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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

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B U S I N E S S

Govt unveils steps to boost exports
Sets $200-billion target for 2009-10
New Delhi, February 26
India has scaled down its export target to around $170-175 billion for the current fiscal in the wake of current economic crisis. “But I am confident of achieving the target of $200 billion in exports during 2009-10. I am keeping this as our target,” said Commerce Minister Kamal Nath while unveiling some export-friendly measures in the Foreign Trade Policy.

Industry welcomes move
New Delhi, February 26
Welcoming the facilitation measures announced by the trade minister, Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) president A Sakthivel said these measures would help exporters in reducing transaction costs. He also welcomed the extension of export obligation period from 24 months to 36 months for advance authorisation and carrying forward of export obligation of 2008-2009 to 2010 under EPCG scheme.

Tata Motors to launch Nano on March 23
New Delhi, February 26
The wait is finally over for the world’s cheapest family car. Tata Motors’ Nano, which took the world by a storm more than year ago following its unveiling at the Auto Expo, is all set to blaze the Indian roads from April this year.



EARLIER STORIES




The London headquarters of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is pictured on Thursday. RBS on Thursday reported a net loss of £24.1 billion in 2008 — the largest in British corporate history — because of the credit crunch.
The London headquarters of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is pictured on Thursday. RBS on Thursday reported a net loss of £24.1 billion in 2008 — the largest in British corporate history — because of the credit crunch. — AFP

Inflation falls to 3.36%
New Delhi, February 26
Continuing its downward slide, inflation fell to about a 15-month low of 3.36 per cent, providing greater room to the RBI to cut interest rates to perk up the slowing economy.

TCS says no salary hike next year, job cuts possible
Kolkata, February 26
As part of cost-cutting measures to tackle global economic downturn, IT major TCS today said job cuts were possible and also ruled out salary hikes next year.

L&T bags Rs 1,162-cr orders
Mumbai, February 26
Engineering firm Larsen & Toubro on Thursday said it has bagged orders worth Rs 1,162 crore from different vendors for construction of factories and residential projects. 

BSNL to launch 3G services in Jalandhar
Jalandhar, February 26
Jalandhar will be the first city in the north of Delhi to get the much-awaited 3G mobile services of BSNL from tomorrow.

Around 20,000 Indians lose jobs abroad, return
New Delhi, February 26
Between 16,000 and 20,000 Indians had returned home after losing their jobs overseas due to the global economic crisis, the government said on Thursday.

Machine tools cluster for Batala
New Delhi, February 26
The Central government has okayed a plan that will modernise the foundry and machine tools industry in the border town of Batala in Punjab.

Fiscal deficit to widen
New Delhi, February 26
India’s fiscal deficit was likely to stand at Rs 1,02,654 crore, between April-September 2008, this being a shortfall of revenue and excess expenditure, said Minister of State for Finance Pawan Kumar Bansal in the Rajya Sabha. However, this does not include farm loan waiver of Rs 15,000 crore, issue of securities to oil marketing companies towards under-recoveries of international crude oil prices at Rs 75,942 crore and bonds to fertiliser companies of Rs 20,000 crore.

 





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Govt unveils steps to boost exports
Sets $200-billion target for 2009-10
Bhagyashree Pande
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 26
India has scaled down its export target to around $170-175 billion for the current fiscal in the wake of current economic crisis. “But I am confident of achieving the target of $200 billion in exports during 2009-10. I am keeping this as our target,” said Commerce Minister Kamal Nath while unveiling some export-friendly measures in the Foreign Trade Policy.

“India will suffer less and recover fast from the global crisis,” the minister said while referring to the impact of slowdown in the US and European economies.

This year, i.e. during 2008-09, we did achieve an export growth of 30.9 per cent till September 2008, but there has been a set back recently due to the global recession, he said.

“The increased economic activity has resulted in generation of around 140 lakh new jobs in the export sector,” he added.

“We are an open economy and not only our exports are rising but our imports have also risen. The average annual growth rate of imports has been 34.1 per cent and the total value of imports in 2007-08 was $251.56 billion,” said the trade minister.

