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Bank credit growth to moderate to 8.5% in FY20: ICRA

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Growth in bank credit may decelerate sharply to 8-8.5 percent during 2019-20 from 13.3 percent last fiscal, mainly due to decline in incremental credit in first half of the current financial year, rating agency Icra said in a report.

"Moreover, with the bond markets remaining risk averse towards NBFCs, the YoY growth in the volume of bonds outstanding is expected to moderate to about 4 percent in FY2020 from 12 percent in FY2019," it said.

Additionally, the recent changes in mutual funds regulations are likely to result in a decline in the volume of commercial paper (CP) outstanding by March 2020, it said.

Considering these three domestic sources of funding, that is bank credit, corporate bonds and CP outstanding, Icra expects year-on-year credit growth to decline to 6.2-6.8 percent in FY20 from 13.5 percent in the last financial year.

A shift of large borrowers such as NBFCs and housing finance companies (HFCs) to the banking system for their funding requirements had boosted bank credit growth in FY19, it said.

However, factors such as muted economic growth, lower working capital requirements of various borrowers, as well as risk aversion among lenders, have compressed incremental credit in first half of the current fiscal, it said.

"Incremental bank credit has declined by Rs 0.19 trillion during H1 FY'20, in contrast to the rise of Rs 0.81 trillion during H1 FY'18 and Rs 3.51 trillion during H1 FY'19," it said.

The recent data on bank credit released by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) reveals that the contraction in incremental credit outstanding to the services as well as the industrial segments, offset the entire growth in credit to the retail segment during H1 FY20, it said.

Within services, the credit outstanding to NBFCs increased. However, the decline in trade credit and other services (which also includes HFCs) resulted in the overall contraction in credit outstanding to the services segment in H1 FY20.

India manufacturing activity growth drops to 2-year low in October: Report

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Manufacturing activity in the country continued to weaken in October, with factory orders and production rising at the weakest rates in two years, a monthly survey said on Friday.

The headline seasonally adjusted IHS Markit India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) fell to a two-year low of 50.6 in October from 51.4 in September.

This indicates only a marginal improvement in the health of the manufacturing industry, the survey said.

In PMI parlance, a print above 50 means expansion, while a score below that denotes contraction.

As per the IHS Markit survey, the cooling of manufacturing sector conditions in India continued in October, with both factory orders and production rising at the weakest rates for two years.

"Subsequently, job creation softened to a six-month low, while companies were reluctant to hold excess stock and lowered input buying in response," it noted.

The PMI data for October showed a continuation of manufacturing sector weakness in India, "with sales growth softening to the slowest in two years", said Pollyanna De Lima, Principal Economist at IHS Markit.

"Weakening demand had a domino effect in the manufacturing industry, knocking down rates of increase in production, employment and business sentiment," Lima said.

With quantities of purchases contracting for the third month in a row, Lima pointed out that input costs fell for the first time in over four years during October.

Citing Singapore model, experts bat for cutting multiple GST rates in India

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Citing the example of Singapore, several experts have suggested that India should do away with multiple tax slabs under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) for greater ease of compliance.

Singapore has only one tax rate under GST— seven per cent -- on taxable goods and services while India has multiple slabs to charge the indirect tax.

An achievement of India's GST implementation is that the measure hasn't been inflationary, according to Abhijit Nath, who works with Insitor Partners, a consultancy firm on GST.

“However, to avoid confusion and greater ease of compliance, India should aim for a two-rate system over time to be in line with global best practices,” suggested Nath.

GST introduction in India has the potential to be a long-term game-changer by unifying the country as one market, he said.

Singapore's practice of early announcement of GST rates for various categories helps in smooth transition, he added.

“This also makes the increase politically viable,” Nath said, suggesting that the same can be followed in India as well.

Singapore's Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in his budget 2018 speech announced that there are plans to increase GST from 7 per cent to 9 per cent sometime from 2021 to 2025, according to the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS).

Sandeep Chilana, managing partner of Chilana and Chilana law offices, said India should endeavour to move towards least tax slabs.

He said while other countries have considered a single rate of GST, keeping in mind the vast gap in per capital income and the need for generating revenues, it may not be possible at this stage for India to consider it.

“However, India should endeavour to move towards least tax slabs possible, of 6 per cent and 14 per cent,” Chilana said.

Manu Bhaskaran, founding director and chief executive officer of Centennial Asia Advisors, said GST is one of the most efficient taxes available “so it is a good tax”.

