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Cabinet approves the fixation of P&K fertilizers Nutrient-Based Subsidy (NBS) rates for 2017-18
Apr 01,2017

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved the Fixation of Nutrient Based Subsidy (NBS) rates for Phosphatic and Potassic (P&K) fertilizers for the year 2017-18.

Government has been implementing Nutrient Based Subsidy (NBS) Policy for decontrolled P&K fertilizers. Under this policy, the subsidy on Phosphatic and Potassic (P&K) fertilizers is announced by the Government on annual basis for each nutrient i.e., Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P), Potash (K) and Sulphur (S) on per kg basis which is converted into subsidy per tonne depending upon the nutrient content in each grade of the fertilizers. These rates are determined taking into account the international and domestic prices of P&K fertilizers, exchange rate, inventory level in the country etc.

The CCEA in its meeting held on 31 March 2017 decided to fix the NBS rates for 2017-18. As compared to 2016-17, the subsidy for the period 2017-18 has decreased from Rs 13.241/kg to 11.997/kg (decrease of Rs 1.244/kg) for P, from Rs 15.470/kg to 12.395/kg (decrease of Rs 3,075/kg) for K whereas the subsidy of N has increased from Rs 15.854/kg to 18.989/kg (an increase of Rs 3.135/kg) and of S from Rs 2.044/kg to 2.240/kg (an increase of Rs 0.196/kg).

During 2016-17, the estimated consumption of P&K fertilizers is 279.8 LMT. Based on the assumption that the consumption of P&K fertilizers during 2017-18 would remain the same, the estimated subsidy requirement at proposed rates would be Rs 19,848.99 crore which is lower than 2016-17 (Rs. 20,688.43 crore) by Rs. 839.44 crore.

This is in continuation with the reforms being undertaken in the fertilizers sector over the past two and a half years including DBT for subsidy payment, neem coating of Urea, reduction in MRP of P&K fertilizers to promote balanced use of nutrients, removal of minimum production criteria for manufacturers of Single Super Phosphate (SSP).

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Cabinet approves the revised Air Services Agreement with Malaysia
Apr 01,2017

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the revised Air Services Agreement (ASA) with Malaysia.

The revised text of ASA was initialed in 2011. However, due to some diversion on Article 13 i.e. related to remittance of earning, the Agreement could not be signed. During the meeting held in ICAN 2016, Malaysian side agreed to revise the text of said article as suggested by M/o Finance, Govt. of India

Features of the Air Services Agreement

n++ Existing ASA was signed in 1974, hence there is a need to revise, update and modernize the exiting ASA

n++ Text of existing ASA has been replaced with the new text as per latest ICAO template.

n++ Cooperative Marketing Arrangement for 3rd country airlines has been added

n++ Clause on domestic codeshare has been added

n++ The articles on safety and security have been added in the revised ASA

n++ The article related to intermodal services have been added in the revised ASA that will permit air passengers and cargo to move through any intermodal transport from any point in the territory of other party.

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Cabinet approves moving of official amendments to The Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2016
Apr 01,2017

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the proposal to move official amendments to the Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2016. The Bill will be introduced in the Parliament.

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Cabinet approves signing of new Air Services Agreement between India and Serbia
Mar 31,2017

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given its approval for updation of the existing Air Services Agreement (ASA) between India and Serbia which was signed on 31 January 2003. The updation is as per latest International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) template keeping in view the latest developments in civil aviation sector and with an objective to improve the air connectivity between the two countries.

The essential features of the new Air Services Agreement are as follows:

(i) The open sky has been formalized with Serbia as per National Civil Aviation Policy. Now the Indian carriers can operate to any points in Serbia from points in India. Whereas the carriers of Serbia can establish direct operation to 4 Metros - New Delhi, Mumbai and 2 more points to be specified later. Apart from this through routing flexibility any intermediate and beyond point can also be served by the designated carriers of both sides.

(ii) The designated airlines shall be entitled to exercise domestic code share operation to any four (4) additional points in the territory of the other Party over and above the points specified in route schedule, These 4 points may be specified at any time.

