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Disappointed but won’t give up on connecting India: Zuckerberg

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A day after India’s telecom watchdog said no to Facebook’s Free Basics, the social networking giant’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg conveyed his disappointment in a post but conveyed his commitment to keep working to break down barriers to connectivity in India.

In a move seen as an endorsement of net neutrality and a setback to offerings such as Facebook’s Free Basics and Airtel Zero, India’s telecom watchdog on Monday said no to discriminatory pricing of data content.

“India’s telecom regulator decided to restrict programmes that provide free access to data. This restricts one of Internet.org’s initiatives, Free Basics, as well as programmes by other organizations that provide free access to data,” the 31-year-old billionaire posted on Tuesday.

“While I am disappointed with the decision, I want to personally communicate that we are committed to keep working to break down barriers to connectivity in India and around the world. Internet.org has many initiatives, and we will keep working until everyone has access to the internet,” Zuckerberg added.

Everyone in the world should have access to the internet.

“That’s why we launched Internet.org with so many different initiatives — including extending networks through solar-powered planes, satellites and lasers, providing free data access through Free Basics, reducing data use through apps, and empowering local entrepreneurs through Express Wi-Fi,” he wrote.

Ironically, Facebook’s Internet.org was launched a year back in India, which was later named Free Basics.

According to Zuckerberg, their work with Internet.org around the world has already improved many people’s lives as more than 19 million people in 38 countries have been connected through Facebook’s different programmes.

“Connecting India is an important goal we won’t give up on, because more than a billion people in India don’t have access to the internet,” he posted.

“We know that connecting them can help lift people out of poverty, create millions of jobs and spread education opportunities. We care about these people, and that’s why we’re so committed to connecting them,” the Facebook CEO added.

“Our mission is to make the world more open and connected. That mission continues, and so does our commitment to India,” he concluded.

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Liquor shops in Delhi to operate daily till 8 PM

It also said in case the shops allowed to operate comes under the containment zone in future, the same shall be closed immediately.

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New Delhi, June 1 : All government and private liquor shops, which were allowed to operate so far in Delhi, will be allowed to open all days a week, except dry days, between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m., the Excise Department said on Monday.

An Excise Department official told IANS that an order has been issued which says all the shops having L-6 and L-8 licenses are allowed to function all day between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m.

While L-6 is for the government-run retail vends of Indian liquor, L-8 is for the retail vends of country liquor.

For the private shops, the order, a copy of which is with IANS, said only those which were allowed to operate on an odd-even basis after May 19 will be allowed all day and the timing has been changed from 9.30 a.m. to 6.30 p.m. to between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. now.

Total 76 private liquor shops were allowed after May 19, the official added.

There are about 850 liquor shops in Delhi. However, close to 150 shops, which were in malls across the city, will continue to remain shut, the official said.

While the rules for timing have been changed, the other directives remain the same, the official added.

“They will deposit 70 per cent Special Corona Fee on total sales daily, which will be deducted from their ledger account linked with their Vend-ID in ESCIMS. They should, therefore, maintain the requisite balance in their ledger account,” the official told IANS.

“In case of any un-scanned sale, the MSR Gap generated shall be treated as the stock sold and 70 per cent Special Corona Fee shall be levied and payable on the same,” it added.

The Excise Department asked the shop owners to strictly comply with the National Directives for Covid-19 Management and to take all possible measures including deployment of adequate number of guards, proper barricading, marking to ensure social distancing, etc. in coordination with Delhi Police and local administration.

It also said in case the shops allowed to operate comes under the containment zone in future, the same shall be closed immediately.

From May 4, the standalone liquor shops were allowed in the city, while from May 19, even those in the market places were allowed on alternate days. On May 5, the government imposed the ”Special Corona Fee”, which was 70 per cent of the MRP. Till May 25, the government has earned Rs 127 crore as the special corona fee.

The Delhi government on Monday allowed all the shops to operate even in markets without any odd-even system.

