Archive | July, 2015

What Next: Is Sunny fed up of sultry roles

Posted on 29 July 2015 by admin


Actress Sunny Leone has expressed her desire to play a superhero in a movie.

The former Indo-Canadian adult film star was asked by one of her fans on Twitter about her dream role.

The user asked: “Sunny which is your dream role in your career? Playing a superwoman’s character #Equal Partnerships.”

To which Sunny replied: “Yes i want to play a superhero.”

Sunny is known for her bold image in the industry thanks to movies like “Jism 2″ and “Ragini MMS 2″. She was also seen in “Ek Paheli Leela”, a thriller drama film.

She will be soon seen in the upcoming sex comedy film “Mastizaade”.

Comments (0)

What’s giving kick to Jackie these days?

Posted on 29 July 2015 by admin


To commemorate the one year anniversary of super hit film ‘Kick’, Jacqueline Fernandez took to Instagram and posted a very special image. The actress shared a beautiful collage of her memorable

moments from the film. Kick was Sajid Nadiadwala’s directorial debut that released on Eid 2014 and broke many Box office records in Bollywood.

‘Kick’ is an important milestone in Jacqueline’s flourishing career. She thanked Sajid Nadiadwala, Salman Khan and her fans making the experience special. She said, `Thank you all very much for giving ‘Kick’ so much love, so I can’t believe that it’s been one year since ‘Kick’ has released, because the memory is still so fresh in my mind.

Thank you so much Sajid sir – Sajid Nadiadwala and Salman for giving me this most amazing opportunity and the most amazing memory of my life and it’s definitely something I will cherish forever.`

‘Kick’ starred Salman Khan, Jacqueline Fernandez, Randeep Hooda and Nawazuddin Siddiqui in pivotal roles. The film captured audience attention with never seen before action, chart busting music and impactful dialogues.

Comments (0)

Beware! Anushka to take strict measures online

Posted on 29 July 2015 by admin


Actress Anushka Sharma says she will ‘block’ people who write nonsense on the microblogging site Twitter.

Some of the celebrities, including veteran actor Rishi Kapoor and filmmaker Karan Johar, have fallen victim to cyber bullying. Anushka, who mostly uses the digital platform to share her opinion on various subjects, has now warned people to behave or else get blocked.

“Trying to keep my Twitter positive (well as positive as possible) so will BLOCK people who rant nonsense with no sense of responsibility,” Anushka tweeted on Sunday.

Responding to the “Dil Dhadakne Do” star’s tweet, megastar Amitabh Bachchan said: “@AnushkaSharma +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ …. don’t you dare BLOCK me after all these ‘positives’…haha… love.”

To which Anushka replied that she will not do that in a life time. “@SrBachchan hahahahaaha noooo way!! Not in a lifetime Sir!

Comments (0)

If doors don’t open for you, “kick them down” Pooja Handa shares her story with Generation Next

Posted on 22 July 2015 by admin


By Samuel Getachew


Pooja Handa has had a long and rich journey in broadcasting with CP24 and Global TV. A graduate of York University and Seneca College, Pooja is also a noted mentor and volunteer with many organizations including the Canadian Liver Foundation and the Halton Industry Education Council. She shares with me her background, career and the wise words her father shared with her, when faced with adversity.

Pooja – You have often been described as a “story teller who uses wit and humour to engage viewers both inside and out of the studio”. Tell me about yourself?

I grew up in Mississauga and from a very young age had the gift of the gab. That’s a nice way of saying I talked a lot! I was always acting, telling jokes, imitating my family members and performing “Bollywood” dances at local cultural events. I knew I wanted to be a performer from a very young age and majored in Dramatic Arts at an Arts focused high school in Mississauga called Cawthra Park S.S. I later moved to New York City after being accepted by the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. However, after a year in the “Big Apple”, I soon realized that perhaps acting wasn’t for me.

I needed to do something more else my skills and I could hear my dad’s voice telling me I needed to get a post-secondary education. And so I did. I decided journalism was the best way to utilize my performance ability with my natural desire to tell stories… only it would be stories that mattered. I went on to major both in Broadcast Journalism and Women Studies at Seneca College and York University. I landed my first on-air job at the age of 24 and continued to report on everything including Traffic, Weather, Entertainment, News and eventually hosting CP24 BREAKFAST.

