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India plans to boost tourism, travel in annual budget

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New Delhi: India is planning to cut taxes on travel and tourism in next month’s federal budget and give more incentives to the $210 billion sector, government sources said, hoping to boost economic growth and create more jobs.

The move could add to a domestic tourism boom in the world’s second most populous nation, where low inflation and rising incomes are changing lifestyles and consumption patterns of an estimated 250 million middle-class Indians. With scores of destinations introduced on airline routes last year, air travel is also surging.

India’s tourism sector grew over 10 per cent in the six months ending September, compared to near 8 per cent in the year-ago period. According to an industry report, tourism employs 40 million people in India and could add 10 million jobs in a decade.

 

“We’ll announce measures in the budget to promote investment in the tourism sector,” a top finance ministry official told Reuters, adding that Finance Minister Arun Jaitley favours lowering a 28 per cent tax on hotel tariffs, and offering incentives to attract private investments.

If the moves come about, companies expected to benefit include airlines like IndiGo, owned by InterGlobe Aviation, and Jet Airways and hotel operators such as Indian Hotels, that owns the Taj Mahal chain and EIH Ltd that operates the Oberoi hotels in India.

Tour operators including Cox & Kings and Thomas Cook are also likely to gain.

In India tourists, on average, pay 30 per cent tax on hotel rooms and travel compared with less than 10 per cent in Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia, said Pronab Sarkar, president of the Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO).
Another government official said the budget was likely to “significantly” raise allocations for tourism infrastructure and raise income tax exemptions on investments in new hotels.

A third official, who is aware of the finance ministry’s pre-budget consultations with industry groups, said Jaitley was expected to lower income tax on corporate profit, offer tax incentives on hotel construction, allocate more funds for new tourist trains and building roads to tourist destinations.

The government will offer incentives to more regional airlines this year to cover new, under-served airports, the official added.

All three officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, declined to provide numbers or share further details.
India needs about 200,000 new hotel rooms, Tourism Minister K J Alphons told parliament this week.

“We have reached a plateau point and need more resources to create new infrastructure and develop tourist packages,” Alphons later told Reuters, adding there was huge potential in developing areas that were not the usual tourist destinations.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said developing tourism, particularly in India’s remote north-eastern states, is one of his top priorities.

Hotel occupancy levels in India are at their highest levels since 2008, even though many hotel chains have raised prices.

The need for rooms has been spotted by foreign investors with Japan’s SoftBank Group backing start-ups like OYO Rooms, which has emerged as the largest aggregator of budget accommodation across the country with hotels in over 200 destinations.

One major driver of the domestic tourism boom has been the launch in 2017 of five regional budget airlines on over 100 routes, which are given incentives by the government to offer cut-price flights to uncovered and remote areas, encouraging thousands of families to explore flying for the first time.

“We have reached a plateau point and need more resources to create new infrastructure and develop tourist packages,” Alphons later told Reuters, adding there was huge potential in developing areas that were not the usual tourist destinations.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said developing tourism, particularly in India’s remote north-eastern states, is one of his top priorities.

Hotel occupancy levels in India are at their highest levels since 2008, even though many hotel chains have raised prices.

The need for rooms has been spotted by foreign investors with Japan’s SoftBank Group backing start-ups like OYO Rooms, which has emerged as the largest aggregator of budget accommodation across the country with hotels in over 200 destinations.

One major driver of the domestic tourism boom has been the launch in 2017 of five regional budget airlines on over 100 routes, which are given incentives by the government to offer cut-price flights to uncovered and remote areas, encouraging thousands of families to explore flying for the first time.


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RBI needs to ensure stability: Shaktikanta Das

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New Delhi: The head of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said he would take the steps necessary to maintain financial stability in the country and help create favourable conditions for growth.

India’s economy has grown because of measures such as the nationwide goods and services tax and the insolvency and bankruptcy code that prevents wilful defaulters from bidding for stressed assets, Shaktikanta Das said in his address to an investor roundtable.

The country’s growth story is backed by its strong domestic fundamentals, he said, citing lower inflation.

 

Annual retail inflation rate dropped to an 18-month low of 2.19 per cent in December, strengthening the views of some economists that the central bank could ease monetary policy next month.

