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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
B U S I N E S S

HPCL to set up Bathinda refinery on Punjab terms
Bathinda, August 12
Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) will implement the Guru Gobind Singh Oil Refinery project at Phulo Khari village of this district on the terms and conditions laid down by the Punjab Government and all bottlenecks in this connection will be removed soon.

 P. Chidambaram

Task forces set up to recover tax arrears
New Delhi, August 12
The Finance Ministry today swung into action by setting up two task forces to recover direct and indirect tax arrears running into a whopping Rs 87,000 crore.
P. Chidambaram

Aiyar, oil PSUs discuss merger
New Delhi, August 12
Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar today held discussions with chief executives of oil PSUs to explore the possibility of merging the BPCL and HPCL with the ONGC and OIL with IOC to create two oil behemoths.

Mani Shankar Aiyar
Mani Shankar Aiyar

Thailand approves 82 items for FTA
New Delhi, August 12
Thailand’s cabinet has approved 82 items in the Free Trade Agreement, selected for ‘’early harvest’’, on which customs duty would be reduced in a phased manner to zero per cent from September 1, 2005, said Minister of Science and Technology of Thailand Korn Thapparansi.

Industry and Commerce Minister Kamal Nath meets Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia Industry and Commerce Minister Kamal Nath meets Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia on the WTO Framework in New Delhi on Thursday. 
— Tribune photo by Rajeev Tyagi

Youth joblessness dragging down world economy: ILO
New York, August 12
Warning that youth unemployment, which has skyrocketed to a record level, is dragging down the world economy, the United Nations has called for concerted and targeted measures to the tackle the problem.

ICICI Lombard scheme for farmers
Chandigarh, August 12
ICICI Lombard General Insurance today announced the launch of a new insurance scheme seeking to provide cover to farmers and hydro-power generation projects against the vagaries of weather.


A model displays a dress designed by Malaysian Amir Kadir during the Malaysia International Textile and Fashion Exhibition 2004 in conjunction with Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week 2004 in Kuala Lumpur
A model displays a dress designed by Malaysian Amir Kadir during the Malaysia International Textile and Fashion Exhibition 2004 in conjunction with Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week 2004 in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday. Malaysia’s textile and fashion industry, ranked among the top five export earners for 2003, contributed over 2 per cent to the export of manufactured goods and total export turnover of about 8 billion ringgit ($2.11 billion) last year. 
— Reuters

EARLIER STORIES

 

Auto Scene

Eicher to roll out 25-tonner in Oct
Ahmedabad, August 12
Eicher Motors Ltd is all set to roll out its Multiaxle Eicher Galaxy 33.25 (25-tonne) in two months and a yet-to-be-named 35-tonne tractor-trailer in an year’s time.

  • Toyota expansion

Video

CTC Plaza showcases an enticing array of special wedding lehengas.
(28k, 56k)

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HPCL to set up Bathinda refinery on Punjab terms
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, August 12
Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) will implement the Guru Gobind Singh Oil Refinery project at Phulo Khari village of this district on the terms and conditions laid down by the Punjab Government and all bottlenecks in this connection will be removed soon.

Punjab Finance Minister Surinder Singla told TNS today that the oil refinery project worth crores of rupees would be implemented by HPCL without any facility of sales tax deferment for 15 years by the state government, which was extended to HPCL by the previous SAD-BJP combine government in its deed of assurance given to it.

He claimed that positive signals were being received from the quarters where the matter pertaining to the implementation of the project had been taken up by the state government. The work was going on the oil refinery and it would be speeded up shortly.

“The Punjab Government will impress upon the Union Finance Minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, to ask the Petroleum Minister, Mr Mani Shankar Aiyer, to direct HPCL to complete the refinery without seeking any sales tax deferment for 15 years. The matter will also be discussed by a committee headed by the Chief Secretary, Punjab, in which officials of petroleum ministry and Chairman, HPCL will put forth their views,” said Mr Singla. He adding that Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had already talked twice with Mr Aiyar on this issue.