–IANS

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Moody’s downgrades India’s sovereign rating

The ratings agency also lowered India”s long-term foreign-currency bond and bank deposit ceilings to “Baa2 and Baa3, from Baa1 and Baa2”, respectively.

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New Delhi, June 1 : Global credit ratings agency Moody”s Investors Services on Monday downgraded India”s sovereign ratings as it sees challenges piled up on the country”s policymaking institutions to mitigate the risks of a sustained period of relatively low growth.

Besides, Moody”s said the Covid-19 pandemic amplifies vulnerabilities in India”s credit profile such as slower growth relative to the country”s potential, rising debt and further weakening of debt affordability and persistent stress in parts of the financial system.

Consequently, Moody”s downgraded India”s foreign-currency and local-currency long-term issuer ratings to Baa3 from Baa2.

It also downgraded India”s local-currency senior unsecured rating to Baa3 from Baa2, and its short-term local-currency rating to P-3 from P-2.

Furthermore, it kept the outlook as negative. Currently, the sovereign rating assigned to India is Baa2 with a negative outlook.

The ratings agency also lowered India”s long-term foreign-currency bond and bank deposit ceilings to “Baa2 and Baa3, from Baa1 and Baa2”, respectively.

“The short-term foreign-currency bond ceiling remains unchanged at Prime-2, and the short-term foreign-currency bank deposit ceiling was lowered to Prime-3 from Prime-2. The long- term local currency bond and bank deposit ceilings were lowered to A2 from A1,” Moody”s said.

The ratings downgrade assumes significance since it will hamper the government”s borrowing foreign programme and make the country less attractive for investment purposes.

According to Moody”s, India faces a prolonged period of slower growth relative to the country”s potential, rising debt, further weakening of debt affordability and persistent stress in parts of the financial system, all of which the country”s policymaking institutions will be challenged to mitigate and contain.

“The decision to downgrade India”s ratings reflects Moody”s view that the country”s policymaking institutions will be challenged in enacting and implementing policies which effectively mitigate the risks of a sustained period of relatively low growth, significant further deterioration in the general government fiscal position and stress in the financial sector,” Moody”s said.

“The negative outlook reflects dominant, mutually-reinforcing, downside risks from deeper stresses in the economy and financial system that could lead to a more severe and prolonged erosion in fiscal strength than Moody”s currently projects,” it added.

Moody”s had upgraded India”s ratings to Baa2 in November 2017 which was based on the expectation that effective implementation of key reforms would strengthen the sovereign”s credit profile through a gradual but persistent improvement in economic, institutional and fiscal strength.

“Since then, implementation of these reforms has been relatively weak and has not resulted in material credit improvements, indicating limited policy effectiveness,” the investors services said.

“While today”s action is taken in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, it was not driven by the impact of the pandemic. Rather, the pandemic amplifies vulnerabilities in India”s credit profile that were present and building prior to the shock, and which motivated the assignment of a negative outlook last year.”

As per Moody”s assetment, a slow reform momentum and constrained policy effectiveness have also contributed to a prolonged period of slow growth, compared to India”s potential, that started before the pandemic and that Moody”s expects will continue well beyond it.

“Real GDP growth has declined from a high of 8.3 per cent in fiscal 2016 (ending March 2017) to 4.2 percent in fiscal 2019,” the investors services said.

“Moody”s expects India”s real GDP to contract by 4 per cent in fiscal 2020 due to the shock from the coronavirus pandemic and related lockdown measures, followed by 8.7 per cent growth in fiscal 2021 and closer to 6 per cent thereafter.”

–IANS

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Reform, liquidity measures for MSMEs get Cabinet nod

Further, the Rs 50,000 crore ”fund of funds” for MSMEs was also cleared by the CCEA which would help these entities get equity.

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Nirmala Sitharaman

New Delhi, June 1 : The Union Cabinet on Monday gave a green signal to the reform and liquidity measures announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman under the ”Aatmanirbhar Bharat economic package last month.

Apart from approving the distressed asset fund for MSMEs and the Rs 50,000 crore fund of funds, the Cabinet also widened the definition of MSMEs by allowing more entities into the criteria to avail the benefits.

