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OECD GDP growth slows to 0.4% in fourth quarter of 2016
Feb 21,2017

Real growth of gross domestic product (GDP) in the OECD area decelerated slightly to 0.4% in the fourth quarter of 2016, compared with 0.5% in the previous quarter, according to provisional estimates.

Among Major Seven economies, growth picked up in Germany and France in the fourth quarter of 2016, to 0.4%, compared with 0.1% and 0.2% respectively in the previous quarter, and remained stable in the United Kingdom, at 0.6%. However, growth slowed sharply in the United States (to 0.5%, down from 0.9%) and also, albeit slightly, in Japan and Italy (to 0.2%, compared with 0.3% in the previous quarter).

In the European Union and in the euro area, growth was stable at 0.5% and 0.4%, respectively.

Year-on-year GDP growth for the OECD area was stable at 1.7% for the fourth straight quarter. Among Major Seven economies, the United Kingdom (2.2%) recorded the highest annual growth rate (for the fourth consecutive quarter), while Italy and France registered the lowest (1.1%).

For 2016 as a whole, GDP rose by 1.7% in the OECD area, down from 2.4% in 2015.

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Vice President Hamid Ansari launches India - Rwanda Innovation Growth Program during his visit to Africa
Feb 21,2017

Vice President of India, Shri Hamid Ansari, launched the India- Rwanda Innovation Growth Programme as one of the major Science and Technology initiatives between India and Rwanda. The Program was launched in presence of the Prime Minister of Rwanda, Anastase Murekezi and is a key announcement made during the high level visit of the Indian Vice President.

India-Rwanda Innovation Growth Program is a first of its kind initiative to be launched and piloted between India and Rwanda to strengthen the bilateral relationship purely based on Science, Technology and Innovation. The objective of the Program is to match the socio-economic needs of Rwanda by linking the Rwandan industry with leading edge Indian technologies and innovations. The Program will deploy 20 demonstrated and validated Indian technologies and innovations over a period of two years. The joint programs/ventures created with Rwandan partners will deliver at least 20 sustainable social enterprises that will stimulate economic impact development in Rwanda.

As a prelude to the Program, fifteen Indian techno-entrepreneurs also showcased their innovative solutions at the prestigious Kigali Convention Centre, Kigali. The Showcase and Business to Business interaction were inaugurated by the Vice President of India and the Prime Minister of Rwanda. More than 100 interested private and public sector attendees from Rwanda attended and interacted with Indian innovators and business delegates. The showcased Indian Innovations included CassavaTech, a patented technology that brings down capital cost of processing Cassava from USD 15,000 to USD 200 and reduces operating cost from USD 20 to USD 2 for 200 kg processing capacity. The technology further reduces drying time for Cassava from 10 days to 10 hours producing high quality Cassava flour. Another technology showcased was a ~100% compostable menstrual hygiene solution providing affordable pads to adolescent girls and women. This is done using a unique low cost, low electricity consuming machine that produces 1200-2400pads/8-10 hrs through community participation from 12-16 women (no specific skills required) as production workforce.

The India-Rwanda Innovation Growth Program is a joint initiative of the Department of Science and Technology and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry supported by the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India.

Shri Hamid Ansari, Vice President of India stated n++I am happy to learn of the initiative jointly taken by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and the Ministry of Science and Technology for organizing the India-Rwanda Innovation Growth Program and a Technology & Innovation Showcase at Kigali. Science and Technology are powerful drivers of growth and development all over the world. The solution of our myriad problems lies in a deeper understanding of science and more judicious use of technology. I am sure the joint programs/ventures foreseen with Rwandan partners will play an important role in fostering sustainable development and progress in both the countries.n++

Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Minister of Science and Technology stated n++Indio-Rwanda joint initiative in field of Science and Technology and its commercial exploration is indeed a welcome step and goes a long way in further cementing Indio-Africa relationship. Visit of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi to Africa and India hosting 40 head of states/government during indo-Africa Forum Summit III speaks of our mutual desire for engagement in diversified fields for benefit of people of two region. I wish this initiative will go a long way in establishing everlasting mutually beneficial partnership leading to inclusive growth of people of two region.n++

Prof. Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, Department of Science & Technology shared n++We are proud to carry forward the vision and announcement of our Honble Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, to share our validated technologies and innovations with Rwanda soon to start India - Rwanda Innovation Growth Program. This Program has been conceived to bridge Rwandas assessed needs for impact development by bringing together Rwandan entrepreneurs and public sector with Indian innovators. India is proud to partner with Rwanda in this first pilot to establish a technology transfer and enterprise creation which can then be replicated in East African nations and across the African continentn++.

On the launch of the program, Dr. A. Didar Singh, Secretary General, FICCI said n++India and Africa share a common historical background and have been long term partners in their journey of growth and development. FICCI has been working with the Department of Science and Technology over the last decade to identify, nurture and scale innovative solutions that address global development challenges. We now look forward to sharing and transferring such technological solutions to our friends in Africa and deeply engage with the entrepreneurial fraternity in Africa.n++

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India Ratings Maintains Negative Outlook on Infrastructure Sector for FY18
Feb 21,2017

India Ratings and Research (Ind-Ra) has maintained a negative outlook on the infrastructure sector for FY18, albeit with revised outlooks for a couple of sub-sectors.

