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Roll out of GST-1st July 2017
Mar 10,2017

The GST Council in its 9th Meeting held on 16 January 2017 took note of the work to be completed for the rollout of GST and after deliberations, agreed to extend the date for rollout of GST from 1st April 2017 to 1st July 2017. Steps taken to ensure rollout of GST by 1st July 2017 include approval of the Draft GST Compensation Law by the GST Council in its 10th Meeting on 18 February 2017 held in Udaipur, Rajasthan. Subsequently, the Draft CGST Law and Draft IGST Law were approved in the 11th Council Meeting held on 4 March 2017 at New Delhi. The issues of dual control and cross empowerment were resolved in the 9th Meeting of the GST Council held on 16 January 2017 in which a broad agreement was reached on the issue of cross-empowerment to achieve single interface of taxpayer with the tax administration in the GST regime.

All the decisions taken by the GST Council so far have been based on consensus among the Centre and the States.

At the Central level, the following taxes are being subsumed in GST:

n++ Central Excise Duty,

n++ Additional Excise Duty,

n++ Service Tax,

n++ Additional Customs Duty commonly known as Countervailing Duty, and

n++ Special Additional Duty of Customs.

n++ Cesses and surcharges (Except Clean Energy Cess)

At the State level, the following taxes are being subsumed in GST:

n++ State Value Added Tax/Sales Tax,

n++ Central Sales Tax (levied by the Centre and collected by the States),

n++ Entertainment Tax (other than the tax levied by the local bodies),

n++ Octroi and Entry tax,

n++ Purchase Tax,

n++ Luxury tax, and

n++ Taxes on lottery, betting and gambling.

n++ State cesses and surcharges in so far as they relate to supply of goods and services.

GST will simplify and harmonise the indirect tax regime in the country. It is expected to reduce cost of production, thereby making the Indian trade industry more competitive, domestically as well as internationally. It is also expected that introduction of GST will foster a common or seamless Indian market and contribute significantly to the growth of the economy. Further, GST will broaden the tax base, and result in better tax compliance due to robust IT infrastructure.

GST Council is presently deliberating on various issues entrusted to it. All the decisions taken by the Council so far have been based on consensus. GST is going to be implemented soon in the country, therefore, simultaneous and concert efforts are also being made by the government in the form of IT readiness, rigorous consultations, workshops and training sessions for the industry and traders, and all other stake holders involved etc.

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Centre creating a dynamic buffer of upto 2 million tonnes of Pulses
Mar 10,2017

Government is creating a dynamic buffer of upto 2 million tonnes of pulses. As on 6.3.2017, around 14.25 lakh tonnes of pulses has been procured / contracted for imports for the buffer. During 2015-16, around 5.88 million tonnes pulses were imported.

The measures taken by the Government to improve the domestic availability, inter alia, include zero import duty on pulses, export ban on pulses with certain exemptions, regular enhancement of MSP for pulses, and implementation on National Food Security Mission (NFSM).

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Government approves renewal of the MoU between the ICAI and the College of Banking and Financial Studies (CBFS), Oman
Mar 10,2017

The Government has approved the renewal of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) and the College of Banking and Financial Studies (CBFS), Oman with the aim of developing a mutually beneficial relationship in the best interest of members, students and the Institutes. It is expected that through this mechanism, an opportunity will be provided to ICAI members to expand their Professional horizons and substantial goodwill be generated for India, Indian Citizens and Indian Chartered Accountants in the Sultanate of Oman leading to greater employment and enhancement of remittances by Indian nationals to India. The ICAI Oman (Muscat) Chapter contributes in developing close relationships with the local Omani Community and has enabled Omani Nationals to pursue the Indian Chartered Accountancy course.

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Rs. 294.84 crores deposited by Pharmaceutical companies against demand notices issued by Government for overcharging patients for Scheduled Medicines
Mar 10,2017

The Drugs (Prices Control) Order (DPCO) issued by the Government from time to time contains provisions to take appropriate action against any manufacturer selling a schedule bulk drug or formulation at a price higher than the ceiling price fixed and notified by the Government.

