Friday, September 21, 2012

Developers hail retail FDI, want realty reforms, too

Govt must also protect retail traders interests - 
MCHI-CREDAI Chief Paras Gundecha

MUMBAI: Hailing the Union Government’s decision to allow FDI in organized retail sector as the right move, the developer community has called for accelerating the economic reforms process by covering the realty sector, too.
“India is the world’s second largest retail market and the re-launch of the reforms process with the FDI in the sector will definitely help revive the sluggish economy and generate employment,” said Mr. Paras Gundecha, President of MCHI-CREDAI.
As it is, the retail sector has established itself as the sunrise industry and with the FDI it will get a tremendous boost as it will lead to establishment of new chains providing newer outlets for farmers, traders and the industry as a whole, Mr Gundecha pointed out.
“We appeal to all sections to support this policy decision and help revive the economy without any more loss of time,” he said.
At the same time, Mr Gundecha said, the government should adopt a balanced approach on this and protect the interests of small retailers who are all self-employed people while allowing FDI in multi-brand retail.  “We must ensure an overall development and progress and not just a particular section,” he said.
Mr Gundecha also welcomed the encouragement of FDI into logistics and storage chains in rural areas to cut down wastage of farm produce. This will lead to creation of new job opportunities around the farm sector, changing the rural landscape.
Stating that rapid urbanization is the reality of the day, Mr Gundecha said the real estate industry looks forward to tapping the vast opportunities in housing, retail and office segments.
“This is where the realty reforms come into picture as the retail chains will need huge complexes. For long, the growth of real estate industry has been thwarted by limitations of land availability, delays in approvals, expensive and almost prohibitive funding and ever increasing rise in costs inputs like cement, steel, sand and even labour,” he explained.
Mr Gundecha appealed to the government to take a serious look at the realty industry and extend the process of reforms to it by ensuring easily accessible funding, speed up approvals by setting up a single window system and accord the industry the status of infrastructure.
The capital and labour intensive construction industry contributes over 11% to the GDP, apart creating massive employment which in turn leads to rise in purchasing power. This in turn will have a cascading effect on the retail chains as well making the reform process truly meaningful, he said.
Mr Gundecha offered to open the process of dialogue with the government and its various agencies to work on realty reforms. “We are always willing to play a meaningful role in the nation’s economic development and work closely with the government for realizing the dreams of housing for all,” Mr Gundecha added.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Govt, bankers seem "positive" on realty funding

  • Banking Secy discusses housing industry issues with IBA, CREDAI
  • Developers call for easing funding norms
  • Bankers agree to address the issue
  • Focus on speeding up approvals across the country 

MUMBAI: Sending positive signs from easing the cash crunch for the realty sector, Union Financial Services Secretary Mr D K  Mittal has asked the commercial banks to focus on funding partially completed projects on a priority basis and development of projects in small towns.
Presiding over a joint meeting of Indian Bankers Association (IBA) and developers apex body CREDAI at SBI in Mumbai yesterday, Mr Mittal asked the realty industry to conduct a survey of unsold housing stock in cities in batches so that a decision would be taken on unlocking their value.
He also asked CREDAI to come with norms for development in consultation with the NHB and standards for funding the projects.
He told CREDAI to work on rating the real estate projects for the benefit of bankers as well as buyers.
The meeting was called to understand the issues of housing sector and the problems being faced by developers in terms of funding the projects. Apart from SBI, many leading bankers like HDFC, NHB, Bank of Baroda attended the meeting.
Will Mumbai witness realty boom again? 
Describing the outcome of the meeting as “positive”, CREDAI Chairman Mr Pradeep Jain said: “We are happy that a good beginning has been made and we hope this will send positive signals to the real estate market as such. As we move on, we hope to solve the various issues one after the other.”
Briefing media on the meeting, CREDAI National President Mr Lalit Kumar Jain said “we highlighted the problems related to supply aide as well as demand side. All bankers more or less agreed that besides banking, the other factors like project approval delays, limitation on land availability for real estate and even the FSI restrictions should be addressed for the development housing sector.”
Bankers also felt that the knotty issue of speeding up the approval process should be addressed across the country by sensitizing all the States since real estate is typically a local issue and the rules differ from state to state and even city to city, Mr Jain said. This will help create adequate housing stock in the country.
On the issue of restructuring the realty debt, it was felt that it has to be addressed by the regulator RBI.
Bankers on their part also insisted on the one-project one-bank norm and opening escrow accounts. In metro cities, the developers should have one lead banker for funding.
They also suggested incentivising the rated projects through lower rate of interest.
Mr Lalit Kumar Jain said at the meeting that credit limit for realty projects should be raised to 25% of the total credit from the current 2.8%. In other countries, the norm is as high as 30%.
Referring to the reduction of CRR by the RBI today, Mr .Jain said “This is not enough.”He said there could two options to contain inflation: Either to cut monetary supply or increase the supply of products.”The second option is the right one since it will generate employment and contribute to growth of GDP,” he said.
He said the rollover facility for commercial real estate (CRE) should be on par with the industry since it is the safest sector to lend.
He reiterated CREDAI suggestion to reduce the rate of interest on housing loans to 7% to strengthen demand. All other expenses like stamp duty and the various taxes should be added to the overall cost of project and should be funded up to 90% of the total cost.
The real estate project funding should be at 10% instead of the prevailing 15.5% and even the costly funding by NBFC sector should be brought down, CREDAI said.
CREDAI called for easing the RBI risk weightage of 1.25 given to real estate sector.
CREDAI expressed its happiness that the positive vibes generated by the meeting would help the home buyer as well as the developer as the revival of real estate industry would help rejuvenate hundreds of other industries, generate massive employment and contribute to the nation’s growth.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

