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Delhi rents may be linked to circle rates; hike so

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Delhi rents may be linked to circle rates; hike so

Neelam Pandey

The AAP government has proposed linking rent and lease agreements to circle rates of properties, a move that may lead to an increase in rents, especially in posh south and central Delhi neighbourhoods.

According to government sources, stamp duty on a lease deed or rent agreement — residential or commercial — to be paid by a tenant at the time of registration will be calculated on the basis of the existing circle rate of an area. A circle rate of 5-7% is likely to be imposed on the rented properties.

“The move will stop evasion of stamp duty as people often do not disclose the actual rent amount in the agreement,” said a senior Delhi government official. 

Many home owners also don’t disclose the actual rent to avoid paying tax on it. Therefore, they may hike rent rates further to protect their original earnings after paying the additional tax.

The hike would hurt tenants most in places like south Delhi, where circle rates are quite high, and in expensive market places like Khan Market, Connaught Place and Greater Kailash.

The revenue department has forwarded the proposal to the finance department for its consideration, after which it is likely to be tabled in the cabinet, the sources said.

Circle rate, introduced in the Capital in 2007, is the minimum valuation of land and immovable property and an indicator of the ‘market price’ of the property. It is revised periodically by the state government and differs from area to area: Delhi is divided into eight categories, A to H, where A stands for the poshest colonies and commands the highest circle rates.

A high circle rate also acts as a disincentive for the use of cash or undisclosed “black money” in real estate transactions.

The government was recently planning to increase circle rates in group housing society flats and DDA flats by almost 100%. So far, flats in the city have a uniform circle rate of Rs 58,000 per square meters. If this plan too goes through, circle rates for flats might go up by 100% and so would rents.


Ten Steps for the Future: PM Narendra Modi's 10-point initiative for BRICS nations

By Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury
The Brics summit formalised the $100 billion New Development Bank and a currency reserve pool worth another $100 billion.
NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has offered to organise the first Brics fair in India and proposed making clean energy the first major initiative of the Brics bank while outlining a 10-point programme for future cooperation. Modi's 'Das Kadam,' proposed during his address of the Brics plenary at the 7th summit in the Russian city of Ufa, included a trade fair, a railway research centre, cooperation among supreme audit institutions, a digital initiative, an agricultural research centre, a forum of state/local governments among the Brics nations, cooperation among cities in urbanisation, a sports council and an annual sports meet, the first major project of the New Development Bank to be in the field of clean energy, and a film festival. The Brics summit formalised the $100 billion New Development Bank and a currency reserve pool worth another $100 billion.

Modi's suggestions were presented amid the adoption of common Economic Cooperation Strategy adopted at Ufa by the world's five growing economies at this Summit. He said this strategy, which includes a number of social initiatives, was a milestone in BRICS 2015 evolution. This Strategy was the brainchild of Russia, host for the current BRICS Summit The BRICS Economic Cooperation Strategy is aimed at creating a framework for easier trade between the BRICS developing markets. It is the first comprehensive document of its kind and introduces entirely new areas of cooperation such as physical, institutional and people-to-people connectivity.

"For the first time our countries managed to negotiate and finalise the comprehensive document - the Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership -that touches upon the responsibility of different ministers and requires high-level coordination," Modi said, adding, "The Contingency Reserve Arrangement will soon become a reality, which will help in stabilising the BRICS economies."

The Contingency Reserve Arrangement to facilitate intra-group trade in members' local currencies assumes even more importance in the context of the Greek bailout crisis that along with China's stock market plunge has revived the spectre of weaker economic growth.

Customs arrangement among the Brics nations would be a major step in boosting trade, Modi said. At the summit the five countries also signed an agreement on creating a joint BRICS website, which will act as a virtual secretariat of the group. The Central Banks of the five countries have also signed cooperation agreements with the New Development Bank. The BRICS deliberations on the current global political and economic situation were reflected in the Ufa Declaration adopted at the end of the Summit. The BRICS bloc noted the fragile recovery of global growth and also said they were "concerned about potential spillover effects from the unconventional monetary policies of the advanced economies".

