Qatar looks to Asia for investment in its new post-blockade era

– Yousuf Mohamed Al-Jaida, the CEO of the Qatar Financial Center, a business and financial center located in Doha, told CNBC that the country has moved to attract foreign investment by making it easier to get business visas and buy real estate.
– Qatar is looking for new partners, new alliances, so we are moving on, he said.

Qatar is looking to Asia for foreign investment in a “new era” for the country, following the blockade by a number of major Arab nations in June last year.

Yousuf Mohamed Al-Jaida, the CEO of the Qatar Financial Center, a business and financial center located in Doha, told CNBC Friday that the country has moved to attract foreign investment by making it easier to get business visas and buy real estate.

“Qatar is looking for new partners, new alliances, so we are moving on,” he said.

“Our presence in Hong Kong speaks a lot. We’re going to be doing a lot of more tours in Asia, Thailand, Vietnam, within the next two months,” he added.

Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt imposed trade and travel bans on Qatar in 2017, blaming the country for supporting terrorism.

The Qatar Financial Center, which aims to foster investment in Qatar, has been explaining to foreign investors that, after the deterioration of relations between Qatar and other Arabic countries, the country has been putting forward a slew of reforms to adapt to a “new reality.”

“The appetite is good, I think we have to do a lot more of awareness as to what the blockade means. What we are trying to pitch in terms of the blockade is that this is a new era for Qatar,” Al-Jaida said.

Source: CNBC

India is world’s 40th most competitive economy: WEF

The Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) is prepared on the basis of country-level data covering 12 categories or pillars of competitiveness.

India has been ranked as the 40th most competitive economy — slipping one place from last year’s ranking — on the World Economic Forum’s global competitiveness index, which is topped by Switzerland.

On the list of 137 economies, Switzerland is followed by the US and Singapore in second and third places, respectively.

In the latest Global Competitiveness Report released today, India has slipped from the 39th position to 40th while neighbouring China is ranked at 27th.

“India stabilises this year after its big leap forward of the previous two years,” the report said, adding that the score has improved across most pillars of competitiveness. These include infrastructure (66th rank), higher education and training (75) and technological readiness (107), reflecting recent public investments in these areas, it added.

According to the report, India’s performance also improved in ICT (information and communications technologies) indicators, particularly Internet bandwidth per user, mobile phone and broadband subscriptions, and Internet access in schools.

However, the WEF said the private sector still considers corruption to be the most problematic factor for doing business in India.

“A big concern for India is the disconnect between its innovative strength (29) and its technological readiness (up 3 to 107): as long as this gap remains large, India will not be able to fully leverage its technological strengths across the wider economy,” it noted.

Among the BRICS, China and Russia (38) are placed above India.South Africa and Brazil are placed at 61st and 80th spots, respectively.

In South Asia, India has garnered the highest ranking, followed by Bhutan (85th rank), Sri Lanka (85), Nepal (88), Bangladesh (99) and Pakistan (115).

“Improving ICT infrastructure and use remain among the biggest challenges for the region: in the past decade, technological readiness stagnated the most in South Asia,” WEF said.

Other countries in the top 10 are the Netherlands (4th rank), Germany (5), Hong Kong SAR (6), Sweden (7), United Kingdom (8), Japan (9) and Finland (10).

The Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) is prepared on the basis of country-level data covering 12 categories or pillars of competitiveness.

Institutions, infrastructure, macroeconomic environment, health and primary education, higher education and training, goods market efficiency, labour market efficiency, financial market development, technological readiness, market size, business sophistication and innovation are the 12 pillars.

According to WEF’s Executive Opinion Survey 2017, corruption is the most problematic factor for doing business in India.

The second biggest bottleneck is ‘access to financing’, followed by ‘tax rates’, ‘inadequate supply of infrastructure’, ‘poor work ethics in national labour force’ and ‘inadequately educated work force’, among others.

The survey findings are mentioned in the report.

“Countries preparing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and simultaneously strengthening their political, economic and social systems will be the winners in the competitive race of the future,” WEF founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab said.

Sensex crosses 30,000 mark, Nifty ends at record 9,351.85

The bull run was driven by hopes of earnings growth and continued buying by domestic investors. Rising global optimism on French elections results and likely announcement of tax reforms by Donald Trump in the US also pushed the markets higher.

With mixed positive sentiments among investors and unabated funds inflows in both global and domestic rallies, markets created yet another milestone in the stock trading history on Wednesday. The benchmark Sensex ended with new and all-time high of 30,133.35 for the first time, while the broader Nifty scaled a new peak at 9,351.85 points.

