India jumps 30 places on World Bank’s ease of doing business index, breaks into top 100

The World Bank’s ease of doing business report showed that eight reforms were key in helping businesses in 2016/17. India is also among the 10 economies to have improved the most, alongside El Salvador, Malawi, Nigeria and Thailand.

Doing business in India became much easier over the past one year because of a raft of policy reforms, an annual World Bank index showed on Tuesday, in what is possibly a shot in the arm for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts to win big-ticket investments.

For the first time, India jumped 30 places to break into the top 100 in the ease of doing business rankings for the year to June 2017. The 190-country index is an influential barometer of competitiveness among countries that likely also helps businesses make investment decisions.

India’s impressive performance was largely due to reforms in taxation, insolvency laws and access to credit, part of measures Prime Minister Modi’s government has pushed to boost investment and jobs that would help absorb a million people who join the workforce every month.

“India’s performance is not based on efforts of just one year but consistent efforts made over the last three years to continuously improve the regulatory environment of doing business,” Annette Dixon, vice president South Asia, told a press conference.

“It is the result of a number of reforms that the government has undertaken that India is becoming a preferred destination to do business.”

India saw improvements in six of 10 indicators, including on winning construction permits, enforcing contracts, paying taxes and resolving insolvency. It, however, slipped when it came to starting a business, getting an electricity connection, cross-border trade and registering property.

Underlining how reforms had helped India improve its overall ranking, the World Bank said the establishment of debt recovery tribunals reduced non-performing loans by 28% and lowered interest rates on larger loans, suggesting that faster processing of debt recovery cases cut the cost of credit.

India was also among the 10 economies to have improved the most, alongside El Salvador, Malawi, Nigeria and Thailand.

Hindustan Times

Nuclear deal between India and Japan opens up new vistas of cooperation

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is visiting India nearly two months after operationalisation of the historic Indo-Japan civil nuclear deal, which has added a new dimension to bilateral ties that could scarcely be imagined in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima tragedy.

The journey traversed by the two nations over the past six years reflects growing confidence in each other and depth of the strategic partnership.

Japan and India signed a memorandum of understanding for civil nuclear cooperation in December 2015, when Abe was in Delhi for the annual bilateral summit, overcoming reservations over India’s status as a nation which has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

This was transformed into a deal in November last year when PM Narendra Modi was in Tokyo for the summit.

Subsequently the Japanese government got approval from the Diet (parliament) for the nuclear deal with India.The landmark deal came into force in July this year with the completion of necessary formalities in both countries. This will enable Japan to export nuclear power plant technology as well as provide finance for nuclear power plants in India.

Besides, Japan will assist India in nuclear waste management and may undertake joint manufacture of nuclear power plant components under Make in India initiative, people familiar with the development told ET. Growing civil nuclear ties will be highlighted during Abe’s trip as one of the key elements of Indo-Japan strategic partnership, they said.

Japanese conglomerate Toshiba, which owns US-based Westinghouse, will have a major role when the US nuclear firm supplies technology for the set of six reactors in Andhra Pradesh following its bankruptcy.

Westinghouse, which was to set up six nuclear reactors in Andhra Pradesh, will supply technology while construction will be undertaken by an Indian partner. This was discussed as a way out during Modi’s visit to Washington, D.C. for ensuring the presence of Westinghouse in India following the troubles the company faced over bankruptcy.

The finance for the project from the US Exim Bank remains intact and the initiative may kick-start only in 2018. Westinghouse, which was acquired by Japanese conglomerate Toshiba in 2006 for $5.4 billion, had filed for bankruptcy in March this year. HitachiBSE 2.80 %, another Japanese firm, has a stake in GE, which is also proposed to set up reactors in India.
ET View: Enhance areas of partnership

The partnership in space, like that on the African continent, will give a new dimension to the longstanding India-Japan ties. It makes sense for India to partner with Japan to focus such opportunities in areas where the two countries have complementary strengths. The space partnership will serve as another plank in the effort to present a counter to Beijing. For New Delhi, it is also a spring board for a bigger role in the global arena. India must seize this opportunity with a clear plan.

India, Japan Ink 15 Agreements Including Aviation, Trade and Science

The pact in the area of disaster risk management, entered into between the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Cabinet Office of the Government of Japan, aims to cooperate and collaborate in the field of disaster risk reduction, an official statement said

India and Japan on Wednesday signed 15 deals in key areas, including civil aviation, trade, science and technology, and skill development.

