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Saturday, March 21, 2015

P.Sainath - corporate world in 2014-15 received write-offs of Rs 171 crore every 24 hours.

 This is a truth that every one should know.

 

This year’s budget write-off in customs duty on gold, diamonds and jewellery (all aam aadmi items, of course) is Rs 75,592 crore. That’s well over twice the “record” amount allocated to the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. As Prof Jayati Ghosh points out, the MNREGA has given billions of person-days of work to tens of millions of poor rural households this past decade. It has been allocated Rs 34,699 crore. (You can find the gold figure in the Union Budget 2015-16. Just go to the annexure marked Statement of Revenue Foregone; http://indiabudget.nic.in/ub2015-16/statrevfor/annex12.pdf.) This giveaway on gold and precious stones in fact accounts for fully a fourth of all customs duty exemptions. Overall, the budget for agriculture has fallen by more than Rs 5,000 crore compared to last year. The concessions on customs duty on gold, however, have gone up by more than five times that amount in the past 12 months.
  Meanwhile, the feeding frenzy at the corporate trough has crossed the Rs 42 trillion mark this year (or US $678 billion, if you’re among those whose overseas stash the Narendra Modi government has pledged to bring back to our sacred shores). Yup, 42 trillion. As in 12 zeroes. Relief for the corporate needy (and other well-off hungry) rec­orded in this year’s budget comes to Rs 5,89,285.2 crore. Or Rs 5.49 lakh-crore ($88 billion roughly) if you skip personal income tax which benefits a relatively wider group of people. And the freebies adding up to that total are just those under a mere three heads: corporate income tax, excise duty and customs duty. The Rs 5.49 lakh-crore figure brings the bills for the 10-year orgy to Rs 42.08 trillion. The public pays for the party. The guests enjoy anonymity.
Did I say 10-year orgy? It’s gone on much longer, actually. Just that the government started publishing revenue forgone data only from 2005-06. How much would the total come to if we had the data for earlier years? Oh, well, never mind. This is big enough. Rs 5.49 lakh-crore is the biggest ever instalment in corporate karza maafi in all the years for which the numbers exist. It is also close to 140 per cent higher than the giveaways of 2005-06, the year we started getting this data (see Table 1).
Write-Offs For The Well-Off Touch
Rs 42,000,000,000,000