“By itself, it can be regressive so it needs to be combined, as Singapore did, with other measures so that the net effect is not regressive,” he said, when asked what developing economies like India can learn from Singapore's GST model.

How the government’s gold policies make India’s neighbours richer and this country itself poorer

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In 2013, the UPA government imposed a 10 percent import duty on gold. P Chdambaram, the then finance minister was quite savvy about the way financial markets work.

He knew too well, that any import duty above the 5 percent threshold, would inevitably draw the attention of smugglers. But he hoped that official imports would reduce because of the higher duty, and consequently the current account deficit (CAD) would narrow. In his effort to spruce up the books of accounts, Chidambaram ended up making smuggling very lucrative for traders.

Gold has a special appeal for smugglers because it has a high value despite a low volume. That makes the smuggling in of gold easy -- through airports, through passengers as part of personal gold, or even through carriers. Sometimes, when the contraband is large enough, it comes through dhows as well, and the metal is landed somewhere along the porous coastline of India.

True, the customs seize gold.  But as a reply to the Lok Sabha on February 3, 2017 (in reply to the unstarred question no 387) showed, the government admitted that seizures were scant compared to the volume of gold that was being smuggled into India.  The government admitted that the Income Tax Department conducted more than 1,100 searches, seizures and surveys and issued more than 5,100 notices, between November 2016 and January 2017, for verification of suspicious high value cash deposits in old high denominations.

Collectively, these raids and seizures accounted for valuables worth Rs. 610 crore which includes cash of Rs. 513 crore. Rest of the seized valuables worth Rs.97 crore was mainly in the form of gold, jewellery and silver. Of the 100 tonnes of gold smuggled in each year, the total seizure accounted for just 0.003 percent!.

 

2019-10-20_gold-seizures

In another reply to  the Lok Sabha on March 31, 2017 (unstarred question no. 4842), the government stated that “[even though] there are no firm statistics on estimated demand and availability of gold in the country . . . as per rough estimates gold demand in the country is 800-900 tonnes per annum.”.

In yet another Lok Sabha reply (unstarred question No.384 of February 3, 2017), the government stated that the total seizure of gold (and gold ornaments) accounted for just 7.1 tonnes during the latest three-year period (2013-14 to 2015-16). The biggest seizures were in Delhi, followed by Mumbai and Chennai. Remember that the volumes of goldf smuggled in stand at around 80-90 tonnes.

Clearly, smuggled of gold cannot be stopped, and Chidambaram’s 10 percent duty boosted gold smuggling.  Then in successive measures, subsequent budgets increased the duty on imported gold to 12.5 percent and now (along with GST) top around 15.5 percent.  Smuggling of gold is more attractive than ever before.

So how does gold come in?  There are no official documents on this pattern, but common sense suggests that it comes through the porous borders of Nepal, Myasnmar, Bangladesh and by sea and air from Malaysia, Thailand and other neighbouring countries.

The best indicator of how India’s gold policies have made its neighbours richer, and this country itself poorer, can be gleaned from the table alongside. Watch the way gold imports have swelled in countries like Thailand and Sri Lanka which do not have a major domestic market for this yellow market.  China and India are the two markets where huge quantities of gold gets absorbed by the local population. This lure for gold is partly on account of sentiment, and partly because of the tremendous faith people have in gold.

 

2019-10-20_gold-neighbouring-countries

Marketmen point to the way gold sales swelled in Kerala immediately after the floods.  That was when most common folk saw a great deal of their wealth eroded. What they could carry with them was gold. It is becoming attractive now as well, because of the weakening of the rupee and other global currencies.

The irony is that in an attempt to control the current account deficit, the government believes that a higher import duty on gold will prevent gold imports.  What it actually does is dampen official gold imports. Instead, unofficial gold imports swell. That in turn corrodes the value of the Indian rupee and will gradually translate into higher inflation.  So an apparently stronger balance sheet will come at the cost of a weakening currency.

If the government wants to prevent this, it must look at gold once again, more sensibly. Till that happens, expect the rupee to continue becoming weaker.

Fuel pumps in Rajasthan to shut operations for 24 hours over increased VAT rate

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Petrol and diesel pumps across Rajasthan will keep their operations shut for 24 hours, starting October 23 to protest against the increased rate of Value Added Taxes (VAT), officials said on Tuesday.

Sunit Bagai, president of the Rajasthan Petrol Diesel Association (RPDA) said fuel pumps located in the border areas are on the verge of shutdown due to increased VAT rate.

