Monsoon shortfall does not pose too much threat to inflation: RBI deputy governor

RBI deputy governor Subir Gokarn stated that food inflation has become a significant negative feature of today’s economic environment, adding that food supply needs to be increased rapidly to tackle the persistent demand-supply imbalances

Chennai: The forecast of ‘below normal’ monsoon rains does not pose ‘too much threat’ to food inflation so long as the country's central part receives close to normal rains, reports PTI quoting a top Reserve Bank of India (RBI) official.

“The central part is where there is lot of concentration of pulses and cereals... If rainfall in that part of the country remains close to normal, I do not think there will be any pressure,” RBI deputy governor Subir Gokarn told reporters at the sidelines of a function here.

He said the Met Department’s prediction of 95% rainfall this year does not pose too much of a threat in terms of its impact on food inflation, adding that the RBI was keeping a close watch on cereals, oilseeds and pulses.

He, however, said it was too early to speculate on the impact of the monsoon on food inflation. The IMD has said monsoon rainfall is likely to be below normal at 95% of the Long Period Average, triggering concerns of a serious fallout on agricultural input. However, allaying the fears, Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee has said the projections are only a shade below the annual average.

Earlier, in his address at the 175th Annual General Meeting of the Madras Chamber of Commerce here, Mr Gokarn said food inflation, human capital, infrastructure and financial inclusion hold the key to India's sustainable growth.

Pointing to reforms measures taken in many areas for achieving sustainable growth, he, however, said action needs to be taken in many more areas on the basis of credible supporting evidence.

Food inflation has become a significant negative feature of today’s economic environment, he said, adding that food supply needs to be increased rapidly to tackle the persistent demand-supply imbalances.

“Production of relevant (food) items has to be increased... Cultivation risk has to be mitigated for farmers to find these products more attractive. Transportation, storage and distribution efficiency has to be increased to keep losses and distribution margins down,” he said.

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Crisil projects higher road toll charges, more inflation pain this year

Rating agency expects toll revenues to grow by 20% in 2011-12; positive impact on ratings of toll road projects in the short term

If rising food prices and loan rates are not enough to shake your budget, prepare to spend more on account of higher road toll tax.

Rating agency, Crisil has projected road toll revenues to grow by 20% in the current financial year, mainly due to growing inflation. This suggests that consumers should expect an increase in toll payments through the current year. The concession agreement in the road sector allows hiking the toll rates, linked to inflation movements, which in the past 12 months was at an average 9.5%.

"The revenues of operational toll-road projects stand to benefit from the prevailing high-inflationary environment, given that revisions in toll rates are linked to movements in inflation indices, and traffic growth is relatively inelastic," Crisil said in a statement on Thursday.

This is bound to have a major impact on consumers, who are already reeling under high interest costs and inflation, as they will have to pay more for increased road tax charges.

According to the rating agency, this high growth in revenue along with low operation costs for toll roads, will improve the cash flow and debt repayment capacity of toll roads. Subsequently, this could positively impact ratings for toll road projects in the short term. But at the same time prices of tolls would be increased. Maintenance and upgradation are the two primary expenses for toll roads, which generally range between 25%-30% of revenues.

Crisil studied the impact of the present inflationary environment on revenues of 21 toll road projects already in operation. Accordingly, the cumulative toll revenue for the previous fiscal 2010-11 for these projects stood at Rs10 billion. The projects include GVK, GMR, IL&FS Transport, Ashoka Buildcon and Nagarjuna Construction.

Pawan Agrawal, director, Crisil Ratings, said "Crisil believes that revenues for these road projects will grow by 20% in the current year 2011-12. This growth will be contributed almost equally by revisions in toll rates and an expected rise in traffic volumes based on our estimates of nearly 8% growth in the Indian economy."

Crisil also expects a 10% growth in road traffic. "The growth in traffic on India's roads so far has been largely inelastic, primarily on account of monopolistic features of roads (given the paucity of quality alternative roads), and its close linkage with economic activity. Road traffic should, therefore, continue to grow at nearly 10% in 2011-12."

The rating agency remains cautious on the outlook of toll road projects due to long- term risks, mainly a slowdown in economic activity, which can affect the traffic growth as they are interlinked. Another reason is that consumers' may resist paying more, as so far they have accepted the increased rates.

Crisil also believes that the increasing interest rate environment can put pressure on the cash flows of roads, as most infrastructure projects are usually of high leverage. "Tapping the debt capital markets can provide operational road projects with an effective avenue to refinance their variable rate bank loans, with long-tenure, fixed-rate bonds," Mr Agrawal says.

Recently, the toll charges on the Pune-Mumbai Expressway (now called Yashwantrao Chavan Expressway) were increase by 18%, from Rs140 to Rs165 (for cars). Moneylife columnist and Pune-based Right to Information (RTI) activist, Vinita Deshmukh exposed how Ideal Road Builders, awarded the contract of operation, maintenance and toll collection of the e-way (and NH-IV), has been allowed to collect tolls till the end of its contract, despite having already recovered its investment amount, with a hike in the toll charges at regular intervals of three years. (Read, "The grand Expressway robbery: How much toll is IRB allowed to collect and who monitors this?")

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Tata Technologies opens engineering centre

The new centre has been envisioned to cater to the company's growing global portfolio of clients in the automotive, aerospace and construction/heavy engineering verticals

Tata Technologies announced the opening of its new global engineering centre in Bangalore.

The new centre has been envisioned to cater to the company's growing global portfolio of clients in the automotive, aerospace and construction/heavy engineering verticals, engaging high-end engineering talent available here, the company said in a statement.

"While we have been active here for the last few years, we want to significantly ramp-up in Bangalore, keeping in mind the large pool of qualified engineering and IT professionals who prefer living and working in Bangalore", Tata Technologies President (Global Delivery) Gopinath Jayaraj said.

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