Wednesday, February 25, 2015

EU approved reform proposals submitted by Greece

Feb 25
Eurozone finance ministers have approved reform proposals submitted by Greece in order to obtain a four-month extension of its bailout. The Eurogroup said it has agreed to begin national procedures, parliamentary votes in several states to give the deal final approval. The measures offered by Greece include combating tax evasion and reforming

Priyanka Chopra announced Hottest Woman of 2015!

25 02 2015
Priyanka Chopra beats Deepika Padukone – announced Hottest Woman of 2015!
She’s hugely talented, intelligent, driven, multifaceted, risk-taker, socially conscious, adorable, beautiful, sassy and also very very Sexy…. It’s very difficult to describe Priyanka Chopra in one sentence. So when over 10 million people from across the world voted for her as the ‘World’s sexiest Asian Woman’, you cant help but nod your head in agreement.
The World';s Sexiest Asian Woman recently also bagged the spot for the “Hottest Women of 2015″ ,elbowing out contemporaries with a whopping 53% votes beating Deepika Padukone who received 35% of the votes.This isn';t the first time that the SHERO has beat Deepika at a poll – Priyanka topped the Sexiest Woman in a Bikini poll, bagging 22,552 votes out of the 23,775 votes that came in, winning by a huge margin.
One of Bollywood’s most sought after actresses and international recording artist Priyanka Chopra also made it to the Numero Uno spot on the Ultimate Guys Guide- Maxim India’s Hottest List for 2013.

This was the second consecutive year that Priyanka made it to the top rankings on the magazine’s Hottest List , an annual poll with some of the most gorgeous women competing for the crown.The “Exotic” singer and power player beat the likes of Grammy award winner Beyonce and Victoria’s Secret model Adriana Lima to the no#1 spot.

Launched aMobileApp forAnti-CorruptionBureau

25 02 2015
Launched aMobileApp developed by BombayCodingCompany forAnti-CorruptionBureau.Trained officer ready in every district

RBI smoothen guidelines for Securitisation or Reconstruction Companies in regards to substantial change in its management

25 02 2015
Every Securitisation Company / Reconstruction Company (SC / RC) is required to obtain prior approval of the Reserve Bank for any substantial change in its management. In order to smoothen the functioning of SC/RC companies, it has been decided by RBI, henceforth changes in the share holding pattern of the SC/RC will require Reserve Bank’s prior approval in cases such as any transfer of shares by which the transferee becomes a sponsor, any transfer of shares by which the transferor ceases to be a sponsor and an aggregate transfer of ten percent or more of the total paid up share capital of the SC/RC by a sponsor during the period of five years commencing from the date of certificate of registration.
In terms of Section 3(6) of the SARFAESI Act, 2002, every Securitisation Company / Reconstruction Company (SC / RC) is required to obtain prior approval of the Reserve Bank for any substantial change in its management. For the purpose of this section, the expression “substantial change in management” means the change in the management by way of transfer of shares or amalgamation or transfer of the business of the company. Hence, one of the terms and conditions stipulated to the SC/RCs, while granting them the Certificate of Registration, states that prior approval of Reserve Bank will have to be taken by the SC/RCs for any change in their shareholding pattern.
In order to smoothen the functioning of SC/RC companies, it has been decided that, henceforth only the following changes in the share holding pattern of the SC/RC will require Reserve Bank’s prior approval:
·         any transfer of shares by which the transferee becomes a sponsor.
·         any transfer of shares by which the transferor ceases to be a sponsor.
·         an aggregate transfer of ten percent or more of the total paid up share capital of the SC/RC by a sponsor during the period of five years commencing from the date of certificate of registration.

