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Subhash Chandra Garg Reform Action Plan-II: Steps needed to improve investment rates

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New Delhi, Nov 7 : Former Finance Secretary Subhash Chandra Garg, who demitted office last month, has said serious policy and programme measures are required to make the infrastructure sector attractive in order to kick-start the investment cycle in the private sector as investment rates have fallen to less than 30 per cent for over 7 years now.

The senior bureaucrat, who was shifted out of the Finance Ministry just after the general Budget in July this year, has said in a report that India’s investment rates have fallen to less than 30 per cent and such low investment rates are persisting for more than seven years now and are far lower than China.

“Our investment rates exceeded 35 per cent for some quarters during 2005-2014. China averaged investment growth rate in excess of 40 per cent for 25 years (1993-2018) with a peak of 48 per cent and still is clocking over 44 per cent of investment growth rate. While slowdown in housing and construction investment started about 7-8 years ago and is still persisting, there is slowdown in road highways, power generation and telecommunications now. Most infrastructure enterprises are still with the Government – railways, roads, coal and power,” he said.

The Congress-led UPA Government was in power in the period 2009-14.

“Government’s investment capacity, including that of the public sector, is severely limited. Quite a few sectors where private sector investment was flowing in earlier have become unattractive for private sector for different reasons – highways (unviability), Telecom (regulatory excess), Residential Housing (capital appreciation disappearing), Power (unavailability of coal),” he noted.

“Serious policy and programme measures required to make these sectors attractive to kick-start the investment cycle in the private sector,” said the ex-Secretary.

But for raising investment, he said domestic savings must grow.

“For investment rate to rise, we need both the domestic savings rates to go up and transfer of savings from the rest of the World. As India would need to keep up growth of consumption, India’s savings will find it difficult to grow beyond 32-35 per cent. This requires 5-8 per cent of India’s GDP to come as external savings transfer “he said.

The former Economic Affairs Secretary said for investment rates to improve, “we will need serious reforms for private sector to make investments. Reforms and ambitious investment programme required across infrastructure, digital economy, important service sectors like health, education and travel, significant ‘Make in India’ sectors like electronics, defence production and automobiles and in waste management would be needed”.

Infrastructure has massive investment requirement in India – energy: oil & gas, coal & power, transportation: railways, airports & roads, and real estate: most in residential and rural, agriculture and hills, his report said.

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Research and development activity to get hit as WD benefit to cease from FY21

According to experts, R&D activity is a key proponent of the ‘Make in India’ strategy and to further expand the manufacturing sector in the country.

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New Delhi, Feb 19 : India Inc’s R&D activity might get adversely impacted as weighted deduction (WD) benefits, including those on capital expenses, stand withdrawn from the next fiscal.

Till now, the Income Tax Act allowed for weighted deduction for all R&D activities.

However, four years back a sunset provision was introduced in the Budget on the availability of weighted deduction from April 1, 2020.

This deadline was expected to have been extended in this year’s Budget. However, that did not happen.

“The weighted deduction was a key reason for entities to invest in R&D infra. This withdrawal will impact future investments in this area,” said Amarjeet Singh, Senior Partner, International Tax and Regulatory, KPMG in India.

According to experts, R&D activity is a key proponent of the ‘Make in India’ strategy and to further expand the manufacturing sector in the country.

Besides, R&D investments into India have grown with many MNCs establishing their research bases here.

“The ‘Make in India’ programme has got the booster of a reduced tax rate. Similarly, had the government continued with the weighted deduction for R&D, it would have surely ensured that India marched ahead both in manufacturing and in the corresponding R&D,” said Gukul Chaudhri, Partner, Deloitte India.

“So, while India may not lose its tag as the R&D lab of the world, the availability of weighted deduction would have ensured that India continued as one of the most attractive destinations for R&D in the world,” Chaudhri added.

The Finance Act, 2016, restricted the availability of expenditure incurred on scientific research to 150 per cent from April 1, 2017, and no weighted deduction from April 1, 2020.