The provisions empower the Government to direct the manufacturer to deposit the overcharged amount along with the interest thereon from the date of overcharging, in addition to the penalty. Pursuing the above-mentioned provisions, the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA), under Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers, has issued demand notices to companies which have overcharged patients. The details in the last three years is as follows:

Year2013-142014-152015-162016-17 (as on 28.02.2017)Cases of Overcharging90129263120Amountsdeposited by companies(Rs. crores)40.0890.1712.36294.84

The National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM) is prepared by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on the recommendation of the core committee appointed by them. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has revised the NLEM, 2015 on 23rdDecember, 2015 and subsequently Schedule Gô 1 of DPCO, 2013 was revised by Department of Pharmaceuticals on 10thMarch, 2016. There were 348 medicines listed in NLEM 2011. A total of 106 medicines have been added, and 70 medicines have been deleted to prepare NLEM 2015, which now contains a total of 376 medicines.

The initial price fixation/price determination is not under the purview of Government. Government only controls price of medical devices declared as essential drugs. Out of the 23 medical devices regulated as Drugs under Drugs & Cosmetics Act & Rules thereunder,3 devices namely GCondom, GIntra Uterine Device (IUD) containing copper & GCoronary Stents have been included in the Schedule-I of DPCO, 2013 and are under price control. The remaining 20 medical devices are categorized as non-scheduled formulations under DPCO, 2013 and therefore, no price has been fixed for these non-scheduled medical devices. However, manufacturers are not allowed to increase the price of these 20 medical devices more than 10% per annum.

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Direct Tax Collections up to February, 2017 show growth of 10.7%
Mar 10,2017

The Direct Tax collections up to February, 2017 continue to show a steady growth trend. The collection net of refunds stands at Rs. 6.17 lakh crore, which is 10.7 % more than the net collections for the corresponding period last year. This collection is 72.9 % of the total Budget Estimates for Direct Taxes for Financial Year 2016-17.

As regards the growth rates for Corporate Income Tax (CIT) and Personal Income Tax (PIT), in terms of gross revenue collections, the growth rate under CIT is 11.9% while that under PIT (including STT) is 20.8 %. However, after adjusting for refunds, the net growth in CIT collections is 2.6 % while that in PIT collections is 19.5 %. Refunds amounting to Rs.1.48 lakh crore have been issued during April 2016- February 2017, which is 40.2% higher than the refunds issued during the corresponding period last year.

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Net Indirect Tax collection upto February 2017 stood at Rs 7.72 lakh crore, 22.2% more than the corresponding period last year
Mar 10,2017

Indirect Taxes

The figures for indirect tax collections (Central Excise, Service Tax and Customs) up to February 2017 show that net revenue collections are at Rs 7.72 lakh crore, which is 22.2% more than the net collections for the corresponding period last year. Till February 2017, about 90.9% of the Revised Estimates (RE) of indirect taxes for Financial Year 2016-17 has been achieved.

As regards Central Excise, net tax collections stood at Rs. 3.45 lakh crore during April-February, 2016-17 as compared to Rs.2.53 lakh crore during the corresponding period in the previous Financial Year, thereby registering a growth of 36.2%.

Net Tax collections on account of Service Tax during April-February, 2016-17 stood at Rs. 2.21 lakh crore as compared to Rs.1.83 lakh crore during the corresponding period in the previous Financial Year, thereby registering a growth of 20.8%.

Net Tax collections on account of Customs during April-February 2016-17 stood at Rs. 2.05 lakh crore as compared to Rs. 1.94 lakh crore during the same period in the previous Financial Year, thereby registering a growth of 5.2%.