You have been a familiar face on CP24 and Global TV. What have been some of the highlights for you so far?

I am fortunate to be able to meet a lot of amazing people on a daily basis. From newsmakers to celebrities to everyday people with a story to tell. But the biggest highlight for me is having the privilege of sharing in people’s days. I never take for granted that I show up in their homes, telling them about what’s happening in the world, in their city and helping them get ready for their day… all while trying to put a smile on their faces. I feel a real sense of community when I walk down the street.

Many people enjoy watching you on CP24 BREAKFAST. In your opinion, what makes the program unique and different compared to the other morning programs?

Me of course! Kidding! We recognize that people are very busy in their lives but still want to be informed before they start their day. CP24 has everything viewers want from LIVE news, weather, traffic, sports, entertainment and what people are talking about every 15 minutes. We are also up on the air first at 5 a.m. on weekdays, and are the only breakfast show that airs seven days a week. And even when you can’t wait for the anchors and reporters to inform you, there’s everything you need on our screen! Not to mention, when there’s breaking news, we are the go-to station to tell you what’s happening now.

Looking back on your career and upbringing, who were some of your mentors and what impact did they have on you?

My parents have always been very supportive of me following my dreams. They always told me to go after what I wanted and that there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do. I realize that not everyone is lucky enough to have parents who truly believe in them to make the right choices for themselves. Mine did and they were always there to support me in all my endeavors. I also remember watching Monika Deol host Electric Circus and for the first time realized that someone who looked like me was on TV. It was a time when very few South Asians were seen in mainstream media. I remember thinking if she can do it, I can too. For me she opened the door of possibilities, even though I had never met her. So while she was never a mentor per se, she was a huge inspiration.

You have been a noted volunteer and advocate for many charity organizations. Share with us some of these organizations you are involved in and why are they important to you?

I have been fortunate to have many opportunities to volunteer my time with various charities. It’s a real honour to be able to use my voice to bring attention to causes such as The Canadian Liver Foundation, Community Living Toronto, Motionball, Street Kids International, SANSAR, Seva, 3TO6 Team, and Kids Help Phone, just to name a few. While they all resonate with me, one annual event is particularly special for me.

Halton Industry Education Council gave me the opportunity to help mentor young women in their career paths. It essentially allowed me to help them follow their dreams in an annual event called “Women as Career Coaches”. As you might guess by my having a degree in Women’s Studies, it’s been a very gratifying experience to be able to celebrate and empower such wonderful, bright young women. It never ceases to amaze me just how much I learn from them year after year about following my own dreams.

To those who may want to emulate such a career as yours, what advice do you have for them?

I will pass on some wise words my father gave to me when I was ready to give up in the face of adversity. He said: “If it is to be… it is up to me”. And as simple as that is, it’s the absolute truth. No career path is easy. Hard work, perseverance, practice, dedication, sacrifice are just some of the words that describe my career path. But it’s all possible and attainable if you believe in yourself to get it done. Ultimately if doors don’t open for you, you have to kick them down.

Comments (0)

An Ontario court has just affirmed that cultural norms that excuse violence have no place here: Editorial

Posted on 22 July 2015 by admin

The woman, a recent immigrant from Iran, suffered brutal spousal abuse but didn’t even realize it was against the law.

After moving to Canada in 2009 her husband forced the woman, whose identity is protected by the court, to have sex with him by hitting her, pulling her hair, pinching her and forcefully removing her clothes. “She cried out quietly so the children would not hear,” court was told.

He also slapped, kicked and punched their two sons and hit them with a belt. Once he locked them outside the house on a snowy winter day wearing nothing but shorts and T-shirts until their mother came home and rescued them.

When the husband was convicted of sexual assault and assault, Justice William Gorewich of Ontario court sentenced him to 18 months, citing mitigating factors that included the lack of a criminal record. The judge also noted a “significant cultural gap” between behaviour that is accepted in Canada and in Iran, and the “cultural impact” of changing countries.

That didn’t cut much mustard with the Ontario Court of Appeal, nor should it have.