The increase in receivables position of wind power plants limited the headroom available to handle low wind patterns; hence, Ind-Ra has revised wind energys outlook to negative for FY18 from stable for FY17. With little improvements in the issues facing the toll roads sector (low inflation, slower ramp up, lower toll rate growth) and coal-based thermal power (demand-supply mismatch, increased thrust on renewables), Ind-Ra continues with its negative outlook on these two sectors. Favourable policy actions and strong passenger growth drive the outlook revision to positive for airports for FY18 from stable, while other subsectors (solar, ports, transmission) have been maintained on a stable outlook on the back of performances largely in line with Ind-Ras expectations.

Roads: Ind-Ra has maintained a negative outlook on toll roads for FY18, on the expectation of sluggish traffic growth compounded by a subdued Wholesale Price Index. Ind-Ras analysis reveals the vulnerability of projects, especially the ones with a short operational track record (less than three years), to a 200bp reduction in base case growth rates, which would lead to impairment in debt serviceability. Road developers have found a penchant for infrastructure Investment Trusts (InvITs) - 75% of the InvITs in the listing stage are from the highway sector. Though prima facie traction in InvITs seems positive, the actual trimming of debt to the desired levels would be clear by 1HFY18, and discord over valuation may be a major stumbling block for InvITs. The pace of financial closures under the hybrid annuity model is marred, due to low termination payments and less equity contributions; consequently, lenders exercise caution before lending.

Thermal Power: The negative outlook on thermal power is mainly due to suboptimal plant load factors, lack of interest for long-term power purchase agreements which has been compounded by low priority in power scheduling, and added uncertainty in awarding compensatory tariffs. Slow demand growth and abundant options for state distribution companies to tap into short-term market for meeting any temporary demand spikes have led to the lack of interest for long-term power purchase agreements. Although steps have been taken at the policy level by the introduction of measures such as Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana, Ind-Ra believes that reliance on state distribution companies errant payment cycle places issuers at a disadvantage for tapping capital markets.

Solar Power: Ind-Ra maintains a stable outlook for the solar power sector on the back of a stable performance, predictable nature of cash flows based on long-term power purchase agreements, decreasing panel prices, favourable debtor days, albeit with a limited operational track record. Ind-Ra believes that a combination of evolving payment security mechanism (such as creation of a payment security fund and state government guarantee) and a fall in panel prices (November 2017 yoy about 28%) will not only reduce the funding costs but also drive low solar tariffs.

Availability-based Assets: Ind-Ra has maintained a stable outlook on availability-based assets, both annuity and transmission projects, primarily on the back of strong counterparty credit profiles and demonstrated records of timely receipts of availability payments. Most of the annuity-based road projects and transmission assets continue to demonstrated availability in line with empirical evidence, reiterating Ind-Ras expectation of above normative level availability in case of transmission assets.

Airports: Despite global macroeconomic headwinds, the airport sector recorded yet another year of a robust traffic throughput and was aided by government measures, resulting in the revision of the sectors outlook to positive for FY18. With better-than-expected improvement in throughput levels, the capex plans of couple of airports are likely to be advanced. Delay in real estate monetisation continues to be an overhang on the Mumbai and Delhi airports. However, strong growth in aero-related revenues has negated the possible impact on revenues. Airports are well poised to refinance their debt and the agency expects issuances with elongated tenors and bullet repayments.

Seaports: The outlook for seaports is maintained at stable for FY18, due to continued throughput volumes growth in line with overall economic growth. Most of the major ports recorded year-on-year growth in traffic and there were no surprises in the top commodities traded across ports compared to the previous year.

OUTLOOK SENSITIVITIES

A reduction in interest rates and the stability of the Indian rupee can help ease the overall pressure on projects cash flow while a pick-up in economic activity will have a salutary effect on traffic volumes and energy demand, leading to portfolio-wide increases in coverage metrics.

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Nearly 10 lakh citizens get reward money over Rs.153.5 crore for embracing Digital Payments
Feb 21,2017

It has been 58 days since the launch of NITI Aayogs two incentive schemes - Lucky Grahak Yojana and Digi Dhan Vyapar Yojana to promote digital payments and the public response has been quite encouraging.

The initiative to make Digital Payments a mass movement in India through the two schemes has made a headway across the country with more and more people adopting digital transactions.

According to the latest figures released by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), which has been executing the schemes, nearly 10 lakh consumers and merchants have been disbursed over Rs.153.5 crore as reward money till 20th February, 2017.