The Ufa declaration also asserted that "the NDB (New Development Bank" shall serve as a powerful instrument for financing infrastructure investment and sustainable development projects in the BRICS and other developing countries and emerging market economies".

"We welcome the proposal for the NDB to cooperate closely with existing and new financing mechanisms including the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank," said the document. In major support for Russian President Putin, his BRICS counterparts supported Moscow by opposing the Western sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine conflict. "We condemn unilateral military interventions and economic sanctions in violation of international law and universally recognized norms of international relations. Bearing this in mind, we emphasize the unique importance of the indivisible nature of security, and that no State should strengthen its security at the expense of the security of others," noted the Ufa communique.

"We emphasise the need for universal adherence to principles and rules of international law in their interrelation and integrity, discarding the resort to "double standards" and avoiding placing interests of some countries above others," said the document in what many would say indirect reference to US interference in countries like Syria.

Modi, in his address to the BRICS Business Council and the plenary, proposed that the five countries -- Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa -- should host an annual trade fair and that India could host the inaugural fair next year. India will host the BRICS summit in 2016.

The PM also proposed that as part of the sports cooperation, an annual football event, especially under 15, could be held every year. He suggested that India could host the football event next year.

Modi further proposed a BRICS film festival and film awards, which he said would give a boost to film-making and people-to-people contact. Seeking united approach to fight terror, Modi said: "We should speak in one voice against terrorism, without distinction and discrimination between groups and countries, sponsors and targets."

He also pointed towards the urgent need for UN Security Council reforms. "Whatever is the nature of challenge - political, social, and economic - we will be more effective in addressing them if we complete the reforms of the UN, especially its Security Council, within a fixed time frame. These reforms are urgently required, if the global institution is to retain its role and relevance in the 21st century."

State of friendliness - Closer ties with the Central Asian states would benefit India

Kanwal Sibal

The July 9-10 meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Ufa in Russia is expected to approve India's membership of the organization, along with that of Pakistan. It would have taken India, which got observer status in July 2005, 10 years to obtain full membership, largely on account of China's resistance to open the doors for India without letting Pakistan in too. Russia has been politically supportive of India's quest for SCO membership but has questioned for some years Pakistan's eligibility because of the threat that its terrorist affiliations and its truck with extremist religious groups presented to the stability of the Central Asian states. China, on the other hand, because of its solid geopolitical relationship with Pakistan and the political cover it has consistently given to it on terrorism-related issues would have opposed giving preferential treatment to India, even if India's candidature had no negative dimension and was welcomed by the Central Asian states.

The parity of treatment with India that Pakistan obsessively seeks and China panders to has not prevented the latter, however, from participating in the Russia-India-China trilateral dialogue that lifts India's stature to an altogether different level. China is also a member of BRICS, a group that excludes Pakistan. China could have viewed India's inclusion in the SCO as a further consolidation of the tripartite equations with Russia within the RIC and BRICS formats. But, in the case of the SCO, China has wanted to bracket India with Pakistan. China has forged a close economic relationship with Iran, which has observer status in the SCO. Iran is an integral part of the Central Asian geography much more than Pakistan is, as it has a common border with Turkmenistan (which is not a SCO member) and has close linguistic affinities with Tajikistan. But it is not being considered for full membership at present. A major reason for excluding it from the envisaged expansion is the nuclear issue. Both China and Russia are part of the P-5 plus1 dialogue with Iran, and as permanent members of the security council are party to the imposition of United Nations sanctions on it. They would obviously want the nuclear issue to be resolved before offering SCO membership to Iran. If for cogent reasons Iran can be made to wait, even though politically and geo-strategically it is a vital player in the region, the priority given to Pakistan's inclusion is anomalous and shows the solidity of China's support to a country that is the epicentre of terrorism and religious extremism in the region, whose ambitions can throw Afghanistan into serious turmoil once again, with dangerous consequences for all the Central Asian states and beyond. Whereas Pakistan had no say in Russia's moves to promote RIC and BRICS, it has used its China relationship to thwart a higher profile for India in Central Asia. It would have been a humiliating diplomatic defeat for Pakistan, which considers itself the gateway for India to Central Asia and intends to keep that gate closed, to have to wait for SCO membership while India walked in with China's concurrence.