(iii) The designated Airline of each party can enter into cooperative marketing arrangements with the designated carriers of same party, other party and third country.

(iv) It will not only provide direct connectivity but also connectivity through 3rd country carriers, which may also be viable for Indian carriers.

(v) Both countries shall be entitled to designate one or more airline. In earlier arrangement only maximum of two airlines of could be designated by each side.

The new updated and liberalized Air Services Agreement between India and the Serbia has the potential to spur greater trade, investment, tourism and cultural exchange between the two countries bringing it in tune with die developments in the civil aviation sector. It will provide enabling environment for enhanced and seamless connectivity while providing commercial opportunities to the carriers of both the sides ensuring greater safety and security. As of now there is no connectivity between the two nations and the revised agreement may lead to establishing connectivity between the two countries.

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ICT enabled Real Time Monitoring of ICDS instituted in select Anganwadi Centres of high burden districts
Mar 31,2017

Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) is the flagship program of Government of India for the holistic development of children. The beneficiaries of the programme are children below six years of age and pregnant women & lactating mothers. With a view to bridge the gaps in the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) delivery, Ministry of Women & Child Development is implementing ICDS Systems Strengthening and Nutrition Improvement Project (ISSNIP), in 162 high malnutrition burden districts of 8 States viz. Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh covering 3.68 lakh Aanganwadi Centres. Information and Communication Technology enabled Real Time Monitoring (ICT-RTM) of ICDS has been instituted in the Restructured ISSNIP for improving the service delivery in ICDS and ensuring better monitoring and supervision of ICDS implementation at 1,00,000 Anganwadi Centres. It is based on ICDS-Common Application Software (ICDS-CAS) developed especially for this program thereby equipping Aanganwadi Workers with a Smart Phone preinstalled with ICDS-CAS and Sector Supervisors with a Tablet preinstalled with ICDS-CAS. ICT-RTM would help strengthen the ICDS capacity to deliver nutrition services in a better way.

During 2016-17, 6 complaints (three from State of Uttar Pradesh, one from State of Uttarakhand, one from State of Chandigarh and one from State of Orissa) concerning quality of Take Home Ration (THR) were received by the Government. Since Integrated Child Development Service (ICDS) is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme and the overall management & monitoring of the implementation of the ICDS Scheme is done by the concerned State Government, the complaints have been forwarded to the concerned State Governments for necessary action.

No proposal has been finalised to make conditional cash transfer in place of Take Home Ration.

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Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India notifies Corporate Voluntary Liquidation Process Regulations
Mar 31,2017

The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI), in exercise of its powers conferred by sections 59, 196 and 208 read with section 240 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016, has notified today the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (Voluntary Liquidation Process) Regulations, 2016. The regulations provide the process from initiation of voluntary liquidation of a corporate person - companies, limited liability partnerships and any other persons incorporated with limited liability - till its dissolution.

A corporate person may initiate a voluntary liquidation proceeding if majority of the directors or designated partners of the corporate person make a declaration to the effect that (i) the corporate person has no debt or it will be able to pay its debts in full from the proceeds of the assets to be sold under the proposed liquidation, and (ii) the corporate person is not being liquidated to defraud any person. If the liquidator is of the opinion that the liquidation is being done to defraud a person or the corporate person will not be able to pay its debts in full from the proceeds of assets to be sold in the liquidation, he shall make an application to the Adjudicating Authority to suspend the process of liquidation and pass any such orders as it deems fit.

The regulations prohibit an insolvency professional from acting as a liquidator for a corporate person if he is not independent of the corporate person. These prohibit partners or directors of an insolvency professional entity of which the insolvency professional is a partner or director from representing other stakeholders in the same liquidation process. These oblige the liquidator, and professional(s) assisting him in liquidation to make disclosures - initial and continuing - about pecuniary or personal relationship with any of the stakeholders or the corporate person.

The regulations specify the manner and content of public announcement, receipt and verification of claims of stakeholders, reports and registers to be maintained, preserved and submitted by the liquidator, realisation of assets and distribution of proceeds to stakeholders, distribution of residual assets, and finally dissolution of corporate person. These oblige a liquidator to preserve a physical or an electronic copy of the reports, registers and books of account for at least eight years after the dissolution of the corporate person, either with himself or with an information utility.