Further widening the definition of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) decided that manufacturing and service units with turnover of up to Rs 250 crore or investment of up to Rs 50 crore will qualify as medium enterprises.

Addressing the media here post the Cabinet meeting, Union Information & Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said that the decision was taken post suggestions coming in after the government announced broadening of the scope of MSMEs to support more businesses.

Also, the turnover criteria for MSMEs will not include revenue from exports, further providing flexibility to the sector to expand their operations and push overseas sales, he said.

On May 13, Sitharaman hd announced an increase of investment limits for MSMEs. The Centre had raised the medium enterprises” definition to one with investment and machinery to the tune of Rs 20 crore and turnover of Rs 100 crore. This stands further enhanced now after the Cabinet decision.

As per the new changes, businesses with investment of less than Rs 1 crore and turnover of Rs 5 crore would be classified as micro enterprises. Under the existing criteria, a company with investment of less than Rs 25 lakh in the manufacturing sector and less than Rs 10 lakh in the services sector were considered as micro enterprises.

The Cabinet has changed this distinction as well and a unified criterion will be applied for micro enterprises now.

The investment limit of small enterprises has been increased to Rs 10 crore, and the companies would have to have a turnover of less than Rs 50 crore.

Further, the investment limit for medium enterprises has been increased to Rs 20 crore and the turnover limit has been kept at Rs 100 crore, which has now been extended to companies with investment of Rs 50 crore and turnover of up to Rs 250 crore.

Under the ”Aatmanirbhar Bharat” package, the government has also done away with the distinction of services and manufacturing MSMEs.

Further, the investment limit for medium enterprises has been increased to Rs 20 crore and the turnover limit has been kept at Rs 100 crore, which has now been extended to companies with investment of Rs 50 crore and turnover of up to Rs 250 crore.

The CCEA also approved a distressed asset fund for MSMEs to facilitate provision of Rs 20,000 crore as subordinate debt as announced under the economic package.

The government”s contribution to the distressed asset fund is Rs 4,000 crore through its investment in the Credit Guarantee Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises (CGTMSE) set up by it along with Sidbi. The CGTMSE, in turn, provides partial credit guarantee to the banks.

Functioning MSMEs, which have become non-performing assets or are stressed, will be eligible for access to the fund.

Under the scheme, the Centre will provide guarantee coverage of up to 85 per cent for loans up to Rs 5 lakh and 75 per cent for loans beyond Rs 5 lakh to MSMEs from financial institutions.

It provides a debt facility of up to 15 per cent of promoter contribution or Rs 75 lakh to the promoters, who, in turn, will infuse the amount in the MSME unit as equity.

According to the government, around 2 lakh MSMEs will be benefited by the move.

Further, the Rs 50,000 crore ”fund of funds” for MSMEs was also cleared by the CCEA which would help these entities get equity.

The fund of funds will be set up with a corpus of Rs 10,000 crore and provide equity funding for MSMEs. It will be operated through a mother fund and a few daughter funds and its structure will help leverage Rs 50,000 crore of funds at the daughter funds level.

It will also help MSMEs get listed on the main board of stock exchanges.

An official statement said that MSMEs are the backbone of the Indian economy and silently operating in different areas across the country, more than 6 crore MSMEs have a crucial role to play in building a stronger and self-reliant India.

These small economic engines have a huge impact on the country”s GDP, making a contribution of 29 per cent. They contribute to almost half of exports from the country and over 11 crore people are employed in the MSME sector.

“The MSME Ministry is committed to support the MSMEs, and the people who depend on them. All efforts are being made to encourage MSMEs to take benefit of the initiatives under the ”Aatmanirbhar Bharat” package and our other schemes,” said the official statement.

Among the other steps taken amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, the government has laid out several schemes to provide immediate relief to the MSME sector, including Rs 3 lakh crore collateral-free automatic loans for MSMEs to meet operational liabilities, buy raw material and restart businesses.

The government has also disallowed global tenders in procurements of up to Rs 200 crore to create more opportunities for domestic players.

–IANS

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