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Bihar polls: Hundreds cast votes at women-managed booths

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Patna,  Hundreds of voters cast their ballots at seven polling booths in Bihar’s Gaya district managed by an all-women staff, officials said.

“It was something unbelievable till a few years ago, but now seven model polling booths in Gaya town assembly constituency were fully managed by women officials,” District Election Officer Sanjay Agarwal said.

He said polling is underway in a peaceful manner there.

“The presiding officer, the micro observers, the polling agent as well as the security personnel are all women,” he said.

Two model polling booths are in Gaya college and five in Mahavir high school school and middle school in Gaya town, about 100 km from here.

Agarwal said voters praised the polling booths managed by women. “The voters’ response has been positive,” he said.

Polling began at 7 a.m. in 32 of the 243 constituencies, including Maoist-affected areas, spread across six districts, in the second phase of assembly elections on Friday.

(IANS)

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European Country Moldova likely to stick to European Union path regardless of the Election Outcome

The vote is the first since 1997 where the president will be elected by national balloting instead of by parliament

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A girl walks by campaign posters for socialist presidential candidate Igor Dodon, in Chisinau, Moldova, Nov. 12, 2016. VOA

November 12, 2016: Moldovans are facing a critical choice for the presidency, as the country votes in a run-off election that will determine whether it moves closer to Moscow or the European Union.

Igor Dodon, a Socialist former trade minister, had a sizable lead in the first round of voting last month, but failed to gain an outright majority and avoid facing second-place finisher Maia Sandu in the November 13 run-off.

Sandu, a former World Bank economist and education minister, has called for closer ties with the European Union, and warned about the danger of closer economic relationship with Russia, which is Moldova’s leading energy supplier.

FILE - Leader of the Socialists Party, Igor Dodon, shown with his son Nikolai and wife Galina, casts his ballot, during the presidential elections in Chisinau, Moldova, Oct. 30, 2016. Dodon and second-place finisher Maia Sandu will face off in a November. VOA
FILE – Leader of the Socialists Party, Igor Dodon, shown with his son Nikolai and wife Galina, casts his ballot, during the presidential elections in Chisinau, Moldova, Oct. 30, 2016. Dodon and second-place finisher Maia Sandu will face off in a November. VOA

Dodon wants to reverse the country’s move toward European integration, which included a historic association agreement signed in 2014 despite bitter opposition from Russia.

The vote is the first since 1997 where the president will be elected by national balloting instead of by parliament.

The tiny country of 3.5 million is one of Europe’s poorest, a situation only worsened by the turmoil that erupted in late 2014 when nearly $1 billion — around 10 percent of the country’s GDP — disappeared from three banks.

FILE - Leader of the Action and Solidarity Party, Maia Sandu, casts her vote during the presidential elections in Chisinau, Moldova, Oct. 30, 2016. Sandu and Igor Dodon, a Socialist former trade minister, will face off in a November 13 run-off. VOA
FILE – Leader of the Action and Solidarity Party, Maia Sandu, casts her vote during the presidential elections in Chisinau, Moldova, Oct. 30, 2016. Sandu and Igor Dodon, a Socialist former trade minister, will face off in a November 13 run-off. VOA

Moscow fears Moldova moving closer to the European Union, similar to what happened in Ukraine in 2014.

Russia also has thousands of troops stationed in the disputed military presence in the mainly Russian-speaking territory of Transdniester, which broke away following a short war that killed some 1,000 people.

Russia still keeps a contingent of troops ostensibly as peacekeepers in the territory.

Polls show the banking crisis sapped many Moldovans’ enthusiasm for European integration. It also prompted the European Union and the International Monetary Fund to suspend financial aid.

Map, VOA
Map of Ukraine, VOA

Earlier this week, however, the IMF approved nearly $180 million of loans for Moldova ahead of a presidential runoff election that could see the former Soviet republic move closer to Europe or tilt toward Russia.

The Washington-based fund cited what it said was Moldova’s improving economy and government reform to strengthen the banking sector. (VOA)

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US: NASA Astronaut Shane Kimbrough casts his Ballot from Space on Election Day

A 1997 Texas law allows astronauts away from the earth to vote on the election day, provided they request their ballots one year before launch

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Expedition 47 backup crew member, NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough answers a question from the press ahead of his Soyuz qualification exams with Russian cosmonauts Andre Borisenko, and Sergei Ryzhikov of Roscosmos, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016, at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center (GCTC) in Star City, Russia. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Washington, November 8, 2016: Astronaut Shane Kimbrough, the only US citizen in space on Election Day, cast his vote from the International Space Station (ISS), Nasa said on Tuesday.

Kimbrough, 45, who arrived on board the ISS in mid-October, exercised his right to vote from the space platform orbiting the Earth at 27,000 km per hour.

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“An electronic and secure ballot is sent to the member of the ISS crew from the clerk in his county. (The astronaut) fills in the form and returns it electronically. It’s all secure. It is all private,” Efe news agency cited a Nasa statement.

A 1997 Texas law allows astronauts away from the earth to vote on the election day, provided they request their ballots one year before launch.