CREDAI hails multi-brand FDI policy

Developers apex body CREDAI welcomed the Union Government’s multi-brand FDI policy facilitating 51% investment from abroad.
“This much awaited policy announcement is a move in the right direction as it will give a new fillip to the development of retail sector in the country.” Mr Lalit Kumar Jain, Naional President of CREDAI, said.
Multi-brand mall: A Representative picture
The government also opened up doors for development of logistics and infrastructure like cold storages in the rural areas which, Mr. Jain said, will help positively change the village economy.
At least 50 per cent of total FDI brought in shall be invested in ‘back-end infrastructure’ within three years of the induction of FDI. The back-end infrastructure will include investment made towards processing, manufacturing, distribution, design improvement, quality control, packaging, logistics, storage, ware-house, agriculture market produce infrastructure etc. Expenditure on land cost and rentals, if any, will not be counted for purposes of backend infrastructure.
This is a praiseworthy move, he said as it will help ceat jobs across the country and thus check large scale migration of people from rural areas to urban centres in search of employment, he said and expressed that all right thinking people will wholeheartedly support the government initiative.
The overall policy will also contribute to the equitable distribution of employment, he said and pointed out: “India needs bold decisions to help the nation progress with new vigour and enthusiasm and we are happy that the government has at last began to move in the right direction.”

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Oil is not well with the Rupee; Price hike imminent

A PIB release says:International Crude Oil Prices of Indian Basket Inches up on 11.9.2012 to US$ 113.65/BBL.

The international crude oil price for Indian Basket as computed/published today by the Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell (PPAC) under the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas went up to US$ 113.65/barrel (bbl) on 11.9.2012. The price was higher than US$ 113.30/bbl on 10.09.2012, the last trading day.

In rupee terms also, the crude oil price rose to Rs 6309.85 per bbl on 11.09.2012 as compared to Rs 6270.02 per bbl on 10.09.2012. This was due to rise in  price in dollar terms and rupee depreciation with rupee-dollar exchange rate on 11.09.2012 at Rs 55.52/US$ against Rs 55.34/US$ on 10.09.2012.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Press Club condemns cartoonist arrest under outdated law

The Press Club, Mumbai, today condemned the arrest of Kanpur cartoonist Aseem Trivedi under the draconian and outdated sedition law, namely Sec.124 a of the IPC. 
He has now been remanded to police custody till September 16. Trivedi, a well known activist against corruption, was only portraying the rot in the system through his cartoon images, and his blog posts meant no harm to either the nation’s emblems or to the Constitution.
The Press Club said in a statement that by using an archaic British law where any criticism of the government can be construed as ‘sedition’, and by freezing Trivedi’s blog sites, the police authorities and the government have shown their distaste for freedom of speech and expression, a fundamental right guaranteed under the Indian Constitution. The Press Club demands that Aseem Trivedi be released immediately, and the government review the outdated Sedition laws.
The chairman of the Press Council of India, Justice Markendey Katju, has also condemned the arrest.
To discuss the gagging of cartoonist Trivedi and the implications, the Press Club, Mumbai has called for a joint media discussion on the issue. Senior civil society members including retired Bombay High Court judge Hosbet Suresh, civil rights campaigner Binayak Sen and co-activists and colleagues of Aseem Trivedi have also been invited.
Press Club Conference Hall at 3.00 PM on Tuesday, 11 September, 2012.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Supreme Court blasts TV Channels for 26/11 TRP race

The Supreme Court, in its judgement in the Kasab trial, made some strong remarks on the way the national media - TV Channels in particular - covered the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.
Srinivasan, moderator of PR Point online group, posted this for discussion. A notable point is that not many in the media covered this aspect.
So much for freedom of the press and self-regulatory mechanism!!
Read and judge for yourself. The highlights are mine.

On 29th August 2012, Hon'ble Supreme Court delivered a judgement on the petition filed by Kasab, the terrorist.  While delivering the judgement,  Supreme Court has also made some observations about the functioning of our media on the day of 26/11, when our security forces were fighting against the terrorists.  

Supreme Court has clearly indicated as to how the TV live shows helped the enemies in planning their strategies.  They have also confirmed that any freedom of expression provided in the constitution is subject to restrictions.  (In this group and in the ezine PreSense, we have been writing about this for a long time).  Strangely, none of the media has reported this portion.  Please  read the  relevant portion of the judgement of SC.


