India seeks Germany's nod to share black money info with ED

New Delhi: India has asked Germany to allow it to share information on black money, allegedly stashed by 18 Indians in LGT Bank, with the Enforcement Directorate (ED) that investigates violations of foreign exchange norms, reports PTI.

Germany had helped India last year in unearthing Rs44 crore in untaxed money, stashed by these 18 Indians, in LGT Bank in the European tax haven of Liechtenstein.

Penalty proceedings were initiated against these people and a total tax demand of Rs24 crore has been raised against them. However, India needs Germany's clearance to further share the information provided by that country, with the ED.

"Indian competent authority under the DTAA has requested the German competent authority to allow it to share the information with Indian Directorate of Enforcement ... The matter is under consideration of German competent authority," finance minister Pranab Mukherjee said in the Rajya Sabha today.

He said the article concerning 'exchange of information' of Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) with Germany does not provide for sharing of information with ED.

India is already in talks with many countries to revise the DTAAs to prevent tax evasion and strengthen 'exchange of information' norms.

"India has taken steps to re-negotiate all existing DTAAs to revise article concerning Exchange of Information to specifically provide for exchange of banking information," minister of state for finance S S Palanimanickam said in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha.

Responding to a query on flow of illegitimate funds in the country, he said the government has proposed to review the India-Mauritius DTAA to prevent treaty shopping and strengthen information exchange.

Treaty shopping refers to a deal where a third country resident takes advantage of the provisions of the DTAA between two countries to reduce his tax liability.

Mr Palanimanickam said a joint working group comprising members from the governments of India and Mauritius has had six rounds of meetings since it was constituted in 2006 to put in place adequate safeguards to prevent misuse of the DTAA.

"Consistent efforts are being made by the Indian government to find mutually acceptable solutions for addressing India's concerns," he said.


Mines ministry favours continuing with iron ore exports

New Delhi: Amid inter-ministerial differences on export of iron ore, the ministry of mines today feared that banning overseas sale of the ore would lead to job loss, but said it would abide by the decision of a Group of Ministers (GoM), reports PTI.

"In 2009-10, only 90 million tonnes of iron ore were consumed out of 218 million tonnes produced. Whereas, 128 million tonnes of iron ore were exported. Thus, there is a surplus production of iron ore," B K Handique, minister of mines, said in the Lok Sabha during Question Hour.

Most of the exported iron ore is in the form of iron ore fines for which Indian does not have any technology to process it, the minister said.

"So, in that case what we can do. If we do not export the produced fines, which are generated as part of the mining process, it would result in pollution and impede the mining process.

"Therefore, the immediate need is to develop a technology that can process the iron ore fines. Sudden stoppage of production of iron ore, as a result of ban on exports, would also give a rise to loss of employment," Mr Handique said.

A Group of Ministers has been constituted to consider Draft Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Bill, 2010 and is likely to submit its recommendations soon.

As far as conflicting views of different ministries are concerned, the minister said there are different views expressed by various ministries based on their perception.

"My ministry has, however, kept an open mind and whatever decision is taken, we shall abide by it. But our only concern is that there must be a technology to process iron ore fines in the country so that we could create an environment for employment," he said.

A member had pointed out that the steel and law ministries were in favour of banning the exports iron ore, while the commerce ministry was for continuing with exports and the finance ministry was neutral on the matter.


Allow 100% FDI in multi-brand retail: Carrefour to govt

New Delhi: Promising to create a strong infrastructure and thousands of jobs in India, French retail major Carrefour has called for allowing 100% foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand stores, and said that the move would ease inflationary pressures, reports PTI.

The government has taken a tentative step to open the politically sensitive sector, which employs 34 million people, to global players with the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) releasing a discussion paper on the issue.

"Any cap or restriction on FDI in this sector may result in potential loss of opportunities and avenues of inclusive growth of the retail sector," Carrefour has said in its suggestions recently to the industry ministry.

It, however, said if the government wants staggered opening of the sector, the FDI cap should be kept such that a foreign retailer is "entitled to make a minimum of 51% investment with rights to manage the company...".

The firm said each store of 50,000-60,000 sq ft sales area could provide about 200 direct and 250 indirect jobs.

"As per our estimates, if Carrefour starts its retail operations in India, in about 10 years, we would provide direct and indirect employment opportunities to approximately 20,000 people in the stores itself," the firm said.

While global players like USA's Wal-Mart and German-Metro want the government to completely open the sector to foreign investments, Indian business chambers like Ficci and Assocham favour calibrated liberalisation.

India allows foreign investment only in single-brand retail, with FDI cap of 51%.

Carrefour said, "(FDI in multi-brand retail) will help in controlling the inflation rate by offering more competitive and rationalised prices of products to consumers and reduction of wastage across India's farm-to-fork supply chain," it said.

Inflation in India is hovering at about 10%.

The French firm said that improving supply chain and logistics will enable retailers to enhance overall competitiveness, decrease the prices offered to consumers and reduce wastage.

"Carrefour has plans to built appropriate back-end infrastructure to support the retail operations," it said.

The back-end infrastructure includes contract farming, local sourcing, cold chains and other logistic supports.

As per estimates, India loses fruits and vegetables worth thousands of crore rupees annually due to lack of proper cold chains and back-end infrastructure.


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