Highlights:

n++ Among the 9.8 lakh winners are more than 9.2 lakh consumers and 56,000 merchants.

n++ 120 consumers have won prize money worth Rs. 1 lakh each

n++ 4,000 merchants have won Rs. 50,000 prize money each

n++ Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Delhi have emerged as the top five states/ Union Territory(s) with maximum number of winners

n++ Active participation was seen among females and males across regions

n++ Winners belong to diverse socio-economic backgrounds, from farmers, merchants, small entrepreneurs, professionals, housewives, students to retired persons.

n++ While majority of the winners are in the age group of 21 to 30, a significant number are also above 60 years of age.

n++ The diversity in age of winners is from 15 to 66 years, challenging the notion that the old find it difficult to embrace technology to adopt digital payments.

The winners have their own stories to tell it all as to how the switch over to digital payments has been le and how it has made the life easier for them. Sabir, a 22-year-old cab driver from Delhi won Rs. 1,00,000 under Lucky GrahakYojana for consumers. Digital payments are a blessing in disguise for him because he has to take care of his mother and differently-abled sister after the demise of his father and doesnt have time to stand in lines at the bank. Bhim Singh, a 29-year-old wheat farmer from Hissar in Haryana and winner under this initiative, now uses digital payments for buying supplies from wholesalers. Jayanthi SF, from Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, a 29-year-old engineering student and mother to a six-year-old, is a proud winner of Rs. 1,00,000 under the scheme.

Among the merchants, Damodar Prasad Khandelwal, a 42-year-old grocery store owner from Alwar in Rajasthan, won Rs. 50,000 in the weekly prize under Digi-DhanVyaparYojana for merchants. Manju R Gowda, a 32-year-old fast-food restaurant owner in Mumbai is another winner of Rs. 50,000 under this scheme.

An analysis of the reward data also reveals winners as belonging to a wide geographical cross-section, including rural and urban areas spread across every State.

NITI Aayog has been organizing DigiDhanMelas at 110 cities across India, beginning December 25th, 2016.. It will go on every day until April 14, 2017. Till date, 59 DigiDhanMelas have been organized to take the digital payments movement to the masses across the country.

Background:

NITI Aayog launched two schemes on December 25, 2016 - Lucky GrahakYojna (LGY) for consumers and Digi-DhanVyaparYojna (DVY) for merchants to incentivize them and promote digital payments. The two schemes shall remain open till April 14, 2017. There are 15,000 daily winners qualifying for total prize money of Rs. 1.5 crore. In additional to this there are over 14,000 weekly winners qualifying for total prize money of over Rs. 8.3 crore every week.

Customers and merchants using RuPay Card, BHIM / UPI (Bharat Interface for Money / Unified Payments Interface), USSD based *99# service and Aadhaar Enabled Payment Service (AePS) are eligible for wining daily and weekly lucky draw prizes.

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M&A and InvITs in Infrastructure Sector to Account 12% of Total Equity Requirement
Feb 21,2017

Infrastructure deals particularly in road sector in the form of Infrastructure Investment Trusts (InvITs) is likely to gain traction in 2017, says India Ratings and Research (Ind-Ra). The agency estimates INR0.4 trillion of funds to be raised by infrastructure sector from 25 major mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and InvITS in 2017. While this could support several cash strapped infrastructure developers, the high indebtedness and weak cash flow are likely to keep leverage at 7x-8x over FY18-FY20, marginally lower than the FY16 level of 8.5x. Ind-Ras analysis of 66 large borrowers in the infrastructure sector reflects that the deals would contribute only 12% of the total equity requirement of INR3 trillion-INR4 trillion to deleverage to a sustainable level of 4x-5x.

Road: Ind-Ra expects INR173 billion of funds to be raised by performing assets in the road sector through M&A deals and InvITs in 2017, due to monetisation of road projects (toll operate transfer) and tax efficiency. This contributes one-third of the total equity requirement to deleverage to a sustainable level. The sector is likely to benefit from the Union Budget 2017-18 budgetary allocation of INR0.9 trillion for road and highway segment, with an aim to stimulate private sector participation in the sector. This in Ind-Ras view would largely benefit the non-stressed players with a strong balance sheet. M&A activities in the stressed assets in the road sector are unlikely to witness a pick-up due to disagreements in valuations and the extent of debt hair-cuts required.

Thermal Power: Ind-Ra believes that domestic consolidation in the thermal sector will continue in 2017. The sector has been impacted by a sub-optimal plant load factor, weak cash flows and poor credit profile of distribution companies. An increase in the industrial electricity demand, an increasing pace of signing of new power purchase agreements and the successful implementation of Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana scheme would aid the ailing sector from a further distress. A potential equity of INR60 billion is likely to be unlocked from M&A deals in the thermal power sector. This in Ind-Ras view is negligible, since it accounts a mere 4% of the total equity requirement for deleveraging corporates to a sustainable level.

Renewable Energy (Wind and Solar): Ind-Ra expects INR69 billion of equity released from the renewable energy sector to contribute one-third of the sectors total equity requirement to deleverage to a sustainable level. The Union Budget thrust on the second phase of development of 20GW solar energy and solar tariffs approaching grid parity is likely to garner investors interest in to the sector. On the contrary, deal activities will be subdued in the wind energy sector due to halving of accelerated depreciation to 40% and lapse of generation-based incentives effective 1 April 2017.