Source : (Page 245 to 249)



Role of the media:

402. Before parting with the transcripts, we feel compelled to say a few words about the way the terrorist attacks on Taj Hotel, Hotel Oberoi and Nariman House were covered by the mainstream, electronic media and shown live on the TV screen. From the transcripts, especially those from Taj Hotel and Nariman House, it is evident that the terrorists who were entrenched at those places and more than them, their collaborators across the border were watching the full show on TV. In the transcripts there are many references to the media reports and the visuals being shown on the TV screen. The collaborators sitting in their hideouts across the border came to know about the appellant being caught alive from Indian TV: they came to know about the killing of high ranking police officers also from Indian TV. At one place in the transcript, the collaborators and the terrorists appear to be making fun of the speculative report in the media that the person whose dead body was found in Kuber was the leader of the terrorist group whom his colleagues had killed for some reason before leaving the boat 56. At another place in the transcript the collaborators tell the terrorists in Taj Hotel that the dome at the top (of the building) had caught fire. The terrorists holed up in some room were not aware of this. The collaborators further advise the terrorists that the stronger they make the fire the better it would be for them 57. At yet another place the terrorists at Hotel Taj tell the collaborators that they had thrown a grenade. The Collaborators reply, “the sound of the grenade has come, they have shown the grenade, the explosion has taken place, people are wounded”58. At yet another place the collaborators tell the terrorists at Hotel Oberoi that the troops were making their position very strong on the roof of the building59. At yet another place the collaborators tell the terrorists at Taj Hotel the exact position taken by the policemen (close to a building that belonged to the navy but was given to the civilians) and from where they were taking aim and firing at them (the terrorists) and advised them the best position for them to hit back at those policemen.60 There are countless such instances to show that the collaborators were watching practically every movement of the security forces that were trying to tackle the terrorists under relentless gun fire and throwing of grenades from their end.

403. Apart from the transcripts, we can take judicial notice of the fact that the terrorists attacks at all the places, in the goriest details, were shown live on the Indian TV from beginning to end almost non-stop. All the channels were competing with each other in showing the latest developments on a minute to minute basis, including the positions and the movements of the security forces engaged in flushing out the terrorists. The reckless coverage of the terrorist attack by the channels thus gave rise to a situation where on the one hand the terrorists were completely hidden from the security forces and they had no means to know their exact position or even the kind of firearms and explosives they possessed and on the other hand the positions of the security forces, their weapons and all their operational movements were being watched by the collaborators across the border on TV screens and being communicated to the terrorists.

404. In these appeals, it is not possible to find out whether the security forces actually suffered any casualty or injuries on account of the way their operations were being displayed on the TV screen. But it is beyond doubt that the way their operations were freely shown made the task of the security forces not only exceedingly difficult but also dangerous and risky.

405. Any attempt to justify the conduct of the TV channels by citing the right to freedom of speech and expression would be totally wrong and unacceptable in such a situation. The freedom of expression, like all other freedoms under Article 19, is subject to reasonable restrictions. An action tending to violate another person’s right to life guaranteed under Article 21 or putting the national security in jeopardy can never be justified by taking the plea of freedom of speech and expression.

406. The shots and visuals that were shown live by the TV channels could have also been shown after all the terrorists were neutralized and the security operations were over. But, in that case the TV programmes would not have had the same shrill, scintillating and chilling effect and would not have shot up the TRP ratings of the channels. It must, therefore, be held that by covering live the terrorists attack on Mumbai in the way it was done, the Indian TV channels were not serving any national interest or social cause. On the contrary they were acting in their own commercial interests putting the national security in jeopardy.

407. It is in such extreme cases that the credibility of an institution is tested. The coverage of the Mumbai terror attack by the mainstream electronic media has done much harm to the argument that any regulatory mechanism for the media must only come from within.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Press Clubs pin hopes on Hina-Krishna talks

The Press Club, Mumbai and Karachi Press Club welcomes the scheduled meeting of Mr. S M Krishna, Indian External Affairs Minister and  Ms. Hina Rabbani-Khar, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister to be held in Islamabad, Pakistan on 7-9 September 2012. Both of them will be reviewing the resumed peace process began last year.
Both prestigious Press Clubs reiterate their demands of free movements of journalists between two countries in order to promote people-to-people contact and enduring peace in the sub-continent. We hope both Foreign Ministers will give due attention to our demands.

The Press Clubs have said in a joint statement::
  • ·        Visa regime should be liberalised for the journalist community and should be made easily available. In fact, Indian and Pakistan’s Foreign Secretaries after their meeting on 4-5 July 2012 said in a joint statement The Foreign Secretaries also emphasised the need to promote media and sports contacts.
  • ·        Allowing only two journalists from other country to function should be removed and there should not be restrictions in numbers. More and more journalists from other country should be encouraged and they also should be allowed to move easily.
  • ·        Hard copies of newspapers and periodicals should be allowed to sell in other country.