India Insight

Highlights – President Pranab Mukherjee’s address to parliament

The new government will pursue an economic reform agenda that foresees introducing the goods and services tax, encouraging foreign investment and speeding approvals for major business projects, President Pranab Mukherjee said in a parliamentary address on Monday.

Mukherjee also said the focus of the Modi government would be to:

- contain food inflation

- improve supply side of agro-based products

- prepare contingency plans for sub-normal monsoons

- increase public and private investments in agriculture

- address issues in farm pricing and procurement

- set up IITs and IIMs in every state

- have zero tolerance against violence against women and will strengthen criminal justice system

- tackle illegal immigration and infiltration in the north east region

- roll out broadband highways in every village in next five years

- vigorously follow up issue of black money with foreign governments

- focus on social media as a tool for participative governance

- provide predictable, fair and stable policy environment

- make every effort to introduce goods and services tax

- encourage investment through foreign direct investment

- promote labour-intensive manufacturing, tourism for job creation

- move towards a single-window system of clearances to promote manufacturing

- fast-track investment friendly public, private partnership

- liberalise foreign direct investments in defence

- encourage private investments in defence production

- implement reforms in defence procurement

- take up modernisation and revamp of railways on priority

- chalk out infrastructure development programmes for high-speed rails, roads and airports

- launch comprehensive national energy policy and focus on increasing electricity generation

- urgently pursue reforms in coal to attract private investments

- operationalise international civilian nuclear pacts

- ensure every family has good house by 2022

- ensure 24×7 electricity supply by 2022

- follow zero tolerance towards extremism, terrorism and communal violence

- formulate clear rules for allocation of coal, minerals and telecoms spectrum

- work towards putting economy on high growth path

- engage energetically with neighbours, including China

- bring renewed vigour in its engagement with the United States

Read text of president’s speech

(Compiled by Ankush Arora)

A look at India’s last five annual budgets

The countdown has begun for the biggest business and economic event of the year, the release of India’s annual budget at the end of February, and Finance Minister P. Chidambaram has a tough job on his hands. With general elections a year away, he must please voters, boost growth and control deficits.

In the last five years, the finance minister has always relaxed income tax slabs — by either increasing the basic exemption limit or widening the tax slabs. As far as markets go, the 2009 budget day was the worst for stocks as the index fell around 950 points during trade. However, the focus has always been on the government’s fiscal deficit targets, which have hovered around the 5 percent mark in recent years.

As India’s economy battles slowing growth, investors will take cues from Chidambaram’s plans to rein in spending and boost growth. Here’s a look at budgets between 2008 and 2012 — the hits, the misses and how they affected the common man.

Abhijit Mukherjee’s foot-in-mukh moment steals spotlight from rape cases

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

India is angry. India is protesting. Rallies continue in New Delhi after the gang rape of a 23-year-old girl on Dec. 16. The rapes continue too. On Wednesday night, three men reportedly raped a 42-year-old woman and dumped her in South Delhi. There are more cases being reported every day.

The biggest story in India, however, is Abhijit Mukherjee’s comment about the Delhi protests — “These pretty women, dented and painted, who come for protests are not students. I have seen them speak on television, usually women of this age are not students”. He added that students, who go to discotheques, think it is a fashion statement to hold candles and protest.

Congress strikes two birds with one stone

Why so much euphoria over the presidential polls? Shouldn’t the government concentrate on the economy; it’s a ceremonial post after all, we thought.

However, the way the election process panned out might be the boost the Congress party needed ahead of the 2014 general elections, not only politically, but even for the economy.

With Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee all set to be India’s 13th president, the party has every reason to cheer, at least for now. The Congress will have the benefit of having one of its most loyal ministers at the Rashtrapati Bhawan, and he can come in handy in 2014.

Mr Pranab Mukherjee, did we hear ‘austerity’?

India is going through a rough patch. The common man knows it, foreign investors know it and so does our government.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who is also one of the contenders for the post of president, has been trying his best to clear the air and restore the confidence to get the economy back on track.

In his recent Parliament speech, after he delayed the controversial GAAR norms, Mukherjee said new ‘austerity measures’ will be announced to aid the fiscal consolidation process.

As the economy and markets struggle, India needs tough actions

Slowing growth, a falling rupee, sliding stock markets, a rising current account deficit, drying foreign inflows and policy paralysis at the centre. Things certainly don’t look rosy for India.

With the rupee down 22 percent in the last 10 months and a 6 percent drop in stock markets so far in May (as of Friday’s close), is it time for the government to seriously rethink its strategy ahead of the 2014 general elections?

From Mark Mobius, who said the Indian government has been making many big policy mistakes, to Lakshmi Mittal, who told The Times of India on Friday that decision-making is too slow and India needs to move the way the rest of the world does — there is no dearth of criticism.

Budget 2010: Reactions from the common man

Rohan Dua spoke to people on the streets of New Delhi as Pranab Mukherjee tabled the 2010/11 Budget in parliament –

How to rate the budget?

INDIA-BUDGET/When the finance minister presents the budget, the stock market moves one way or the other.

And like every year this will dominate the news.

Over there and everywhere.

Is that fair? Or convincing?

Some of the analysis will follow a pattern.

If the stock market goes up, the budget may be described as successful because it didn’t “rock the boat”.

If  it moves sideways, it may be said the market had already absorbed the good news — the growth figures for instance.

Budget 2010: Time for annual guessing game

It’s a laudable effort that often gets more brickbats than bouquets. This year, when Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee presents the Union budget in parliament on February 26, he will walking a tightrope between managing ballooning fiscal deficit and supporting economic recovery in Asia’s third-biggest economy.

Budget 2010: Time for the annual guessing gameExpectations from the finance minister, as always, are high — people and corporates want more in their pockets. There has been no let-up in the rise of food prices and most middle-class families still have to wait for annual sales to get branded products home.

In other words, the nation would like to see changes in tax rates, consumables getting cheaper and credit continuing to be available easily.

Jury still out on Indo-U.S. “unclear” deal

US President Bush raises his glass for a toast with Indian Prime Minister Singh at an official dinner …US President Bush raises his glass for a toast with Indian Prime Minister Singh at an official dinner …You could be forgiven for thinking that the civilian nuclear deal with the United States is all about whether India holds early elections or not.

Every newspaper is speculating if Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has staked his personal reputation on the deal, will resign to disassociate himself from an administration that failed to save a pact keenly watched by the world.

But are these the arguments India should be debating in the short-term or should we be discussing the real benefits and drawbacks of the deal?

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