During February 2017, the net indirect tax grew at the rate of 8.4% compared to corresponding month last year. The growth rate in net collection for Customs, Central Excise and Service Tax was 10.9%, 7.4% and 7.6% respectively during the month of February 2017, compared to the corresponding month last year.

Direct Taxes

The figures for Direct Tax collections up to February, 2017 show that net collections are at Rs. 6.17 lakh crore which is 10.7% more than the net collections for the corresponding period last year. This collection is 72.9% of the total Budget Estimates of Direct Taxes for F.Y. 2016-17.

As regards the growth rates for Corporate Income Tax (CIT) and Personal Income Tax (PIT), in terms of gross revenue collections, the growth rate under CIT is 11.9% while that under PIT (including STT) is 20.8%. However, after adjusting for refunds, the net growth in CIT collections is 2.6% while that in PIT collections is 19.5%. Refunds amounting to Rs.1.48 lakh crore have been issued during April 2016-February 2017, which is 40.2% higher than the refunds issued during the corresponding period last year.

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Ind-Ra: Stable Input Prices, Fiscal Incentives to Support Textile and Cotton in FY18
Mar 10,2017

India Ratings and Research (Ind-Ra) has maintained a stable outlook for cotton textiles for FY18. However, the agency has revised its cotton outlook to stable for FY18 from negative for FY17. In addition, the agency has revised its outlook for synthetic textiles to stable for FY18 from negative for FY17. The stable textile outlook is in view of stable input prices, healthy capacity utilisation and steady domestic demand scenario in FY18 and support emanating through fiscal incentives and implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST) that will improve the textile industrys export competitiveness. Moreover, the USs exit from the Trans-Pacific Partnership is likely to realign textile trade and investments towards the Indian subcontinent that were diverted to Vietnam over FY16-FY17.

The stable cotton outlook is in view of an increase in acreage, a rise in supply in 1QFY18 (due to demonetisation) and a decline in global inventory assisting with a balanced supply. Ind-Ra expects operating profitability levels of Indian cotton ginners and exporters to moderate in FY18. Liquidity position of small players was acutely affected due to a surge in cotton prices in 1HFY17, followed by a challenging operating environment in 2HFY17 due to demonetisation.

Ind-Ra expects cotton acreage to increase 10%-15% to nearly 120 million hectares in FY18, leading to increased production. Ind-Ra projects a domestic stock-to-use ratio of nearly 13% for cotton marketing year (MY) 17-18 (MY16-17: 15.3%, MY15-16: 13.8%). The expectation is in view of continued auction of Chinese reserves and global cotton processing countries (excluding China) holding about six months of inventory.

A unified tax structure in the form of GST is likely to create a level playing field for the cotton and polyester industries, and promote enhanced sponsor interest towards the polyester chain. Ind-Ra opines that textile companies would be able to deleverage their balance sheets in FY18 in the absence of major investments due to adequate capacities and pending uncertainty over the GST tax rates. The next round of investment cycle is expected from FY19. Ind-Ra expects an improvement in the credit profiles of textile companies, including raw cotton players, driven by lower cotton inventories, limited capital investments and reduced borrowing costs.

OUTLOOK SENSITIVITIES

Textile

Positive: Favourable trade agreements with the US and Europe leading to a significant increase in Indias exports and a higher-than-expected domestic demand would be positive for the sector outlook.

Negative: Any or combination of the following factors could lead to revision of the sector outlook to negative:

- Slowdown in demand emanating from weak domestic spending in or protectionist trade policies by the US or Europe leading to underutilisation of capacities

- High volatility in input prices adversely impacting contribution margins

Cotton

Increased Domestic Consumption: A substantial increase in domestic mill cotton consumption, driven by a rise in demand for Indian textiles on account of higher domestic consumption and/or exports will lead to a revision in sector outlook to positive.

Higher-than-Expected Global Production: A substantial increase in global cotton production leading to a high stock-to-use ratio than FY15 and/or increased cotton prices on account of GST leading to a higher-than-expected shift from cotton to man-made fibres will lead to a revision in sector outlook to negative.

