Intellectual Thoughts by Sanjay Panda: 2010

Name the SHAME

Mr. Ratan Tata  said  that he was advised to bribe a minister a sum of Rs 15 crore to get governmental approval to start a private airline company  some years back. It would have been appropriate  if Mr Tata had named the minister and made public his demands at that time  rather than  merely whining and seeking to occupy high moral ground. If business leaders of the stature of Mr Tata are willing to strike but afraid to wound, what can one expect of lesser mortals? Ordinary citizens facing people in power, one can understand their fear of authority. But an influential and powerful business leader like Mr. Tata can afford to speak up and speak out, without fear or favour.   Mr. Tata whom you are afraid of and for what??? Unless you speak up there is no value to the Jago re….. campaign  which is being sponsored by one of your group company.

Scams - our part of Life

Gaining inappropriately from any thing is Indian Politicians specialties.  Name any sector like   so called poor persons "cattle fodder" to high end civil aviation. Recent examples like Common wealth games,(CWG) Adarsh housing, 2G spectrum etc etc. 

These scams highlight the controls the government retains on physical resources and contracting processes. Systems of managing them are byzantine in nature, fatiguing citizens with opaqueness and red tape. This very nature of system offers ample opportunities for rent extraction, as bribery becomes a quick way to get permits. A 'crony' culture also exists, with contracts being awarded to the most fawning of supporters backing a  MLA, MP or minister.  Though India is not alone. The situation in India, is  the  unaccountable and corrupt authorities persecuting the ordinary  ones while permitting the impermissible, is truly worrying.  The way forward,  these politicians must be investigated through impartial fast track courts and if possible capital punishment should be awarded to them just like the Chinese  sentences those guilty of corruption.

Indian Microlenders Face Collapse, Warns Agency

The Indian government may be forced to step in to save the country's $6.7-billion microfinance industry from collapse warns  a leading industry ratings agency. The Microfinance Institutions Network or MFIN, which represents 44 leading Indian microfinance lenders, has said commercial bank loans to the sector are drying up and borrowers are reneging on their debts. India's microfinance industry, which surged to prominence when George Soros-backed SKS Microfinance raised $358 million in an IPO, faces a regulatory clampdown that could erode profits and hurt growth.

Reports of dozens of suicides by poor borrowers in Andhra Pradesh, the hub of India's microfinance sector, prompted the state to enact rules against aggressive recovery practices by lenders who make loans that average about $150 to poor customers at interest rates that can go up to 36 per cent. Lenders were accused of aggressive debt collectors who were blamed for over 30 suicides. Andhra Pradesh's share of outstanding microfinance loans accounts for around 35 per cent of the sector's total $6.7-billion portfolio. Before the crisis, the sector boasted loan repayment rates of 99 per cent.

The finance minister said this week that he expects the industry to develop a code of conduct on interest rates and recovery practices, while the central bank recently set up a panel to study issues surrounding the sector. The Andhra Pradesh government had introduced a measure aimed at halting "harassment" of borrowers, imposing penalties of up to three years in jail and Rs 100,000 ($2,000) in fines for attempting to coerce borrowers.
The rise of for-profit microfinance has made billions of dollars in credit available to millions of poor people in India and elsewhere, but it has also spurred controversy. India is home to roughly 400 microfinance lenders with a combined Rs 207 billion ($4.6 billion) in outstanding loans to 70 million poor people. The 10 largest players account for roughly 80 per cent of the industry. With a potential base of 120 million unbanked homes, microcredit demand in India has the potential to rise sharply. New rules are expected eventually to bring down interest rates, and reduce aggressive lending and collection practices, potentially squeezing out smaller players. Ultimately, that could make the industry more transparent and accountable, if less profitable. Critics are uncomfortable with high profit margins earned from poor borrowers, and worry that the social mission of microfinance has been sidelined in favour of profits. 

 (extract from BW)

Ground zero

The ongoing furore over the so-called Ground Zero Mosque shows no sign of abating after weeks of noisy controversy. In a sense, it has become a litmus test of America’s cherished freedom of worship, as well as its tolerance of other people and other faiths.

The project is expected to cost around $100 million, and many think the bulk of the money will come from Saudi Arabia, even though the source of the funds has not been made public yet. If this is indeed so, this would be a slap in the face of Americans as “nine of the jihadis in the Twin Towers calamity were Saudis”. Saudis have been funding mosques and madressahs around the world, in addition to paying for chairs for Islamic studies at major universities. Many of these have been used to project the country’s official Wahabi version of Islam that has fuelled the rising tide of extremism and jihadi fervour. Why the $100 million can’t be put to use to help others who actually needs the funding like in Pakistan instead? This is especially relevant in the context of the floods that are devastating much of Pakistan today.