He said he would raise this issue at the meeting of the Empowered Committee of Finance Ministers to be held on August 17 in New Delhi.

He said that facility of sales tax deferment to HPCL would mean that state would suffer huge loss of thousands of crores not only in the shape of sales tax but also in the shape of interest on the amount of sales tax, which would be around Rs 15,000 crore.

“The total equity of HPCL in oil refinery project will be Rs 5,200 crore. The rest of the amount will be generated by it through loans. The amount of interest on the amount of sale tax deferment for 15 years will be Rs 8000 crore. These figures show that HPCL will set up oil refinery project at the cost of the revenue of the Punjab Government,” he pointed out.

The Finance Minister asked how a state could allow any PSU, including HPCL, to commit an economic crime with resources or extort from it. The state would have to have adequate funds to meet its responsibilities. No other state had been extending the facility of sale tax deferment to any refinery in the country. The state government could not allow any PSU to tax its resources under the garb of offer of a big investment in any project.

He said it was unfortunate that previous SAD-BJP combine government extended a deed of assurance to HPCL in connection with the sales tax deferment without bothering about the economic interests of Punjab. He added that it was more disappointing that previous BJP led NDA government and SAD-BJP combine government in Punjab could not complete the oil refinery project in full five years.
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Task forces set up to recover tax arrears

New Delhi, August 12
The Finance Ministry today swung into action by setting up two task forces to recover direct and indirect tax arrears running into a whopping Rs 87,000 crore.

The task forces have been set up in pursuance of the Finance Minister P. Chidambaram’s announcement to launch a special drive to recover arrears by both the Central Board of Direct Taxes and Central Board of Excise and Customs.

No new posts would be created for the task forces. While the task force on direct taxes would be headed by Member (Revenue), that on indirect taxes would be headed by Chief Commissioner (Tax Arrear and Recovery), an official release said.

The task forces, which would start functioning from today, would report to the respective boards.

Concerned over a whopping Rs 87,000-crore direct tax arrears, Chidambaram had recently said a “sizeable amount” of this was undisputed and recoverable.

While chalking out an action plan, Chidambaram wanted to put in place a proper producer at the Chief Commissioners’ and Income Tax Appellate Tribunal levels to collect a tidy sum of about Rs 7,000-8,000 crore which were easily recoverable. The Finance Minister would be approaching the Chief Justice of India and also Chief Justices of High Courts to take up big tax cases quickly. — PTI
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Aiyar, oil PSUs discuss merger

New Delhi, August 12
Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar today held discussions with chief executives of oil PSUs to explore the possibility of merging the BPCL and HPCL with the ONGC and OIL with IOC to create two oil behemoths.

The brainstorming session was part of Aiyar’s efforts to prepare India’s response to global oil challenge by unifying public sector oil firms instead of the present practice of competing against each other and working at cross purpose.

Sources said Aiyar had taken a grim view of the presence of three public sector oil marketing companies — the Indian Oil Corp, the Bharat Petroleum Corp and the Hindustan Petroleum Corp — vying for the same market and more like Numaligarh Refinery, the MRPL and the Oil and Natural Gas Corp ready to enter the market.

He was also ‘disturbed’ at every PSU’s move to buy oil and gas fields abroad, a trend that may see Indian firms competing among themselves for the very limited assets available.

One of the proposal was for merging about 11,000 petrol stations and 32 million tonnes per annum refining capacity of HPCL and BPCL with ONGC to make the country’s largest oil producer a vertically integrated firm.

Simultaneously, oil producer Oil India Ltd and ONGC’s Assam and Gujarat oil fields would be given to IOC to provide India’s largest retailing firms the control of close to 12 million tonnes of crude oil.

Sources said the merger proposal was opposed by the BPCL and the HPCL who wanted more freedom to enter oil and gas exploration and production to become vertically integrated companies.