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Allocations for women by different Ministries/Departments has increased to Rs. 90,624.76 crores in 2016-17 under Gender Budgeting
Mar 10,2017

In order to mainstream gender across sectors and all levels of governance, Government of India, has adopted Gender Budgeting as a tool in 2004-05. Ministry of Women and Child Development has been consistently promoting gender budgeting across the country as a pathway to ensure gender mainstreaming at all levels and stages of the budgetary process. Gender Budget Statement was introduced as a part of the Union Budget in 2005-06. To facilitate integration of gender analysis in policies, programmes and schemes, the Ministry of Finance in consultation with the Ministry of Women and Child Development had issued a Gender Budget Charter on 8th March, 2007 outlining the composition and functions of the Gender Budgeting Cells (GBCs). The most important milestone in this regard has been the institutionalization of the progress through formation of GBCs in various Ministries and Departments. As of now, 57 Central Ministries /Departments have set up GBCs. Another important progress made in the Gender Budgeting system is inclusion of a column on gender impact in the Expenditure Finance Committee (EFC) document with effect from 1st April, 2014 for inclusion of womens concerns at the planning stage and inclusion of a gender perspective in the Outcome Budget Process. The magnitude of Gender Budget as reflected in the GB Statement shows allocations made for women by different Ministries/Departments has increased from Rs. 14,378.68 crores in 2005-06 to Rs. 90,624.76 crores in 2016-17.

Funds are released to Central/ State Govt./Autonomous institutions for carrying out the training programmes for enhancing gender sensitivity and gender expertise, training of the Gender Budgeting Cells for mainstreaming gender concerns across levels of governance. Government autonomous institutions both at the national level and state level have been supported by the Ministry to develop in-house GB expertise and have started imparting training to various other stakeholders. To support the training programmes in a structured and sustained way the Ministry is in the process of designating nodal centres at the state level. 20 states have already designated their nodal centre and at the Central level, National Institute of Financial Management Faridabad has been designated as the nodal centre by the Ministry for undertaking gender budgeting activities.

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Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016 passed in the Parliament
Mar 10,2017

The Lok Sabha has passed the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016. The Bill had already been passed by the Rajya Sabha during the Winter Session. With this, the Bill stands passed in the Parliament.

The Bill seeks to amend the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 to provide for the following:-

(i) Maternity leave available to the working women to be increased from 12 weeks to 26 weeks for the first two children.

(ii) Maternity leave for children beyond the first two will continue to be 12 weeks.

(iii) Maternity leave of 12 weeks to be available to mothers adopting a child below the age of three months as well as to the n++commissioning mothersn++. The commissioning mother has been defined as biological mother who uses her egg to create an embryo planted in any other woman.

(iv) Every establishment with more than 50 employees to provide for crn++che facilities for working mothers and such mothers will be permitted to make four visits during working hours to look after and feed the child in the crn++che.

(v) The employer may permit a woman to work from home if it is possible to do so.

(vi) Every establishment will be required to make these benefits available to the women from the time of her appointment.

The Minister of Women and Child Development, Smt. Maneka Gandhi thanked the Minister for Labour and Employment, Shri Bandaru Dattatreya for taking up the demand of lakhs of women across the country and for having steered the Bill through Rajya Sabha as well as the Lok Sabha. In her message to the working women, Smt. Gandhi congratulated the women who are planning to have a child and has stated that the Ministry of Women and Child Development will continue to work for the empowerment of women.

The amendments in the Bill were taken up following the request by the WCD Minister to the Honble Labour Minister to bring about these changes so that a working woman gets time to exclusively breast-feed her child for 6 months after the birth. This period also enables the working mother to recuperate herself before she goes to back to work. In her communication to the Labour Ministry, the WCD Minister had also highlighted the concerns of commissioning and adopting mothers who also require maternity leave.

