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No hike in passenger fares, freight charges: Rail Budget

Amid expectations of improvement in railway amenities, railway minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday presented the 15th Railway Budget in Parliament.

Presenting a promised ‘pro-people’ budget, the railway minister said that economic viability is not the only index of development, according top priority to social commitment.

She went on to add, “People expect to get better rail and train facilities. Development should not be restricted to only few people. People want better connectivity between stations in the nation. My priorities will include better passenger amenities, safety and security and provision of good quality food and drinking water”.

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July 3, 2009 Posted by | Business, Congress, Economy, Indian Economy, News, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Slum-free India possible in five years: Minister

An ambitious housing scheme aiming to make the country slum-free within the next five years is on the cards, the Rajya Sabha was informed on Thursday.

“The government has decided to introduce a new scheme, namely the Rajiv Awas Yojana, for slum dwellers and the urban poor on the lines of the Indira Awas Yojana for the rural poor,” Kumari Selja, minister of housing and urban poverty alleviation, said in a written reply.

She said the scheme would extend support to states that are willing to assign property rights to people living in slum areas.

“The government’s efforts would be to create a slum-free India through the scheme which also envisages the states preparing their own time-bound plans to make the cities and towns slum free,” she said.

She however said no funds have been released so far to any state under the proposed scheme.

Talking about the UPA’s flagship programme, the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, launched in 2005, the minister said Rs 3,749.64 crore (Rs 37.50 billion) and Rs 2,581.06 crore (Rs 25.81 billion) have been released under the basic services to urban poor and integrated housing and slum development programmes respectively to various states.

July 2, 2009 Posted by | Congress, Economy, Indian Economy, News, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cong gives Dalits a treat on Rahul’s birthday

rahul-gandhiHappy Birthday to Rahul Gandhi !!!

Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi may be having his birthday party far away from UP but the real bash is being organised by his party workers in the state on Friday.

Rahul’s birthday will be celebrated as harmony day in UP and Dalit sabhas will be organised across the state. All UP Congress leaders and MPs are expected to participate in the birthday party.

It is believed that the Dalit gatherings are Rahul’s plans to make a comeback in the state and the groundwork has already begun for it. The biggest trump card to drive this plan is the youth card, which worked wonders during the Lok Sabha elections.

Congress is also on a membership drive. In an internal note, Rahul has told his team to get ready for the big fight and return to power in the state in 2011.

“The way he has done it this time is great. I am very confident that he will do it for the Assembly elections too,” MP from Unnao Annu Tandon said.

But it isn’t going to be easy despite the Congress putting up a good show with 21 seats because one can never take the battle-hardened BSP chief Mayawati lightly.

Ready to take on BSP, Rahul has urged his party leaders to concentrate on Dalits, SCs and STs who were once with the Congress but have now moved to the Mayawati’s party.

Not surprising then that top state leaders will infiltrate Mayawati’s bastion and court the Dalits. Speaking about the game plan Congress leader Digvijay Singh said, “Mayawati’s influence in the country is highly overrated.”

The Congress’ strategy in UP is very simple – it is going to fall back on the old association of the party with the state and club it with Rahul’s youthful ideas as the formula to hit out at the BSP.

June 19, 2009 Posted by | Congress, Indian Economy, News, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Clinton sees ‘dramatic expansion’ in Indo-US ties

Looking forward to her visit to India, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said New Delhi and Washington were ready to embark to the next stage of relations which would see a “dramatic expansion” in common agenda and a greater role for India in solving global challenges. “We see India as one of a few key partners worldwide who will help us shape the 21st century,” Clinton said in Obama administration’s first major policy reference to India.

Stating that the Indo-US nuclear deal had removed the “final barriers” to broader cooperation between the two countries, Clinton, who will be in New Delhi for high-level talks in July, said that the two countries were set to realize a “3.0 relationship”, using the web language.

As part of the strategy, Clinton, speaking to top American and Indian corporate executives at the US Chamber of Commerce building yesterday, said India and the US would expand broader security relationship and increased cooperation on counter-terrorism and intelligence sharing. Saying that US and India had faced extraordinary challenges, Clinton referred to the tragic Mumbai attacks and said, “The President and I are committed to working with India in whatever way is appropriate to enhance India’s ability to protect itself.”

June 18, 2009 Posted by | Economy, Indian Economy, News, Politics | , , , , | 1 Comment

Analysis: India Interim Budget 2009-2010

The UPA government presented its farewell budget (Interim Budget) ahead of general elections slated later this year. While the markets were disappointed that the proposals were devoid of a stimulus package, there were no sops for the Indian taxpayers.

Here is an analysis of Interim Budget 2009-10 from top research houses across India.

Kaushal Sampat, COO, Dun & Bradstreet India

Although this was an interim budget, it was expected that there would be announcements of some policy measures that would be growth stimulating in nature.

While acknowledging that the Indian economy is faced with significant challenges in the financial year ahead, the Finance Minister stuck with the conventions of an interim budget and did not announce any policies that could trigger retrieval of the economy from the current slowdown.

Although the outlay on certain infrastructure projects has been increased, it is doubtful if this would be enough to kick-start investment at the required levels.

In line with our expectations, the fiscal deficit has surged and stands at around 7.8% of GDP in FY09 (including off-budget liabilities).