The following sops were announced to boost exports:

  • Customs duty under export promotion capital goods scheme cut to 3 per cent from 5 per cent
  • Benefits under Duty Entitlement Pass Book (DEPB) scheme to be extended without waiting for realisation of exports proceeds
  • Special incentive of Rs 325 crore for various sectors like handmade carpets, leather and technical textiles from April 1
  • Threshold limit for recognition as premier trading house reduced to Rs 7,500 crore
  • Benefit of 5 per cent under "focus product, focus market" scheme for export of handmade carpets
  • Authorised persons of gems and jewellery units can personally carry imported gold of up to 10 kg
  • Obligation under export promotion capital goods scheme extended till 2009-10 for sops availed during 2008-09
  • The procedural formalities for claiming duty drawback refund and for getting refund of terminal excise duty for deemed exports is further simplified
  • Opening of an independent office of DGFT at Srinagar
  • Re-imbursement of additional duty of excise levied on fuel would also be admissible for EoUs.

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Industry welcomes move
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 26
Welcoming the facilitation measures announced by the trade minister, Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) president A Sakthivel said these measures would help exporters in reducing transaction costs. He also welcomed the extension of export obligation period from 24 months to 36 months for advance authorisation and carrying forward of export obligation of 2008-2009 to 2010 under EPCG scheme.

“The special package of Rs 325 crore will help leather and textiles sector,” he said. He, however, added that garment exports to the US and Europe needed to be included in Special Focus Scheme as these markets were the worst hit.

While the PHD Chamber welcomed the procedural simplifications announced by way of trade facilitation measures, it has been a further disappointment for exporters who were looking forward to a stimulus package to help them meet the current global crisis.

“The export target set for 2009-10 at $200 billion seems to be unrealistic due to lack of new orders and the postponement of present orders by the exporters due to shrinking demand in the overseas markets,”said Satish Bagrodia, president, PHDCCI.

Ficci president Harsh Pati Singhania said, “facilitation measures are indeed necessary for simplifying procedures and reducing transaction costs. They will be critical in giving the exporting community some comforts in the backdrop of current slowdown in global demand.” Complimenting trade minister for de-linking grant of DEPB benefits from realisation of export proceeds, he said such flexibility would definitely help the industry.

Assocham president Sajjan Jindal welcomed customs duty reduction in EPCG Scheme. “Extension of DEPB for exporters is also a welcome measure that exporters will cherish,” he said, adding that the special package of Rs 325 crore for leather and textiles was far below the expectations of India Inc.

With regard to export targets for the current fiscal, Jindal said achieving export target of $175 billion in current fiscal was still ambitious in view of shrinking demand of Indian products in US, Europe and even ASEAN.

CII director-general Chandrajit Banerjee termed the announcements in the foreign trade policy timely and said it would address the concerns of Indian exporters. 

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Tata Motors to launch Nano on March 23
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 26
The wait is finally over for the world’s cheapest family car. Tata Motors’ Nano, which took the world by a storm more than year ago following its unveiling at the Auto Expo, is all set to blaze the Indian roads from April this year.

While Tata Motors will be launching the car in Mumbai on March 23, the bookings for the much-awaited vehicle would begin in April.

The company said today that a function on March 23 would mark the car's commercial launch.

"The cars will be on display at Tata Motors’ dealerships from the first week of April 2009. Bookings will commence from the second week of April 2009," the statement further said.

"Tata Motors is making arrangements for the widest possible network to book the car, so that prospective customers can conveniently avail of booking facilities at their locations, across the length and breadth of India," the statement added.

The company said that the booking process and other details of the Rs 1 lakh-car would be announced on the day of launch.

Touted as the world’s marvel and the dream project of company’s chairman, Ratan Tata, Nano was originally to be launched in the second half of 2008.

However, following protests from villagers led by activists from a particular political party, the launch was delayed after the company was forced to shift the manufacturing base from Singur to Sanand in Gujarat.

Ratan Tata had dreamt for the common man’s car after seeing a family of four travelling on a two-wheeler in rain and had said that he would come out with a Rs 1 lakh car.

