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Exchange of up to Rs 4,500 in banned Indian Currency Notes to each Nepali national: RBI

The Indian proposal has sent waves of nervousness among the Nepali public as India had earlier allowed Nepali citizens to possess up to Indian Rs 25,000 each

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Indian currency. Pixabay
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Kathmandu, March 26, 2017: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) will allow an exchange of up to Rs 4,500 in banned Indian currency notes to each Nepali national, a visiting team of the Indian central bank in Kathmandu hinted on Sunday.

The Indian proposal has sent waves of nervousness among the Nepali public as India had earlier allowed Nepali citizens to possess up to Indian Rs 25,000 each.

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An RBI team led by Dipali Pant Joshi, executive director, RBI, held talks with a Nepali team, led by Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) Deputy Governor Chintamani Siwakoti, in Kathmandu and offered to provide exchange facilities up to INR 4,500 in banned Indian currency notes and gave one week’s window to complete the exchange formalities.

However, the Nepali side has been pushing to arrange facilities up to Indian Rs 25,000 which was earlier allowed to a Nepali citizen to hold legally.

If the Indian side remains adamant over the decision, many people who possess banned Indian rupee notes would suffer badly.

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After both sides stated their respective positions, the next meeting has been scheduled for Monday, said officials at Nepal Rastra Bank, the central bank of Nepal.

Similarly, the Nepali side has conveyed to the RBI team that it is also impossible to exchange banned Indian notes within a week as the Nepali side is yet to conduct inventory of banned Indian bills possessed by Nepalis.

In response, the RBI team said it was ready to exchange Indian notes held with Nepali banking and financial institutions immediately but currency notes held by individuals should be exchanged through the banking system.

The Indian delegation arrived in Kathmandu on Saturday to hold discussions on extending exchange facilities to Nepalis who are holding banned Indian banknotes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denominations.

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This is the second time that the Indian team has visited Nepal to hold talks on allowing exchange facilities to Nepalis holding demonetised Indian bank notes.

Earlier, the Indian team had expressed fears about Nepal being used as a “clearing house” to channel illegally amassed banknotes into the Indian financial system.

The Indian government’s November 8 move to demonetise Rs 500 and 1,000 bank notes has caused inconvenience to many Nepalis, especially daily-wage earners and labourers working in India, and those visiting the neighbouring country for medical treatment, studies and purchasing goods from Indian markets in border areas.

Nepal’s central bank has been claiming that its financial system is holding Indian Rs 33.6 million at various banks and financial institutions besides NRB itself.

But the actual stock of banned Indian notes is expected to be much higher because Nepalis were previously allowed to carry Indian bank notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denominations amounting to Indian Rs 25,000.

Also, those residing in areas bordering India usually keep Indian notes of higher denominations as they have to visit Indian markets frequently to buy essential commodities. (IANS)

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How telecom has become driver of economic change in India

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The country's hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front.
The country's hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front. Wikimedia Commons
  • India has done well to stay ahead of the curve in the technological revolution
  • The sectoral change in productivity has been the highest in the telecommunications sector since the reforms of 1991
  • India has managed to provide the cheapest telephony services around the world

For the most part of human history, the change was glacial in pace. It was quite safe to assume that the world at the time of your death would look pretty much similar to the one at the time of your birth. That is no longer the case, and the pace of change seems to be growing exponentially. Futurist Ray Kurzweil put it succinctly when he wrote in 2001: “We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century – it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate).” Since the time of his writing, a lot has changed, especially with the advent of the internet.

India has done well to stay ahead of the curve in the technological revolution. The country’s hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front. In fact, according to Reserve Bank of India data, the sectoral change in productivity has been the highest in the telecommunications sector since the reforms of 1991, growing by over 10 percent. On the other hand, no other sector has had a productivity growth of above five percent during the same period. It is no wonder that it has also been one of the fastest-growing sectors of the Indian economy, growing at over seven percent in the last decade itself.

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Such an unprecedented pace of growth has been brought about the precise levels of change that Kurzweil was so enthusiastic about. Today’s smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Meanwhile, India has managed to provide the cheapest telephony services around the world, which has hit rock bottom after the entry of Reliance Jio. This has ensured access to those even at the bottom of the pyramid.

A rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country.
A rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country. Wikimedia Commons

Even though consumers have come to be accustomed to fast-paced changes within the telecom sector, the entry of Jio altered the face of the industry like never before by changing the very basis of competition. Data became the focal point of competition for an industry that derived over 75 percent of its revenue from voice. It was quite obvious that there would be immediate economic effects due to it. Now that we’re nearing a year of Jio’s paid operations, during which time it has even become profitable, we saw it fit to quantify its socio-economic impact on the country. Three broad takeaways need to be highlighted.

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First, the most evident effect has been the rise in affordability of calling and data services. Voice services have become practically costless while data prices have dropped from an average of Rs 152 per GB to lower than Rs 10 per GB. Such a drastic reduction in data prices has not only brought the internet within the reach of a larger proportion of the Indian population but has also allowed newer segments of society to use and experience it for the first time. Since the monthly saving of an average internet user came out to be Rs 142 per month (taking a conservative estimate that the consumer is still using 1 GB of data each month) and there are about 350 million mobile internet users in the country (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India data), the yearly financial savings for the entire country comes out to be Rs 60,000 crore.

To put things in perspective, this amount is more than four times the entire GDP of Bhutan. Therefore, mere savings by the consumer on data has been at astonishing proportions.

Today's smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Wikimedia Commons
Today’s smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Wikimedia Commons

Now, this data has been used for services that have brought to life a thriving app economy within the country. So, the second level of impact has been in the redressal of a variety of consumer needs — ranging from education, health and entertainment to banking. For instance, students in remote areas can now access online courseware and small businesses can access newer markets. Information asymmetry has been considerably reduced.

Third, a rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country. These effects arise not merely from the creation of an internet economy, but also due to the synergy effects it generates. Information becomes more accessible and communication a lot easier. Businesses find it easier to operate and access consumers. Labour working in cities has to make less frequent trips home and becomes more productive as a result. Education and health services become available in inaccessible locations. Multiple avenues open up for knowledge and skill enhancement.

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An econometric analysis for the Indian economy showed that the 15 percent increase in internet penetration due to Jio and the spill-over effects it creates will raise the per capita levels of the country’s GDP by 5.85 percent, provided all else remains constant.

Thus, India’s telecom sector will continue to drive the economy forward, at least in the short run, and hopefully catapult India into 20,000 years of progress within this century, as Kurzweil postulated. The best approach for the state would be to ensure the environment of unfettered competition within the industry. Maybe other sectors of the economy ought to take a leaf out of the telecom growth story. The Indian banking sector comes to mind. However, that is a topic for another day. (IANS)

(Amit Kapoor is Chair, Institute for Competitiveness, India. He can be contacted at Amit. Kapoor@competitiveness.in and tweets @kautiliya. Chirag Yadav, a senior researcher at the institute, has contributed to the article.)