No investment of PF money in stocks without govt guarantee

New Delhi: The labour ministry has said that it can invest part of the Rs5 lakh crore provident fund corpus in the stock market provided the finance ministry guarantees safety of the workers' money, reports PTI.

The finance ministry has been insisting that a part of the Employees' Provident Fund should be invested in equities to earn better returns but the move has been resisted by the labour ministry apprehending high risk attached with such investments.

"... If the investment in the capital market is so good, then there should be no problem for the government to provide a guarantee regarding the safety of the workers' capital funds and a reasonable rate of return on the capital," labour secretary P C Chaturvedi said in a letter to finance secretary Ashok Chawla.

The Central Board of Trustees (CBT), the highest policy making body of the Employees Provident Fund Orgnisation (EPFO), headed by the labour minister, had expressed its reservation on investing retirement fund in stock markets at its meeting on 15th September last.

The finance ministry had wanted the labour ministry to bypass the CBT and make enabling provisions to allow provident funds to invest part of their corpus in stock market.

Earlier in July, in a letter to Mr Chaturvedi, Mr Chawla referred to the changes by EPF schemes earlier without any discussion in the Central Board of Trustees (CBT) and said, "it (labour ministry) can take a similar view on the issue of investment pattern."

However, the labour ministry forwarded the letter to EPFO to take a view on the matter and the trustee decided not to invest in stock market last month.

The finance ministry wants the labour ministry to follow investment pattern notified by it in August, 2008, which provides for investing up to 15% of the corpus in stock markets.

Whereas the EPFO commands a corpus of Rs3 lakh crore, other provident funds, which follow the fund's investment pattern, have another Rs2 lakh crore.

Mr Chaturvedi said, "The CBT is not convinced about the welfare of the employees ... through the new investment pattern, which involves investment of at least 5% of the accretion each year, in the capital market whether through money market funds, mutual funds or the stock market."

Pointing out that EPFO trustees' decision is supreme as they are custodian of the poor workers money, Mr Chaturvedi said, "CBT have been given a responsibility of ensuring the safety of the capital of workers and also ensure reasonable returns.

Therefore the final decision with regard to investment of EPF corpus lies with them."


TRAI to rework tariffs; seeks industry, consumer views

New Delhi: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Thursday initiated an exercise to rework telecom tariffs for mobile as well as basic services, a move that may further bring down charges, especially in the long distance segment, reports PTI.

TRAI's initiative assumes significance in the wake of rising number of promotional offers and increasing competition in the telecom market. It has received representations from consumers against the multiplicity of plans in the market, leading to confusion among consumers.

Regulations bar a service provider from offering more than 25 tariff plans in a service area at any given time.

TRAI has issued a consultation paper, "Certain Issues relating to Telecom Tariffs", and has sought views from all stakeholders including operators by 15th November.

TRAI move coincides with the government plans to merge all 22 telecom circles (states) into one in order to slash roaming charges. The Department of Telecom (DoT) is likely to consider the proposal soon.

TRAI has specified a standard tariff package for rural fixed line services which the service providers are mandated to offer to the customers in addition to any alternate tariff packages.

According to some of the operators, there is a scope for reducing termination charges, a charge paid by an operator on whose network call ends to the one from whose network call originates. If this happens, call charges are likely to fall further from current levels.

The tariff plans offered by the service providers have different component of rent and call charges, processing fee, talk time and value added services etc.
Adequate price transparency is crucial for the correct operation of an efficient and competitive market.

Sometimes it becomes difficult for consumers to find, understand and use the information available on the market in order to make decisions on the choice of service provider and/or tariff packages that best meet their needs.

The transparency of tariff in telecom sector is necessary to protect interests of consumers and to facilitate further growth of telecom services in India.

The highest number of tariff plans in a service area in respect of GSM prepaid category is 39 (Bihar and Mumbai) and the average number is 27. Whereas, in case of CDMA prepaid category, the 22 highest number of tariff plans is 18 (MP and Punjab) and the average number is 12.

In respect of GSM post paid, the highest number of tariff plans is 95 (Mumbai) and the average number is 61. In respect of CDMA post paid, the highest number of tariff plans is 38 (Punjab) and the average number is 27.


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