On appeal by the Crown, Justices Mary Lou Benotto, Alexandra Hoy and David Doherty found the 18-month sentence to be “manifestly unfit”and they imposed a far tougher, and entirely appropriate, four-year sentence.

They also went out of their way to send a powerful, timely message to the lower courts and the public in general that “cultural norms that condone or tolerate conduct contrary to Canadian criminal law” must not be a mitigating factor in sentencing. “Cultural differences do not excuse or mitigate criminal conduct,” the appeals court held.

If that were the case “some women in Canadian society would be afforded less protection than others.” In effect “it would … create a second class of person in our society — those who fall victim to offenders who import such practices.”

“All women in Canada are entitled to the same level of protection from abusers,” the court reminded us.

This principled decision is in line with the United Nations, which has held that cultural practices do not excuse human rights abuses.

Justice for every woman. That is the norm in Canada, and it is good to hear Ontario justices spell it out so bluntly, and so clearly.


Comments (0)

‘Christmas in July’ benefits to net Ottawa $340 million in taxes

Posted on 22 July 2015 by admin

Canada's Minister of State for Democratic Reform Poilievre speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa

The federal government handed out almost $3 billion in child benefit payments, but will claw back almost $340 million from families when the tax man comes calling in April.

That estimate doesn’t include provincial taxes, which are likely to account for about $160 million more, based on calculations by The Canadian Press.

The money is coming from the $2.98 billion handed out Monday to families in the form of increased universal child care benefits, which government ministers were touting at events and online.

Employment Minister Pierre Poilievre called it “Christmas in July” for Canadian families.

The enhanced benefit payments arrived on Monday, with the value rising to $160 from $100 for every child in Canada under age six, and a new $60 per month payment for every child age six to 17.

The increased payments are retroactive to the start of the year, meaning the payments this month will be higher than any before: up to $520 for children under six, and up to $420 for every child six to 17. A small number of families will also receive payments for children who had their 18th birthday during the first six months of the year.

The benefit is taxable on the lower income earner in every household. Canadians who received the payments can expect to see some of it taxed next April unless their income is so low that they don’t pay income taxes.

Poilievre’s spokeswoman, Meagan Murdoch, said the taxation rules for the program haven’t changed since it was introduced in 2006.

The government predicts it will earn $140 million in taxes from child care benefit payments in the 2014-15 fiscal year, and $565 million from a full fiscal year of increased benefit payments in 2015-16, or 11.4 per cent of the benefits doled out. The Canadian Press, with help from the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation, applied that 11.4 per cent figure to the $2.98 billion in benefits to come to the $339 million estimate.

The increase in benefits, combined with the elimination of the child tax credit, will mean middle and upper-income earners will have more of the money taxed back at the end of the year than lower income households, said David Macdonald, senior economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

“You get a cheque and it’s tangible. You have no idea what you’re going to pay back at the end of the year,” Macdonald said.

Angella MacEwen, senior economist with the Canadian Labour Congress, said the lower income earner in some families will be moved into a higher tax bracket this year because of the government’s recent decision to allow income splitting. That will marginally increase how much they are asked to pay in taxes on the child care benefit, she said.

Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz said last week the central bank expects about half the money to be spent. The other half would be saved, although Poloz didn’t specify how Canadians would save it.

The government estimates that 200,000 of the four million families eligible for the monthly payments have yet to sign up for the program. Employment and Social Development Canada estimates the three territories, Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island, in that order, have the highest percentage of the population who haven’t signed up for the benefits.

Poilievre told The Canadian Press last week the government expects the public focus on the child care benefit will ensure a large percentage of those families sign up.

He said it will take about three weeks for the Canada Revenue Agency to determine how many of the missing families signed up in time.


Comments (0)

ISIS builds new generation of militants — with children

Posted on 22 July 2015 by admin


The children had all been shown videos of beheadings and told by their trainers with the Islamic State group that they would perform one someday. First, they had to practise technique. The more than 120 boys were each given a doll and a sword and told: Cut off its head.

A 14-year-old who was among the boys, all abducted from Iraq’s Yazidi religious minority, said he couldn’t cut it right. He chopped once, twice, three times.