Now the question is about reciprocity: if the Saudis can aggressively spread their ideology abroad, why can’t other beliefs build their places of worship in Saudi Arabia? 

Currently, it is illegal to build a church, synagogue or temple in that country. Even importing copies of the Bible or the Torah is forbidden. Granted, Saudi Arabia is not an example of tolerance and freedom of worship. In fact, it is one of the most benighted societies on the planet where the royal family rules with an iron hand in partnership with the clergy. Nevertheless, every time the government or individual members of the ruling House of Saud wish to fund a religious centre abroad, they should be asked to open up their country to other faiths.

Edited version of Mr. Irfan Husain ‘s article published in Dawn


Medical tourism may not be safe in India because the ‘superbug’ possibly originated in India suggested a British  publication and further went on naming notoriously  “New Delhi metallo-blactamase (NDM-1). The growth in the flow of patients from the developed to the low cost developing world for medical treatment has consistently worried the medical fraternity in the West.  In order to slowdown the  patients flow the west came up with the story which  sponsored by  European Union,  The Wellcome Trust, and drugmaker Wyeth  who markets the superbug antibiotic Tygacil  (tigecycline) .

Such antibiotic resistant bacteria have been reported everywhere in the world, including in the UK, the US and the entire developed world for decades. The NDM-1, for instance, has even been detected in Canada, Australia, The Netherlands and Sweden.   So why India to be blamed. Similarly   genesis of MRSA is in the West . So was  West was blamed for a disease that affects the entire world.

Rather than creating controversies around the origin of the bacteria, it is better to focus on the lack of interest among pharma companies to develop superdrugs for such superbugs.

Real resource of Afganistan

The news that one to two trillion-dollar worth of minerals lie buried under the dusty and dreary soil of Afghanistan has made waves across the world. Eager resource extractors are eyeing Afghanistan with renewed interest. Iron, copper, cobalt, gold and lithium are among the many minerals that are said to lie embedded in Afghan soil. Geologists have known this for a long time and China has already put in place plans to dig up and carry away billions of dollars worth of copper.

Interestingly, so far it is the United States and western powers that have spent money providing security in Afghanistan, while it is the Chinese who have got their hands on Afghan copper. Perhaps that is the payoff to China for its implicit support to US occupation of Afghanistan. One must not put the cart before the horse. Afghanistan’s untapped wealth can only be put to good use, in the interests of the Afghan people, when peace and security return to this unfortunate land. Afghans have been denied peace and security not only by enemies within the country but enemies outside, especially Pakistan.
The world needs to invest in the well-being and educational and economic empowerment of Afgans so that they can tap into their own wealth. India is contributing in this regard and India’s investment in education, health, roads and railways in Afghanistan will help it tap its own human resources.
Unless the Afghan people are empowered, the discovery of natural resources can only be a curse, not a blessing.


Abbot to acquire piramal healthcare

Abbott India has acquired the healthcare solutions business of Piramal Healthcare to become number one pharmaceutical company in India. The assets to be transferred include the company's manufacturing facilities at Baddi, Himachal Pradesh and rights to around 350 brands.

The deal, which is likely to be completed by September 2010, will entail an upfront payment of $2.12 billion to Piramal. An additional $400 million will be paid annually for next four years.

Going ahead, Piramal will now be left with its CRAMS, critical care business and some OTC businesses.

Two indian comapnies in the list of top 10 US generic player

In a first, two Indian drug firms, Lupin Ltd and Dr Reddy’s Ltd, have made it to the list of top 10 generic companies in the fiercely competitive US market, placed eighth and tenth, respectively, in 2009.

These companies have improved their standing in the $34-billion US generic market. Lupin and DRL have also emerged as the fastest growing among the top 10 generic players in the US market, with Lupin growing at 50% and DRL at 40% just when three big players in the top-10 club have shown negative growth. The US generic drugs market is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 8.8% during 2010-2013.

Lupin and DRL’s growth figures also outshine the average growth recorded by the top 10 generic firms at 6.5% in 2009 and the average growth of global pharma industry at just over 5.5%. While Lupin has climbed two notches up to the eighth position by improving its market share from 2.5% in 2008 to over 3.5% in 2009, DRL has broken into the hallowed league year by bettering its market share to 2.7% from 2.1%, according to the National Prescription Audit conducted by IMS in the US.


Education- india calling

The cabinet on Monday approved a proposal to allow foreign universities to set up campuses. This proposal cld have potential to have the same impact as the post-1991 opening up had on the overall economy. The best case scenario is global best practices coming in and forcing Indian higher education to reform in the face of competition. The worst case scenario is second-class institutions coming in and that too only in areas with good revenue potential, taking away some of the good teachers from leading national institutions and eventually having little impact on the overall scene in terms of quality or quantity. Some of the leading institutions in the world have indicated that they are in no hurry to come, but this is just the beginning of a long process and the attractiveness of India as a market for higher education and catchment area for good students will only grow over time.