Although the high fiscal deficit has potential risks for the economy in the future, it is inevitable given the need for substantial increase in Government expenditure and the limited scope for revenue mobilization.

With the lack of major growth stimulating measures in the interim budget, we expect the RBI to cut interest rates further before the April’08 monetary policy review to stimulate demand to a certain extent.

February 17, 2009 Posted by | Business, Economy, Indian Economy, News, Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Railway Budget 2009-2010-Railways beat downturn, to remain on growth track

Indian Railways will stay on growth track in 2009-10 projecting cash surplus of Rs 18,847 crore after cutting most of the passenger fares, even as economic slowdown affected its freight business.

Even as its industrial customers face a crippling slowdown, the Railways expects to earn gross traffic receipts of Rs 93,159 crore in 2009-10, exceeding the revised estimates for the current fiscal by Rs 10,766 crore. Passenger fares for second class (above Rs 50) as also for the luxury trains have been reduced by two per cent.

The pace of expansion is affected by the global downturn impacting the Indian business, but the balance-sheet of the country’s largest transporter remains robust.

Expenses (operating ratio) would a tad higher at 89.9 per cent because of increased salary bill after implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission in the next financial year as compared to 88 per cent in the current fiscal.

As the rest of the economy is grappling with business setbacks, the Railways would pay a higher dividend of Rs 5304 crore to its owners — the government.

“…Railways have kept the human aspect as the central focus and achieved an extraordinary feat without puttany extra burden on the common man or the employees,” Railway Minister Lalu Prasad said while presenting the interim Budget in Parliament today.

February 13, 2009 Posted by | Business, Economy, Indian Economy, News | , , , | Leave a comment

Rupee Strengthens as India May Step Up Efforts to Boost Growth

India’s rupee strengthened the most in more than two weeks on speculation the government and the central bank will announce more measures next week to revive economic growth.

India is preparing to unveil an interim budget on Feb. 16, which may include steps aimed at countering the slump in industrial production and exports. The Reserve Bank of India may cut interest rates further after the budget, according to Suresh Tendulkar, chairman of the prime minister’s Economic Advisory Council. The government unveiled two stimulus packages and the central bank cut its key rate four times since Oct. 20.

“The rupee is stronger as the market expects additional measures to boost growth to be announced next week,” said Sudarshan Bhatt, chief currency trader at state-owned Corporation Bank in Mumbai. “Such measures look inevitable after yesterday’s industrial output report. The central bank may cut rates and help restructure loans of companies.”

The rupee climbed 0.3 percent to 48.685 per dollar at the 5 p.m. close in Mumbai, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That is the biggest gain since Jan. 27. The currency was little changed from its Feb. 6 close of 48.695.

Eight of the 10 most-active Asian currencies outside of Japan advanced today.

The rupee may trade between 48.50 and 49.25 in the coming days, according to Bhatt. The median estimate of 25 strategists and economists surveyed by Bloomberg is for the rupee to weaken to 49.00 by the end of March.

Stocks Gain

Offshore contracts indicate traders bet the rupee will trade at 48.83 to the dollar in a month, compared with expectations for a rate of 49.03 yesterday. Forwards are agreements in which assets are bought and sold at current prices for future delivery. Non-deliverable contracts are settled in dollars rather than the local currency.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index of shares advanced 0.9 percent today and the benchmark Bombay Stock Exchange Sensitive Index climbed 1.8 percent.

“The rupee may appreciate further if stocks too show a positive trend from here,” Corporation Bank’s Bhatt said. “Asian stock gains and broad dollar weakness are contributing to the rupee’s strength.”

The ICE’s Dollar Index, which tracks the greenback against the euro, the yen, the pound, the Canadian dollar, the franc and Sweden’s krona, fell 0.7 percent to 85.92 today.

Industrial production fell 2 percent in December, the most since 1993, after a revised 1.7 percent gain in November, the government said yesterday. India expects the $1.2 trillion economy will expand 7.1 percent in the fiscal year to March, the slowest pace in six years.

Record Low

The rupee will weaken almost 10 percent to a record low of 54 to the dollar by the end of the year as the worldwide credit crisis curbs foreign direct investment, HSBC Holdings Plc said.

The rupee may also extend last year’s 19 percent slide as employers cut jobs overseas amid a global recession, reducing remittances from Indian workers abroad, Richard Yetsenga, HSBC’s Hong Kong-based strategist, wrote in a research report today. The U.K. bank revised its rupee forecast from 45, HSBC’s Singapore-based economist Robert Prior-Wandesforde, who co-wrote the report, confirmed in a phone call.

“We expect the slower moving remittance and FDI flows to now start to show the strain,” wrote Yetsenga. “Our estimates suggest FDI into Asia could fall to roughly zero this year. While that may be overly pessimistic, the fall in FDI should certainly be spectacular for global reasons.”

Overseas direct investment in India averaged $3.1 billion a month in 2008, compared with $1.3 billion in the previous year, government data show.

“The boom in FDI is long overdue, but cannot last, given the state of corporate finances globally,” Yetsenga wrote.

Renault SA, France’s second-largest carmaker, may abandon a factory project in the southern Indian city of Chennai, Chief Financial Officer Thierry Moulonguet said yesterday. The French company said it is reducing capital investment by 20 percent.

February 13, 2009 Posted by | Economy, Indian Economy, News | , , | Leave a comment