Saturday, February 27, 2010

Union Budget 2010-11 reaffirms importance of renewable energy and concentrated solar thermal in realizing the energy security agenda of the country.

FAST ( Forum fore Advancement of Solar Thermal) welcomes budget thrust on reducing costs for Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) technology to deliver the objectives of the Jawahar Lal Nehru National Solar Mission.

Setting up of the National Clean Energy Fund and the cess on coal will ensure focus on much needed R&D in the clean tech sector and ensure leadership for India in this new and vibrant sector

Forum for the Advancement of Solar Thermal (FAST) today welcomed the Union Budget Proposals 2010-11 terming it as visionary, progressive and providing the right thrust on Renewable Energy to reach the energy security needs of India

Mr. Anil Lakhina , CMD of FAST said, “we are delighted that the Finance Minister has recognized the key role the CSP industry can play in driving growth of Renewable Energy in India especially to supplement the targets of the JNSM.

The solar thermal industry welcomes the reduction of customs and excise duties on its components which will give rise to a vibrant local manufacturing sector . This will create significant employment and enhance the energy security of India by ultimately reducing imports

The significant focus on creation of the National Clean Energy fund and the enhancement of budgetary support for the MNRE is again a welcome move


Anil Lakhina

Marek Belka's Analysis
Europe: Learning Lessons from the Crisis

IMF Survey online

February 24, 2010

As Europe embarks on its projected recovery, wide differences in economic performance and financial stresses will persist, IMF officials say.

In its recent update of the World Economic Outlook, the IMF forecast GDP growth of 1 percent in 2010 for the euro area, while central and eastern Europe is expected to grow at 2 percent of GDP.

During the crisis, countries inside the eurozone benefited from the relative stability of the euro. Emerging market countries ranging from Latvia to Hungary and Romania had to seek emergency assistance from the European Union and the IMF. Today, with the worst of the crisis behind us, markets are taking a new, critical look at countries within the eurozone, with Greece, Spain, and Portugal currently in the headlines. Where this reappraisal will lead remains to be seen. New challenges are also arising for many emerging economies. While the exact nature of those challenges differs substantially from country to country, there are common themes.

In a recent series of blog posts, the Director of the IMF’s European Department, Marek Belka, himself a former finance and prime minister, offers his take on the lessons policymakers should learn from the crisis. Below is a short summary of each of his six postings.

Unwinding Crisis Policies in Europe: Are We There Yet?
Much is riding on getting the timing of the exit right from the extraordinary policies used to combat the global economic and financial crisis. Exiting too early may jeopardize the recovery. But exiting too late may sow the seeds for the next crisis. And exiting in an uncoordinated fashion will lead to a renewed build up of financial instability.

With the recovery still fragile, fiscal and monetary policy should continue to support the recovery. Yet we do need to worry about the surge in government indebtedness and the potential for an adverse shift in sentiment about fiscal sustainability. To avert this, countries need to announce already now credible plans for fiscal consolidation.

In the financial system, we must ensure that the extraordinary support provided to banks and other financial institutions does not turn into an addiction. Thus, the time has come to begin to gradually unwind these policies. Meanwhile, we should not forget about the need for fundamental reforms in the financial sector.

After the crisis, much still at stake for the euro area
The euro—and the European Central Bank (ECB)—proved important safeguards against the spread of the crisis. Countries whose currencies would likely have been subject to severe market gyrations had they not been part of the eurozone held their ground. But as the crisis progressed, it became clear that the eurozone countries were affected in very different ways. Markets took notice and the premiums charged on sovereign bonds diverged.

The ECB has established a sound monetary framework and has proven itself responsive to the enormous challenge we have recently faced. The relatively benign global economic conditions in the euro’s first decade helped allay concerns about divergent economic performance within the eurozone. But that reprieve no longer exists. The ECB and the European Union are in the process of establishing new institutions and rules to create a stronger Europe. The success of these efforts will determine Europe’s course and the role of the euro in its next decade and beyond.

Getting ready to join the eurozone club
Should the European Union’s new member states accelerate or delay their applications to join the euro area? What are the conditions for success, once they have gained entry? The answer to the first question depends in large part on the currency regime.

For small and very open countries with fixed exchange rates—the three Baltic republics and Bulgaria—there is really no alternative to seeking EMU membership as fast as possible. Estonia and Lithuania have demonstrated the ability to maintain fiscal discipline and even Latvia has taken tough adjustment measures in response to the crisis.

The picture is less clear cut in the larger new member states, which on the whole have been served well by their flexible exchange rate regimes. Potential new applicants should ask themselves: are we ready for life in the eurozone? While there are differences between countries, several factors augur well. The new member states have proven nimble in past years at adjusting their trade and production structures to new opportunities, and they have become increasingly integrated both with EMU members and other new member states. Productivity levels have increased, job markets are flexible, and labor mobility, including across borders, is high.

Reigniting growth in emerging Europe
Most countries in central and eastern Europe will see positive GDP growth this year—a stark difference from 2009. But a return to the high growth rates that preceded the crisis is unlikely. Exports are now recovering, but domestic demand is projected to stay weak. Experience tells us that once credit booms end, consumers tend to rein in their spending as they pay off their debts.

To reignite growth, emerging Europe must focus on manufacturing and tradable services, rather than construction, real estate, and banking. Countries in central and eastern Europe will need to find niches in the world market in which they can specialize and catch up by increasing their share in world markets, and reduce their dependence on non-tradable sectors to drive growth.

Emerging Europe: managing large capital flows
In emerging Europe, the transition from planned economies to capitalism has resulted in a rapid and near-complete openness to trade and foreign capital. In the years before the crisis, foreign money flowed generously to the region and to banks in particular. This precipitated a credit boom, which turned to bust when the crisis hit. And although the withdrawal of foreign capital was less aggressive than initially feared, it is clear that the large pre-crisis capital flows to the region were unsustainable and destabilizing.

In our highly globalized economy, large and rapid flows of money across borders are here to stay. The challenge for emerging economies is to find ways to manage these flows so that they don’t exacerbate boom-bust cycles, while still leaving the door open to productive (and hopefully stable) investment. This means using all available tools, particularly greater use of prudential regulations, and keeping an open mind when it comes to capital controls.

