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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Indian Agriculture Growth pegged at 3 percent

Planning Commission member Abhijit Sen today sounded more optimistic than the PM's Economic Advisory Council with his projection that the agriculture growth would not be less than three per cent this year.

The Prime Minister Economy Advisory Council (PMEAC) has projected a mere two per cent growth in the sector for the current year.

"Considering the first advance agriculture estimates of the current year along with the final estimates of last year, agriculture growth this year should not be less than three per cent," Sen said after releasing a report on food prices compiled by an international agency Oxfam India.

Earlier in August, PMEAC had projected the agriculture production to grow at a lower pace of two per cent in the current year as against 4.5 per cent in 2007-08. The reasons for the slackening projections were higher base and uneven spread of the South-West Monsoon in July.

Noting food production, Sen said as per the first estimates, rice and soybean output is expected to be more, while other cereals lower than last year.

"Overall, agriculture growth during the 11th Plan period would be fairly good at around four per cent," Sen, who is also an agriculture economist, said.

In the last three years, the average agriculture growth has stood at 4.2 per cent and "we will achieve more than the set target of four per cent by the end of the 11th Plan," he noted.

On huge hike in minimum support price (MSP) under UPA government, Sen said MSP was increased at a lower rate by Rs 10 to 20 per quintal by the last government because stocks were high. Whereas now, MSP is increased as stocks are very low.

Source - Agencies

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Govt may relax foreign investment norms in banking, telecom

Government is considering relaxing norms for foreign investment in sectors like banking and telecom by treating portfolio FII investment outside the sectoral cap.

At present, foreign direct investment (FDI) and foreign institutional investments (FII) are added to determine sectoral foreign investment cap in banking, credit information companies, broadcasting, commodity exchanges and telecom.

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But, with RBI allowing FIIs to acquire shares in companies under the Portfolio Investment Scheme (PIS), the government is now likely to mandate that sectoral caps would henceforth be for FDI investment only, official sources said.

In sectors with caps, the balance equity would specifically be beneficially owned by/held with/in the hands of resident Indian citizens and Indian companies, owned and controlled by resident Indian citizens.

FIIs investing under PIS shall not seek a representation on the board of directors and they will have to give a self- declaration whenever they act in concert with any of the companies that they have invested in.

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Sources said investments by registered FIIs under PIS are made under Schedule 2 of the Foreign Exchange Management Regulations and are distinct from FDIs which are made under Schedule 1. FIIs are also permitted to make investments under FDI Scheme under Schedule-1.

PIS cannot cross 24 per cent in any company. At present, banking and telecom have 74 per cent foreign investment cap (FDI plus FII), which would, after the policy is accepted by the Cabinet, be changed to 74 per cent FDI.

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Similarly, 20 per cent FDI plus FII limit in FM radio would now be 20 per cent FDI cap, while 49 per cent FDI plus FII in cable network, direct-to-home commodity exchange and CIC would be changed accordingly.