Govt trying to build consensus on reforms, FDI in retail: FM

“Commitment on FDI, PFRDA all the major legislations, which are part of the new generation reforms, are very much in the mind of the government. We are working hard to build consensus,” finance minister Pranab Mukherjee said

New Delhi: Expressing commitment to push forward economic reforms, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee Friday said the government is making efforts to build a consensus on important economic legislations, including PFRDA and foreign investment in multi-brand retail, reports PTI.

“Commitment on foreign direct investment (FDI), PFRDA (Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority) all the major legislations, which are part of the new generation reforms, are very much in the mind of the government. We are working hard to build consensus,” he said while speaking on the annual general meeting of the industry chamber PHDCCI.

The minister said the government wanted to push the PFRDA Bill, but could not do so because the UPA did not have the requisite numbers in the Rajya Sabha.

“We decided to have PFRDA legislated in this session of Parliament but could not do so ...not because of lack of intention or commitment... you have to recognise the very hard fact that legislation requires numbers which unfortunately Indian electorate has not given to us,” Mr Mukherjee said.

The PFRDA Bill, which seeks to increase participation of domestic and foreign players in the pension sector, has been pending with Parliament for past several years. According to reports, UPA ally Trinamool Congress has been opposing the Pension Reforms Bill.

On FDI in multi-brand retail, which has been put on hold, Mr Mukherjee said, “Sometimes we have problems and it creates confusion that even after announcement of a policy, government has to stop ...that does not mean that we have shelved it”.

Referring to growth prospects in the current fiscal, he said that the economy is likely to clock a growth of about 7.5%. "When I am talking of 7.5% I am not disappointed... situation is difficult... at the same time we have the capacity and resilience to overcome the difficulty.”

The economy grew by 8.5% in 2010-11.

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2G case: Raja accuses CBI of creating “false witness”

Senior advocate Sunil Kumar, contended that Aseervatham Achary’s Thursday statement of being threatened by a person sitting in the court room was a ‘drama’ which was intended to influence the pending bail petition of Mr Raja’s former private secretary and co-accused RK Chandolia which would be heard by the Supreme Court on 2nd January

New Delhi: A Raja, former telecom minister and the key accused in the second generation (2G) scam, on Friday accused the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in a Delhi court of making his ex-aide Aseervatham Achary a “false witness” to depose against him, reports PTI.

“He is a created false witness and this is my ultimate case,” senior advocate Sushil Kumar, who is defending Mr Raja, contended before special CBI judge OP Saini.

Mr Achary, Mr Raja’s former additional private secretary and a key CBI witness in the case, in his deposition gave details of how Mr Raja was in regular touch with other accused corporate honchos and their companies which were granted spectrum in violation of law.
Mr Kumar, cross examining the witness, further contended that Mr Achary’s Thursday statement of being threatened by a person sitting in the court room was a ‘drama’ which was intended to influence the pending bail petition of Mr Raja’s former private secretary and co-accused RK Chandolia which would be heard by the Supreme Court on 2nd January.

“This whole drama was meant for 2nd January when Mr Chandolia’s bail is coming in the Supreme Court as he (Mr Achary) told the court that the person threatening him was sitting with Chandolia,” Mr Kumar further said.

At this stage, the judge wanted to know whether Mr Achary had earlier complained about any threat to his life.

“He (Mr Achary) did not say anything earlier and had he said it then it would have been on record and many of them (accused) would not have got bail,” the judge said.

Mr Raja, who had refused for over a month to cross-examine witnesses saying he would not do so till CBI files its third charge-sheet and completes its probe in the case, started his defence Thursday by questioning Mr Achary.

The CBI had filed the third charge-sheet on 12th December after which Mr Raja had said that he will cross examine witnesses only when public servants depose on the issue of government policy.

Mr Raja had posed several questions to Mr Achary ranging from his conversation with former corporate lobbyist Niira Radia to frequently changing his residence and mobile numbers.

Mr Achary had Thursday complained to the judge that he was receiving threats from a person present in the courtroom who was sitting with Mr Chandolia in the morning.

The man, who had tried to run away, was caught but was released in the evening after the Delhi police found no ground to arrest him after interrogating him.

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Price hike, cost-efficiency mantra for FMCG companies: 2011 Review

Despite the challenges, the Indian FMCG market is expected to grow at rate of 10% over the next 10 years and reach a size of Rs4,13,000 crore ($92 billion) by 2015 and Rs6,65,000 crore ($148 billion) by 2020, according to a report by industry body FICCI

New Delhi: In a year marked by high inflation and skyrocketing commodity prices, ‘price hike’ was the name of the game for the Indian fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector in 2011, even as they consolidated businesses acquired in the past, reports PTI.
Unlike the previous year, mergers and acquisitions took a backseat and cost-efficiency was a focus area to sustain strong volume growth this year.

Companies took greater interest in penetrating into rural areas and boosting the consumer sentiment, while ‘premiumisation’ was a key strategy employed during the year to tap the growing middle-class segment.

Amid the tough environment, Coca-Cola committed a $2 billion investment in the country over the next five years, primarily to enhance its manufacturing capacities. This is almost the same amount it has invested in India since its entry in 1993.

“The greatest challenge for FMCG companies this year was managing inflation and the high volatility of currency and other commodities. Companies have managed this through a combination of effective cost management and price increases,” Dabur India chief executive officer Sunil Duggal told PTI.

During the year most leading FMCG companies, including Hindustan Unilever (HUL), Procter & Gamble, Reckitt Benckiser, Godrej Consumer Products (GCPL), Marico and Dabur, hiked prices of their products by as much as 10%.

As a result, major soap brands, including HUL’s Lux, Lifebuoy and Pears and Godrej’s Cinthol and Godrej No. 1, saw an increase in their prices. Companies said soaps were the most impacted category because of high palm oil prices, a key ingredient in the product.

Despite the price hikes, experts said the sector was able to sustain a volume growth of 9%-10%, thanks to the focus on affordable and small pack sizes. In addition, companies also talked about widening their premium products portfolio to tap the high-end of the segment.

“Volumes remained strong despite the challenges. Input costs were stiff throughout the year and most players came up with low price points, affordable range and lower SKUs by reducing the grammage (weight) with the semi-urban and rural population in mind,” India Infoline Research analyst Vanmala said.

Despite the challenges, according to a report by industry body FICCI, the Indian FMCG market is expected to grow at rate of 10% over the next 10 years and reach a size of Rs4,13,000 crore ($92 billion) by 2015 and Rs6,65,000 crore ($148 billion) by 2020.

It is presently estimated to be worth about Rs2,60,000 crore ($58 billion), contributing 4.8% to the GDP (gross domestic product).

“We believe in the long-term opportunities in India. We are excited about the opportunities and we are committed on the $2 billion investment plans for the next five years,” Coca-Cola India president and CEO Atul Singh said.

Given the current uncertainty, FMCG companies are likely to take cautious steps in the New Year as they try to maintain the growth momentum in the days ahead.

“Further headwinds are coming in the next year in the form of further volatility in currency, inflation above acceptable levels and elections in key states. These will determine the state of the economy and we look up to the new year with cautious optimism,” Dabur’s Mr Duggal said.

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