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Organic relationships in the BIMSTEC region need revival: Nirmala Sitharaman
Oct 17,2016

Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister of Commerce and Industry, Government of India called for greater buoyancy in the approach toward implementing projects in the BIMSTEC region. The Minister was speaking at the BIMSTEC Business Summit organized by the Ministry of External Affairs with the Confederation of Indian Industry.

Sitharaman elucidated how the complementarity of the region could be highlighted to close in on the agreements that are being discussed. She shared that with the BRICS Business meetings going on at present, it was apt to have invited the BIMSTEC countries to take part in the deliberations. She observed that the countries in this region have been connected since time immemorial and hence the organic nature of pre-existing relationships could be easily revived.

Romi Gauchan Thakali, Minister of Commerce, Government of Nepal, highlighted that for Nepal, BIMSTEC is a stepping stone for its industry to embark on the journey to integrated business transactions. Having achieved their political agenda in the recent past, Nepal is currently on the path of economic development and hence is ready to foster in regional integration and increased business linkages with its neighboring nations especially under the BIMSTEC umbrella. He also urged that the special treatment given to LDCs in the region be continued as it has definitely resulted in successful business exchanges.

Preeti Saran, Secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs said that countries in the BIMSTEC region have a shared heritage and is one of the most dynamic regions in the world. She pointed out that put together BIMSTEC countries comprises of $ 2.5 bn of the world economy. Hence it is important that the themes of free trade, physical connectivity, power and MSMEs get maximum focus. She further added that being the lead country for BIMSTEC on the sectors of transport, tourism and infrastructure; India will continue pushing agendas for greater collusion of thoughts.

Sumith Nakandala, Secretary General, BIMSTEC Secretariat, Bangladesh laid emphasis on the fact that that the Bay of Bengal us a conduit for the flow of ideas and innovative business models. BIMSTEC region is situated at the heart of history and it is only the reimagining of connections that will pave the way for the formation of an exemplary network. It is time that we rediscover our common heritage and create the roadmap to celebrate the 20th anniversary of BIMSTEC, he said.

Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General, Confederation of Indian Industry, said that Indian industry has a key role to play in driving global trade and investment agenda. The Annual BIMSTEC Business Summit will provide opportunities of Country Mapping of the member countries. The engagement would facilitate as well as identify opportunities of Sectoral Collaboration and Policy Advocacy between member countries.

The Summit provided a platform to deliberate upon concerns with regard to the finalization of the FTA, connecting the dots with respect to physical connectivity, ways to power BIMSTEC countries and providing the right ecosystem for the growth of MSMEs. It brought together experts from Industry, Government and Institutions to build integrative strategies to facilitate an effective and integrated role with invaluable collaborative opportunities to ensure unhindered economic growth and human development in the BIMSTEC region.

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Marked growth in consumer confidence this festive season; Consumer to spend 40% more this Diwali: ASSOCHAM Survey
Oct 17,2016

Riding on the back of an uptick in the economy and improving perception for better job prospects, coupled with steady lowering of interest rates, the consumer demand is witnessing a marked growth of as much 40 per cent in the ongoing festival season this year, as compared to 2015, an ASSOCHAM survey has said.

Notably, rural demand is adding to the festive fervour, as good Monsoon has boosted confidence among the farmers and farm labour. Clear pick up is visible in the sale of two-wheelers, jewellery and even consumer durables in the rural and semi-rural areas in most parts of the country. However, as noted in earlier ASSOCHAM survey, the demand for real estate and housing remains very low key.

The uptick in demand is seen clearly in the sale of automobiles including passenger cars, two-wheelers, mobile handsets, consumer durables and fashion -wears. So far, the maximum push is seen in the eastern and western region while the northern region is expected to pick up in the run-up to Diwali, reveals the ASSOCHAM survey.

Kolkata and other major cities in the east have witnessed a splurge on Durga Puja shopping while the western cities of Maharashtra and Gujarat have seen good rush of shoppers during the Navratris. Delhi and other north Indian cities would pick up pace in the next few days in jewellery buying, apart from consumer durables.

According to the survey, about 20 per cent increase in spend on groceries; a 52 per cent increase in budget apparels, about 32 percent spend on lifestyle and fashion accessories in the next three months would mark the festive season, the survey noted.

