Laveesh BhandariThis Budget needed to get a grip on inflation, accelerate growth, restore trust in the government and build confidence in the economy. It does a bit of all, but only tentatively. In a word, the Budget is disappointing: Much talk and a lot of small measures, but little to,Laveesh BhandariThis Budget needed to get a grip on inflation, accelerate growth, restore trust in the government and build confidence in the economy. It does a bit of all, but only tentatively. In a word, the Budget is disappointing: Much talk and a lot of small measures, but little to show by way of major initiatives. It seems the team of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has decided to wait it out till next year by when the NDA Government would have greater experience. India is looking for a grand vision, and actions to go with it. We need leaders at the helm who have conviction and are not afraid to take bold decisions. Such leaders would have convinced us that this is the time to chart a new path for India to shape a great future for our children. Instead, we have got a budget put together by people unwilling to take hard decisions. They may have tried to please all or displease none. But all they have achieved is more of the same, with some extra bits thrown in here and there.Charting a reform pathJaitley’s Budget speech and statements do, refreshingly, identify the direction of reform we can expect in the coming years. It grants that getting the manufacturing sector back on track requires a more credible financial regulator,basic labour reform that ensures flexibility for the employer as well as protection for the worker, skill development and access to basic finance for the small and medium entrepreneur (SME).At the same time, the Budget recognises that India needs to change the regime defined by APMC (Agricultural Produce Market Committee) acts and give the farmer unhindered access to markets anywhere in the country.The recognition that publicprivate partnerships are not delivering and need to be reoriented is welcome.Combine this with improved access to finance for SMEs, including addressing the issue of insolvency law, and we get a clear outline of the direction NDAintends to take the economy in.advertisementRating: GoodSetting inflated targetsThe Budget aims for very high growth in tax revenue in an economy that is not growing very rapidly. At the same time,budgeted expenditures are not as high as one would normally expect in a drought year. Based on this, it manufactures a fiscal deficit target of 4.1 per cent for 2014-15, which it will no doubt fail to achieve-the figure will instead be around 4.6 per cent by the end of the year. It seems that Jaitley’s predecessor P.Chidambaram,with all his numerical skullduggery, is still lurking somewhere in the background. Numbers aside, the Budget also lacks a clear action plan to correct the problem of burgeoning subsidies. India’s subsidy regime, which is aimed at benefiting households, needs to be changed-from incentivising consumption to encouraging investment, and from focusing on leakage-prone items to those that can be better targeted. But we see none of this in this Budget. Neither do we see any change in the subsidy regime that is oriented towards the productive sector-say for the farmer or the SME entrepreneur- but is not very effective.Rating: BadInadequate reform of PSUsAlarge chunk of the Government’s assets is locked up in an unproductive public sector. Therefore, a comprehensive set of public sector reforms combined with large-scale privatisation and disinvestment would have been great. Instead,we will get about Rs 58,000 crore from disinvestment this fiscal. This is a good move but could have been better had some thought gone into what all would be possible to disinvest easily. Both internal and external security have received higher allocations, which is a good step since these have been ignored for years.Greater focus on the North-east was long due and is, thus, laudable.Yet, there was much more that needed to be done in these areas and we can only hope that this is just the start.Rating: AverageWhat lies ahead?The Government has tried to do a little of many things in this Budget and decided against going for big-bang announcements. But then this is a relatively inexperienced team and, perhaps, Modi and Jaitley are giving themselves and their team more time to get better at their jobs. In which case,we have to wait for Budget 2015-16, when they could come out all guns blazing on reforms.Let’s hope it is so.Laveesh BhandariEconomist and head, Indicus AnalyticsTo read more, get your copy of India Today here.
Minnesota Vikings announced that they will start Matt Cassel over Josh Freeman as quarterback against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.Josh Freeman, who was recently waived by Tampa, signed a one-year deal worth $3 million with the Vikings last week.Coach Leslie Frazier said Friday that it was expected that Cassel would remain in the lineup after he helped the Vikings win their first game of the season in London against Pittsburgh.The Vikings signed ex-Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman to possibly compete for the starting job if needed. The former first round draft pick, Freeman struggled with Tampa before being released. He completed a league-worst, 45.3 percent of his passes, and threw only two touchdowns and two interceptions while with the Buccaneers earlier in the season.
Comments Share your voice Facebook Twitter 2 A group of websites and social media accounts linked to Russia or far-right groups is spreading misinformation and encouraging political discord just weeks ahead of the key elections in the European Union, The New York Times reported Sunday.The campaign shares many of the same characteristics used in previous Russian attacks, including Russia’s interference with the 2016 US elections, EU investigators tell the Times. Groups in Italy and German bear the same electronic signature as pro-Kremlin websites or share servers used by the Russian hackers who broke into the Democratic National Committee.Disinformation has long been a part of Russia’s foreign policy strategy, and social media has allowed the trolling effort to expand on a viral scale. In 2017, Facebook revealed it found evidence that Russians used the social network to meddle in the 2016 US presidential election and sowed discord among Americans.US intelligence agencies have warned Congress that these campaigns will continue in the future. But determining Russia’s level of involvement is difficult as several copycats on the far right are echoing Kremlin talking points, investigators say.EU investigators believe networks of Facebook and Twitter accounts have been spreading false and divisive stories about the EU, NATO and immigrants, among other issues. An analysis prepared for the Senate found that Russia’s disinformation campaign before the 2016 election used every major social media platform, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, to try to sow the seeds of political discord among Americans.Earlier this month, Facebook said it had removed 118 fake accounts, pages and groups from Russia that posted content about politics in Ukraine and other countries in Europe. Facebook has also opened a new operations center in Ireland to combat fake news ahead of the EU parliamentary elections. The current campaign uses messages taken directly from Russian news media, the Times reported, but investigators haven’t publicly accused the Kremlin of supporting a specific candidate. Investigators believe millions of people have been exposed to the propaganda material.Representatives for Facebook and Twitter didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Internet Tech Industry Tags
file photo of Cambodia mapThirty-two pregnant Cambodians were detained on Friday for their suspected involvement in an illegal surrogacy operation, carrying babies for Chinese clients, a court official said on Friday.Five other people, including a Chinese person, were arrested and charged with human trafficking following raids at two apartments in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.The pregnant women were discovered during the raids last month and 32 were charged with cross border human trafficking on Thursday, said Y Rin, a spokesman for Phnom Penh Municipal Court. They were placed in pretrial detention.Cambodia had been a popular international destination for infertile couples looking to have babies through commercial surrogacy, a practice made illegal in 2016.Police have said that each of the 32 women was promised $10,000 for carrying baby for Chinese clients.Once a woman becomes pregnant she receives $500, police said. When the baby is delivered, she is paid $300 a month until the full $10,000 is paid off.