"Petrol and diesel pumps located in the border areas of neighbouring districts are on the verge of shutdown due to increased VAT. Demand is continuously decreasing.

"We have apprised the state government about losses incurred by the fuel pump stations," said Bagai.

The shutdown has been called against increased VAT rate, he said, adding the RPDA has also demanded scrapping of road cess.

Bagai said if prices of petrol and diesel are compared with neighbouring states, it was Rs 5-9 higher in Rajasthan.

Terming it a corrective measure, the Congress government in July had reversed the previous government's decision to reduce the VAT on petrol and diesel by 4 per cent. During the previous government, VAT on petrol was 30 per cent, which was brought down to 26 per cent while VAT on diesel was reduced from 22 per cent to 18 per cent.

In the general budget, the Centre had announced Rs 1 per litre in excise duty and Rs 1 as road cess. Following the hike, the state government through a notification on July 6 increased VAT rate on petrol from 26 to 30 per cent and 18 to 22 per cent on diesel.

India has worked on fundamentals, but problems needs to be addressed: IMF

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The International Monetary Fund said though India has worked on the fundamentals of its economy, there are problems, including the long-term drivers of growth, that need to be addressed.

The IMF on Tuesday trimmed India's growth forecast by 90 basic points to 6.1 per cent. This is second downward revision in seven months and in total 120 basis points reduction. 100 basis points is equal to one percentage point.

"India has worked on the fundamentals (of its economy), but there are problems to be addressed. In the financial sector, especially non-banking institutions, there are steps taken now to consolidate banks. They ought to help resolve some of these issues," IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva told reporters at a news conference here.

"In India, what is critically important is to continue with addressing the long-term drivers of growth. Investment in human capital in India is a top priority. It has to continue bringing women in the labour force. It is very important. India has very talented women, but they stay at home," she said.

Georgieva said there has been "a very strong growth" in India over the last years and the IMF is projecting reasonably strong growth for the country.

However, "like the rest of the world, India is experiencing a slowdown. So slightly over six per cent is what we expect to see in 2019", she said.

"Structural reforms are priority for India. We expect to see those reforms continue," Georgieva said in response to a question.

Govt may look to cut stake in BHEL, NMDC

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The government may consider bringing down its stake in state-owned Bharat Heavy Electricals (BHEL) and National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC), sources told CNBC Awaaz.

The stake in BHEL may be pared in tranches to 26 percent from 63.17 percent now.

An inter-ministerial group is expected to meet soon to discuss the stake sale.

The government may also look to sell the state-run power player's non-manufacturing units to private players.

Four to five units of BHEL are reportedly marked for sale to private players this fiscal.

Earlier this month, the government cleared disinvestment in five PSUs, a move which is expected to cover nearly 60 percent of its disinvestment target for this financial year.

The government has a divestment target of Rs 1.05 lakh crore for the current financial year. In both FY18 and FY19, the divestment proceeds exceeded the target of Rs 1 lakh crore and Rs 80,000 crore, respectively.

PMC Bank scam | SC agrees to urgent hearing of PIL

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The Supreme Court has agreed to an urgent hearing on the public interest litigation filed in regards to the Punjab and Maharashtra Cooperative Bank case, as per a CNN-News18 report.

The petitioner, identified as Bijon Mishra, has sought the full protection of over 15 lakh affected bank customers and 100 percent insurance cover over their savings with the institution, the channel added.

The RBI had issued directions to PMC Bank on September 23, restricting basic banking services like cash withdrawals. Initially, the limit was set at Rs 1,000 per depositor. The regulator also appointed an administrator and three-member advisory committee to oversee the bank’s operations after its board was superseded.


The multi-state cooperative bank came under fire for fraud and misreporting of bad loans. The lender was also found to have violated the RBI’s group exposure norms. Its exposure to the realty firm Housing Development & Infrastructure (HDIL) is being investigated by the authorities including the Economic Offences Wing.

Forensic Auditors, appointed by the bank’s administrator, are also looking into the related transactions, the RBI said.

“The Reserve Bank is closely monitoring the developments and shall continue to take necessary steps in the interest of the depositors of the bank,” the regulator said.

Last week, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman met with the bank’s customers on her visit to Mumbai. She said she spoke to the RBI governor, who had assured that customers' concerns would be addressed as the top priority. The central bank's board that met in Chandigarh also discussed the existing regulatory framework of cooperative banks among other issues.