Other Infrastructure: Ind-Ra believes M&A activities and InvITs in other sectors such as transmission, airport and ports are expected to unlock equity worth INR59 billion. Ind-Ras view M&A activities in these sectors to remain subdued in 2017 as majority of the consolidation in these sectors has already been taken.

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Pharma industry to reach USD 55 bn in 3 years; medical tourism major growth driver: ASSOCHAM-IITTM study
Feb 21,2017

Indian pharmaceuticals market is expected to touch US$ 55 billion by 2020 from the current level of US$ 36.7 billion in 2016 growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15.92 per cent, according to ASSOCHAM-IITTM joint study.

Indian pharmaceuticals market increased at a CAGR of 17.46 per cent during 2005-16 with the market increasing from US$ 6 billion in 2005 to US$ 36.7 billion in 2016. By 2020, India is likely to be among the top three pharmaceutical markets by incremental growth and sixth largest market globally in absolute size, noted the study titled `Medical Value Travel (MVT),` jointly conducted by ASSOCHAM and research firm Indian Institute of Tourism and Travel Management (IITTM).

According to joint report, Indian Health Care is expected to rise at a rate of CAGR of 29% during 2015-20 to US $280 billion with rising income, greater health awareness, increased precedence of lifestyle diseases and improved access to insurance,

The year 2015 witnessed the growth of 140% of foreign tourist`s arrival on medical visa from the year 2013, where more than 50, 000 people visited India on medical visa. This number rose to approx 1,34,000 in 2015. In fact, the number of foreign tourist`s arrival on a medical attendant visa also doubled from 2013 to 2015, increasing from 42,000 odd in 2013 to more than 99,000 in 2015, adds the study.

The study reveals that in the first 6 months of 2016 alone, close to a lakh foreign tourists have arrived on a medical visa making it a very lucrative market. The top most countries availing medical visa were Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Maldives, Republic of Korea and Nigeria.

The majority of the patients coming to India for treatment are from the Middle East, Africa, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Maldives, Pakistan, Bhutan and Sri Lanka for its expertise in cardiac and orthopaedic procedures, in addition to other specialised areas like neuro-surgeries, cancer treatment and organ transplantation. India is also attracting medical tourists looking for the traditional system of medicine available in India, noted the study.

The ability to offer holistic medical services such as Unani, Yoga, Meditation, Ayurveda, and Homeopathic treatments (AYUSH) is also a huge attraction.

There are less numbers of accredited hospitals in India. Thailand being a smaller nation has 55 JCI accredited medical facilities. Lack of enough accredited medical facilities decreases the supply potentials of India as a medical tourism hub. Though the cost of treatment in India is less but there is high cost of accommodation which creates a barrier for low income group patients. There is also lack of proper regulatory and review framework related to medical tourism giving way to many legal and ethical issues.

Many problems arise due to lack of synergy between various stakeholders. Stringent medical visa rules also create a barrier as it makes the process of entering in the country difficult. This issue is high on radar due to the influx of medical tourist from ISIS hit countries which creates huge security issue for India, highlighted the joint study.

The government of India has recognized the potential of medical tourism and has come up with supporting policies. The Indian Ministry of Tourism is actively promoting medical tourism through overseas road shows where market development assistance (MDA) is provided to medical and wellness tourism service providers to encourage overseas promotion. The government has introduced medical visa to govern medical tourism. In order to further expand the healthcare system and enhance its quality, the government also actively provides incentives and giving special approvals to foreign firms for direct investments.

Indias cost of production is significantly lower than that of the US and almost half of that of Europe. It gives a competitive edge to India over others. Growing number of medical facilities are realizing the importance of accreditation and certification leading many labs and hospitals taking up accreditation and certification. This could increase the number of accredited facilities in India.

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NDMA to conduct mock exercises on earthquake preparedness in Uttarakhand
Feb 21,2017

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) will conduct two mock exercises on earthquake preparedness in this week covering all districts of Uttarakhand. The exercises, to be conducted in collaboration with the State Government, will assess the readiness of various stakeholder departments in the event of a high-intensity earthquake.

The first exercise will be held today (21 February) and cover Dehradun, Tehri Garhwal, Haridwar, Uttarkashi, Chamoli, Pauri Garhwal and Rudraprayag districts. In this connection, a coordination conference and a table-top exercise were held today through video-conferencing. Senior officials from all stakeholder departments such as NDRF, Health, Police, Education, Firefighting, Civil Defense, Public Relations, Transport, etc. attended these preparatory meetings.

Yet another round of a coordination conference and a table-top exercise will be held on Wednesday. This will be followed by the second mock exercise on Thursday covering Pithoragarh, Bageshwar, Champawat, Almora, Nainital and Udham Singh Nagar districts.