Similarly, energised by positive global cues in line with a spectacular rally in equities, the rupee also surged by another 15 paise to close near a fresh 21-month high of 64.11, the third straight session of gains. This is the highest closing for the rupee since August 10, 2015, when it had ended at 63.87.

The market momentum also got an additional push on growing expectations for robust foreign inflows to India sparked by a renewed optimism about the US economy and waning anxiety over the European political landscape. Besides, stocks also saw frenzied buying, in line with global shares, which have been on a high after the first round victory of centrist Emmanuel Macron in French presidential elections. Investors are also keeping an eye on US President Donald Trump’s much-awaited tax reforms.

However, traders and market insiders have a different view on this unusual rally, saying that the impressive show by the ruling BJP in Delhi civic polls added to the positivity in the share market.

Keeping the upward trend of the markets, the BSE, however, cautioned the investors not to be carried away by the ‘euphoria’ and refrain from investing in penny stocks. BSE Chief Executive Ashish Chauhan appealed to investors to invest only in good companies or opt for the mutual funds’ route to invest in the markets. “As an exchange, we advice investors not to be carried by the 30,000 mark euphoria and they should not invest in penny stocks nor do they fall prey to fly-by- night operators,” Chauhan said after celebrating the milestone at the Dalal Street towards the end of the trading hours in Mumbai.

As far as Sensex is concerned, the BSE 30-share index opened on a strong footing and surged to a lifetime high of 30,167.09 points in intra-day trade, before settling at 30,133.35, up 190.11 points, or 0.63 per cent. This surpassed its previous record close of 29,974.24, reached on April 5. The gauge had hit its previous intra-day high of 30,024.74 on March 4, 2015. The Sensex has gained 768.05 points or 2.62 per cent in three days.

Similarly, the broader 50-issue NSE Nifty scaled a new high of 9,367 before finally settling 45.25 points, or 0.49 per cent higher at 9,351.85, a new record closing.

Its previous closing high of 9,306.60 was hit in Tuesday’s trade. It also broke the previous intra-day record of 9,309.20. “Market has made a higher high on account of rising global optimism due to ease in political risk in Eurozone and expectation of tax reform in the US. “Volatility emerged during the late hours due to profit booking but short covering ahead the expiry navigated the direction back to north. Optimism on earnings and continued buying by local investors is directing the recent rally in the market,” said Vinod Nair, Head of Research, Geojit Financial Services.

Overseas, Asian indices also ended higher following overnight rally in US stocks on strong earnings announcements and expectations surrounding US President Donald Trump’s impending tax reforms. Tokyo’s Nikkei ended up 1.1 per cent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 0.5 per cent, its fifth straight day of gains. Shanghai Composite Index edged up 0.2 per cent.

Key indices in Europe, however, were mixed in their morning deals, with Paris CAC 40 rising 0.1 per cent, London’s FTSE slipping 0.06 per cent and Frankfurt’s DAX 30 declining 0.03 per cent. Back home, of the 30-share Sensex pack, 18 scrips ended higher while 12 closed lower.

Major gainers were ITC 3.36 per cent, M&M 3.29 per cent, HDFC 2.36 per cent, HUL 1.78 per cent, ICICI Bank 1.61 per cent, Tata Motors 1.17 per cent, Bharti Airtel 1.14 per cent, Maruti 0.88 per cent, HDFC Bank 0.73 per cent and Asian Paints 0.73 per cent.

The total turnover on BSE amounted to Rs 5,021.73 crore, higher than Rs 4,006.89 crore registered during the previous trading session.


India ranks 130th in ease of doing business index

India continues to rank low at 130th position in terms of ease of doing business, with the country seeing little or no improvement in dealing with construction permits, getting credit and other parameters.

In the World Bank’s latest ‘Doing Business’ report, India’s place remained unchanged from last year’s original ranking of 130 among the 190 economies that were assessed on various parameters. However, the last year’s ranking has been now revised to 131 from which the country has improved its place by one spot.

The government has been making efforts to further improve the ease of doing business and aims to bring the country in the top 50.

Expressing disappointment over no change in India’s ranking in the World Bank’s index on ease of doing business, Indian government regretted that the report did not take into consideration 12 key reforms undertaken by the government.

When it comes to ‘distance to frontier’ — a measurement of the gap between an economy’s performance and the best practice score of 100 — India’s score has improved to 55.27 this year from 53.93 last year.

India is the only country for which the report has a box dedicated to its ongoing economic reforms.

The list of countries in the Doing Business 2017 is topped by New Zealand while Singapore is ranked second. It is followed by Denmark, Hong Kong, South Korea, Norway, the UK, the US, Sweden and former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Neighbouring Pakistan is ranked 144th in the list.