Crisis lessons for Europe’s policymakers
In his final blog posts, Belka draws on his own experience as a former policymaker and offers lessons he believes reformers in eastern Europe should take away from the crisis. In bullet form, they are:

• Good policies and strong institutions matter. Countries with unsustainable fiscal policies and weak institutions were the first to face difficulties.
• Sound public finances are created in good times. If policymakers think growth and prosperity is time for relaxing and enjoying, rather than to save for a rainy day, they can forget about fiscal stimulus when it’s needed or even allowing automatic stabilizers to do their job during a recession.
• Capital inflows are beneficial for growth, but some are better than others. Those that increase output potential deserve support, but those that just stimulate demand have to be watched carefully and kept in check if necessary.
• Selling domestic banks to foreigners (highly controversial initially in some emerging markets) turned out to be a rather good idea. What really matters is whether banks have a sustainable business model―one that depends on stable funding (as provided by strong parents) rather than the global wholesale market.
• Self-regulation of the private sector has its limits. The ultimate responsibility for ensuring stability and fair competition rests with the state.
• Pragmatism, pragmatism, pragmatism. Policy advice to emerging economies must be refined. As these economies advance, so does the sophistication of their policymakers.

In times of need, you can count on the IMF. The Fund has listened, learned, and adapted. It is not a bad cop, but rather a doctor—there to help heal, even if it may hurt in the short term.
An IMF for the 21st Century

Address by Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund,At Bretton Woods Committee Annual Meeting

Washington D.C., February 26, 2010

As Prepared for Delivery

It is a special pleasure for me to be with you today. The Bretton Woods Committee has been a great friend of the Fund over the years—providing valuable inputs on how we can best serve the needs of our membership, and supporting our efforts. Today, as the global community slowly emerges from the worst financial disaster since the Great Depression, and as we work to shape the post-crisis world, it is timely that we meet to discuss the future role of the Fund.

Indeed, the world is at a turning point. The crisis has put at risk so much of what we have all worked for: less poverty; more prosperity for all; a better, safer world.

It is in that context that I would like to explore with you a renewed vision for the IMF. A vision that responds to the challenges our 186 member countries are facing in the post-crisis era. A vision that will enable the Fund to retool itself to be even more effective. And yet, a vision that remains firmly grounded in the core mandate given to the IMF by its founders. It’s a new IMF, but still the IMF.

Throughout its history, as this audience knows perhaps better than anyone else, the Fund has adapted in response to the evolving needs of our members. But there has been an important continuity in our overarching aim: to promote economic stability and collaboration, with the ultimate goal of supporting peace and prosperity. This objective remains as current today as it was at the IMF’s creation in 1944. That was the genius of Keynes, White and the other original visionaries.

During the crisis, the Fund proved its worth to the world. You know the story:

Responding to the deteriorating situation, we made the case for coordinated policy stimulus and put forward our concerns about the health of major banks. We supported the global policy response, led by the G-20, with our monitoring and analysis. We rapidly reformed our lending instruments and boosted our resources, making available a record amount of Fund support. In other ways too, our approach has evolved, while staying true to our purposes—our messages on tough policy issues, for instance, have become more nuanced, more tailored to the circumstances, as in staff’s recent thinking on capital controls.

Now, we must build on this positive momentum: to transform the Fund into an institution even better equipped to meet the challenges of the post-crisis era.

Clarifying and updating our mandate is a critical part of this process. As underscored by our members, our mandate must cover the full range of macroeconomic and financial sector policies that bear on global stability in the modern world. And that, in many ways, is the bottom line: to strengthen the Fund’s role as the guardian of systemic stability.

Let me be clear: today I do not intend to get into the technical and legal details of the IMF’s more formal “mandate”—as set out in the Articles of Agreement. Rather, from a very practical standpoint, I would like to set out what the key elements of a shared vision for the Fund might include. This will help set expectations about the Fund’s responsibilities, how to discharge them, and the means for holding us—the collective membership—accountable for delivering that vision.

I see three priorities.

• First, a central lesson of the crisis has been that surveillance for crisis prevention needs to be much more rigorous—with greater coverage of the financial sector and regulatory issues, and better appreciation of systemic risks.

• Second, if the Fund is to serve as a reliable provider of crisis financing, our lending for crisis response must be of a speed, coverage and size far beyond previous assumptions.

• And finally, we must do more to strengthen the long-term stability of the international monetary system—in particular by bolstering the stability of reserves.

Let me elaborate on each of these points.

1. Crisis prevention

First, crisis prevention. We need to improve our oversight of systemic and financial risks.

In principle, the Fund’s surveillance covers both economic policies in individual member countries, and developments relating to the global economy as a whole. But in practice, the bulk of our efforts have been at the country level. One result of this has been that we have not paid enough attention to the linkages and spillovers between economies—including those that transmit through the arteries of the global financial system.

For this reason, there may be a need for a clearer mandate to pursue risks to global economic and—I stress—financial stability. In particular, we are floating the idea of a new multilateral surveillance procedure. This would allow—indeed require—the Fund to assess the broader and systemic effects of country-level policies, and the associated risks, in a fundamentally different way. We need to take up these issues of systemic importance frankly, regularly, and even-handedly.

I believe the world is ready for a shift to this more “systemic” vision of IMF surveillance. A clear indication is the G-20’s launch of the Mutual Assessment Process. The so-called MAP aims to reduce risks to the system by making the world’s largest economies accountable—to each other—for ensuring the global consistency of their economic policies.

Of course, there is a much broader range of international policy challenges than those currently being considered by the MAP. And an enhanced multilateral approach, with increased accountability between countries, is essential for finding lasting solutions. I see a role for the IMF to help address these kinds of multilateral problems.

At the same time, we should enrich the systemic content of our bilateral or country-level surveillance. One way to do this would be to introduce thematic country reports, with staff undertaking joint policy discussions with several countries facing common issues. This type of analysis would improve our comparison across countries, our analysis of regional spillovers, and indeed the interest and traction of our surveillance in member countries.

What about financial risk?

