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RBI will work prudently on monetary policies, hopes Jaitley

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Hong Kong: Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Sunday conveyed hope that RBI (The Reserve Bank of India) would judiciously work on the monetary policies of the nation as the same plays a major role in defining the economic growth of a country.

Picture credit: businesstoday.in
Picture credit: businesstoday.in

“RBI historically has been a very responsible institution. Now, as somebody who wants India’s economy to grow and who wants domestic demand to grow, I will want the rates to come down,” Jaitley told media persons here.

“But then, having entrusted RBI with this responsibility, I am sure they are certainly very well informed of the developments taking place within and outside the country. RBI will appropriately act with a sense of responsibility,” he said.

The RBI’s next monetary policy review is scheduled for September 29.

Noting the government has fixed a monetary policy target, he said: “We are well within that
target at the moment and therefore, RBI will take note of that.”

“Real estate, for example, can give a big push to India’s growth and this is a sector which is impacted by high policy rates. Therefore, if the policy rates come down over the next year or so, certainly this is one sector which has a huge potential to grow,” he added.

To a question on the pending tax disputes involving Vodafone, Cairn and Shell, the finance minister also said the best way to get an early resolution is being worked out.

“The best way to get an expeditious disposal is being worked out, these are related to the companies you have mentioned. I am seized of the matter and we are very eager to reach a resolution,” he said.

“The resolution can be by way of judicial tribunals, by way of discussions within or by way of some other methods that we have used in other cases.

“You cannot have a common solution for all and therefore, each of those cases were dealt with separately. Some of them we tried to adjudicate, we had adjudications expedited. The government lost some cases and I accepted the verdict without going for appeal so that the issue gets resolved,” he said.

At an event here earlier on Sunday, he said India is currently a better investment prospect than many other countries.

“India will give better returns than many other countries,” Jaitley said at a meeting with investors and business leaders here.

He said that foreign investments can give great additional resources and the country’s infrastructure sector required major investment.

“Railways, highways and power sectors are among those that require funds and the success of projects in these areas would largely depend on bankability.

“Special focus is being given on improving ease of doing business. Investors have felt in the past that the procedures have been difficult in India,” the minister added.

Noting that stalled projects have impacted the balance sheets of private companies in India, Jaitley said the proposed national investment and infrastructure fund would be a “great enabler” to attract investment, as well as help repair the firms’ balance sheets.

The fund would be independent of the government, and would operate just as another investor, he said.

He said some states were not charging adequate tariff for electricity as a result of which the health of power distribution companies (discoms) is being affected.

“These states can not expect the PSU (public sector undertaking) banks to fund the deficit of discoms,” Jaitley said.

Jaitley, who is on a two-day visit to Hong Kong, would be addressing the investors at the Capital Markets and Institutional Investors’ Summit organized by the Asia Pacific Investors Cooperation (APIC) on Monday.

The summit will present to select Asian institutional investors the developments in India’s capital markets and investment opportunities.

Jaitley will also hold meetings with Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) and Greater China Chamber of Commerce, as well as small group meetings with financial sector investors and fund managers.

He will be meeting the chief executive of Hong Kong on Monday and also address an event organized by Indian community.

(IANS)

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U.S. Government Human Rights Report Shows ‘Amber’ Warning Light Situation in Hong Kong

"Human rights issues included substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association [and] restrictions on political participation," the report said.

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The flags of Hong Kong (left) and its communist ruler China, in file photo. RFA

A U.S. government human rights report is ‘an amber light’ for the human rights situation in Hong Kong, with some of the city’s traditional freedoms under threat, commentators told RFA.

The State Department highlighted several areas of concern in its 2018Human Rights Report published last week, in particular, “encroachment” by the ruling Chinese Communist Party in Beijing on Hong Kong’s promised autonomy.

“Human rights issues included substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association [and] restrictions on political participation,” the report said.