On the basis of reforms undertaken, the top 10 improvers are Brunei Darussalam, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Belarus, Indonesia, Serbia, Georgia, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

A record 137 economies around the world have adopted key reforms that make it easier to start and operate small and medium-sized businesses, the report said.

Developing countries carried out more than 75 per cent of the 283 reforms in the past year, with Sub-Saharan Africa accounting for over one-quarter of all reforms, it added.

“What we have seen is a remarkable effort on the part of the government to implement business reforms. It looks like we are going to have to wait for another year or so. But the direction of change is fundamentally a very significant one,” Global Indicators Group Director Augusto Lopez-Claros told PTI in an interview.

The rankings are based on ten parameters — starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting minority investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts and resolving insolvency.

India has improved its ranking with respect to various areas. In terms of getting electricity, the country’s position has jumped to 26th spot from 51st place last year.

When it comes to trading across borders, the ranking has moved up one place to 143, and in enforcing contracts the rise is of six spots to 172nd position.

However, with respect to starting a business, the ranking has slipped four places to 155th spot and in the case of dealing with construction permits by one rank to 185th.

As per the report, India’s ranking in terms of protecting minority investors dropped to 13th place from 10th position last year.

With regard to getting credit, the ranking has fallen by two places to 44.

Explaining as to why India’s reform efforts is not being reflected in the ease of doing business report, Lopez-Claros said it very often takes some time for the reforms implemented by governments about the regulatory environment to be felt on the ground by the business community.

Rita Ramalho, Manager of the Doing Business project said that there were in fact improvements this year.

“There are four areas of improvement this year in India getting electricity, trading across border, enforcing contracts and paying taxes,” Ramalho told PTI.

India’s ranking is based on the study of the system in the two cities of Mumbai and New Delhi.

“The reason why there is no real movement in the ranking is more to do with the fact that other countries are also moving. In absolute terms India, does improve significantly.

There aren’t many countries that improved more than India in terms of absolute number,” Ramalho said.

The ‘Doing Business’ project provides objective measures of business regulations for local firms in economies and selected cities at the sub-national level.

The World Bank is emphasising that countries pay attention to what it calls “distance to frontier” which is an absolute metric, Lopez-Claros said.

“There has been actually substantial increase in the last 12 months in India by couple of percentage points, which is quite large,” he noted.


Temasek scouts for more investments in India

Temasek Holdings, Singapore government’s investment company, will continue to scout for investments across consumption-oriented segments in India this year, even as it’s open to opportunities from other sectors.

In the previous year, the company’s bigger investments were in consumption-oriented segments such as healthcare and pharmaceuticals, financial services (including insurance), technology (e-commerce or payment) and consumer (FMCG companies).

The investments were made across public and private companies.

“That trend is likely to continue, and that’s where we see most of the India story playing out, unless there are certain opportunities that come up from other sectors.

“We are always open to opportunities from other sectors too,” said R Venkatesh, Managing Director, Temasek Holdings Advisors India Pvt Ltd.

For the sector-agnostic investment firm, there is no preferred exit mode, and previously the company has exited through various modes such as strategic stake, secondary sales and IPOs.

On an average, the company has invested more than $1 billion every year in India across sectors such as consumer, financial services, new economy, healthcare and pharmaceuticals.

“We don’t have an industry allocation, a country allocation or any type of deal allocation. It’s entirely based on the deals that make the cart. Our investments are very much bottoms up, and depends on opportunities,” said Promeet Ghosh, also a Managing Director at Temasek Holdings Advisors.

Temasek, which started its Indian operations in 2004, has investments in companies such as Bajaj Corp, Crompton Greaves, Oberoi Realty, GMR Energy, Axis Bank, Glenmark Pharma and Sun Pharma.

India is one of the markets across the world the company is focusing on due to good macros, great demographics and a rising middle-income population, Ghosh added.

Dip in net portfolio value

Last week, Temasek posted a net portfolio value of S$242 billion for year ended March, lower from S$266 billion posted during the previous year.

This was the Singapore investment company’s first portfolio decline since the 2009 global financial crisis.

India’s exposure to that was about 5 per cent, which was a rise from 4 per cent last year.

“This is reflective of a mark-to-market fall in some of our listed portfolio companies across the world. About 60 per cent of our portfolio is listed and about two-thirds of these are exposed to markets in Hong Kong and Singapore stock exchanges, which have fallen between 15-26 per cent,” Venkatesh said.