We need to do a much better job of tracing how risk percolates through the system. Here, it will be essential to improve our ability to monitor the several dozen large complex financial institutions that make up the basic “plumbing” through which global capital flows. The task here would not be to monitor the risks to the solvency of individual institutions—that is the job of national regulators. Rather, the task is to get a handle on the nexus of common exposures, cross-exposures, and shifting patterns of maturity and locational concentration in assets and liabilities.

In short, we need to be able to construct a global risk map. We are already working with our partner, the Financial Stability Board, to find ways to improve the availability and monitoring of financial sector data. And this work will be critical in helping to better assess financial risks.

One other area where we should devote more attention is capital flows. Given the Fund’s role in stepping in when capital flows suddenly stop or reverse, our surveillance of these flows must be more effective. This includes being more forthright in our policy advice on capital account liberalization.

For many years now, the Fund has advised that liberalization should be pursued cautiously—at the right time and in the right sequence. During the most recent financial crisis, we have maintained a pragmatic position. But we certainly can do more to provide guidance as to what conditions should be in place before capital liberalization is launched, and when capital controls might be an appropriate policy response to balance of payments or macroeconomic pressures. Again, you may have noted our recent contribution to the thinking on these issues.

One last point on crisis prevention. Doing an effective job requires not only that we at the Fund improve our oversight of risks, but also that our member countries strengthen their own capacity. For this reason, we intend to work closely with them to promote the development of relevant institutions, providing high-quality technical assistance where this may be helpful.

2. Crisis response

Let me turn now to the second priority in sharpening our mandate—our crisis response tools.

One important fact about the crisis is that for key emerging market economies, the Fund was not, in fact, the “first responder.” Rather, some of these countries turned to the Fed, and other central banks, that provided the swap lines that were able to extinguish incipient fires. The action of these central banks—the Fed and others—was without doubt a positive move of enormous importance.

But what assurances do we have that they would be willing and able to provide such liquidity support in the future? We should not take this support for granted.

For this reason, it is critical that a multilateral institution be ready to answer the call. In this context, we are currently exploring various options—including for short-term, multi-country credit lines that the Fund might extend in a systemic crisis.

This would build on the significant revamping of our lending instruments that has already taken place over the last two years. We introduced a new insurance-type facility, the Flexible Credit Line (FCL) which provides financing to members who pre-qualify—with no further conditionality. Across all our financing, in fact, we have streamlined conditionality, so that it focuses better on what is essential for a particular country to regain macroeconomic stability.

How might we build on these innovations to tackle remaining issues? I see two avenues.

• First, the FCL could be made more attractive by increasing the flexibility of access and duration.

• Second, we might look at ways to collaborate with regional reserve pools. We certainly do not see such funds as “competitors.” Indeed, they can be a positive and stabilizing force in international financing—as exemplified by recent European Union lending in parallel with Fund programs. At its most ambitious, such collaboration could even include Fund resources serving as a backstop to regional pools.

And what about the vitally important issue of support for low-income countries? Here, we have come a long way over the past year or so:

• We revamped our lending framework for these poor countries—introducing new financing instruments and streamlining conditionality.

• A major boost in our concessional lending resources will allow us to triple our lending in low-income countries over the next year or two.

• And to ease the financial burden, we are waiving all interest due on our lending to low-income countries until 2012.

But again, I believe we could do even more. For example, we should consider whether to expand our role as a provider of insurance for low-income countries against global volatility and other shocks—including from the effects of climate change. Another challenge is how best to support countries facing fragilities and security issues.

We should look at innovative solutions to scale up financial support when windows of opportunity arise. For instance, creating a pool of highly concessional money—grants, ideally—that is readily available to top up or co-finance the IMF’s emergency lending.

I mentioned climate change. At first sight, this may seem not to fall within the IMF’s core “mandate.” But I see assisting our members to deal with the serious macroeconomic and financing consequences of climate change as very much part of our responsibility to support long-term global stability. And I believe we must work with others—including our colleagues here at the World Bank, of course—to craft creative solutions to what is perhaps the most critical issue facing the planet in the 21st century.

And so, you might ask, if the IMF is updating its crisis response in this way, does it have the necessary resources?

Over the past year, our resources were boosted to over $850 billion—which should be sufficient to meet demand in the coming period. That said, we owe it to our membership to undertake a careful analysis of their potential financing needs over the medium term. We need to ensure that our resource base will be adequate to tackle future crises.

International monetary system

Let me now turn briefly to the third area of our mandate review—namely the stability of the international monetary system.

In my view, the current system—despite episodic problems—demonstrated resilience during the crisis. And the U.S. dollar has played its role as a safe haven asset.

The challenge ahead is to find ways to limit the tension arising from the high demand for precautionary reserves on the one hand, and the narrow supply of reserves on the other.

The Fund certainly has a role to play in helping to meet that demand, through the provision of liquidity. As I have mentioned, further refinements of the FCL could play an important role here. In addition, as I have also mentioned, we will support multilateral efforts to increase the global consistency of economic policies—and to reduce global imbalances. This should help ease the growth-related build-up of reserves.

A longer-term question is whether a new global reserve asset is needed.

Certainly, having several suppliers of reserve assets would limit the extent to which the international monetary system as a whole depends on the policies and conditions of a single, albeit dominant, country.

And one day, the Fund might even be called upon to provide a globally issued reserve asset, similar to—but in important respects different from—the SDR. That day has not yet come. But I think it is intellectually healthy to explore these kinds of ideas now—with a view to what the global system might need at some time in the future.


As we address the three priority areas that I have emphasized—crisis prevention, crisis response, and strengthening of the international monetary system—we must also address one more important issue: governance reform.

Clearly, a renewed mandate for the IMF will have little legitimacy unless we tackle long-standing grievances with our governance. Our crisis prevention efforts could be hampered by concerns about even-handedness. Our crisis response efforts could lack credibility. And our commitment to address longer-term issues affecting international monetary stability may be questioned.

The good news is that the G-20 has already provided firm political backing to our governance reform efforts—agreeing an important quota shift at the Annual Meetings in Istanbul. The bad news is that translating reform commitments into reality is not always easy. For example, the 2008 quota and voice reform is still not effective. While it received overwhelming approval from nearly all of our Governors back in April 2008, so far as only 64 of our member countries representing about 70 percent of the required 85 percent voting power—have passed the necessary legislation to make the reform effective.

