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Demonetisation Effect: RBI halves the dividend payout to government

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Reserve Bank of India

Demonetisation turns out to be a bane for government as its dividend halves this year as compared to last year.

RBI has only transferred a sum of Rs 30,659 crore as dividend to the government for the year ended June 2017 which was 65,876 crore last year. However for this year the expected divindeds were of Rs. 74,901 crore. Some economists have suggested different reasons behind this deduction in the dividends of the government by RBI.

According to Firstpost, Radhika Rao who is an economist at Singapore based DBS bank pointed out that demonetisation added to RBI’s cost burden through additional printing and destruction costs.

Meanwhile the former RBI deputy governor R Gandhi said , “ During the year foreign currency reserves of RBI were fetching less returns because most of the foreign countries were giving negative returns or very low returns. Also, throughout the year the reverse repo has been high that means that RBI has to pay to banks. The whole of last year there was surplus liquidity and RBI had to pay more interest to the banks.”

On this deduction the congress leader and former finance minister P Chidambaram said  their should be an addition of another Rs 50,000 cr as cost of demonetisation.

However RBI did not give reasons for paying less dividend.

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Finance ministry ask Railways to raise Bullet train funds from market

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Piyush Goyal

New Delhi, July 22: The Finance Ministry has directed the Indian Railways to raise the capital from the market after the Railways sought around  Rs 10,000 crore this year, part of the Government of India’s commitment towards the Rs 1.08 lakh crore mega project.

Multiple between top bosses of the two ministries, the Railways has been told to look for ways to raise the capital from the market, to be repaid by the Finance Ministry later and should not expect it as additional Gross Budgetary Support from the Budget, the Indian Express reported.

The National High Speed Rail Corporation (NHSRCL) requires around Rs 10,000 crore this year mainly for land acquisition, part of the PM Modi’s pet bullet train project. Along with that, there is a commitment of around Rs 5,000 crore towards the Dedicated Freight Corridor project.

The Railways has communicated to the Financ Ministry that it will not be able to bear the yearly interest and associated charges.

If the money will be borrowed from the market at a high rate,the cost of fundingfor the bullet train will escalate which was billed to be “as good as free” owing to the inexpensive Japanese loan.

The work for the bullet train project which will ply over Mumbai-Ahmedabad route started in December 2017, however, since then the project has faced many challenges over land acquisition from farmers backed by local political groups in Gujarat as well as in Maharashtra.

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New 100-rupee note poses fresh headaches for ATM operators

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Rs. 100

Mumbai, July 21 : The Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) announcement launching a new series of 100-rupee denomination notes has been greeted with trepidation by the major companies engaged in the manufacture and supply of Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) in the country.

Like the new post-demonetisation Rs 2,000, Rs 500, Rs 200 and the new Rs 50 notes and Rs 10 notes, even the new lavender-coloured Rs 100 is a tad smaller in size compared to the blue-coloured Rs 100 notes currently in circulation.

While the existing Rs 100 notes are sized 157×73 mm, the new ones measure 142x66mm, as per the RBI announcement this week.

“This means that all the 237,000 ATMs in the country would again have to be re-calibrated to dispense the new Rs 100 notes. This entails a massive effort which is both time-consuming and adds to our costs,” Confederation of ATM Industry (CATMi) Director V. Balasubramanian told IANS.

For recalibrating all the ATMs in the country to enable them dispense the new Rs 100 notes, the operators need the concerned bank’s official Cash Agency and an engineer of the machine manufacturer together.

“Though the actual recalibration may take barely 20 minutes per ATM, there are huge logistical issues involved in getting the Cash Agency person and engineer together all the time. Even then, with best efforts they can recalibrate barely 15-20 ATMs per day depending on the banks’ cooperation. So, this will be a huge time-consuming and high-cost exercise at a national level,” Balasubramanian rued.

Hitachi Payment Services Managing Director Loney Antony estimates that the entire recalibration process could cost over Rs 1 billion (Rs 100 crore) and take a minimum of one year to complete.

“In fact, the recalibration of the new Rs 200 notes introduced last year is still not completed in all ATMs, so recalibration of the new Rs 100 notes could take even longer unless planned properly,” Antony cautioned.

The RBI said in its notification that initially, the new Rs 100 notes will be dispensed only through bank branches and printing and supply would gradually increase.

Antony said it is important to have sufficient supply of Rs 100 and Rs 200 notes to ensure there are enough lower denomination currency notes in circulation for all transactions.

Balasubramanian said the ATM industry is grappling with the problem of how to recalibrate the ATMs in terms of the new and old Rs 100 notes and may refrain from doing so till sufficient numbers of the new notes are available.

Euronet Services India Pvt. Ltd. Managing Director Himanshu Pujara said unless all the ATMs are recalibrated, the new notes will not be available through this channel to the people, and recalibration itself is a time-consuming and expensive process for the already struggling industry.