“Then they taught me how to hold the sword, and they told me how to hit. They told me it was the head of the infidels,” the boy, renamed Yahya by his Islamic State captors, told The Associated Press last week in northern Iraq, where he fled after escaping the militants’ training camp.

When Islamic State extremists overran Yazidi towns in northern Iraq last year, they butchered older men and enslaved many of the women and girls. Dozens of young Yazidi boys like Yahya had a different fate: the Islamic State group sought to re-educate them. They forced them to convert to Islam from their ancient faith and tried to turn them into jihadi fighters.

It is part of a concerted effort by the extremists to build a new generation of militants, according to AP interviews with residents who fled or still live under ISIS in Syria and Iraq. The group is recruiting teens and children using gifts, threats and brainwashing. Boys have been turned into killers and suicide bombers. An ISIS video issued last week showed a boy beheading a Syrian soldier under an adult militant’s supervision. Last month, a video showed 25 children unflinchingly shooting 25 captured Syrian soldiers in the head.

In schools and mosques, militants infuse children with extremist doctrine, often turning them against their own parents. Fighters in the street befriend children with toys. ISIS training camps churn out the Ashbal, Arabic for “lion cubs,” child fighters for the “caliphate” that ISIS declared across its territory. The caliphate is a historic form of Islamic rule that the group claims to be reviving with its own radical interpretation, though the vast majority of Muslims reject its claims.

 “I am terribly worried about future generations,” said Abu Hafs Naqshabandi, a Syrian sheikh who runs religion classes for refugees in the Turkish city of Sanliurfa to counter ISIS ideology.

The indoctrination mainly targets Sunni Muslim children. In ISIS-held towns, militants show young people videos at street booths. They hold outdoor events for children, distributing soft drinks and candy — and propaganda.

They tell adults, “We have given up on you, we care about the new generation,” said an anti-ISIS activist who fled the Syrian city of Raqqa, the extremists’ de facto capital. He spoke on condition of anonymity to preserve the safety of relatives under ISIS rule.

With the Yazidis, whom ISIS considers heretics ripe for slaughter, the group sought to take another community’s youth, erase their past and replace it with radicalism.

Yahya, his little brother, their mother and hundreds of Yazidis were captured when the Islamic State seized the Iraqi town of Sulagh in August. They were taken to Raqqa, where the brothers and other Yazidi boys aged 8 to 15 were put in the Farouq training camp. They were given Muslim Arabic names to replace their Kurdish names. Yahya asked that his real name not be used, for his and his family’s safety.

He spent nearly five months there, training eight to 10 hours a day, including exercises, weapons drills and Quranic studies. They told him Yazidis are “dirty” and should be killed, he said. They showed him how to shoot someone from close range. The boys hit each other in some exercises. Yahya punched his 10-year-old brother, knocking out a tooth.

The trainer “said if I didn’t do it, he’d shoot me,” Yahya said. “They . . . told us it would make us tougher. They beat us everywhere.”

In an ISIS video of Farouq camp, boys in camouflage do calisthenics and shout slogans. An ISIS fighter says the boys have studied jihad so “in the coming days God Almighty can put them in the front lines to battle the infidels.”

Videos from other camps show boys crawling under barbed wire and practising shooting. One boy lies on the ground and fires a machine-gun; he’s so small the recoil bounces his whole body back a few inches. Boys undergoing endurance training stand unmoving as a trainer hits their heads with a pole.

ISIS claims to have hundreds of such camps. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights documented at least 1,100 Syrian children under 16 who joined ISIS this year. At least 52 were killed in fighting, including eight suicide bombers, it said.

Yahya escaped in early March. Fighters left the camp to carry out an attack, and as remaining guards slept he and his brother slipped away, he said. He urged a friend to come too, but he refused, saying he was a Muslim now and liked Islam.

Yahya’s mother was in a house nearby with other abducted Yazidis — he had occasionally been allowed to visit her. So he and his brother went there. They travelled to the Syrian city of Minbaj and stayed with a Russian ISIS fighter, Yahya said. He contacted an uncle in Iraq, who negotiated to pay the Russian for the two boys and their mother. A deal struck, they met the uncle in Turkey then went to the Iraqi Kurdish city of Dohuk.