Alternatively, Aiyar also looked at options of restricting the companies to only their core competencies instead of the oil producers getting into the fuel marketing and retailers venturing into upstream business. — PTI 
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Thailand approves 82 items for FTA

New Delhi, August 12
Thailand’s cabinet has approved 82 items in the Free Trade Agreement, selected for ‘’early harvest’’, on which customs duty would be reduced in a phased manner to zero per cent from September 1, 2005, said Minister of Science and Technology of Thailand Korn Thapparansi.

He said the customs duty on these items would be reduced by 50 per cent with effect from September 1, 2004. The next reduction of 25 per cent would be effected from September 1, 2005 and zero per cent duty would be effective from September 1, 2006.

The minister was speaking at the Seminar on ‘’India — Thailand: The Road Ahead’’, organised jointly by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Federation of Thai Industries, past evening.

Mr Thapparansi said he expected the volume of trade to increase from the existing $ 1.2 billion to $ 2.1 billion. He said India was a strong economy and was rich in both technology and human resources.

He further said 100 Thai scientists would participate in a science camp at Infosys, Bangalore in November 2004.

The Thai Minister said Thailand had entered into an FTA with China in 2003 and the FTA with India would enable the two largest consumer markets to come together and reach each other’s markets through Thailand. He urged industry to take advantage of the tremendous business opportunity.

Minister of State for Commerce and Industry E.V.K.S. Elangovan, reiterated the commitment to existing ties between India and Thailand and said the FTA would further strengthen the economic ties. — UNI
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Youth joblessness dragging down
world economy: ILO
Dharam Shourie

New York, August 12
Warning that youth unemployment, which has skyrocketed to a record level, is dragging down the world economy, the United Nations has called for concerted and targeted measures to the tackle the problem.

“We are wasting an important part of the energy and talent of the most-educated young generation the world has ever had,” International Labour Organisation (ILO) Director-General Juan Somavia said. “Enlarging the chances of young people to find and keep decent work is absolutely critical to achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals.”

These goals, set by the UN Millennium Summit of 2000, call for achieving a set of specific targets by 2015, including halving of the extreme poverty and hunger and slashing of the child and maternal mortality rates.

Giving the grim statistics in a new report, ILO says young persons aged 15 to 24 represent nearly half of the world’s jobless although they are only 25 per cent of the working-age population.

Halving world youth unemployment rate would add at least $2.2 trillion to global gross domestic product (GDP) equal to around 4 per cent of the 2003 value, says the report — “Global Employment Trends for Youth 2004”.

The relative disadvantage of youth, it stresses, is more pronounced in developing countries, where they make up a strikingly higher proportion of the labour force than in industrialised economies.

Eighty-five per cent of the world’s youth live in the developing countries where they are 3.8 times more likely to be unemployed than adults, as compared with 2.3 times in the industrialised economies.

But the problem, the ILO says, goes far beyond the large number of young unemployed people - 47 per cent of the total 186 million people out of work worldwide in 2003.

Young people also represent 130 million of the world’s 550 million working poor who are unable to lift themselves and their families above the equivalent of the one dollar per day poverty line. These young people struggle to survive, often performing work under unsatisfactory conditions in the informal economy, it adds.

The report puts global youth unemployment at 14.4 per cent in 2003, a 26.8 per cent increase over the past decade, with rates highest in the Middle East and North Africa (25.6 per cent), followed by sub-Saharan Africa (21 per cent), transition economies (18.6 per cent), Latin America and the Caribbean (16.6 per cent), Southeast Asia (16.4 per cent), South Asia (13.9 per cent). — PTI
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ICICI Lombard scheme for farmers
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 12
ICICI Lombard General Insurance today announced the launch of a new insurance scheme seeking to provide cover to farmers and hydro-power generation projects against the vagaries of weather.

According to Mr K. Bharathan, Regional Director of the company, insurance cover will be available to farmers in the region for any damage to the crops due to excessive or deficient rainfall. This would of course be subject to certain conditions including the type of crop, inputs, irrigation methods, area, topography etc being used by the farmers.

In a talk with media persons here today, Mr Bharathan said that the scheme was available in Andhra Pradesh where it had met with some success. Because of scepticism on the part of the farmers, company was using the good offices of NGO's to convince the farmers about the usefulness of the scheme. It was planned to adopt a similar strategy with regard to Punjab and Haryana. The company could look at the possibility of using the good offices of NGO's like Bharti Kisan Union.

