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Commerce min calls meeting of stakeholders on increasing exports to China on April 5

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The commerce ministry has called a meeting of stakeholders including export promotion councils and other government departments to discuss ways to increase exports to China, an official said. Officials from the agriculture ministry, Agricultural & Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), and representatives from export promotion councils would participate in the meeting.

Growth in exports to China is beneficial for India as it has huge trade deficit with the neighbouring country.

Trade deficit with China increased to $63.12 billion in 2017-18 from $51.11 billion in 2016-17.

India is taking several steps to promote shipments to China. Recently, it has managed to export agricultural goods such as non-basmati rice to China.

India is seeking greater market access for various agricultural products, animal feeds, oil seeds, milk and milk products, pharmaceuticals in light of the potential of these products/services in the Chinese market.

Commerce min calls meeting of stakeholders on increasing exports to China on April 5

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The commerce ministry has called a meeting of stakeholders including export promotion councils and other government departments to discuss ways to increase exports to China, an official said. Officials from the agriculture ministry, Agricultural & Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), and representatives from export promotion councils would participate in the meeting.

Growth in exports to China is beneficial for India as it has huge trade deficit with the neighbouring country.

Trade deficit with China increased to $63.12 billion in 2017-18 from $51.11 billion in 2016-17.

India is taking several steps to promote shipments to China. Recently, it has managed to export agricultural goods such as non-basmati rice to China.

India is seeking greater market access for various agricultural products, animal feeds, oil seeds, milk and milk products, pharmaceuticals in light of the potential of these products/services in the Chinese market.

From April 1, I-T department will compile profiles on taxpayers

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The Income-Tax (I-T) Department will begin compiling comprehensive profiles on taxpayers from April 1. The move, which is a part of Project Insight, aims to track compliance of tax paying individuals and bring more people under the tax net, the paper said.

The department will collect information on taxpayers, including relationships, social networking, ITR status and asset details, the report said.

The database will also help identify errant taxpayers after demonetisation, and those with pending demands of above Rs 10 lakh. The tax department had on March 15 given instructions officials instructions to access the insight portal, The Economic Times reported.

The information on the portal will be segregated into various segments and include an integrated information management system, the report said.

One segment will have the taxpayer’s master profile, which includes address, signature and tax returns. The second segment, a business intelligence hub, will contain parameters to identify non-compliant taxpayers.

“The objective of this system is to leverage machine learning in organising, creating, sharing and using it for getting the right perspective at the right time,” an official told the publication.

The portal will also provide details of an individual’s movable and immovable assets to speeden recovery in cases where the pending dues exceed Rs 10 lakh.

Officials will also be able to monitor the status of cases where large sums of cash were deposited during demonetisation, the report added.

Project Insight, launched in 2017, uses data analytics to collect information from social media sites to identify mismatches between income declaration and spending patterns.

The Income Tax Department also has an agreement with L&T Infotech to help improve tax compliance.

Lok Sabha polls 2019: Number of polling booths, voters and other key facts

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The Election Commission of India (EC) on March 10 announced the schedule for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. The poll panel also announced the Assembly election schedule for four states.

Polling will be held in seven phases starting April 11 and will conclude on May 19. Counting of votes will take place on May 23.

The election, to be conducted in April-May, is being pegged as the largest election exercise in history.

The poll panel also announced Legislative Assembly election schedule for the states of Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha and Sikkim. The two polls — Lok Sabha and Assembly — will happen simultaneously in these states.

Here are some of the key facts about the election:

> Approximately 10 lakh polling stations will be set up. The number is up from 9 lakh in 2014.

> Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPATs) will be used with all Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) at all polling stations.

> The total electorate will be around 90 crore. The number has risen from 81.4 crore in 2014.

> 1.5 crore voters belong to the 18-19 years age bracket.

> Photographs of candidates will be added to the EVMs.

> Social media now comes under the purview of the Model Code of Conduct.

Seven-phase voting

> Phase 1 voting: April 11 (91 constituencies in 20 states)

> Phase 2: April 18 (97 constituencies in 13 states)

> Phase 3: April 23 (115 constituencies in 14 states)

> Phase 4: April 29 (71 constituencies in 9 states)

> Phase 5: May 6 (51 constituencies in 7 states)

> Phase 6: May 12 (59 constituencies in 7 states)

> Phase 7: May 19 (59 constituencies in 8 states)

Communities still matter, but are falling behind, says Raghuram Rajan

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For early humans the tribe was their society – their state, markets, and community rolled into one. It was where all activities were conducted, including the rearing of children, the production and exchange of food and goods, and the succour of the ill and the elderly. The tribal chief or elders laid down the law and enforced it, and commanded the tribe’s warriors in defense of their lands. Over time, as we will see in Part I of the book, both markets and the state separated from the community. 