Balasubramanian — who is also the President of FSS Company that manufactures ATMs — said that since the old and new Rs 100 notes will co-exist till the RBI completely withdraws the old notes, “it will be difficult to recalibrate all the ATMs to support the new Rs.100 notes”.

“There is likelihood of an imbalance between the supply of the new notes and the withdrawal of the old notes, especially in the hinterland,” Balasubramanian pointed out.

In such a scenario, he thought it would be prudent to let the banks and service providers decide when to calibrate the ATMs for the new notes, depending on the “supply-withdrawal” situation of the old notes across all states over the next few quarters.

At present, as per National Payments Council of India Ltd (NPCIL), there are around 237,000 ATMs functional in the country, but to adequately cater to the entire country’s population, the need is almost three-four times more, or around a million ATMs.

Flying in the face of the government’s declarations about digitising the economy, a whopping 57 percent of all ATM transactions are only for cash withdrawals. Immediate Payment Service (IMPS) lags at 20 per cent followed by Point of Sale (PoS) 17 percent, and rest for Unified Payment Interface and mobile wallets. (Total = 100 percent, as per RBI).

Major industry players say that, barring the metros and urban centres, people in states like Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and others have to travel 40 km or more to access an ATM.

“Moreover, as per official data, barely 30 per cent of bank account holders in the country regularly use their ATM cards… the others prefer cash transactions. There are problems of infrastructure and connectivity which hamper growth of ATMs network,” Balasubramanian pointed out.

India has among the lowest ATM penetration globally, averaging 8.9 ATMs per 100,000 population, compared to Brazil’s 119.6, Thailand’s 78, South Africa’s 60 and Malaysia’s 56.4.

Incidentally, China currently has around a staggering one million ATMs, which will touch 1.5 million by 2020.

(Qqaid Najmi can be contacted at [email protected])

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GST on refrigerators, washing machine reduced to 18%

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New Delhi, July 21 : In a relief for common man, the GST Council on Saturday reduced tax rates on over 50 items including refrigerators, washing macines and small televisions, which would now be taxed at 18 per cent, down from the current 28 per cent.

Apart of bringing down rates, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council also exempted GST on sanitary napkins, rakhis, fortified milk and idols of deities made of stone, marble and wood.

The changes would come into effect across the country from July 27 onward, Finance Minister Piyush Goyal told media after the 28th meeting of the GST Council.

“Refrigerators, small televisions, of upto 25 inches, lithium ion batteries, vacuum cleaners, domestic electrical appliances, such as food grinders, mixers….storage water heaters, immersion heaters, hair dryers, hand driers, electric smoothing irons,” among others have been brought to the 18 per cent slab,” Goyal said.

The council also gave a major relief to the hotel industry by providing that tax rate shall be based on transaction value instead of declared tariff.

Earlier, there was a lack of clarity on the issue causing a lot of trouble for consumers booking hotels with ‘declared tariffs’ of Rs 7,500 and above which incurred 28 per cent GST.

While hotels with tariff below Rs 1,000 are exempted from GST, those with tariff between Rs 1,000-2,500 are taxed at 12 per cent, those between Rs 2,500-7,500 at 18 per cent, and above Rs 7,500 at 28 per cent.

However, it often happened that hotels offered discounts and hence the actual transaction cost would be much lower than the declared cost, but tax would still be charged at the declared cost.

Another significant decision the council made was regarding easing of return filing procedure by approving two new simplified forms called ‘Sugam’ and ‘Sahaj’, the minister said.

Also, enterprises with annual turnover of upto Rs 5 crore would have to file quarterly returns instead of the current monthly filing, although they would continue to pay tax on a monthly basis.

However, the implementation of the revamped return filing process would take some time as corresponding changes would have to be made into the GST network, the minister clarified.

The council also deferred the implementation of reverse charge mechanism by another year and now it will come into force from October next year.

The minister further informed that the council would have a special meeting on August 4 to address concern of small and medium enterprises.

Among other tax-reduction decisions, Goyal said, tax rate on handicraft items such as handbags, pouches and purses, jewellery box, wooden frames of paintings and photographs among others have been brought under the 12 per cent slab, from 18 per cent.

GST on handmade carpets and handmade textile floor coverings has been reduced from 12 per cent to 5 per cent.

The tax rate on ethanol, which is used in the blending of petrol and diesel also has been brought down to 5 per cent from 18 per cent.

During the meeting, the council also made certain amendments to the GST Act including raising the upper limit of turnover for opting for composition scheme from Rs 1 crore to Rs 1.5 crore.

It also approved an amendment which will enable taxpayers to opt for multiple registrations within a state in respect of multiple places of business located within the same state.

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