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.

India growing pretty robustly: World Bank President Jim Kim

Jim Kim said Japan, Europe and the US along with India were growing and there was a levelling-out in developing countries.

India has been growing “pretty robustly”, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim has said as he predicted a strong global growth this year.

Speaking at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum meeting here on Wednesday, Kim also called for more cooperation among the multilateral system, private sector and the governments to take advantage of the current win-win situation.

“That dormant capital will earn a higher return, where developing countries will have access to much more capital for the infrastructure needs, even for investing in health and education, investing in resilience to climate change and other factors,” Kim said.

He said Japan, Europe and the US along with India were growing and there was a levelling-out in developing countries.

“A country like India is growing, has been growing pretty robustly. We think, Japan is growing. Europe is growing in a much more healthy way. The United States continues to grow. There is a levelling-out in developing countries,” he said, adding that the growth will be more robust this year.

In June, the World Bank predicted a 7.2 per cent growth rate for India this year against 6.8 per cent growth in 2016. India remains the fastest growing major economy in the world, the World Bank officials had said.

“It used to be that commodity importers were doing much better than commodity exporters. But that’s levelling out. So the growth is relatively more evenly distributed,” Kim said.

He said in terms of indebtedness, the bank was watching very carefully the debt-to-GDP ratios of every single country.

“In Africa, the debt-to-GDP ratios are still very manageable…We would not be moving toward providing more financing for countries if we thought there was a real problem with over indebtedness in the countries. Because we follow this very closely, along with the IMF,” he said.

“We think that there are tremendous opportunities for investment. But sometimes, purely based on perception, investors in sovereign wealth funds – I’ve heard them say, Africa is risky. Right, as if Africa was a single country.

Africa’s not a single country and the risk profiles from country to country have enormous differences,” he said.

Source: Economic Times


Narendra Modi government identifies 5 ports to boost cruise tourism

Union minister for shipping Nitin Gadkari on Tuesday announced that the government has identified five major ports — Mumbai, Mormugao, Mangalore, Chennai and Cochin — to boost cruise tourism in India.

While the number of Indians who took a cruise in 2016-17 was 2 lakh, the number could go up to 40 lakh, according to a report prepared by consultants Bermelo & Ajamil jointly with Ernst & Young. Of this, 80% or 32 lakh passengers are expected to take cruises from the Mumbai port alone.

However, Gadkari added that the cruise tourism industry is facing challenges on many issues and that he would make a representation to the finance ministry to waive the goods and services tax (GST), levied at 5% currently on all cruise ships, as well as establish a zero income tax regime.

While the largest cruise line operator, Carnival PLC, is looking to increase the number of cruise liners in India, David Dingle, the company’s chairman told FE that the country must create a domestic cruising tax regime competitive with tax regimes elsewhere in the world.

“In principle, the cruise industry will not come to a part of the world where it has to pay GST on the ticket price and on the sales made on board. We will not bring our ships here in any significant numbers all the while that cruising attracts any GST,” he said. Moreover, Dingle added that international cruise companies have to have the right to repatriate their profits through double tax treaties.

Carnival PLC sold 181,000 cruises in India in 2016, registering a compounded annual growth rate of 31%.

Current estimates are that over 120,000 Indians book a cruise each year with over 90% of them travelling to Singapore to board a cruise liner. To cater to this growing market, the Indian government wants to increase the number of cruise liners that come to India, eliminating the need for cruise seekers to fly abroad to board a ship.

The Indian coastline saw 150 cruise ship visits in 2016 and the government is aiming to increase this to about 955 in the next few years.


GST impact: Dismantling of check posts save 24-36 hours of trucking time

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is saving fleet owners between 24-36 trucking hours, besides around Rs 7,500 per trip at the tax check posts which have since been dismantled.

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is saving fleet owners between 24-36 trucking hours, besides around Rs 7,500 per trip at the tax check posts which have since been dismantled, an industry association said on Monday.

“Our quick check has shown that on an average a lorry or truck runs for 10-12 hours a day and should cover a distance of about 2,200 km between, say, Delhi-Chennai in three days.” “However, traversing through different states and braving the stoppages at several check posts of VAT, Octroi, other local taxes it was taking five to six days,” Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) said here in a statement. At least 24-36 hours would easily be saved for these trunk routes after dismantling of the check posts, it said after interacting with the fleet owners and transport intermediaries.

“Besides, the bigger nuisance of corruption at each of the check posts and through various states would have meant an additional expenditure of Rs 5,000-7,500 per trip. That has also been done away with.” “For now, it has come as a big relief for the transporters who say, the ultimate advantage is accruing to the customers and to the trade and manufacturing value supply chain,” Assocham said.

The interaction with the fleet owners revealed that before start of a trip, the crew, comprising driver(s) and helpers was given “out of pocket” or “petty cash” of at least Rs 10,000 for the trunk routes of Delhi-Mumbai, Delhi-Kolkata, Mumbai-Jaipur, Ahmedabad-Delhi, Bengaluru- Delhi routes and so on. On completion of the trip, the driver would give his account that would include the expenses at each of the forced halt points.

Assocham hoped that further improvement would be done in this direction in terms of improving other infrastructure. “For instance, the ‘no entry’ traffic restrictions can be done away if high class dedicated bye-passes are constructed around the major cities so that the truckers can ply seamlessly,” Assocham Secretary General D.S. Rawat said.