Green shoots in the economy are giving a lot of confidence to consumer demand, which hopefully would lead to an appetite for fresh investment after a brief lag, said ASSOCHAM Secretary General Mr D S Rawat .

The survey covered consumers in age groups 24-34 and 35-45 in Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Chandigarh, Lucknow and Indore.

The survey reveals that women are likely to spend more on apparel than men, while men tend to spend more on lifestyle accessories than women.

The average amount spend on mobiles during the festive season is expected to range from Rs 15,000- 35,500, up from Rs 10,000 - 15,000 for the last six months. In case of mobile phones and other electronics, consumers will re-look into various brands and their offerings especially, in terms of the value proposition before making the purchase decision.

The average ticket size for home appliances and electronics during the festive season is expected to be Rs 15,000-25,000/- six months ago.

The middle and upper middle class spend around Rs 10,000 to Rs 25,000 in the festive season. Mostly they buy electronic items like mobiles, laptops or LED TVs.

Metro consumers are increasing taking to online shopping as top e-commerce companies discounts, freebies and offers to boost sales. Online retailers such as Amazon, Paytm, Jabong, ShopClues, Snapdeal, Flipkart and Quikr are doling out hefty discounts apart from cash-back offers and loyalty points.

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Monetary Stance and Inflation Easing Provide Scope for Further Monetary Accommodation
Oct 15,2016

India Ratings and Research (Ind-Ra) expects one more 25bp rate cut in FY17 on account of the tweak in monetary policy stance and easing of retail and wholesale inflation. The change in the Reserve Bank of Indias (RBI) policy stance with respect to the reduction in real interest to 1.25% from the 1.5%-2.0% range coupled with extending the time to achieve 4% inflation by three years (to March 2021 from March 2018) has provided RBI additional space for monetary easing in the near-term.

Consumer Price Index (CPI) came in at 4.3% in September 2016 as against Ind-Ras forecast of 4.6%. Wholesale Price Index (WPI) moderated to 3.6% in September from 3.7% in the previous month. Both CPI and WPI moderated in September primarily led by softening food price inflation. The trend is along expected lines and Ind-Ra believes it is likely to continue in the next month.

Retail food inflation (excluding non-alcoholic beverages and prepared meals) moderated to 3.88%yoy in September 2016 from 5.91% in the previous month. This was because of a sharp decline in the prices of vegetables and pulses. Pulses inflation moderated to 14.3% in September 2016 (August 2016: 21.9%) while vegetable prices contracted 7.2% (1%). Prices of cereals, eggs, sugar and fruits, with a weightage of 14.35% in CPI, however increased in September 2016.

Lower retail inflation is indeed a reason for cheer, particularly when the festival season is round the corner; however, there are few pressure points that need attention such as i) rising trend in cereal prices, ii) rise in the prices of transport and communication services and iii) the likely impact of house rent allowance as and when announcement on allowance is made by the government. The other area of concern with respect to retail inflation is a sustained higher inflation in rural areas than urban areas. Rural CPI came in at 5% as against 3.6% urban CPI in September 2016.

On the WPI front, food inflation moderated to 5.75% yoy in September 2016 from 8.23% in the previous month. While wholesale inflation has remained benign, pressure is emerging from fuel, power, light and lubricants group (September 2016: 5.6%, August 2016: 1.6%). Inflation of mineral oils group jumped to 10% in September from 3.4% in August 2016. Core (non-food) inflation after remaining in negative territory from March 2015 to June 2016 has turned positive since July 2016. Positive core inflation suggests some improvement in demand and pricing power; however, it is too early to term this as a demand turnaround.

Lower inflation cements market expectation of a rate cut and is, therefore, likely to keep bond market sentiment buoyed - with risks emerging from the Fed rate hike probability and a potential surge in oil price. While government bonds are likely to remain in focus, the preference could shift to highly rated corporate bonds and state development loans as investors rush to capture yields. This opens up the possibility of narrowing of credit and duration spread over the coming months.

In the medium term, the rupee will continue to be supported by fundamental drivers; while short-term movement will be guided by corporate earnings and global risk appetite. The flows position has favoured the equity segment over the debt market for most of 2016. These flows will be impacted as the Fed moves closer to hiking rates while the concern over foreign currency non-resident (FCNR B) deposits redemption will pose volatility risks. Pertinently, a sudden shift in global financial conditions could pose risks for the currency as spreads between global yields and domestic yields have narrowed.