The regulations shall come into effect from 1st April, 2017.

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Eight core industries output up 1% in February 2017
Mar 31,2017

The output of eight Core Industries comprise nearly 38% of the weight of items included in the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) rose at moderated pace of 1.0% in February 2017, compared with 3.4% growth recorded in January 2017. The cumulative output growth stood at 4.4% in April to February 2016-17.

Coal production (weight: 4.38%) increased by 7.1% in February, 2017 over February, 2016. Its cumulative index during April to February, 2016-17 increased by 2.8% over corresponding period of previous year.

Crude Oil production (weight: 5.22%) declined by 3.4% in February, 2017 over February, 2016. Its cumulative index during April to February, 2016-17 declined by 2.8% over the corresponding period of previous year.

The Natural Gas production (weight: 1.71%) declined by 1.7% in February, 2017 over February, 2016. Its cumulative index during April to February, 2016-17 declined by 1.9% over the corresponding period of previous year.

Petroleum Refinery production (weight: 5.94%) declined by 2.3% in February, 2017 over February, 2016. Its cumulative index during April to February, 2016-17 increased by 5.9% over the corresponding period of previous year.

Fertilizer production (weight: 1.25%) declined by 5.3% in February, 2017 over February, 2016. Its cumulative index during April to February, 2016-17 increased by 2.1% over the corresponding period of previous year.

Steel production (weight: 6.68%) increased by 8.7% in February, 2017 over February, 2016. Its cumulative index during April to February, 2016-17 increased by 9.1% over the corresponding period of previous year.

Cement production (weight: 2.41%) declined by 15.8% in February, 2017 over February, 2016. Its cumulative index during April to February, 2016-17 declined by 0.7% over the corresponding period of previous year.

Electricity generation (weight: 10.32%) increased by 1.5% in February, 2017 over February, 2016. Its cumulative index during April to February, 2016-17 increased by 5.0% over the corresponding period of previous year.

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CBDT notifies new Income Tax Return Forms for AY 2017-18
Mar 31,2017

The Central Board of Direct Taxes has notified Income-tax Return Forms (ITR Forms) for the Assessment Year 2017-18. One of the major reforms made in the notified ITR Forms is the designing of a one page simplified ITR Form-1 (Sahaj). This ITR Form-1 (Sahaj) can be filed by an individual having income upto Rs.50 lakh and who is receiving income from salary one house property / other income (interest etc.) . Various parts of ITR Form-1 (Sahaj) viz. parts relating to tax computation and deductions have been rationalised and simplified for easy compliance. This will reduce the compliance burden to a significant extent on the individual tax payer. This initiative will benefit more than two crore tax-payers who will be eligible to file their return of income in this simplified Form.

Simultaneously, the number of ITR Forms have been reduced from the existing nine to seven forms. The existing ITR Forms ITR-2, ITR-2A and ITR-3 have been rationalized and a single ITR-2 has been notified in place of these three forms. Consequently, ITR-4 and ITR-4S (Sugam) have been renumbered as ITR-3 and ITR-4 (Sugam) respectively.

There is no change in the manner of filing of ITR Forms as compared to last year. All these ITR Forms are to be filed electronically. However, where return is furnished in ITR-1 (Sahaj) or ITR-4 (Sugam), the following persons have an option to file return in paper form:-

(i) an individual of the age of 80 years or more at any time during the previous year; or

(ii) an individual or HUF whose income does not exceed five lakh rupees and who has not claimed any refund in the return of income.

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Buffer stock of pulses crosses 16.88 lakh tonnes
Mar 31,2017

Government has procured around 16.88 lakh tonnes including 3.79 lakh tonnes of imports towards building the buffer stock of pulses of upto 20 lakh tonnes as on 28 March 2017.