Snapshot of the summary of report of Fourteenth Finance Commission

25 02 2015
The fourteenth Finance Commission has recommended substantial hike in share of states in central taxes and asked them to tailor make schemes as per their needs. The states share will now be 42% of the entire amount as compared to 32% previously which will translate into an additional, estimated Rs 1.78 lakh crore in the next fiscal year.
The snapshot of the report is as follows-
Sharing of Union Taxes
1.      Considering all factors, the commission believes that increasing the share of tax devolution to 42 % of the divisible pool would serve the twin objectives of increasing the flow of unconditional transfers to the States and yet leave appropriate fiscal space for the Union to carry out specific purpose transfers to the States.
2.      For area the Commission has adopted the method used by the FC-XII and put the floor limit at 2% for smaller States and assigned 15% weight.
3.      In Commission’s view the large forest cover provides huge ecological benefits, but there is also an opportunity cost in terms of area not available for other economic activities and this also serves as an important indicator of fiscal disability. We have assigned 7.5% weight to the forest cover.
4.      As service tax is not levied in the State of Jammu & Kashmir, proceeds cannot be assigned to this State.
5.      The commission has decided to revert to the method of representing fiscal capacity in terms of income distance and assigned it 50% weight.
Disaster Management
1.      The Commission has recommended that the Union Government consider ensuring an assured source of funding for the NDRF and the past trends of out flows from it should be taken into account by the Union Government to ensure adequacy of the Fund in order to assure timely availability and release of funds to the States.
2.      A decision on granting tax exemption to private contributions to the NDRF be expedited and that the Union Government consider invoking the use of Schedule VII of the Companies (Corporate Social Responsibility Policy) Rules 2014 as an enabling provision for financing the NDRF.
3.      A review of the current arrangements for the reimbursement of expenditure incurred by the defence forces on disaster relief is also recommended.
4.      Expediting the development and scientific validation of the Hazard Vulnerability Risk Profiles of States is also recommended by the commission to the union budget.
5.      All States should contribute 10 % to SDRF during the award period of the Finance Commission with the remaining 90 % coming from the Union Government.
6.      Union Government is also recommended to take account of the genuine concerns of the States in the consultative mechanism already in place.
7.      Considering the need for flexibility in regard to state-specific disasters, it is recommended that up to 10 % of the funds available under the SDRF can be used by State Governments for natural disasters that they consider to be ‘disasters’ within the local context in the State and which are not included in the notified list of disasters of the Ministry of Home Affairs.
1.      A total revenue deficit grant of Rs. 1, 94,821 crore is recommended during the award period for eleven States.
2.      There is a case for transfers from the Union Government to the States to augment expenditure in specific sectors with high degree of externalities in order to ensure desired minimum level of expenditures in every State. However, past experience shows that achieving this through the mechanism of Finance Commission grants may not be appropriate.
3.      The proposal made by the Department of Justice to strengthen the judicial systems in the States is also endorsed and State Governments are urged to use the additional fiscal space provided by us in the tax devolution to meet such requirements.
4.      The expenditure needs of the States has taken into account the high base of expenditure for both general administration and police. Therefore,  the States have the appropriate fiscal space to provide for the additional expenditure needs as per their requirements.
5.      Appropriate fiscal space for maintenance expenditures is provided to the states which would enable them to meet the additional expenditure needs according to their requirements. The States are also recommended to enhance expenditure on maintenance of capital assets to the appropriate levels.
6.      Health, education, drinking water and sanitation are considered as public services of national importance, having significant inter-state externalities. Therefore, it is  desisted from recommending specific purpose grants and have suggested that a separate institutional arrangement be introduced for the purpose.
  Towards Cooperative Federalism
1.       It is concluded that a compelling case has been made for reforming the existing system of fiscal transfers from the Union to the States, in a comprehensive manner. Hence it is  recommended that the existing system be reviewed and necessary institutional changes be considered.
2.      The commission believes the existing arrangements for transfers between the Union and the States needs to be reviewed with a view to minimizing discretion, improving the design of transfers, avoiding duplication and promoting cooperative federalism, insofar as such transfers are required to be made outside of the recommendations of the Finance Commission.
3.      It is also recommended that the suggested new institutional arrangement also consider taking up issues related to identifying and recommending resources for inter-state infrastructure schemes in the North-eastern States.
4.      The new institutional arrangement should also become the forum for integrating economic and environmental concerns in decision making.
Goods and Services Tax
1.      The Union may have to initially bear an additional fiscal burden arising due to the GST compensation. This fiscal burden should be treated as an investment which is certain to yield substantial gains to the nation in the medium and long run. The Commission believes that GST compensation can be accommodated in the overall fiscal space available with the Union Government.
2.      In the case of VAT, compensation was provided to the States for three years, at 100 % in the first year, 75 % in the second year, and 50 per cent in the third year. However, given the scale of reform and the apprehensions of revenue uncertainty raised by the States, the revenue compensation should be for five years. It is suggested that 100%compensation be paid to the States in the first, second and third years, 75 % compensation in the fourth year and 50 per cent compensation in the fifth and final year.
3.      The creation of an autonomous and independent GST Compensation Fund through legislative actions in a manner that it gives reasonable comfort to States is recommended such that it limits the period of operation appropriately.
4.      The Constitutional legislative and design aspects of the GST is recommended enabling the transition towards universal application of GST over the medium to long term.