Revenue Forgone On Gold, Diamonds & Jewellery
2005-06 to 2014-15
This year’s write-offs, though, come in new clothes. Take, for instance, the corporate income tax handouts. Till the 2013-14 budget, the table listing these was called: major tax expenditures on corporate taxpayers. This year the budget has caught up with the semantics of the elite. It’s now called revenue impact of major incentives on corporate taxpayers (emphasis added). Oh, goody. That makes it all fine then. These are incentives, not grabouts. Don’t crib.
Union finance minister Arun Jaitley told a gushing TV anchor last year that he “hoped” there would be no return to wasteful subsidies under the NDA government. He added that it depended on the situation as it unfolded. So here’s how it unfolded. Corporate income tax written off in the statement of revenue foregone of the last UPA budget was Rs 57,793 crore. In the first year of the Modi regime, it was Rs 62,399 crore—about eight per cent higher. It will likely be even higher since this year’s figure is still an “estimated” or provisional one.
But even going by the provisional figure, it means on income tax alone, the corporate world in 2014-15 received write-offs of Rs 171 crore every 24 hours. Or over seven crore every 60 minutes. Add to that the Rs 1.84 lakh-crore in excise duty waived and Rs 3.01 lakh-crore knocked off in customs duty and you have your Rs 5.49 lakh-crore.
A large part of the trillions in NPAs our banks foster was run up by the wealthy who can’t be named due to secrecy laws.
The media reported that Arun Jaitley has given the rural employment programme it’s biggest boost ever. What Jaitley has said is that he would add another Rs 5,000 crore…if there is tax buoyancy. Not so much a promise as a possibility based on other possibilities. Besides, the Rs 34,699 crore allocated for the MNREGA is actually less, not more. The central government already owes the states around Rs 6,000 crore for this year, which they have not paid. So, as Prof Ghosh points out, the new amount for next year will really be less than Rs 30,000 crore. In any case, the MNREGA funding being capped at the level (around Rs 33,000 crore) it has been for three high-inflation years has a different meaning altogether. But it would be wrong to pin this on Jaitley alone. The wrecking of this vital programme for the rural poor was pioneered earlier. Take a bow, P. Chidambaram.
You can run the MNREGA (on present allocation levels) for over 121 years on Rs 42 trillion. But of course we won’t, with a prime minister who makes a point of displaying his utter contempt for the programme on the floor of Parliament.
You can sustain the food subsidy at present levels of funding for 34 years on the Rs 42 trillion. You could undo some of the most savage cuts—to health and child-related subjects for instance. There is, as the HAQ—Centre for Child Rights points out, “a 22 per cent reduction in health-related sche­mes for children”, and worse, “a 25 per cent reduction in overall education programmes for children….”
But the ‘statement of revenue foregone’ (which should actually be spelt ‘forgone’) reflects a gigantic increase in corporate freebies, in pampering the plutocrats. Customs duties knocked off on gold and precious stones account for more than 10 per cent of all revenue foregone in 2014-15. Take the 10-year period since 2005-06 and the amount lost on customs write-offs on gold, diamonds and jewellery comes to Rs 4.3 trillion. Curb the kids, grow the gold, is it?
There is something quite sickening about this Rs 42 trillion orgy. Something equally nauseous about corporate media quislings who rush to defend the “incentives”. There will be those who insist that these are ‘notional’ or “not handouts”. That “this is for everybody. All benefit”. Fact: the overwhelming share of these incentives/subsidies/write-offs/handouts go to the very well-off. That much, nothing can hide. And remember this: these handouts thr­ough budgetary baksheesh for billionaires are only one part of many such processes through which enormous amounts of public money are given away to the rich and famous (but for the banks and media, they are mostly anonymous).
The second point: all these giveaways listed in the tables are only a part of the total handouts beyond the budget, details of which are still invisible to the public. Like, for example, the trillions of rupees in ‘non-performing assets’ (NPAs) with the public sector banks. A very large part of this was run up by wealthy people whose names, it is argued, cannot be divulged under “secrecy laws”. The corporate media are happy to go along with that. Editors have learnt painfully that pursuing it can sometimes cause embarrassment to their owners. There’s an ethical rationalisation too. Banking laws, privacy, confidentiality. Never mind that when it’s the less privileged, banks run advertisements in new­spapers (as those in AP did in the past decade), naming petty defaulters and carrying details of public auctions of their gold ornaments to recover a few thousand rupees. No banking ethics and confidentiality for them. The media are okay with that, although they mostly stayed silent when the All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) named several hundreds of bigger defaulters late last year. That silence goes on till one of them gets to be such a problem it can’t be swept under the carpet without creating a large and ugly bump in it (that’s when a Vijay Mallya finds himself getting bad press).
Union MoS for finance Jayant Sinha said in a written reply to a question in Parliament that NPAs had gone up (alm­ost trebled) “during the last few years”. The amount, Sinha said, was over Rs 2 trillion. Then there’s an even larger amount tucked away in ‘corporate debt restructuring’. And quite a bit more in what are politely called ‘stalled projects’ (soon to grow up to be NPAs). Estimates of this kind of scamming run to many trillions of rupees (a lot more than the $88 billion budget baksheesh). Then there’s land grabbed from thousands of farmers and transferred at dirt cheap rates to large corporations. And other subsidies. Who says there’s no such thing as a free lunch? Just look at this mob and their lifetime meal tickets. Boy, what a menu they have on the table!
Courtesy: psaintha.org, March 16, 2015

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Nigeria's Goodluck Jonathan said that Boko Haram defeated in a month

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has said he hopes that all territory seized by Islamist militant group Boko Haram will be retaken within a month.
"They are getting weaker and weaker by the day," he told the BBC.
But he admitted the security forces had been slow to respond to the insurgents' initial advance in north-east Nigeria.
Nigeria's army has recently claimed a series of victories over the militants. The violence has killed more than 15,500 people since 2012.
Abducted girls 'alive' In an exclusive interview with the BBC's Will Ross in the capital Abuja, President Jonathan said: "I'm very hopeful that it will not take us more than a month to recover the old territories that hitherto have been in their [Boko Haram's] hands."
Nigerian soldiers in Goniri, Yobe state. Photo: 16 March 2015 Nigerian government troops recently recaptures several towns, the military says
Earlier this week, the Nigerian military said the militants no longer controlled any urban centres in Yobe and Adamawa - two out of the three worst-affected states in the north-east.
The military also pledged that Borno state, the birthplace of Boko Haram, would soon be freed.
However, President Jonathan admitted in the interview that the authorities "never expected that they [Boko Haram] would build up that kind of capacity".
He added: "We underestimated their external influence. Since after the civil war we've not fought any war, we don't manufacture weapons, so we had to look for help to re-equip our army and the air force."
line
Analysis: Will Ross, BBC News, Abuja President Jonathan may have faced huge criticism at home and abroad for his handling of the insecurity in the north-east but he seems unwilling to concede any mistakes have been made.
Mr Jonathan clearly inherited a military beset by corruption and one which for decades has demonstrated an extraordinary inability to build up a decent array of weaponry - hence the recent scramble for military hardware including helicopters and tanks as well as the involvement of troops from neighbouring countries.
His assessment of the Boko Haram crisis is perhaps a little closer to the mark than the euphoric PR statements that are sent out on behalf of Nigeria's military suggesting this is a won war.
Yes, some jihadists have been killed in battle, he told me, but many have fled - either over the borders or into Sambisa Forest and the Mandara Mountains, whilst some he says have melted back into towns.
They may no longer control much territory but the Boko Haram crisis grew too deep to disappear in a hurry.
line
Mr Jonathan said that newly acquired military equipment, as well as co-operation with neighbouring countries, had helped push the jihadists out of towns and villages.
He added that while many militants had poured across the country's borders, he thought some had retreated into a stronghold in north-eastern Nigeria known as the Sambisa Forest.
The president also said he believed the 219 schoolgirls abducted from Chibok by Boko Haram last year were still alive, adding that the authorities continued their search for them.
"I believe we'll get them," the president added.
The interview comes just days before Nigerians are due to vote in presidential elections.
Despite stiff competition from the opposition, Mr Jonathan said: "I'll surely win."
BBC
line

