After a closed-doors meeting between prime minister George Papandreou, opposition chief Antonis Samaras and head of state president Carolos Papoulias that lasted almost two hours, the statement was passed around to a waiting crowd of reporters from around the world that the prime minister would step down
Athens: Political leaders in Greece clinched a historic deal to form a national unity government to haul the debt-wracked country, and the Eurozone, back from the brink of disaster, reports PTI.
Prime minister George Papandreou crucially agreed to step down on Sunday, removing a key stumbling block which had held up an accord just hours before nervous financial markets reopen today with the euro in the line of fire.
“An agreement was reached to form a new government to immediately lead the country to elections after ratifying the decisions taken by the European Council,” the Greek president’s office said in a statement.
After a closed-doors meeting between Mr Papandreou, opposition chief Antonis Samaras and head of state president Carolos Papoulias that lasted almost two hours, the statement was passed around to a waiting scrum of reporters from around the world, causing a near-stampede.
“Prime minister George Papandreou has already stated that he will not lead the new government,” it added.
“Tomorrow there will be a new communication between the prime minister and the head of the opposition on the new prime minister and the new government.”
With patience in Europe and in Greece wearing thin, pressure had mounted throughout the day for an agreement that Mr Papandreou had said was needed to keep Greece in the Eurozone.
European leaders had become increasingly frustrated at the political impasse in Athens at a time when they want to press ahead with hard-won agreements reached in late October on tackling the Eurozone debt crisis.
The accord comes just ahead of a key Euro group finance ministers meeting today to discuss whether to release an eight billion euro ($11 billion) slice of bailout cash that Greek finance minister Evangelos Venizelos says is needed by 15th December to keep the country afloat.
There will likely be no let-up too in the pressure on Athens to implement stinging austerity measures in return for the cash payment, available under the first May 2010 Greek bailout package.
The new government will be tasked with implementing the terms of an October European Union (EU) bailout deal that calls for further harsh austerity measures on Greece, already at breaking point due to a shrinking economy and rapidly rising unemployment.
Greek media earlier tipped finance minister Mr Venizelos to take over from Mr Papandreou as the talks got bogged down for almost two days in a dangerous game of brinkmanship, with Samaras insisting on immediate elections, which Mr Papandreou resisted as too risky.
The damaging political stalemate threatened to see the country run out of cash within weeks after European leaders secured their hard-won overall Eurozone debt crisis accord at a summit late last month.
Greek business and church leaders piled the pressure on politicians to agree a national unity government as quickly as possible, saying the country’s future was at stake.
“The future of all of us for the next decade is being decided right now,” the Greek federation of enterprises said in a statement yesterday.
“The more the uncertainty lasts, the more the country is literally hanging by a thread,” the group said, calling for a “bold compromise of political maturity and national responsibility.”
Meanwhile, Constantinos Michalos, head of the Athens Chamber of Commerce, said the stalemate needed to be broken by yesterday, warning otherwise of dire consequences when the financial markets open again today.
“A solution is required immediately otherwise the country risks finding itself out of the Eurozone tomorrow,” said Mr Michalos.
Mr Papandreou set the ball rolling on Monday with a shock announcement that Greece would hold a referendum on the terms of its October bailout deal which calls for further fierce austerity measures.
The move stunned fellow European leaders, sent global markets into a tailspin and earned the Greek prime minister a humiliating dressing-down by the France and Germany on Wednesday ahead of a G20 meeting.
Entailing an expected investment of up to Rs40,000 crore, digitisation across the country will be completed by 2014 year-end after which the government would earn Rs30,000 crore each year on various accounts, including subscription
New Delhi: Digitisation of TV signals, which will give consumers much broader choice of channels at low price, will start in four metros from June next year, reports PTI.
Entailing an expected investment of up to Rs40,000 crore, digitisation across the country will be completed by 2014 year-end after which the government would earn Rs30,000 crore each year on various accounts, including subscription.
“It is generally a very big reform of the broadcasting industry,” information and broadcasting minister Ambika Soni told PTI in an interview.
She said the entire process of digitisation, that is to be implemented in phases, will be completed by 31 December 2014.
In the first step, the digitisation will be conducted in four metro cities by 1st June next year, two months after the target date set for it in a proposal approved by the Cabinet.