Now in Dohuk, Yahya and his brother spend much of their time watching TV. They appear outgoing and social. But traces of their ordeal show. When his uncle handed Yahya a pistol, the boy deftly assembled and loaded it.

And he will never forget the videos of beheadings the Islamic State trainers showed the boys.

“I was scared when I saw that,” he said. “I knew I wouldn’t be able to behead someone like that. Even as an adult.”


Comments (0)

Ontario Liberals fall short on auto insurance promise

Posted on 22 July 2015 by admin


The Liberal government has failed to live up to its promise to reduce auto insurance premiums by 15 per cent.

Finance Minister Charles Sousa had pledged that by next month Ontario’s 9.4 million drivers would be enjoying this premium break, but the Financial Services Commission of Ontario reported the reduction so far is only 6.56 per cent — down from April when it was 7 per cent.

The promised cut — averaging $225 a year — was included in the minority Liberal government’s 2013 budget in order to the get the New Democrats to let it pass. That August, Sousa said it would take two years to fulfil.

“This is absolute proof they didn’t have a plan when they made this deal and that they still don’t have a plan,” Progressive Conservative MPP Vic Fedeli said.

“This is just a long list of promises they have no intentions of keeping,” Fedeli told the Star.

Despite the fact the government didn’t even reach half of its reduction target, Sousa’s office insisted the government’s plan is working.

“Our plan to tackle auto insurance fraud and reduce costs is working. But we want to go even further,” said a statement issued by Sousa’s office.

In the same email statement, Sousa dismissed that latest report from Financial Services Commission of Ontario as just a snapshot in time and offered no reason for the failing to hit the target.

“Today’s second quarter rates are a snapshot in time. Our reforms have sent rates lower on average over the last two years and there’s more to do to reduce rates by 15 per cent on average,” he said.

Last November, the legislature passed the Fighting Fraud and Reducing Automobile Insurance Rates Act based on feedback received from an expert review commissioned in August 2013. But the Financial Services Commission of Ontario reported the average rates for the past quarter actually went up slightly rather than going down.

New Democrat MPP Jagmeet Singh (Bramalea-Gore-Malton) said it is just another broken Liberal insurance promise.

“There are simply too many broken promises. Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals promised to bring auto insurance rates down by 15 per cent by August 2015. That’s a little over two weeks away. Instead, rates have gone up on average by 0.60 per and some insurance companies are raising their premiums by as much as 16 per cent — that’s quite the U-turn,” Singh said.

Singh noted the Liberals also never made good on a promised 8-per-cent reduction in auto insurance rates for 2014 and all the while “Ontarians pay some of the highest auto insurance rates in the country.”

Ralph Palumbo, of the Insurance Bureau of Canada, blamed the New Democrats for asking for — and getting — the government to go along with a figure it “pulled out of thin air.”

The bureau says Ontario’s rates are “far too high,” citing the fact average premiums in the province are more than 45 per cent higher than Alberta’s, and twice as high as in the Maritime provinces.

Critics said this major climbdown on auto insurance is only a dress rehearsal for the government when it fails to balance the budget by 2017-18. The province has an $8.5-billion deficit.

“This really is a continuation as far as I’m concerned,” Fedeli said.

Sousa originally said the province would reach 15 per cent reduction by:

 Providing the superintendent of financial services with the authority to require insurers to refile rates.

 Cracking down on fraud, including licensing health clinics that invoice auto insurance companies.

 Exploring other cost-reduction initiatives, including provincial oversight of the towing industry and collision repair shops.

 Requiring insurers to offer discounts to motorists with safe driving records.

Reduction –– Ontario motorists were expected to see an average reduction of $225 a year in their auto insurance.

Drivers –– Ontario has 9.4 million licensed drivers.

Timing –– Finance Minister Charles Sousa promised almost 24 months ago to reduce premiums an average of 15 per cent



Comments (0)

Pakistan’s rulers and elite spend Eid away from common people

Posted on 22 July 2015 by admin


Dr. Hasan Askari

 There were noteworthy political developments in Pakistan on this year’s Eid. Several Pakistani top political leaders spent their Eid outside of Pakistan.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif proceeded abroad on July 6.

