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Centre Takes Ten New Swachh Iconic Places under Swachh Bharat Mission
Apr 25,2017

The second quarterly review meeting on the Swachh Iconic Places (SIP), an initiative of Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation under Swachh Bharat Mission, in Katra, Jammu and Kashmir. Ten Swachh Iconic Places are already implementing action plans in phase 1.

Shri Narendra Singh Tomar announced ten new Iconic places to be taken under the Phase II of Swachh Iconic Places initiative. These ten new iconic places which are to be brought to a higher standard of swachhta and visitors amenities are : 1. Gangotri, 2. Yamunotri. 3. Mahakaleshwar Temple, Ujjain, 4. Char Minar, Hyderabad, 5. Church and Convent of St. Francis of Assissi, Goa, 6. Adi Shankaracharyas abode Kaladi in Ernakulam, 7. Gomateshwar in Shravanbelgola, 8. Baijnath Dham, Devghar, 9. Gaya Tirth in Bihar and 10. Somnath temple in Gujarat.

The ten Iconic places already in Phase I are: 1. Ajmer Sharif Dargah 2. CST Mumbai 3. Golden Temple, Amritsar 4. Kamakhya Temple, Assam 5. Maikarnika Ghat, Varanasi 6. Meenakshi Temple, Madurai 7. Shri Mata Vaishno Devi, Katra, J&K 8. Shree Jagannath Temple, Puri 9. The Taj Mahal, Agra 10. Tirupati Temple, Tirumala.

Shri Tomar highlighted the progress made under Swachh Bharat Mission. He told the meeting that the country has made fast and remarkable progress with sanitation coverage increasing to 64% with 1.92 lakh villages becoming ODF.

J&K Governor, Shri NN Vohra, released the compendium of SIP Action Plans and in his address; he highlighted the achievements of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVDSB) and pointed out the crucial need of waste management, especially management as the next step. He said that the state needs special technical support from the SIP initiative.

The State government declared Reasi Open Defecation Free (ODF) block of J&K. Union MoS, Dr. Jitendra Singh and MoS, J&K, Shri Ajay Nanda felicitated District and block officials of Reasi. Dr. Jitendra Singh highlighted the importance of mass awareness and behaviour change for achieving the goal of Swachh Bharat.

Two Water ATMs in Katra town were inaugurated by the Union Minister, Shri Tomar on the occasion.

Secretary, MDWS presented the SIP status report of first two quarters and highlighted the key initiatives launched by Phase I sites towards improving the cleanliness, sanitation and accessibility facilities at these sites.

Earlier, Governor of Jammu & Kashmir, Shri NN Vohra reviewed the progress made by SMVDB in the two quarters and the detailed action plan for the ongoing and planned projects under SIP.

The central delegation led by the Secretary, MDWS visited various sanitation infrastructure and facilities on the way and at Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Temple Shrine. He also inaugurated a reverse vending machine installed at the shrine. Shri Iyer assured of all the support and resources to the shrine board under SIP.

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GST is a win-win situation for the entire country
Apr 25,2017

GST is a win-win situation for the entire country. It brings benefits to all the stakeholders of industry, government and the consumer. It will lower the cost of goods and services, give a boost to the economy and make the products and services globally competitive. GST aims to make India a common market with common tax rates and procedures and remove the economic barriers thus paving the way for an integrated economy at the national level. By subsuming most of the Central and State taxes into a single tax and by allowing a set-off of prior-stage taxes for the transactions across the entire value chain, it would mitigate the ill effects of cascading, improve competitiveness and improve liquidity of the businesses. GST is a destination based tax. It follows a multi-stage collection mechanism. In this, tax is collected at every stage and the credit of tax paid at the previous stage is available as a set off at the next stage of transaction. This shifts the tax incidence near to the consumer and benefits the industry through better cash flows and better working capital management.

2.GST is largely technology driven. It will reduce the human interface to a great extent and this would lead to speedy decisions.

3.GST will give a major boost to the Make in India initiative of the Government of India by making goods and services produced in India competitive in the National as well as International market. Also all imported goods will be charged integrated tax (IGST) which is equivalent to Central GST + State GST. This will bring equality with taxation on local products.

4.Under the GST regime, exports will be zero-rated in entirety unlike the present system where refund of some taxes may not take place due to fragmented nature of indirect taxes between the Centre and the States. This will boost Indian exports in the international market thus improving the balance of payments position. Exporters with clean track record will be rewarded by getting immediate refund of 90% of their claims arising on account of exports, within seven days.

5.GST is expected to bring buoyancy to the Government Revenue by widening the tax base and improving the taxpayer compliance. GST is likely improve Indias ranking in the Ease of Doing Business Index and is estimated to increase the GDP growth by 1.5 to 2%.

6.GST will bring more transparency to indirect tax laws. Since the whole supply chain will be taxed at every stage with credit of taxes paid at the previous stage being available for set off at the next stage of supply, the economics and tax value of supplies will be easily distinguishable. This will help the industry to take credit and the government to verify the correctness of taxes paid and the consumer to know the exact amount of taxes paid.