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Centre to establish logistic hubs near sea ports to promote exports: Nirmala Sitharaman
Oct 15,2016

The government is establishing logistic hubs near sea ports with private sector participation to relieve the issue of receiving stocks on the airport, seaport and movement of goods inland, Union Commerce Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman said at an ASSOCHAM event.

n++We are establishing logistic hubs nearer the sea ports, as many of them, I may not be able to give a final picture, I think this would address immediate concerns that would be sustainable in the long term,n++ said Sitharaman.

Highlighting the priority of the government to cut down on logistic challenges, she said that the Centre was trying to make electronic data interchanges at major ports that are completely under the control of Central Government.

n++In 36 landing areas, the regional authorities representing the DGFT (Director General of Foreign Trade) office have just initiated a two-day intensive workshop with them to see how best to reach out to exporters, how best to engage with exporters and CBEC (Central Board of Excise and Customs) is also part of this exercise,n++ said the Minister.

On the issue of 24x7 presence of DGFT and Customs authorities she said, n++We shall ensure that there shall not be a day wasted for import or export for some reason when there is a need for an authority to come in to certify or to question or to give clarification, for want of the presence of officers, trade shall not suffer, we shall attend to it.n++

Highlighting that a complete, comprehensive picture is being handled on the logistics front, she said that her ministry was engaging with railways to cut down costs.

She also informed that the review of Foreign Trade Policy (FTP) is underway. n++As of 2015 when FTP was brought out I remember making a clear statement so that there is a sense of stability in the minds of exporters that I shall not review the policy unless we reach the mid-term, the review has commenced. We are doing the FTP review.n++

Conceding that taxation was a key issue hampering exports growth, Sitharaman said, n++You cannot be paying tax over tax and exporters cannot be taxed for exporting, we recognize that difficulty and I know GST (Goods and Services Tax) alone cannot give us the solution, in fact the GST would raise the industrys ambition saying why taxation cannot be simplified and subsume many of tax into GST so that we handle only one.n++

Emphasizing that simplification of taxation was the governments top agenda, she said, n++We are trying to simplify, since it involves many states, we are also making sure that we take them on board.n++

On ease of doing business, she said that government was identifying more and more hurdles each year without which exporters, manufacturers would be better off.

n++We are working on it, it is something which is not going to be that easily brought to a closure, these are long term sustained efforts, which are not the glamorous side of big ticket reforms but the sustainable actions that we need to take in order to bring systemic reforms and we are at it,n++ said Ms Sitharaman.

She said that the Commerce Ministry was also working on sorting out currency related issues being faced by exporters. n++We are not leaving any one area, we are constantly in search of newer markets so that our exporters can benefit, I know the risks involved in some of the countries, these are issues we are working out.n++

On the issue of trade imbalance with China, the Minister said, n++Yesterday I have raised this issue with Chinese minister and not for the first time, we have had this dialogue since 2014 but I found yesterday, the minister was very forthcoming.n++

n++We have highlighted that the imbalance is not because of our industrys lack of competitiveness, they are competitive enough but access is not being made available to us,n++ said Ms Sitharaman.

She also informed about raising the issue of Indias information technology (IT) sector facing experience related issues in every region. n++You enter a country and not each region and that has been held against us, so we have highlighted the point. We have highlighted the fact that they could give us some pilot projects through which we can prove our capability.n++

However, she said that more time cannot be wasted. n++We have waited for two years, even after this new government has come in, China has been requested that they have to be a lot more open to receive Indian institutions which go there to do business.n++

She said that pharmaceuticals is one of the important areas, where China wants more services to be available. n++They want our drugs but unfortunately many of the permissions, certifications are not happening as quickly as they should.n++

The Union Minister also invited the industry to use the Dashboard of the Commerce Ministry for export and import related data more and more as that would also be influencing its policy making.

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WPI inflation declines to 3.57% in September 2016
Oct 14,2016

The Wholesale Price Index (WPI)-based inflation eased to 3.57% in September 2016 from two-year high of 3.7% in August 2016. The WPI inflation also eased after rising consistently for last 12 sequential months. However, the decline in WPI inflation was mainly driven by sharp dip in inflation for primary articles, while inflation for fuel & power and manufactured products group moved up in September 2016. Further, the unfavourable base effect restricted sharp decline in inflation in September 2016.

