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Analysis

Demonetisation: Economy shaken, GDP hurt, trust in govt undermined

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demonetisation

New Delhi Oct 23 : While the immediate impact of demonetisation was seen in the long queues outside ATMs and felt through acute cash shortage, its anniversary is an appropriate vantage point to assess the less visible and generalised effect on the economy of what was easily the most disruptive measure post-Independence.

The difficulty in making a cost-benefit analysis is that the move was not purely economic, given the fact that the currency issuer Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had no role in the decision, as testified by former Governor Raghuram Rajan.

So demonetisation comes across more as a measure of political economy with the declared objective of curbing black money and countering counterfeiting and terror finance, and which appeared to have paid political dividend to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Uttar Pradesh elections this year.

Starting with the official figures, at the end of May, the Central Statistics Office announced that GDP during the fourth quarter, ending March this year, fell sharply to 6.1 per cent from seven per cent in the previous quarter, while growth for the year as a whole was also expected to decline correspondingly. India’s GDP during the past fiscal grew at 7.1 per cent, at a rate lower than the 8 per cent achieved in 2015-16.

In terms of gross value added (GVA), which excludes taxes but includes subsidies, the growth came in even lower at 5.6 percent over the GVA for 2015-16.

Chief Statistician T.C.A. Anant sought to downplay the impact of the note ban, saying he “would caution against reading a single number that comes out after an event as being reflective of consequences of the event”. At the time of releasing the previous quarter’s GDP, he had said that this was based on figures on industrial production and only on the advance filings of corporates.

The numbers, therefore, had not factored in the informal economy, which accounts for an estimated 45-50 per cent of output in the Indian economy and employs around 85 per cent of the country’s workforce. More importantly, this sector transacts entirely in cash and was the hardest hit by demonetisation, which withdrew 86 per cent of currency from circulation.

Former Chief Statistician Pronab Sen had said in March that once the informal sector numbers came in, the growth rate could go below 6.5 per cent, which turned out to be close to the actual figure.

At the same time, both the RBI and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) lowered India’s growth estimates for 2016-17 by up to 1 percent, citing the impact of demonetisation.

This was not too far from former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s prediction that the economy would be hit by around two per cent because of the note ban.

Rating agency ICRA said in a note earlier this year that “since the early estimates of quarterly GVA rely heavily on available data from the formal sector, which is expected to have weathered the note ban better than the informal sector, the third quarter (October-December) projected GVA growth of 6.6 per cent may not fully capture the impact of the note ban”.

In October, the IMF said in its latest World Economic Outlook that India’s economic growth for 2017 and 2018 will be slower than earlier projections. The report cited “lingering impact” of demonetisation and the goods and services tax (GST) for the expected slowdown during the current and the next year. The IMF projected India to grow at 6.7 per cent in 2017 and 7.4 per cent in 2018, which are 0.5 and 0.3 percentage points less than the projections earlier this year, respectively.

The World Bank too forecast that India’s GDP may slow from 8.6 per cent in 2015 to 7.0 per cent in 2017 because of disruptions by demonetisation and the GST.

Former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan, who, on being asked by Modi for his informal opinion, had said the costs of such a measure would outweigh any long-term benefits, while there were less costly alternatives to achieve the stated goals of demonetisation.

“On the short-term costs of such a measure, monetary economists would say that you’d see an immediate impact on activity. People who used currency, things would shut down for them… there would be an unrecoverable effect on economic activity,” Rajan said here at the launch of his book “I Do What I Do”.

Citing the cost analysis by metrics of demonetisation done by JP Morgan, Rajan said the GDP took a hit of around 1.5 per cent, which translates to a sum of Rs 200,000 crore.

“On the benefit side you have Rs 10,000 crore coming in, but you need a lot more taxes than that to really benefit,” he said.

Coming back to the beginning, this is what Nobel winning economist Amartya Sen had to say of demonetisation: “It is a despotic action that has struck at the root of the economy based on trust. It undermines notes, it undermines bank accounts, it undermines the entire economy of trust. That is the essence in which it is despotic.”

With demonetisation also designed to enlarge the tax base, an ex-IRS official’s perspective on Modi’s likely motive is provided by former Director of Revenue Intelligence B.V. Kumar, who writes in his book, “Underground Economy”: “One reason could be that Modi has completed half his term and not a single initiative during his term has shown results which can be termed as ‘spectacular’ and ‘vote spinners’.”

Demonetisation, after one year, does not look as rosy as it was painted out to be by the image spinners in the government.

By : Biswajit Choudhury

(Biswajit Choudhury can be reached at [email protected])
(Editors: The above article is the second in the series of demonetisation stories leading up to November 8, the day note ban was imposed last year).

Analysis

Ministry says yoga is not sport, but DU colleges still reserve seats

Colleges have autonomy to choose the sports under which they wish to give admissions. University cannot tell a college to pick a specific sport. It is their discretion. These sports do not come under Sports Ministry, nor are they regulated by it.

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New Delhi, June 12 (IANS) Is yoga a sport? The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (MYAS) says it is not. Yet, 11 Delhi University (DU) colleges have this year reserved seats for the discipline under their sports quota.