7.The taxpayers would not be required to maintain records and show compliance with a myriad of indirect tax laws of the Central Government and the State Governments like Central Excise, Service Tax, VAT, Central Sales Tax, Octroi, Entry Tax, Luxury Tax, Entertainment Tax, etc. They would only need to maintain records and show compliance in respect of Central Goods and Services Tax Act and State (or Union Territory) Goods and Services Tax Act for all intra-State supplies (which are almost identical laws) and with Integrated Goods and Services Tax for all inter-State supplies (which also has most of its basic features derived from the CGST and the SGST Act).

2. Salient Features of GST

The salient features of GST are as under:

(i) The GST would be applicable on the supply of goods or services as against the present concept of tax on the manufacture or sale of goods or provision of services. It would be a destination based consumption tax. This means that tax would accrue to the State or the Union Territory where the consumption takes place. It would be a dual GST with the Centre and States simultaneously levying tax on a common tax base. The GST to be levied by the Centre on intra-State supply of goods or services would be called the Central tax (CGST) and that to be levied by the States including Union territories with legislature/Union Territories without legislature would be called the State tax (SGST)/ Union territory tax (UTGST) respectively.

(ii) The GST would apply to all goods other than alcoholic liquor for human consumption and five petroleum products, viz. petroleum crude, motor spirit (petrol), high speed diesel, natural gas and aviation turbine fuel. It would apply to all services barring a few to be specified. The GST would replace the following taxes currently levied and collected by the Centre:

a. Central Excise Duty

b. Duties of Excise (Medicinal and Toilet Preparations)

c. Additional Duties of Excise (Goods of Special Importance)

d. Additional Duties of Excise (Textiles and Textile Products)

e. Additional Duties of Customs (commonly known as CVD)

f. Special Additional Duty of Customs (SAD)

g. Service Tax

h. Central Surcharges and Cesses so far as they relate to supply of goods and services

(iii) State taxes that would be subsumed under the GST are:

a. State VAT

b. Central Sales Tax

c. Luxury Tax

d. Entry Tax (all forms)

e. Entertainment and Amusement Tax (except when levied by the local bodies)

f. Taxes on advertisements

g. Purchase Tax

h. Taxes on lotteries, betting and gambling

i. State Surcharges and Cesses so far as they relate to supply of goods and services

(iv) The list of exempted goods and services would be common for the Centre and the States.

(v) Threshold Exemption: Taxpayers with an aggregate turnover in a financial year up to Rs.20 lakhs would be exempt from tax. Aggregate turnover shall be computed on all India basis. For eleven Special Category States, like those in the North-East and the hilly States, the exemption threshold shall be Rest. 10 lakhs. All taxpayers eligible for threshold exemption will have the option of paying tax with input tax credit (ITC) benefits. Taxpayers making inter-State supplies or paying tax on reverse charge basis shall not be eligible for threshold exemption.

(vi) Composition levy: Small taxpayers with an aggregate turnover in a financial year up to Rest. 50 lakhs shall be eligible for composition levy. Under the scheme, a taxpayer shall pay tax as a percentage of his turnover during the year without the benefit of ITC. The rate of tax for CGST and SGST/UTGST each shall not exceed -

n++ 2.5% in case of restaurants etc

n++ 1% of the turnover in a state/ UT in case of a manufacturer

n++ 0.5% of the turnover in state/UT in case of other suppliers.

A taxpayer opting for composition levy shall not collect any tax from his customers nor shall he be entitled to claim any input tax credit. The composition scheme is optional. Taxpayers making inter-State supplies shall not be eligible for composition scheme. The government, may, on the recommendation of GST Council, increase the threshold for the scheme to up to rupees one crore.

(vii) An Integrated tax (IGST) would be levied and collected by the Centre on inter-State supply of goods and services. Accounts would be settled periodically between the Centre and the States to ensure that the SGST/UTGST portion of IGST is transferred to the destination State where the goods or services are eventually consumed.

(viii) Use of Input Tax Credit: Taxpayers shall be allowed to take credit of taxes paid on inputs (input tax credit) and utilize the same for payment of output tax. However, no input tax credit on account

Indias natural gas production up 8.3% in March 2017
Apr 25,2017

Indias natural gas production increased 8.3% to 2.75 billion cubic meters (bcm) in March 2017 over a year ago. Natural gas output of ONGC jumped 20.1% to 1.97 bcm, but that of private and JV companies dipped 18.1% to 0.53 bcm. Meanwhile, the natural gas production of Oil India fell 1.0% to 0.25 bcm in March 2017. Natural gas output declined 1.1% to 31.90 bcm in April-March 2017 over April-March 2016.

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Indias crude oil refinery output rises 1.8% in March 2017
Apr 25,2017

Indias crude oil refinery output increased 1.8% to 21.45 mt in March 2017 over March 2016. The output of public sector refineries rose 0.2% to 11.68 mt, while the output of private refineries moved up 7.7% to 8.45 mt. However, the refinery output of public-private JV refiners dipped 14.9% to 1.33 mt in March 2017.