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Electronic Tags for Toll Collection at National Highways
Mar 10,2017

The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has incorporated Indian Highway Management Company Limited (IHMCL) to expedite the implementation of Electronic Fee Collection (EFC). National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) has been engaged to work as Central Clearing House (CCH) to implement inter-operability so that several banks could participate in the EFC programme. As on 03.03.2017, the participating banks are SBI, KVB, ICICI, AXIS, IDFC and Equitas SF Bank. As on 03rd March 2017, total 3,47,200 electronic tags have been issued for fee collection on National Highways.

The Road users are being encouraged to use electronic means for payment of user fees for seamless travel through fee plazas. Government has also notified the use of pre-paid payment instruments vide Notification G.S.R 1114 (E) dated 02nd December, .2016 for collection of user fee from road users. This is to permit road users to opt for available cashless modes of payment. NHAI has facilitated the Concessionaire and Contractor to use POS machines for collection of user fees through credit & debit card. Since, FASTag is not mandatory for payment of user fees for use of National Highways; therefore, no target/deadline has been fixed.

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Total 6,604 KM National Highway Constructed till February, 2017
Mar 10,2017

The target of construction of National Highways is 15,000 km, of which 6,604 km have been completed till Feb in the current financial year 2016-17. The slow speed of construction of National Highways(NHs) are mainly due to land acquisition, utility shifting, non-availability of Soil/Aggregates, Poor performance of contractors, Environment/ Forest/Wildlife Clearance, ROB & RUB issue with Railways, Public agitation for additional facilities, Arbitration/contractual disputes with contractors etc.

There is a well-established mechanism for monitoring and testing of quality of construction and development of work of National Highways (NHs) by engaging a Consultancy firm of International and National repute for every project to ensure quality construction. They supervise, monitor and conduct tests as per procedures laid down in various codes published by Indian Road Congress, manuals & MoRT&H specifications for Road and Bridge works and National Highway Authority India Quality Manuals etc. Apart from this, field units and Quality Division of Ministry, NHAI and State PWD also conduct inspection at various project sites regularly to monitor the quality of work. Quality Auditors are also engaged from time to time for conducting Quality Audits of the project work. On observation of any violation, action against the defaulter is taken as per provision in the agreement.

The Ministry has empaneled National Level Project Monitors for monitoring of critical and languishing National Highways projects all over the country.

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India and Belgium sign Protocol amending the India-Belgium Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement and Protocol
Mar 09,2017

India and Belgium have signed a Protocol amending the existing Agreement and Protocol between the two countries for Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to Taxes on Income today in New Delhi. The Protocol was signed by Shri Sushil Chandra, Chairman Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) on behalf of India and Mr. Jan Luykx, Ambassador of Belgium to India, on behalf of Belgium.

The Protocol will broaden the scope of the existing framework of exchange of tax related information. This in turn will help curb tax evasion and tax avoidance between the two countries and will also enable mutual assistance in collection of taxes.

Fighting the menace of Black Money stashed in offshore accounts has been a key priority area for the Government. To further this goal, India has either signed or amended international agreements, declarations or conventions for the Avoidance of Double Taxation & Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to Taxes on Income and for the Exchange of Information with Switzerland, Mauritius, Cyprus, Japan, Republic of Korea, Kazakhstan, Singapore and Austria during the financial year 2016-17.

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Proposal Approved for Revival of 50 Underserved Airstrips and Airports
Mar 09,2017

The newly approved National Civil Aviation Policy, 2016, has a provision for promotion of regional connectivity by way of revival of un-served and under-served airports and airstrips. Revival of such airports is demand-driven, depending on firm demand from the airline operators and where the State Government agrees to provide various concessions envisaged in the Policy.

The Government has approved the proposal for revival of 50 un-served and under-served airports and airstrips of the State Governments, Airports Authority of India, Civil Enclaves and CPSUs in the three financial years from 2017-18 at an estimated cost of Rs. 4500 crores. 15 airports and airstrips would be revived during 2017-18 and 2018-19 each and 20 airports and airstrips would be revived during 2019-20.

