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Straight from the Specialists

India’s privy purses and the Cyprus deal

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(Rajan Ghotgalkar is Managing Director of Principal Pnb Asset Management Company. The views expressed in this column are his own and do not represent those of either Principal Pnb or Reuters)

When the Indian republic took shape, the erstwhile maharajas and princes were granted privy purses. These were allowances which varied based on the size of their state and the revenue it generated.

Some 25 years down the line, when India was high on socialism, the Indira Gandhi government abolished these privy purses through a president’s ordinance after failing to get the bill passed through parliament.

The princes challenged it in the Supreme Court, which gave a verdict in their favour*. Appearing against the government was none other than Nani Palkhivala.

Third-party motor insurance premiums fixed for new financial year

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Reuters)

A motor insurance policy consists broadly of two parts — third-party cover, which is regulated; and an ‘own damage’ cover, the premium for which is left to market dynamics.

The premium for ‘own damage’ cover, which forms the larger chunk of the insurance premium, is based on risk and competitive pressures.

Low-key outcome as Singh meets Xi on BRICS sidelines

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

The BRICS summit in Durban last week, which brought the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa together, is best recalled for the rich visual imagery that Russian President Vladimir Putin invoked. Putin suggested that the five countries were like the lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros. Notwithstanding the normative vision for the developing world that was outlined by the leaders, the subtext is a logical extension of this animal metaphor.

India’s IP growing pains

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Reuters)

As it celebrates its 65th year as an independent country, India seems poised for an economic take-off. Already, this south Asian country is the world’s largest democracy, has about the same number of middle-class citizens as the United States, and has the planet’s tenth largest economy.

But India still has a long way to go. An average citizen lives on less than $10 a day and its per-capita gross domestic product is less than half that of the other Asian giant, China. For India, moving to the next level is going to require a potentially painful but absolutely necessary engagement with the global economy.

The stock market’s delayed response to Budget 2013

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Reuters)

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram tried to humour the market in his budget by cutting the Securities Transaction Tax (STT) which had been one of its sore points. But the market was not amused. The Sensex continued to slide, indifferent to the budget which was presented with a lot of expectations.

This appears to be rather strange because the budget was well received by the industry, in spite of the increase in surcharge from 5 to 10 percent. It was possibly the realization that the finance minister lived up to his promise of cutting fiscal deficit to 4.8 percent which created an infectious confidence in growth revival.

India Markets Weekahead: Beware the Ides of March

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Reuters)

Markets ended budget week below support levels of 5800/5840 and just when the six-month rally seemed over for good, it made a spirited V-shaped recovery to close at 5946 on Friday, with gains of 3.95 percent. The Street is divided with some expecting this to be the beginning of a new rally with the market scaling highs that it missed in February; others see it as a strong pullback which will fizzle out soon.

The government seems to be responding faster to allay investor fears. It was quick to respond to FII worries over proposed changes in tax residency certificates. Finance Minister P. Chidambaram has been assuring investors of continued policy measures, including the Direct Taxes Code (DTC) bill being introduced in the current parliament session.

Budget 2013: Political strategy, not economic blueprint

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Reuters)

With the dust settling after Budget 2013, the picture is getting a bit clearer. Opinions on the budget have ranged from praise to outright criticism. The true position lies somewhere in between — depending on one’s political inclination, views on the finance minister and one’s financial interests.

Most agree there is considerable misalignment between diagnosis and prescriptions in the budget. The three biggest problems identified by P. Chidambaram are:
- rising fiscal deficit that needs to be controlled
- high current account deficit and
- declining economic growth rate.

Budget 2013: A rather ambitious budget

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(Rajan Ghotgalkar is Managing Director of Principal Pnb Asset Management Company. The views expressed in this column are his own and do not represent those of either Principal Pnb or Reuters)

Rating agencies have left India’s sovereign rating unchanged after the 2013 Budget. A rating downgrade would mean India getting junk status which is certainly not something one would want when the current account deficit is widening.

Risk factors in Budget 2013

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Reuters)

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram has apparently done the impossible. He has brought down the fiscal deficit in the current year from the budgeted 5.3 percent to 5.2 percent in spite of the fall in revenues. What’s more, the deficit was further slashed to 4.8 percent in the 2013/14 budget. Is that realistic?

Look at the expenditure. In the current year, subsidies on food, petroleum products and fertilizer were up by 676 billion rupees or 36 percent. These are precisely the expenditures the minister had to curtail, though he did make an effort to do that too late in the day. With the jump in non-Plan expenditure, the fiscal deficit could be brought down only by cutting Plan expenditure.

Budget 2013 not a death knell for reforms

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Reuters)

In announcing the new budget, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram tried to square the circle. On the one hand, with the prospect of elections next year or possibly sooner, handing out costly goodies was always going to be a temptation. On the other hand, like its Western counterparts, the Indian government was faced with the fact that it must rein in public spending, which could anger some voters, not to mention dampen economic growth.

The trick, therefore, was to cut spending on areas where the negative impact would be least damaging. On that count, the budget met our expectations. We had long thought the deficit could be cut from 5.2 percent of GDP to 4.8 percent in 2014. And while the underlying nominal GDP growth assumption of 13.4 percent may be a stretch, we didn’t think it was beyond the realm of possibility.

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