Public Expenditure Management
1.      The Commission endorse the view that the transition to accrual-based accounting by both the Union and State Governments is desirable.
2.      At the Object Head level, the commission believes it is sufficient to have a few uniform Object Heads, such as salary, maintenance, subsidies and grants-in aid, across both the Union and States. Regarding the other Object Heads,  States are recommend to retain their existing flexibility to open new Object Heads according to their functional requirements.
3.      The formulation of appropriate indicators for the measurement of outputs, specification of standards and costs and establishing a suitable accountability framework is recommended.
4.      It is suggested that serious consideration of the issue of assigning primary responsibility for preparing outcome budgets at the level of actual spending and its consolidation at the relevant level of government.
5.      The Union and State Governments are asked to consider the recommendations of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission (submitted in 2009) on internal audit and internal control systems, and take a decision on each recommendation expeditiously.
6.      The views of the FC-XI are reiterated for a consultative mechanism between the Union and States, through a forum such as the Inter-State Council, to evolve a national policy for salaries and emoluments.
7.      The commission also recommends the linking of pay with productivity, with a simultaneous focus on technology, skill and incentives. We recommend that Pay Commissions be designated as ‘Pay and Productivity Commissions’, with a clear mandate to recommend measures to improve ‘productivity of an employee’, in conjunction with pay revisions. It is urged that, in future, additional remuneration be linked to increase in productivity.
8.      The New Pension Scheme to be adopted by the states is recommended.
Public Sector Enterprises
1.      The Commission recommends that the new realities be considered in evaluating the future of each public enterprise in the entire portfolio of Central public sector enterprises.
2.      The evaluation of the fiscal implications of the current level of investments in, and operations of, the existing public enterprises, in terms of opportunity costs, is an essential ingredient of credible fiscal consolidation. Hence,  the fiscal implications in terms of opportunity costs be factored in while evaluating the desirable level of government ownership for each public enterprise in the entire portfolio of Central public sector enterprises is recommended.
3.      The Commission recommends that the basic interests of workers of Central public sector enterprises should be protected at a reasonable fiscal cost, while ensuring a smooth process of disinvestment or relinquishing of individual enterprises. We further recommend that employment objectives should be considered in evaluating the portfolio of public enterprises, not only in the narrow context of the enterprises’ employees, but also in terms of creating new employment opportunities.
4.      The Commission recommends that the route of transparent auctions be adopted for the relinquishment of unlisted sick enterprises in the category of non-priority public sector enterprises.
5.      The Commission recommends that the level of disinvestment should be derived from the level of investment that the government decides to hold over the medium to long term in each enterprise, based on principles of prioritization advised by us, while the process of disinvestment should take into account the market conditions and budgetary requirements, on a year to year basis.
6.      The Commission recommends that the government devise a policy relating to the new areas of public sector investments. We also recommend the purchase of shares where the existing portfolio holding.
7.      The Commission recommends that the enterprises be categorized into ‘high priority’, ‘priority’, ‘low priority’ and ‘non-priority’ in order to: (i) facilitate co-ordinated follow-up action by policy makers and (ii) provide clarity to public enterprises themselves on their future and to the financial markets about the opportunities ahead for them.
8.      The Commission recommends the recommendations made by the FC-XIII to maintain all disinvestment receipts in the Consolidated Fund for utilisation on capital expenditure. The National Investment Fund in the Public Account should, therefore, be wound up in consultation with the Controller General of Accounts (CGA) and Comptroller & Auditor General (C&AG).
9.      The Commission recommends the recommendations made by the FC-XIII to maintain all disinvestment receipts in the Consolidated Fund for utilisation on capital expenditure. The National Investment Fund in the Public Account should, therefore, be wound up in consultation with the Controller General of Accounts (CGA) and Comptroller & Auditor General (C&AG).
10.  There is considerable merit in the Union Government dispensing a small share of proceeds of disinvestment to the States. In the case of Central public sector enterprises with multiple units located in different states, the distribution of this share could be uniform across all the States where units are located. In cases where only vertical unit-wise disinvestment is done, the share could go to the State/States where the units being disinvested are located.
11.  The importance of making Central public sector enterprises effective and competitive is recognized by the commission and  the monitoring and evaluation of these enterprises is suggested to be taken into account the institutional constraints within which their managements operate. If the Central public sector enterprises are burdened with implementing social objectives of the government, it should compensate them in a timely manner and adequately through a transparent budgetary subvention. Similarly, losses on account of administered price mechanisms should also be calculated and fully compensated for
12.  The Commission recommends that governance arrangements be reviewed, especially in regard to separation of regulatory functions from ownership, role of the nominee as well as independent Directors, and, above all, the framework of governance conducive to efficiency. The Commission recommends that as part of the comprehensive review of the public sector enterprises proposed by us, policies and procedures relating to borrowing by the enterprises, payment of dividends and transfer of excess reserves be enunciated and enforced.
Pricing of Public Utilities
1.      In order to provide financial autonomy to the SERCs, Section 103 of the Electricity Act, 2003, provides for the establishment of a State Electricity Regulatory Commission Fund by State Governments, to enable the SERCs to perform their responsibilities, as envisaged under the Act.
2.      The Commission recommends that accounting systems in the State Road Transport Undertakings make explicit the types of subsidies, the basis for determining the extent of subsidies, and also the extent of reimbursement by State Governments.