Unlike in the case of the RIC or BRICS which were sponsored by Russia (and it is Russia that provided the political momentum to these two groupings and set their agenda at their inception), China is the progenitor of the SCO through its previous incarnation, the Shanghai Five, that was set up in 1996, initially without Uzbekistan. China has for long played second fiddle to Russia in the RIC and BRICS, but the equation within the SCO between the two is different. China is the leading force in the organization and shapes its agenda, especially economic. The SCO is headquartered in China. The organization has become a vehicle for extending China's economic interests in Central Asia, especially access to the region's oil and gas resources. Already oil and gas are being piped from this region to China. Because of its increasing clout, China has been able to delay consideration of India's membership of the SCO by securing the desired recognition of its strategic equities in Pakistan from Russia.

Ironically, the geographical area in which China is making its weight increasingly felt was for long a part of Tsarist Russia and later the Soviet Union, and hence a legitimate sphere of influence for the new Russian Federation. Russia has had to yield considerable economic and, by extension, political influence, to China in this erstwhile Russian space. This is the inevitable by-product of the political and economic weakening of Russia after the Soviet collapse and the phenomenal economic rise of China. Today, with China announcing its One Belt (land based) initiative that would link Eurasia even more with China, and aiming to invest $40 billion in this and the One Road (maritime), the Russia-China equation is rapidly changing in favour of the latter. The United States of America/North Atlantic Treaty Organization's political, military, economic and ideological pressure on Russia has constrained its room for manoeuvre and compelled it to move closer to China. This has consolidated the Russia-China equation, but to China's advantage. China is securing its vast Eurasian hinterland in cooperation with Russia in order to better challenge US power in the western Pacific.

India has limited ties with Central Asian states, even though bilateral exchange of visits at the highest levels, especially from the latter, has been significant. For the Central Asian states, closer ties with India create a better balance in their foreign relations, apart from the prospect of harnessing India's competence in certain areas for their development. For India, lack of direct access to these landlocked states is a huge handicap. Energy links with these states are difficult to forge not only because of lack of contiguity but also Pakistan's determination to impede our ties with this region for strategic reasons, as well as continuing instability in Afghanistan. India could potentially obtain access to Central Asian gas through the TAPI project, if and when it is implemented. With Kazakhstan we have achieved some success in the energy area, including access to its uranium resources. India's trade with the region has averaged only $300 million between 2000 and 2011 and rose to $500 million in 2012. Tajikistan is of particular strategic importance in the context of the withdrawal of US/Nato from Afghanistan and the resurgence of the Taliban. India has refurbished air force bases in Ayni and Farkhor in Tajikistan. We have strategic partnership agreements with Tajikistan and Kazakhstan which, along with Kyrgyzstan, support India's permanent membership of the UNSC.

Our membership of the SCO will not bring about any dramatic change in our ties with the Central Asian states. It will have no impact on our relations with Russia and China, which have bilateral strengths or are marred by bilateral problems independent of the SCO. Our membership is expected to take a couple of years to become operational. Meanwhile, in a commendable initiative, the prime minister, Narendra Modi, will visit all these states after the Ufa meetings. Our gains from a heightened attention to these states may not be great now, but our longer term strategic loss in paying inadequate attention to them can be costly.

