Amendments on H1B and L1 visas blocked

Washington: Two amendments moved by a US senator on restricted hiring of foreign workers and another aimed at preventing fraud and abuse of H-1B and L1 visa could not pass the Senate floor as they were blocked by the Democratic Party, reports PTI.

The two amendments moved along with the Creating American Jobs and End Offshoring Act, were blocked by the Democratic Party, senator Chuck Grassley, its author said yesterday.

Incidentally, the offshoring act in itself was blocked by the opposition Republican party.

"Despite the number of Americans without a job, companies are still allowed to import thousands of foreign workers with little or no strings attached. My amendments would make it possible for qualified Americans to fill the vacant positions first," Mr Grassley said.

His first amendment would have prevented any company engaged in a mass lay-off of American workers from importing cheaper labour from abroad through temporary guest worker programs.

The second would have taken aim at fraud and abuse of the H-1B and L Visa programs, while making sure Americans have the first chance at high-skilled jobs in the United States.

Both amendments were being blocked by the Democratic Senate Majority Leader, the senator said in a statement.

The 'H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2009' would improve two key visa programs by rooting out abuse while making sure Americans have the first chance of obtaining high-skilled jobs in this country, Mr Grassley said in the Senate floor.

"Many Americans are unemployed, yet we still allow companies to import thousands of foreign workers. These businesses should be asked to look first at Americans to fill vacancies, and they should be held accountable for displacing Americans to hire cheap foreign labour," he said.

"These two amendments go directly to the concerns about job creation and prevention of off-shoring of US jobs. Both amendments are bipartisan. Yet, if cloture is invoked, these amendments would fall on the Senate cutting room floor," he added.

Mr Grassley said the H-1B program is well-known for encouraging companies to take their work offshore.

The New York Times had reported in 2007 that the H-1B Visa is a critical tool for Indian outsourcing vendors to gain expertise and win contracts from western companies to transfer critical operations like Bangalore.

As Indian outsourcing companies have become the leading consumers of the visa, they have used it to further their primary mission, which is to gain the expertise necessary to take on critical tasks performed by Western companies, and perform them in India at a fraction of the costs, NY Times said.

The H-1B and L1 visa amendment would have required employers to try and recruit US workers before hiring H-1B visa holders, require employers to pay a better wage to visa holders who take these jobs and expand the powers of the federal government to go after abusers.

The amendment would have created new rules regarding the outsourcing and outplacement of H-1B and L-1 workers by their employers to secondary employers in the United States and establish a new database that employers can use to advertise positions for which they intend to hire an H-1B worker.


Centre turns down alternative model on GST

New Delhi: The Centre today refused to accept the alternative model of Goods and Services Tax (GST), mooted by state GST panel head Asim Dasgupta and a couple of BJP-ruled states, reports PTI.

"We have regretted our ability to accept either the suggestion of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat or the chairman of the Empowered Committee because they do not, in our opinion, allow the essential features of GST to operate," revenue secretary Sunil Mitra told reporters on the sidelines of a CII seminar.

As the Centre tried to build consensus on its proposal on constitution amendment bill, required for the rollout of GST, and even floated revised draft to please states, some states came out with alternative model that would not require the amendment of constitution.

"We will not take it (GST) forward without constitution amendment," Mr Mitra said.

The alternative model suggested by Mr Dasgupta, who represents West Bengal in the Empowered Committee of state finance ministers, moots that states be allowed to impose service tax without constitutional amendment.

Apprehending encroachment on fiscal autonomy of states by the Centre's proposal on constitution amendment bill, Madhya Pradesh finance minister Raghavji also proposed that the states be allowed to impose service tax without the amendment.

Gujarat also came out with alternative model on GST.

The Centre has so far floated two drafts on constitution amendment bill. The first one was rejected by states as it proposed GST Council, which they alleged gives veto power to the Union finance minister on taxation issue of states.

The draft had proposed that changes in GST could be brought about by two-third majority in the council.

To assuage states, the Centre came out with another draft, which says that changes in GST could only be made when there is complete consensus in the GST council.

This draft is also opposed by the BJP-ruled states, besides Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee suggested that the Centre would come out with another draft.

When asked about this, Mr Mitra said states have not given their views on the second draft so far.

He said if consensus emerges on the bill at Empowered Committee's meeting in Goa next month, the legislation could be tabled in the winter session of Parliament.

"Only then, I can take the legislation to winter session and though it will be a setback by a few months it can become operative from mid-next year," he said.

The roll-out of GST has already missed a deadline of 1 April 2010 and the next slated date of the start of next fiscal is also not set to be met.


Global economic recovery fragile due to lack of jobs: IMF

Washington: International Monetary Fund (IMF) head Dominique Strauss-Kahn has said that the global economic recovery is fragile and remains uncertain as not enough jobs are being created, reports PTI.

"It would be difficult to say that the crisis is over before the unemployment rate is really decreased," IMF managing director Strauss-Kahn yesterday told a group of reporters ahead of the next week's annual meeting of the IMF and World Bank.

India would be represented by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee at the meet.

Mr Strauss-Kahn further said that "Even if the recovery is secure, the question is how many jobs it will provide."

"In the other part of the world, except emerging economies and most of the Asian nations, the question is of maintaining the right balance between weak private demand and unsustainable public demand," he said.

Besides key countries like India and China in Asia, Latin American countries are doing very well, Mr Strauss-Kahn said.

"Clearly during the crisis, people understood that there was no way to find a domestic solution to the global crisis.

Today people believe that the crisis is behind us. This is not totally true. It is still not over," he said.

Mr Strauss-Kahn said it would be difficult to say the crisis that began toward the end of 2007 is over until "unemployment is really decreased."

Responding to questions, the IMF chief said that as of now he does not feel that there is a risk of a currency war.

"The probability is rather low, because everybody can understand that a big conflict can have negative output," he said, adding that China's effort to rebalance its economy from export-led growth and putting more emphasis on strengthening domestic consumption are steps in the right direction.

Mr Strauss-Kahn said it is fair enough to make room for emerging countries at the IMF board, which is currently dominated by Europe.

However, there are no guidelines in the fund's charter for distribution of seats on the 24-member decision-making executive board.

It must be the job of member nations to resolve the issue, he stressed.

Some countries want the nine seats that Europe holds reflecting the declining role of the region in the global economy, but smaller European nations are reluctant to give up their places.

"I understand that the Europeans themselves are discussing in Brussels and they probably would come up with a solution or a proposal in the coming days," he said.


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