Washington: The American corporate sector has hailed Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s first union budget, noting that it is not only inclusive, but also attractive for foreign investments.
President of the US India Strategic and Partnership Forum (USISPF), Mukesh Aghi said that the budget is inclusive and policy decisions are encouraging for American companies.
It is “good news” for companies like Apple, Aghi told news agency Press Trust of India. The Budget opens up the Indian market, and encourages US companies to invest more, at the same time it ensures prosperity and growth for the lower sections, he said.
The Budget is trying to make positive structural changes, he added.
“We are pleased to see a 2019-2020 Budget that delivers a forward-looking and reform-minded approach for the Modi government”s second term,” Nisha Desai Biswal, president of US India Business Council, told news agency PTI.
USIBC welcomes proactive measures to double farmers’ income, liberalise FDI in a number of sectors and allow 100 per cent FDI for insurance intermediaries, and increase FPI investment limits — all reforms USIBC has actively supported, she said.
USIBC members will be encouraged by the Budget’s focus on skilling Indians, with an emphasis on jobs in data analytics, artificial intelligence, and robotics, Ms Biswal said.
“Goals like transforming India into a global space and aviation hub also demonstrate the longer-term thinking of the new government. We look forward to working with Prime Minister Modi and the Government of India to make these priorities, and the larger vision for a modern India a reality,” Biswal said.
“This is a visionary budget from the first woman Finance Minister of India marked with a long-term 10-year plan while retaining focus on immediate priorities,” said Karun Rishi, president of USA-India Chamber of Commerce said.
The focused impetus for sustainable job creation via targeted investment in infrastructure will have a ripple effect on secondary and tertiary employment.
The mission to provide housing to all by 2022 has the potential not just for growth in downstream sectors such as cement and steel but also for overall job creation in these vital industries, he said.
It is a relatively cautious Budget, considering the government’s election mandate, noted Rick Rossow from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) think-tank.
“I expected some bigger ideas, but instead we saw a continuation of key programmes such as infrastructure development, expansion of social programmes in rural areas, and nods to big campaigns like Digital India and Make in India,” Rossow said.
From a foreign business perspective, it was a mixed bag, he said.
“On the positive side, several sectors were listed for foreign investment reforms including insurance, media, and single brand retail,” he added.
“Customs duties are to be reduced in some narrow areas like specialty chemicals and capital goods for electronics manufacturing. But in a range of other sectors, customs duties will be increased including auto parts, video recorders, metal fittings, and more. This Budget is not going to alleviate the current state of trade tensions between the US and India,” Rossow said.
Govt should ease law on firing workers, reform labour laws: Panagariya
Mumbai: India should ease norms for hiring and firing workers to make it easier for companies to do business in the country, according to a former adviser to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.
Easing the rules are crucial for employers, as their primary aim is not to fire workers, Arvind Panagariya, the head of government think-tank NITI Aayog, said in an interview in New Delhi. “You need consistency across labour laws.”
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in her maiden budget this month, proposed combining multiple laws governing workers to form four sets of labor codes to improve the ease of doing business. But what’s needed is the reform of labor laws and not just streamlining of existing ones, said Panagariya.
He said the government’s plan to introduce a single minimum wage across the country may hurt businesses in smaller towns considering the wide differences in costs across urban and rural India. It could especially hurt small exporters and erode their competitiveness globally.
Modi’s government, which was re-elected for a second straight five year term in May, can do more to help grow the economy, Panagariya said, adding that some of India’s labor laws are probably more than 100 years old. Almost all of them are more than 30 years old.
Ban cryptocurrencies, consider launching own digital money: Panel to govt
New Delhi: A panel tasked with examining virtual currencies has recommended that the government should ban private cryptocurrencies and could consider launching its own digital money. It has also recommended that to deter the use of private cryptocurrencies, anyone doing so could be punished with imprisonment of up to 10 years.
The committee on virtual currency is headed by Finance Secretary Subhash Garg. The other members are Ajay Prakash Sawhney, secretary, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology; Ajay Tyagi, chairman, Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi); and B P Kanungo, deputy governor, Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
The committee submitted its report — after a delay of a year. A piece of draft legislation, Banning of Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2019, was also put in the public domain.