Among public refineries, the output of Indian Oil Corporation increased 9.8% to 6.08 mt, while the output of Hindustan Petroleum Corporation rose 0.9% to 1.56 mt in March 2017 over March 2016. However, the output of Mangalore Refineries declined 6.4% to 1.30 mt, Numaligarh Refineries 13.1% to 0.22 mt, Bharat Petroleum Corporation 14.0% to 1.75 mt and Chennai Petroleum Corporation 14.5% to 0.77 mt in March 2017.

Among private refiners, the output of Reliance Petroleum moved up 9.0% to 6.65 mt, while that of Essar Oil also improved 3.0% to 1.80 mt in March 2017 over March 2016.

Among JV refineries, the output of Bharat Oman fell 17.2% to 0.53 mt, while the output of HPCL Mittal also dipped 13.3% to 0.80 mt in March 2016.

The cumulative refinery output increased 4.8% to 238.96 mt in April-March 2017. The output of public refineries increased 7.5% to 129.21 mt, while that of private refineries moved up 2.5% to 94.02 mt. The refinery output of JV refineries fell 1.4% to 15.73 mt in April-March 2017. Among public refineries, the output of Indian Oil Corporation improved 10.7%, Bharat Petroleum Corporation 5.4%, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation 3.4%, Chennai Petroleum Corporation 6.9%, Numaligarh Refineries 5.3% and Mangalore Refineries 3.3%.

The overall capacity utilization was lower at 109.1% in March 2017 compared with 117.4% in March 2016, while it was also lower at 106.7% in April-March 2017 compared with 108.3% in April-March 2016.

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Indias crude oil production rises 0.9% in March 2017
Apr 25,2017

Indias crude oil production rose 0.9% to 3.09 million tonnes (mt) in March 2017 over March 2016. Crude oil output of ONGC increased 3.3% to 1.93 mt, while that of Oil India also improved 9.1% to 0.29 mt. ONGCs offshore output moved up 3.6% to 1.41 mt, while onshore production rose 2.6% to 0.52 mt. However, the crude oil production of private and joint venture (JV) companies dipped 6.2% to 0.87 mt in March 2017.

Crude oil output fell 2.5% to 36.01 mt in April-March FY2017, in addition to 1.4% fall recorded in FY2016. Output of ONGC declined 0.6% to 22.22 mt, while private companies fell -7.3% to 10.53 mt. the crude oil output of Oil India rose 1.0% to 3.26 mt in FY2017 over FY2016.

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World Bank Approves $375 Million to Help India Develop its First Modern Waterway
Apr 25,2017

The World Bank will support India as it sustainably develops its first modern inland water transport fairway on a 1,360 km-stretch of the Ganga river between Varanasi and the seaport of Haldia, bringing thousands of jobs in cargo logistics and transportation to one of the most populous regions in the country.

The World Banks Board approved a $375 million loan to help the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) put in place the state-of-the-art infrastructure and navigation services needed to develop the waterway -- known as National Waterway 1 -- as an efficient logistics artery for northern India, while adopting the least intrusive methods of making the river navigable. The Capacity Augmentation of National Waterway 1 (Jal Marg Vikas) Project will help save more than 150,000 tons of CO2 equivalent in greenhouse gas emissions annually by moving cargo away from fossil fuel-consuming road and rail networks.

Experience from other countries shows that carrying bulk cargo by water is cheaper and less polluting that transporting it by road and rail. Goods in India, however, mostly travel by congested road and rail networks, slowing cargo movement and increasing the costs of trade logistics, which are estimated to account for as much as 18 % of the countrys GDP. The current logistics network is also insufficient to accommodate the threefold increase in freight movement expected over the coming decade.

n++Harnessing the mighty rivers of South Asia to build an effective multi-modal transport strategy will give the region a competitive edge on the global scene,n++ says Junaid Ahmad, World Bank Country Director for India. n++This project will allow India to move goods seamlessly between road, rail and water, and bring down logistics costs. Importantly, this Project will help IWAI put in place environmentally-sustainable strategies for inland navigation that can be replicated on other waterways in India and other countries.n++

Multi-modal transport solutions

NW1 passes through one of Indias most densely populated areas, and a sizeable 40 percent of the countrys traded goods either originate from this resource-rich region or are destined for its teeming markets. While the region generates about 370 million tonnes of freight annually, only about 5 million tonnes currently travels by water.

Once operational, NW1 will form part of the larger multi-modal transport network being planned along the Ganga. It will link with the Eastern Dedicated Rail Freight Corridor, as well as with the areas existing network of highways, allowing the regions manufacturers and agricultural producers to use different modes of transport to reach markets in India and abroad.

State-of-the-art infrastructure and services

The Project will help build the infrastructure needed to develop water transportation in the area. It will finance the construction of six multi-modal terminals, 10 RORO jetties, ship-repair facilities as well as passenger jetties along the river. It will also help modernize the ageing Farakka lock and add a new lock to allow for smoother passage of boats. The Project will also help IWAI acquire a state-of-the-art River Information System as well as navigation aids to make travel on the river safer and more reliable.

n++The Government of India has an ambitious plan to develop more than a 100 waterways that criss-cross the country,n++ says Arnab Bandyopadhyay, Lead Transport specialist and the World Bank task team leader for the Project. n++This Project will also help IWAI strengthen its institutional capacities to steer the development of the sector in an efficient and environmentally sustainable manner.n++

Environment sustainability key

All project interventions have been planned keeping in mind the need to ensure the environmental sustainability of the river. There will be no abstraction or storage of water under the Project, nor will the navigation services planned affect the flow of the river. Cognizant of the impacts of dredging to establish a deep channel, IWAI has decided to accept the currently available natural depths of the river - ranging from 3 meters in the lower stretches to 2 meters further upstream - for its proposed navigation channel, thus minimizing the need for dredging.