3.      The Commission recommends the setting up of independent regulators for the passenger road sector, whose key functions should include tariff setting, regulation of service quality, assessment of concessionaire claims, collection and dissemination of sector information, service-level benchmarks and monitoring compliance of concession agreements.
4.      The Commission recommends  that all States, irrespective of whether Water Regulatory Authorities (WRAs) are in place or not, consider full volumetric measurement of the use of irrigation water. Any investment that may be required to meet this goal should be borne by the States, as the future cumulative benefits, both in environmental and economic terms, will far exceed the initial costs.
5.      The Commission has reiterated the recommendations of the FC-XIII and urge States which have not set up WRAs to consider setting up a statutory WRA, so that the pricing of water for domestic, irrigation and other uses can be determined independently and in a judicious manner. However, this may not be practical for the North-eastern states, due to the small size of their irrigation sectors, with Assam being the exception.
6.      The Commission recommends that States (and urban and rural bodies) should progressively move towards 100% metering of individual drinking water connections to households, commercial establishments as well as institutions. All existing individual connections in urban and rural areas should be metered by March 2017 and the cost of this should be borne by the consumers. All new connections should be given only when the functioning meters are installed. While providing protected water supply through community taps is unavoidable for poorer sections of population, metering of water consumed in such cases also would ensure efficient supply.
Fiscal Environment and Fiscal Consolidation Roadmap
1.      The commission recommends that both Union and State Governments adopt a template for collating, analysing and annually reporting the total extended public debt in their respective budgets as a supplement to the budget document.
2.      The Committee recommended that the Union and the State Governments provide a statutory ceiling on the sanction of new capital works to an appropriate multiple of the annual budget provision.
3.      The fiscal deficit targets and annual borrowing limits for the States during the Finance Commission’s  award period are enunciated as follows:
i.        Fiscal deficit of all States will be anchored to an annual limit of 3% of GSDP. The States will be eligible for flexibility of 0.25% over and above this for any given year for which the borrowing limits are to be fixed if their debt-GSDP ratio is less than or equal to 25% in the preceding year.
ii.      States will be further eligible for an additional borrowing limit of 0.25% of GSDP in a given year for which the borrowing limits are to be fixed if the interest payments are less than or equal to 10% of the revenue receipts in the preceding year.
iii.    The two options under these flexibility provisions can be availed of by a State either separately, if any of the above criteria is fulfilled, or simultaneously if both the above stated criteria are fulfilled. Thus, a State can have a maximum fiscal deficit-GSDP limit of 3.5% in any given year.
4.      The flexibility in availing the additional limit under either of the two options or both will be available to a State only if there is no revenue deficit in the year in which borrowing limits are to be fixed and the immediately preceding year. If a State is not able to fully utilise its sanctioned borrowing limit of 3 per cent of GSDP in any particular year during the first four years of our award period (2015-16 to 2018-19), it will have the option of availing this un-utilised borrowing amount (calculated in rupees) only in the following year but within our award period.
5.      Recognising that the fiscal environment should be conducive to equitable growth, the Commission also recommends that the Union and all the States should target improving the quality of fiscal management encompassing receipts and expenditures while adhering to the roadmap we have outlined.
6.      To enable wider dissemination of the manner in which this shared responsibility for a conducive fiscal environment is being discharged by the Union and State Governments, the Commission recommends that the Union Government and the RBI bring out a bi-annual report on the public debt of the Union and State Governments on a regular and comparable basis and place it in public domain.
7.      The Commission recommends that the Union Government should consider making an amendment to the FRBM Act to omit the definition of effective revenue deficit from 1 April 2015. It also recommends that the objective of balancing revenues and expenditure on the revenue account enunciated in the FRBM Acts should be pursued.
8.      The Commission recommends an amendment to the FRBM Act inserting a new section mandating the establishment of an independent fiscal council to undertake ex-ante assessment of the fiscal policy implications of budget proposals and their consistency with fiscal policy and Rules. In addition, we urge that the Union Government take expeditious action to bring into effect Section 7A of the FRBM Act for the purposes of ex-post assessment.
9.      The approach outlined and recommendations made warrant amendments to the FRBM Acts. To this end, the State Governments are suggested to may their FRBM Acts to provide for the statutory flexible limits on fiscal deficit. The Union Government may amend its FRBM Act to reflect the fiscal roadmap, omit the definition of effective revenue deficit and mandate the establishment of an independent fiscal council. Further, the Union and State Governments may also amend their respective FRBM Acts to provide a statutory ceiling on the sanction of new capital works to an appropriate multiple of the annual budget provision.
 Local Governments
1.      The Commission recommends that the local bodies should be required to spend the grants only on the basic services within the functions assigned to them under relevant legislations.
2.      The Commission recommends that the books of accounts prepared by the local bodies should distinctly capture income on account of own taxes and non-taxes, assigned taxes, devolution and grants from the State, grants from the Finance Commission and grants for any agency functions assigned by the Union and State Governments. In addition to the above, we also recommend that the technical guidance and support arrangements by the C&AG should be continued and the States should take action to facilitate local bodies to compile accounts and have them audited in time.
3.      The Commission recommends distribution of grants to the States using 2011 population data with weight of 90% and area with weight of 10%. The grant to each state will be divided into two, a grant to duly constituted gram panchayats and a grant to duly constituted municipalities, on the basis of urban and rural population of that state using the data of census 2011.

