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Budget in 1st week of July: FM
New Delhi, May 26
Faced with the challenge of revving up the economy, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee today said the Union Budget would be presented in the first week of July with focus on 'Aam Admi' and a special attention to areas like textiles that were hit hard by global meltdown.

I have priority for both growth and maintaining fiscal prudence, but at what point of time which will get more priority is to be determined depending on the situation.          — Pranab Mukherjee

"I have priority for both growth and maintaining fiscal prudence, but at what point of time which will get more priority is to be determined depending on the situation. — Pranab Mukherjee

Regaining growth momentum a challenge: RBI
Mumbai, May 26
Cautioning that India cannot expect to be de-coupled from the global financial crisis, a top central banker yesterday said regaining the economic growth momentum of the past few years is a challenge before the new government. "Managing the global financial crisis is a major challenge and making sure that the economy goes back to the kind of growth we had (are the challenges before the government)," RBI Deputy Governor Rakesh Mohan told reporters here.



EARLIER STORIES




President and CEO of Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India Pvt Ltd, Shinji Aoyama poses with CBF stunner PGM-F1 at its launch in New Delhi on Tuesday. The bike is priced at Rs 64,630 (ex-showroom Delhi).
President and CEO of Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India Pvt Ltd, Shinji Aoyama poses with CBF stunner PGM-F1 at its launch in New Delhi on Tuesday. The bike is priced at Rs 64,630 (ex-showroom Delhi). Tribune photo: Manas Ranjan Bhui 

Pranab’s comments dampen markets
Mumbai, May 26
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee's comments on economic growth and fiscal consolidation failed to enthuse markets which after a buoyant start closed with a mammoth loss of over 320 points.

Sr citizens can now have health cover
New Delhi, May 26
Senior citizens no more need to feel insecure because of insurance companies' denial to give health cover as insurance regulator IRDA has asked insurers not to deny medical insurance to customers of at least till 65 years of age.

HP to power Punjab, Haryana
Shimla, May 26
Record hydroelectric power generation in Himachal Pradesh due to thawing of glaciers and frozen lakes is good news for Delhi and the rest of northern India.
A model poses with Acer Gateway and eMachines PC at its launch in New Delhi on Tuesday. Acer launched two global PC brands into the Indian market as part of its worldwide multibrand strategy
A model poses with Acer Gateway and eMachines PC at its launch in New Delhi on Tuesday. Acer launched two global PC brands into the Indian market as part of its worldwide multibrand strategy. Tribune photo: Mukesh Aggarwal

Unitech to build 20k affordable houses
New Delhi, May 26
Undeterred by the body blow it received due to the slowdown, Unitech today announced plans to construct 20,000 affordable houses at a cost of Rs 1,700 crore to become India's numero-uno realty company within a year.

Crude oil imports fall over 12 pc in April
New Delhi: India's crude oil imports fell by over 12 per cent in April while fuel consumption was almost flat despite the general elections. India imported 9.7 million tonnes of crude in April this year against 11.04 million tonnes in the year-ago period, according to the latest data from Ministry of Petroleum.— PTI

 





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Budget in 1st week of July: FM

New Delhi, May 26
Faced with the challenge of revving up the economy, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee today said the Union Budget would be presented in the first week of July with focus on 'Aam Admi' and a special attention to areas like textiles that were hit hard by global meltdown.

Racing against time to avert a second vote-on-account, Mukherjee said: "I would not like to have a second batch of vote-on-account... the Budget will be presented in the first week of July". The Budget will have to be passed before July 31, failing which another Interim Budget would be mandatory.

"We have identified issues and areas of concern that need to be addressed in this Budget and will work closely with Manmohan Singh in presenting the first Budget," Mukherjee said in an interview to private news channel.

The focus of the government policies would be "Aam Admi" (common man), the minister said, adding that the Budget would address the problems of sectors like textiles, leather and gems and jewellery as they are the ones hit hard by the global financial crisis.

Promising all "appropriate measures" for the economy, he said the government would take a fresh look at fiscal deficit as it has crossed the previously self-imposed ceiling.

"I have priority for both growth and maintaining fiscal prudence, but at what point of time which will get more priority is to be determined depending on the situation,” Mukherjee said.

"For the year 2008-09, we have gone beyond the figures projected in the interim Budget. What is needed right now is stimulus, but at the same time we cannot indulge in fiscal profligacy. We shall have to restore the balance," he said.

Asked if Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) was a priority for him, the Finance Minister said: "What I have said in the Interim Budget is my observations. I have also given a detailed explanation in my speech. That's why I had to cross the ceiling which was imposed and we shall have to take a fresh look at it." As per the government's estimate, fiscal deficit is projected to widen to 5.5 per cent of the GDP during 2009-10.

"Aam Admi is to be at the focal point", Mukherjee said, adding that the manifesto proposed to increase the minimum wages under the National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme to Rs 100 per day.