Last year, he had said that he would retain the price tag at Rs 1 lakh (for the base model) despite input costs shooting up. But since then, steel prices have plunged by up to 40 per cent from early 2008-levels which would have helped the company retain the price tag.

The hatchback car features a 624-cc petrol engine and boasts of a mileage of 20 km per litre.

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Inflation falls to 3.36%

New Delhi, February 26
Continuing its downward slide, inflation fell to about a 15-month low of 3.36 per cent, providing greater room to the RBI to cut interest rates to perk up the slowing economy.

While most products, including food and manufactured items, became cheaper, some luxury items like wine turned expensive, leading to a fall of 0.56 percentage points during the week ended February 14 from 3.92 per cent in the previous week.

Economists say the fall in inflation was expected as the global financial meltdown and slowing economy have depressed prices. — PTI

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TCS says no salary hike next year, job cuts possible

Kolkata, February 26
As part of cost-cutting measures to tackle global economic downturn, IT major TCS today said job cuts were possible and also ruled out salary hikes next year.

TCS managing director S Ramadorai said "there would be no hike in salaries in the forthcoming year" and added that "job cuts are possible if the situation worsens".

Adding further that TCS has frozen "lateral intake" he said the company was reviewing variable pay component on employee salaries.

The variable pay component of TCS employees differs between 22 per cent and 35 per cent of his/her gross salary, depending on employee rank, he said.

Variable pay represents eight percent of the total revenue of TCS, whose headcount is 1.3 lakh. — PTI 

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L&T bags Rs 1,162-cr orders

Mumbai, February 26
Engineering firm Larsen & Toubro on Thursday said it has bagged orders worth Rs 1,162 crore from different vendors for construction of factories and residential projects. 

L&T's Buildings & Factories Operating Co, a part of the construction division, has bagged orders worth Rs 1,162 crore in the fourth quarter of 2008-09, the company said in a filing to the Bombay Stock Exchange.— PTI

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BSNL to launch 3G services in Jalandhar
Deepkamal Kaur
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 26
Jalandhar will be the first city in the north of Delhi to get the much-awaited 3G mobile services of BSNL from tomorrow.

The service will come at an extra cost of a new SIM for Rs 300, a new 3G-enabled mobile set and higher charges for each service availed. BSNL’s general manager (marketing) S.K. Sharma said the mobile users would be able to get a wireless data transfer speed of 2 mbps, telecast of a select few TV channels, high resolution picture and video downloading and video-conferencing.

He said the service would be extended to other parts of Punjab in three to four months. He added that the availability of more TV channels would be made to the subscribers soon. He said there would be no prior booking and the SIM cards would be readily available to all customers after the launch.

There will be two lacunas in the system as of now. “The service will not be available to the users once they move outside Jalandhar circle. The customers may also not be able to retain their existing number”, Sharma hinted.

Narinderjit Singh from the Department of Information and Technology will be the chief guest while P K Paliwal, chief general manager, Punjab Telecom Circle, will preside over the function.

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Around 20,000 Indians lose jobs abroad, return
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 26
Between 16,000 and 20,000 Indians had returned home after losing their jobs overseas due to the global economic crisis, the government said on Thursday.

Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vyalar Ravi told the Rajya Sabha during question hour that though the exact number of people who had returned was not available, there were reports that indicated that between 16,000 to 20,000 Indians had come back to India after economic slowdown. “We are seeking reports from all missions and checking with the airlines also,” he added.

The minister also said that the number of incidents of overseas employers keeping passport of Indian employees had come down by 50 per cent. He said the government was aware that some employers keep employees' visas with themselves and do not renew these in time, rendering them illegal immigrants. He added that talks were being held with foreign countries on the issue.

The minister also said there was a need to make changes in the Immigration Act, which was last amended in 1983.

On the issue of migrant workers, he said the government had taken a number of initiatives, including signing of bilateral agreements to protect their interests. Asked how many Indians are in jails abroad, Ravi said the government did not have the figure, but was very vigilant on the issue and would collect the information.

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Machine tools cluster for Batala
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 26
The Central government has okayed a plan that will modernise the foundry and machine tools industry in the border town of Batala in Punjab.