Government has approved creation of a buffer stock of upto 20 lakh tonnes of pulses under the Price Stabilization Fund (PSF). The domestic procurement of the pulses is from farmers/farmers association at farm gate/Mandi through designated agencies like NAFED, FCI and SFAC. Government procured Arhar and Moong during KMS 2016-17 to extend MSP support to farmers and simultaneously build the buffer.

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Chenani-Nashri Highway Tunnel: Beginning of a New Era in Road Connectivity
Mar 31,2017

The Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi will dedicate Indias longest highways tunnel - the Chenani- Nashri tunnel in Jammu & Kashmir- to the nation on 2nd April, 2017. An ideal example of the governments Make in India and Skill India initiative, the 9 km long, twin-tube, all-weather tunnel between Udhampur and Ramban in Jammu & Kashmir is not only Indias longest highways tunnel but also Asias longest bi-directional highways tunnel. Built at an elevation of 1200 metres on one of the most difficult Himalayan terrains, the tunnel will cut the travel time between Jammu and Srinagar by two hours, bypassing about 41 kms of road length. It will also ensure an all weather passage on a route that often sees heavy traffic jams and disruptions due to landslides, snow, sharp curves, breakdown of vehicles and accidents.

The tunnel was constructed at a cost of about Rs 3720 crores. It is a part of the 286-km-long four-laning of the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway. The structure consists of a 9 km long, two-laned main tunnel with a parallel escape tunnel of same length. The two tunnels are connected by 29 cross passages at regular intervals along the entire length of the tunnel. These cross passages can be used for evacuation of vehicles and commuters in case of breakdown or any other emergency. There are two minor bridges on the south and north sides and 4-lane approach roads with Toll Plazas on both ends of the tunnel. The maximum height permitted in the tunnel is 5 meters and for checking the height special sensors have been installed just before the toll points at both ends.

The tunnel has an efficient, transverse ventilation system. There are inlets bringing fresh air at 8 metre intervals and outlet for exhaust every 100 metres. There is also a fully-integrated control system with ventilation, communication, power supply, incident detection, SOS call box and fire fighting. Fitted with intelligent traffic mechanism, the tunnel has fully automatic smart control and no human intervention will be required for its operations. The tunnel is also equipped with advanced scanners to ward off any security threat. Very few tunnels in the world have this kind of fully integrated tunnel control.

The project is also environment friendly. The time saving on the Jammu- Srinagar route will further result in fuel saving of approximately Rs 27 lakhs per day. Besides, the construction of the tunnel has avoided large -scale deforestation.

The Chenani-Nashri tunnel will have a very positive impact on the state economy. In line with the Skill India initiative of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, the skill sets of local people were developed and improved, and they were engaged for construction of this tunnel. The project has provided employment to over 2,000 unskilled and skilled youth of Jammu and Kashmir as 94 percent of the work force was from the state. Around 600 to 900 people from across the country also worked on this project in 3 shifts over the past 4 years.

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Japans Official Development Assistance Loan to India for FY 2016
Mar 31,2017

The Notes were exchanged between Mr. S. Selvakumar, Joint Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Government of India and H.E. Mr. Kenji Hiramatsu, Ambassador of Japan to India. The Government of Japan has committed JICA Official Development Assistance loan for an amount of Yen 371.345 billion (=Rs.21590 crore approx. @ Exchange Rate of Re.1 = Yen 1.72.) under FY 2016 loan packages. The ODA loan assistance has been committed to Mumbai Trans Harbour Link Project (JPY 144.795 billion), Dedicated Freight Corridor Project (Procurement of Electric Locomotives) (JPY 108.456 billion), Chennai Metro Project (V) (JPY 33.321 billion), Andhra Pradesh Irrigation and Livelihood Improvement Project (Phase 2) (I) (JPY 21.297 billion), Rajasthan Water Sector Livelihood Improvement Project (I) (JPY 13.725 billion), Odisha Forestry Sector Development Project (Phase 2) (JPY 14.512 billion), Delhi Eastern Peripheral Expressway Intelligent Transport System (ITS) Installation Project (JPY 6.87 billion), Nagaland Forest Management Project (JPY 6.224 billion) and Tamil Nadu Investment Promotion Program (Phase 2) (JPY 22.145 billion).

