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India jumps 23 spots to 77 in World Bank’s ease-of-doing-business rankings

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New Delhi : India jumped 23 places to come in at the 77th spot in the World Bank’s latest ease-of-doing-business global rankings in 2018, a year after it had jumped 30 places.

The World Bank’s ‘Doing Business 2019: Training for Reform’ report, released on Wednesday, showed India’s rank in ease of doing business jump up from the 100th place among 190 countries. India had broken into the club of 100 nations easiest to conduct business in last year when it managed to jump 30 places from the 130th position.

The latest rankings could become a major poll plank for the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party in the upcoming national elections, as the World Bank has named India as ‘one of the economies with the most notable improvement’ for the third year in a row.

India has been adjudged the fifth-best performing nation in reforming the business environment.

The country improved its rankings in six of the 10 sub-categories used by the World Bank to judge business climate. It had delivered a similar performance last year.

Interestingly, India’s ranking actually took a beating in two categories where landmark government reforms were expected to lead to better results. In ‘Paying Taxes’, India actually saw its rank slip two notches to 121, despite the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax. The World Bank praised India for merging taxes and significantly revising the tax code, but it didn’t lead to a better ranking.

The implementation of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) could not save India from shedding five positions in ‘Resolving insolvency’, to 108. Estimates by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) suggest that creditors working through the IBC have realised almost 59 per cent of claims.

However, a recent report by Debtwire Asia has pointed out that on average, it took 275 days to approve a resolution plan from the time the corporate debtor was admitted under the Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process of the IBC. The government’s estimate is 233 days.

However, in ‘Trading across borders’, India surged 66 places to come in at the 80th spot. DIPP Officials attributed this to the implementation of a risk management system at ports that waives inspection requirement for 80 per cent of products. “Also, the E-Sanchit mobile app makes e-payment of customs documents possible as well, as a number of major seaports that have been made operational 24×7 have been considered by the World Bank” he added.

Among categories, the country had the best performance in ‘Dealing with Construction Permits’ where it jumped by a massive 129 places to become the 52nd easiest place to construct a business unit. Improved transparency and streamlined procedures were behind India cleaning up its notoriously corrupt land sector and the financial transactions that come with it.

The report, covering all policy reforms undertaken by the government till May 1 of this year, ranked India top among the South Asian nations. There was an improvement in the country’s ‘ease of doing business score’, which indicates the extent to which a country’s regulatory practices are in sync with global best practices.

India also remained among the top-30 nations in the same three categories as last year — getting electricity, securing credit and protecting minority investors. However, the World Bank noted that the country needed to do more in areas such as enforcing contracts, registering property and the most fundamental of them all — ease of starting a business.

The latest report by the Washington DC-based multilateral agency encompasses 128 economies, implementing 314 specific business reforms over the past year. This surpassed the previous all-time high of 290 reforms two years ago.

India is among 11 major economies for which the World Bank took into account two specific metropolitan areas, in this case, Delhi and Mumbai.


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Centre to snub RBI gov, empower board

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New Delhi: In a move that could further widen the rift between the RBI and itself, the Narendra Modi government has proposed changing rules to allow closer supervision of central bank functions by its board.

The government has recommended that “the board of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) draft regulations to enable setting up of panels to oversee functions including financial stability, monetary policy transmission and foreign exchange management”, said a foreign news agency on Friday quoting sources.

The move is meant to empower the regulator’s board, which includes government nominees, and give it a supervisory role.

The recommendations being considered include setting up several committees comprising two to three board members each. The body has the powers to frame rules under Section 58 of the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934 and no legislative change is required.

The RBI’s board regularly advises and guides the regulator, leaving the decision-making to the governor and his colleagues.

However, Swaminathan Gurumurthy, a chartered accountant who was nominated by the government to the board, and government nominees Subhash Chandra Garg and Rajiv Kumar have been vocal about perceived shortcomings in banking supervision, flow of credit to industry and easier financial conditions to overcome a crisis in its NBFC sector.

The RBI board is scheduled to meet on Monday to consider contentious iss-ues including easing rules governing transfer of surplus funds to the government, liberalising norms for weak banks to boost lending.

It will also review rules on capital and risk weight for Indian banks which are considered more stringent than the Basel guidelines. Other proposals on the agenda include restr-ucturing of loans upto $3.5 million availed by micro, small and medium enterprises.

Former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan had recently said that board’s role historically has not been to take “operational decisions” but to focus on broader strategy as well as ensure good governance. He had said that RBI board during his tenure rarely tried to put themselves in the position of the professionals.

“So, they (board) are there to ensure that the government’s money is well spent in the RBI and also to serve as a sounding board which is why we have people from different walks of society, very eminent people,” he had said. “So, my sense is the objective of the board is to protect the institution, not to serve others’ interest,” Dr Rajan had said.

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All telcos, except Jio, fail Trai’s call drop test on select highway, rail routes

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New Delhi: All telecom operators, except Reliance Jio, failed to meet call drop benchmark in drive test conducted by sector regulator Trai on different highway and rail routes, says a report.