To achieve lasting governance reform, the Fund needs the active support of its entire membership. We also need to go beyond the issue of quota and voice to include other important elements such as the diversity of staff and management of the Fund—an area where I have sought to make progress but where I fully recognize, we can and must do more.

Conclusion: The World Needs More Multilateralism, Not Less

Let me conclude by stressing that the debate over the Fund’s mandate is not about “expanding” it in new directions. Rather, what we seek is a new focus and capacity to deal with systemic risks. A renewed and re-energized mandate can set the foundations—and the expectations—for the Fund to adapt to the changing needs of its members in the post-crisis era.

If this crisis taught us anything, it is that the world needs multilateralism even more today than it did when the Bretton Woods institutions were founded in 1944. We saw this during the crisis—when countries came together to act. In fact, I believe that when historians look back, it is this level of unprecedented international collaboration that will stand out.

And as we look forward, we will need more of this kind of collaboration, not less. More multilateralism, not less. More IMF, not less.

Make no mistake: the original mandate of the IMF has been validated. Now we need to clarify and strengthen it even more:

— to meet the global challenges ahead;

— to serve our membership even more effectively;

— to build a Fund for the 21st century.

Thank you.

Shri Prabhat Singh joins GAIL as Director (Marketing)


New Delhi, February 24, 2010. Shri Prabhat Singh has taken over as Director (Marketing) of GAIL (India) Limited. A Bachelor of Technology (Civil) from Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur in Civil Engineering, he has around 29 years of experience of working in the Hydrocarbon Industry both in MNC and Public Sector Navratna PSUs at prestigious positions.


Prior to joining GAIL as Director (Marketing), Shri Singh headed the Upstream Business Development and Strategy Divisions in British Gas since April 2006, after spearheading GAIL’s Exploration and Production Department as General Manager.

During his earlier stint in GAIL, he made a major contribution in the execution of world’s longest exclusive LPG pipeline project from Jamnagar to Loni. The project was recognized by the Asian Development Bank as the “Best Managed Project” of the year. He was also instrumental in ushering in of the “Open Access Common Carrier Principle” in India which has brought in a paradigm shift and matured the pipeline transportation industry multi-fold in the country. Shri Prabhat Singh also led “Project Parivartan” in GAIL - a highly human oriented change management initiative which put “people at the heart of corporate purpose” to address the changing business environment.

Before joining GAIL (India) Limited and serving the company for almost 20 years, Shri Singh had also served EIL and NTPC.

U.S. and Pakistani Journalists Capture Essence of Innovation
(Partnership promotes cutting-edge reporting, economic development) (1202)
By Carrie Loewenthal Massey
Special Correspondent
New York - Fairness, honesty, accuracy. In societies with a free press, these qualities long have stood as the tenets of good journalism. The public turns to the media for reliable information and insight, resources people employ in deciding how to live their lives.
According to those practicing an emerging style of reporting - innovation journalism - truth and thoroughness remain supreme, but stories must reach their audiences through filters that are different from the traditional ones. Experts argue today's world is driven by a fusion of politics, business, technology, science and culture, while many newsrooms continue to divide the topics into separate beats. The new innovation-journalism beat takes a different approach, removing the old topics from their silos and blending them to inform audiences accurately of the driving force behind a changing globe: innovation.
The idea is also driving a series of partnerships between the United States and Pakistan to promote innovation journalism in Pakistan. Stanford University's Vinnova-Stanford Research Center of Innovation Journalism (InJo Center) collaborates with Pakistani journalists to deliver frontline innovation journalism and further the method's expansion into mainstream media in South and Central Asia, the United States and around the world. Pakistani journalists also receive assistance from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to study innovation journalism in the United States.
"The accelerating rate of innovation is not only in information technology, it's everything: health care, transportation, housing, agriculture, food, music - almost every aspect of life and society," said David Nordfors, InJo Center founding executive director. "The innovation economy is changing the ways we organize our lives."
"Innovation journalists must be smarter than beat journalists because they need the intellectual bandwidth to cover a much wider and deeper pool of knowledge and information," Nordfors said, explaining that innovation encompasses all aspects of a new product or idea reaching the public and the impact the development has on its recipients.
One partnership between the InJo Center and Pakistani television station SAMAA TV produced an award-winning program, Innovation, which increased public awareness of local issues of innovative development in Pakistan. The show covered topics ranging from alternative energy to mobile banking and other initiatives under way that aim to "improve the lives of the ordinary people," said Fatima Akhtar, Innovation producer and anchor. Akhtar added that the production reached both urban and rural Pakistani audiences.
The Innovation series was named "Brand of the Year 2009," surpassing more than 500 competitors from various industries in a nationwide consumer survey conducted in Pakistan and an expert panel analysis.
In an e-mail interview with, Amir Jahangir, chief executive officer of SAMAA TV and creator of Innovation, explained the show's broad appeal and influence. It targeted "the masses for identifying the issues, the government for legislation and to develop public policy to foster innovation, [and] academia to increase the importance of innovation in the thought process of the future social and corporate leaders." The program engaged business leaders in an effort to encourage the adoption of new technologies and business models as well, he said.
Jahangir credited Innovation's success, in part, to the contribution of InJo Center fellows from around the world. The fellows advised on program content, shared research and provided commentary on the innovation processes covered in the show.
In a press release, Jahangir elaborated on the partnership: "Due to this collaboration, the content of our program has been acknowledged as being credible, containing relevant issues and making efforts in bringing together the relevant stakeholders of each industry to find innovative measures to cater [to] the society['s] needs," his statement said.
Nordfors views SAMAA TV's integration of international journalists into the Pakistani production as a prime example of the power of innovation journalism to effectively report on the global economy. He calls these networks among journalists from different countries "innovation journalism's true synergy." To explain, Nordfors suggested the prospect of the Finnish telecommunications company Nokia opening a new research and development facility in South Central Asia.
"If there are good networks between Finnish innovation journalists, South Central Asian innovation journalists and innovation journalists in [California's] Silicon Valley, they can contact each other and compare notes, and will all be closer to seeing the bigger picture. This will give much better news coverage in all countries involved," he said.
The better news coverage provided through the innovation-journalism approach is crucial to the success of emerging economies like Pakistan's and those of other South Central Asian countries, according to Nordfors.
"Good innovation journalism in developing economies connects the dots, linking the innovation economy with public decisionmaking, mediating public understanding and discussion. That will drive innovation; there will be more stories for innovation journalism to cover; public engagement will increase," he said. "It is a feedback loop driving innovation and public enlightenment."
Arif Allauddin, chief executive officer of Pakistan's Alternative Energy Development Board, also recognized innovation journalism's contribution to formulating solutions to issues Pakistan faces, including the challenges of providing quality education, health care, and employment opportunities for youth, as well as ensuring adequate energy supplies. He said in a press release that the Innovation program, for the first time, familiarized Pakistanis with initiatives at work in other countries on which Pakistanis could model their own solutions to problems.
To facilitate the continued expansion of innovation journalism in Pakistan and throughout the world, the InJo Center welcomes a new group of fellows each year. Each group includes four Pakistani journalists, who receive USAID funding to visit for five months. Fellows attend innovation-journalism workshops and conferences at Stanford and partner with U.S. newsrooms throughout the country that are covering innovation issues. In addition to receiving training in the new form of reporting, fellows build contacts in the United States and share their own expertise with their host institutions to help enrich American journalism.
"The contact between the hosting newsrooms and fellows is very positive," Nordfors said. "You don't often find journalists from other countries in American newsrooms. It adds a sharing perspective and gives contact between journalists that is direct and collegial."
SAMAA TV's Akhtar is among the 2010 InJo Center fellows. She feels her experience so far has helped her "understand the process of innovation from different standpoints," knowledge she considers "extremely useful" for her return to Pakistan, where she says she will apply her new skills in her journalism.
In addition to the Pakistani fellows, the InJo Center currently hosts journalists from Sweden, Finland, Slovenia and Mexico. As practitioners and students of innovation journalism, the fellows and their colleagues represent what some see as the future of the media. Innovator and InJo Center adviser Vint Cerf, vice president and chief Internet evangelist at the search engine company Google, recognizes innovation journalism as not only progressive but crucial to a democratic society.
"High-quality journalism lies at the core of democracy," he said in an e-mail interview. "Innovation journalism seeks to explore ways in which the journalism profession can thrive in a 21st century, online environment. New business models and new delivery channels are needed if this essential function is to be preserved in the democracies of the modern world."
(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.)
Statement on Outcomes of London Conference on Afghanistan
(U.S. cites OSCE's commitment to intensify engagement with Afghanistan)