Improvement in freight movement through road and rail would not only result in a huge cost saving for the trade and industry but would also take India quite high on the global index of Ease of Doing Business, the chamber said.


India Inc’s March M&A deal tally jumps 4-fold to $28 billion

India Inc’s M&A deal tally in March rose four-fold to $27.82 billion, led by the Vodafone-Idea merger, taking the overall figure to $31.54 billion in the first quarter of 2017, says a report.

Overall deal activity in the January-March quarter witnessed an unprecedented three-fold year-on-year rise in value terms, driven solely by the Vodafone-Idea mega merger, which accounted for 80 per cent of the total values.

“The Indian deal activity was dominated by big-ticket mergers and acquisitions (M&As) this quarter. The quarter witnessed one of the largest deals in the country with Vodafone and Idea’s merger, which is estimated at around $27 billion,” Grant Thornton India LLP Partner Prashant Mehra said.

The January-March quarter recorded $33.7 billion across 300 deals marking a sharp increase in value as compared to $10.9 billion in the same period last year while volumes declined by 27 per cent.Without the Vodafone-Idea mega merger, estimated to be a $27 billion transaction, the deal activity would have recorded 39 per cent decline in values, assurance, tax and advisory firm Grant Thornton said.

M&A market activity has so far been driven solely by the big-ticket deals, while on the other hand number of transactions continued to slip for the third straight quarter.

“Primary driver for M&A growth was consolidation in the domestic market with deal values growing by 10 times on the back of healthy capital markets and easing credit conditions. This enabled companies strike big ticket deals either to slash debt or consolidate market share,” Mehra said.

Meanwhile, the cross-border deal activity is yet to pick up pace in 2017 as compared to previous quarters due to looming uncertainties in the global economy.

Going forward M&A activity this year is expected to stay positive owing to the sustained interest in Indian economy.

Mehra believes consolidation and expansion is set to be the major theme that will drive the deal activity, especially in healthcare, telecom, e-commerce and infrastructure sectors.”In financial services sector, the possibility of new business models emerging post demonetisation, continued fund raising by NBFCs and a consolidation push by micro finance firms will play a big role,” he added.


UAE firm launches world’s 1st offsite manufacturing park in TN

The world’s largest and first fully integrated industrial park has been opened in Tamil Nadu by a NRI-owned multinational group based in the UAE that specialises in innovative offsite manufacturing technology.

KEF Infra, the infrastructure subsidiary of KEF Holdings yesterday launched the KEF Infra One Industrial Park, the fully integrated offsite manufacturing park in Krishnagiri, Tamil Nadu.

The park is built on an area of one million square feet and developed at an investment of Rs 650 crore, the company said in a release.

The chief guest for the occasion was Narayana Murthy, Founder of Infosys and Faizal E Kottikollon, Founder and Chairman, KEF Holdings, Shabana Faizal, Vice Chairperson, KEF Holdings, Sumesh Sachar, CEO, KEF Infra among others were also present.

The park features a diverse range of cutting-edge technology that can revolutionise manufacturing and delivery processes in the construction industry.

“Today, India is at the cusp of growth led by innovation and we are pioneering an age where technology is being effectively integrated into infrastructure, thus heralding industrial revolution 4.0. Our aim is to fast forward this progress by radically changing the landscape of infrastructure in India.

“Offsite manufacturing of infrastructure reduces delivery time by up to two-thirds, thereby speeding up the construction process. The launch of KEF Infra One is a step towards our vision of pushing forth the next phase of India’s growth through world class infrastructure and we are proud to present this to the world,” Kottikollon said who was born into an industrialist family in Kerala.

Narayana Murthy said India has always been on the path of development, and with the arrival of technology, has witnessed exponential growth.

“However, every sector that contributes to India’s progress is supported by infrastructure that is future-ready. This is where KEF Infra is a true pioneer and is helping shape the future of the infrastructure industry as well as that of the country as a whole,” he said.


Second instalment of FDI reforms cleared

The Union Cabinet today approved the second instalment FDI of reforms, which the Centre has announced in June covering diverse sectors including Defence, food-processing, single brand retail and broadcasting.

The ex-post-facto approval for the reforms in the Foreign Direct Investment regime was given by the Cabinet in its meeting on Wednesday.

Under the amended rules, 100 per cent FDI with government approval is permitted for trading, including through e-commerce, in respect of food products manufactured and/or produced in India.

In Defence, foreign investment beyond 49 per cent is permitted through the approval route wherever it is likely to result in access to modern technology or for other reasons to be recorded. The state-of-the-art technology condition has been dropped.

In the broadcasting sector, the amendments allow 100 per cent FDI via the automatic route, up from 49 per cent.

To encourage investments in pharmaceuticals, the amendments allow 74 per cent FDI under the automatic route in the brownfield (existing projects) segment. Earlier, all FDI in brownfield projects had to come in through the government approval route.

Similarly, in the civil aviation sector, 100 per cent FDI under the automatic route has been allowed in brownfield projects as against 49 per cent earlier.

Local sourcing norms have been relaxed up to three years, with government approval for entities undertaking single brand retail trading of products having state-of-the-art and cutting edge technology. Thereafter, sourcing norms would be applicable.