According to a Trai report published on Thursday, while network performance of telcos differed on highways, none of them, except RJio, could meet call drop benchmark on the three rail routes covered under the test.

“Only RJio is meeting quality of service benchmark of drop call rate …,” the report said.

According to the quality of service rules, not more than 2 per cent of total calls in a telecom circle on a network should automatically get disconnected.

The highways between Asansol to Gaya, Digha to Asansol, Gaya to Danapur, Bengaluru to Murdeshwar, Raipur to Jagdalpur, Dehradun to Nainital, Mount Abu to Jaipur and Sri Nagar to Leh were covered in the test. Railway routes between Allahabad to Gorakhpur, Delhi to Mumbai and Jabalpur to Singrauli were covered.

Either 3G or 2G network of Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and state-run BSNL failed to meet call drop benchmark on four highway routes and all the three rail routes. Trai also named Tata Teleservices Ltd (TTL) network for not complying with service quality norms on select highways.

The report found that TTL, which is in the process of merging mobile business with Airtel, failed to even complete call connection as per benchmark betwen Bengaluru to Murdeshwar, Dehradun to Nainital and Gaya to Danapur and on the three rail routes.

Airtel could not meet call connection rate or call setup success rate (CSSR) on Gaya to Danapur highway and the three rail routes. Vodafone Idea network could not meet CSSR rate on Raipur to Jagdalpur highway and all the three rail routes.

Trai has mentioned Vodafone and Idea separately in the result as some tests were conducted before completion of their merger. Both the companies completed their merger on August 31 and now operate as Vodafone Idea Ltd.

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No proposal yet for Jet airways takeover: Tatas

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Mumbai : The Tata group said there have been preliminary discussions on the acquisition of struggling Jet Airways but it has not made any formal proposal for buying out the 51 per cent stake held by the Naresh Goyal family in the airline which has accumulated losses of over Rs 12,000 crore till the September 2018 quarter.

While the board of Tata Sons, the holding company of the group, discussed the acquisition of the airline, sources said both the parties are going slow as the broad contours of the deal, especially on the continuance of Goyal on Jet board after the takeover and other issues, have not been thrashed out.

Indicating that they are moving cautiously, Tata Sons issued a statement after the board meet, saying, “Over the last few days there has been growing speculation in the print and electronic media about Tata’s interest in Jet Airways. We would like to clarify that any such discussions have been preliminary. No proposal has been made.”

Jet Airways said in a stock exchange filing, “Reports (on merger of Vistara with Jet) is purely speculative in nature and that there are no discussions or decisions by the Board, which would require a disclosure.”

Sources said Tata Sons Chairman N Chandrasekaran had a preliminary discussion and an understanding over the broad contours of the deal with Jet Airways promoter Naresh Goyal for a possible share swap agreement between the Tata and its foreign joint venture partner Singapore International Airlines, Vistara, and also exit of Abu Dhabi based carrier Etihad that holds 24 per cent in Jet Airways.

Sources aware of the talks said that Tatas would definitely want a non-compete clause that bars Goyal and family from entering aviation business for a substantial period of time. However, sources say Goyal might have reservations over exiting the airline that he has created over 25 years and made it as a formidable brand in full service space and agree to a non-compete clause and complete exit.

The Tatas are looking at dilution of Goyal’s shareholding which is currently 51 per cent. A possible preferential allotment of shares might be looked at triggering an open offer as cash strapped Jet needs equity infusion on an immediate basis. “Liquidity continues to be worrisome, and Jet Airways earnings are most levered to oil prices and rupee depreciation. A potential entry of a strategic buyer would address the current liquidity crunch. Jet’s liquidity concerns are unlikely to dissuade a well-capitalised group like Tata, which has a track record of mega acquisitions. A prospective deal may involve a notable control premium,” said a report by Edelweiss equity research.

However, Jet Airways acquisition will not come cheap for the Tatas as the airline has accumulated losses of Rs 10,772 crore till FY18 with another reported loss of Rs 2,620.46 crore till the first half of FY18/19. Its other liabilities stack up to a staggering Rs 11,000 crore. It has immediate vendor payments that are stretched and lease rentals that are due. The airline has 16,000 employees .

Aviation analysts say it is the immediate scale that an acquisition of Jet Airways by Tatas will give to a fledgling Vistara that the Tatas are eyeing along with slots, that are at a premium for expanding Indian carriers as most of the metro airports are slot constrained restricting expansion of the airlines. “It is a billion dollar deal for the Tatas,” said an investment banker who has background in cutting out aviation deals in the Indian aviation market. Tatas have already accumulated losses of Rs 2,100 crore on account of both its airlines — Vistara and budget carrier AirAsia. It might not have the appetite to take over huge losses of Jet.

“It is all in the structuring of the deal. There are a lot of complications and also regulatory compliance issues in a deal such as Tata-Jet Airways. It will take time for the final proposal to be put on table,” said a person familiar with the ongoing discussions.

Jet’s share closed at Rs 346.85, up 8 per cent from its previous close of Thursday. The stock continued its four day rally, soaring 43.3 per cent over the past four days on the deal buzz with Tatas.

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