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December 2009 - January 2010

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India should achieve 7% growth next year with a good monsoon, and a target of 8-9% growth in the medium term is eminently feasible, given that our domestic savings rate is now as high as 35% of GDP, said Dr Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India, at the opening plenary of the prestigious India Economic Summit in New Delhi. The Summit, organized jointly by the World Economic Forum and CII, is celebrating 25 years in India with the theme ‘India’s Next Generation of Growth.’

Speaking on ‘Resilient India: 25 years of Economic and Social Growth,’ Dr Singh said India looked to the future with confidence and hope. With the focus strongly on rapid and inclusive growth, the Prime Minister said sectors like Education and Healthcare in particular, amongst a host of other challenges, required sustained attention and spending of 6% and 1.5 to 2 % of GDP respectively. He called for increased private investment and more public – private partnerships in both physical and social infrastructure in the country.

India welcomed not only more FDI but also portfolio investment in equity in Indian companies, said Dr Singh. He assured an investor-friendly environment in a number of sectors in Agro-processing, nearly all areas of Industry and also Services.

Acknowledging Climate Change as a major concern for the entire globe, Dr Singh said India was committed to work with all like-minded nations on this, and hoped for a purposive and positive outcome in Copenhagen. India had an Action Plan in place with eight key missions, he said, while calling on industrialized nations to share their technologies and capabilities with the developing nations for a concerted response to global environmental sustainability.

Another concern for India was its ‘unstable neighbourhood,’ said Dr Manmohan Singh, reiterating his call for international collaboration and a united response to terror.

Noting that India had fared better than many other countries in the global economic crisis, the Prime Minister observed that the path to global recovery would be long and uncertain, though the worst seemed to be behind us.

Dr Manmohan Singh acknowledged that India, moving forward, needed reforms in governance, particularly at the state and local-bodies level. India’s Financial Sector too required a broad agenda of reform, covering long term debt markets, corporate bond markets, development of insurance and pension sectors, he added.

Dr Klaus Schwabb, Founder and Executive Chairman, WEF, pointed out that few countries have the growth potential of India. As India looks to its next generation of growth, critical issues like inclusive development, integration, infrastructure, power, climate change and sustainability would take centre stage at this year’s Summit which has drawn 600 + delegates from all over the world.

The next major challenge is to make India’s future growth inclusive, said Mr Venu Srinivasan, President, CII, and Chairman and Managing Director, TVS Motor Company, India. He assured the Prime Minister that Indian industry was fully aligned to the nation’s inclusive goals.

Growth depends on how India’s internal security is maintained & preserved: Pallam Raju

Intelligence agencies operating at national and state level should be strengthen with coordination mechanism.

As India aspires to attain a ‘developed’ nation status in the near future, the momentum of India’s growth depends on how nation’s internal security is maintained and preserved. To this effect the Indian Government has been undertaking continuous efforts to enhance its preparedness to counter various security threats, said Mr. M M Pallam Raju, Minister of State for Defence, Government of India. He was speaking at a Seminar on Network Centricity and National Security organised jointly by Directorate General of Information Systems, The United Service Institution of India (USI) and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). He further stated that the intelligence agencies operating at national and state level should be strengthened with coordination mechanism, intelligence analysis and dissemination of inputs in real time to the end user.

Adding a private sector’s dimension to the theme, he stated that there are significant opportunities for the private industry to partner in the homeland security and sub-conventional warfare space. The allocation for India’s homeland security agencies was increased by 25 percent in the budget 2009-2010. Paramilitary forces under the Ministry of Home Affairs include about 1 million personnel and have a budget of Rs 21,634.15 crore (USD 4.3 billion). The equipment and training must be upgraded and modernise in order to have an effective counter-insurgency internal security force.

General Deepak Kapoor, PVSM, AVSM, SM, VSM, ADC, Chief of Army Staff stated, advancement in technology has increased threats to national security. Advanced technology is harnessed in terrorist attacks, asymmetric warfare, 4th Generation warfare etc. Therefore timely actions like starting unique IT projects, information grids etc as a backbone to synergise and facilitate information flow are imperative. National security transcends all barriers, and it is as much a responsibility of a citizen as the defence services, General Kapoor added. He stressed on achieving synergy with multiple agencies, drafting nationwide architecture of a Geographical information system.