These exercises will deal with simulated scenarios of earthquakes wherein the participants will be trained on key aspects of Disaster Management such as the formation of Incident Response Teams and Emergency Operation Centres (EOC), coordination among various participating agencies, evacuation and medical preparedness.

Aimed at enhancing the preparedness and response mechanism of key stakeholders, these exercises will also help to highlight areas that need improvements. NDMA expert Major General V.K. Datta (Retd.), who will lead the exercises, said, Mock exercises help in filling gaps and ensuring better communication thus improving coordination among various agencies in real-life situations. He further emphasised on the need for regularly conducting such exercises in Uttarakhand as the entire hill State falls either in the Seismic Zone V or IV and has experienced many high-intensity earthquakes in the past.

After the drills, post-exercise analyses will also be carried out to discuss the shortcomings, challenges and ways to improve them.

NDMA regularly conducts such mock exercises across the country in its efforts to improve preparedness and response mechanisms for various disasters. NDMA has conducted more than 500 mock exercises in different States and Union Territories. Next month, it will conduct a mock exercise on flood and tsunami preparedness in Puducherry.

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Health Secretary launches SAATHIYA Resource Kit and SAATHIYA SALAH Mobile App for Adolescents
Feb 20,2017

Shri C K Mishra, Secretary, Health and Family Welfare launched the SAATHIYA Resource Kit including Saathiya Salah Mobile App for adolescents, here today, as part of the Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK) program. One of the key interventions under the programme is introduction of the Peer Educators (Saathiyas) who act as a catalyst for generating demand for the adolescent health services and imparting age appropriate knowledge on key adolescent health issues to their peer groups. In order to equip the Saathiyas in doing so, the Health Ministry has launched the Saathiya Resource Kit (including Saathiya Salah Mobile App).

Introducing the Resource Kit and the Mobile App, Shri C K Mishra said that our country is home to 253 million adolescents which is largest in the world in terms of absolute numbers and when RMNCH programs were launched globally, India was the first country to add the +A i.e. adolescent component to the RMNCH, making it todays RMNCH+A program. He emphasized that adolescents are the critical mass of asset which in future would be the biggest dividends to the countrys economy; thereby their health and wellness are of utmost priority. To address and cater to the health and development needs of the countrys adolescents, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare launched Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK) in January 2014. RKSK identifies six strategic priorities for adolescents i.e. nutrition, sexual and reproductive health (SRH), non-communicable diseases (NCDs), substance misuse, injuries and violence (including gender-based violence) and mental health.

The most important component and driving force of RKSK program are its Peer Educators and this resource kit has been launched to enable them to communicate with the adolescents of their community, Shri Mishra stated. He specified that the kit is being launched to enable the 1.6 lakhs Peer Educators towards taking their job forward and answering all the queries in the minds of an adolescent in-spite of the plethora of media (Magazines, TV, internet etc.) available. The Peer Educators will be trained across the country in a phased manner, ensuring optimum use of the resource kit, which is a ready source of a range of communication material specially designed to help the Peer Educator to be recognized and respected as saathiya, a good friend for the adolescents.

This Resource Kit comprises i) Activity Book, ii) Bhranti-Kranti Game iii) Question-Answer Book and iv) Peer Educator Diary. In addition to the kit is the mobile app Saathiya Salah (downloadable from Google play-store) which acts as a ready information source for the adolescents in case they are unable to interact with the Peer Educators. The mobile app is also linked to another important piece of cost-effective information platform of a toll-free Saathiya Helpline (1800-233-1250) which will act as an e-counselor. While the short films will be played by the Peer Educators at their group meetings, the activity book and games will bring about discussion and resolve adolescent queries. Encashing on mobile technology, the shy adolescents or those unable to interact with the peer educators due to family reasons, can access the information through the free mobile app as well the toll free helpline.

Among senior officials of the Ministry at the launch, also present were the representatives of Development Partners (UNFPA, PFI) who contributed to development of the Resource Kit. Mr. Diega Polacios, Country Director,UNFPA stated that the Resource Kit has being designed to present the Peer Educators with key information on adolescent health, which would then enable them to communicate the same and help the adolescents at the grass root/village level. Further at the launch, demo of the Mobile App was conducted wherein a mock call was made to the Saathiya Helpline by Secretary (HFW).

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MoU signed between NSFDC, M/O SJ&E & Development Commissioner (Handicrafts), M/O of Textiles
Feb 20,2017

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the National Scheduled Castes Finance and Development Corporation NSFDC, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and Development Commissioner (Handicrafts), Ministry of Textiles.

The basic objective of the MoU is to help Scheduled Caste artisans and their families by promoting production and marketing of high value quality Handicrafts products at cluster level in the field of Handicrafts, Cane & Bamboo, Artificial jewellery, Textiles (Hand printed, Hand Embroidery), Dolls & Toys, Stone Carving, Footwear, etc.

Handicrafts Sector is the second largest economic activity after agriculture. There are around 12 lakh scheduled castes artisans in the country. Most of the Scheduled Caste Artisans are pursuing various Handicrafts such as Cane & Bamboo in Assam, Textiles (Hand printed) in Gujarat & Punjab, Metal wares in Uttar Pradesh, Dolls & Toys in Karnataka, Theatre Costumes & Puppets in Andhra Pradesh etc.