On the need for another stimulus package to boost the economy, Mukherjee said the government had since December last announced three packages while noting that signs of economic recovery in Europe are not promising.

Answering questions on economic growth, Mukherjee said 2008-09 growth will be close to the assessment made by the Central Statistical Organisation, which projected the economy to expand by 7.1 per cent in 2008-09.

As regards the current year, he said, things may start picking up in the second half. "I am hoping so. Some indications are available." The capital inflow in April-May started picking up slowly but steadily, he said, adding "manufacturing is yet to pick up." —PTI 

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Regaining growth momentum a challenge: RBI

Mumbai, May 26
Cautioning that India cannot expect to be de-coupled from the global financial crisis, a top central banker yesterday said regaining the economic growth momentum of the past few years is a challenge before the new government.

"Managing the global financial crisis is a major challenge and making sure that the economy goes back to the kind of growth we had (are the challenges before the government)," RBI Deputy Governor Rakesh Mohan told reporters here.

Noting that unrest in the global financial markets still persists and India is not entirely de-coupled from the crisis, Mohan said the focus of Indian policymakers should be on the financial stability in the economy.

"I think price stability is not an issue right now. Financial stability is more important...we have to observe that the uncertainty in the (developed) world is still very high and... in such a situation we can't expect to be decoupled," Mohan said.

Mohan was talking to reporters after the launch of his book — Monetary policy in a globalised economy: A practitioner's view.

Unlike many of the major economies, India's foreign exchange, money and capital markets have been functioning in an orderly manner, Mohan said.

Compared to the central banks in the crisis-hit economies, India has much more responsibility on the financial stability, Mohan said.

The global financial turmoil has thrown up challenges to the policymakers across the world, Mohan said, adding, the central banks have been coming with innovative policy to tackle the crisis. — PTI

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Pranab’s comments dampen markets

Mumbai, May 26
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee's comments on economic growth and fiscal consolidation failed to enthuse markets which after a buoyant start closed with a mammoth loss of over 320 points.

After closing higher in the past two days, the Bombay Stock Exchange benchmark Sensex fell sharply by 323.99 points, or 2.33 per cent, to 13,589.23 on selling pressure across counters barring IT.

The bellwether index swung between a low of 13,518.79 and a high of 13,991.46 points.

Marketmen said the markets hit a trading low of 13,518.79 in the afternoon trade after Mukherjee in an interview to private television news channel CNBC TV 18 said the government will concentrate on growth momentum and fiscal prudence.

The broader 50-share Nifty of the National Stock Exchange fell sharply by 120.85 points or 2.85 per cent to close at 4,116.70 from its last close.

Brokers said retail investors and funds took out money from small and medium size shares, which were on upward march in the recent past. Midcap index fell by 3.40 per cent to 4,724.09 and small cap index by 3.12 per cent to 5,608.66 points. — PTI

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Sr citizens can now have health cover

New Delhi, May 26
Senior citizens no more need to feel insecure because of insurance companies' denial to give health cover as insurance regulator IRDA has asked insurers not to deny medical insurance to customers of at least till 65 years of age.

"All health insurance products filed hereafter must allow entry at least till 65 years of age," Insurance Regulatory and Develoment Authority said in a communication to CEOs of all general insurance companies.

It also said any denial to health insurance for senior citizens should be made in writing with reasons furnished and recorded. Such reasons should stand scrutiny of reasonableness and fairness," it added.

The insurance regulator further said the premium charged for health insurance products catering to the needs of senior citizens should be fair, justified, transparent and duly disclosed upfront.

IRDA said insurers should devise mechanisms to reward policyholders for early entry and continued renewals with the same insurers.

Insurers will reimburse at least 50 per cent of the cost incurred by the insured in pre-insurance medical examination, in cases where the risk is accepted, insurance regulator said.

"This circular shall take effect for all policies issued or renewed on or after July 1,2009," IRDA said. — PTI

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HP to power Punjab, Haryana

Shimla, May 26
Record hydroelectric power generation in Himachal Pradesh due to thawing of glaciers and frozen lakes is good news for Delhi and the rest of northern India.

The 20 state-owned run-of-river projects currently generate 7.6 million units daily, "the maximum generation during the peak season", said Sunil Grover, Himachal Pradesh State Electricity Board's director of generation.

The board is now returning power to those states that had supplied electricity to the hill state in winter under a power-sharing agreement. "Right now, we are giving 15 lakh units to Delhi every day. From next month, we will supply to Punjab and Haryana too," Grover told IANS.

The three northern states had provided 400 million units to Himachal Pradesh last winter (December to March-end) when the state's generation had dipped by 60-80 per cent.

"In this surplus-power season, we will provide an additional 400 million units to these states so we get it back next winter," Grover said.