Major General Sandhu, Deputy Director, USI, stated that challenges to national security are unique and ever emerging in newer forms. He suggested formulation of National Security Doctrine powered by network centricity, collating security inputs and coordination. He added the need for developing instruments capable of meeting wide spectrum of threats, by creating concepts and putting them into practice.

Lt. Gen PC Katoch, UYSM, AVSM, SC, Director General of Information Systems, Integrated Headquarters of MoD (Army) said that IT has helped in shortening the response time, resource allocation, superior management, enabled effective concepts of speed, command and control. It has enabled synergised response to security threats at national level.

Mr. Arvind Thakur, Chairman CII Core Group on Information Systems & Chief Executive officer, NIIT Ltd said that keeping in perspective the issues of national security, CII formulated a National Task Force on Policy Advocacy post 26/11 attacks. The task force aims at strengthening a nationwide security architecture with a focus on policy advocacy, spreading awareness of technology among the security forces and sensitise the industry to maintain an adequate security environment within their premises.

Enhancing Competitiveness will help attract Foreign Investment in India: David Appia

Attracting foreign investment in a country entails the same factors that enhance its competitiveness, said Mr David Appia, Ambassador of France for International Investment; Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Invest in France Agency, France. Addressing the session on “Bucking the Trend: Growth Opportunities in India" at the 25th India Economic Summit, jointly organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry and World Economic Forum in New Delhi, he stressed the importance of keeping the reforms going in areas such as enabling business environment, human capital and R&D, which will make India more competitive and thus attractive for foreign investors.

In the current challenging times, where capital is becoming scare, foreign investment assumes even greater importance as a strategic factor for any country’s growth process. Apart from bringing in more funds, foreign capital also contributes in creating employment opportunities, bringing in management and technical know how and contributing to exports, said Mr Appia. One of the pro foreign investor policies can be to have a liberal tax regime, he added.

From the perspective of foreign investment, both FDI and remittances from NRIs assume greater importance than portfolio investment, for India’s growth, said Mr Ashok Aram, Managing Director, Abraaj Capital, United Arab Emirates. While comparing India with other emerging economies, Mr Aram said that though India has great opportunities to attract foreign capital, it hasn’t fared too well because of the shortage of both soft and hard infrastructure in the country. He was confident that once the infrastructural and governance bottlenecks get resolved, foreign capital will automatically flow into India.

Given that India’s high saving rate is one of the main drivers of its growth, it is critical to channelise these high savings into investments, said Mr L. Brooks Entwistle, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Goldman Sachs, India. Although India does need foreign capital to fuel its growth story, its investment needs can also be addressed by capitalizing on its high domestic savings. He added that though India gets a lot of FII in stock markets, its FDI inflows when compared to other economies present a dismal picture.

Mr Ronald Kent, Executive Vice-President, Head of International Listings, NYSE Euronext, United Kingdom, said that although India is an extraordinarily attractive destination for foreign investors, its business environment needs to become more enabling, and efforts should be made to unlock the vast entrepreneurship energy that India is endowed with. Mr Stuart Popham, Senior Partner, Clifford Chance, United Kingdom, reiterating this point, said that India needs to have a more collaborative and cooperative attitude towards foreign investors, especially considering India’s employment needs.

Mr Ankur Bhatia, Executive Director, Bird Group, noted that despite governance and execution problems, India still offers one of the best returns on investments when compared globally. He added that India can attract huge foreign investments if it creates a proper framework to channelise investments.

Mr Vijay Poonoosamy, Vice-President, International Affairs, Etihad Airways, United Arab Emirates, who moderated the session, summed up by saying that India needs to commit itself to a more pro business environment, both for internal and external investors, to become a superpower.