Most Wanted Senior ISIS commander killed in Libya

One of Tunisia’s most wanted men, a senior commander of ISIS militants in Libya, has been killed fighting with Libyan forces near the city of Sirte, Tunisian security sources said on Tuesday.
The death of Tunisian militant Ahmed Rouissi, who was fighting in Libya’s ISIS ranks, confirms the growing importance of foreign fighters in the Libyan conflict, where two rival governments and armed forces battle for control.
Western governments and Libya’s North African neighbors are increasingly worried about Islamist militants, especially ISIS allies, extending their foothold in the chaotic country just across the Mediterranean from Europe.
“According to the information we have, we can say Rouissi has been killed in the most recent fighting in Sirte,” a Tunisian security source said.
Libya is in chaos with two rival governments - one internationally recognized, the other set up in Tripoli after its forces took over the capital - that are fighting for control four years after a civil war ousted Muammar Qaddafi.
In the turmoil, militants allied to ISIS this year have claimed a string of high-profile attacks targeting foreigners, including an assault on a luxury hotel in Tripoli, the storming of oilfields and kidnapping of oil workers.
Rouissi was a top member of Tunisia's Ansar al-Sharia extremist group branded as terrorists by Washington.
Tunisian officials believe he was the mastermind in the murders of two Tunisian opposition leaders in 2013 that plunged the country into crisis.
He later joined ISIS in Libya and had been running training and recruitment operations with other foreign fighters there, according to the Tunisian security source.
Tunisians make up one of the largest contingents of foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq, but more recently militants have been sending militants to take part in the conflict in Tunisia's North African neighbor Libya.
Tunisia also said on Tuesday it had dismantled a recruiting cell sending militants to fight in Libya and arrested dozens in part of tighter security and border controls to counter Islamist militants.
“Security officers and the army arrested ten terrorists trying to sneak into Libya to join the armed groups in Libya,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
The communique said security forces also dismantled four terrorist cells that were recruiting for Libya and arrested 22 more suspects in those operations.
  Alarabiya

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Modi does not respect the cultures of others-- N.Ram

"It’s not that everything is bad, but on the core issues of the idea of India, on secularism, he does not respect the cultures of others"

 Chairman of Kasturi and Sons Ltd, and former Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu, N. Ram. File photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

While his policies on Sri Lanka and China are commendable, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s stance on “core issues” reflects intolerance and stands in variance with the idea of India, the Chairman of Kasturi and Sons Ltd, and former Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu, N. Ram, said here on Tuesday.
“It’s not that everything is bad, but on the core issues of the idea of India, on secularism, policy towards minorities, Article 370, on banning beef-eating, he does not respect the cultures of others,” Mr. Ram said during a panel discussion on “Minorities and the media: at a crossroads” at Maulana Azad National Urdu University. He spoke of the need for the Muslim community to introspect on issues such as gender equality and women’s education. Mr. Ram wondered why reaction to an increase in the country’s Muslim population “bordered on paranoia.”
Prominent journalist Shekhar Gupta faulted the secular media for having taken up extreme positions in the aftermath of the Gujarat riots in 2002, as a result of which they found themselves lost after the Lok Sabha elections last year.
Columnist Swapan Dasgupta said secular parties lived in denial of the “half-truths” in society.
That Indian Muslims were a harassed lot was “established wisdom” in the Pakistani media, said Editor-in-Chief of Pakistan’s Friday Times, Najam Sethi.
Mr. Ram, chief guest at the inaugural session, called for in-depth study into the profiling of Muslims and the issues connected with them by the media, since an impression had gained ground that there was stereotyping of the community. He said the Urdu University was highly qualified to take up the study and if any cooperation was required, the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai would be willing to offer it.