Environment protocol for operations

n++ Zero discharge standards for all terminals and vessels; waste from vessels to be emptied only at designated barge-maintenance stations for treatment.

n++ All vessels to use cleaner fuels such as liquefied natural gas.

n++ Vessels travelling through operating in critical aquatic habitats will restrict speed to 5km per hour; noise mufflers and propeller guards to be fitted; no dredging in protected habitat.

The Project will also support the design and development of a new fleet of low-draft barges capable of carrying up to 2000 tonnes of cargo in these shallower depths. Where needed, temporary structures (bandals) made of natural materials such as bamboo will be erected to provide additional sailing depth. In addition, the Project has introduced an innovative assured depth contract framework to incentivize minimal dredging by agencies responsible for keeping the fairway open for navigation. These strategies have helped reduce the need for dredging in the navigation channel to only about 1.5 percent of the rivers annual silt load. Even this limited dredging will only be done using modern, less intrusive technologies such as the water injection method which has the additional advantage of ensuring that sediments remain within the rivers ecosystem.

The US$375 million loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), has a 7-year grace period, and a maturity of 17 years.

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World Bank To Provide US$ 600 million (approx. Rs 3,870 crore) Across Four New Projects in Jharkhand
Apr 25,2017

The World Bank extended its support to the Government of Jharkhand with a proposed assistance program of about US$ 600 million (approx. Rs 3,870 crore1]) for four new state-level projects over the next 2-3 years*. This was announced by the World Bank Country Director, Junaid Ahmad, following his meetings with the Chief Minister of Jharkhand, Raghubar Das. This is the first state visit by the Country Director of the World Bank since taking over office.

The new state-level projects will help improve infrastructure and provide sustainable urban and rural services in the areas of water supply and sanitation for the people of Jharkhand; increase the power transmission capacity; and diversify household income through select farm and non-farm sectors.

n++Jharkhand is a key state in Indias growth trajectory and in its fight against poverty. The Chief Minister has identified a series of important reforms to hasten the pace of development in the state and the World Bank has committed its full support to these efforts,n++ said Junaid Ahmad World Bank Country Director in India, following his meeting with the Chief Minister. n++Our projects over the next few years will help the state strengthen the delivery of public services through investments in rural and urban infrastructure - enabling its people to gain access to better jobs and services,n++ he added.

Among the upcoming projects, the US$ 300 million (approx. Rs 1,935 crore) Jharkhand Municipal Development Project aims to provide citizens with sustainable basic services such as water supply and sanitation by enhancing the capacity of Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) to undertake policy reforms and set up systems that will help them better manage their resources and increase accountability.

The US$ 150 million (approx. Rs 967.50 crore) World Bank financing for Jharkhand Power System Improvement Project will support the state in increasing the transmission of power from Jharkhand to other states of the country; increase the power transmission capacity; streamline procurement and contract management practices in the transmission company, Jharkhand Urja Sancharan Nigam (JUSNL); and help the distribution company, Jharkhand Bijli Vitran Nigam, (JBVNL) reduce its Aggregate Transmission and Commercial (AT&C) losses.

The US$ 100 million (approx. Rs 645 crore) World Bank financing for Jharkhand Opportunities for Harnessing Rural Growth Project (JOHAR) will enhance and diversify household income in select farm and non-farm sectors. The project will promote market access and private sector participation, foster skill development relevant to the value chains, and facilitate the development of a pro-poor agricultural system.

The Jharkhand Service Delivery Improvement Project, for which the World Bank is expected to provide US$ 50 million (approx. Rs 322.50 crore) will help the government provide services to its citizens through the Pragya Kendras. The project aims to increase the number of beneficiaries accessing real time gross settlement of funds (RTGS) services, especially in rural areas; improve the timelines and quality of services and increase the number of beneficiaries receiving direct benefit transfers through Integrated Financial Management Services (IFMIS) platform.

In addition to the existing pipeline of proposed projects, the World Bank will support the Government of Jharkhands reform initiatives through technical and analytical work, and bring experience from other states and countries to address state specific challenges.

The World Bank Country Director travelled to villages in Block Angara in Ranchi district and interacted with rural households. He saw how women self-help groups had mobilized themselves to help increase their family income by undertaking farm and non-farm livelihood activities like animal husbandry, handicrafts and minor forestry activities.

World Bank in Jharkhand

Several World Bank supported national development programs, amounting to Rs 2,393 crores, are currently active in Jharkhand - covering irrigation, health, roads, livelihoods, rural water, sanitation and education sectors.