Cheok Huei Shian as Chief Financial Officer of AIRASIA

25 02 2015

AirAsia X appoints Cheok Huei Shian as Chief Financial Officer

SEPANG, 25th February 2015- AirAsia X Berhad, the leading long-haul low-fare carrier today announced the appointment of Cheok Huei Shian as its Chief Financial Officer effective immediately. Reporting directly to Benyamin Ismail, acting Chief Executive Officer of AirAsia X Berhad, Huei Shian will be responsible for corporate finance, treasury, financial planning and analysis as well as investor relations.
Datuk Kamarudin Meranun, Group CEO of AirAsia X said, “We are excited to have Huei Shian join our management team as we continue to drive our strategic and financial business transformation. Huei Shian was part of the core team in the early days of AirAsia and has played an instrumental role in the success of AirAsia and getting the company listed on the Bursa Stock Exchange. She has vast experience and been involved in the turnaround team that oversees the entire AirAsia group. Her strong track record of financial and operational management success, combined with her very intimate knowledge of AirAsia’s business model, culture and products, make her exceptionally qualified to help us continue to build upon our market.  My vision is to bring back people that understands the business as it will be instrumental in realizing our goal to be the undisputed global leader in the long-haul LCC category.”
Huei Shian joined AirAsia in 2004 and has held senior leadership roles across the group. Prior to AirAsia, Huei Shian was with Ernst & Young in the Financial and Advisory Service Department.
Huei Shian holds an Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) Professional Stage from FTMS Business School and an ACCA Certificate from University Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR), Kuala Lumpur. Huei Shian is a fellow member of the ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) and a member of the MIA (Malaysia Institute of Accountants).
Benyamin Ismail, acting CEO of AirAsia X Berhad said, “We are delighted to have Huei Shian in the team.  We now have the right people in key management positions and an organization that is optimally structured to support our current business, company growth and the successful execution of key new initiatives.”
Huei Shian replaces Chew Eng Loke, the former Chief Financial Officer of AirAsia X, who has decided to pursue other opportunities.

