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Governance

Surge pricing in railways is Suresh Prabhu's deliberate self-goal

Union railways minister Suresh Prabhu’s latest move of “surge pricing fare system” is a gambit to reduce finance minister Arun Jaitley’s pain, who looks all set to soon adopt country’s messy public transport behemoth. If everything goes by the plan, the 93-year old Rail Budget would cease to exist from the next financial year i.e. FY […]Read More »

Why Vajpayee stands taller than Rao, Manmohan and Modi put together

In India, privatising a public sector company is perhaps a bigger challenge than contesting an electoral battle or even conducting a nuclear test. Don’t see it as an incongruous claim. This may well be a credible reality if one looks at the 25-year-long history of India’s economic liberalisation. In two-and-a-half decades of economic reforms, despite […]Read More »

Modi's war on black money is a let-down, amnesty schemes cheat honest taxpayers

If one pays his or her taxes honestly and does not expect any favours from the government, he or she has every right to show angst over this never-ending business of amnesties to tax swindlers. Prime Minister Narendra Modi repudiated history when he, during his last Mann Ki Baat, reminded people of the September 30 […]Read More »

Special Category for Andhra will remain elusive

In February 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had assured the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu that he would consider conferring the special category status to his state. Apart from this privilege, Naidu has been demanding a special package for the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh after it was carved out from the erstwhile composite […]Read More »

India needs a water-sensitive food trade policy

If one lists the nations most suited to produce wheat, sugarcane, cotton and soybean, China and Egypt will definitely stand atop on historical, geographical and climatic counts. World’s largest river Nile flows in Egypt which every year collects fertile soil from different countries in Africa and deposits it in its delta. On the other side […]Read More »

Modi sarkar and telcos have both hung up on the consumers

Do you get full signal on your mobile? Is your data speed fast enough? Have mobile companies started compensating you for call drops? If your answers are a resounding “no” (naturally, they would!) then, more than the government, we ourselves are responsible. We Indians, afflicted with a strange kind of amnesia, tend to forget the […]Read More »

Modi's foreign trips can wait. Indian trade needs emergency landing

Howsoever spectacular Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s diplomatic campaign might have been, the fact remains the void in the trade diplomacy has grown faster than ever. If the government’s own Economic Survey is to be believed, India’s foreign trade has gained momentum over the last decade with a flurry of free and preferential trade agreements signed […]Read More »

Modi sarkar should bet on services for dream growth

If one observes the samurais of growth driving the GDP rate above seven per cent, one wouldn’t find them in the swanky corporate offices of Mumbai and Delhi, but in the markets close to one’s home. These growth warriors make our lives easier by running eateries, repairing shops and providing dozens of similar services and […]Read More »

Don’t make India a circus of cartels and monopolies

Facebook’s Free Basics trial was so legendary that one Ganesh could double the yield from his fields with the knowledge FB-patented internet facilitated. While, advertisements are notorious for making lofty claims, this one goes beyond limit. Considering the state of agriculture in India, this can’t even be an exception let alone a norm. As it […]Read More »

Let’s fix the system instead of opting out

Allahabad High Court passed an interesting order last month, directing the Chief Secretary of Uttar Pradesh to ensure that from the academic year beginning 2016, children of all officials serving with the government, including judiciary, local bodies and representatives of people, must send their children to study only in government primary schools, failing which the […]Read More »

That is retrograde, Mr Jaitley

An important step in clearing our institutional financial system of the cobwebs it has gathered over the years has now been reversed, with Mr. Arun Jaitley announcing deferment of his plan to set up an independent public debt management authority, which he had promised in the budget presented earlier this year. Till now, Reserve Bank […]Read More »

Coalgate Revisited

  The auction of 33 of the 204 coal mines, whose allocations were cancelled by the Sup¬re¬me Court, has just been completed. The auction has brought the government a ‘windfall gain’ of Rs 2.07 lakh crore for 19 operational blocks and 13 about-to-open blocks which were put under the hammer, against Rs 1.86 lakh crore […]Read More »

Will Federalism at Work Let Populism Thrive ?

The just released recommendations of the Fourteenth Finance Commission’s will have far- reaching consequences for the states of the Indian Union, with 42 percent of the central divisible pool of resources now going to them, as compared to the existing 32 percent provided by the Thirteenth Finance Commission. In terms of resources now available to […]Read More »

Modi government has actually worked hard to deliver on black money

 


After facing severe criticism for its lofty electoral promises on bringing black money to India, Modi sarkar appears to have stuck its neck out on dealing with the issue.

The Modi-led government, running past the two-year mark in office, has taken some calculated risks to go ahead on curbing black money.

To promote transparency, the government has taken three major steps in the last one year alone: Bringing cash transactions under tax net, cleansing the jewellery bullion market and checking the movement of black money via stock market.

The early reactions to these steps turned out to be financially as well as politically cumbersome, but the government at least did not do a U-turn as in the provindent fund issue. It displayed the courage to grapple with the risks.