Inflation of primary articles dipped to 4.8% in September 2016 from 7.5% in August 2016. The inflation for manufactured products rose to 2.5% in September 2016. Further, the inflation for fuel items which turned positive after 21-months of deflation to 1.6% in August 2016 accelerated to 5.6% in September 2016,

As per major commodity group-wise, inflation eased for foodgrains, vegetables, fish, mutton, poultry chicken, spices, fibres, oilseeds, raw rubber, flowers, copper ore, crude petroleum, sugar, oil cakes, paper & products, leather product, chemical products, and non-metallic mineral products in September 2016. On the other hand, inflation rose for fruits, milk, mineral oils, grain mill products, bakery products, edible oils, textiles, wood & wood products, rubber & plastic products, and basic metals in September 2016.

Inflation of food items (food articles and food products) eased to 7.5% in September 2016 from 9.2% in August 2016. Meanwhile, inflation of non-food items (all commodities excluding food items) moved up to 1.8% in September 2016 from 1.3% in August 2016.

Core inflation (manufactured products excluding foods products) rose to 0.6% in September 2016, from 0.5% in August 2016.

The contribution of primary articles to the overall inflation, at 3.57%, was 137 basis points (bps) in September 2016 compared with 213 bps in August 2016. The contribution of manufactured products was 140 bps compared with 136 bps, while that of fuel product group was 83 bps against 24 bps in August 2016.

The contribution of food items (food articles and food products) to inflation fell to 233 bps in 3.57% in September 2016 compared with 286 bps to 3.74% in August 2016. Meanwhile, the contribution of non-food items (all commodities excluding food items) was 126 bps in September 2016 compared with 126 bps in August 2016.

As per the revised data, the inflation figure for July 2016 was revised up to 3.7% compared with 3.5% reported provisionally.

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Government to distribute subsidized pulses through postal network
Oct 14,2016

The Government has decided to use postal network for distribution of subsidized pulses and release more Chana from buffer stock to ensure availability of these commodities at reasonable prices during ongoing festival season. The decisions were taken in the Inter Ministerial Committee on prices of essential commodities headed by Union Consumer Affairs Secretary, Shri Hem Pande. The committee reviewed availability and prices of essential commodities specially pulses and suggested that in the absence of Government outlets in the states postal networks should be export for the distribution.

It was observed that there are declining trends in the prices of pulses in recent weeks. Prices some of the other commodities are stable. The committee also reviewed procurement arrangements of Kharif pulses by Government agencies. It was informed that so far 500 procurement centres have been opened and farmers are being paid through check or bank transfer instantly. The Government has set up procurement target of 50,000 MT for current Kharif pulses.

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Water Level of 91 Major Reservoirs of the Country goes up by One Per Cent
Oct 14,2016

The water storage available in 91 major reservoirs of the country for the week ending on October 13, 2016 was 119.174 BCM, which is 76% of total storage capacity of these reservoirs. This was 127% of the storage of corresponding period of last year and 99% of storage of average of last ten years.

The total storage capacity of these 91 reservoirs is 157.799 BCM which is about 62% of the total storage capacity of 253.388 BCM which is estimated to have been created in the country. 37 Reservoirs out of these 91 have hydropower benefit with installed capacity of more than 60 MW.

REGION WISE STORAGE STATUS:-

NORTHERN REGION

The northern region includes States of Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Rajasthan. There are 6 reservoirs under Central Water Commission (CWC) monitoring having total live storage capacity of 18.01 BCM. The total live storage available in these reservoirs is 13.37 BCM which is 74% of total live storage capacity of these reservoirs. The storage during corresponding period of last year was 83% and average storage of last ten years during corresponding period was 81% of live storage capacity of these reservoirs. Thus, storage during current year is less than the corresponding period of last year and is also less than the average storage of last ten years during the corresponding period.

EASTERN REGION

The Eastern region includes States of Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal and Tripura. There are 15 reservoirs under CWC monitoring having total live storage capacity of 18.83 BCM. The total live storage available in these reservoirs is 16.09 BCM which is 85% of total live storage capacity of these reservoirs. The storage during corresponding period of last year was 70% and average storage of last ten years during corresponding period was 80% of live storage capacity of these reservoirs. Thus, storage during current year is better than the corresponding period of last year and is also better than the average storage of last ten years during the corresponding period.