United States Mission to the OSCE
Statement on the Outcomes of the London Conference on Afghanistan
As delivered by Chargé d'Affaires Carol Fuller
to the Permanent Council, Vienna
February 25, 2010
The United States shares the views of others here that the London Conference on Afghanistan was successful in demonstrating the international community's continuing support for Afghanistan and in highlighting the importance of strong Afghan leadership.
We welcome the conference's emphasis on the importance of regional cooperation; greater efforts to combat terrorism, violent extremism, and narcotics trafficking; and enhanced efforts to tackle corruption and promote good governance, human rights, and economic development.
Toward these ends, we see continued opportunities for OSCE engagement with Afghanistan where the OSCE has unique expertise. This includes, in particular, efforts to improve the security and management of Afghanistan's northern border, counter illicit drugs trafficking, and improve the conduct of elections. We also hope to see more Afghans participate in OSCE-sponsored workshops, seminars, and conferences, which offer opportunities to make Afghans more familiar with OSCE norms and best practices across all three dimensions.
To that end, we add our thanks to the Chairmanship for the important role played by Kazakhstan's Embassy in Kabul in facilitating the participation of 35 Afghans in OSCE-organized counter-narcotics training in Dushanbe. We also thank the government of Japan for financing the project and the government of Tajikistan for hosting the training.
We welcome the Chairmanship's stated commitment to intensifying OSCE engagement with Afghanistan and look forward to continued efforts in this regard. We remain convinced that the OSCE could be even more effective if the organization had the flexibility to undertake certain activities inside Afghanistan, particularly those related to border security and training.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.)
World Bank Maldives seeks applications for Civil Society Fund 2010

Male, February 26, 2010: The World Bank Maldives Office invites registered civil society organizations in Maldives to submit applications for the Civil Society Fund (CSF) 2010.
The theme for the Civil Society Fund 2010 (CSF 2010) will be “Development and Climate Change – Building Community Resilience”. Applications are sought for projects that will propose innovative mechanisms to adapt to and mitigate Climate Change through community based initiatives related but not limited to sustainable agricultural practices at the household level, water management and managing solid waste.
“It is encouraging to see the Leadership in Maldives taking numerous progressive steps to make the country carbon neutral by 2020. Through the Civil Society Fund, we invite Civil Society Organizations to Act now, Act together with the Government and Act Differently to adapt and mitigate the impacts of Climate Change” said Naoko Ishii, World Bank Country Director for Sri Lanka and Maldives, echoing the key messages from the World Bank flagship publication, World Development Report 2010, Development and Climate Change.
Two grants of US$ 12,500 will be awarded to the most innovative proposals.
Applicant organizations are asked to describe how a grant from the World Bank might help them to raise matching funds from other development partners. A cash or in-kind counterpart from the applicant-organization of, at least, 20 percent of total cost required and should be reflected in the proposed budget.
Projects will be assessed by their:
1. Effectiveness: ability to demonstrate sustainability of proposed activities through collaborations with other public/private sector organizations.
2. Feasibility: show a practical approach with a realistic timeline and budget.
3. Organizational Capacity: indicate the skills and capability of the organizations staff and any previous experience of handling a similar project of equal size and scale.
4. Credibility of the organization in the community.
5. Significance: Ability of the project to make a difference to the community it proposes to support and a clear mechanism to report expected results.
Please note that the CSF cannot fund research programs, formal academic training programs, operational projects, ongoing institutional core support (such as equipment unrelated to the activity), scholarships, fellowships, study programs, individuals applying on their own behalf, or organizations not categorized as civil society organizations. Proposed activities should not compete with or substitute for regular World Bank instruments; they should be clearly distinguishable from the Bank’s regular programs
All applicants must be registered civil society organizations in Maldives of good standing and have a record of achievement in the community and a record of financial probity. The Fund will only accept one application from an organization.
Applications for the Civil Society Fund and a small booklet titled “Short Course on Proposal Writing” in English will be available at the reception of the World Bank Male Office.