Similarly, insurance would be available for variation in power generation at hydro- power projects due to deficient or heavy rainfall in the catchment areas of the power projects. "We are trying to push this scheme in Himachal Pradesh", he said.
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Auto Scene

Eicher to roll out 25-tonner in Oct

Ahmedabad, August 12
Eicher Motors Ltd is all set to roll out its Multiaxle Eicher Galaxy 33.25 (25-tonne) in two months and a yet-to-be-named 35-tonne tractor-trailer in an year’s time.

Company’s Chief Executive Officer Rakesh Kalra said here today its first heavy commercial vehicle (HCV), Eicher Jumbo 20.16 (20 series in 16.2-tonne category), was introduced 18 months back. It has stood up to customers’ expectations and has sold over 3,000 units, including 400 in Gujarat.

He said Eicher Jumbo 20.16 had one-tonne extra payload capacity and a 20-foot long cargo body (two feet longer than similar-sized vehicles). It gave better mileage, had low maintenance cost and had faster turnarounds, Mr Kalra said.

He said the Multiaxle Eicher Galaxy 33.25 was undergoing extensive piloting across the country. It would have a 24-foot long cargo body with a 17-tonne payload capacity.

Company General Manager (Marketing) G Sekar said the firm had started manufacturing 6-tonne trucks in 1986, besides custom-made passenger and school buses, skyline and cruiser buses — all adhering to emission standards offering BS-II options.

Toyota expansion

Toyota Kirloskar Motor (TKM) today said it was investing Rs 160 crore on its Bidadi facility near Bangalore to increase the production capacity to 60,000 vehicles in a year and it expected to wipe out all its accumulated losses in the next two years.

“The capacity expansion of the plant is going on and hopefully, it will be completed by the end of this year. The Rs 160-crore investment on capacity expansion will be made through internal accruals” TKM Dy Managing Director K.K. Swamy said in New Delhi. — UNI
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BRIEFLY

Canara-HDFC
Chandigarh, August 12
Canara Bank has entered into a strategic alliance with HDFC Mutual Fund for cross-selling of the latter’s schemes initially at 60 branches across the country. Mr. R V Shastri, C&MD, Canara Bank and Mr. Milind Barve, MD, HDFC AMC, made this joint announcement in Bangalore today. — TNS

Airtel offer
Chandigarh, August 12
AirTel today announced new service offerings which include special Independence day ringtones, logos, wallpapers, picture messages and animated SMSs for its customers. These would be made August 14 midnight. A significant portion of the revenue generated from this service would be donated to The Prime Minister’s Relief Fund. — TNS

UTI Bank
Jammu, August 12
UTI Bank opened its third offsite ATM here today. Col A.K. Singh, Commanding Officer, 526 ASC Battalion, inaugurated the bank’s ATM in the JDA complex, New Plots. Mr Ajay Kaistha, Branch Head, said it marked another step towards the extensive consumer banking focus that the bank was providing across the country and it reinforced their commitment to bring super banking services, to customers in Jammu. — TNS

R.K. Marble
Chandigarh, August 12
R.K. Marble, Asia’s largest marble producers, has unveiled its wonder marble, the coloured marble from Majoli mines in Madhya Pradesh. With this, the company claims to have an edge over the Italian marble in certain respects. — TNS

Dr Reddy’s
New Delhi, August 12
Dr Reddy’s Laboratories has launched a new skin moisturising cream ‘Venusia’ for the treatment of dry skin conditions. Dr Reddy’s has a total of eight brands in the dermatology segment in the Indian market with Rs 23 crore sales in the last fiscal and a growth rate of 27 per cent, a company statement said here today. — PTI

SolidWorks
Chandigarh, August 12
SolidWorks Corporation unveiled the latest version of its flagship 3D CAD software, solidifying it as the number one choice in the mainstream 3D mechanical design market. — TNS
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