Anti Corruption activist, Anna Hazare led a two day protest

25 02 2015
Anti Corruption activist, Shri Anna Hazare led a two day protest for farmer rights at Jantar Mantar,on 23 and 24 of February, 2015. The protest grounds were a striking contrast with his previous protest in 2011. In 2011, there was a crowd teeming with anger, energy and hope. In 2015 , there was a crowd with little hope and more discipline than could be seen in 2011. The dominant sensation was of fear. Fear of eviction from the land on which  they  had lived for generations together , was the motivating factor, which had drawn crowds from various parts of the country. All the oppositions parties , have declared their support for the cause of the farmers. The Delhi Chief Minister, Shri Arvind Kejriwal, of the Aam Aadmi, also shared the stage with Shri Anna Hazare on 24 February, 2015. Using this opportunity Shri Kejriwal , said that “In the country, if any government makes laws against the poor, makes laws against the farmers, the public will not let it last. They will teach them a lesson.”When asked , the protestors said that they believed that after the said bill becomes a law, their land will be forcibly taken and given to the “rich industrialists”. The fact that land is also acquired by the government for developmental activities, did not find much resonance among them. Some of them also voiced concern about the government machinery being inefficient and corrupt, would  thus deprive them of the compensation or delay it inconveniently. The removal of the Social Impact Assessment and the Consent  clause are the two major points of contention, between the government and the opposition. Though the lesser covered fact is that, both these clauses have been removed only for land acquisition under five sectors, which are – national security, defence, rural infrastructure , industrial corridors and housing for the poor. The Finance Minister, Shri Arun Jaitely , also stated that the removal of the two clauses was done with the concurrence of the  states, including the opposition ruled ones.The Jantar Mantar was probably exactly opposite of the gathering inside both the houses of the Parliament. The people at the Jantar Mantar echoed the sentiment of not being heard. They were from different places, and the only thing that bound them was their desire to be heard by the government. While inside,  the people  weren’t too keen on debate or discussion. They seemed keen to obstruct. While the opposition from the people came essentially on the content of the the Bill, the lawmakers also opposed the Ordinance route adopted by the government. In the meanwhile, the government reiterated it’s commitment to having a constructive debate on the issue and also appointed a committee under the leadership of, BJP president, Mr. Amit Shah to look into the suggestions of the farmers.The farmers’ desire to be heard maybe taken care of, by the  committee, what remains to be seen is how the lawmakers of the country will react,  when the Land Acquisition Bill is tabled in the Parliament. The nation awaits!
On electric water  tariff Arvind Kejriwal government in Delhi on Wednesday slashed power tariff by half for 400 Units the lower slab users and announced free water up to 20,000 litres for every household from March 1.
Aparna Pande

Union Budget likely to be a mix bag of reforms and social agenda

25 02 2015

President’s address outlines use of technology, innovation
After the BJP’s victory march was halted in Delhi by the new Aam Aadmi Party, leading to its decimation in the state, the ruling party at the Centre has become cautious about not ignoring the issues relating to the common man. Apart from being aggressive on market reforms and alluring foreign direct investments (FDIs), the upcoming Union Budget and Railway Budget are likely to focus on some of the needs of the common man. The intention of the government is amply made clear in the President’s address to the joint session of the Parliament.
President’s address, drafted by the Union Cabinet, is reflective of the government’s annual agenda. A careful reading between the lines shows that that the government wants to keep its agenda for second generation economic reforms intact and to give a human face to its processes of further liberalization of the economy, it intends to resolve the issues of the common man much through the deployment of science and technology.
“Continuous evaluation of inverted duties is being undertaken to make Indian industries competitive. Stress is being laid on research and innovation. While focusing our attention on manufacturing for creating more jobs, my Government will continue to work on our formidable strength in the service sector,” the President’s address said.
Make-in-India is the pet project of the Prime Minister Narendrabhai Damodardass Modi and the Union Budget is likely to spare no effort in paving the way for the easy inflow of the FDIs and making as much concessions to the manufacturing sector.
As for the services sector, tourism is likely to get much attention. A new tourism policy is on the anvil. Major allocations are likely for developing Jyotirling Circuit, Sukhmangal Circuit, Dakshin Dham Circuit, Krishna Circuit, Himalayan Circuit, Coastal Circuit and Buddha Circuit. Dedicated tourist trains are already in vogue for some of these destinations.
The upcoming Railway Budget is likely reform and infuse new vitality into this through better services, improved passenger-safety and increased movement of freight. By ensuring passenger safety and giving better facility, the government intends to bridge the gap between infrastructure growth and passenger traffic growth. Greater allocations are likely for dedicated freight corridors and metro rail projects in some cities.
On the social sector front, government intends to make Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) “a powerful weapon to combat rural poverty” and by creating durable assets. It will direct about 60% of the expenditure under this scheme for creating agriculture infrastructure. Focus will be on promoting value-added agriculture, market reforms, use of technology, augmenting irrigation through river basin linking if possible and improving productivity in areas with untapped potential. Adequate attention is likely for livestock and fishery sectors.
Another area is skill development. A National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship is on the anvil to cater to the needs of both domestic and global markets. The Micro Small and Medium Enterprises are also likely to get attention. The Budget is also likely to give attention science and technology, particularly research and development. “Steps are being taken to channelize more resources for research and development in India; build world class research centres; nurture young talent and promote international collaboration, including the world’s largest optical -Thirty Meter Telescope”, the President’s address said.
The Mission Housing for All by 2020 is set to get adequate sops and allocation with government’s liberalized FDI policy. For easy flow of loan to housing and other sector the government is ready to undertaking financial sector restructuring and expedite implementation of the recommendations of the Financial Sector Legislative Reforms Commission.
With a view to aggressively promote development of 100 smart cities, the government will come out with a National Urban Development Mission which would also focus on water and solid waste management.
Power sector is likely get adequate focus in the Budget alongwith the development of clean energy. Government intends to enhance the share of renewable energy in electricity generation from the present 6% to 15% in the next 7 years. Solar energy generating capacities will be set up along the international borders.
The Defence allocation is likely to see a sea change with focus on Indian Navy. Under Make-in-India programme ship designing capabilities, ship building and ship repairs will be strengthened. An environment will be created to increase the shipping tonnage and reduce the transaction time at ports. The Jal Marg Vikas Project will be taken up with sincerity for comprehensive development for national waterways for transportation.
On the front of Information Technology, Digital India will be taken up in right earnest. Auctions will be conducted for 135 vacant channels in 69 existing cities of FM phase-II as part of first batch of FM phase-III. It will also facilitate migration of FM phase-II to FM phase-III. This will take private FM radio to cities having population of more than one lakh and border towns in Jammu and Kashmir, northeastern region and island territories in a phased manner.
Prime Minister’s other pet projects like Swachh Bharat Mission, Namai Gange, Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana and NITI Aayog are also likely figure prominently in Finance Minister’s Budget speech.
The Budget, therefore, is likely to be mix bag of reforms, deployment of technology and innovation and social agenda.
(Ashok B Sharma is a senior Columnist writing on strategic and policy issues in several Indian and international newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at His mobile phone no +91-9810902204)