Progress on tackling avoidable blindness welcomed in House of Lords debate but greater action is required if blindness is to be eliminated

At a debate in the House of Lords on progress towards implementing the aims of VISION 2020: The Right to Sight, a global campaign to eliminate avoidable blindness, the government pledged its support for action to address this disability.

There are 45 million blind people in the world and a further 269 million who are seriously visually impaired, yet 80% of blindness is preventable or treatable. 90% of blindness occurs in the developing world and more than twice as many women are blind as men.

Lord Crisp, former Chief Executive Officer of the National Health Service and Chairman of Sightsavers International recognised that the impact of this stretches far beyond health, “Eye health should be seen as key to the millennium development goals, including education, women’s rights and employment.”

The annual costs in lost economic productivity due to avoidable blindness and vision loss have been estimated at US$ 42 billion[1]. Cataract surgery is one of the most cost-effective treatments that can be offered in developing countries, allowing people to increase their economic productivity by up to 1500% of the cost of the surgery during the first post-operative year[1].

Speaking of the impact avoidable blindness has on individuals, Lord Brett, government spokesperson for the Department for International Development, stated:

“There are many health challenges across the world, and when it comes to avoidable blindness, it does not have to be this way. In the vast majority of cases, tried, tested, simple and cost-effective interventions already exist for blindness and other visual impairments.”

Several Lords praised the work that was already being done to tackle avoidable blindness, highlighting the success of VISION 2020 in generating broad support from across the public and private sectors in the fight against avoidable blindness, citing significant corporate support from Merck and Standard Chartered Bank’s Seeing is Believing programme.

However, there was recognition that much more needs to be done. Liberal Democrat peer, Lord Dholakia, said, “There can be no excuse. Blindness prevention strategies are among the most cost-effective in healthcare.”

Three strategies were highlighted by Lord Crisp for tackling the problem: ensuring that eye care is fully integrated into governments’ national health care plans; training more health workers, especially in Africa; and giving greater emphasis to disability in development programmes, citing disability as being implicated in at least 20% of world poverty. A meeting is now planned with Department for International Development to review the response to global blindness.

As the recession shrinks pensions, divorce over sixty can lead to financial heartache says Law Society

As divorce rates continue to soar among the over-sixties, the Law Society warns that pension funds may be hit hard by reduced assets, leaving people with not enough money for retirement.

A marked increase in so-called ‘Saga divorces’ over the past ten years has led the Law Society to stress the financial implications of separation for those approaching retirement, and to urge those seeking divorce to get professional legal advice before proceeding.

With falling property prices and reduced assets following the credit crunch, pension funds could be hit. Confounding the problem is that older people have fewer opportunities to build up capital again after a divorce.

The advice comes as part of the Law Society’s nationwide information campaign advising consumers to go to a solicitor for much needed legal advice, The campaign takes a Beatles theme with the strap-line ‘Help, I need somebody’. It is currently featuring in the print media and on posters in more than 200 stations.

Fair settlement

Law Society President, Robert Heslett says:

“Divorce at any stage of life is undoubtedly a stressful experience, but for the over 60s, bigger estates, complicated pension funds and less working years to build up assets again will exacerbate this stress.”

“A solicitor is the only professional who has the qualifications and foresight to work towards a fair settlement in complex divorce cases. It is especially important for those who have little experience of the financial side of their lives to seek reliable advice on getting what they need.”

Those considering divorce in later life must also factor in the possibility one or both parties may need specialised health care in the future and make the appropriate provisions for this.

In addition, as many women from previous generations were more likely to leave financial planning to their husband, financial decisions made during a divorce can be very overwhelming for many women in their 60s.

A solicitor will talk you through a variety of options that may not necessarily lead to court proceedings such as mediation or collaborative family law, designed to help to people resolve issues following family breakdown in a calm and constructive manner, away from court. Although the Law Society stresses this option may not be suitable for everyone, particularly when there are issues surrounding financial disclosure and division of assets.

Using a solicitor to help wade through the minefield of divorce can help save a lot of heartache for you and your family. A specialist family law solicitor will ensure that the correct documentation is in place and that no important issues have been overlooked.

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