The pact in the area of disaster risk management, entered into between the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Cabinet Office of the Government of Japan, aims to cooperate and collaborate in the field of disaster risk reduction, an official statement said.

It said the understanding in the field of skill development looks to further strengthen bilateral relations and cooperation in the field of Japanese language education in India.

The one titled ‘India-Japan Investment Promotion Road Map’ envisages enhanced Japanese investments in India while the ‘Japan-India special programme for Make In India’ is on bilateral cooperation towards infrastructure development in the Mandal Bechraj-Khoraj region in Gujarat.

There was exchange of RoD (Record of Discussions) on civil aviation under which Indian and Japanese carriers can now mount unlimited number of flights to selected cities in both countries.

There was an agreement to establish a joint exchange programme to identify and foster talented young scientists from both countries to collaborate in the field of theoretical biology.

The MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) between the Department of Biotechnology and Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Science & Technology (AIST) seeks to promote research collaboration between these institutions in the field of life sciences and biotech, the statement said.

The India Japan Act East Forum, among the agreements signed, seeks to enhance connectivity and promote developmental projects in India’s North Eastern region in an efficient and effective manner, it said.

There were four agreements in the field of sports, including one to facilitate and deepen international education cooperation and exchanges between both Sports Authority of India and Nippon Sport Science University, Japan.

Source: NDTV

World Bank accepts many of Modi govt’s reform claims, big thumbs-up likely next month

The government expects a double-digit improvement in India’s rank in the global index on ease of doing business, likely to be announced by the World Bank next month.

A senior official told ET that the World Bank had shared its feedback, stating that it had accepted many of the reforms claimed by the government. Last year, India’s rank had improved by just one spot to 130 among 190 countries.

“The World Bank has acknowledged around 20 reforms among many more mentioned by us in response to their study … The overall ranking will depend on how other countries have performed, but we should come close to the 100 mark,” the official said.

The World Bank had recently finished gathering feedback from users for its Doing Business Report. The cut-off date for implementing reforms for the study was June 1. Reforms implemented thereafter will not be counted for this year’s ranking.

Reforms such as GST have not been taken into account as the impact is yet to be felt by users. But India is expecting these to reflect in next year’s report and significantly boost the country’s position.

India had showed one of its poorest performances on the parameter of ‘Paying Taxes’ last time, ranking 172 among the countries surveyed for the report. That, along with an equally lower position in ‘Enforcing Contracts’, landed India at the 130th spot, falling behind countries such as Mexico (38), Russia (51) and Pakistan (138). The ranking considers business environment in Delhi and Mumbai.

Over the past few months, the government has taken up concerns about not getting due credit for its reform drive with the World Bank. While responding to the survey this year, the government flagged such issues citing examples of reforms undertaken for enforcing contracts, starting business and issuing construction permits, among other things.

The government also cited provisions in the existing legal framework that deal effectively with the issue of enforcing contracts.

ET View: Push legal reforms
The way ahead is to push reforms. India fares poorly, for example, in enforcing contracts. We need judicial reforms to drastically reduce legal delays. So, even if states improve lower courts, disputes could end up in the higher judiciary and the reform lies with the Centre. The Department of Justice should drive the reforms. The need is also to enhance transparency in funding of political parties. It will weed out corruption that will automatically improve ease of doing business.

Read more at: The Economic Times

World Bank clears $250-million loan to train India’s job seekers

The loan is aimed at making Indian youth more employable through reskilling

The World Bank has cleared a USD 250-million loan for making Indian youth more employable through reskilling, in a move that is seen to aid the Skill India Mission.

The multi-lateral lender is keen to support the Indian government in its efforts to better equip the young workforce with employable skills. It said the support will help the youth contribute to India’s economic growth and prosperity.

“The USD 250-million Skill India Mission Operation (SIMO), approved by the World Bank board of executive directors, will increase the market relevance of short-term skill development programmes (3-12 months or up to 600 hours) at the national and state level,” the Bank said in a statement.

Under the programme, adults in 15-59 years of age, underemployed or unemployed, will get the skill training.

It will also include the 1.2 crore youngsters in the age group of 15-29 years who are entering the labour market every year.

The programme has a mandate to provide placement and entrepreneurship opportunities to women and increase their exposure to skill training.