Government accepts recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission

25 02 2015
PM writes to Chief Ministers<
Record increase in devolution of resources to states
PM: Our Government has decided to devolve maximum money to states and allow them the required freedom to plan the course of states’ development.
The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, has written to Chief Ministers, informing them of the Government`s decision to wholeheartedly accept the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission. Following is the text of the Prime Minister`s letter:
“You are aware that ever since our Government came into office, I have been working to strengthen our federal polity and promote cooperative federalism. The people of the country have high expectations from their governments and do not want to wait. Therefore, since the very beginning, we have been committed to a rapid and inclusive process of growth. Looking to the diversity of the country, we understand that real and functional Federal Governance is the only vehicle to achieve this objective quickly and holistically.
I sincerely believe that strong states are the foundation of a strong India. Even as Chief Minister, I had been saying that the progress of the country depends on the progress of states. This Government is, therefore, committed to the idea of empowering states in all possible ways. We also believe that states should be allowed to chalk out their programmes and schemes with greater financial strength and autonomy, while observing financial prudence and discipline. We are clear that without this, local development needs cannot be met and marginalised communities and backward regions cannot be brought into the mainstream.
With this in mind, we have replaced the Planning Commission with the NITI Aayog with the explicit intent of ensuring that this becomes a common forum for forging a national vision on development. Such a vision and the concrete steps that all of us take will help in realising the development aspirations of our people.
It is in this context that we have wholeheartedly accepted the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission, although it puts a tremendous strain on the Centre’s finances. The 14th FC has recommended a record increase of 10% in the devolution of the divisible pool of resources to states. This compares with the marginal increases made by previous Finance Commissions. The total devolution to states in 2015-16 will be significantly higher than in 2014-15. This naturally leaves far less money with the Central Government. However, we have taken the recommendations of the 14th FC in a positive spirit as they strengthen your hand in designing and implementing schemes as per your priorities and needs.
In making its recommendations, the 14th FC has made a fundamental shift in the pattern of financing revenue expenditures. It has assumed all central assistance to State Plan Revenue expenditure to be part of the states’s revenue burden and determined devolution on this basis. Para 7.43 of its report explains this. The dominant view of states too has been that a majority of the resources should flow as tax devolution and the number of CSS should be reduced as the 14th FC states in Paras 8.6 & 8.7.
Therefore, there is a shift from scheme and grant based support from the Central Government to a devolution based support. Hence, the devolution of 42% of divisible resources.
Therefore, as per the 14th FC, all State Plan Revenue expenditure has to be met from the resources being devolved to states. In spite of this large devolution, we have decided to continue with some support to topmost areas of national priority such as poverty elimination, MNREGA, education, health, rural development, agriculture and a few other areas.
You will appreciate that, following the acceptance of the 14th FC recommendations, we are moving away from rigid centralised planning, forcing a ‘One size fits all’ approach on states. States have always been voicing their opposition to this philosophy for years. Accepting these long standing concerns and long-felt lacunae in the country’s planning process, our Government has decided to devolve maximum money to states and allow them the required freedom to plan the course of states’ development. The additional 10% of resources being devolved will give you this freedom.
In this overall context when you are flush with resources, I would like you to have a fresh look at some of the erstwhile schemes and programmes supported by the centre. States are free to continue or change these schemes and programmes as per their discretion and requirement. In all these, the Union Government, particularly the NITI Aayog, will support states in developing a strategy and in its execution through ideas, knowledge and technology.
This is all towards the fulfilment of my promise of co-operative federalism. As you have already seen, we have decided to involve states in discussing and planning national priorities. This is being done so as to maximise the outcome from every rupee spent either at the centre or the state. It was with this spirit of Team India that all Chief Ministers have been made equal partners in the Governing Council of NITI Aayog. This is our strategy to take the country to a faster and yet inclusive growth trajectory through co-operative federalism which is real and true federalism.
We are happy with our decision and that resources are going to the right place. Resources are going to states to ensure that poverty is eliminated, jobs are created; houses, drinking water, roads, schools, hospitals and electricity are provided. This has never happened in this country before.
In addition, we have recently revised the rates of royalty on minerals which benefits many states. The ongoing transparent auction of coal and other minerals will result in flow of over Rs 1 lakh crore of additional funds to mineral and coal bearing states. Eastern India, which is less developed in spite of having immense mineral resources, is an important gainer and this is an opportunity for this part to catch up with the rest of the country.
Resources, thus, are not and will not be a problem. The issue is the direction and intent of our policies and our capacity to implement. You will agree that money, either at the central or the state level, should be spent to address the key challenges before the Nation. The focus should be the poor, farmers and common men and women, the youth and children. The challenge is to address the factors which inhibit the realisation of their full potential.
This is a golden opportunity in our nation’s economic development process. My recent visits across the world have shown that there is a lot of optimism about India and interest in investing here. Everyone wants to partner with India in its growth story. This is not an opportunity for the central government, but an opportunity for India as a whole.
Let us aim at a quantum leap in the process of our nation’s development. I am writing this to you in order to seek your co-operation and involvement in defining key challenges facing your state and the country and to devote the time, energy and resources to address these. I expect that every state will come up with a plan for its key priorities and deploy resources for this purpose. We should also adopt a rigorous system of evaluation of schemes and projects. I will work with you in this effort. Together, we have to establish benchmarks in terms of quality of works and their speedy execution.
Let us work together in this direction. I will be available for any consultation in this regard at any time.”