Apart from the state government's plants, there are 13 other hydropower projects that are run either by the Central government, private players or are joint ventures, all operating at full capacity currently.

V K Verma, deputy general manager of the Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam, which owns the Nathpa-Jhakri project, said generation at the plant has increased to 36 million units per day, and attributed it to the increased flow in the Satluj river, on which the project is located.

"The river discharge has increased to 500 cubic metres per second with the melting of frozen lakes and icecaps," Verma said. This was around 50-60 cubic metres a second in January-February.

Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh buy power from the 1,500-MW Nathpa-Jhakri project.

Himachal Pradesh's hydropower potential is 20,416 MW, about 25 per cent of India's total potential, out of which only 6,419 MW is being harnessed. Of this, 1,738 MW is generated by 15 projects run by the private sector.

Under the state's amended power policy, the bidder who offers more free power to the state in addition to the fixed quota is allotted projects.

The free power is in addition to the fixed upfront premium of Rs 20 lakh per megawatt that companies have to pay the state.The state government is encouraging local entrepreneurs to take up projects with 2 to 5 MW generation capacity. The government has allotted projects above 5 MW through open bidding.— IANS

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Unitech to build 20k affordable houses

New Delhi, May 26
Undeterred by the body blow it received due to the slowdown, Unitech today announced plans to construct 20,000 affordable houses at a cost of Rs 1,700 crore to become India's numero-uno realty company within a year.

"We made a mistake of only focusing on top 2-3 per cent of India's population. Now we want to reach the masses...enter into budget and affordable houses... we will be the biggest player in the housing segment," Unitech Managing Director Sanjay Chandra told PTI.

"We plan to construct 20,000 affordable housing units over the next two years... these will be low-cost homes with prices ranging between Rs 10-15 lakh," he said claiming that they would become the largest realty player within a year.

Currently, Unitech has a land bank of about 8,000 acres covering 500 million sq. ft. Its rival DLF's land bank has come down to 425 million sq. ft. in the last quarter of 2008-09.

Both Unitech and DLF suffered the most due to the meltdown and had been forced to go for distress sale of the assets to keep their finances under check even though shares of the two plunged dramatically in the last six months.

DLF's share price had hit a 52-week low of Rs 124.15 in February 2009 from a high of Rs 614.90 in May 2008. Unitech's share price also plunged to a low of Rs 21.8 from a high of Rs 267.5 in the past one year.

Elaborating on the new strategy, Chandra said "we have realised that we can't grow until we are able to cater to at least 50 per cent of urban populating in any city." Therefore, the company is planning to construct such houses, whose average construction cost is estimated at about Rs 1,000 per sq ft, on a total area of 16-17 million sq ft, he added.

At this average cost, the total investment for such houses would work out to be about Rs 1,700 crore. — PTI

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BRIEFLY


Vice-chairman of Bharti Enterprises, Rakesh Bharti Mittal speaks at a news conference in New Delhi on Tuesday. Bharti Enterprises, in partnership with Del Monte Pacific Ltd., launched exclusive range of international Del Monte products, including fruit drinks, packaged fruits, sauces, and a range of the Italian products in the Indian market.
Vice-chairman of Bharti Enterprises, Rakesh Bharti Mittal speaks at a news conference in New Delhi on Tuesday. Bharti Enterprises, in partnership with Del Monte Pacific Ltd., launched exclusive range of international Del Monte products, including fruit drinks, packaged fruits, sauces, and a range of the Italian products in the Indian market. The joint venture will make an initial investment of about Rs 100 crore towards setting up this facility. A Tribune photograph 

McDonald's to open 190 restaurants more
Mumbai
: Fast-food chain McDonald's India on Tuesday said it plans to open 180-190 company-owned restaurants by 2015, with an estimated investment of up to Rs 570 crore. "We have 157 restaurants now and we plan to open 180-190 company-owned restaurants by 2015, including between 30 to 40 this year," McDonald's India managing director Amit Jatia said here. — PTI

ICICI in pact with mChek
Chandigarh:
ICICI Bank on Tuesday said it has entered into a tie-up with mobile payment solutions provider mChek to issue electronic cards to customers. Under the agreement, ICICI Bank, in association with Visa International and mChek, will issue electronic debit and credit cards, which can be used to perform various transactions like bill payments, pre-paid recharges, money transfers, payment of insurance premiums and ticket purchases. — TNS

Nalco cuts aluminium prices
New Delhi
: Aluminium producer Nalco has cut prices of its products by up to Rs 5,000 a tonne, a step aimed to discourage imports from China which have got a boost after the domestic currency turned stronger against the US dollar. "We have cut prices of ingots and sow by Rs 5,000 a tonne and other products like wire rods, billets by Rs 4,000 per tonne to discourage imports from China and Bahrain," Nalco director B L Bagra said. — PTI

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