First he went to Norway and then to Russia. From there he flew to Saudi Arabia to spend last few days of Ramzan and Eid there.

In this way Pakistan’s Prime Minister was out of the country for over 12 days.

Shahbaz Sharif spent his Eid in London.

Federal Finance Minister, Ishaq Dar, also spent his Eid in Saudi Arabia.

Altaf Hussain has been living in London since 1992 with dual citizenship status: UK and Pakistan.

Asif Ali Zardari and his politically active sister and Bilalwal Bhutto spent their Eid in Dubai.

In contrast to all of them, the Army Chief, General Raheel Sharif, spent his Eid with the troops in the tribal areas.

Imran Khan spent his Eid in Pakistan.

It is ironic that Pakistan’s civilian leaders who claim to represent the ordinary people are always keen to travel abroad and stay there. They issue statements after statements sympathizing with the problems of the common people but their day-to-day pursuits clearly show that their real agenda is very different. Their priorities are self-serving and motivated by the considerations that have nothing much to do with the problems of the common people.

Pakistan’s biggest tragedy is that a large number of people in power and authority have financial interests outside of Pakistan or they use other countries as “safe-havens” to keep a part of their activities hidden from the common people. They spend time abroad even when the political system is democratic and there is no obvious persecution for them inside Pakistan.

Today, Pakistani media has proliferated and if a particular leader is targeted in an unjustified manner by the state authorities, the media is willing to put out his/her perspective to general public.

Even with such opportunities available to them the rulers of this country feel “unsafe” in Pakistan, although the poor people have never shown their wrath against them and there are no signs of a popular “bloody revolution” in Pakistan against the ruling elite.

If we examine the history and background of the above-named leaders who have spent their Eid outside of Pakistan, we find that they have strong financial interests outside in the form of moveable and immovable assets, bank accounts, and, in some cases, their children are running flourishing businesses.

This amounts to creating a “safe-alternative” to life in Pakistan which can be used for rest and recreation if things are going fine in Pakistan. However, if they come under scrutiny for their exercise of state power and management of state policies then they can use these external facilities to secure them against the reach of the Pakistani law and the constitution.

It is not simply the civilian power elite who create “safe-alternatives” for them, it applies to a large number of top bureaucrats and top military commanders. It would be interesting to seek data on the physical location of male children of top bureaucrats (serving and retired federal secretaries, additional secretaries) and top military officials (three star and two star officers). A good number of them have their all or some male children settled outside of Pakistan. The U.S. and the UK used to be the favorite destination for this purpose, now Australia is also attracting Pakistani power elite and their immediate family members.

It makes much difference if a person holding the key civilian, bureaucratic and military job has alternative to Pakistan available to him or her. It influences the attitude towards life and work, priorities in life and job and the kinds of risks a person would like to take. Pakistan is fine as long as it is doing good to their interests, power, influence and wealth for strengthening local position and building resources for a “safe-alternative” abroad.

Pakistan’s media is full of stories of wealth accumulated abroad by the above named and other persons or their business and financial interests there. When the Rangers and the FIA decided to take firm action in Sindh to check misuse of state resources and corruption, delink politics from criminality and locate the trail of the money going into terrorism and related activities, a number of people either got precautionary bail from the courts or left for abroad to make use of their “safe-alternatives” to Pakistan.

Altaf Hussain runs his political empire from London with the help of a closely knit organizational network of the MQM. This party apparatus has demonstrated time and again in the past that is has a strong capacity to “reward” those who stayed in line and “punish” those who defied or betrayed the party discipline. However, the capacity of the MQM to sustain its apparatus is now on the decline for a host of reasons that cannot be discussed here. If these trends continue in urban Sindh, the capacity of the MQM local apparatus to sustain its firm grip over the populace will weaken and it will be increasingly problematic for Altaf Hussain to command the system all by himself from London. The mere emphasis on ethnicity may not work unless it secures the support of some state institutions.