The report cited multiple sources as saying that Chinese operativesmonitored some political activists, nongovernmental organizations(NGOs), and academics who criticized Beijing’s policies in Hong Kong,which is supposed to be separate legal jurisdiction under the terms of the “one country, two systems” framework.

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The move came as the Hong Kong Journalists Association warned ofincreasing self-censorship among local journalists, often among mediaoutlets with business interests in mainland China. VOA

It also pointed to cross-border detentions and abductions, citing thedisappearance of businessman Xiao Jianhua and the cross-border rendition of Hong Kong bookseller Gui Minhai, who is a Swedish citizen.

“Xiao’s and other abductions show the Chinese Central Government’swillingness to act contrary to the rule of law and undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy,” the report said.

It said Hong Kong and Chinese officials had restricted, or sought to restrict, the right to express or report on political protest and dissent, particularly the notion of independence for Hong Kong.

U.S.

“But if Hong Kong’s human rights situation continues to deteriorate in the next couple of years … for example, if we see more kidnappings, then I think the U.S. is very likely to abolish Hong Kong’s status as a separate trading territory.” VOA

The trial of dozens of protesters, including key figures, after the 2014 Occupy Central pro-democracy movement on public order charges had”raised the cost of protesting government policies and led to concerns the government was using the law to suppress political dissent.”

The report also cited the jailing of two disqualified lawmakers, Sixtus Leung and Yao Wai-ching, last June for four weeks on “unlawful assembly” charges, following scuffles with Legislative Council security guards in 2016.

It said the banning of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party(HKNP) last September was one example, while the disqualification of six pro-democracy lawmakers for “improperly” taking their oaths of allegiance was another.

The U.K.’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) voiced concern at thetime over the ban, which relied on colonial-era legislation under theSocieties Ordinance that originally targeted criminal organizations, or “triads.”

“The UK does not support Hong Kong independence, but Hong Kong’s highdegree of autonomy and its rights and freedoms are central to its way of life, and it is important they are fully respected,” the statement said.

‘An amber light’

Hong Kong political commentator Sang Pu said the State Departmentreport had struck a note of warning to the international community.

“I don’t think this is a red light, but it is an amber light,” Sang told RFA, adding that a further deterioration could affect Hong Kong’s international reputation as an open port.

“But if Hong Kong’s human rights situation continues to deteriorate in the next couple of years … for example, if we see more kidnappings, then I think the U.S. is very likely to abolish Hong Kong’s status as a separate trading territory.”

Another red flag would be the enactment of sedition, subversion andnational security laws, as mandated by Article 23 of the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, Sang said.

Meanwhile, a national law passed by Beijing in September 2017“criminalizes any action mocking the Chinese national anthem and requires persons attending public events to stand at attention and sing the anthem in a solemn manner during its rendition,” the State Department report said, adding that Hong Kong will soon legislate to make the law apply in its own jurisdiction.

It also pointed to the effective expulsion from Hong Kong, the first since the handover, of Financial Times Asia news editor Victor Mallet, after he hosted at event at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club featuring HKNP founder Andy Chan as the speaker.

The move came as the Hong Kong Journalists Association warned ofincreasing self-censorship among local journalists, often among mediaoutlets with business interests in mainland China.

Pro-democracy lawmaker Alvin Yeung, who also heads Hong Kong’s CivicParty, said he shares concerns over Hong Kong’s reputation.

“Our most important competitor, Singapore, has free trade agreements with pretty much the rest of the world, and Hong Kong is lagging behind,” Yeung said.

Also Read: North Korean Authorities Ramping Up The Levels of Strictness at Weekly Self-Criticism Sessions

“Our international image is probably that Hong Kong wouldn’t be capable of such a thing,” he said. “Other countries might not be interested in pursuing free trade agreements with Hong Kong, because there are no benefits to doing so.”

But pro-Beijing lawmaker Priscilla Leung said Hong Kong remains a free society.

“We have a very high level of human rights protection,” Leung said. “I hope they aren’t going to suppress our economic freedom under the guise of human rights.” (RFA)