Recently, a US$ 63 million (approx. Rs 406.35 crore) Tejaswini Socioeconomic Empowerment of Adolescent Girls and Young Women in Jharkhand was signed with the state on February 23, 2017. The aim of the project is to help improve market-driven skills training and secondary education for adolescent girls and young women in select districts of Jharkhand.

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Government and World Bank Sign New Agreement for Better Water Planning and Management Across India
Apr 25,2017

The Government of India and the World Bank signed the US$ 175 million loan agreement for the National Hydrology Project. The project will strengthen the capacity of institutions to assess the water situation in their regions and reduce their vulnerability to recurring flood and droughts, saving hundreds of lives and livelihoods.

With rainfall in India being highly seasonal and 50 percent of precipitation falling in just 15 days and over 90 percent of river flows in just four months, the country continues to be water-stressed and is faced with the challenge of managing its water needs amidst recurring floods and drought.

The project is expected to help forge an integrated approach to developing, managing, and regulating both surface and groundwater resources jointly at the basin and aquifer scale. It would also strengthen the institutional capacity for integrated water resources management at the center and in the states,n++ said Raj Kumar, Joint Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Government of India.

The National Hydrology Project, will build on the success of the Hydrology Project-I and Hydrology Project-II, under which, for the first time, real-time flood forecast systems were integrated with weather forecasts in two large river systems (Krishna and Satluj-Beas), giving reservoir managers an accurate picture of the water situation in their region. As a result, the time available for early warnings on flood and preparation for flood management improved from hours to days, which led to saving hundreds of lives and avoided flood damages ranging from US$17 million to US$65 million in a year.

This project will now scale up the successes achieved under HP-I and HP-II to cover the entire country, including the states in the Ganga, and Brahmaputra-Barak basins. Apart from helping states that have already benefited from the earlier two projects to further upgrade and complete their monitoring networks, it will help new states to better manage water flows from the reservoirs. Memorandum of Agreements (MOAs) have already been signed between the central government and the states to integrate and establish the National Water Informatics Center. National Flood Forecasting Systems with an advance warning system and reservoir operation systems as well as water resources accounting in river basins will be included under the project.

n++In the context of climate change, advanced flood management and enhanced river basin planning are essential for building livelihoods and sustaining economic growth,n++ said Genevieve Connors, Program Leader and Acting Country Director, World Bank in India. n++This project has the potential to help communities plan in advance to build resilience against possible uncertainties of climate change.n++

It will also help the states monitor all the important aspects of the hydro-meteorological cycle and adopt the procedures laid out in the earlier projects such as how much rain or snow has fallen right in the catchments of rivers, how rapidly the snow will melt, the speed with which the water is flowing, how much silt has built up, how much water will reach the reservoir, and how soon it will do so. Sensors in the field will instantly transmit this information to data centers through satellite or mobile phone technology, enabling managers to form a clear picture of the water situation unfolding in their region.

n++Based on our experience over the last 20 years in establishing Hydrological Information Systems in southern India and in Himachal Pradesh and Punjab, both national and state governments are now committed to an integrated river basin planning and management. This project responds to this demand by extending its reach to cover the entire country,n++ said Anju Gaur, Senior Water Resources Specialist and World Banks Task Team Leader for the project.

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99 Percent Telecom-related complaints get resolved on Twitter
Apr 25,2017

After the launch of Twitter Sewa by the Minister of Communications Shri Manoj Sinha in August last Year for registration and resolution of complaints, about 99 percent of the complaints have been resolved through the social media. As per data released by BSNL, as on April 15, 2017, it has received a total number of 27,988 complaints and has resolved 27,965 grievances with a resolution rate of 99.91%. The Telecom Minister having twitter account @manojsinhabjp has been calling for daily status reports on resolution of telecom and postal related complaints received through this platform. Similarly, India Post has handled 27,000 tweets and resolved them promptly.

In case of Telecom, consumer complaints relate mainly to telephone bills, broadband connectivity, faulty connections, shifting of landline phones and wi-fi hotspots, while in the case of postal services complaints are mainly in the nature of slow delivery of their articles containing PAN Cards, Roll numbers, parcels, money orders and medicines etc. Issues relating to repairs of Post Office buildings, technical issues with saving banks accounts are also sorted out quickly.

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FICCI urges the Government to finalise and announce the Tourism Policy this year itself
Apr 25,2017

FICCI (Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry) has recommended to the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, the announcement of National Tourism Policy in the year 2017. It is to be recalled that the draft of the policy had already been prepared in 2015 and had been distributed to the stakeholders for their inputs.

The report states that the draft policy reflects the evolving paradigm of the industry and has also suggested several developmental initiatives. FICCI has urged that the draft be finalized as a time-bound mission so that the policy can be released this year itself. The Policy will provide right impetus and direction to the state tourism policies as well. Furthermore, it will also ensure fast pace implementation of several key initiatives and institutional reforms proposed in the Draft Tourism Policy.

The other recommendations in the report relating to policy and regulatory interventions pertain to setting up of a National Tourism Authority, increasing budget allocation to tourism industry, suggesting lower GST slabs for tourism sector and increasing application window for e-visa from 1 month to 6 months. It also urges for promoting hassle free travel by increasing e-visas to more countries.