WESTERN REGION

The Western region includes States of Gujarat and Maharashtra. There are 27 reservoirs under CWC monitoring having total live storage capacity of 27.07 BCM. The total live storage available in these reservoirs is 23.61 BCM which is 87% of total live storage capacity of these reservoirs. The storage during corresponding period of last year was 60% and average storage of last ten years during corresponding period was 80% of live storage capacity of these reservoirs. Thus, storage during current year is better than the storage of last year and is also better than the average storage of last ten years during the corresponding period.

CENTRAL REGION

The Central region includes States of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. There are 12 reservoirs under CWC monitoring having total live storage capacity of 42.30 BCM. The total live storage available in these reservoirs is 38.98 BCM which is 92% of total live storage capacity of these reservoirs. The storage during corresponding period of last year was 74% and average storage of last ten years during corresponding period was 71% of live storage capacity of these reservoirs. Thus, storage during current year is better than the storage of last year and is also better than the average storage of last ten years during the corresponding period.

SOUTHERN REGION

The Southern region includes States of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, AP&TG (Two combined projects in both states) Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. There are 31 reservoirs under CWC monitoring having total live storage capacity of 51.59 BCM. As per Reservoir Storage Bulletin dated 13.10.2016, the total live storage available in these reservoirs is 27.13 BCM which is 53% of total live storage capacity of these reservoirs. The storage during corresponding period of last year was 35% and average storage of last ten years during corresponding period was 75% of live storage capacity of these reservoirs. Thus, storage during current year is better than the corresponding period of last year but is less than the average storage of last ten years during the corresponding period.

States having better storage than last year for corresponding period are Punjab, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, AP&TG (Two combined projects in both states), Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka. States having lesser storage than last year for corresponding period are Himachal Pradesh, Tripura, Uttarakhand, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

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The availability of eggs is 63 per person per year, while as per National Nutrition Institute this should be about 180 eggs per person- Shri Radha Moh
Oct 14,2016

Union Minister for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Shri Radha Mohan Singh has said that the availability is 63 eggs per person per year in the country, while as per National Nutrition Institute this should be about 180 eggs per person. The poultry farmers and various stakeholders were participating in this function.

Agriculture Minister said that India is among the top egg producer countries in the world and the production of eggs in the country is about 83 billion. He said that in order to increase egg production by three times many steps have been taken so that health of the children improves and poultry farmers get benefits. He said that Government of India is promoting poultry farming through National Livestock Mission. Financial assistance is being given to the BPL families for poultry farming. Poultry farming is being promoted under the component of entrepreneurship development and employment generation.

Shri Singh said on this occasion that awareness should be created among the people about the nutrition values of eggs and doctors, nutrition specialists, academicians, women and child institutes, egg processing industries and related policy makers can play a vital role in this. Agriculture Minister said that one out of four children up to five years is suffering from malnutrition. Egg can help a lot in combating the malnutrition. Shri Singh said that high nutrition contents are available in eggs as well as it is a very good source of protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, B12, Amino acid and Folate, Iron, Phosphorus & Selenium. He said that the recent research shows that it is helpful in reducing blindness. The Minister said that National Egg Coordination Committee, Compound Livestock Feed Manufacturers Association of India, Animal Health Companies, Poultry Federation of India and Poultry Association have played a vital role in this programme.

Pusa 16, the new improved variety of arhar takes a period of 120 days to get ready for harvesting compared to its other varieties which takes about 165-180 days. This variety gets ready at once and is suitable for machine harvesting. After harvesting of this variety, crops like mustard, potatoes, wheat, etc can be sowed easily in the fields. Its production is 20 quintals per hectare and has 23.5% protein content in it.