“Globally, most countries are encouraging R&D activity as it generates new ‘intellectual property’ (IP), which in turn creates sustainable revenues. Such IP or new product gives rise to a new industry and other supporting activities,” said Samir Kanabar, Partner, Tax and Regulatory Services, Ernst & Young.

“In India, several sectors like auto, pharma etc. have invested substantially in R&D facilities to develop new IPs, patents and hence, a new tax regime to boost R&D was a major expectation,” Kanabar added.

However, Suman Chowdhury, President, Ratings, Acuite Ratings and Research, said that the reduction in weighted tax deduction will not have any significant effect on India Inc’s R&D activity.

“India’s R&D activity has held steady at 0.7 per cent of GDP over 5 years and no visible signs of positive outcomes were seen emanating from private enterprises despite such benefits,” Chowdhury said.

“Nevertheless, corporates now enjoy a reduced effective corporate tax structure, which should more than compensate for the loss, at least for the manufacturing sector. Service oriented enterprises, whose business model thrives on innovation, do not require incentives to do R&D in our opinion,” Chowdhury added.

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

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AGR risk for GAIL, OIL and Powergrid stays: Fitch

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New Delhi, Feb 19 : India’s telecom-related regulatory dispute still is event risk for GAIL, OIL and Powergrid, Fitch Ratings said on wednesday.

Fitch Ratings continues to treat any payments that three India-based companies – GAIL (India) Limited (BBB-/Stable), Oil India Limited (BBB-/Stable) and Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd (BBB-/Stable) – may have to make under a demand notice from the Department of Telecom as an event risk for the companies’ ratings.

Fitch is not taking immediate rating action on the three companies, as the Supreme Court of India allowed the companies to withdraw their clarification applications on February 14, 2020, and resolve their dispute with Department of Telecom outside the court.

This is in stark contrast to the court’s decision to demand immediate payments from the telecom companies that are also involved in the dispute, Fitch added.

“We expect the three companies to eventually resolve the dispute, although resolution timing is uncertain. A speedy solution is important to prevent disrupting the companies’ investment plans and damaging their performance. The three companies are considering an appeal against the demand notices. We understand that they have the option to resolve the matter through alternate dispute-resolution mechanisms available to state-owned enterprises. This is in addition to the legal options available to telecom license holders in general,” it said.

The Department of Telecom has issued demand notices to GAIL, OIL and POWERGRID for Rs 1,831 billion, Rs 480 billion and Rs 220 billion, respectively.

The notices include license fees on non-telecom revenue and additional interest and penalties on the license fees. However, the three companies’ telecom-related revenue is insignificant, at around Rs 0.5 billion, Rs 0.01 billion and Rs 23 billion, respectively, for the same time period as the demand notices.

The three companies have created telecom infrastructure for internal use and have obtained national long distance and Internet service provider licenses to rent out spare capacity. They maintain that their licenses differ from the unified access licenses held by telecom companies, hence, the court’s decision on adjusted gross revenue for telecom companies does not apply to them.

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Kanpur tanneries asked to shut down again

Aftab Alam, a leather exporter, said the closure order would not only damage the business image of tanneries but would affect leather export too.

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Kanpur, Feb 17 : The Regional Pollution Control Board of Uttar Pradesh has ordered 248 tanneries in Jajmau area of Kanpur to stop their operations from February 19 till further orders, without assigning any reason.

The tanneries, which remained closed for a period of 13 months on the charge of polluting Ganga, were allowed to start production on December 20 for two months only.

S.B. Franklin, regional pollution control board officer, said the time limit of two months is expiring on February 19.

Feroz Alam of Small Tanners’ Association said that on December 20 last year, the government, while granting permission to run the units with half capacity, had also stated that the tanners would be allowed to run their units till next year if they followed the necessary norms and standards fixed by the pollution control board.

He said, “During the last two months, not a single notice was issued to any tannery by the regional pollution control board because the tanneries did not flout the norms set by it.”

He said that the UP Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) had not given any reason for the closure order now.

Aftab Alam, a leather exporter, said the closure order would not only damage the business image of tanneries but would affect leather export too.

He said the tanneries which have got orders from foreign companies would suffer if they failed to supply the goods in time.

The tanners would also face problems in getting new orders in future, he added.

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