Modi tweet 1

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) statistics released in April 2016 astounded banks and economists alike.

The RBI said the flow of cash had suddenly spiked in the financial system. In technical terms, it is a so-called surge in currency circulation. This is the cash that we keep in our pockets.

By March 20, 2016, the level of cash in the monetary system reached Rs 16.7 trillion, which was Rs 14.8 trillion in March last year. This is an increase of about Rs 2 trillion. In 2015-16, currency circulation grew by up to 15.4 per cent, which was only 10.7 per cent last year.

Interestingly, from April 2015 to January 2016, a massive increase in withdrawals from ATMs was also witnessed. This deepens the mystery of the cash story.

There was nothing in the economy that could have accounted for this change. Inflation was at its lowest ebb, there was little demand in the market, and the housing and real estate sector was also in deep recession. If this stands, why then are people roaming around laden with cash, particularly at a time when mobile and electronic banking is gaining momentum, and the government is also pushing for delivery of subsidy through the banking system?

Recently, several bankers, including RBI governor Raghuram Rajan, assumed that this surge in currency circulation may have been on account of multiple state elections. However, no empirical data suggests so. This sudden gush of liquidity flow is more likely to be the result of the reduced fungibility of black and white money. This fungibility has broken down thanks to the steps taken by the government over the last year to crack down on black money.

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In the last Budget, curbs were placed on cash advances of more than Rs 20,000 on immovable property. Furnishing PAN (Permanent Account Number) details was made compulsory on all purchases and sales of above Rs 1 lakh.

This year in January, Income-Tax department went a step ahead to make PAN details compulsory for transactions of more than Rs 2 lakh from any source, and notified a prison term of seven years for using a wrong PAN number. Along with this, registering PAN details for purchases of jewellery worth more than Rs 2 lakh was also made mandatory.

According to RBI figures, the increase in cash within the system started in November 2015 and reached the highest point in January 2016 by the time curbs on black money were ordered. That means, to escape strict government measures, people got busy hoarding cash since November.

Cash transaction is a major source of turning black money into white. The efforts to stop it are showing considerable results, but some of its initial adverse impact is affecting banks, where deposits fell to the lowest in 50 years. It appears that major part of small and medium business transactions is often conducted outside the banking system.

The government, accepting the risk of falling bank deposits, has kept cash transactions on a tight leash. However, now it is time to encourage bank deposits because banks are facing heavy stress.

In a white paper presented in Parliament in 2010, the UPA government had conceded that a large part of gold, jewellery and bullion trade escaped the oversight of government machinery. This business is the largest destination for black money after real estate in India. Tax rate is at its lowest. When the finance minister announced a one per cent duty on the same in Budget 2016, the purpose was not to generate revenue, but to bring this trade within the ambit of taxation.

A massive strike of bullion traders followed this decision causing extensive political damage because jewellers are traditionally BJP voters. Yet the finance minister not only stood by his decision, but accepted that the rate of tax on gold and silver was unjustifiably low.

As a result of this strict stance, both the buyer (via the PAN rule) and the seller (through excise duty) of gold and silver trade have been brought under the tax net.

The third major decision was taken recently when the government recently reached an understanding with Mauritius and tightened the provisions of agreement on avoiding double taxation, ie DTAA (Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement).

To avoid tax in India, heavy investment in share markets is made via Mauritius, which involves substantial flow of black money. Measures to check treaty shopping and round tripping of money have been lying in limbo for a long while now.

Close on the heels of DTAA review, SEBI made Participatory Notes(P-Notes) less lucrative by seeking increased disclosure requirements and restrictions on transferring the P-Notes. P-Notes are used for investment by Foreign Portfolio Investors (FPIs) in India. The existing P-note system had made it difficult for the regulator to identify the ultimate beneficiary. SEBI’s new norms will allow audit trail to prevent tax leakages.

The decision to make changes in DTAA and P-Notes may temporarily affect investment in share market, but the government seems braced to tackle the risk.

Measures to throttle the parallel economy are less discussed, but are also an important achievement of Modi government’s two year rule.

Let us hope the determination is here to stay as the battle with black money is long and complicated, and several economic and political challenges still lie ahead for the government.