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Germany to collaborate with India to improve rail connectivity of Indian ports
Oct 14,2016

The Minister of Road Transport & Highways and Shipping Nitin Gadkari has said that India and Germany are all set to collaborate on projects for improving rail connectivity of Indian ports. He said the two countries will work together on projects worth Rs one lakh crore being implemented by the Indian Port Rail Corporation (IPRCL). The Minister held detailed discussions with his German counterpart and Infrastructure Minister Mr Alexander Dobrindt and his delegation, regarding the modalities for such collaboration. The meeting comes under the backdrop of an MoU signed between Indian Port Rail Corporation (IPRCL) and the German Railways Deutsche Bahn (DB) for cooperation on modernization of rail port connectivity and port rail facilities of Indian ports, during the Maritime India Summit earlier this year . For efficient evacuation of cargo from the Ports and to reduce logistics cost, last mile rail connectivity of Ports is extremely important. Indian port Rail Corporation has been set up specifically to work in this area.

It was proposed to form groups with representatives of IPRCL and DB to identify areas of cooperation and potential projects, as also to identify cost effective new rail technologies that can be implemented. This would help bring in foreign investment and cost effective, environment friendly, innovative technology for the port rail connectivity projects.

Shri Gadkari further informed that Germany has also been invited to cooperate in the development of inland waterways, including manufacturing of barges.

In the transport sector, discussions were held on cooperation for developing vehicle scrapping capacity in India. India has invited Germany to share environment friendly technology for scrapping of old vehicles and also for processing of the waste thus generated.

In what may be a major step towards reducing pollution, Shri Gadkari informed the German Minister that India has put in place all required regulations for the use of Flex-fuel like ethanol mixed with petrol. He said that German automobile manufacturers can be called upon to produce cars that can run on flex-fuel for India, like the ones being produced in Canada and USA.

Shri Gadkari has expressed confidence and hope that the cooperation between the two countries will grow even further in the times to come.

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UIDAIS Challenge drive for Enrolment In 22 States/UTS
Oct 14,2016

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has launched Challenge drive to enroll leftover population for Aadhaar, in 22 States/UTs where Aadhaar saturation of adult population has crossed 100 per cent (as per projected population figure of 2015). These 22 States/UTs are Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Lakshadweep, Puducherry, Kerala, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Andaman & Nicobar Island, Dadar and Nagar Haveli, Goa, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Sikkim, Tripura and Uttar Pradesh.

As on today, over 106.69 crore Aadhaar numbers have been generated across the country.

The Challenge drive enrolment scheme will be only for adult population. As part of the Challenge drive, the residents of these States/UTs who have not yet enrolled for Aadhaar are being asked to register themselves at https://www.wenrol.uidai.gov.in. On completing the simple registration formality, such people would be enrolled for the Aadhaar number on a priority basis.

n++The Challenge drive will ensure that nobody is left without an Aadhaar in these States/UTs which statistically have 100% Aadhaar saturation. The drive will start from 15th October to 15th November 2016. This is in furtherance of our enrolment exercise to achieve universal coverage for Aadhaar across the country. All the eight Regional Offices of UIDAI have been directed to take up necessary media campaign in prominent local media and coordinate with respective State/UTs/NSRs/EAs for facilitating the enrolment of the resident registered under the Challenge drive and enroll infirm and elderly residents at homen++ said Dr. Ajay Bhushan Pandey, CEO, UIDAI.

In this drive, the enrolment request of only persons over the age of 18 years will be accepted on the portal mentioned above. Providing a mobile number as well as other demographic details is also mandatory as a mobile OTP based verification will be conducted once the person submits the enrolment request. The person will be then contacted and enrolled on a priority basis through special camps or at the enrolment stations located near him/her.

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Import of Vegetable Oil Up by 5% during November 2015 to September 2016
Oct 14,2016

The Solvent Extractors Association of India has compiled the Import data of Vegetable Oils (edible & non-edible) for the month of September 2016. Import of vegetable oils during September 2016, is reported at 1,399,993 tons compared to 1,216,546 tons in September 2015, consisting of 1,376,650 tons of edible oils and 23,343 tons of non-edible oils i.e. up by 15%. The overall import of vegetable oils during first eleven months of the current oil year 2015-16, November 2015 - September 2016 is reported at 13,565,548 tons compared to 12,941,611 tons i.e. up by 5%.

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Moodys: Spectrum wins stretch India telco operators balance sheets further, a credit negative
Oct 14,2016

Moodys Investors Service says that the resulting high costs for spectrum -- following an auction on October 7 -- is credit negative for Indias telecom operators, as the debt levels of their already stretched balance sheets will rise further.