The Supreme Court is slated to hear a challenge to a ban on cryptocurrencies by the central government and the Reserve Bank of India.
In its report, the committee has recommended that distributed ledger technology (DLT), the most common use of which is blockchain, can be of great benefit to the country in several financial and non-financial areas, such lowering costs of the Know Your Customer process and improving access to credit.
Ban cryptocurrencies, consider launching own digital money: Panel to govt “There is no underlying intrinsic value of private cryptocurrencies. These… lack all the attributes of a currency. There is no fixed nominal value of these private cryptocurrencies. They neither act as any store of value nor they are a medium of exchange,” the panel said in its report, noting that since their inception, cryptocurrencies had demonstrated extreme fluctuations in their prices.
The draft Bill states: “Whoever directly or indirectly mines, generates, holds, sells, deals in, transfers, disposes of or issues cryptocurrency or any combination thereof… shall be punishable with fine or with imprisonment which shall not be less than one year but which may extend up to ten years, or both.”
The panel said policymakers and regulators should have an open mind regarding the introduction of an official digital currency in India. “It may be possible to visualise some models of future official digital currencies but as of date it is unclear whether there is clear advantage in the context of India to come up with an official digital currency.”
The panel also recommended if required, a group can be constituted by the finance ministry’s department of economic affairs, with participation of the representatives of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeiTY), and the department of financial services for examination and development of an appropriate model of digital currency in India. If one is launched, the RBI should regulate it.Technology experts, however, were not very happy with the recommendations of the panel.
“The definition of cryptocurrency in the report is reasonably vague and may not cover something like Facebook’s libra or even bitcoin if one were to read it too technically. The drafting needs to be better,” said a lawyer who did not want to be named.Experts said it might be possible to develop a distributed ledger with nodes kept only in India.
“As a venture capitalist, I find… the suggestion of a ban quite disappointing because they did not engage with start-ups or domain experts,” said Nitin Sharma, technology investor and founder, Incrypt Blockchain.
Maruti, Hyundai skip rural slump, manage to increase sales in FY19
Chennai: The country’s largest two carmakers, Maruti and Hyundai, managed to increase their rural sales in 2018-19. This took place despite the rural economy being under pressure.
Both companies are optimistic about 2019-20, too, with the raising of rural allocations in the Union Budget and higher Minimum Support Prices. That means more of rural disposable income.
Maruti Suzuki’s (the country’s largest car maker) rural sales in 2018-19 rose to 205,000 units or 39 per cent of sales. A year before, it was around 165,000 units or 37 per cent of sales. This year’s outcome will depend on the monsoon, farm output and how rural sales pick up.
Hyundai’s rural sales were 17.3 per cent of its FY19 total, as against 15.6 per cent a year before. In FY20, the contribution is expected to be around 20 per cent.
Both companies — they address most of the spectrum — have said they are optimistic on the future, despite the overall industry having slowed. According to the Federation of Automobile Dealers Associations, passenger vehicle sales dropped by 4.6 per cent in FY19, to 224,755 units.
Shashank Srivastava, executive director for marketing and sales at Maruti, estimates growth of 4-8 per cent for the current financial year. However, he adds, a good monsoon and a satisfactory (for sales) festival season would be important, he adds.
With car penetration of around 22 per 1,000 population, India continues to be a big opportunity to sell cars, especially in rural areas. Srivastava says the rate of growth in the rural market has invariably been higher in recent years.
“Today, with booming internet users and a strong millennial population, rural markets are emerging as growth engines for sales,” he says.
Further, rural infrastructure has improved significantly. Motorability has seen sharp improvement there, resulting in exponential increase of two-wheeler sales and offering similar potential for cars.
Vikas Jain, national sales head at Hyundai Motor India, says customers of urban and rural markets might have differing needs but similar aspirations. In the latter, owning a car is a big aspiration.
Urban markets are experimenting with mobility solutions such as subscription and leasing. Hyundai has a partnership with self-drive car rental firm Revv and another with mobility solutions firm ALD Automotive India.
The company believes there is huge aspiration among youth in tier-1 and tier-II cities to own a vehicle. Rising disposable income and the expanding presence of financial institutions in rural markets, to offer credit at attractive rates, will enable ownership of cars.