Financial inequality highest in India, China: International Monetary Fund

According to IMF, China and India have grown rapidly and reduced poverty sharply, however, this impressive economic performance has been accompanied by increasing levels of inequality.

Financial inequality is highest in India and China among Asia Pacific countries despite the two being among the fastest growing economies, IMF has said.

According to the International Monetary Fund, China and India have grown rapidly and reduced poverty sharply, however, this impressive economic performance has been accompanied by increasing levels of inequality.

“In the past, rapid growth in Asia came with equitable distribution of the gains. But more recently, while the fast-growing Asian economies have lifted millions out of poverty they have been unable to replicate the ‘growth with equity’ miracle,” the Fund said.

As per the report, China managed to increase middle class in urban areas, as did Thailand, while India and Indonesia struggled to lift sizeable portions of their populations toward higher income levels.

“In India, differences between rural and urban areas have increased, and have been accompanied by rising intra-urban inequality,” it said.

Many factors have been identified as key drivers of the inequality between rural and urban areas in China and India.

In China, rapid industrialisation in particular regions and the concentration of foreign direct investment in coastal areas have led to substantial inequalities between coastal and interior regions. Other factors also include low educational attainment and low returns to education in rural areas.

On India, the report said inter provincial inequality is lower in India than in China, and rising inequality in India has been found to be primarily an urban phenomenon.

Moreover, the rural-urban income gap has increased, and higher rural inflation has been found to be a key driver of this. Educational attainment has also been identified as an important factor explaining rising inequality in India over the past two decades, the Fund said.

The two countries have introduced a number of policies to tackle the rising inequality.

China introduced the Minimum Livelihood Guarantee Scheme (Dibao) for social protection in the 1990s. Moreover, various social programs are aiming to expand social safety nets and provide support for the development of rural areas and western regions.

In India, the government introduced the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act to support rural livelihoods by providing at least 100 days of employment. Programs to improve education include the National Education Scheme and Midday Meal Scheme.

The Fund lauded the JAM (Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile) initiative and said that “the JAM trinity initiative helped India in making substantial advances in financial inclusion. More recently, programs aiming for universal bank account coverage were launched”.



IMF Sees Rising Debt Challenge as Asia Stays Global Outperformer

The International Monetary Fund said rising debt levels in major Asian economies have become a significant risk, even as the region remains on track to post solid economic growth.

Asia-Pacific economies as a group will decelerate only slightly, to 5.3 percent this year and next, from 5.4 percent in 2015, the Washington-based fund said in an annual regional report published Tuesday. The IMF last month trimmed its global forecasts, and said the world was more exposed to negative shocks thanks to a prolonged weaker pace of expansion.

In Asia, domestic demand, particularly consumption, should be a key driver, but worsening global conditions and high leverage in the region may curb growth, the fund said.

“Downside risks continue to dominate the economic landscape,” the IMF said. “In particular, the turning of the credit and financial cycles amid high debt poses a significant risk to growth in Asia, especially because debt levels have increased markedly over the past decade across most of the major economies in the region, including China and Japan.”

Downward Spiral

The IMF’s singling out of debt as a growing worry is in line with recent statements. The institution warned in a report last month against what it called a self-reinforcing “spiral” of weakening growth and rising debt that could require a coordinated response by the world’s major economies.

In Asia, the IMF said Tuesday, debt levels are high, while credit growth and corporate issuance have remained strong as companies try to take advantage of still-favorable global liquidity conditions.

The ratio of corporate debt to gross domestic product has risen faster in Asia than anywhere else in the world since 2009, the IMF added, and the measure is particularly elevated in China and South Korea. Household debt is a growing worry in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, the IMF said.

“Although part of the credit growth reflects financial deepening, some growth has been above that implied by fundamentals,” the IMF said. Financial deepening refers to the spreading availability and use of banking.

Reform Refrain

As in previous reports, the IMF called on policy makers to push ahead with structural reforms to raise productivity, including measures to boost consumption in China. The fund also flagged the risk of an over-reliance on monetary or credit policies to hold up demand, particularly if job losses in manufacturing exceed the gains in services.

On Japan, the only developed economy where it anticipates economic contraction next year, the IMF recommended moves to reduce the difference between life-time and non-regular labor contracts to allow for higher wage increases. It also suggested deregulation and a drive to increase female labor market participation.

The IMF said that recent economic policies in Japan — so-called “Abenomics” — have been “supportive,” but added that “durable gains in growth” are yet to be seen.

The fund also warned against an excess reliance on monetary stimulus. The remark comes less than a week after a surprising Bank of Japan decision to hold off on stepping up its monetary expansion jolted markets and led to a surge of the yen against the U.S. dollar.