Job alert | Govt to employ 3.75mn women across villages for water testing, says Smriti Irani

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The newly formed Jal Shakti Ministry will create 3.75 million jobs for women across the country.

Speaking at the Bloomberg Equality Summit, Smriti Irani, Union Minister of Women and Child Development and Textiles, said the government’s mission is to employ five women each across 750,000 villages to be trained to ensure water quality, maintain water hygiene and turn water into an enterprise.

“Under the Jal Shakti Ministry, there will be massive employment generation for women in the districts identified. At present, we have found water-related challenges in 256 districts. We are involved in training women across these districts,” she added.

On female labour-force participation

India has a female labour force participation rate of 27 percent, which is among the lowest in the world. Talking about steps to improve this scenario, Irani said the government is taking a series of initiatives to empower women.

“One of the biggest challenges for women was access to credit. Through the Jan Dhan Yojana, about 199 million women (out of 370 million accounts) have had their bank accounts opened in the last five years. Similarly, there were 200 million loans disbursed as part of the Mudra scheme. Of this, around 70 percent beneficiaries were women,” she added.

The idea, she said, is to empower women at the grass root level. Talking about an older initiative when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Irani said he had encouraged villages to come as one unit and vote for women leaders in local Panchayats. Wherever women were elected as representatives, those villages got additional government funding.

On formal jobs, Irani said the government has increased the maternity leave to 26 weeks, and it was now the responsibility of companies to ensure that these women are not left behind when it comes to promotions.

In male-dominated professions, Irani said the number of women employed is seeing an increase. Citing the example of chartered accounts, Irani said that from the late 1940s (when Institute of Chartered Accountants of India was set up) till 2014, India only had 50,000 female chartered accountants. "However, that number rose to 75,000 between 2014 and 2019, and is estimated to touch 150,000 over the next five years."

When prodded on the government’s future focus areas, Irani said the unorganised sector has been a cause of concern, despite the higher female labour force participation, as they offered lesser medical benefits and pay.

On safety and health

Irani said the primary objective of the government is to ensure the safety of women and children. "The government has funded setting up of 1,023 fast track courts where all the pending cases relating to safety of women and child can be expedited."

Going forward, she said the government's focus will be on dealing with crimes against women in a more stringent manner. “The perception was that an all women police station was an answer to every challenge. However, we are working towards ensuring that every police station in our country has desk exclusively manned only for the safety of women in that district/area.”

On healthcare, the Women and Child Development Minister said the Ayushman Bharat (health insurance) scheme has ensured that women who have otherwise been reluctant to seek medical care do so without any hesitation.

Under this scheme, the government aims to provide health insurance cover of Rs 5 lakh to 50 crore Indians free of cost. This includes families from lower income groups that fall under the socio-economic caste census (SECC) data of 2011.

Citing data, Irani said that within a year of the health insurance scheme’s launch, 530,000 women have been tested for cervical cancer and 300,000 for breast cancer and are being treated.

India's industrial production falls 1.1% in August

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India’s industrial output contracted by 1.1 percent month-on-month (MoM) in August, according to the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) data released by the government on August 9.

Industrial output, or factory output, is the closest approximation for measuring economic activity in the country's business landscape.

Manufacturing output, which accounts for more than three-fourths of the entire index, fell 1.2 percent in August, against a 4.2 percent rise in July.

Mining grew 0.1 percent in August against a growth of 4.9 percent in July.

For the April-June period, the eight infrastructure sectors averaged 3.6 percent growth. Exports contracted 1.7 percent during the same period.

India's gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the March quarter slowed to a five-year low of 5.8 percent, down from 6.6 percent in the December quarter. Annual GDP growth slowed to 6.8 percent for the year that ended on March 31 from 7.2 percent in the previous year.

Factory output, which is measured by the index of industrial production (IIP), contracted in March 2019. This was its first such contraction in 21 months, showing declining momentum of both investment and consumption. Even core industries productions of steel, electricity, coal and cement are falling or have been stagnant in recent quarters.

The national income data have reinforced signs that were emanating from a slew of shop-end data, such as car and consumer goods sales, often seen as proxy indicators to gauge trends in household spending.

To combat the slowdown, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman  announced a cut in corporate tax rates in September, bringing it down to 22 percent from 30 percent for existing companies, and to 15 percent from 25 percent for new manufacturing companies.

Earlier this year, the International Monetary Fund cut India’s gross domestic product growth forecast for 2019-20 by 20 basis points to 7.3 percent, followng similar action by the Asian Development Bank and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

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