The project, called the machine tools cluster, will be on cost- sharing basis between the Central government and the Punjab government, Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Ashwani Kumar, told reporters here yesterday. The project will get Rs 63 crore, out of which the Central grant will be Rs 44.30 crore. The first installment of Rs 14.77 crore is being released.

About 300 machine tools and 250 foundry units are functioning in Batala and about 20,000 persons are employed.

The existing volume of sales is Rs 950 crore and this is expected to double. The project will bring in new equipment and technology for the units. At present, a majority of the units are producing cast iron castings and they will upgrade to high-value steel and alloy castings. These products have a huge demand in Indian and foreign markets.

The second project cleared for the Gurdaspur area is the establishment of a collection centre in the district to cater to the upcoming mega food park in Jalandhar. This centre will be a boon for the area that grows a variety of fruits.

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Fiscal deficit to widen
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 26
India’s fiscal deficit was likely to stand at Rs 1,02,654 crore, between April-September 2008, this being a shortfall of revenue and excess expenditure, said Minister of State for Finance Pawan Kumar Bansal in the Rajya Sabha. However, this does not include farm loan waiver of Rs 15,000 crore, issue of securities to oil marketing companies towards under-recoveries of international crude oil prices at Rs 75,942 crore and bonds to fertiliser companies of Rs 20,000 crore.

According to revised estimate, the projected fiscal deficit for 2008-09 is Rs 3,26,515 crore, as against budgeted estimate of Rs 1,33,287 crore in the same period.

As per the Interim Budget, revised estimate of gross tax collection in 2008-09 is projected at Rs 6,27,949 crore as against a budgeted estimate of Rs 6,87,715 crore. This shortfall being primarily due to pro-active fiscal measures initiated to counter the impact of global slowdown on the Indian economy.

As per the projections of the government in the Budget, fiscal deficit will go up from Rs 1,33,287 crore (2.5 per cent of GDP) in budgeted estimate of 2008-09 to Rs 3,32,835 crore (6 per cent of the GDP). This widening deficit is due to measures like stimulus packages taken by the government to give a boost to the economy which is slowing down due to deepening economic crisis around the world.

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BRIEFLY

Crisil downgrades ratings for Hindalco, Sterlite
New Delhi
: Rating agency Crisil on Thursday downgraded long-term debt rating of leading non-ferrous metal producers — Hindalco, Vedanta Aluminium and Sterlite Industries, expecting their earnings to remain under pressure over the medium-term. Even as it revised the rating of Sterlite and VAL to AA from AA+, Crisil said it has retained long-term debt rating of other Vedanta group firms — Bharat Aluminium Company (Balco), Hindustan Zinc and Madras Aluminium Company (Malco).— PTI

Lanco front-runner for Bara power project
Lucknow
: Lanco has emerged as the front-runner for setting up a 1,980-MW super critical thermal power plant at Bara in Allahabad district. Lanco had quoted a price of Rs 3.12 per unit, the rate at which the company will supply power generated from the proposed plant, a senior official said.— PTI

Rado stores
Ahmedabad
: Swiss watchmaker Rado plans to increase its presence in India by opening 5-8 exclusive stores by this year end, its president Roland Streule said on Thursday. "At present, we have 12 stores across India. We plan to increase it to 17-20 by the end of 2009," he said after inaugurating Gujarat's first exclusive Rado showroom here.— PTI

RCom offer
Lucknow
: Reliance Communications (RCom) on Thursday introduced a all-India long-validity pack for users of Reliance CDMA, which will bring down STD calling tariff by up to 30 paise per minute or even low. On Rs 2,222 recharge, 500 minutes of free STD/local talktime per month for 12 month would be offered, while Rs 4,444 recharge pack gives 500 minutes of free STD/local talktime per month for lifetime.— PTI

KEC bags Power Grid orders
Mumbai
: Power equipment maker KEC International on Thursday said it has secured two orders worth Rs 227 crore from Power Grid Corporation for supplying power transmission equipment. In a filing to the BSE, the company said it has received two 765 KV S/c projects in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra and in Punjab and Haryana from PGCIL.— PTI

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