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Starting point to address slowdown would be to acknowledge it: Raghuram Rajan

The former RBI governor urged India to join free trade agreements judiciously in order to boost competition and improve domestic efficiency.

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Former Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor Raghuram Rajan said India is in the midst of a “growth recession” with signs of deep malaise in the Indian economy that is being run through extreme centralisation of power in Prime Minister’s Office and powerless ministers.

Penning down his recommendations to help the ailing Indian economy out of the ongoing slowdown in the India Today magazine, he called for reforms to liberalise capital, land and labour markets, and spur investment as well as growth.

He also urged India to join free trade agreements judiciously in order to boost competition and improve domestic efficiency.

“To understand what has gone wrong, we need to start first with the centralised nature of the current government. Not just decision-making but also ideas and plans emanate from a small set of personalities around the Prime Minister and in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

“That works well for the party’s political and social agenda, which is well laid out, and where all these individuals have domain expertise. It works less well for economic reforms, where there is less of a coherent articulated agenda at the top, and less domain knowledge of how the economy works at the national rather than state level,” Rajan wrote.

Stating that previous governments may have been untidy coalitions but they consistently took path of further economic liberalisation, he said, “extreme centralisation, coupled with the absence of empowered ministers and the lack of a coherent guiding vision, ensures that reform efforts pick up steam only when the PMO focuses on them, and lose impetus when its attention switches to other pressing issues”.

“The Modi government came to power emphasising ‘minimum government, maximum governance’. This slogan is often misunderstood. What was meant was that government would do things more efficiently, not that people and the private sector would be freed to do more. While the government continues the creditable drive to automation — direct benefit transfer to recipients is an important achievement — the role of the government in many spheres has expanded, not shrunk,” he said.

Rajan said the starting point to address the economic slowdown will be for the Modi government to acknowledge the problem.

“The starting point has to be to recognise the magnitude of the problem, to not brand every internal or external critic as politically-motivated, and to stop believing that the problem is temporary and that suppressing bad news and inconvenient surveys will make it go away,” he said. “India is in the midst of a growth recession, with significant distress in rural areas.”India’s economic growth slowed to a 6-year low of 4.5 per cent in the July-September quarter. With inflation rising, fears of stagflation — a fall in aggregate demand accompanied by rising inflation — have resurfaced.

He said construction, real estate and infrastructure sectors are in “deep trouble” and so are lenders to it like the non-bank finance companies. The crisis among shadow lenders and a build-up of bad loans at banks have curbed lending in the economy.

Seeking asset quality review of the non-bank finance companies, he said corporate and household debt is rising, and there is deep distress in parts of the financial sector.

Unemployment, especially amongst youth, seems to be growing, as is the accompanying risk of youth unrest. “Domestic businesses have not been investing either, and the stagnation in investment is the strongest sign that something is deeply wrong,” he said.

Rajan called for reforms in land acquisition, labour laws, stable tax and regulatory regime, fast track bankruptcy resolution of developers in default, proper pricing of electricity, preserving competition in telecom sector and giving farmers access to inputs and finance.

Calling for not selling already dominant family enterprises to avoid concentration of power, he also wanted decentralisation of power by empowering ministers and engaging states, beginning with amending the terms of reference of the 15th Finance Commission by not curtailing states’ share of tax revenue.

Rajan said the government should desist from cutting personal income tax rates for the middle-class for now and should use its scarce fiscal resources to support the rural poor through schemes such as the MGNREGA.

The repeated government allusions to a USD 5-trillion-economy by 2024, which would necessitate steady real growth of at least 8-9 per cent per year starting now, seem increasingly unrealistic, he added.

“Furthermore, even if some of the problems are legacies, the government, after five-and-a-half years in power, needs to resolve them. A massive new reform thrust is needed, accompanied by a change in how the administration governs,” he said.

Rajan said the Modi government has shown “surprising timidity” when it comes to unfinished reforms on the business environment, land acquisition, labour and the role of the public sector.

Business

Qualcomm to invest Rs 730 cr in Jio Platforms

RIL said recently that the funds raised by selling stakes in Jio Platforms, along with a Rs 53,124-crore rights issue, have made it net debt-free much before its stated March 2021 deadline.

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New Delhi, July 12 : The investment spree into Reliance Industries’ Jio Platforms continues, with technology major Qualcomm coming in with Rs 730 crore to pick up 0.15 per cent stake.

This is the 12th investor to pick up a stake in Reliance Industries Ltd’ (RIL NSE 2.95 %’s) telecom and digital business in less than two months. Qualcomm Ventures’ stake buy will take the total investments in Jio Platforms to Rs 1,18,318.45 crore for a combined 25.24 % holding.

The investment, which is subject to regulatory and other approvals, pegs Jio Platforms’ equity value at Rs 4.91 lakh crore and enterprise value at Rs 5.16 lakh crore, Reliance said in the joint statement.

Jio Platforms houses RIL’s telecom business under Reliance Jio Infocomm, the largest in the country with nearly 400 million subscribers, besides other digital properties and investments.

” Qualcomm has been a valued partner for several years and we have a shared vision of connecting everything by building a robust and secure wireless and digital network and extending the benefits of digital connectivity to everyone in India,” said Mukesh Ambani, chairman and managing director for Reliance Industries. “As a world leader in wireless technologies, Qualcomm offers deep technology knowhow and insights that will help us deliver on our 5G vision and the digital transformation of India for both people and enterprises.” he added.