Trade with more distant communities through markets allowed everyone to specialise in what they were relatively good at, making everyone more prosperous. The state, aggregating the power and resources of the many communities within it, not only regulated markets but also enforced the law within its political boundaries, while defending the realm against aggressors.

Markets and the state have not only separated themselves from the community in recent times but have also steadily encroached on activities that strengthened bonds within the traditional community. Consider some functions the community no longer performs. In frontier communities, neighbours used to help deliver babies; today most women check into a hospital when they feel the onset of childbirth. They naturally prefer the specialist’s expertise much more than they value their neighbour’s friendly but amateurish helping hand. On a more mundane level, we used to offer to take our elderly neighbour shopping because she did not have a car. Today, she orders her groceries online. Similarly, the community used to pitch in to rebuild a household’s home if it caught fire; today the household collects its fire insurance payment and hires a professional builder. Indeed, given the building codes in most developed countries, it is unlikely that a home reconstructed by neighbours would be legal.

The community still plays a number of important roles in society. It anchors the individual in real human networks and gives them a sense of identity; our presence in the world is verified by our impact on people around us. By allowing us to participate in local governance structures such as parent-teacher associations, school boards, library boards, and neighbourhood oversight committees, as well as local mayoral or ward elections, our community gives us a sense of self- determination, a sense of direct control over our lives, even while making local public services work better for us. Importantly, despite the existence of formal structures such as public schooling, a government safety net, and commercial insurance, the goodness of neighbours is still useful in filling in gaps. When a neighbouring engineer tutors our son in mathematics in her spare time, or the neighbourhood comes together in a recession to collect food and clothing for needy households, the community is helping out where formal structures are inadequate. Given the continuing importance of the community, healthy modern communities try to compensate for the encroachment of markets and the state with other activities that strengthen community ties, such as social gatherings and neighbourhood associations.

Economists Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren attempt to quantify the economic impact of growing up in a better community. They examine the incomes of children whose parents moved from one neighbourhood into another in the United States when the child was young. Specifically, consider

neighbourhood Better and neighbourhood Worse. Correcting for parental income, the average incomes of children of long time residents when they become adults is one percentile higher in the national income distribution in neighbourhood Better than it is in neighbourhood Worse. Chetty and Hendren find that a child whose parents move from neighbourhood Worse to Better will have an adult income that is, on average, 0.04 percentile points higher for every childhood year it spends in Better. In other words, if the child’s parents move when it is born and they stay till it is twenty, the child’s income as an adult will have made up 80 percent of the difference between the average incomes in the two neighbourhoods.

Their study suggests that a child benefits enormously by moving to a community where children are more successful (at least as measured by their future income). Communities matter! Perhaps more than any outside influence other than the parents we are born to, the community we grow up in influences our economic prospects. Importantly, Chetty and Hendren’s finding applies for a single child moving – movement is not a recipe for the development of an entire poor community. Instead, the poor community has to find ways to develop in situ, while holding on to its best and brightest. It is a challenge we will address in the book.

There are other virtues to a healthy community. Local community government acts as a shield against the policies of the federal government, thus protecting minorities against a possible tyranny of the majority, and serving as a check on federal power. Sanctuary communities in the United States and Europe have resisted cooperating with national immigration authorities in identifying and deporting undocumented immigrants. Under the previous US presidential administration, communities in the state of Arizona resisted in the opposite direction, ignoring the federal government while implementing stern penalties on undocumented immigration.

Although no country can function if every community picks and chooses the laws they will obey, we will see that some decentralisation in legislative powers to the community can be beneficial, especially if there are large differences in opinion between communities.

A critical function the community plays in modern market democracies is to serve as a training ground for aspiring politicians – recall that Barack Obama was a community organiser – with the community itself constituting a readymade structure for political mobilisation. Furthermore, it is community- based movements against corruption and cronyism that time and again prevent the leviathan of the state from getting too comfortable with the behemoth of big business. Indeed, as we will see in the book, healthy communities are essential for sustaining vibrant market democracies. This is perhaps why authoritarian movements like fascism and communism try to replace community consciousness with nationalist or proletarian consciousness.

In sum, the proximate community is still relevant today, even in cosmopolitan cities where ties of kinship and ethnicity are limited, and even in individualistic societies like those of the United States and Western Europe. Once we understand that the community matters, then it becomes clear why it is not enough for a country to experience strong economic growth – the professional economist’s favourite measure of economic performance. How that growth is distributed across communities in the country also matters immensely. People who value staying in their community are not very mobile. Since they cannot move to work where growth occurs, they need economic growth in their own community. If we care about the community, we need to care about the geographic distribution of growth.

