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NSC resignations reignite GDP back series controversy

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P Chidambaram

New Delhi, Jan 30 : A fresh controversy erupted on the back series of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) over which two members of National Statistical Commission (NSC) resigned triggering Opposition criticism that called it the death of the institution.

“We mourn the death of the NSC and remember with gratitude its valiant fight to release untainted GDP data and employment data,” Congress leader and former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram tweeted attacking the Narendra Modi-led government.

Two external members of the NSC, Acting Chairman P.C. Mohanan and J.V. Meenakshi, had resigned on Monday citing differences with the government on issues related to jobs data and GDP back series data, saying the government was not taking the NSC seriously.

The resignations have left the NSC, which has a strength of seven members, with only two members Chief Statistician Pravin Srivastava and NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant, as three posts are lying vacant. The NSC has no external members now.

“One more venerable institution died on January 29, 2019 owing to malicious negligence by the government,” Chidambaram said while wishing for its rebirth in another tweet. The NSC is under the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI).

Mohanan has alleged that the NSC was not consulted before releasing the back series data on GDP. The release of GDP back series data by NITI Aayog last November had created a furore as to how it got involved in the Central Statistics Office (CSO) work.

The back series data had revised the GDP growth rates during the UPA years downward which initiated a political slugfest with both ruling party BJP and opposition Congress trying to impress that their economic policies were superior to that of the other.

Another politically sensitive issue that the resignations have brought up is related to the employment survey carried out by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), which was approved by the Commission last December but is yet to go for publication.

The complaint by the two about the delay in publication of the employment survey has armed the Opposition to intensify its attack on the government for lack of jobs, particularly when the general election is due in a few months.

However, the Ministry of Statistics said the two members never brought up the issues to them and that it valued the Commission for its expertise.

“The members had expressed certain concerns on the functioning of the Commission including release of the labour force survey results and the back series of GDP. These concerns were not expressed by the members in any of the meetings of the Commission in the last few months,” the MoSPI said in a statement.

The Ministry “not only places a high regard for the Commission but also values its advice and on which appropriate action is taken”, it said.

On the labour force survey, it said NSSO is processing the quarterly data for the period July 2017 to December 2018 and the report will be released thereafter.

“Insofar as the back series of the GDP is concerned, the NSC had itself urged the Ministry to finalise and release it. The official estimates of the back series of GDP were accordingly computed using the methodology adopted in the 2011-12 base year serious,” it said.

It was approved by the experts in Advisory Committee on National Accounts Statistics, which is the appropriate body, the Ministry noted and added that it was later discussed in the NSC.

“The NSC provides valuable guidance and strategic direction to the statistical activities in the central and state governments,” it said.

The Ministry is in regular dialogue with the other Ministries and state governments to improve the availability and coverage of data, it added.

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Markets open on positive note

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Sensex Nifty Equity

Mumbai, Feb 20: The 30-scrip Sensitive Index (Sensex) on Wednesday opened on a positive note during the morning session of the trade.

The BSE Sensex opened at 35,564.93 before touching a high of 35,581.14 and a low of 35,520.21.

It was trading at 35,528.69 up by 176.08 points or 0.50 per cent from its Tuesday’s close at 35,352.61.

On the other hand, the broader 50-scrip Nifty at the National Stock Exchange (NSE) opened at 10,655.45 after closing at 10,604.35.

The Nifty is trading at 10,656.25 in the morning.

IANS

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PF funds’ investment in IL&FS bonds have no government guarantee: Finance Ministry

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IL&FS Financial Service

New Delhi, Feb 19 (IANS) The provident and pension fund trusts that invested in the IL&FS bonds now fear loss of money as the debt-ridden company’s bonds are unsecured debt, and the Finance Ministry says superannuated bonds do not carry any government guarantee and all such instruments have to face all market-related risks.

“Since these are investments in bonds, the government does not ensure any guarantee on them as such and if these are invested in stock markets, they carry the market risks as applicable. It is between the bond issuer and bond holders…,” the Finance Ministry said in response to IANS queries.

Thousands of crores of money of more than 15 lakh employees of both public and private sector companies have exposure to IL&FS bonds.

However, queries sent to the EPFO Commissioner and Labour Minister Santosh Gangwar remained unanswered.

Over 50 funds that manage retirement benefits of over 15 lakh employees have exposure to IL&FS. PF trusts of state electricity boards, public sector undertakings (PSUs) and banks are among them. The provident and pension fund trusts have filed intervening applications in the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) stating that they stand to lose all the money since the bonds are under unsecured debt.

Usually, retirement funds have a low-risk appetite and invest in “AAA” rated bonds (which IL&FS bonds used to be once upon a time) and get assured returns with low interest rates.

The worries of pension and provident fund trusts come from the classification of IL&FS profiling its companies as to which can meet the dues obligations. Many important trust managing funds of PSUs like MMTC, IOC, Hudco, SBI and IDBI are among those filing petitions. From private sector, HUL and Asian Paints are among the petitioners.

IL&FS is currently under resolution process at the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT). The process will decide under Section 53 of the IBC the order of priority for distribution of proceeds of the process.

The beleaguered company has informed the NCLT that of the 302 entities in the group, 169 are Indian companies, out of which only 22 are emerging as those which can meet all obligations (green), while 10 firms can pay to only secured creditors (Amber). There are 38 companies of IL&FS (red) which cannot meet any obligations of payment, and 120 entities are still being assessed.

These PF and provident funds trusts are worried that if payment is limited to secured creditors, then only financial creditors like banks will receive the dues while unsecured bond-holders will be get any payments.

IL&FS bonds attracted investments by PF trusts as it had the shareholding of SBI and LIC giving its bonds the comfort factor.

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Sachin Bansal invests Rs 650 crore in Ola

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Sachin-Bansal

Bengaluru, Feb 19 (IANS) Internet entrepreneur and Flipkart co-founder Sachin Bansal has invested Rs 650 crore, or about $92 million, in ride-hailing platform Ola in his personal capacity as investor, the company said in a statement on Tuesday.

This investment is part of Ola’s larger Series J funding round. It is also the largest investment by an individual in Ola to date, it said.

“Ola is one of India’s most promising consumer businesses that is creating deep impact and lasting value for the ecosystem. On one hand, they have emerged as a global force in the mobility space and on the other, they continue to build deeper for various needs of a billion Indians through their platform, becoming a trusted household name today,” Bansal said.

He further said he has known Ola founder Bhavish Aggarwal as entrepreneur and friend over the years and that he has great respect for what he and the team at Ola have built in 8 years.

“We are extremely thrilled to have Sachin onboard Ola as an investor. Sachin is an icon of entrepreneurship and his experience of building one of India’s most respected businesses ground up, is unparalleled,” Ola CEO Bhavish Aggarwal said.

Ola integrates city transportation for customers and drivers onto a mobile technology platform ensuring convenient, transparent, safe and quick service fulfilment, the statement added.

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