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NEW BANK NOTE OF DENOMINATED OF RS200

India’s supreme banking authority, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), has cleared a proposal to introduce new currency notes of Rs 200 denomination. The RBI board took the decision at the RBI board meeting in March, two people aware of the development told the paper.

“The process of printing the new Rs 200 notes is likely to begin after June, once the government officially approves this new denomination,” Livemint.com reported quoting sources. Notably, last month RBI also started field trials of plastic notes of Rs 10 as plastic notes are expected to last longer than cotton substrate based banknotes.

If introduced, Rs 200 will be the second new denomination to be introduced after the Rs 2,000 notes. On 8 November, RBI announced the withdrawal of Rs500 and Rs1,000 currency notes.

STEEL IMPORT FALLS

New Delhi: India’s import of total finished steel fell 36 per cent to 7.4 million tonnes (MT) and exports jumped 102 per cent to 8.2 MT in 2016-17, according to official data. In terms of production too the country did well, according to Joint Plant Committee’s annual report on the sector for 2016-17.

Export of total finished steel rose 102.1 per cent in April-March 2016-17 to 8.244 MT as against 4 MT in same period of last year and dependence on import eased to 7.4 MT as compared to 11.7 MT in the preceding fiscal, it said.

“During April-March 2016-17, crude steel production was 97.385 MT, a growth of 8.5 per cent, over the same period of last year,” the report said. The country recorded a crude steel output of 89.7 MT in 2015-16.

Consumption of steel also grew from 81.5 MT to 83.9 MT in 2016-17.

In March 2017, exports were up 363 per cent at 1.621 MT over the year-ago period while it rose 114 per cent as compared to the preceding month of February 2017 at 0.756 MT.

Imports in March, 2017 (0.8 MT) was down 19.7 per cent over March 2016 but was up 51.8 per cent over February 2017 at 0.491 MT, it added. Overall, crude steel production in March 2017 (8.274 MT) was down by 0.5 per cent over March 2016 but was up 2 per cent over February 2017 at 8.084 MT, the data showed.

Constituted in 1964, JPC formulates guidelines for production, allocation, pricing and distribution of iron and steel materials.

US TALKS FOR PROTECTIONISM OF IT COMPANIES SURPRISES INDIA

New Delhi: Asserting that Indian IT companies are net creators of jobs in the USA, NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant said that it is surprising that the US has suddenly changed stance and started talking about protectionism when it came to IT companies. “Indian IT companies are net creators of jobs in USA. They have 41,000 jobs in USA. Actually, jobs being created by Indian IT companies have been growing,” Kant told NDTV.

Noting that the US had advocated globalisation in manufacturing, the NITI Aayog CEO said, “…but suddenly when it comes to IT companies, the US has started talking about protectionism. “Kant pointed out that it is important to understand that within the US there is shortage of people who are good at technology, engineering and management.

“It will take them years to fill the gap,” he said. The NITI Aayog CEO’s statement assumes significance in the wake of the US President Donald Trump’s scheduled visit to Milwaukee, Wisconsin — the home state of House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan — to sign the ‘Buy American, Hire American’ Executive Order.

The order is expected to tighten the process of issuing H-1B visas and potentially create an “entirely new structure” for awarding these visas mostly used by technology companies. Any change in visa norms can affect the movement of labour as well as spike operational costs for IT players.

Indian IT firms like TCS, Infosys and Wipro, who are dependent on visas, are now focusing on bringing on board more locals to comply with the norms.

Most Indian IT companies get over 60 per cent of their revenues from the North American market.

STOCK LIMIT OF SUGAR TRADERS EXTENDED

New Delhi: The government has decided to extend stock limits on sugar traders by another six months till October 2017 to check sweetener prices that are ruling at Rs 42-44 per kg. A decision in this regard was taken at the Cabinet meet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“The Union Cabinet has given its approval for extending the validity of the existing Central Order in respect of sugar for a further period of six months from April 29 to October 28, 2017,” an official statement said.

The move will enable state governments to impose stock limits and licensing requirements in respect of sugar, if needed, it said.

The government feels that “despite adequate availability of stocks for consumption in the current season, hoarding and consequent profiteering is anticipated due to drop in production over the previous year”.

 

COAL SUPPLY TO POWER SECTOR INCREASES

New Delhi, Apr 19 () The supply of coal by state-owned CIL to power sector increased by 1.3 per cent to 420.2 million tonnes (MT) in 2016-17. The increase in supply comes at a time when demand of coal by the power sector has picked up on back of economy doing well. Coal India Ltd (CIL) which accounts for over 80 per cent of the domestic coal production had dispatched 414.7 MT of fuel in FY 2015-16, according to latest government data.However, in March, the dispatch of coal by CIL declined by around seven per cent to 34.6 MT from 37.1 MT in March 2016, the data said.

The overall dispatch of coal by the PSU increased by 1.6 per cent to 543.2 MT in 2016-17 from over 534.5 MT in the preceding fiscal. Coal Secretary Susheel Kumar had earlier said, the demand of coal by the power sector has picked up since December as the economy was doing well.

“The demand of coal by the power sector has picked up since December. I feel that generally economy is doing well so our demand is therefore increasing,” Kumar said.