What then is the source of today’s problems? In one word, imbalance! When the three pillars of society are appropriately balanced, society has the best chance of providing for the well- being of its people. The modern state provides physical security, as it always has, but also tries to ensure fairness in economic outcomes, which democracy demands. To do this, the state sets limits on the markets while also ensuring they offer people a level playing field. It also has to make sure that most people have the ability to participate on equal terms in the market, and are buffered against its fluctuations. The competitive markets ensure that those who succeed in it are efficient and produce the maximum output with the resources available. The successful have both wealth and some independence from the state, thus they have the ability to check arbitrary actions by the state. Finally, the people in industrial democracies, engaged in their communities and thereby organised socially and politically, maintain the necessary separation between markets and the state. By doing this they enable sufficient political and economic competition that the economy does not descend into cronyism or authoritarianism. Society suffers when any of the pillars weakens or strengthens overly relative to the others. Too weak the markets, and society becomes unproductive, too weak a community and society tends toward crony capitalism, too weak the state and society turns fearful and apathetic. Conversely, too much market and society becomes inequitable, too much community and society becomes static, and too much state and society becomes authoritarian. A balance is essential!

HP investors' meet: 159 MoUs with Rs 17,000 crore investment commitment signed, says CM Jai Ram Thakur

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As many as 159 memorandum of understandings (MoUs) were signed on Monday at the HP Global Investors Meet, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur said. Presiding over the MoU-signing ceremony at the Meet, Thakur said the MoUs would ensure a total investment of over Rs 17,000 crore and employment opportunities to over 40,000 people.

Among the major pacts, Thakur said three MoUs were signed with public sector undertakings for an investment amount of Rs 1,115 crore, 88 with the Department of Industries for Rs 5,243 crore investment; 36 with the Department of Tourism and Civil Aviation for Rs 2,810 crore funding; 17 with the Department of Urban Development (Rs 4,332 crore).

The state government is coming up with new policies for industry, tourism, warehouse and logistics, among others, to provide incentives to the entrepreneurs interested to invest in the state, he added.

Stating that such initiatives were never taken before in the state, he said efforts would be made to ensure clearances for projects faster.

A holistic approach has been adopted by the state government to attract investment in the state, he said adding that apart from industries, MoUs have also been signed in tourism, wellness, transport, housing, language, art and culture sectors.

Draft Rubber Policy: Budgetary support for promotion of export, research, reducing imports

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The government will provide budgetary support to rubber sector to enhance research, promote exports and reduce dependence on import, according to the draft national rubber policy.

The proposed policy will also provide support for skill development; incentives for smallholders, workers and entrepreneurs; and enforcement of regulations on quality and standards.

For all these measures, proportionate budgetary provisions would be made, the draft said.

As per the draft policy, possibility would be explored for treating natural rubber as an agricultural product for all practical and legal purposes, it said.

The policy will also explore the possibility of treating income from rubber production as agricultural income, in consultation with the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers' Welfare.

The draft said the budgetary support from the central government would focus on new plantation and replanting.

"Appropriate convergence and dovetailing of funds with other programmes of departments/ministries of the central and state governments such as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment (MGNREGA), would be attempted," it added.

The 27-page draft said financial assistance is vital in motivating growers to take up rubber cultivation.

"Adequate planting subsidy would be given for incentivising rubber plantation. Priority would be given to marginal and small growers belonging to the resource poor communities," it added.

The commerce ministry has come up with this draft policy seeking views of stakeholders.

The objectives of the policy include promoting overall sustainability of the rubber lndustry with respect to economic, social and environmental dimensions, development of entire value chain from upstream production to downstream manufacturing activities.

Besides, the policy aims to increase the area under natural rubber by new plantation without causing any adverse impact on forests.

The draft has also suggested several policy interventions such as providing insurance cover for the growth of the sector.

It said the import policy for natural rubber would be accorded special focus as imports have impact on both growers and end-user industries.

Natural rubber is not a traditional export-oriented commodity and export may be promoted only to adjust temporary demand-supply imbalances in the domestic market, it added.

The draft said "the price volatility in rubber crop directly impacts livelihood of lakhs of small and marginal growers and efforts would be made to ensure the livelihood protection by way of insurance/price support in consonance with the prevailing norms and policies".

It also said the possibility of extending exclusive financial assistance schemes for grower forums for processing and trading in rubber would be explored in consultation with NABARD.

"Introducing auction for rubber trading in the country would be attempted for fair price discovery," it said.

Most of the rubber products, including tyres, require blends of natural rubber and synthetic rubber.

India is currently the sixth largest producer of natural rubber in the world with one of the highest productivity (6,94,000 tonne in 2017-18).

Kerala and Tamil Nadu account for 81 per cent of the total natural rubber production in India. The other states include Tripura, Assam, Meghalaya, Odisha, Karnataka, Maharashtra and West Bengal.

