'India recovering well; quota in IMF board to go up'

Washington: International Monetary Fund (IMF) head Dominique Strauss-Kahn has said the Indian economy is recovering well and New Delhi would get higher quota in the IMF board, review of which is currently underway, reflecting its enhanced economic standing, reports PTI.

"Indian quota in the IMF board should be higher. I think that the solution that would be chosen will increase not only the quota of India, but also ranking of India among the 187 countries," the IMF managing director Strauss-Kahn said yesterday.

Despite the increase in quota for India it would still be argued by some that this increase is not enough, he said, adding that this change in quota is not the end of the game as there would be another round of review in the next few years.

"It is a step by step process," Mr Strauss-Kahn, told a group of reporters ahead of the next week's annual meeting of the IMF and the World Bank.

The Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee would lead the Indian delegation for the meeting.

Mr Strauss-Kahn said the IMF has provided various scenarios to its members on how to resolve the voting shares issue.

A solution could come at the annual meeting or at a Group of Twenty (G-20) conference in South Korea later this year, he said.

"The Indian recovery is doing well. There are still concerns about inflationary risks and the banking sector — but I am rather happy with the way India is going out of this crisis," Mr Strauss-Kahn said, adding that he had a very good discussion with the Indian delegation, including the governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), at the last meeting.

"Globally the Indian economy, as most of the Asian economies, is getting out of this crisis in a nice way. There are some concerns which are well known, which haven't changed a lot with the crisis, including the question of opening or not public debt to foreign creditors," he said in response to a question.

"I can understand the reluctance of the Indian authorities to open this. That question we are going to discuss with them (Indian delegations) again," Mr Strauss-Kahn added.

Globally, I see the Indian economy doing well in the coming few years, the IMF chief said.


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.


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