A series of measures have been taken by CIL to make more coal available for power sector such as offer coal under special forward e-auction scheme exclusively for the sector, the government had said.

Besides, measures like reduced reserve price and earnest money deposit to make e-auctions attractive, no performance incentives on higher grades of coal have also been taken up, it said. Coal India is eyeing one billion tonnes of production target by 2020.

DISMANDTLING OF FOREIGN INVESTMENT PROMOTION BOARD

NEW DELHI: The proposed dismantling of Foreign Investment Promotion Board, which vets proposals involving fund inflows from overseas, is likely to be bundled with related policy reforms.

On top of the list is doing away with prior government approval for investments in most sectors, including single-brand retail, which could see dilution of the 30% domestic sourcing clause. “Contours of the proposed changes to the foreign direct investment policy are almost ready… Non-strategic sectors should be on automatic,” said a senior government official privy to discussions on the matter.

With domestic private investment not picking up, the government is largely counting on foreign funds to speed up infrastructure creation. India needs an estimated $1.5 trillion over 10 years to build infrastructure such as roads, airports and power projects. The latest round of FDI reforms is aimed at making the process easier for foreign investors.

“The multiple layers in clearance often lead to unnecessary delays,” the official said, justifying the decision to put more sectors on the automatic approval route. Most sectors have automatic approval for investments up to 49%. Government approval is required for investments in sectors such as telecom services, food products retailing, mining and minerals, multi-brand retail and private security agencies.

In most cases, approval is required for investments exceeding 49%, but in some such as multibrand retailing, approval is needed for any level of investment. In mining and minerals, 100% FDI is allowed but government approval is required. Many of these sectors could be freed up in the policy review.

FUTURE CHALLENGE FOR INDIAN IT

BENGALURU: US president Donald Trump’s latest executive order on H-1B visas does not change anything for Indian IT companies immediately – it just reinforces the message conveyed to immigration officials in recent times that they should scrutinise applications to ensure they meet the standards laid down in the visa law.

However, the order carries the potential to make things difficult for IT companies in the future. It has ordered an inter-departmental review of the H-1B visa programme so that it better meets Trump’s ‘Hire American’ policy. This could mean changes to the programme, either by way of regulation or by asking Congress to pass a bill.

H-1B visas are expected to bring skilled workers who are otherwise not available in the US, but some believe it has been misused to bring in low-wage workers from countries like India to replace expensive American workers. Indian IT lobby group Nasscom described the proposed changes as forward-looking and non-specific. Nasscom member companies, it said, support efforts to root out any abuses that may be occurring in the H-1B system. “Ours is one of the most highly regulated and scrutinised sectors in the economy, and Nasscom member companies abide by all applicable laws and regulations,” it said in a statement.

GST ON SERVICES AND PRODUCTS

The task before the panel is to keep the impact of GST on inflation and prices near neutral or zero. The fitment committee is likely to hold more meetings before the GST Council’s meeting on May 18-19, where tax rates for different products and services are to be finalised to enable the rollout of the biggest tax reform.

“The fitment committee will start with deciding on tax rates on services. Since the centre alone has the power to levy service tax under the current regime, fixing of the tax rate on services would be an easier task,” the official said. The official said that most of the services where both VAT and service tax were levied would be fitaround the standard rate of 18 per cent, while those on which only 12.5 per cent VAT was levied would be brought to 12 per cent.

Also services provided by transportation and logistics players would be fitted in 12 per cent bracket, while services in 9 per cent bracket could be fitted in 12 per cent, the official said. The tax rate that is closest to the present incidence of tax on a good or service will be chosen with a view to keeping the shift from the present regime of excise duty plus VAT or service tax to a new uniform GST neutral for consumers. The official said tax rates will be decided in a fashion to keep their impact on inflation as well as revenues to the government near neutral. Once tax rates on services are decided, the fitment committee will meet again after a fortnight or so to decide on tax rates on goods before a full report of the panel is put up for consideration before the GST Council in its meeting in Srinagar.

The GST Council, headed by the Union finance minister and comprising state representatives as members, would kick-start the discussion on rates in the May meeting and the final fitment would be done by June. Under the current regime, the centre has the power to levy tax on production of goods while the states have the power to levy tax on sale of goods.

BEACON LIGHT TO BE REMOVED FROM ALL VEHICLES

New Delhi, Apr 19 () Seeking to end VIP culture, the Union Cabinet has decided that beacon light will be removed from all vehicles, including that of the Prime Minister, from May 1.

“In a historic decision, the Cabinet has decided that beacon lights will be removed from all vehicles, barring emergency service vehicles, from May 1,” Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari told .

Gadkari showed the way by becoming the first minister to take the beacon off his official vehicle after the Cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

It has been decided to do away with beacons of all kinds on top of all categories of vehicles in the country.

The minister said “this government is a government of common masses and has decided to abolish VIP culture of beacon lights and sirens”.

The government has taken the decision with a view to strengthening “healthy democratic values” in the country.

“The government is of the considered opinion that beacons on vehicles are perceived symbols of VIP culture and have no place in a democratic country. They have no relevance whatsoever,” Gadkari reasoned.

Beacons, however, will be allowed on vehicles concerning emergency and relief services, ambulance, fire service etc. In light of the decision, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways will make necessary provisions in law.

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