India and Japan have had a long and fruitful history of bilateral development cooperation since 1958. In the last few years, the economic partnership between India and Japan has steadily progressed. This further consolidates and strengthens the Strategic and Global Partnership between India and Japan.

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Union Government has announced revised rates of interest on Small Savings Schemes for the Q1 2017-18 to bring them somewhat closer to market rates
Mar 31,2017

The Union Government has announced revised rates of interest on various small savings schemes for the first quarter of the financial year 2017-18. To bring such rates somewhat closer to market rates, the Government has decided to effect a reduction of 0.1 percentage points (10 basis points) in interest rates across the board in all the schemes except the Post Office Savings Account, which has been left untouched.

Government continues to accord highest priority to the interest of small savers, especially savings for the benefit of girl child, the senior citizens and the regular savers who form the backbone of our savings architecture. The current revision of rates is reflective of the Governments commitment to calibrated reform in the financial sector to ensure better interest rate transmission.

Various small savings schemes will continue to be very attractive compared to bank deposits of similar maturities and tenor even after this marginal reduction in interest rates by 0.1 percentage points. Apart from offering higher interest rates compared to bank deposits, some of the small savings schemes also enjoy income tax benefits. Further, small savings schemes like Senior Citizens Savings Scheme (SCSS), Sukanya Samriddhi Account (SSA), PPF, 5 year National Savings Certificate (NSC), 5 year Monthly Income Scheme (MIS) and 5 year Time Deposits (TD) enjoy additional interest rate spreads. This additional interest rate spread is 100 basis points in the case of Senior Citizen Savings Scheme, 75 basis points in Sukanya Samriddhi Account and 25 basis points spread in PPF, 5 year NSC, 5 year MIS and 5 year TD.

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The Union Government has announced revised rates of interest on Small Savings Schemes for the First Quarter of 2017-18 to bring them somewhat closer t
Mar 31,2017

The Union Government has announced revised rates of interest on various small savings schemes for the first quarter of the financial year 2017-18. To bring such rates somewhat closer to market rates, the Government has decided to effect a reduction of 0.1 percentage points (10 basis points) in interest rates across the board in all the schemes except the Post Office Savings Account, which has been left untouched.

Government continues to accord highest priority to the interest of small savers, especially savings for the benefit of girl child, the senior citizens and the regular savers who form the backbone of our savings architecture. The current revision of rates is reflective of the Governments commitment to calibrated reform in the financial sector to ensure better interest rate transmission.

Various small savings schemes will continue to be very attractive compared to bank deposits of similar maturities and tenor even after this marginal reduction in interest rates by 0.1 percentage points. Apart from offering higher interest rates compared to bank deposits, some of the small savings schemes also enjoy income tax benefits. Further, small savings schemes like Senior Citizens Savings Scheme (SCSS), Sukanya Samriddhi Account (SSA), PPF, 5 year National Savings Certificate (NSC), 5 year Monthly Income Scheme (MIS) and 5 year Time Deposits (TD) enjoy additional interest rate spreads. This additional interest rate spread is 100 basis points in the case of Senior Citizen Savings Scheme, 75 basis points in Sukanya Samriddhi Account and 25 basis points spread in PPF, 5 year NSC, 5 year MIS and 5 year TD.

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Service charge on online booking of tickets has been withdrawn for the railway tickets booked from 23 November 2016 to 31 March 2017
Mar 31,2017

In order to help passengers and incentivize the payment through digital modes for booking of reserved tickets, service charge on online booking of tickets has been withdrawn for the tickets booked from 23 November 2016 to 31 March 2017. Approximately, an amount of Rs 184 crore has not been realized from passengers on account of service charge and service tax thereon on reserved tickets booked online from 23 November 2016 to 28 February 2017.