Pakistan’s inability to address its problems regarding energy and internal security can be partly attributed to the nature of Pakistani power elite who have created options for their secure future even if Pakistan’s internal situation does not improve. Some of them see Pakistan as a golden opportunity for strengthening personal assets inside and outside Pakistan.

Pakistan needs a power elite whose future is totally and completely linked with the future of Pakistan. They have no “safe-alternative” to Pakistan. If their future is completely linked with the future of Pakistan they will avoid money making glamorous projects and address the energy and security issues that will benefit the economy directly which will in turn improve socio-economic opportunities for the common people.

Comments (0)

Indian parliament faces washout monsoon session

Posted on 22 July 2015 by admin

Indian parliament faces washout monsoon session

As India starts its parliamentary session on Tuesday, hopes are at a low ebb that the business-friendly laws central to Prime Minister Modi’s lofty reform agenda will gain traction.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) intends to discuss three contentious bills—land acquisition, a goods and services (GST) tax and a revision of labor laws—at the three-week long meeting, commonly referred to as the monsoon session since it coincides with the start of annual rainfalls.

All three pieces of legislation are meant to bolster Modi’s courtship of foreign investment and enhance the overall ease of doing business in India, but fervid opposition from rival parties and recent political scandals will likely see lawmakers continue bickering instead, resulting in a washout session.

The first week will likely be the rowdiest as opposition members demand the resignations of BJP ministers currently embroiled in corruption scandals, explained Pratima Singh, senior research analyst for South Asia, at Frontier Strategy Group (FSG). Once that’s resolved, the session can move onto economic issues during the second and third week, she said.

“An uneventful parliamentary session will be negative for market sentiment, especially as the land acquisition bill and GST framework have become key barometers of the government’s ability to implement its agenda,” warned DBS economist Radhika Rao in a Monday note.

Issues at stake

The land acquisition bill is perhaps the biggest catalyst to increasing investment, but economists say it’s the least likely of the three to be discussed.

The bill would remove a clause that requires consent from 80 percent of landowners if their land is sought for industrial projects—a change the opposition believes is against the interests of farmers. Their complaints won’t be taken lightly given the rising number of bankruptcy-driven farmer suicides.

“This is the most crucial measure, but it’s seen as anti-agriculture,” said Faraz Syed, associate economist at Moody’s Analytics. “The bill will be going through other committees and get tweaked in order to make it more bi-partisan, making it unlikely to come through this year.”

The GST is another key plank in Modi’s agenda.

Widely regarded as a game changer for India, it’s set to simplify the country’s complex tax structure, often cited as a key hindrance to foreign direct investment. While it’s the least controversial measure of the three, politicians disagree on factors like the exact rate, the exemption list and additional levies.

“The rival Congress party was also pushing for it when they were in power, but now they are afraid that the rate will be too high,” FSG’s Singh said, noting that the rate remains undisclosed, but is likely to be around 20-25 percent. The tax is unlikely to pass before the fourth quarter of 2016 or early 2017, well past the government’s April 2016 target date, according to FSG.

There may also be state-level opposition. “State governments are also concerned over potential loss in revenues and have sought full compensation for the first five years of the rollout,” added Rao of DBS.

Modi’s agenda also aims to revise labor laws.

That’s essentially a move to boost productivity, noted Singh. Companies currently need government approval for hiring or firing more than 100 workers, and the government wants to increase that cap, but unions are concerned that more flexibility in termination will hurt workers’ rights, she said.

What the delay means

Low inflation combined with the Reserve Bank of India’s monetary easing bias have offset disappointment over the implementation of Modi’s reform agenda in recent months, but there will be a tipping point where the government has to deliver on its promises, noted Syed of Moody’s Analytics.

“In the medium to long-term, India’s business climate will suffer if these reforms aren’t delivered, but for now, foreign exchange reserves are high and Indian equities have been rallying, suggesting that investors are pricing in lower risks when U.S. monetary policy starts to tighten,” Syed said.

Multinational companies (MNCs) are in wait-and-see mode, said FSG, noting that the mood remains more optimistic domestically. For MNCs already in the country, 44 percent are making a case to increase investment on the hope that reforms will finally get underway, according to a June survey, the research group said.

Comments (0)

Advertise Here
Advertise Here