India is the second largest consumer of natural rubber globally with current consumption of around 1.1 million tonne. Of this, 68 per cent is consumed in the automotive tyre sector.

There are around 1.3 million rubber growers and 0.6 million workers in rubber plantation sector in India. Around 40 per cent of the domestic consumption is met from imports.

Suresh Prabhu inaugurates projects worth Rs 1,000 crore

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Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu on Friday dedicated to the nation projects worth Rs 1,000 crore, including National Institute of Design campus in Jorhat and Bhopal, and two spices parks in Kota and Raebareli.

The projects in seven states and two Union Territories were inaugurated through video conferencing here, the commerce ministry said in a statement.

Prabhu inaugurated skilling Common Facility Centre (CFC) in Udupi, and laid the foundation stone for a CFC in Coimbatore. He also inaugurated two spices parks in Kota and Raebareli.

The minister also inaugurated National Institute of Design campus in Jorhat and Bhopal, IIFT campus at Kolkata and Maidangarhi, and Footwear Design and Development Institute (FDDI) in Banur, Chandigarh, it added.

The CFC in Udupi for traditional jewellery manufacturing in south India will be able to produce world class talent in gem and jewellery business for around 1,200 units in and around Udupi, it said.

Similarly, the centre at Coimbatore has the capacity to train 50,000 people in unique jewellery manufacturing like Kundan, Meenakari, Bidri, temple jewellery, filigree and Jadau jewellery.

The establishment of spice park is a major initiative to help farmers get better returns for their produce and to ensure the quality of spices for exports, it said.

"At present there is a need for improved linkages between spice producers, processes and food processing industry and the spices parks will function as a nodal point for development of the spices industry," it added.

UPI transactions hit a record 672.75 million in January: NPCI

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The Unified Payment Interface (UPI) witnessed a record number of transactions in January and amounted to more than Rs 1 lakh crore in value, according to data released by NPCI (National Payment Corporation of India), the Livemint reports.

The transaction volume grew by 8.5 percent to Rs 1.09 lakh crore in January, up from Rs 1.02 lakh crore in the month of December 2018. December was also the month when UPI recorded over 600 million transactions for the first time ever, the report states.

UPI was introduced by NPCI in 2016 as a platform that powers multiple bank accounts into a single mobile application. UPI got a significant boost when the BHIM app was launched by the Central government on the 30 December 2016. Since then, NPCI has taken steps to cut down fraudulent transactions and introduced many regulatory guidelines.

Out of the total transactions registered in January, 13.98 million transactions were conducted through BHIM app alone, the data shows.

The last one year has witnessed the rise of 350% in UPI transactions.

RBI credit policy: Economists polled differ over rate cut, but see change in stance to neutral

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The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) may not tinker with the policy rate, but will change its stance to neutral. Economists and market experts whom Moneycontrol spoke to were divided on the rate cut but were confident of a change in stance by the banking regulator.

This is the first policy of RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das, who also heads the monetary policy committee.

The change in the stance from ‘calibrated tightening’ to ‘neutral’ is what is being keenly watched by the market. In its December policy, the MPC decided to keep the policy repo rate on hold at 6.5 percent and maintain its 'calibrated tightening' stance.

Shubhada Rao, Chief Economist at Yes Bank, said that while there could be a pause in this policy, the stance may be changed to neutral. However, she sees possibility of a rate cut sometime in 2019.

In its fifth bi-monthly monetary policy in December 2018, while the decision on keeping the policy rate unchanged was unanimous, Ravindra Dholakia voted to change his stance to neutral. The committee members maintained that the central bank’s focus remained focused on taming inflation, even if it came at the cost of higher rates.

A Kotak Economics Research Securities report expects the committee to change its stance to ‘neutral’ in February and 25 basis points repo rate cut in April and June given the benign inflation trajectory.

Deepak Jasani, Head-Retail Research, HDFC Securities, said RBI is likely to change its stance from calibrated tightening to neutral. However, he added that a rate cut at this stage may be a bit premature though there are reasons to back it.

Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation hit an 18-month low, rising 2.19 percent in December as compared with 2.3 percent in November due to cheaper fuel and food items, data released by the government showed. CPI, or retail inflation, is the main price gauge that RBI tracks.

At its last policy, the MPC expected retail inflation to moderate to 2.7-3.2 percent during October-March, before rising to 3.8-4.2 percent in April-September in 2019-20, with ‘risks tilted towards the upside’.

MPC had earlier said that the benign outlook for headline inflation is driven mainly by the unexpected softening of food inflation and collapse in oil prices in a relatively short period.

Consumer food price index had seen a de-growth to 2.51 percent in December from (-) 2.61 percent in November. Among food and beverages, prices of fruits, eggs, vegetables, pulses and sugar fell during December.

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