In this endeavor, both the MoU signing parties shall popularize the schemes of DC (Handicrafts) amongst the SC artisans through Awareness Programmes and advertisements in electronic/print media in artisan concentrated areas and collaborate for capacity building including skill upgradation and economic development of SC artisans and their families for achieving the desired outcome.

Exhibitions/Fairs shall be organized by both the parties for providing marketing assistance to SC artisans for enhancing their earnings. Both the parties shall also organize relevant skill development programmes for upgradation of skills of the Scheduled Caste Artisans in clusters and also for sharing knowledge and experience. These efforts will provide marketing linkage to SC artisans/entrepreneurs in the country.

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90,095 more affordable houses sanctioned for urban poor under PMAY(Urban)
Feb 20,2017

Ministry of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation approved construction of 90,095 more affordable houses for the benefit of urban poor under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) with an investment of Rs.5,590 cr and central assistance of Rs.1,188 cr.

Madhya Pradesh has been sanctioned 82,262 houses in 49 cities and towns with an investment of Rs.5,260 cr with central assistance of Rs.1,071 cr. Jammu & Kashmir got 4,915 houses in 24 cities and towns with an investment of Rs.240 cr and central assistance of Rs.74 cr. Dadra & Nagar Havelis capital Silvassa has been sanctioned 803 affordable houses with an investment of Rs.26 cr and central assistance of Rs.12 cr.

The approval accorded today was for construction of 46,823 new houses under the Beneficiary Led Construction (BLC) component of PMAY (Urban), enhancement of 773 houses in Jammu & Kashmir under BLC and building 42,499 new houses in Madhya Pradesh under Affordable Housing in Partnership (AHP) component.

In Madhya Pradesh, another 39,763 new houses will be built under BLC component under which an eligible beneficiary is assisted to build a house on the land owned by him/her.

City-wise approvals in Madhya Pradesh include: Indore-30,789 houses, Ratlam-6,419, Sagar-3,156, Ujjain-2,884, Katni-2,800, Shivpuri-2,625, Chindwara-2,508, Nagda-2,073, Jabalpur-2,012, Datia-1,726, Singrauli-1,716, Dabra-1,720, Vidisha-1,513, Damoh-1,480, Sehore-1,200, Sidhi-1,057, Astha-1,000 and Unchehara-1,000.

In Jammu & Kashmir, Srinagar has been approved 663 affordable houses, Handwara-602, Badgam-476, Baramulla-393, Doda-306, Pulwama-270, Kargil-261, Sopore-205, Ganderbal-185, Bhaderwah-176, Shopian-159, RS Pura-143, Samba-121, Kishtwar-113, Leh-99 and Poonch-96.

With this, total number of affordable houses approved for Madhya Pradesh under PMAY(Urban) has increased to 1,87,135 and for Jammu & Kashmir to 5,864.

With this approvals, construction of a total number of 16,51,687 affordable houses for the benefit of urban poor has been sanctioned so far under PMAY (Urban) with a total investment of Rs.89,072 cr with central assistance of Rs.25,819 cr.

Under BLC and AHP components of PMAY (Urban), central assistance of Rs.1.50 lakh is provided for each beneficiary.

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MoU signed for welfare of Handicraft Artisans belonging to Scheduled Castes
Feb 20,2017

Ministry of Textiles and Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment have come together to step up interventions for the economic development of an estimated 12 lakh scheduled caste artisans. An MoU was signed between Development Commissioner (Handicrafts), Ministry of Textiles and National Scheduled Castes Finance and Development Corporation (NSCFDC), a Central PSU under Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, with the objective of working together to improve the earnings of artisans across the country, belonging to Scheduled Castes categories.

The MoU provides for continuous and extensive collaboration between Office of DC (Handicrafts) and NSCDFC, aiming at the following:

Need assessment and gap identification through popularising various schemes by holding awareness camps

Extensive need-based skill upgradation in the identified clusters having dominant presence of Scheduled Caste artisans, in the field of innovative and market-friendly designs, and adoption of modern tools and techniques

Enhanced participation of Scheduled Caste artisans and their producer groups in domestic and international marketing events

Working capital credit for Scheduled Caste artisans at concessional rates, by combining the benefits provided by Ministry of Textiles and Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment

It has also been agreed in the MoU that the Office of the DC(Handicrafts) through its various schemes, will support NSCDFC in formulation of project reports, undertaking field studies for identifying felt needs of Scheduled Caste artisans, in addition to extending assistance of six Regional Offices and 52 Marketing & Service Extension Centres of the Office of the DC(Handicrafts).

