News this week: India’s 5% GDP, Iran tensions and more

The government forecast 5 per cent growth for the current financial year, the slowest pace in 11 years, which will likely prompt the finance minister to opt for extra fiscal stimulus when she presents the annual budget next month. The former chairman of Tata Sons Cyrus Mistry said he would not seek to reclaim his board seats and position as executive chairman of the conglomerate after a tribunal in December ordered he be reinstated. Indian airlines will avoid flying over Iran as tension builds in the Persian Gulf. Here is more on what happened this week.

Business Standard
4th January

  • India’s economy is on track for its slowest growth since 2009, weighed down by a shadow banking crisis, weak investment and a slump in spending. Gross domestic product will grow 5 per cent in the year through March 2020, the Statistics Ministry said in a statement. Manufacturing is expected to grow at 2 per, the lowest since at least FY06.
  • The Supreme Court revived the revenue department’s bid to investigate billionaire Gautam Adani’s companies, which the agency claims got undue tax benefits by overvaluing coal imports. A three-judge bench put on hold a lower court’s ruling, effectively allowing the revenue department to seek information on the case from overseas.
  • The government relaxed the qualification criteria and regulations for mining and selling coal in the country, allowing foreign players and non-coal companies in the sector. So far, only companies involved in the power, metals and mining industry could participate in bidding for coal blocks.
  • Indian flights will take 20 to 40 minutes longer to reach Europe and the US as they avoid Iran’s airspace. India’s aviation regulator has asked airlines to take precautions in the airspace over Iran, Iraq, Gulf of Oman and waters of the Persian Gulf. The external affairs ministry has asked Indian citizens to avoid travelling to Iraq.
  • Carlos Ghosn, speaking publicly for the first time since his dramatic escape from Japanese justice, said he had been treated "brutally" by Tokyo prosecutors and was the victim of an inside job to oust him from the helm of automaker Nissan. Japan rejected his allegations.
  • Cyrus Mistry said he will protect the Shapoorji Pallonji (SP) Group’s rights as a minority shareholder in the business conglomerate but he is not interested in returning as its chairman. The SP Group owns 18.5 per cent in Tata Sons and is fighting the Tata Sons, the holding company of Tata Group, since Mistry was ousted as chairman in October 2016.
  • A group of ministers (GoM) finalised the sale of the entire government stake in state-owned Air India. The GoM also approved in-principle hiving off around Rs 20,000 crore of additional debt and liabilities to a special purpose vehicle, pitching the tottering carrier attractive to prospective buyers.

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A few links for further reading

Hard path to growth

The signals for the economy are not positive: overall demand is yet to pick up; the share of total exports in India’s GDP is declining, and industrial output pattern remains worrying.

Small savings scheme

Investors breathed a sigh of relief when the government announced that interest rates on these instruments would not be revised for the fourth quarter of the calendar year.

Invest and emigrate

The great Indian dream of settling abroad is achievable if one has a few crores to invest. Rich nations offer a variety of investment options in a quid pro quo arrangement: immigrants get a better quality of life and revenue from them helps these countries’ finances. Wealthy Indians, troubled by polluted cities and the red tape holding up entrepreneurship, may want a quick ticket out of the country. Sanjay Kumar Singh lists a range of options: from a Canadian province’s investor programme to America’s US EB-5 plan.

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