The university and the colleges, meanwhile, have been shifting responsibility back and forth.

After recognising it as a sport in 2015, the MYAS reversed its decision the next year. “After elaborate discussion, it was concluded that yoga has various dimensions/arms in which competitions are not possible. Hence, it was agreed that Yoga cannot be termed a sport. Consequently, it may not be appropriate to recognise any organisation as NSF (national sports federation) for yoga,” the Sports Ministry had said in a letter dated December 21, 2016, to all national sports federations and the Indian Olympic Assocation.

“It was also agreed that the entire matter relating to yoga will continue to be handled by the Ministry of AYUSH,” the letter said.

When IANS contacted the DU Sports Council for a clarification, it said that the colleges had requested the university to conduct yoga trials.

“Yes, Yoga has been under sports quota and it has been there in previous years also. Last year, 19 colleges had applied for trial for Yoga under sports quota. The decision, in which sports admissions are to be made, are taken by the colleges,” Anil Kalkal, Director of the varsity sports council which conducts the centralised trials for sports quota on behalf of colleges, told IANS.

“Colleges have autonomy to choose the sports under which they wish to give admissions. University cannot tell a college to pick a specific sport. It is their discretion. These sports do not come under Sports Ministry, nor are they regulated by it,” he said.

Although colleges are entitled to choose a sport for trials and reserve seats under it, the list of sports from which they are to choose is compiled by the varsity.

Kalkal cited another factor in the form of inter-university competition, held by the Association of Indian Universities (AIU) — a non-governmental body listed under the Societies Act — as one of the reasons for considering Yoga as sport.

“If such was the thing (de-recognition) why would AIU conduct the yoga competition? The day AIU will tell us that Yoga is not a sport and stop conducting the competition, we will stop taking admission under it,” he said.

“If colleges are requesting to admit students under yoga, what can the university do? We have to conduct the trials. You should ask the colleges why they requested us to conduct yoga trials,” he said.

An official from one of the colleges which has reserved seats for Yoga this year, when contacted, passed the buck to the university.

“We consider Delhi University and AIU the governing bodies. If an activity is listed as sport by the university, we follow that. If DU tells us that it will not conduct trials in yoga then we will also give it up. Government doesn’t have a role in it,” M.P. Sharma, sports Convener at Hansraj College, told IANS.

Ambiguity on the legal sanction of quota for yoga got further worsened when an AIU official conceded that the association itself didn’t consider yoga as a sport.

“The competition is there because it helps in maintaining your body, mind and spirit. We do not consider it sport. This is not a sport. But we conduct the competition to improve the standard of performance,” said AIU Joint Secretary (Sports) Gurdeep Singh.

Singh also conceded that association’s decisions are not binding on the university.

“We have nothing to do with the DU sports quota. DU follows its own constitution. You talk to DU for this. A collective decision is made by our sports board. Whatever is in the larger interest of students, we do that. It’s not a sport but an activity, which helps strike a balance. The entire world has recognised the value of yoga, I don’t know why only here people have an issue with it,” he said.

However, in spite of what Singh said, the AIU website lists yoga as a sport in its “Calendar of Events” for 2017.

Although it is a thing which has been going on for years, some DU teachers, when apprised of the matter, called the decision (listing of yoga as sport by the university) as “arbitrary”, stating that it was never presented before the Academic or the Executive Council of the university.

“As far as reservation of seats under sports quota is concerned, we have an understanding of reserving them for only those sports which are recognised in Olympics. On what basis can they include yoga in it? asks Rajesh Jha, a DU professor and Executive Council member.

“This will end up undermining the chances of admission of those who are trained in genuine sports. This seems like a completely arbitrary decision,” he added.

Trials for yoga are scheduled to be conducted later this month.

Apart from Hansraj, Gargi College, Deshbandhu College, College of Vocational studies, and Kalindi College are few of those which have given their names for yoga trials and have reserved seats under the activity.

(Vishal Narayan can be contacted at [email protected])

— IANS

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Analysis

Global cues, inflation to dictate equity indices trend

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) is slated to release the macro-economic data points of IIP and CPI (Consumer Price Index) on June 12.

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Sensex Nifty Equity

Mumbai, June 10 : Monetary policy announcements by global central banks coupled with the upcoming release of major macro-economic data points on industrial production and inflation are expected to set the trend for the domestic equity indices.

According to market observers, other key factors such as rupee’s movements against the US dollar and fluctuations in crude oil prices as well as developments on monsoon’s progress will impact investors’ risk-taking appetite.

“Next week will have a flurry of economic data for India,” Devendra Nevgi, Founder and Principal Partner, Delta Global Partners, told IANS.

“A negative surprise in inflation data would reinforce the hawkish stance of RBI. A weaker external sector data would have an impact on INR, especially during a negative EM (emerging markets) sentiment. IIP (Index of Industrial Production) would be watched closely for an ongoing economic expansion.”

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) is slated to release the macro-economic data points of IIP and CPI (Consumer Price Index) on June 12.