Snapshot of key statistics indicate that there is a rising trend of Tourism in India. India has also jumped 12 positions and stands at the 40th rank in Tourism & Travel competitive index, 2017 now. World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) research forecasts that between 2016 and 2026, the 10 fastest growing destinations for leisure-travel spending will be India. The shifts suggest that developing and emerging countries are catching up by providing better conditions to develop their Travel and Tourism competitiveness and, therefore, becoming better prepared to attract and welcome the millions of new tourists who will travel for the first time in the coming decade.

Tourisms contribution to capital investment is projected to grow 6.3 % p.a. during 2016-26, higher than the global average of 4.5%.

Contribution of visitor exports to total exports is estimated to increase 7.2 % p.a. during 2016-2026 compared to the world average of 4.3% pa. By 2025, Foreign Tourist Arrivals in India are expected to reach 15.3 million, according to the WTO.

Foreign Exchange Earnings (FEE) during the period January- February 2017 were Rs 31,357 crore with a growth of 14.9%, as compared to the foreign exchange earnings of Rs 27,296 crore with a growth of 15.0% in January-February 2016 over January-February 2015.

India ranked 3rd among 184 countries in terms of travel and tourisms total contribution to GDP in 2016. The sectors direct contribution to GDP is expected to grow by 8.6% p.a. during 2016-20.

Employment Generation within Indian tourism sector estimated to support 38.4 million jobs by 2016 which have been further forecasted to reach approx 46 million jobs by 2026.

Domestic travel spending generated 82.5% of direct Travel & Tourism GDP in 2015 compared with 17.5% for visitor exports. Domestic travel spending is expected to rise by 7.8% pa to Rs 13,305.5bn in 2026 while visitor exports are expected to rise by 7.2% pa to Rs 2,625.6 bn in 2026.

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ADB Lending Hits Record High in its 50th Year as Infrastructure Demand Rises
Apr 25,2017

The Asian Development Banks (ADB) annual operations exceeded the $30 billion mark for the first time in its 50-year history last year as regional demand for development finance and knowledge n++ particularly on infrastructure n++ continues to grow, according to the banks 2016 Annual Report (AR) released today.

ADBs total lending in 2016, including co-financing, reached $31.70 billion n++ an 18% increase from 2015, according to the annual report. The total include $17.47 billion in approvals for loans and grants, $169 million for technical assistance, and $14.06 billion for co-financing, which increased by a record 31% over 2015. Disbursements, a key indicator for successful project implementation, also reached a new high of $12.26 billion in 2016.

Private sector operations reached $2.5 billion for only the second time in ADBs history n++ a result reflecting ADBs long-term strategy to significantly boost support for private enterprise to create more high quality jobs and increase living standards across Asia and the Pacific. Apart from its own funds, ADBs private sector operations also generated a record $5.84 billion in co-financing n++ a $1.2 billion increase from 2015 n++ which included $238 million in official co-financing to support non-sovereign operations.

These figures update the provisional operations numbers released by ADB in January.

n++The increase in our development financing to Asia and the Pacific reflects our strong commitment to improving the lives of the people in the region,n++ said ADB President Takehiko Nakao. n++As ADB celebrates 50 years of providing development assistance, we will strive even harder to meet the changing needs of our developing member countries.n++

The 2016 AR reviews the significant economic transformation in Asia and the Pacific over the past 50 years, and the role played by ADB to support the regions development to improve peoples lives. The report notes that while the regions economic growth and success in reducing poverty have exceeded the most optimistic forecasts, there remain significant challenges to be addressed.

n++We cannot be complacent,n++ said President Nakao. n++The fact remains there are still 330 million people living in absolute poverty across Asia and the Pacific. A lack of infrastructure continues to limit economic growth, inhibit poverty reduction, and restrict improvements to quality of life.n++

ADB estimates that the region requires $1.7 trillion a year to meet its infrastructure financing needs. There are other pressing challenges such as climate change, health, education, and gender equality. To help address these development needs, ADB has scaled up its operations and expanded its financing capacity through the merger of its Asian Development Fund (ADF) lending operations with the Ordinary Capital Resources (OCR) balance sheet, which became effective on 1 January this year. OCR equity almost tripled, from $17.3 billion to $48.1 billion, as $30.8 billion of ADF loans and other assets were transferred from the ADF. The merger is expected to increase ADBs annual loan and grant approvals by over 50% to more than $20 billion by 2020.

ADB will also increase grant support to its poorest countries by 70% over the next 4 years, following the successful $3.3 billion replenishment of the ADF in May 2016. Contributions from 32 donors, including an increase in pledges from emerging Asian economies, will allow ADB to double the minimum allocation for small countries, provide strengthened support for disaster risk management, and offer greater assistance for regional health security.

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India Ratings Affirms ONGC Petro Additions at IND A+/Positive
Apr 25,2017

India Ratings and Research (Ind-Ra) has affirmed ONGC Petro Additions Limiteds (OPAL) Long-Term Issuer Rating at IND A+. The Outlook is Positive. India Ratings and Research (Ind-Ra) has affirmed ONGC Petro Additions Limiteds (OPAL) Long-Term Issuer Rating at IND A+. The Outlook is Positive.