At the same time, competition is intensifying, following the September launch of mobile services by new operator Reliance Jio Infocomm (unrated), a subsidiary of Reliance Industries (RIL, LC: Baa2 positive; FC: Baa2 stable), says Annalisa Di Chiara, a Moodys Vice President and Senior Credit Officer. The higher debt levels following the auction and lower profitability from pricing pressure will likely raise industry-wide leverage.

Bids for the four largest telecom operators aggregated 1157 MHz of spectrum, 31% of the spectrum available for sale across all bands. Not unexpectedly, the 700MHz band -- the most expensive category of airwaves -- went entirely unsold.

In our view, these spectrum wins will weigh on balance sheets and cash flows, as debt levels will rise materially for most operators, including incumbent Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Baa3 stable) and larger international groups, such as Vodafone Group Plc (Baa1 stable), says Di Chiara. The operators will experience a reduction in their ability to fund further expansion or to absorb the effects of weaker profitability as competition intensifies.

The auction did not attract any bids for the highly expensive 700 MHz band, implying that Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited (unrated) and Reliance Communications Limited (Ba3, review for downgrade) -- which have a spectrum-and-infrastructure sharing agreement -- will remain the only players with access to pan-India spectrum in the sub 1 Ghz band. The latter is considered the best suited for 4G services in urban centers, given its better in-door coverage.

More intense competition, in part spurred by Jios launch, is likely to drive tariffs lower, causing average revenues per user (ARPU) to contract and industry revenue and profitability to fall over the next 12-18 months, meaning that leverage levels could rise. Growing demand for 3G/4G data services will continue to drive each companys spectrum cost recoveries.

The operators will likely opt to defer their spectrum payments, mitigating the effect on cash flows. This option requires them to make upfront payments of 25% or 50%, depending on the spectrum band, within 10 days of the auctions close, with the balance payable in 10 annual installments after a moratorium of two years.

Longer term, the spectrum which the operators secure will help them maintain their competitive positions, support their strategies on data growth and enhance cash flow generation. Their high debt burdens may also pave the way for recapitalization events and further industry consolidation, which will in turn ultimately benefit those incumbents well positioned in 4G.

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Infra-financing may be encouraged through BRICS cross-country tie-ups
Oct 14,2016

In the BRICS Business Forum session here today on Cooperation in Infrastructure and Infrastructure Financing, the panellists agreed that BRICS reflected the potential for the future. Infrastructure development is the need of the hour. There is vast opportunity for the member states and infra-financing may be encouraged through cross-country collaboration . The New Development Bank should work on financial instruments for funding the infrastructural requirements.

K Ramchand, Chairman, BRICS Business Council Working Group on Infrastructure and CEO, IL&FS, said, infrastructure development is one of the major requirement of the BRICS nations. There is an urgent need for cooperation in physical and IT infrastructure funding in innovative ways through different financial instruments, he said.

Raghav Chandra, Chairman NHAI, said that infrastructure is a key pillar of business competitiveness hence we should focus on infrastructure development. However, financing of infrastructural projects comes with several challenges. It needs considerable amount of capital, has long gestation period and the time for break-even too long. Often bank financing is not enough, there is asset liability mismatch and short initial deposit- financing of infrastructure has many hurdles. Moreover, in India the corporate debt market is not very developed. It is also not easy to raise capital through foreign debt. There is almost USD 100 trillion worth patient capital with institutional investors(such as pension funds and insurance) which should be channelised for infrastructure.

Chandra spoke about Indias goal of building 10,000 km highway project. He deliberated on the different modes of funding infrastructure like PPP and said that there is huge scope and potential for investment in the highways programme. The New Development Bank, he said, should have the scope for credit enhancement, anchor investors and directly finance the projects.

Alexander Misharin, First Vice President of the JSC Russian Railways & CEO of the JSC High-Speed Rail Linessaid infrastructure is of primary importance and in 2016 we have to position to make a difference. Along with movement of people and goods, we need to have integrated solution for countries, for example, develop the silk route. He said we can use the combination of roads and sea transport so that there is greater economic collaboration. New corridors of national and multinational perspectives need to be encouraged. There are different bilateral initiatives between Russia and India and Russia and China. The countries must focus on identifying possibility for advanced transportation.

