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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)
Kolkata: It was “rising intolerance” or a “desperate survival bid” that saw old foes Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad join hands with the Congress to trump the BJP-led alliance in the Bihar polls. Will the approaching West Bengal assembly elections see the emergence of yet another grand alliance?
Opinions vary as the political temperature in the state rises with the electoral battle just months away.
While for some, the vastly different political spectrum in Bengal may not allow the forging of a Bihar like combination, some others feel the Nitish-Lalu duo, post the Bihar victory, could play a decisive role in next year’s duel.
While the opposition – the Left Front, the Congress and the BJP – has often been unanimous in deriding the Trinamool Congress for its “misrule” and aspires to dethrone the Mamata Banerjee government in the state, it is yet to indicate any resolve to bury its differences and collectively fight against the Trinamool.
On the other hand, an advocate of forging a federal front opposed to the “communal” BJP, Chief Minister and Trinamool supremo Mamata Banerjee, has been wooing Nitish Kumar and her Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal, which some see as an attempt to forge a Bihar-like coalition.
Political analyst Anil Kumar Jana, though, opines that Bengal’s political dynamics may not present the opportunity for such an alliance.
“Had the BJP won in Bihar, things could have been different. There could have been possibilities of the Congress or even the Left coming together with the Trinamool to stop the BJP. But now, owing to the strong political compulsions of the parties, the possibility of any such alliance is very remote,” Jana told IANS.
The Vidyasagar University professor, however, felt the Congress and the CPI-M – both locked in an existential battle in the state – may come together against their common enemy, the Trinamool.
Another analyst, Udayan Banerjee, insisted that the Marxists cannot afford to align with the Congress.
“For the Left, Kerala is far more important as it has a chance of coming back to power there. Even if Bengal leaders insist, the politburo will not allow any kind of truck with the Congress as it may jeopardise its chances in Kerala,” said the associate professor of political science at the Bangabasi College here.
While there have been feelers from certain sections in both the camps on the possibility of an alliance, the top leaderships are non-committal. But both the parties unanimously ruled out the feasibility of a Bihar-like coalition.
Remaining evasive on the issue of joining hands with the Marxists, state Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury argued that the political dynamics in Bengal did not afford the major forces – Trinamool, Congress, Left or the BJP – to be unopposed to each other.
“The BJP’s communal politics had brought rivals together in Bihar. But in Bengal, irrespective of the fact that the opposition collectively has been a target of Trinamool’s terror tactics, such a coalition is not possible,” Chowdhury told IANS.
Marxist politburo member Mohammad Salim shared a similar view.
“While the decision to forge any kind of alliance rests with the politburo, I don’t think in Bengal, a Bihar-like alliance is possible.
“Mamata Banerjee may indulge in any kind of gimmicks, but political parties realise the consequences of joining hands with the Trinamool. Her wooing of Nitish Kumar or Kejriwal is only a desperate move to stay relevant in national politics,” Salim told IANS.
While his party had been part of the Congress-led UPA-I dispensation, Salim, on speculation of the CPI-M aligning with the Congress, said: “Let the speculation remain.”
But political analyst Biswanath Chakraborty felt that association with JD-U chief Nitish Kumar and RJD head Lalu Prasad is a guarantee for victory in the Bengal polls.
“Post the Bihar polls, both of them have emerged as the apostles of secularism and victors over intolerance. With nearly 30 percent Muslim population in Bengal, whoever can get them on their side will emerge victorious,” Chakraborty told IANS.
Enthused by the success of its recent agitations, including a trade union-endorsed general strike on September 2, the Marxist-led Left Front has been claiming it is gaining ground since the debacle in 2011 when the Trinamool ended its 34-year-long uninterrupted rule in the state.
Chakraborty however, opined that the 2011 scenario will unfold yet again unless the Left manages to forge a “secular democratic front” with Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad on board.