Reaction from CREDAI on Union Budget 2010-11


·        Status quo’ for real estate sector


·        The applicability of service tax to all under construction flats and homes being booked prior to completion will increase the end cost and impact affordability of home buyer


·        Indirect taxes on raw materials like steel, cement, etc will further escalate project costs



India, February 26, 2010: The Budget 2010-11 announced today does not provide any support to the real estate industry. While there are a few provisions made to benefit the industry, certain provisions introduced would adversely affect the sector.


The period extension of one year for 1% interest subvention on home loans up to Rs 10 lakhs (for projects costing up to Rs. 20 lakhs) would be beneficial to the home buyers to some extent. The time limit for completion of pending projects being extended to 5 years from the existing 4 years time frame would also be beneficial.


However, the Service Tax levied on renting of commercial property and on sale of under construction housing units would prove critical as project costs will get escalated by 4-5% and this additional burden would ultimately be passed on to the home buyers, making the houses costlier for them. Further, indirect taxes on raw materials like steel, cement, etc. will add to the project costs, increasing the prices for the home buyers.


Mr. Kumar Gera, Chairman, CREDAI, commented, “I would say this budget by and large is one in which ‘status-quo’ is being maintained for the real estate sector. I welcome the concern shown by the Finance Minister by providing extension of 1 year in the tax holiday for housing projects under Section 80 IB (10). This has been done as there has been a realization that the slowdown and liquidity crunch have adversely affected the real estate sector in 2008-09 when many projects could not be completed in time due to reasons beyond anybody’s control.

The announcement on extending the interest subvention by one year on housing loans upto Rs. 10 lakhs is a welcome move to benefit the small home buyers.


At the same time, there is one issue in this budget which is detrimental.
The applicability of service tax to all under construction flats and homes being booked prior to completion will increase the end cost and this will significantly impact affordability of the home buyer. The high expectations for a push by way of incentives for slum redevelopment or slum eradication schemes in this budget have not happened.”


Mr. Santosh Rungta, President, CREDAI, said, "Although there has been a few considerations made for the real estate industry like extension of tax holiday for housing projects under Section 80 IB (10), and in terms of the Section 56(2) of the Income Tax Act, the issue of applicability of the service tax levied on renting of commercial property and for under construction units is a major area of concern for the developers. The service tax will be an additional burden and project costs will shoot up by 4-5%. End consumers, thus will be most affected as they have to pay the service tax coupled with the existing stamp duty charges. Moreover, indirect taxes on raw materials for the industry like steel, cement, etc will further escalate project costs."



It is the apex body of the organized real estate developers/builders across India, representing pan-India associations of real estate and housing developers. Since its inception in the year 1999, the association has grown manifold with allegiance from 20 state/city level associations viz. Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi-NCR, Goa, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal with over 5000 individual member developers encompassing over 60% of the organized private sector real estate development activity in member states/cities in the country. CREDAI has been instrumental in rallying the cause of the Real Estate sector by presenting the issues and concerns of real estate developers to the Government.  

Friday, February 26, 2010



Mr. Amitabh Das Mundhra

Director, Simplex Infrastructures Ltd.



Commenting on the Union Budget 2010, Mr. Amitabh Das Mundhra, Director, Simplex Infrastructures Ltd, said, “We are appreciative of the budget measures to put the economy on a 9 percent growth target. Infrastructure, both rural and urban, seems to be a central theme this year, accounting for 46 percent of the overall allocation. It would certainly have an overall positive impact on the sector. However, the only exception is hike in MAT on companies from 15 to 18 percent which could have a negative bearing on the sector.”




About Simplex Infrastructures Ltd (BSE SCRIP ID: SIMPLEXIN, NSE SCRIP ID: SIMPLEXINF, Bloomberg; SINF IN, Reuters: SMCP.BO): Incorporated in 1924, Simplex Infrastructures Limited is the largest pure play civil construction & engineering contractors in India, with more than eight decades of successful operations and completion of about 2300 projects in India and abroad. Simplex Infrastructures has presence across various construction verticals, which include piling, industrial plants, power plants – thermal; nuclear; hydel; urban infrastructures & utilities, buildings and housing, marine, roads; railways; bridges & elevated corridors

According to Mr. D. P. Agarwal, Vice Chairman & Managing Director, Group TCI, “The Union Budget 2010-11 has given major thrusts to the infrastructure sector. “Allocation of Rs.1,73,552 crore for upgrading infrastructure in both urban and rural area will provide an impetus to the logistics sector. The Finance Minister has placed emphasis on the need for accelerated development of high quality physical infrastructure such as roads, ports, airports and railways, which are essential to sustaining economic growth and Rs. 19,894 crore has been allotted for road transportation. Decision to build 20 km of road everyday is very positive and if implemented, it will help in smooth functioning of the logistics sector.”

“However increase in fuel prices will have a direct and negative impact on the logistics sector as fuel constitutes around 50%-60% of the total cost. It will be difficult for the logistics companies to absorb the hike and therefore truck rentals and freight rate will increase to some extent.”

“We are also hoping for timely and flawless implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST) by April 2011, which will replace the cascading effect [tax on tax] created by existing indirect taxes.”

“Benefit given to the refrigerated and cold storage segment is a welcome move as it will help improve and add infrastructure in this area.”

Reaction of Yogesh Dhingra, Finance-Director & COO, Blue Dart Express on Union Budget 2010-11

We welcome the Union Budget for 2010-11 as a balanced budget which aims to maintain growth as well as contain the fiscal deficit.  Fiscal deficit of 6.9% is lower than what the industry was expecting and therefore its good news for the economy and reflects the fiscal discipline of the Government. 

