Bank credit may get costlier for SME sector: FIEO

Banks are lending idle cash for higher returns to companies for advance tax payments which has sucked up about Rs40,000 crore to Rs45,000 crore from the system

Bank credit to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) is likely to get costlier as lenders are shying away from lending to this sector due to a fear of hike in cash reserve ratio (CRR) by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), says an industry body.

A Sakthivel, president, Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO), said that while credit off-take had picked up marginally to double digit levels (10.5%) from last year’s high of 26.4%, banks are lending idle cash for higher returns to companies for advance tax payments, which has sucked up about Rs40,000 crore-Rs45,000 crore from the system.

This is supported by RBI data (as on 23 December 2009) which says that banks parked Rs40,000 crore through the reverse repo auction as against Rs90,000 crore on 14th December, a day before the payment of the third instalment of advance tax.

The FIEO president said that the inclination of the banks to lend to the larger corporates, increasing call money market rate (from around 2% at the previous closing to 3%-3.25% at present), and a possibility of increase in cash reserve ratio (CRR) would impact interest rates for the SME export sector.

Mr Sakthivel pointed out that the lending to the priority sector has dropped to 17.5% as against 22.7% last year while lending to services sector has seen a sharp fall to 11% from 33.7% last year, reflecting a higher risk perception.

"The RBI has already started the first phase of 'exit' in its October 2009 policy statement, though primarily in terms of signalling the stance rather than affecting the liquidity conditions or the interest rate. The evolving growth-inflation conditions will dictate the future course of action from the RBI," Shyamala Gopinath, deputy governor, RBI, had said.

Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) is currently lending at 11.25% to 13.25% per annum to the services sector.


Indian government shelves introduction of UTN

The finance ministry has not ruled out the possibility of introducing a new identity number like UTN from the next fiscal, in addition to PAN to ensure prompt verification and granting of tax credits to tax payers

The Indian government has decided to shelve the introduction of the Unique Transaction Number (UTN), which tax payers need to quote along with the Permanent Account Number (PAN) when tax is deducted or collected at source, reports PTI.

The scheme was to have come into force from the New Year.

However, the finance ministry has not ruled out the possibility of introducing a new identity number like UTN from the next fiscal, in addition to PAN, to ensure prompt verification and granting of tax credits to tax payers.

"The introduction of UTN, which was scheduled to be implemented from January 2010, has been shelved in all probability. The process of filing tax returns remains the same as earlier," a senior finance ministry official said.

A similar arrangement of having a new identity number is "under contemplation" but it would only happen from the next fiscal, the official said.

The government had earlier said the system of allotting UTN is "expected" to become operational by 1 January 2010.

The move to introduce UTN had invited concerns from tax payers as it would have brought in a slew of formalities for the tax payers, through their respective collectors and deductors, to avail the new number and file their returns on time.


Reality bites television in 2009 as social soaps take a backseat

Be it reality shows or reality-based soaps, the small screen in 2009 was all about getting close to people's lives, while fairy-tale sagas became history

Be it reality shows or reality-based soaps, the small screen this year was all about getting close to people's lives while fairy-tale sagas became history, reports PTI.

A horde of issue-based serials were prompted by 'Balika Vadhu' last year and 2009 saw daily soaps finally departing from the world of rich urban families to give way to more 'real' ones.

Shows which reflect the lives of people who actually watch them have become a fad now. Each one represents a certain problem, section or phenomenon in society, like 'Na Ana Is Des Lado' dealing with the issue of discrimination against the girl child and 'Uttaran', the rags-to-riches story of an orphan girl.

Some new shows have come up at the end of the year, like 'Pratigya' which has the female protagonist fighting against eve-teasing and 'Tere Mere Sapne' addressing the problem of people migrating from villages to cities in search of a living.

"We are not a ‘saas-bahu’ channel anymore. We have come up with new shows like 'Tere Mere Sapne' and 'Pratigya' in order to connect well with the audience," said Anupam Vasudev, executive vice-president for marketing, Star Plus.

Middle-class families and rural backgrounds have become a favourite with channels in an attempt to bring the audience closer to the shows.

"It’s as if our own life stories are being shown on TV," said Gayatri, a homemaker, who regularly watches '12/24 Karol Bagh', the story of a middle class family living in Delhi.

The rural setting and dialect has been skilfully utilised in 'Agle Janam Mohe Bitiya Hi Kijo', which has the female protagonist bearing the yoke of her family in a village in north India.

Interestingly, the series replaced the long running K-serial 'Kasamh Se' on the same channel.

"The serial bears the essence of the rural culture of India. The clothes we wear and the language we speak on the show is deeply connected to the soil," said Roopa Ganguly, who plays a major character in 'Agle Janam...'

There were some major innovations in terms of reality shows as well. Almost every aspect of human life has been explored this year in the form of some or the other reality show.

'Sach Ka Saamna' created a furore even in Parliament with people protesting against the show's way of making people confess the deepest secrets of their lives.

The hype around marriage was tactfully encashed in 'Perfect Bride', which brought two lives together and also executed the first real marriage on television.

Actress Rakhi Sawant gave the people of the nation a chance to become her fiancé in 'Rakhi Ka Swayamvar', which became one of the most popular reality shows of 2009. The show is going to have a second season with Rahul Mahajan, son of late politician Pramod Mahajan, looking for his prospective wife.

Family life became the subject of a reality show once again with Ms Sawant starring in 'Pati Patni Aur Woh', which also had other TV actors trying to manage an entire family. Ms Sawant, who found a life partner on a reality show, used another to dump him publicly, all this while managing good television rating points (TRPs) for the channel.

Former IPS officer Kiran Bedi is presented as a judge in 'Aap Ki Kachehri' to solve problems in lives of people and 'Raaz Pichhle Janam Ka' journeys back in time to establish the connection between the present and past lives of people.

As new concepts have come up, the popularity surrounding talent hunt shows have waned a bit. The third season of 'Bigg Boss' also could not generate much interest despite having megastar Amitabh Bachchan as its host.

Some older reality shows have held their forte on youth channels, like 'Roadies' and 'Splitsvilla', prompting other channels to come up with shows like 'Dare to Date' and 'Kidnap'.


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