The author is former foreign secretary of India

Diplomacy re-defined

Salman Haidar
As the shadows lengthen over the Obama presidency, there has been an unusual flurry of activity on Washington’s foreign policy front. Public attention has already begun to shift to next year’s presidential elections and the list of contenders grows by the day, and while the domestic agenda can be expected to crowd out all else as the race becomes more intense, some of the most significant recent US moves have been in the field of foreign affairs. It would seem that in this final phase Mr. Obama seeks to tie up loose ends and bring to a conclusion some of the nagging issues that have so far remained unresolved.
Prominent among the new developments at this time is the improvement of ties between the USA and Cuba. For some time now, these two countries have been inching towards mutual reconciliation and putting behind them their extended history of strife and hostility. It’s been so long since they fell out that few will recall quite why these two countries are still at daggers drawn: the major events that fed their hostility, like the missile crisis that came close to engulfing them and the rest of the world in a nuclear holocaust, and also the Bay of Pigs fiasco of a US-backed invasion of Cuba, are now matters for the history books. But US sanctions against Cuba remain stringent and unforgiving, and it is only recently, as part of the current thaw, that some chinks have been permitted in the comprehensive prohibition on contact between the two countries. All this time, despite the huge differential in their respective strength and capacity, Cuba has not buckled under and has maintained an international profile out of proportion to its intrinsic strength. The revolutionary leadership of Fidel Castro weathered several storms over the decades, and now with the mantle having passed to Raul Castro, Cuba is well embarked on repairing and renewing the sundered relationship with the USA.
The problem today is less to do with the differences between the two countries than with the impact of the strong lobby in the USA, especially among Cuban refugees, that actively opposes any sort of rapprochement. It is more a matter of domestic politics than of foreign relations, and when elections loom, as they do now, candidates tend to hold tight to familiar positions. If there is room for something fresh, nevertheless, it owes something to the fact Mr. Obama is not up for election and hence has more leeway on this issue than others: his initiative to restore ties, which was dramatically expressed in a handshake between him and President Raul Castro at a recent Latin American Summit, seems likely to go through notwithstanding the hostility Cuba still evokes in sections of US opinion. It will be a welcome development for which Mr. Obama will be able to take legitimate credit.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe, a testing negotiation between the USA and Iran is in progress, in search of agreement on the Iranian civil nuclear programme. At issue is an inspection regime that would open the various Iranian facilities to inspectors appointed by the IAEA in order to verify that there is no covert nuclear weapons programme under a civilian mask. This has long been one of the most contentious issues before the international community, with the entire P-5 along with Germany (the ‘P-5 plus 1’) engaged in a demanding exchange on an amalgam of political and technical issues relating to the disputed matter. Iran has held its ground, despite having to deal with the heavy burden of sanctions, and until recently there was little sign of any break in the confrontation. But now that has changed: the name-calling and sabre-rattling have given way to serious engagement and what looks like a promising effort to find a solution is under way. The talks are still on a knife-edge but the momentum is towards agreement, not towards another failure and renewed mutual recrimination. An agreed inspection regime and progressive easing of sanctions now appear attainable.
Should the parties be able to come to terms, this will make a real difference in the entire area. It would have a calming effect in the Middle East where military hostilities between Israel and Iran have often threatened, and also permit normal relations elsewhere in the region. The Iran-US confrontation has come in the way of what was a flourishing economic partnership between India and Iran, owing to the stringent US sanctions. Now that there are prospects of the sanctions being lifted, the way is being cleared for much more extensive economic ties between these two countries which have much to gain from each other, one being a major purchaser of oil and natural gas and the other an important supplier. Many projects to strengthen links between the two have been conceived over the last few years, only to fall foul of the unfavourable political situation. The change in circumstances presently in the making could offer significant benefits to Indian and Iranian economic interests.
To be noted, too, is the more flexible US approach to climate change issues. Having long been something of a back marker, the USA has now emerged as an important driver of more responsible global environmental policies and practices. The series of international conferences on the environment over the last several decades have dramatized the inescapable need for global action and have outlined an action programme of common but differentiated responsibilities between industrialized and developing countries, but notwithstanding the advancing global consensus the USA, driven in part by strong domestic lobbies, has been slow to shed its skepticism about the long-term reality of man-made phenomena threatening to the environment. It has thus questioned the need to offer special facilities to developing countries like a longer time-frame to meet stricter emission standards. But that seems to have undergone significant change, as the USA has become more flexible in this matter and has been able to join other countries, including China and some others, in agreeing on the outlines of an international programme on the environment. With that, despite the doubts of the more strongly committed, more concerted international action should become possible. India needs to note these developments which may be regarded as a fresh challenge because they cut at the traditional solidarity among developing countries, including China, in the climate change negotiations.
Maybe there is more in store of foreign policy initiatives by the USA in this final phase of Mr. Obama’s presidency. What has been undertaken already has brought about important change and has opened fresh possibilities in dealing with long congealed situations that have been awaiting bold solutions.


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