However the hike in duties on petroleum products along with an increase in central excise duty on petrol and diesel could translate into a price increase of approx. Rs. 2 to Rs. 3 per litre.  And if this additional price burden gets passed on to the consumers we could see a general price increase across all goods.

In fact we were looking forward to ATF being announced as a “declared goods” to support the ailing aviation sector.

Both the above, on petroleum products are negative for the transportation and logistics sector.

The increase of slab rates for personal income taxes, will give a higher disposable income in the hands of the individual which would spur consumption and give a fillip to the economy and to the logistics sector for transportation and distribution.

The FM could have been more generous to corporate by scrapping the surcharge completely instead of a 2.5% reduction only.  However, we are disappointed on the hike in minimum alternate tax (MAT) from 15 per cent to 18 per cent. This is going to create a further strain on liquidity in the aviation sector.

The calibrated roll back of stimulus measures are also welcome and are happy that the service tax rate remains untouched at 10%.

We are also happy with the FM’s announcement of a definitive time frame for implementing the GST i.e. by April 2011.


It is also very heartening to see the continuing investment to strengthen the infrastructure as, allocation for road transport increased by over 13 per cent from Rs. 17,520 crore to Rs 19,894 crore.

RBI considering giving additional banking licenses to private sector players will give a boost to our documents’ business.

A Balanced Budget aimed at Growth

Ahmedabad, 26th March 2010: Mr Arun Kumar Jagatramka, Chairman and Managing Director, Gujarat NRE Coke Ltd, explained the budget as a balanced one aimed at growth. The finance minister has tried to create an environment for growth.

An expectation of over 7.2% GDP growth in the current FY and targeting to reach to the pre crisis level of 9% growth next year and targeting double digit growth subsequently is a welcome sign for growing Indian economy. A road map for implementation of GST and DTC by April 2011 brings transparency to the system. An important element in the budget was the attempt for fiscal consolidation by maintaining 5.5% fiscal deficit for FY’10-11 and then targeting deficit to come down to 4.8% in FY 11-12 and 4.1% FY 12-13. This was very much required since high fiscal deficit is unsustainable in long run, as well as might refrain from any immediate rate hike.

The boost in the infrastructure sector as well as the rural economy is a very welcome step. The increased allocation on infrastructure would give the much needed boost to the core sector and shaping the future of Indian economy. Moreover the change in income tax slab would give money in the hands of the growing Indian middle class, which would further increase consumption, and facilitate an inclusive growth.

The budget has also provided a direction for structural reforms like introducing of coal auction, which is a step in the right direction to tackle corruption and malpractice ailing this sector in India.

Fuel price deregulation is a tricky subject. Though it has to be done, increase in duty in petrol and diesel would add further to the inflationary pressure, since it would have cascading effect in price hike in items of regular consumption like food, which would add to the woos of the “Aam Admi” who have been reeling under high food prices. But the finance minister had no choices, and sometimes tough decisions need to be taken which might be bitter in short term with a vision for a long term.  

RICS applauds the continued focus and monetary boost provided to rural and urban infrastructure, housing and development


~ Increased expenditure allocation for rural and urban development will benefit the real estate and construction sector; no significant changes in direct and indirect taxes prudent steps in light of the deferred implementation of Direct Tax Code and GST to 2011~


Outlining its views on the Union Budget 2010-2011, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) commends the budget for its phased approach towards fiscal consolidation, envisaging a gradual lowering of the fiscal deficit by a moderate 1.4% to reach 5.5% in 2010-11 from current 6.9% and further decline of approx 0.7% each year through 2011-13.


Despite the fiscal situation, the Government’s strong commitment to investment in public infrastructure, which is critical for improved productivity to boost the long term economic growth, has been demonstrated with stepped up allocation for infrastructure development, rural infrastructure and housing, urban development, slum re-development and urban housing for the poor.


The promising Rajiv Awas Yojna whose draft guidelines have already been prepared by the Ministry of Housing, gets the much needed financial backing of Rs. 1,270 crores, marking a 700% increase from last year. RICS welcomes this initiative which holds promise to realise India’s dream to be a slum-free nation and hopes that the scheme will prove as successful as the rural housing scheme.


A steep 61% increase in new and renewable energy funds will augment the country’s mission towards Climate Change and the National Mission on Solar Power. Future plans for FDI policy to be made more user-friendly with one comprehensive document are likely to encourage investment climate.


While the finance minister has initiated steps for a gradual rollback of stimulus including slight increase in the excise duty, the needs of the real estate and construction sector have been considered, evident from the announcement to allow housing projects to complete projects in five years instead of four years to avail tax break.


Although the housing sector was hoping for a number of direct as well as in-direct tax reforms, no significant changes have been announced in the budget session. However given the reality that both the Direct Tax Code and Goods and Service tax code need further refinement to work out the overall revenue impact and implementation logistics, it has been only prudent to have minimal changes in tax structures for the time being. Retention of service tax at 10.3% amidst widespread belief of it being revised back to 12% is inline with the strategy to make consolidated tax reforms next year.


Modification of the direct tax slab structure, resulting in relief to nearly 60% of taxpayers, has given the common man ample reason to cheer, and would leave more money in the hands of low to middle income groups for consumption as well as savings. This coupled with extension of 1% interest subsidy scheme on home loans upto Rs 20 lakh will maintain the recovery of the affordable homes segment.

Summary of the Fiscal Deficit and Expenditure

In the wake of the recessionary period, fiscal measures like tax-cuts and rebates along with increased government expenditure resulted in improving the economic health of India, but at the cost of rising deficits.


Taking note of industry sentiments for consolidating fiscal deficit, the Finance Minister stated that this figure will come down from 6.9% in the revised estimates for the current fiscal. With the Government targeting an explicit reduction in its domestic public debt-GDP ratio, it is expected that the fiscal deficit decrease further to 4.8% and 4.1% in 2011-12 and 2012-13 respectively. The reduction in fiscal deficit in sync with the gradual and phased withdrawal of the stimulus packages are a welcome move, as they would not adversely affect the investment in public infrastructure.