With a view to promoting cashless transaction on Indian Railways, various initiatives have been taken including the following:-

i. The facility of online booking of reserved ticket has been provided through Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) website. The payment for tickets booked through IRCTC website is made through various cashless modes such as net banking, through credit/debit cards, cash cards and e-wallets. Further, to incentivize cashless transaction, service charge on online booking of tickets has been withdrawn for the tickets booked from 23.11.2016 to 31.03.2017.

ii. The facility of booking unreserved ticket including journey, season and platform tickets through mobile phone has been introduced in all suburban sections of Central, Western, Southern, Eastern, South Central, South Eastern and Delhi-Palwal section of Northern Railway. Additional payment options under the digital modes have also been introduced to widen the scope of digital payments for purchase of unreserved tickets.

iii. The facility of renewal of season tickets through IRCTC website has been provided for suburban train services on Western and Central Railways wherein payment is made through electronic mode.

iv. It has been decided to install 10,000 Point of Sale (POS) machines in association with State Bank of India at various locations of Indian Railways i.e. PRS locations, UTS locations, Parcel/Goods locations. At present, more than 4100 POS machines have been installed over the Zonal Railways.

v. An advanced Beta version of the mobile application for booking of reserved tickets has also been launched by IRCTC giving additional options of cashless payment.

vi. Service charge applicable on transactions against credit/debit cards for purchasing journey tickets at Unreserved Ticketing System (UTS)/ Passenger Reservation System (PRS) counters has been withdrawn.

vii. Online booking facility for accredited press correspondents on the basis of registered ID card has been launched.

viii. International Credit/ Debit cards issued outside India are accepted for booking of e-tickets through IRCTC website.

ix. Free accidental insurance cover of upto `10 lakh for confirmed/RAC passengers in case of tickets booked online from 10.12.2016 to 31.03.2017.

x. Provision of 0.5% discount on season tickets purchased through digital means with effect from 01.01.2017.

xi. Provision of 5% discount on payment made online for availing services like online booking of retiring rooms with effect from 01.01.2017.

xii. Catering stalls have also been instructed to provide options for making cashless payments.

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South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) Operational Plan (OP) 2016-25 includes nine projects worth $2.4 Billion
Mar 31,2017

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a total of nine projects costing $2.42 billion as part of the Operational Plan (OP) 2016-2025 of the South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) program. These projects will receive ADB financing of $1.43 billion. These nine projects represent a significant increase compared to the previous 15 years, when the annual average value of projects approved was only about $500 million.

The nine projects comprise of two rail projects in Bangladesh worth $890 million, two economic corridor initiatives (a project and program loan) and a bridge project in India worth an aggregate of $1.2 billion, trade facilitation and airport projects in Bhutan worth $27 million and key SASEC road and energy projects in Nepal worth $302 million. All these projects are aligned with the SASEC OPs thrusts of developing road and rail links aligned closely with trade routes toward the east, streamlining trade procedures, and improving energy infrastructure.

The Indian corridor projects reflect the SASEC OPs recent shift in emphasis on developing economic corridors within and between member countries. Shri Raj Kumar, Joint Secretary, Multilateral Institutions Division, Department of Economic Affairs stressed that India fully supports the SASEC OP as an important milestone in the SASEC program, especially as it will pursue the development of infrastructure to improve our economic linkages with East and Southeast Asia, in accordance with Indias Act East policy, thereby raising the competitiveness of the sub-regions enterprises.

The SASEC OP has identified over 200 potential transport, trade facilitation and energy projects which will require over $120 billion in investments for the next five years, out of which 74 projects have been identified in India with an estimated project cost of over $60 billion. Majority of these projects are located in the Northeast or Eastern part of the country.

The SASEC OP, endorsed in June 2016 by the SASEC member countries, is SASECs first comprehensive long-term plan to promote greater economic cooperation among the member countries in the areas of transport, trade facilitation, energy, and economic corridor development. Bringing regional cooperation to a higher level, the SASEC OP plans to extend physical linkages not only within SASEC but also with East and Southeast Asia by the next decade.

Established in 2001, the SASEC program is a project-based partnership to promote regional prosperity by improving cross-border connectivity, boosting trade among member countries and strengthening regional economic cooperation. ADB is the secretariat and lead financier of the SASEC program, which to date has supported a total of 46 projects worth $9.17 billion in transport, trade facilitation, energy and information and communications technology (ICT).

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