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Fitch: Samsung Arrest Negative for Image but Credit Stays Intact
Feb 20,2017

The arrest of the heir apparent to the Samsung conglomerate, Lee Jae-yong, is unlikely to disrupt the companys day-to-day operations or significantly undermine its strong financial performance, which is underpinned by Samsungs market dominance and technology leadership, says Fitch Ratings. However, the arrest is likely to delay strategic investment and weigh on investor sentiment, at least in the short term. It also poses another potential risk to the brands reputation.

The arrest is likely to put on hold strategic decisions - including those over plans for global acquisitions - which were outlined by Mr Lee. However, each of Samsungs business segments is run by its own professional management team. Day-to-day operations are therefore likely to be unaffected by Mr Lees absence - as has also been the case when heads of chaebols have been arrested or prosecuted in the past.

Mr Lee - whose official position is vice-chairman of Samsung Electronics Co. (SEC, A+/Stable) - faces charges of perjury, embezzlement and bribery over claims that Samsung gave funds to President Park Geun-hyes adviser in exchange for political favours. His arrest has received considerable international attention and could have a negative impact on Samsungs image, particularly if the trial process becomes lengthy. The negative publicity also comes fresh on the heels of the recall and production suspension of the Galaxy Note 7 phone, which Fitch viewed as a potential threat to Samsungs brand.

There is no immediate impact on SECs credit rating, which is supported by its technological leadership, its dominant position in its core markets, and strong financial metrics. SEC operates in sectors such as the handset business, where market share can shift quickly. However, SECs long-term market leadership is likely to hinge on its ability to continue delivering innovative products, and we would expect the recent damage to the companys image to be overcome by future strong product offerings.

In that respect, SECs financial position supports its ability to fund the substantial capital expenditure that keeps it among the worlds leading technology companies. It appears to be taking particular care with the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S8, which has been delayed to allow for extra quality control and safety tests to ensure there is no repeat of the Note 7 fiasco.

Mr Lees arrest highlights corporate governance weaknesses at Samsung, but it may also increase pressure on the company to address these problems. The Samsung conglomerate had previously announced it will disband its future and strategy office - used to make the groups key decisions - which was under public scrutiny for favouring the Lee family over the interests of other stakeholders. This office could now remain in place until Mr Lees case is resolved. However, the increased scrutiny on Samsung, and the rising clamour for a more general change in Koreas corporate culture, means that we expect Samsung to make further changes to its structure in favour of shareholder interests, greater transparency and improved governance.

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Fitch: House Price Growth to Slow Sharply in Hottest APAC Markets
Feb 20,2017

House price growth is likely to decelerate sharply in several Asia-Pacific (APAC) markets in 2017, as affordability constraints, increasing supply and tighter lending and regulatory standards dampen price dynamics, Fitch Ratings says in its latest Global Housing and Mortgage Outlook.

Australia, New Zealand and China, the markets with the regions biggest recent price rises, will experience a pronounced and overdue slowdown. We expect them to record single-digit house price growth, rather than the double-digit growth experienced last year. However, stable or improving economic growth and employment, coupled with low interest rates, limited supply and continued population growth, will support price increases in all but one of the six APAC economies covered in Fitchs report, even though prices are now out of line with incomes in several markets. Only Singapore is expected to see house prices fall, with Fitch forecasting prices to drop by a further 4% after three consecutive years of decline.

Fitch forecasts Australian nominal house-price gains to slow across the countrys eight capital cities to 3% in 2017, from 10.9% in 2016, although population growth will support prices in Sydney and Melbourne despite stretched affordability. Falling rental yields, increasing supply and fewer prospects for capital growth will weigh on the market, particularly in regional areas. Tighter lending standards, including growth limits on banks investment loan portfolios, should dampen demand.

Demand for housing in New Zealand remains strong, particularly in Auckland and surrounding areas, but we expect nominal house-price growth to slow to 5% nationally on affordability pressure and tighter regulation. Measures of relative home price expensiveness have deteriorated more in New Zealand since 2010 than in any other country covered by our report. New Zealand also had the largest regional price-growth disparity over the last four years, with a difference of over 80 percentage points between Auckland, where prices increased by some 76.3%, and those on the West Coast, which saw prices fall by 5.1% over the same period.

We expect a sharp drop in Chinas tier 1 city house-price growth to 2.5%, from a 25% rise in 2016 and several years of rapid price increases, partly in response to tougher rules on home purchases and minimum loan deposits. The market should also cool in other tiers, although at varying rates. However, we do not anticipate a major correction, as the Chinese authorities directly control many aspects of the housing and mortgage markets. Ongoing urbanisation, low interest rates and strong income growth will also support prices.

House price gains in Japan and South Korea are forecast to slow marginally. Ageing demographics are a long-term constraint in both markets, although the 2020 Olympic games will drive Tokyo prices higher in the near-term. Oversupply and high household indebtedness in South Korea will gradually soften the market.

Singapore is the only APAC market for which we have a stable/negative outlook. An influx of new supply, slowing immigration, a soft economy and ongoing measures to cool the property market are likely to continue to dampen sentiment. However, mortgage delinquencies for the major banks should remain low - in line with the healthy labour market and strong household balance sheets, even as short-term rates rise over the next two years.