Qualcomm’s investments come at a time when RIL is pivoting itself as a consumer technology company, away from being just an energy conglomerate. RIL’s Jio is also betting big on 5G for propelling the next set of services .

In fact, RIL has stressed that Reliance Jio is more of a technology company than just a telecom firm, underlined by the fact that the 11 investors who have picked up stake mainly focus on the global technology space.

““With our shared goal of extending the benefits of digital connectivity to everyone and everything, we anticipate Jio Platforms will deliver a new set of services and experiences to Indian consumers,” said Steve Mollenkopf, CEO of Qualcomm Incorporated.

Prior to Qualcomm ventures, Intel Capital , social media firm Facebook, Abu Dhabi’s two largest sovereign investment arms – Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and Mubadala, private equity firms Silver Lake (which invested in two tranches), Vista Equity Partners, General Atlantic, KKR, TPG, L Catterton and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), have invested in Jio Platforms.

Amongst the earlier investments, Jio Platforms has received all the approvals for its stake sales to L Catterton, Public Investment Firm (PIF) , Silver Lake and General Atlantic Singapore, and has got a total of Rs 30,062.43 crore against a 6.13,% stake.

On July 9, Jio Platforms received the investment amount from Facebook for Rs43,574 crore against a 9.99% stake – highest among the investments. The Competition Commission of India (CCI) approved Facebook’s purchase of the deal marking the culmination of a deal which saw possibly the largest FDI investment in India’s tech landscape.

RIL said recently that the funds raised by selling stakes in Jio Platforms, along with a Rs 53,124-crore rights issue, have made it net debt-free much before its stated March 2021 deadline.

Morgan Stanley acted as financial advisor to Reliance Industries and AZB & Partners and Davis Polk & Wardwell acted as legal counsels. Trilegal acted as legal counsel for Qualcomm Ventures.

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V-shaped recovery unlikely for Indian economy: Survey

The package focussed broadly on saving lives and on undertaking deep structural reforms, the report said.

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New Delhi, July 12 : India is unlikely to witness a sharp turnaround in its economic growth amid the pandemic as there has been limited fiscal support from the government so far, according to a survey of economists by FICCI.

FICCI”s recent Economic Outlook Survey has shown that economists feel majority of the steps taken by the Centre and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) address only the supply side constraints, while there have been no major moves to boost demand, which is the need of the hour.

The current round of the survey was conducted in the month of June 2020 and drew responses from leading economists representing industry, banking, and the financial services sector.

“Economists also stressed that India was unlikely to witness a sharp turnaround in economic growth given the limited fiscal support extended till now,” said the FICCI report.

The opinion of economists gain significance as many people including from the government and industry have time and again raised hope that India will see a “V-shaped” recovery.

The survey predicts a 4.5 per cent contraction in India’s GDP in the ongoing financial year.

The survey showed that participating economists were of the view that government measures in the stimulus 2.0, which is popularly called the ”Aatmanirbhar Bharat” economic package would take a long time for on-ground implementation and tangible results to be witnessed.

The package focussed broadly on saving lives and on undertaking deep structural reforms, the report said.

“They strongly felt that the package could provide more measures to boost demand conditions in the economy as reviving demand should currently hold greater importance. Therefore, a need for undertaking direct income transfers to the most vulnerable section of the population and unemployed poor was felt by a majority of the participants,” it said.

Economists were of the view that apart from pure cash transfers, the government could also consider GST reductions especially in the non essential goods segment which has the potential to drive demand. Furthermore, some sort of tax waivers could also be undertaken for low income groups.

Alongside, sector specific measures could also support recovery in a big way, the FICCI report said.

Sectors with high backward and forward linkages such as automobile, construction among others could be revived without incurring much fiscal strain, it said among other suggestions.

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77% companies face revenue drop amid Covid pandemic: Report

Businesses see challenges with regards to demand, liquidity and availability of finance with MSMEs being the hardest hit amongst all, the survey found.

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New Delhi, July 12 : Around 77 per cent business organisations have witnessed a drop in their revenue as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, according to a recent global survey.

As per a joint survey by 720 Transform of Dubai, Prophecy FZLLC-Middle East and India-based Insights3D, around 7 per cent firms in India and the Middle East have registered an upward revenue growth, while about 16 per cent of the companies remained unaffected.

Around 282 executives, including CEOs and MDs from across industry segments were interviewed for the survey.

Out of the negatively impacted companies which recorded fall in revenue, 30 per cent companies logged an over 50 per cent drop while another 30 per cent firms recorded 30-50 per cent decline.

The report said that around 30 per cent of the companies surveyed will need to undertake drastic measures such as higher levels of rationalisation, sale or merger.

Commenting on the report, Raja Marur of Prophecy FZLLC said: “Our belief that a new normal is being envisaged has been validated by the survey. Further, the impact to organizations varies by scale and level of global integration of their supply chains.”

Most leaders foresee a new normal in terms of remote working and decentralization, coupled with process automations and an increased reliance on artificial intelligence and analytics, the survey showed. However, these changes are likely to pose challenges in governance structures as also in communication lines and objective performance management.

Businesses see challenges with regards to demand, liquidity and availability of finance with MSMEs being the hardest hit amongst all, the survey found.

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