The Washington-headquartered World Bank’s SIMO is a six-year programme in support of the Indian government’s National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (2017-23).

SIMO will be implemented through the National Skill Development Mission and will specifically target labour market entrants.

According to an official skill gap analysis, India will require an additional 109 million skilled workers in 24 key sectors by 2022.

“This programme will support the government’s vision of investing in the human capital of India’s youth, enable greater off-farm employment and increase women’s participation in the labour market,” World Bank Country Director to India Junaid Ahmad said.

India continues to be on its path of structural reforms and a higher-skilled labour force can potentially serve as a catalyst in transforming it into a competitive middle income country, Ahmad said.

As per the Bank’s estimate, skill development capacity of the system would increase by the end of the programme so that at least 8.8 million youth with relevant training have an improved employment opportunity to raise their earnings.

The programme will benefit approximately 15,000 trainers and 3,000 assessors, it added.

No more rejection for start-ups seeking tax sops

Companies will be given a chance to amend and re-submit proposals, says DIPP

In what could be a morale booster for start-ups, the government has decided to do away with the practice of rejecting applications for tax sops.

Instead, start-ups will get an opportunity to apply again after making changes to the proposal based on the explanation given to them on the initial one.

Supportive policy

The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion is also reworking the qualification criteria for start-ups for non-tax benefits, a government official told Business Line.

“Instead of dismissing proposals that do not meet the mark for tax-sops with a simple ‘rejected’, the inter-ministerial group examining it will give details of where they fell short. This will give the start-ups an opportunity to rework their proposals, and apply again for tax benefits,” the official said. “There has been no change in the criteria of judging whether a start-up qualifies for tax benefits. It still depends on how innovative the idea is.”

In the last meeting of the Inter Ministerial Group (IMG) on startups which met on May 1, about a dozen applications were approved.

The change in the Central government’s stance has been triggered by a general sense of dissatisfaction among start-ups with the new policy, as only about 10 proposals had qualified for tax sops till last month out of the 140 proposals vetted by the inter-ministerial group since the policy was announced last year. “The DIPP has decided to be a bit more empathetic while dealing with start-ups. After all, what good are tax sops if very few are able to benefit from it,” the official said. The 130 applicants for tax apps, who were rejected over the past year, will also get a detailed note on why their cases did not pass the test. As per the existing rules, start-ups (companies and Limited Liability Partnerships or LLPs) can get income tax exemption for three years in a block of seven years, if they are incorporated between April 1, 2016, and March 31, 2019.

Expanding definition

An IMG, including officials from the Department of Bio-technology, Department of Science and Technology and the DIPP, examine the proposals on the basis of innovation and use, and determine whether they qualify for tax sops or not.

“An official from the Ministry of Electronics, IT and Technology has been added to the IMG from May 1,” the official said.

The DIPP will come up with a new set of rules over the next few weeks, tweaking the definition of a start-up that will result in more companies and LLPs coming under in the category.


Flat solar power tariff drops to all time low of Rs 3.15 per unit

The levelised solar power tariff has dropped to all time low of Rs 3.15 per unit in an auction of a 250 MW project at Kadapa in Andhra Pradesh.

Earlier in February, the lower capital expenditure and cheaper credit had pulled down solar tariff to a new low of Rs 2.97 per unit for the first year in an auction conducted for 750 MW capacity in Rewa Solar Park in Madhya Pradesh.

However, the levelised tariff for Rewa project worked out to be Rs 3.30 per unit.

“The price bid opened and reverse auction carried out for 250 MW (1×250) solar project at Kadapa in AP under developer mode. Solairdirect has won this project with quoted levelised tariff of Rs 3.15/KWh,” a senior official said.

The official said, “Rewa Ultra Mega Solar record of levelised tariff is RS 3.30 which has been broken by NTPC auction today.”

Commenting on this Power Minister Piyush Goyal has tweeted, “Clean affordable power for all: Solar achieves another record low of Rs 3.15/ unit (flat rate) during auction in Kadapa, AP by NTPC.”

In Januray last year, solar power tariff had dropped to a new low, with Finland-based energy firm Fortum Finnsurya Energy quoting Rs 4.34 a unit to bag the mandate to set up a 70-MW solar plant under NTPC’s Bhadla Solar Park tender.

In November 2015, the tariff had touched Rs 4.63 per unit following aggressive bidding by US-based SunEdison, the world’s biggest developer of renewable energy power plants.