“Incidentally, it’s not the Left, rather Mamata, who is making endeavours to stitch such a front. From participating in Kejriwal’s chief ministers’ conclave to voicing support for Nitish Kumar, Banerjee has been making all the right noises,” Chakraborty, a political science professor at Rabindra Bharati University, told IANS.
“Even though her party can win on its might, by wooing the key non-BJP players, she is sending out a strong message to the minorities and at the same also attempting to deny the Congress or the Left, the opportunity to forge any kind of association with the secular parties,” Chakraborty added.
Trinamool Lok Sabha member Sultan Ahmed insisted the invitations to Kejriwal, Nitish Kumar or Lalu Prasad for the Bengal Global Business Summit in January 2016 is not aimed at any electoral move.
“Whether inviting Kejriwal or supporting Nitish Kumar, it is more about fighting to preserve the federal structure of the country, which is under attack under the Narendra Modi government,” Ahmed told IANS.
(Anurag Dey, IANS)
Patna: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s move to invite veteran BJP leader LK Advani and BJP Lok Sabha member Shatrughan Sinha to his oath-taking ceremony has raised many eyebrows.
Although the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) badly lost the assembly polls to Nitish Kumar’s Grand Alliance, Shatrughan Sinha has repeatedly publicly praised the chief minister. Advani is also said to have a soft corner for Nitish Kumar.
The oath taking ceremony is slated on November 20.
“Advani and Shatrughan Sinha have been invited to the event at Gandhi Maidan. We sent invitations to both of them,” said a Janata Dal-United leader close to Nitish Kumar.
However, no invitation has been sent to any other BJP leader, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah.
The event is expected to see a galaxy of top political leaders including Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi, chief ministers Arvind Kejriwal of Delhi, Mamata Banerjee of West Bengal, Naveen Patnaik of Odisha and Akhilesh Yadav of Uttar Pradesh.
JD-U leaders say the event — where the star attraction will be RJD chief Lalu Prasad — will mark a new beginning of opposition unity in the country.
Former prime minister HD Deve Gowda is also likely to attend the oath-taking, besides former Jharkhand chief ministers Babulal Marandi and Hemant Soren and INLD leader Abhay Chautala.
Lalu Prasad and JD-U president Sharad Yadav will be the main guests.
According to JD-U leaders, Nitish Kumar will take oath as chief minister along with a 36-member council of ministers on November 20.
The RJD emerged as the single largest party in the 243-seat house with 80 assembly seats followed by the JD-U (71) and the Congress (27 seats).
There will be 16 ministers from the RJD, 15 from the JD-U and five from the Congress in the new government.
Critics opined that the oath ceremony might be the forum where a new ‘third front’ is expected to be incubated.
(With inputs from agencies)
The Bihar results are a milestone in Indian political history, of course, but they also link up with a worldwide phenomena: the crumbling of the world order erected after the fall of the Berlin wall. A brief look at history to follow the trend.
Collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 signalled the advent of the Sole Superpower which immediately embarked on a project of full spectrum global dominance beginning with Operation Desert Storm in February 1992.
The firepower of the world’s most muscular war machine was for the first time brought live into our drawing rooms by Peter Arnett of the CNN from the terrace of Baghdad’s Al Rasheed hotel.
The Iraqi army was pummelled. For one set of global TV audience, the outcome was undiluted triumphalism. But for the Muslim world, it came across as yet another defeat, further humiliation.
The world, divided into two distinct sets of audiences, was treated to more TV fare – the two intefadas, the daily brutalization of Bosnian Muslims and the four-year-long siege of Sarajevo which agitated Turks (because of their historical links with the Balkans) to such an extent that they brought Nekmatin Arbakan’s Islamist Refah party to power. Arbakan’s disciples Abdullah Gul and Tayyip Erdogan toned down their Islamism to cope with Turkey’s Kemalist constitution.
Turkey found the electoral response to Western provocation. Anger in most of the authoritarian Muslim world created a space for militant schools with a ready faculty left over from the Afghan jehad. The world galloped towards 9/11, after which the world was enlisted in the war against Islamic terror.