India’s top business groups on Thursday urged the central bank to cut its benchmark interest rate by at least half a percentage point and lower the cash reserve ratio it imposes on banks.

The country also needs to watch out for any sudden turbulence in the gloal financial market, Das said.

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Centre removes two PNB executive directors for lapses in Rs 13,500-cr fraud

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Chennai:The Central government has removed two Punjab National Bank (PNB) Executive Directors — Sanjiv Sharan and K.Veera Brahmaji Rao — for the lapses in the Rs 13,500 crore fraud allegedly perpetrated by absconding diamantaire Nirav Modi.

The PNB has intimated the action to the stock exchanges.

“We welcome the Central government’s action to dismiss the two Executive Directors. The scam of such proportions could not have happened without the knowledge of the top management,” C.H. Venkatachalam, General Secretary, All India Bank Employees’ Association (AIBEA), told IANS.

 

“Perhaps for the first time, the Centra has removed the Executive Directors of a nationalised bank under the Nationalised Banks (Management and Miscellaneous Provision) Scheme, 1970. All these days it was said the top management of government-owned banks — Chairman, Managing Director, Executive Directors — are governed only by the contract of appointment.

“It is also good that the central government has followed the due process of giving the two PNB Executive Directors opportunity to put forth their views before dismissing them,” Venkatachalam added.

According to the Central government’s notification, on July 3, 2018, Sharan and Rao were issued a show cause notice as to why they could not be removed from office for having failed to exercise proper control over the functioning of PNB, thus enabling the fraud through the misuse of SWIFT at the bank’s Brady House branch in Mumbai.

After considering Sharan and Rao’s replies and the comments of the bank’s Board, the Centre removed them from office as it found it was expedient in the interests of PNB.

According to the notification, the dismissal of Rao is subject to the outcome of a plea in the Delhi High Court.

“We are happy to see some action being taken. Whether it is only the two Executive Directors and other officials are also involved in the scam has to be probed in full,” Venkatachalam said.

According to him, in the past, low-level officers would have been the scapegoats for such massive scams.

“With the action taken on the top management, people will be satisfied that public sector bank officials are answerable for their lapses,” Venkatachalam added.

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In this new world, data is the new wealth: Ambani

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Mumbai: Reliance Industries chairman and managing director Mukesh Ambani urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take steps against ‘data colonisation’, specially by global corporations, stating that Indian data must be owned by Indians.

Invoking Mahatma Gandhi’s movement against political colonisation, Ambani said India now needs a new movement against data colonisation.

“Gandhiji led India’s movement against political colonisation. Today, we have to collectively launch a new movement against data colonisation,” he said Gandhinagar at the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit.

 

Stressing that, in this new world, data is the new wealth, Ambani said, “India’s data must be controlled and owned by Indian people and not by corporate, especially global corporations.”

He further said, “For India to succeed in this data driven revolution, we will have to migrate the control and ownership of Indian data back to India. In other words, give Indian wealth back to every Indian.”

Stating that the “entire world has come to recognise” Modi “as a man of action”, Ambani said, “Honorable Prime Minister, am sure you will make this one of the principal goals of your digital India mission.”

Later in the day, countering Ambani’s call, Governor – Commonwealth of Kentucky, Matthew Griswold, asked Modi “to think in the opposite” in order to realise the tremendous opportunity that lies in Indo-US partnership.

“Honorable prime minister you have been asked from this stage to think about limiting the amount of competition, limiting the exchange of ideas, information and goods. I would encourage you to think in the opposite,” he said.

While stating that it is important to put the people of India first, Griswold said, “It is also important to put their opportunity and our opportunity as citizens of the world to trade with one another and exchange ideas because iron sharpens iron.”

The greatest possibility comes from the exchange of these idea, he added.

“If we can cut the regulations, cut the bureaucracy, cut the red tape, the opportunity is enormous between our nations,” he added that India is now the 10th largest trading partner for the US and “climbing quickly”.

“The opportunity before us between India and the United States is incredible, but responsibility falls on each of one us, those of us in elected positions, those of you in the industry, those of you who represent various constituencies, we have much work to do…we must do this, ” Griswold said.

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