First published in dailyo.in

Finance

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Modi government has got carried away by its make-believe growth data

  Economic growth isn’t achieved merely by change of governments, or by a series of electoral victories. Although governments keep making tall claims and paint rosy pictures in front of public, they themselves don’t let it get to their head as they know growth results only when a host of factors fire in tandem. However, […]Read More »

4 disastrous effects of demonetisation that Modi ignored

In spite of several inefficiencies, fortunately, India never witnessed a bank-run or monetary crisis parallel to the scale in Europe or America. However, the chaos and long queues that engulfed banks across India now perfectly mirror the plight the Greeks faced last year, albeit for different reasons. Demonetisation is a rudimentary monetary instrument of the […]Read More »

Modi's historic move against black money brings chaos now, gains later

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s unprecedented move to temporary demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes is expected to bring in a host of positives, it will also set off major administrative and logistical challenges at the outset, not to mention the plight of common people. The government and Reserve Bank of India (RBI) will […]Read More »

Diwali or not, India can't boycott Chinese goods

Last fortnight, close on the heels of the rise of firecracker nationalism against Chinese goods on social media, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) was busy making adjustments for yuan’s entry into India’s foreign exchange reserves. Not only RBI, most of the global central bankers too had to alter metrics of their forex reserves after yuan’s […]Read More »

Despite $10 billion in tax net, Modi sarkar's amnesty is a colossal failure

Despite the long history of failed tax amnesty schemes, the Narendra Modi government tried its luck with tax pardons, but to no avail. Howsoever pliable the statistics might be, the fact remains that declarations of Rs 65,250 crore under the black money disclosure scheme could attract just a moderate success for the NDA government. However, […]Read More »

Modi must walk the talk on GST

Even if one doesn’t buy everything that Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed in his Parliament speech on Goods and Services Tax (GST), one should acknowledge that this is one of the most crucial structural indirect tax reforms in the last 25 years of liberalisation. This may not effectively clamp down on inspector raj, or turn […]Read More »

GST Bill an example of half-baked and vague reform

Contrary to the euphoria and costlier-cheaper headlines, the Constitution (122nd Amendment) Bill 2014 doesn’t spell out even the outline of the GST that India is expected to get in the future. The passing of the GST Bill is just the beginning of a tedious political and operational voyage that should ultimately result in the implementation […]Read More »

Raghuram Rajan, darling of Dalal Street, ‘devil’ for Delhi Durbar

  Sometimes words speak louder than actions. If nowhere, then at least in India. RBI chief Raghuram Rajan has fallen victim to his own candid words (read speeches) on issues of political import. However, his legacy doesn’t lie in his articulations as a blunt economist but as a top-class, innovative and professional central banker. And here […]Read More »

5.80 lakh crore in bad loans: Let's pray for India's bleeding banks

The Rs 13 lakh-crore pile of bad loans of India’s public sector banks now amounts to more than the GDP of countries like New Zealand, Kenya, Oman and Uruguay. A new IMF report states Indian banks are in a poor state compared to the notoriously messy banking of China.The financial results of major public sector […]Read More »

Modi government has actually worked hard to deliver on black money

  After facing severe criticism for its lofty electoral promises on bringing black money to India, Modi sarkar appears to have stuck its neck out on dealing with the issue. The Modi-led government, running past the two-year mark in office, has taken some calculated risks to go ahead on curbing black money. To promote transparency, the government […]Read More »

How India's wealthy are milking billions off subsidy

Do you think the politics of subsidy is only confined around lower and middle economic classes? If yes, then you would wonder how subsidies worth rupees one crore go into the pockets of the rich every year, and that too via merely seven products and services. The subsidy bill may notch up if one takes […]Read More »

India’s three-tiered economy needs bottoms-up approach

Has finance minister Arun Jaitley got it right? If one looks at the economy at hand, the answer would possibly be “Yes”. India is now a three-speed economy.  Double-digit growth is confined to a section that comprises sectors such as e-commerce, travel and stock markets and accounts for 30 per cent of the GDP. Another […]Read More »

India’s Trade Gloom

  Not many years have ended with gloomier prospects for Indian trade. The gloom is not just because of the contraction in exports for 12 months in a row. It is also because India’s role and participation in global trade is becoming increasingly insignificant. The insignificance was evident from the approach to the Nairobi Ministerial. […]Read More »

Budget 2016: Modernising rural economy must be Modi's mission

Last fortnight, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned crop insurance in his Maan ki Baat programme, people well aware of the state of agriculture justifiably grew anxious. This was not because government’s efforts do not inspire or encourage, but because in spite of three crop failures, Indian politicians are still handling farming with a mindset […]Read More »

Can India finally see a Modi Budget in 2016?

When existing steel companies are already reeling under distress owing to falling demand, why is the Union government going to establish new steel companies in the public sector? What is the need for forming new banks (monetary banks) to provide loans to small companies when several financial institutions of the government are already doing this? […]Read More »

How many more taxes do we need to pay?

Public memory is usually short but the memory of taxation is even shorter. Benchmark brent crude might have tested an unprecedented low of $37 per barrel, but domestic petrol and diesel prices are still ruling higher thanks to heavy taxes. If only the debate on goods and services tax (GST) revolved around explaining this dichotomy, […]Read More »

Is weak rupee still a national shame for PM?

Whether India draws an economic advantage from the ongoing global turbulence or not, a substantial political advantage can definitely be churned out at the moment. It is time for our leaders to rid themselves of their unfounded misconception on the exchange value of the domestic currency, that is, the rupee. In India, the BJP and […]Read More »

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