India is continuing to engage with the US over the H-1B visa, largely availed of by Indian IT companies, after the Trump administration proposed changes to the programme, a senior official said on Thursday.
“It is a very important topic for us and that is the reason why we have time and again at various levels, we have taken up this matter with the US side,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in response to queries by journalists here.
Kumar said that most recently, the issue was raised during the first ever India-US 2+2 Ministerial Meeting held here last month that was attended by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Jim Mattis.
On Wednesday, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said that the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) plans to come out with its new proposal by January 2019.
The DHS said it was also proposing to remove from its regulations certain H-4 spouses of H-1B non-immigrants as a class of aliens eligible for employment authorisation.
The move to end the rule could have an impact on more than 70,000 H-4 visa holders, who have work permits.
The H-4 visas are issued by the USCIS to immediate family members (spouse and children under 21 years of age) of the holders of H-1B visa.
The DHS said it will propose to revise the definition of speciality occupation to increase focus on obtaining the best and the brightest foreign nationals via the H-1B programme.
It will also “revise the definition” of employment and employer-employee relationship to “better protect” US workers and wages, the DHS said.
In his remarks on Thursday, Kumar said that India is closely engaged with the US administration as well as the US Congress on this matter.
Stating that there are certain bills which have been introduced, he, however, said that “it is important to note that none of these bills have been passed so far”.
“When we have engaged with the US, we have emphasised that our partnership which we have in the digital sphere have been mutually beneficial,” the spokesperson said.
As India grapples with credit issues, one of the primary factors that needs analysis is the broken transmission mechanism that relays credit quality to market participants. In common parlance, the transmission mechanism that provides information regarding the credit quality of the borrower to the lenders is unable to do so efficiently. Recent news whereby credit downgrades have just preceded defaults by Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs) is a case in point.
While the framework utilised by the rating agencies that has led to a delay in ratings relaying the correct credit information to market participants is partially to blame for the inefficacious credit transmission mechanism, issues around rating agencies are only part of the problem. For sure, rating agency regulations must be improved, but we must also realise that “credit market frameworks” are much more than ratings.
We must realise that credit ratings have limitations in terms of predicting credit cycle ups and downs. This phenomenon isn’t limited to just India but is a global feature. The inability of the credit rating mechanism to adequately price in and predict the credit cycle implies that a multi-pronged approach is needed to ensure that the credit quality transmission mechanism works effectively. Essentially, India needs to develop other features of the credit market that will assist market participants in gauging credit quality, thereby reducing the risk of a “jump-to-default” scenario we have witnessed repeatedly over the last 12 months.
Indian policymakers need to start working on a framework that will allow a liquid and deep secondary market to develop in credit products. Credit products here refers to the entire universe of lending, including bonds, loans and other instruments. Market pricing of products and risk and therefore increased participation by investors will help in “price discovery” of the credit quality. Constant pricing of credit risk and the concomitant information and structure that entails will imply that lenders will have a better information set with which to make informed credit decisions.
A market that allows for secondary liquidity, albeit even small amounts to start with, will also incentivise borrowers to manage their credit profile better. More importantly, a secondary market for credit instruments will go a long way towards avoiding the bunching of credit as it happens in today’s market. A credit market has a cycle, and without the existence of a robust secondary market, in expansionary credit cycles, poor quality credit gets excessive access to capital. On the contrary, once the credit cycle contracts credit access for all businesses is diminished to a great extent.
We must work towards breaking the above trend that has plagued the Indian economy significantly. A secondary market for credit instruments will incentivise both lenders and borrowers to behave in a way such that the entire available pool of credit goes towards the most optimal usage.
Policymakers also need to start utilising vehicles similar to Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) or Infrastructure Investment Trusts (InvITs) to allow for the pooling of credit instruments. While debt mutual funds exist in the market, the aim of the new “credit pooling vehicles” will be to enable institutional investors to access credit instruments across the spectrum, and not just limited to certain corporate bonds. Access to vehicles that allow for greater liquidity and transparency will go a long way in increasing the capital availability and investor participation in Indian credit markets.
As India looks to boost economic growth, it is essential to realise the credit interlinkages in the economy. To boost exports, a primary aim in India, credit access will be a vital component, if not the most important. If credit is constrained by inefficiencies in the credit information transmission mechanism and therefore leads to inefficient lending in the real estate sector, then it is essential to realise that not only is the real estate sector severely affected but so are other areas such as exports. Primarily, an improved credit framework will lead to both higher availability of capital and credit availability at more affordable rates.
Credit markets, like all businesses, will move in cycles. Indian policymakers must aim to start building on the blocks that will allow credit downturns to be less severe and shorter. The ability to provide the market access to better information and investment structures will go a long way in improving credit pricing, and thereby credit access. (IANS)