Key rating drivers:

Plant Commissioning: Ind-Ra has maintained a Positive Outlook on OPAL to reflect the commissioning of OPALs greenfield petrochemicals complex in FY17 and the companys expectations that the operations will be stabilised in FY18. The performance guarantee test runs are underway. Commercial operations at the petrochemical plants polypropylene unit were started in June 2015.

Linkages with Sponsors: The affirmation reflects Ind-Ras expectation that Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited (ONGC) will continue to support OPAL, considering the strong strategic and operational linkages between the two entities. OPAL is a forward integration project for ONGC and is thus strategically important for the latter. ONGC, along with another sponsor GAIL (India) Ltd (IND AAA/Stable), has provided the necessary undertakings to support any cost overruns in the project.

Plant Size and Scale: OPALs petrochemical complex (1.1 million metric tonnes per annum capacity) is of a large size and scale. The barriers to entry into a petrochemical business are high, considering the complexity, capital, technical expertise and experience required to set up a project of this scale. The plant will primarily manufacture polypropylene, linear low-density polyethylene, high-density polyethylene, pygas, benzene etc. These products have a strong demand potential in India as well as in the other regions of Asia. OPAL is also focusing on producing higher grades of products which are being imported and are likely to command a higher premium. The company is also likely to benefit by selling its finished products within the special economic zones where it has a ready customer base.

Feedstock Linkages: OPAL has an assured supply of its key feedstock, namely ethane (C2), propane (C3), butane (C4) and naphtha (aromatic rich and low aromatic), from ONGC. Naptha is billed in Indian rupee and C2, C3, C4 in US dollars. C2, C3, C4 were to be billed on a cost-plus conversion cost basis under the initial agreements signed between ONGC and OPAL. Delays in the laying of a naptha pipeline from ONGCs Hazira plant has resulted in increased procurement cost for OPAL. The feedstock agreement is being revisited and the terms are likely to continue according to the initial agreement. OPAL is confident of being compensated by ONGC for the increased procurement cost. Also, OPALs dual feed cracker will enable it to substitute naphtha with ethane and thus help it earn better profitability than from the traditional naphtha cracker. Any significant changes to the feedstock agreement, detrimental to OPAL, are likely to impact its profitability.

Refinancing Pressure: OPAL has repayments of INR71,790 million due at FYE18. OPAL may refinance/ roll over the short-term loans and may service term loans from internal accruals or borrow additional loans. In July 2016, OPAL raised INR56,150 million CCDs with a credit enhancement. The CCD proceeds were used to fully repay the medium term loan, subordinate loan and partially repay the short-term loans. OPAL plans to raise INR16,710 million through another CCD issuance in 1QFY18.

OPAL had to maintain a debt-equity ratio at 1.41:1 post-December 2015, as stipulated under the lenders agreement. It has received an extension of the timeline to meet the covenant from some lenders. The debt-equity ratio was 1.91:1 on 31 December 2016. However, Ind-Ra draws comfort from ONGCs strong and ongoing sponsor support to OPAL.

Lower-than-estimated Equity Infusion: Lower-than-estimated equity infusions by OPALs existing sponsors as well as delays in getting strategic investors on board have led to additional debt for the company in form of subordinate debt and short-term loans to fund its capex. This has increased its leverage levels and interest costs during construction. OPAL in July 2016 issued INR56,150 million of 8.75% CCDs and will issue INR16,710 million CCDs in 1QFY18 for partially financing project expenditure and meet repayment obligations. OPALs profitability and timely debt servicing in its initial years of operations depend significantly on timely equity infusions and the consequent reduction in debt and interest burden.

Backstopping Arrangement from Sponsor for CCDs: The SO rating draws comfort from the unconditional and irrevocable mandatory put option on the sponsor, ONGC for a buy-out of the CCDs at the end of the 35th month from the deemed date of allotment, as well as the undertaking to fund the coupon payment. The sponsor would also have the right to buy-out the CCD at the end of the 24th, 30th and 35th month from the deemed date of allotment. As per the draft term sheet shared by OPAL with Ind-Ra, the CCDs would have a tenor of 36 months from the deemed date of allotment and will not have any conversion option for the period it is held by the investor. OPAL would use the proceeds for partially financing the project expenditures and repaying existing credit facilities availed from banks/financial institutions.

Undertaking for Coupon Payment of CCDs: The rating also factors the payment mechanism for timely coupon servicing on the CCDs. The CCDs would have an annual coupon payment, which will be paid through a no-lien service account created by OPAL. OPAL/ONGC will fund the service account with the requisite amount of the coupon payment on or before the coupon payment date.


Positive: Stabilisation of operations and an improvement in the credit profile as envisaged by management could be positive for the ratings.

Negative: Inability to ramp up operations resulting in lower-than-expected improvement in the credit metrics in FY18 and/or any delay in support from the sponsors could be negative for the ratings.

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Government Printing Press to be upgraded at a cost of Rs.338 crore
Apr 24,2017

Modernisation and redevelopment of Government of India Printing Press at Minto Road in New Delhi will be taken up at a cost of Rs.338.56 cr.

