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India has huge potential, might bypass China in 2018: WB

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Washington: With an “ambitious government undertaking comprehensive reforms”, India has “enormous growth potential” compared to other emerging economies, the World Bank said , as it projected country’s growth rate to 7.3 per cent in 2018 and 7.5 for the next two years.

India, despite initial setbacks from demonetisation and Goods and Services Tax (GST), is estimated to have grown at 6.7 per cent in 2017, according to the 2018 Global Economics Prospect released by the World Bank in Washington on Wednesday.

“In all likelihood India is going to register higher growth rate than other major emerging market economies in the next decade. So, I wouldn’t focus on the short-term numbers. I would look at the big picture for India and big picture is telling us that it has enormous potential,” Ayhan Kose, Director, Development Prospects Group, World Bank, said in an interview.

 

He said in comparison with China, which is slowing, the World Bank is expecting India to gradually accelerate.

“The growth numbers of the past three years were very healthy,” Kose, author of the report, said.

In 2017, China grew at 6.8 per cent, 0.1 per cent more than that of India, while in 2018, its growth rate is projected at 6.4 per cent. And in the next two years, the country’s growth rate will drop marginally to 6.3 and 6.2 per cent, respectively.

To materialise its potential, India, Kose said, needs to take steps to boost investment prospects.

There are measures under way to do in terms of non-performing loans and productivity, he said.

“On the productivity side, India has enormous potential with respect to secondary education completion rate. All in all, improved labor market reforms, education and health reforms as well as relaxing investment bottleneck will help improve India’s prospects,” Kose said.

Noting that India has a favourable demographic profile, he said it is rarely seen in other economies.

“In that context, improving female labour force participation rate is going to be important. Female labour force participation still remains low relative to other emerging market economies. Bringing force right now idle outside of the productive activities will make a huge difference,” he said.

Reducing youth unemployment is critical, and pushing for private investment, where problems are already well-known like bank assets quality issues…If these are done, India can reach its potential easily and exceed, Kose asserted.

“In fact, we expect India to do better than its potential in 2018 and move forward,” he said.

India’s growth potential, he said, would be around 7 per cent for the next 10 years.

The Indian government is “very serious” with GST being a major turning point and banking recapitalisation programme is really important, Kose said.

“The Indian government has already recognise some of these problems and undertaking measures and willing to see the outcomes of these measures,” he said.

“India is a very large economy. It has a huge potential. At the same time, it has its own challenges. This government is very much aware of these challenges and is showing just doing its best in terms of dealing with them,” the World Bank official said.

The latest World Bank growth estimate for 2017 is 0.5 per cent, less than the previous projection, and 0.2 per cent less in the next two years.

“It is slightly lower than its previous forecast, primarily because India is undertaking major reforms,” Kose said.
These reforms, of course, will bring certain policy uncertainty, he said, “but the big issue about India, when you look at India’s growth potential and our numbers down the road 2019 and 2020, is that it is going to be the fastest growing large emerging market.”

“India has an ambitious government undertaking comprehensive reforms. GST is a major reform to have harmonised taxes, is one nation one market one tax concept. Then, of course, the late 2016 demonetisation reform was there. The government is well aware of these short-term implications,” Kose said.

He said there might have been some temporary disruptions but “all in all” the Indian economy has done well.
“The potential growth rate of the Indian economy is very healthy to 7 per cent. I think the growth is going to be at a high rate going forward,” the World Bank official said.

The big question is whether Indian policymakers would, under the necessary reforms, push its potential growth up, Kose said.

“So far we have seen ambitious policy initiatives and implementation like GST. And we have all the reasons to expect this government to continue economic policies to create friendly environment for businesses and push its growth potential up,” he said.

In a South Asia regional press release, the World Bank said India is estimated to grow 6.7 per cent in fiscal year 2017-18, slightly down from the 7.1 per cent of the previous fiscal year.

This is due in part to the effects of the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax, but also to protracted balance sheet weaknesses, including corporate debt burdens and non-performing loans in the banking sector, weighing down private investment, it 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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