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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)

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With 100% FDI, Narendra Modi calls Food Sector a Priority in Make in India Programme

Modi said India with its rich legacy of spices could provide solutions and offer a win-win partnership as the world was becoming increasingly averse to the use of artificial colours, chemicals and preservatives.

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Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Wikimedia

New Delhi, November 3, 2017 : Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said the food sector that allows 100 per cent foreign investment was the priority in the government’s ambitious Make In India programme.

Launching a three-day global conference on the food industry here, Modi said food processing was an age old practice in India and simple, home-based techniques like fermentation had resulted in the creation of our famous pickles, papads, chutneys and murabbas that now excite both the elite and the masses across the world.

He said the government had taken a range of transformational initiatives to make the country most preferred investment destination in this sector.

It is priority sector in our ‘Make in India’ programme. 100 per cent Foreign Direct Investment is now permitted for trading including through e-commerce of food products manufactured or produced in India, Modi told the World Food India conference that will see the participation of over 2,000 delegates from 200 companies from some 30 countries.

Apart from representatives of 28 states, it will also see participation of 18 ministerial and business delegations, nearly 50 global CEOs along with heads of all leading domestic food processing companies.

Modi said a single-window facilitation cell provided hand-holding for foreign investors and there were attractive fiscal incentives from the Union and state governments.

Loans to food and agro-based processing units and cold chains are classified under priority sector lending, making them easier and cheaper to obtain, the Prime Minister said.

Modi said the recently launched unique portal – Nivesh Bandhu (investor’s friend) – would bring together information on central and state government policies and incentives provided for the food processing sector.

He said private sector participation had increased in many segments of the value chain but sought more investment in contract farming, raw material sourcing and creating agri linkages.

There were opportunities in post-harvest management such as primary processing and storage, preservation infrastructure, cold chain and refrigerated transportation, the Prime Minister asserted.

There is immense potential for food processing and value addition, especially in niche areas such as organic and fortified foods.

Modi said India with its rich legacy of spices could provide solutions and offer a win-win partnership as the world was becoming increasingly averse to the use of artificial colours, chemicals and preservatives.

Modi said the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Sampada Yojana aimed at creating world class food processing infrastructure was expected to leverage investment of $5 billion, benefit two million farmers and generate more than half a million jobs over the next three years.

Narendra Modi said the government was planning to link agro-processing clusters with production centres through Mega Food Parks, which will offer immense value proposition in crops such as potato, pineapple, oranges and apples.

Minister of Food Processing Industries Harsimrat Kaur Badal in her address said agreements worth $10 billion were expected to be signed during the three-day global event.

Our demand of food is set to double over the next five years. Being six largest food and grocery market in the world, India is a destination that merits global attention in the food sector.

She said there was a need to wage war on food waste to ensure adequate food for all and to avoid a food crisis as the world’s population was set to increase by 25 per cent and the demand for food by 50 per cent by 2050. (IANS)

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Government approves FDI proposals worth Rs 24.56 cr

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FDI
Government approves FDI proposals worth Rs 24.56 cr

The government on Thursday said that it has approved foreign direct investment (FDI) proposals worth Rs 24.56 crore, including one from Sterling Commerce Solutions India.

“During the month of October, the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA), Ministry of Finance has disposed off three FDI proposals aggregating to foreign investment of Rs 24.56 crore,” an official statement said.

 The proposal of Sterling Commerce Solutions India, worth Rs 24.56 crore of FDI, has been approved that seeks to issue shares to the shareholders of three wholly owned subsidiaries of IBM India upon their merger with the company.

Another proposal from Arval India, which does not require any additional FDI, has been approved to undertake the activity of financial lease in addition to the current activity of operating lease, the statement said.

The ministry said that a proposal from Ivanhoe India Equities Inc to provide investment advisory services to overseas entities by a yet to be incorporated Indian investee company has been returned as it was premature.(IANS)

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Modi pens foreword for Hema Malini’s biography

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Hema Malini

New Delhi, Oct 13 : Prime Minister Narendra Modi has penned a “short, crisp and sweet” foreword for “Beyond The Dreamgirl”, an authorised biography of actress and BJP MP Hema Malini.

The book, by former editor of Stardust and producer Ram Kamal Mukherjee, will be launched on October 16, when the “evergreen beauty” turns 69. Its launch also marks the celebration of Hema Malini’s glorious run of 50 years in Indian showbiz.

“Our PM has written very briefly in the book about his feelings for Hemaji. It’s short, crisp and sweet, not rubble and bubble. It’s an honour for me as an author and for Hemaji also that it is perhaps the first time that an active Prime Minister has written a foreword for a book on a Bollywood actor,” Mukherjee told IANS over the phone from Mumbai.

Having started her film career in 1968 with Raj Kapoor-starrer “Sapno Ka Saudagar”, she regaled movie buffs with roles in films like “Seeta Aur Geeta”, “Sholay”, “Dream Girl” and “Satte Pe Satta”. An accomplished classical dancer, Hema Malini earned the epithet of ‘Dreamgirl’ for her flawless beauty, and became a pioneering female superstar in an otherwise male-oriented film industry.

In 1999, Hema Malini campaigned for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate in the Lok Sabha elections in Gurdaspur, Punjab. She is now a BJP MP from Mathura constituency.

“I guess it’s all because of Hemaji’s credentials and contribution to art and cinema that Mr Modi agreed to pen the foreword. When I was interacting with his office, they were very happy that Hemaji did not just limit her talk in the book to Bollywood,” said Mukherjee, who had in 2005 released a coffee table book called “Hema Malini Diva Unveiled”.

“Beyond The Dreamgirl”, published by HarperCollins India, will give readers an in-depth look into her life.

“It is divided into 23 chapters, covering her childhood, teens, Bollywood, rise as an actor, romance, colleagues, marriage, her second innings, launching Shah Rukh Khan in ‘Dil Aashna Hai’ — which she directed — her ballet, her political journey and spiritual journey. There are two chapters dedicated to her daughters Esha and Ahana.

“She has also spoken about her Agra accident and her singing career. We have summed it all up with a chapter called ‘Bliss’. This book will also have Hemaji’s family tree, which has not been published earlier, and there will be a lot of exclusive unseen photographs from her personal, professional and political spheres,” Mukherjee said.

The ageless talent has shared an insight into her life with Dharmendra as well as spoken on political figures like Modi, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L.K. Advani and Sushma Swaraj.

How did Mukherjee get Modi to pen the foreword?

“It was not something thought of when I started writing the book two years ago. I started my research and wanted somebody else to do the foreword,” he said, without naming the film industry person whom he had approached.

“It was almost like a miracle to have Mr Modi write for us. When I discussed it with Hemaji, her first expression was, ‘I hope you know what you’re saying. I know you’re under pressure, but I think you’re losing your mind’.

“When I said there’s no harm in trying, she said, ‘You try and do whatever you want to do’. Then it was a process.”

The writer feels it’s the actress’ constant effort in promoting Indian classical music and dance through her ballets on Hindu mythological characters like Durga and Meera, which Modi appreciates.

“I think Mr Modi liked her inclination towards classical dance and music and how she promotes it at international platforms. I think this is a USP of Hema Maliniji, apart from she being Hema Malini. And I guess that’s also what justifies the title of the book.”(IANS)