Subsequently, other major macro-economic data points such as WPI (Wholesale Price Index), Current Account Deficit and Balance of Trade figures will be released.

On the global front, monetary policy announcements by the US Federal Reserve, ECB (European Central Bank) and the Bank of Japan (BoJ) will form major themes for the upcoming week.

“The US Fed rate move and language will set the tone for sentiment in EM as well Indian markets. The key is whether the US Fed pays attention to the vulnerable EM situation,” Nevgi said.

Besides, the movement of Indian rupee against the US dollar and fluctuations in global crude oil prices will also set the course for the key indices.

On a weekly basis, the Indian rupee weakened by 45 paise to close at 67.51 against the US dollar from its previous close of 67.06 per greenback.

In terms of investments, provisional figures from the stock exchanges showed that foreign institutional investors bought scrips worth Rs 1,367.22 crore during the week ended June 8, 2018.

Figures from the National Securities Depository Ltd (NSDL) revealed that foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) invested equities worth Rs 3,757.94 crore, or $560.40 million, in the last week.

Additionally, technical charts show that the National Stock Exchange (NSE)’s Nifty50 remains in an intermediate uptrend.

“Technically, with Nifty recovering from the lows of 10,552 points, the intermediate trend remains up,” said Deepak Jasani, Head of Retail Research, HDFC Securities.

“Further upsides are likely in the coming week once the immediate resistances of 10,814 points are taken out. Crucial supports to watch for any weakness are at 10,618 points.”

Last week, the key Indian equity indices — the S&P BSE Sensex and the NSE Nifty50 — rose on the back of Reserve Bank of India’s “neutral” stance on a future rate hike trajectory, along with its reform measures for the realty, bond and banking sectors and value buying.

Consequently, the barometer 30-scrip Sensitive Index (Sensex) of the BSE rose by 216.41 points or 0.61 per cent to 35,443.67 points on a weekly basis.

Similarly, the wider Nifty50 of the NSE closed last week’s trade at 10,767.65 points — up 71.45 points or 0.67 per cent — from its previous close.

(Rohit Vaid can be contacted at [email protected])

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Analysis

CBDT says RTI replies on ‘write-off’ of IT arrears were ‘erroneously sent’

According to the RTI replies, the Pr-CCIT, Hyderabad had stated that it had written off a total of Rs 3002.20 crores in two financial years, 2016-2017 and 2017-2018.

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Mumbai, June 1 (IANS) In an apparent volte-face, the Central Board of Direct Taxes has said that figures of ‘write-offs’ of Income Tax arrears furnished under right to information action were sent out in error.

Responding to an IANS report “Income Tax Department writes off huge arrears, show RTI replies” on May 28, 2018, the CBDT’s official spokesperson said that the the Principal Chief Commissioner of Income Tax (Pr-CCIT) Hyderabad had provided erroneous figures of ‘write-offs’ under an RTI application filed by Chandra Shekhar Gaur, a Neemuch (Madhya Pradesh) activist.

According to the RTI replies, the Pr-CCIT, Hyderabad had stated that it had written off a total of Rs 3002.20 crores in two financial years, 2016-2017 and 2017-2018.

The CBDT spokesperson, Surabhi Ahluwalia, Commissioner of Income Tax (Media & Technical Policy) now says that the information provided was “due to an inadvertent error made by the CPIO who reported the figures of ‘Cash Collection’ or recoveries made from arrears in these years as the figures of arrears written off.”

The correct amount of arrears written off in those two years for the Andhra Pradesh & Telangana by the Pr-CCIT Hyderabad, was actually zero (Nil), as no write-off orders were passed in these (two) years, he said, adding that the RTI applicant Gaur has been informed of the mistake.

Interestingly, the IANS had sent an email to the CBDT on May 16, with specific queries on the figures and the authorisation levels for the ‘write-offs’, which was ignored for nearly 13 days.

After the IANS story was published on May 28, the CBDT swung into action with a reply.

On the figures of tax arrears, totaling to over Rs 50,000 crore, including over Rs 33,157.97 crore from Pune alone, provided under RTI by various IT offices across India, the CBDT spokesperson said it had already collected Rs 44,633 crore during 2017-2018, which was 14.6 percent higher than Rs 38,944 crore collected in the previous fiscal.

Besides, the CBDT said of the current demands, Rs 52,537 crores was recovered by the ITD in 2017-2018.

The CBDT reiterated that ‘write-off’ of arrears was a detailed and long-drawn process and only initiated for arrears which become irrecoverable “after all avenues for recovery are exhausted.”

Besides, all proposals of ‘write-off’ of arrears above Rs 5,000 are examined by a committee at Zonal, Regional and Local levels, while any proposals for ‘write-off’ above Rs 25 lakh must “be approved by CBDT” and any such amount above Rs 50 lakh need approval “by the Finance Minister.”

For small value arrears upto Rs 10,000, there are relaxations in guidelines under a fast-track process, but the rigorous process remains in place and during 2017-2018 (upto December 31, 2017), a meager amount “of Rs 5.6 crore was written off in the entire country, the spokesperson said.

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