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Before launching on a four-month mission, Kimbrough said it was going to be special, being able to say ‘I voted from space’, Daily Mail reported.

Astronauts are ‘pretty much apolitical’, he told reporters last month, adding that he would be glad to welcome the new President, whoever it might be.

Previous US crewmember on board the ISS, astronaut Kate Rubins, also voted from space before returning to the earth last week. (IANS)

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NDA’s Bihar debacle proving blessing for realty

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Picture Courtesy:-www.newindianexpress.com

New Delhi: Contrary to the general impression, the defeat in the Bihar assembly elections has not dealt any blow to the reforms agenda of the ruling National Democratic Alliance. Rather, it has proved to be a blessing in disguise for the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to fast-track reforms – legislative and administrative.

For the realty sector, those that stand out include the move for a pan-India goods and services tax regime and legislation for a real estate regulator, both of which are expected to get the parliamentary nod in the current winter session of parliament.

Close on the heels of the Bihar defeat, the government gave a Diwali bonanza by easing foreign investment norms in 15 major sectors, including construction, and raising the approval limit for the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) from Rs.3,000 crore to Rs.5,000 crore.

It removed entry and exit barriers in the construction sector, doing away with area restriction of 20,000 sqm and capitalisation of $5 million and allowing foreign investors to exit and repatriate investment before a project is completed but with a lock-in period of three years.

The government’s sense of the real estate industry is that it should not survive on subsidies but on the strength of the market economy. That’s why it’s focusing on realty reforms aimed at strengthening fundamentals for the sustainable revival of the sector.

The delayed reforms had affected the market sentiment and the government has been receiving a lot of flak for its inability to check retail inflation and generate employment.

The government realises it is imperative to provide momentum to reforms if it has to leverage strong domestic growth in the form of healthy seven percent plus GDP growth in the coming fiscal, besides picking up manufacturing activity.

The assessment of global rating agencies like Moody’s weighs heavily on the government’s mind that delay in reforms may hit investment. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD) has also emphasised that India’s growth prospects remain relatively robust provided further progress is made on implementing structural reforms.

The government is focusing on triggering investment. By exercising tight control over unproductive expenditure, it has greatly increased capital investment by the public sector. And to further push this, the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund has been set up to leverage public investments.

The government also plans to come up with tax-free infra bonds to broaden the corporate bond market and provide long-term finance for infrastructure. It is also looking at providing tax incentives to spur investment in housing.

Then, FDI has considerably increased and private investment is picking up. The government is also working on simplifying FDI & ECB rules to speed up foreign investment.

It plans to put 98 percent sectors for foreign investment under the automatic route. And, to help the fund-starved real estate sector to tide over the current crisis, the government is working on allowing foreign investments in alternate investment funds (AIFs) and in infra and realty trusts via the automatic route.

The most crucial piece of legislation that has a big bearing on real estate is the GST Bill expected to be passed in the current parliament session, especially as the government has now adopted a collaborative and accommodating approach.

The introduction of a single GST rate across the country is aimed at dismantling the inter-state fiscal barriers to create a common market within India to boost competitiveness and make it easier to do business.

It will result in simplification and uniformity of taxes, putting an end to tax inefficiency in the form of different state-specific VAT and service tax laws. Though there are two main taxes for home buyers – VAT and service tax – multiple taxes in the form of CST, custom duty, excise duty and the like paid by developers result in price escalation by about 25-30 percent.

A likely GST rate of about 20 percent (the Congress party is demanding a cap on 18 percent) should be quite beneficial for the sector in lowering the current tax burden, in turn resulting in the reduction of home prices. Separately, the government proposes to provide tax relief to the real estate sector in the budget for 2016-17.

The decks are already cleared for crucial Real Estate Regulation & Development Bill, 2013 in the winter session as the government has accepted changes proposed by a Rajya Sabha panel. This bill will give a major boost to real estate sector, bringing in fair play and transparency in transactions to safeguard the interests of buyers and investors.

The government, which has already streamlined environment clearances for improving ease of doing business, is now fast- tracking single window clearance system for multi-storied buildings that should come through by early December 2015.

The simplified process will considerably cut delays in granting approvals, in turn resulting in cost reduction that will benefit property consumers.This will also provide much – needed relief to debt- ridden developers by way of faster projects completions and lesser interest outgo.

For its flagship programme — “Housing for All”, envisaging building 30 million houses, the government is readying a plan to provide more funds for constructing rural houses and providing subsidised power and water. Under its AMRUT programme, the Centre has allocated Rs 11654 crore for infrastructure upgrade.

The Bankruptcy Code — providing for an easier exit for businesses, safeguarding the interests of lenders and investors — together with proposed new start-up policy, will foster new enterprises and fast-track winding up of failed enterprises, with a view of strengthening ease of doing business.Further, labour reforms are aimed at removing rigidity and encouraging employment.

The government’s new-found aggression and resolve to push reform agenda have already seen the BSE Realty Index, registering the most rise in the last fortnight and further reform measures to be unveiled in the budget, will serve to speed up the revival of real estate facing the slowdown.

(Vinod Behl, IANS)