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Air India Expecting Better Revenues in Current Financial Year
Mar 09,2017

Air India is expecting to report better revenues in Financial Year 2016-17 as compared to FY 2015-16. In fact, the company is expecting to have a total revenue of Rs. 22,521 crores as compared to the figure of Rs. 20,526.11 crores in FY 2015-16 which is an improvement of around 9.7% over the previous year.

The main reason for this increase in revenues is an improvement in capacity utilization in terms of Revenue Passenger Kilometers (RPKMs) by 6.8% and an increase in Passenger Carriages by 6.2% when compared to the previous year 2015-16. The Passenger Load Factor is also expected to increase by 1.2% in absolute terms i.e. from 75.6% in FY 2015-16 to 76.4% in FY 2016-17.

From November, 2015, in addition to Riyadh route, B777-200 LR was deployed on Delhi-London route (AI-161/162) and from December, 2015 on Bangalore-Delhi-San Francisco route (AI-173/174). This has helped in increasing operating utilization of B777-200 LR over 14 hours per day from November, 2015 onward.

The Government had approved a Turnaround Plan (TAP) and Financial Restructuring Plan (FRP) for operational and financial turnaround of Air India. The TAP and FRP provides equity infusion of Rs.30,231 crores upto year 2021 subject to achievement of certain milestones as laid down in the TAP and FRP. The Company has made substantial progress in both Operational as well as Financial Areas as per TAP Milestones. As a part of the Turnaround Strategy for Air India Ltd., the company, with the overall support of the govt., has initiated a number of steps in order to cut costs and losses. These steps, inter-alia, include the following: -

i. Route rationalization of erstwhile AI & IA route and elimination of route network involving parallel operations.

ii. Rationalization of certain loss making routes.

iii. Phasing out of old fleet and consequential reduction in maintenance cost.

iv. Joining of Star Alliance.

v. Enhanced utilization of new fleet resulting in production of higher Available Seat Kilometers (ASKMs).

vi. Closure of overseas offline offices at certain locations.

vii. Introduction of PSS (Passenger Service System) to have single code and SAP ERP based solutions throughout the organization in terms of increase in revenue and decrease in cost.

The following steps have also been taken by Air India to improve revenues:-

i Introduction of New Routes,

ii Preferred seat selection on domestic and international routes,

iii Flash Sale of seats to increase revenues and PLF,

iv To utilize unsold inventory by launching of airfare equivalent to Rajdhani II-AC fare on select sectors,

v Dynamic pricing and introduction of Advance Purchase fare,

vi Various sales and Marketing Initiatives.

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57 Inter Regional Power Transmission projects worth Rs.7,268 crores sanctioned under the Power System Development Fund (PSDF) scheme
Mar 09,2017

Inter Regional Transmission Corridors (IRTC) are planned and implemented for transfer of power from surplus states/regions to deficit states/regions on short term basis, subject to availability of margins in these lines. These lines, a part of the evacuation system from interstate generation stations, are mainly used for delivery of power from these generating stations to their beneficiaries in various states.

A number of inter-regional links have been planned which interconnect the five regional grids i.e. Northern, Western, Southern, Eastern and North Eastern regions. Presently, the total transmission capacity of such interregional links is 63650 MW (as on January, 2017), he said.

As of now, 57 projects have been sanctioned under the Power System Development Fund (PSDF) scheme, at the cost of Rs.7268 Crores. PSDF can beutilized, inter alia, for creating necessary transmission systems of strategic importance based on operational feedback by Load Dispatch Centres for relieving congestion in Inter-State Transmission Systems (ISTS) and intra-state system which are incidental to the ISTS. This fund can also be utilized for Renovation & Modernization of transmission and distribution systems for relieving congestion, Shri Goyal added.

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