped the list at 2,543 such zones, followed by Philippines (528), India (373) Turkey (102), Thailand (74) Korea (47), Malaysia (45) among others.

South East Asian countries together host more than 700. South Asia hosts upward of 450 zones and West Asia’s tally surpasses 200, UNCTAD said.

China’s continued policy experiment in large-area zones, investment facilitation measures and relaxation of foreign ownership in sectors such as finance and healthcare in pilot free trade zones are expected to draw future investments, the report said.

“India, the Republic of Korea, the Philippines, and Turkey are focusing on information and technology zones, while West Asia favours services and most of South-East Asia seeks to attract different types of manufacturing.”

Development of new SEZs also drives greenfield investment activities, particularly in the construction of industrial establishments and power generation such as the construction of zones in Indonesia, Thailand and Viet Nam, it said further.

“The number of SEZs in South Asia is set to increase substantially in the coming years. India has over 200 new zones in the pipeline, although growth may lose momentum now that permits for a substantial number of zones have been retracted.”

In Bangladesh, a further 60 SEZs are in the approval process. Pakistan is planning another 39 SEZs, in addition to its existing seven. Nepal, which has two zones, one of which is under construction, has plans to create 12 more, the report said.


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RBI asks banks to grout ATMs to wall, floor for security by September-end

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Mumbai: The Reserve Bank asked banks to ensure their ATMs are grouted to a wall, pillar, or floor by September-end, except those installed in high secured premises such as airports, to enhance security of the cash vending machines.

In 2016, the RBI had st up a Committee on Currency Movement (CCM) to review the entire gamut of security of treasure in transit.

Based on the recommendations of the panel, the central bank has now issued instructions aimed at mitigating risks in ATM operations and enhancing security.

 

As part of the security measures, all “ATMs shall be operated for cash replenishment only with digital One Time Combination (OTC) locks”.

Also, “All ATMs shall be grouted to a structure (wall, pillar, floor, etc.) by September 30, 2019, except for ATMs installed in highly secured premises such as airports, etc. which have adequate CCTV coverage and are guarded by state/central security personnel”.

Further, banks may also consider rolling out a comprehensive e-surveillance mechanism at the ATMs to ensure timely alerts and quick response, it said.

The new measures to be adopted by banks are in addition to the existing instructions, practices and guidance issued by the RBI and law enforcement agencies.

The RBI also warned the banks that non-adherence of timelines or non-observance of the instructions would attract regulatory action including levy of penalty.

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SBI refuses to disclose communication from RBI, govt on electoral bonds

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New Delhi: The State Bank of India has refused to disclose any communication it received from the government or the Reserve Bank of India on electoral bonds, terming it “personal information” and held in “fiduciary capacity”.

Responding to an RTI filed by Pune-based activist Vihar Durve who had demanded copies of all letters, correspondence, directions, notifications or e-mails received from the RBI or any government department between 2017 and 2019, the SBI said it cannot be provided by it.

The bank cited two exemption clauses under the RTI Act to deny information — Section 8(1)(e) which pertains to information held in fiduciary capacity and Section 8(1)(J) which pertains to personal information of a person which has no link to any public activity.

 

“Information sought by the applicant cannot be disclosed as it is in fiduciary capacity, disclosure of which is exempted under Section 8(1)(e) and 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, 2005,” the Central Public Information Officer of the bank said in his reply.

The bank also refused to give any details of action taken by it on such communications from the RBI and the government.

The electoral bonds, for giving donations to political parties, are being sold through SBI only. The sale opens in SBI branches when the Finance Ministry issues a notification of their sale for a given period.

The scheme of electoral bonds notified by the Centre in 2018 has been challenged in the Supreme Court.

Only the political parties registered under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (43 of 1951) and which secured not less than one per cent of the votes polled in the last general election to the House of the People or the Legislative Assembly of the State, shall be eligible to receive the bonds.

The bonds may be purchased by a person who is a citizen of India “or incorporated or established in India,” the government had said in a statement last year.

The bonds remain valid for 15 days and can be encashed by an eligible political party only through an account with the authorised bank within that period only.

A voluntary group working in the field of electoral reforms, Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), has demanded a stay on the sale while the CPI(M) has challenged it before the Supreme Court in separate petitions.

ADR recently filed an application in the Supreme Court seeking a stay on the Electoral Bond Scheme, 2018 which was notified by the Centre in January last year.

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Walmart’s Flipkart, Indian startup GOQii settle dispute over sharp discounting

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New Delhi: Walmart unit Flipkart has settled a legal dispute with an Indian startup that alleged it suffered losses because its products were sharply discounted on the global retailer’s website.

GOQii, a seller of smartwatch-type health devices, sued Flipkart last month in a Mumbai court, alleging its devices were discounted by around 70 per cent to the retail price, much more than the two sides had agreed. The court had, as an interim measure, ordered device sales to be halted on Flipkart.

In a joint statement , the companies said the dispute had been resolved and GOQii health devices would again be available on Flipkart. They didn’t say how the settlement was reached.

 

Vishal Gondal, CEO of GOQii, told Reuters the company would withdraw the case against Flipkart. The e-commerce retailer’s “team worked on a resolution benefitting the brand and the customers”, Gondal said in the statement.

The legal spat was seen as a test case of the giant retailer’s operating strategy in the country.

Small traders and a right-wing group close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party have raised concerns about large e-commerce companies, saying they burn billions of dollars deeply discounting some products to lure customers onto their sites, in the expectation that they will also buy other goods.

GOQii said it signed an agreement last year with a Flipkart unit to sell two of its devices at a price not below 1,999 rupees (USD 28.63) and 1,499 rupees. It later found the devices were being sold for 999 rupees and 699 rupees, calling it “unauthorized” discounting.

In response, Flipkart said it reserved “the right to institute actions for defamation, both civil and criminal”, arguing it wasn’t responsible for any discounts which are determined by third-party firms which sell via its website.

The two companies struck a friendlier tone in their joint-statement on Friday as they brought the legal battle to an end.

“We have ensured constant engagement with GOQii to resolve any differences,” Flipkart said in the statement.

With a 19 per cent market share, GOQii was the second-biggest player in India’s so-called wearables market last year, data from industry tracker IDC showed. The market is dominated by China’s Xiaomi, with Samsung a small player.

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