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Moodys: World Banks financial position remains robust due to strong capital base
Feb 20,2017

The financial position of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD or World Bank, Aaa stable) remains robust reflecting a strong capital base and liquidity position and substantial protection from large callable capital, says Moodys Investors Service in a report.

The IBRDs strict lending limitations, combined with its diversified portfolio composition and stable asset quality, ensure that it has sufficient capital to cope with its business risk. The bank uses various safeguards, including statutory lending limits, to protect its capital adequacy.

Under the lenders preferred creditor status, members of the World Bank Group, who are also the borrowers, pledge to prioritize debt service to the IBRD over other obligations, such as payments to market or bilateral creditors.

The IBRDs strong capital base should allow it to withstand crises in developing countries without impairing its ability to service its obligations, said William Foster, a Vice President and Senior Credit Officer at Moodys.

The IBRDs assets continue to perform very well, with only one country, Zimbabwe (unrated), in so-called nonaccrual status as of the end of the fiscal year (FY) 2016. Unlike some other multilaterals, the IBRD does not reschedule or write off its problem loans. Instead, it continues to seek full recovery of all arrears.

Problem loans at the bank have steadily decreased since FY 2005 when the ratio of non-performing loans to total loans outstanding reached 3.4%.

As a result of its development mandate and global scope, the bank lends to riskier sovereigns, some of which have no, or very limited access, to capital markets. The potential challenges arising from its lending activity partially offset its strengths.

There is a low probability that the IBRD could experience a material rise in non-performing loans should there be simultaneous financial crises that impact several large borrowers at once, or a regional crisis in one of its largest borrowing regions.

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Food processing sector to generate 9 million jobs by 2024: study
Feb 20,2017

Indian food processing sector has potential to attract US$ 33 billion of investment and generate employment of 9 million persons days by FY 2024, said an ASSOCHAM-Grant Thorton Research paper.

The food processing is a key contributor to employment generation in India. The policymakers have identified food processing as a key sector in encouraging labour movement from agriculture to manufacturing. By 2024, food processing sector is expected to employ 9 million people in India and expected to generate about 8,000 direct and 80,000 indirect jobs in the state, the ASSOCHAM-Grant Thornton joint study on Food Retail: Investment: Infrastructure noted.

According to the study, Indian food processing industry is pegged close to US$ 121 billion to US$ 130 billion. With the second largest arable land in the world, it is the largest producer of milk, pulses, sugarcane and tea in the world and the second largest producer of wheat, rice, fruits and vegetables.

Despite the massive production, the degree of processing is low and ranges between 2 to 35 percent for different produce. India is one of the top rankers in the production of bananas, guavas, ginger, papaya etc., although processing levels in the country remain limited. This indicates an extensive opportunity in the food processing sector, adds the paper.

According to the joint study, Indian food and retail market is projected to touch US$ 482 billion by FY 2020 from the current level of US$ 258 billion in 2015, adds the paper.

With globalisation and increasing trade across the borders approximately about 460 million tons of food valued at US$ 3 billion is traded annually. India has thus, a great potential for global trade in agricultural and processed food products. The share of food processing exports in total exports was around 12 percent in the last few years. During FY 2011-15, Indias exports of processed food related products have been growing at a CAGR of 23.3 percent.

The unorganised sector accounts for 42 percent of Indias food processing industry. The sizeable presence of small-scale industries points to the sectors role in employment generation. As per the study, though the market falls under the unorganised sector in the country, the organised sector has a larger share in the secondary processing segment than the primary one.

Food and grocery constitute a substantial part of Indias consumption basket accounting for around 31 percent share in the total. In contrast, consumers in other countries spend a much lower proportion of their income on food and groceryn++9 percent in the United States (US), 17 percent in Brazil and 25 percent in China. Food and grocery is the largest segment in Indias retail sector, with a share of more than 60 percent in Indias total retail market in 2014.

India is the worlds second largest producer of food after China. The arable land area of 159.7 mn hectares (394.6 mn acres) is the second largest in the world (after the US). India has a strong raw material base for the food processing industry. India is one of the largest producers of certain fruits, vegetables, pulses, cereals and dairy products such as mangoes, papaya, potatoes, onions, ginger, check peas, rice, wheat, groundnuts, milk and eggs among others.

Strong demand growth

n++ Demand for food processed food rising with growing disposable income, urbanisation, young population and nuclear families

n++ Household consumption set to double by 2020

n++ Changing lifestyle and increasing expenditure on health and nutritional foods

Food processing hub

n++ Indian benefits from large agriculture sector, abundant livestock and cost competitiveness

n++ Investment opportunities arise in agriculture, food infrastructure and contract farming

n++ Diverse agro-climatic conditions encourage cultivation of different crop

Increasing investment

n++ Govt. expect US$ 21.9 bn of investment in food processing infrastructure by 2015

n++ Investment including FDI would rise with strengthening demand and supply fundamentals

n++ Launch of infrastructure development schemes to increase investment in food processing infrastructure

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