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Petrol, diesel prices unlikely to flare up ahead of 2019 polls

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New Delhi: Consumers may be spared big spike in auto fuel prices ahead of the 2019 general elections with state-owned oil marketing companies planning to absorb a portion of the anticipated hike while deciding on retail rates of petrol and diesel.

Sources said these companies built a buffer during the recent fall in global crude and product prices by effecting less than proportional decrease in retail prices of fuel. It means prices have not been lowered in real terms. The buffer could be put to use once prices begin to rise again when global markets starts to feel the impact of the latest Opec announced production cuts.

“The idea is to prevent fuel prices from touching record highs again. Crude prices, which have fallen about 25 per cent since mid-October, are likely to cross $70 a barrel soon. The buffer would be used to see that increase in retail fuel prices could be paused on few days while quantum of increase could be lowered on others,” said a government official privy to the development.

 

Retail price of petrol touched an all-time high of Rs 84 a litre and diesel Rs 75.45 a litre in Delhi (over Rs 91 a litre in Mumbai) on October 4 due to rise in global oil prices from around $50 a barrel in early part of the year to over $80 per barrel in September. The spike attracted wrath of public and severely dented the government’s image over its ability to contain price rise. The Indian basket of crude fell to a low average of $65.40 a barrel in November. But with Opec, including Russia, announcing to take 1.2 million barrels per day of production off the market for the first six months of 2019, crude is expected to start nearing $80 a barrel soon.

This could take petrol and diesel prices closer to October 4 levels, which the government wants to avoid especially ahead of general elections. If we look at the November data, petrol was being retailed at Rs 78 a litre and diesel Rs 72 a litre in the national capital even when crude price in the Indian basket was about $69 a barrel. At this level in April this year, petrol was being retailed at Rs 73-74 a litre and diesel Rs 65-66 a litre. And auto fuels’ price was high despite the government having reduced excise duty on them by Rs 1.50 a litre in October.

It would mean even if crude touches $80 a barrel, the retail price of fuel would be well below that the October highs.

Officials of OMCs disagree over higher cuts in retail price of fuel saying the current scenario should be viewed in the context of sharp fall in the rupee against the dollar making oil purchases expensive.

Oil prices have fallen over 25 per cent in last one and half months due to easing of supply pressures, particularly from Iran. The US waiver for oil imports from Iran to major oil importers has eased the situation. But analysts believe once Iran oil exports starts getting wiped out from next year, there could be supply issues and a resultant price rise. The Opec cuts only have added to price worries.


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Business

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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