The total expenditure proposed in the budget estimate is Rs. 11,08,749 crore; an increase of 8.6% over last year. The planned and non planned expenditures in budget estimates are Rs. 3,73,092 crore and Rs. 7,35,657 crore respectively, indicating a 15% increase in planned and 6% increase in non-planned expenditure


Budget announcements that are likely to have a positive impact on the real estate and construction sector


Infrastructure, Road and Railways

  • Allocation of Rs. 1,73,552 crores for infrastructure, accounting for 46% of the total plan allocation
  • Allocation for road transport has increased by ~13% to Rs 19,894 crore
  • Rs 16,752 crore has been extended to the Railway sector, which is around Rs.950 crore more than the previous year
  • IIFCL’s disbursements are pegged at Rs 9,000 crore by March 2010 and ~Rs 20,000 crore by March 2011
  • IIFCL has refinanced bank lending to infrastructure projects of Rs. 3,000 crore during the current year and is expected to more than double the amount in 2010-11
  • Government committed to ensure continued growth of Special Economic Zones


Urban Housing and Development

  • Allocation for Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation has been increased to Rs.1,000 crore as compared to the earlier allocation of Rs. 850 crores
  • Rs.1,270 crore has been allocated for Rajiv Awas Yojana as compared to Rs.150 crore last year
  • Allocation for urban development has been increased by more than 75% from to Rs.5,400 crore
  • The scheme of 1% interest subvention on housing loan up to Rs.10 lakh, where the cost of the house does not exceed Rs.20 lakh, has been extended up to March 2011; Rs. 700 crore has been extended towards the scheme for 2010-11
  • Pending projects have been allowed to be completed within a period of five years instead of four years for claiming a deduction on profits, as a one time interim relief to the housing and real estate sector


Rural Housing and Development

  • A plan outlay of Rs. 66,100 crore, amounting to 25% of plan allocation has been provided for rural infrastructure
  • An amount of Rs. 48,000 crore has been allocated for rural infrastructure programs under Bharat Nirman
  • Allocation for Indira Awas Yojana (rural housing scheme), has been increased to 10,000 crore. Unit cost has been increased to Rs.45,000 in the plain areas and to Rs.48,500 in the hilly areas


Announcements to promote Green Infrastructure

  • Plan outlay for the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy increased by 61% from Rs.620 crore in 2009-10 to Rs.1,000 crore in 2010-11
  • National Clean Energy Fund for funding research and innovative projects in clean energy technologies to be established.
  • Solar, small hydro and micro power projects at a cost of about Rs.500 crore are to be set up in Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir
  • Provision of concessional customs duty of 5% to machinery, instruments, equipment and appliances etc. required for the initial setting up of photovoltaic and solar thermal power generating units has been extended. Also, these have been exempt from Central Excise duty
  • Central Excise duty on LED lights reduced from 8% to 4% at par with Compact Fluorescent Lamps


Other announcements

  • Deduction of an additional amount of Rs. 20,000 allowed, over and above the existing limit of Rs.1 lakh on tax savings, for investment in long-term infrastructure bonds
  • Rate reduction in Central Excise duties have been partially rolled back and the standard rate on all non-petroleum products has been increased to 10% from the current 8%
  • The specific rates of duty applicable to portland cement and cement clinker have also revised upwards.
  • Rate of tax on services has been retained at 10% to pave the way forward for GST


About RICS

RICS is the world's leading self regulatory professional body for qualifications and standards land, property, construction and associated environment issues. In a world where more and more people, governments, banks and commercial organisations demand greater certainty of professional standards and ethics, attaining RICS status is the recognised mark of property professionalism.


Over 150 000 property professionals working in the major established and emerging economies of the world have already recognised the importance of securing RICS status by becoming members.


RICS is an independent professional body originally established in the UK by Royal Charter. Since 1868, RICS has been committed to setting and upholding the highest standards of excellence and integrity – providing impartial, authoritative advice on key issues affecting businesses and society. RICS is a regulator of both its individual members and firms enabling it to maintain the highest standards and providing the basis for unparalleled client confidence in the sector.

Union Budget 2010-11: What does it say on the ‘green’ concerns

  • An analysis done by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE)

  • Says Budget does not offer much relief to green causes, except that of energy

On transport, mobility and clean air: missing the bus

CSE welcomes the hike in excise duty on big cars and sports and multi-utility vehicles. At the same time, it feels the hike should have been more. A mere two per cent raise is too little too late. The numbers of these oil-guzzling vehicles are increasing, even as the nation dithers on fuel economy standards – the hike may not do much in controlling this situation.

The Budget has not reduced the excise duty on buses – something which CSE has been demanding consistently. Buses, which carry many more people in our cities, are being charged the same excise duty as small cars and two-wheelers, which transport much fewer numbers. This failure to incentivise public transport might prove to be costly for our already highly congested cities.

The Budget has done nothing either to stop the rampant growth in the market for diesel personal vehicles. CSE has, again, consistently urged respective governments to increase the excise duty on polluting diesel vehicles in order to reduce distortions arising out of the fuel price differential and control the numbers of diesel cars swamping India’s roads. Dieselisation is a serious threat in the light of worsening air quality in several Indian cities.

On clean and renewable energy, and climate change: some bright sparks

CSE welcomes the establishment of a National Clean Energy Fund for financing research and innovation in clean energy technology. Taxes and duty reductions for solar energy technologies and LEDs will give the necessary impetus for the growth of renewable energy technology in the country. The increase in the allocation to the ministry of new and renewable energy and the grant of Rs 200 crore to launch the Climate Resilient Agriculture Initiative are steps in the right direction as well, say CSE researchers.

On environmental pollution: too little

Though the finance minister has mentioned the ‘polluter pays’ principle in his speech, the budget is devoid of a ‘big ticket’ idea to control pollution levels, points out CSE. The ministry of environment and forests, in January 2010, had identified 75 critically polluted areas in the country. The finance minister has agreed to clean just one – Tirupur.

Similarly, allocation of an additional Rs 250 crore for cleaning the Ganga is not going to solve the problem of contamination of the river’s waters.

Overall, say CSE researchers, while the budget holds promise on clean and renewable energy, it is woefully lacking in any initiative on public transport or pollution management.