Explaining this delay, she said there was a provision for giving a six-month notice (after Cabinet decision). “So we are having to change it from 31st March, which was the time the metros had to (do), to 1st June. But it doesn’t disturb the rest of the schedule,” the minister said.
The current analog cable system offers consumers no choice of channels they can select. Generally, a single rate is charged from customers and the package is mostly of 80-90 channels.
Digital platforms will carry more channels and offer better quality. Digital cables have the capacity to carry up to 1,000 channels.
The move is expected to benefit broadcasters also as it will remove the need for paying carriage fee to cable operators, bringing down the cost of operations.
At present, carriage and placement fee contribute nearly 20% of the total cost of running a channel.
After digitisation, all satellite channels will be beamed to houses through set-top boxes.
“Earlier it was that the cable operators, those who had analog system, were not always onboard,” Ms Soni said, adding that it was “not an addressable system” as the government was losing out on revenue.
The I&B minister said digitisation would lead to an “addressable system” and that digital signals can be routed through cable operators who would have to go for the maximum investment of Rs3 lakh each for it. “They have welcomed it,” she added.
“It is also a step in favour of government. In the analog system, it was very difficult to tabulate government loses out on revenue,” she said.
By undertaking digitisation, the government expects to mop up revenues to the tune of Rs30,000 crore approximately per year, she said, adding that it would be on account of fees, subscription, etc.
The government has got Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on board and both are working together, she said.
On the financial implications, she said the process could involve investments between Rs20,000 crore to Rs40,000 crore and the issue has been referred to the Committee of Secretaries for sorting out.
“I think this would mean an investment obviously and people who have to do the investment were waiting for us to announce this policy,” Ms Soni said.
The I&B minister explained that some financial implications, which could be called incentives, could not be a part of a Cabinet note. “So, the Cabinet took a decision that all those issues would be looked at by a Committee of Secretaries headed by the cabinet secretary,” she said.
The committee, which also includes revenue secretary, IT secretary and I&B secretary, will give its considered view within a month.
When pointed out that the finance ministry had been hesitant in funding the project, Ms Soni said, “They are right.
The incentive type of suggestion should not really form part of the Cabinet note. So those have been put before a CoS under the cabinet secretary. They will discuss that and give the answers.”
The help that had been sought from the finance ministry was in the form of exemption of tariffs.
Ms Soni did not elaborate but sources said the ministry, in its proposal, had said all entities involved in digitisation be considered infrastructure service providers, and tax concessions be accorded to them till complete digitisation is done.
The I&B ministry had suggested measures like waiving the 5% duty on set-top boxes that would have to be imported and installed by the consumers.
The government has been thinking of raising funds through the buyback route as it has not been able to raise money through sale of equity in public sector units on account of uncertainty in the stock markets
New Delhi: The Disinvestment Department has prepared a list of cash-rich public sector undertakings (PSUs) which can buy back government equity and help it meet the ambitious Rs40,000 crore disinvestment target during the current fiscal, reports PTI.
The government has been thinking of raising funds through the buyback route as it has not been able to raise money through sale of equity in public sector units on account of uncertainty in the stock markets.
“The government is open to raise funds through the buyback route as part of the disinvestment exercise. We are thinking of innovative ways to meet the target,” a disinvestment ministry official told PTI.
Under the buyback mode, the government can raise money by selling its equity in the company to the concerned PSU itself.
The official said about two dozen PSUs have large surplus cash balance like SAIL, NMDC, ONGC, NTPC, Coal India, Oil India and MMTC.
Such companies may be asked to buy back about 5% equity from the shareholders. Under the current regulations, market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) allows companies to buy back their own equity from shareholders.
The official said the government is yet to decide on whether to adopt the auction route for stake sale in PSUs.
With only Rs1,145 crore in its kitty so far from disinvestment, there are apprehensions whether the mammoth target of Rs40,000 crore for this fiscal would be met.
Volatile stock market conditions have forced government to delay stake sale in PSUs. Global equity markets have been on a downside on fears of a slow recovery in the Eurozone economies as well as the debt crisis in US.
In view of uncertain market conditions, companies like SAIL and Hindustan Copper (HCL) have deferred fresh equity issue, though the government may still go ahead with its proposal to offload stake.
Last fiscal, the government raised Rs22,763 crore through sale of equity in public sector enterprises.