The global war on terror became the strategic preoccupation for nations all under US auspices.
Let it be added as an aside that even Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was alert to the main chance. When 56 ‘kar sewaks’ were burnt to death in the Sabarmati Express at Godhra on February 26, 2002, he promptly took the case away from Collector Jayanti Ravi and handed it to the Director General, Anti Terror Squad, Vijay Vipul. Without any preliminary inquiry, the Godhra train tragedy was to be treated as an act of terror. Modi was firmly on the anti-terror bandwagon.
The second mantra handed to the post Soviet World Order was “Development”. The Soviet collapse was not sold as the victory of democracy, freedom, human rights; it was sold as the triumph of the market.
Two party systems beholden to corporates, linked to mega multinational corporations became the trend. These powerful establishments, with the media in attendance, could suppress stories of unspeakable corruption and crony capitalism only up to a point. But not for long.
The dominant reality since 2008 has been the gradual decline of the US. Systems erected in anticipation of the American Century are crumbling. This objective reality has given heart to the people hemmed in by two party systems in cahoots with corrupt sources of finance. Electoral eruptions have taken place even though it would be premature to describe the current situation as revolutionary.
Greek Left Wing party Syriza came to power but powerful countries like Germany forced it to compromise its anti-austerity, anti-capitalism platforms.
Greece is only two percent of Europe’s GDP. Spain is 14 percent. Syriza, before Greece’s compromise, did infect the voters in Spain. Spain’s communist party, Podemos, made dramatic gains in the local body elections. But a degree of demoralization afflicts Podemos as it prepares for the national elections on December 20. This because the lesson learnt from Syriza’s compromises that excessive Leftism may be unrealistic in Spain’s current economic situation.
All right, Spain’s leftism may have to be toned down but it has already shamed political corruption and crony capitalism to such an extent that it can never be business as usual after the December elections.
The trend continues in Portugal where a socialist-communist combination is in contention for power. What a far cry from Tony Blair is the new labour boss, Jeremy Corbyn, as is Canada’s Justin Trudeau from Stephen Harper.
Joko Widodo in Indonesia and Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi are not exactly Left but they come from a similar reformist anti-corruption stable, quite as effective in corroding the neo liberal structures.
Modi came to power riding the world’s most expensive campaign. He harvested the prevailing disgust at the time against Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Manmohan Singh, tied to India Inc. and the World Bank.
When Modi’s personal image was on test in Delhi, he was decimated. Big business, police, Lt Governor, the BJP, Congress and the drum beating media simply waylaid Kejriwal from day one of his innings. The affront to the idea of Modi and market economics in the form of Kejriwal must not be allowed to stand. In one respect, an old Persian saying “gunah be lazzat” (sinning without pleasure) may well apply to Modi. He has not done for all his capitalist clients everything he may have wished to do. But the tag of crony capitalism hangs from his neck.
And now Bihar has administered a knockout punch. Of course a singular lack of culture in the Hindutva brigade’s anti-Love Jihad and anti-beef campaign recoiled on the BJP. Where will Modi recover ground now in the coming state elections: West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh?
The front page of Times of India (November 13) is emblematic of the mess Modi is in.
Asked about growing intolerance, Modi told the media in London, standing beside David Cameron: “No place for intolerance” in the land of Buddha and Gandhi.
Above this three column story is a bigger headline: “Cow brigade now out to stop leather shoe sales.”
Lower down the page is another story about death threats to playwright Girish Karnad by Hindutva groups against airing his admiration for Tipu Sultan. But all of this is against the backdrop of Modi’s perceived proximity to names like Adani which tend to distance politicians from the people.
And now that Nitish Kumar is about to replace Rahul Gandhi’s mug shots as a would be counter point to Modi, he would do well to remember a simple mantra: steer clear of something which is in bad odour globally – crony capitalism.
(Saeed Naqvi, IANS)