The issue of resources can be more difficult to resolve. To get good teachers, the best institutions which already have substantial vacancies, will have to pay better. As the government’s ability to keep footing a rising deficit is limited, higher fees should not lead to some of the brightest youngsters being unable to afford the best education. There are two solutions to this. One, raise fees but increase the scope of assistance and cheap educational loans so that the system becomes more or less means-blind. Two, improve the academic atmosphere, particularly for research, as that, as much as good pay, attracts the best teaching talent. The foreign institutions will be no different from domestic private unaided ones, which also do not have to abide by quotas. Besides, it can be argued that quotas do not automatically imply a handicap. The IITs and IIMs have to live down the criticism, made more often against the IIMs, that they produce the best because they take in the best, with little value addition by them. The best teachers are those who create the best out of the second best.

Europe halts sale of Indian-sourced drug

European regulators have halted sales of several variants of clopidogrel, a drug widely used to stop blood clots, in a move that raises concerns about increased production of low-cost generic medicines from India. The European Medicines Agency said it had recalled batches of eight separate generic versions of the drug overseen by Acino Pharma, based in Germany, but with the raw ingredients made in India.

The recall will affect Acino, Sandoz, Hexal, and Ratiopharm. The action follows inspections by German regulators at the factory of Acino’s supplier Glochem Industries in Visakhapatnam in India, which concluded that it did not meet adequate “good manufacturing practice”. They however stressed that they had not identified any impurities in the clopidogrel and that its action was “precautionary”, with no consequences expected for patients. However, inspectors were not satisfied with the documentation drug manufacturers are required to maintain in order to prove that a standardised set of procedures are being followed to ensure safe and consistent production. The agency had concluded that “the processes used to manufacture the active substance … could not be trusted”. It said it “did not have sufficient confidence in the quality of the active substance, and this led to a lack of confidence in the quality of the medicines”.


Highlights- Indian Budget 2010-11

  • Section 80c investment limit hiked by Rs. 20,000.
  • Service Tax rates unchanged.
  • Customs duty on Gold and Platinum hiked.
  • Excise duty on solar panels waived.
  • Excise duty on CFL halved to 4%.
  • Jewellery to be more expensive.
  • CDs to be cheaper.
  • Mobile phones to become cheaper.
  • Refrigerators/Televisions Air conditioners to be costlier.
  • Peak customs duty unchanged at 10%.
  • Cement to be costlier.
  • Excise duty on petrol and diesel raised to Rs 1/litre.
  • 5% duty on crude petroleum restored.
  • Excise on all non smoking tobacco raised.
  • 7.5% duty on petrol and diesel restored.
  • Excise on large cars,SUVs, MUV raised to 22%.
  • Cigarettes to be costlier.
  • Deduction of Rs 20000 on investment in infra bonds.
  • Weighted deduction on R&D raised to 200% from 150%.
  • No tax on Income up to Rs 1.6 lacs.
  • Current surcharge on companies reduced to 7.5%.
  • No tax on Income up to Rs 1.6 lacs.
  • Minimum Alternate tax hiked to 18%
  • 30% tax on income above Rs 8 lacs.
  • 20% tax on income between Rs5 lacs to 8 lacs.
  • 10% tax on income between Rs1.6 lacs to 5 lacs.
  • IT dept to notify Saral 2 form for individual tax payers.
  • IT exemption limit enhanced, surcharge withdrawn.
  • 20 Kms of highway to be constructed everyday.
  • More than 50% increase in funds for minority welfare.
  • 15% rise in planned expenditure.
  • Defence capex raised to Rs 60000 Cr.
  • Home loans up to Rs 20 lacs to get intrest subvention of 1% up to March 11.
  • Government to contribute Rs 1000 per month for pension security.
  • Rs 1,900 Cr. allocated for UID project.
  • Intrest subvention for housing loans up to 1 lacs.
  • NREGA scheme allocation raised to Rs 41000 Cr.
  • Allotment for renewable energy hiked by 61%.
  • Setup Coal regulatory authority.
  • 2% loan subsidy to farmers.
  • Rs 165,000 Cr. additional for bank re-capitalisation.
  • Chances of banking licenses to Pvt cos and NBFCs from RBI.
  • Foreign direct Investment (FDI) policy to made more user friendly
  • Reduce to 'Fertilizer Subsidy'.
  • GST will implement from 2011
  • Plan to implement 'Direct Tax Code' from April 2011