Minister of Urban Development Shri M.Venkaiah Naidu has accepted the recommendation of the Standing Finance Committee in this regard.

The present building of the Press will be redeveloped at a cost of Rs.238.56 cr into three blocks of Ground plus six floors suitable to locate the modern technology and equipment to be installed at a cost of Rs.100 cr.

At present, the machines and equipment being used are of 1980-2005 vintage and some of them installed as early as in 1968, resulting in high cost of production, demand for printing not being met in time besides non-availability of spare parts requiring their refabrication.

With redevelopment and modernisation, the production capacity of the Government of India Printing Press at Minto Road in the national capital will increase from the present 16 lakh pages per day (60 cr pages per year)of A-5 size to 45 lakh pages per day (164.96 cr pages per year) marking an increase of 177% in production capacity. Multi-colour printing, which is not available presently will be made available.

This Government Printing Press meets all printing needs of both the Houses of Parliament including day to day Parliamentary proceedings, Question Lists, Bills, Acts, Synopsis, Reports, Debates, Whos Who, Parliamentary Committee reports besides the needs of Cabinet Secretariat and various Ministries and Departments of central government. Due to lack of multi-colour printing facility at present, such work as in the case of printing of Annual Reports of various ministries and departments is being outsourced.

The entire redevelopment and modernisation work would be completed in 52 months from now.

From the available land of 22,017 sq.mtres, about 1.50 acres would be transferred to the Ministry of Finance for construction of building for Controller General of Accounts and Public Finance Management System (PFMS).

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Multilateral Banks to Deepen Collaboration with Private Sector to Boost Inclusive, Sustainable Infrastructure
Apr 24,2017

Leaders of the top multilateral development banks (MDBs) have agreed to deepen their collaboration to encourage private sector investment in vital infrastructure needed to support sustainable and inclusive economic growth throughout the world.

Basic infrastructure services n++ like roads, water and sewage lines, and electrical power n++ are scarce in many developing countries. Over one billion people live without electricity, more than 660 million people dont have access to clean drinking water, and one in three people lack access to flushing toilets and sewerage infrastructure. In addition, countries face the urgent need to invest in climate-resilient infrastructure and renewable, efficient energy sources.

With trillions of dollars in capital sitting on the sidelines earning low or even negative returns, deeper engagement with the private sector can create win-win scenarios where investors earn better returns on long-term investments and developing countries get much needed investment and expertise.

In order to fulfill commitments that countries throughout the world made to meet the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals, the MDBs pledged not only to leverage their resources by joining forces to cofinance projects, but also to help generate interest among private sector investors in Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) and the development of infrastructure as an asset class for institutional investors.

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Fitch: RBI Strengthens Tools to Intervene in Ailing Indian Banks
Apr 24,2017

The Reserve Bank of Indias (RBI) updated prompt corrective action (PCA) framework could suggest a greater willingness to take regulatory action to address problems at struggling banks, but its implementation is only likely to be effective if it is matched by credible plans to address banks significant asset quality issues and capital shortages, says Fitch Ratings.

The RBI has tightened the thresholds - for capital ratios, NPLs, profitability and leverage - at which banks enter the PCA framework. This appears to be an acknowledgement of the significant asset quality stress in the system and that more banks are in need of regulatory intervention. PCA was previously viewed as an extraordinary step, which the RBI urged banks to make great efforts to avoid. That now looks likely to change. More than half of state-owned banks would breach at least one of the new thresholds, mainly owing to high NPLs, based on their latest financial reports. The new PCA framework will be invoked on the basis of the banks FY17 financials, which they are still reporting.

The RBI has also given itself greater discretion in terms of the measures it can use to intervene in banks once they fall under the PCA framework, which suggests it has recognised a need to take corrective action at an earlier stage when banks run into difficulties. The previous PCA, in contrast, explicitly reserved the most interventionist actions for banks that had breached more extreme thresholds. It is possible that intervention could involve forcing banks to conserve capital, if other actions do not address problems. The risk of non-performance on bank capital instruments may therefore have risen.

The actual impact of the new PCA rules will depend on how the RBI uses them. Two circulars released on Tuesday, which pressure banks to make provisions above the regulatory minimum and require further disclosures on NPLs, point to the RBIs seriousness. These circulars might weigh on bank earnings in the next round of reports. Should the additional disclosures reveal weaknesses that are greater than expected there could be further pressure on the banks Viability Ratings.

The RBI primarily limited itself to restricting bank lending under the previous PCA framework. The scope for possible regulatory actions has been broadened under the amended framework, but it remains uncertain to what extent the RBI will use the tools it has just made available.

Moreover, the RBI will not be able to address problems in the banking sector on its own. Significant efforts to resolve bad loans, for example, would leave banks in need of recapitalisation, given that haircuts and increased provisions would be required. State banks are generally in a poor position to raise new capital, which makes them largely reliant on the government for recapitalisation.

The RBI may use the PCA framework to identify weak banks as candidates for mergers. State Bank of India took over five smaller lenders earlier this month, and further consolidation could be part of the overall strategy to clean up the banking system. However, mergers would also require the support of the government.

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