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Small Perhaps, But Significant

Reserve Bank of India’s deputy governor, S. S. Mundra, pointed out that MSME’s can generate plenty of jobs in hospitality, apparel manufacturing, food-processing and so on

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The target for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) will have to be handheld in a big way if the country wants to spur job growth in a significant manner. So far banks (and many non-banks) have shown reluctance at the systemic level to take on exposure to the sector. But along with jobs, time too, is in short supply.

Reserve Bank of India’s deputy governor, S. S. Mundra, pointed out that MSME’s can generate plenty of jobs in hospitality, apparel manufacturing, food-processing and so on. “In this context, there would also be a need for change in our perception of jobs. Work created in the formal sector alone do not constitute jobs. Even if entrepreneurship is promoted that also is equivalent to creation of a job,” he said.

A recent report by the World Bank has predicted that the proportion of jobs threatened in India by automation could be around 69 per cent! Mundra is right — it’s time to wake up.
— Raghu Mohan

The Maharaja’s Crown Jewels
Even as the countdown to Air India’s disinvestment begins, how much of what will be put on the block, remains a mystery. At the moment, the national carrier has a debt exceeding Rs 52,000 crore and monthly working capital requirements of around Rs 3,000 crore.

What will be lucrative for Air India’s potential buyer? Experts say among the Maharaja’s prized possessions are its lucrative slots at key international airports, the bilateral rights, real estate parcels across metropolises and other key cities, both in India and abroad, its market share, brand value, and key human resources, including pilots, ground and support staff.

A panel of ministers headed by Union finance minister, Arun Jaitley, has to take various aspects and options  into consideration, including that of hiving off the national carrier into a number of Special Purpose Vehicles — each containing assets, value, debt, subsidiaries etc. in order to attract potential buyers.

The question now is: what are the crown jewels of the Maharaja worth?      
 — Ashish Sinha

Should We Count Jobs Or Opportunities?
Once upon a time Employment Exchange data were pointers to joblessness in the country. A ‘job’ implied contiguous engagement with the government or an enterprise till one turned the hoary age of superannuation. The vegetable vendor or cigarette kiosk owner belonged to the informal sector and their occupations did not count as jobs. This perception of employment may have defined “jobless growth” for phases when a spurt in the gross domestic product (GDP) and other visible signs of resurgence in the economy did not seem to reflect on the number of the employed. The little boutiques in garages, beauty parlours and the ‘small office home office’ of professionals beyond the tax bracket, were obviously not adding up to the tally of the employed.

Perhaps, a more comprehensive definition of a “job” would be an opportunity thrown up by the economy. These opportunities are now being cashed in by an army of startups and professionals, who prefer to be on their own.  Perhaps, its time to count opportunities and not jobs.
— Madhumita Chakraborty 

It Was Get Set Time For The ‘Good And Simple Tax’
The Amul India advertisements, which are probably the longest running spoofs on life and living in India, captured the coming into being of the transformative Goods and Services Tax (GST) in a simple statement. The chubby Amul girl said the indirect tax reform was “Easy to diGST”.  

Former Union finance minister, P.Chidambaram, who in his tenure had endeavoured to set the value added tax afloat, described its prevailing avatar as a “mockery of GST”. Fellow Congressman Milind Deora referred to “silly anomalies” in it and the textile market in Surat remained shut to protest against the GST rates prescribed.

Many industry chambers, though, lauded the tax reform and the Revenue Secretary announced a “Master Class” for bureaucrats, trade and tax practitioners to get the nation GST ready. When the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly passed a Bill to implement GST on 5 July,  though, the “One Nation, One Tax, One Market” announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, truly became a reality. Finance minister Arun Jaitley addressed a packed Talkatora Stadium the next day and proclaimed that the PM had been clear from the start that “the nation should be integrated financially”.
— Madhumita Chakraborty

Fulminations Over Fumes
India, a signatory to the Montreal Protocol, is committed to phase out use of gases that deplete the ozone layer and hurt the environment. The Union ministry of agriculture’s standard rules for fumigating farm products at the ports with the odourless and extremely toxic methyl bromide gas was consequently, scheduled to be phased out. The rules, which apply to both imports and exports of grain, greens and other agricultural produce, were first slated to end on 31 March, but were extended till 30 June and then given a fresh lease of life.

The compulsion seems to have come partly from the home market. The Directorate of Plant Protection, Quarantine & Storage in the farm ministry, had earlier said that India would only accept cargoes fumigated for pests with methyl bromide at the country of origin. The diktat would have hit pulses imports from Canada and wheat imports from the European Union, which already abide by their Montreal Protocol commitments.

A galloping demand for both wheat and pulses, in spite of a good crop and crashing prices of pulses, have stoked imports. Imports have continued unabated despite deterrents like the 10 per cent additional import duty on wheat and pigeon pea (tur or arhar daal) imposed in March. The farm ministry seems to be buckling under pressure from domestic demand, notwithstanding its noble intentions.
— Prabodh Krishna

The Discovery Of India Persists
Apparently the ‘Incredible India’ and ‘Atithi Devo Bhavo’ campaigns are rubbing off on tourists destined for the orient. A report by the Boston Consulting Group and Google India titled,  Demystifying the Indian Online Traveller says foreign tourist arrivals (FTA) in January were 9.83 lakh, compared to 8.44 lakh in the same month in 2016.

Meanwhile, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) data reveals that between April 2000 and December 2016, the hotel and tourism industry in India had attracted $9.93 billion of foreign direct investment (FDI). The tourist traffic is obviously,  not just responding to advertising campaigns, but the improved infrastructure facilities in the country and carrots, like the extension of the e-tourist visa to 150 countries.

The Boston Consulting Group and Google India report projects an annual growth in the range of 11 per cent and 11.5 per cent for the travel and tourism industry. The trail of inbound tourists to an India that is both credible and incredible  should rake in a turnover of a whopping $48 billion for the industry by 2020.  
 — Prateek Shukla