South Africa has the most advanced financial market, said George Sebulela, President and Chief Executive, Sebvest Holdings, spoke about the immense opportunities that exist in the African continent. He said that Africas major developmental challenge is its inadequate infrastructure. An estimated funding of USD 85 billion is required for infrastructure. South Africa is driving a flagship project n++North South Corridorn++ which encompasses development of road, rail, ports and ICT. There is a need to build a regular value chain. The New Development Bank is definitely an added platform for financing. It has to develop instruments of funding other than the conventional ways.

Dongwei Shi, Vice President, Alibaba Group discussed infrastructure development from an ICT perspective. He highlighted how that the emergence of the internet and digital is transforming the very fabric of an economy and ecommerce has found its place at the heart of this transformation. E-commerce is one of the fastest growing segments as global B2B and B2C business on e-commerce has seen exponential increase. He mentioned how Alibaba, over the last 17 years, has supported the development of global e-commerce infrastructure, enabling enhanced capabilities in logistics, digital payments, and cloud computing.

The digital economy, he said, has enormous potential and Alibaba is committed to working with local partners to explore more opportunities for global SMEs. Close cooperation and partnership among BRICS nations, is the key to envisage this potential, he affirmed. Mr. Drummond, Director of Institutional Relations, Queiroz Galvao, spoke about the infrastructure development initiatives in Brazil. The government has created partnership programs to coordinate with the government and public. The government is zeroing on 33 big infrastructure projects which includes highways, harbours, ports and airports to be completed by next year. Transparency and regulatory methods have been adopted. Joint ventures in the projects are also being encouraged, he said.

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NDB to emerge as South-South financial institution Bank to promote innovative mechanisms to become responsive and client-oriente
Oct 14,2016

The New Development Bank (NDB), which was established in July 2014, to extend loans initially to its five founding members n++ Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, is set to offer long-term funding to other emerging economies that have a shared economic development philosophy. In time, NDB is expected to emerge as a SouthSouth financial institution, said Xian Zhu, Vice President and Chief Operations Officer, New Development Bank (NDB) at the BRICS Business Forum (BBF) organized by BRICS Business Council, FICCI, ASSOCHAM and CII.

Zhu said that the primary objective of the bank is to fund infrastructure and renewable energy projects and meet the aspirations of people through sustainable and green development. The focus of the bank is to address the increasingly huge demands being placed on infrastructural financing in view of the low growth rate in the BRICS member countries. He added that NDB was established to alleviate the problem of securing long-term development financing.

Speaking about Public Private Partnership (PPP), Zhu said that the bank was looking at initiating discussions with the private sector to develop PPP model at the global level for projects. The banks idea is to leverage financial resources and fund long term infrastructure projects. NDB aspires to bring about innovative funding mechanisms and wants to emerge as a business institution which is faster in its processes, more responsive, client-oriented and result-oriented.

Zhu said that NDB is open to finance non-BRICS member countries as well which are members in the United Nations. NDB is ready to welcome non-BRICS emerging economies to avail long term financing. The bank wants to play a constructive role in developing economies.

Besides green projects, Mr. Zhu said that NDB will finance other infrastructure projects as well. The bank will try and develop these projects as sustainable and green projects as far as possible to align with the global trend. Speaking on rating, he said that NDB requires an international rating agency.

He said that all the BRICS countries have made their first tranche of paid-in capital, on time and in full. To reduce exchange-rate risks on borrowings, the bank has started extending loans in domestic currencies. This is particularly important as developing countries struggle with high interest rates that are pegged to the dollar, leading to spiraling debt.

Zhu said that NDBs vision is not restricted to funding infrastructure requirements but envisages building a knowledge sharing platform among the developing countries and promote sustainable development. He added that NDB will also allow the BRICS economies to integrate and facilitate trade and investment by creating opportunities for development of the BRICS countries.

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Issue of Disability Pension for Defence Forces Personnel referred to 7th CPC Anomaly Committee
Oct 14,2016

The 7th Central Pay Commission (CPC) recommended a slab based system for determining the disability pension for Defence Forces Personnel, which was accepted by the Government. Percentage based system was followed in the 6th CPC regime for calculating disability pension for Defence Forces Personnel as well as Civilians.

Service Headquarters have represented that the percentage based system should be continued under the 7th CPC for calculating disability pension for Defence Services at par with their Civilian counterparts.

The Ministry has referred the representation of the Service Headquarters to the Anomaly Committee of 7th CPC for consideration.

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