25 02 2015
GOVERNMENT ORDERS SUSEPNSION OF SHRI SHASHI SHANKAR, DIRECTOR (T&FS) Shri Shashi Shankar, Director (T&FS), ONGC has committed gross misconduct while dealing with a tender for Procurement of Twenty One Blowout Preventers (BOP). He has been associated with this tender as GGM and OSD to Director (T&FS) and from 01.01.2012 as Director (T&FS).Taking strong note of the lapses the Government on 23rd February ordered suspension of Shri Shashi Shankar with immediate effect to ensure fair and transparent inquiry.

In Czech Republic gunman fires at restaurant

25 02 2015
8 killed in Czech Republic as gunman fires at restaurant
Feb 25
In the Czech Republic, a gunman has opened fire at a restaurant, killing eight people before shooting himself dead. Officials say, the man burst into the Druzba restaurant in the eastern town of Uhersky Brod and started shooting indiscriminately. Some 20 people were thought to have been in the restaurant at the time. Police described it as the worst mass shooting incident on record. Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec said it was not a terrorist attack.

Luthuania to restore compulsory military service for young men

25 02 2015
Luthuania to restore compulsory military service for young men amid mounting tension in Ukraine
Feb 25
Luthuania will restore compulsory military service for young men as tensions in Ukraine continue to worry the small Baltic nation. After a meeting of military leaders and top government officials, President Dalia Grybauskaite said the measure is necessary because of growing aggression in Ukraine. Military officials said Lithuania will reinstate national service for five years starting in September. They will serve for nine months. The country has some 15,000 troops, down from nearly 39,000 it had before joining the alliance in 2004, and has no military aircraft or tanks.

India’s candidature for permanent membership of reformed UNSC

25 02 2015
Obama endorses India’s candidature for permanent membership of reformed UNSC
Feb 25
US President Barack Obama has endorsed India’s candidature for the permanent membership of the reformed UN Security Council. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said yesterday that India’s permanent membership to the UN security council is among a variety of other important reforms to the United Nations that Mr Obama has endorsed. Mr Earnest, however, said that he has no updates on the status of the ongoing reforms to the UN or efforts to try to bring about some of those reforms. During his India visit last month, the US President had reaffirmed his support for a reformed UN Security Council with India as a permanent member.

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