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Swami India International invests $50 mn in Africa

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Accra: Swami Indian International, an Indian realty company has invested more than $50 million to construct houses in three African countries Ghana, Senegal, Gambia Tarun K Singh the company’s project manager said.

“Last year, the African Development Bank (AfDB) said Africa was growing with an urbanization rate of 3.4 percent, with cities across the continent experiencing the fastest urban growth rate globally. Unfortunately, it looks like this is not being matched by the ability to provide affordable houses,” Singh said.

“The Swami India Group has, therefore, entered a market that has real demand and is perhaps providing what governments across the continent are not able to do,” he added.

He said the company first decided to enter the accommodation market in 2004 with an investment of $500,000 in Gambia and built 169 units and a land sale project with 177 units.

“Even this is just a tip of the iceberg of how accommodation could be solved in Gambia as like other African countries, more and more continue to be without decent accommodation,” he said.

“This increasing demand has not been met by a proportionate increase in supply, resulting in widespread shortages of affordable housing units in Africa and the proliferation of informal settlements across the continent,” the AfDB had said, adding: “The related consequences and challenges are enormous not only in economic and financial terms but also in terms of human development and social dimensions.”

It is in this context that Swami India’s decision to blaze a trail in the housing market must be seen as an effort to assist governments in the countries where the company is operating and solve a deepening social problem, Tarun Singh said.

Though “the assistance from the governments has been significant,” he was quick to add that there have been challenges as the company prepares to venture in Sierra Leone and Liberia.

“We are not daunted,” he said, adding he would encourage other Indian companies to invest on the continent because “Africa has potential and it’s a good time to invest in Africa”.

Though there is a huge deficit in the sector, the poor have been hard hit because of affordability. The AfDB’s manager of the research department, Issa Faye, has identified the “poor and lower middle-income families, including those with irregular incomes in the informal sector” as remaining a key challenge to the continent’s housing finance market.

To solve the problem, he has identified Morocco’s Fonds de garantie pour populations revenus modestes et non reguliers (FOGARIM) guarantee scheme, India’s GRUH Finance and Colombia’s Fondo Nacional de Garant as successful business models which demonstrate that lending to informal sector workers may be feasible.

Tarun Singh, however, said there are some problems that must be solved immediately if investors are to be lured to enter the sector. These include the lack of skilled workers to be engaged on large-scale housing projects, high interest charged by banks and the lack of utility services such as roads, water and electricity.(IANS)(Image-static.panoramio.com)

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India Continues Engaging With USA Over H-1B Passport Issue

India is closely engaged with the US administration as well as the US Congress on this matter.

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As Trump proposes changes in H1-B visa, India continues to engage with US

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.

India n Passport
It will also “revise the definition” of employment and employer-employee relationship to “better protect” US workers and wages Flickr

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.

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President Donald Trump speaks about immigration alongside family members affected by crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, at the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex, June 22, 2018, in Washington, VOA

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.

Also Read: USA And Other Countries Pledge To Eradicate Illegal Wildlife Trade

“We have highlighted the role which has been played by the highly skilled Indian professionals who have actually contributed to the growth and development of the US economy,” he stated.

“And also they have helped the US to maintain a competitive edge in the world towards innovation and science and technology.” (IANS)