Washington: Amid mounting concerns over the move to hike the H-1B and L1 visa fee, the US has said it could have an adverse impact on Indian companies and efforts were underway to mitigate it reports PTI.
However, Washington exuded confidence that the long-term economic partnership with India would continue to deepen and strengthen.
"We understand the government of India's concerns. We realise it could impact Indian companies that invest in the US and we also understand the potential impact on Indians who work in the US as well as some American businesses," State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said.
But, he added, that the US was confident that its long-term economic partnership with India would continue to deepen and provide benefits for both societies.
The proposed increase in visa application fee by at least $2,000 for next five years would raise nearly $550 million out of $650 million that have been allocated for increasing the security of the US-Mexico border.
These fee increases would apply only to companies with more than 50 employees and for whom the majority of their workforce is visa-holding foreign workers.
A summary of a Senate version of the bill named Indian firms Wipro, Tata, Infosys and Satyam, which use hundreds of these visas for their employees coming to the United States to work at their clients' locations as technicians and engineers.
Nasscom estimates that Indian companies, mostly IT, apply for 50,000 visas every year, including H-1B and L1 visas, besides renewal of old visas.
When asked about New Delhi's plans to take the US to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on the visa fee hike issue, Mr Toner said, "It is within India's purview to do that."
"I think we remain cognisant of the effect that this legislation may have on India, and we're going to try to work with them to mitigate it. But beyond that, I don't have a reaction. I mean, we have got a robust economic partnership with India," Mr Toner said.
The steep increase in visa fee of certain categories of H-1B and L1 visas was part of the $600 million border security bill signed by the US president Barack Obama to strengthen security along the US-Mexico border.
"This is a grave mistake during a time of economic weakness for the nation. Congress should deregulate visas, not burden their users with more regulations and fees," said Alex Nowrasteh, a policy analyst at Washington-based Competitive Enterprise Institute, said in The Boston Globe. He said that protectionist aspects of the legislation were worrying.
Mr Nowrasteh said: "Many foreign technology companies—including Indian giants Wipro, Infosys Technologies, and Tata—outsource thousands of technology workers to the US. They will bear the brunt of these new fees, which will discourage investment in the US and could lead to further protectionist measures worldwide".
"Highly skilled foreign workers were also a boon to public finances. Non-immigrant Indian H1B workers contribute over $1 billion a year in Social Security payments that they don't receive back in benefits," he said.
He argued that instead of raising fees and expanding regulatory costs, lawmakers should do away with workplace inspections, fees, quotas, and other restrictions.
"The economic case for the free movement of labour is as compelling as that for goods and services. In a faltering economy, it is more important than ever," he argued.
State-owned banks simply do not allocate capital to the most efficient and profitable enterprises
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are United States government-sponsored mortgage firms. Often seen as the originators of the subprime mortgage crisis in the US, these two quasi-governmental organisations need more money. They have requested an additional $1.8 billion from the US government, which brings the total to $148.3 billion since the financial crisis began.
How did a staid, quiet, boring government-related financial institution get into this mess? The answer is simple. Government banks simply don't work. The economic purpose of banks in a market economy is to help investors or depositors allocate capital to the most efficient and profitable enterprises. In a recession, their job is to eliminate as quickly as possible inefficient or failed businesses for the least amount of loss.
State-owned banks and other state financial institutions simply cannot do this. It is bad enough that politicians allow public funds to follow political power. It is far worse that politicians force banks to allocate depositor money to the politically connected rather than the financially successful.
The problem is not just in the US. It is everywhere. There is hardly a country where a state-owned bank either has or will create a financial crisis. It is not a question of culture or the ability of a legal system to regulate the financial industry.
Politicians are the legal system. They make the laws. They create the regulations. They control the regulators. If they want public or depositor money to go to a particular segment of the economy, it goes to that segment regardless of its economic potential.
Fannie and Freddie were able to bend the rules because of their close relationship with Congress. The extent of their interrelationships was exposed as far back as 2007 when they were fined a record $3.8 million for using corporate resources to support the campaigns of 85 members of Congress. The fine did not even slow their path to ruin and political clout insured no supervision.
One would think that the tidy Germans could manage to sustain strong banks, but the system of Landesbanken, independent state banks jointly owned by the state governments and the savings banks, have been a constant sore. As far back as 1987 they set up a 'bad bank' to deal with troubled loans. They went through major restructuring in 2002 and 2005 attempting to get rid of billions of euros in bad loans. Protected by state guarantees they happily gobbled up subprime mortgage products and created off-balance sheet vehicles. Of course two of the Landesbanken were among the few banks to fail the recent European stress tests and others refused to disclose details.
It is not just the developed countries. In Brazil, the country's state-owned development bank, BNDES, has been called "the best bank in the world". The reality is quite different. Like China, Brazil's government used the public banks to pump money into the Brazilian economy. In 2009 private bank lending grew only 10% while loans from public banks rose by 50% and most of that was from BNDES. Like China the loans from BNDES do not go to efficient smaller enterprises, who hire the most people. Instead they go to the largest and
best-connected firms. Four-fifths of its loans go to large companies. Often these are state-owned firms like Brazil's oil giant Petrobras. BNDES is subsidised, which makes it difficult for private banks to compete. Considering the amount of new lending and the potential for political interference, there is no doubt that bad debts will mount.
Finally the worst of the worst is China. We discovered recently that Wall Street is not the only place that specialises in off-balance sheet securitised loans. Last year Chinese state-owned banks lent an incredible 9.6 trillion yuan ($1.4 trillion). The Chinese are trying to slow the lending down. Their target for 2010 is 'only' 7.5 trillion ($1.1 trillion). The estimate of lending in the first half of the year is $4.6 trillion yuan ($680 billion).
Under the regulations lending by Chinese banks is limited to their capital ratios. But the banks found a way around the regulations. Like banks on Wall Street, Chinese banks securitised the loans and sold them to Chinese trust companies and so removed the loans from their books and from the credit ratios. The result is that the level of Chinese loans for 2010 is 1.3 trillion yuan ($192 billion) higher than realised.
The extra money not only exacerbated the real-estate bubble and inflation, but will no doubt lead to a massive amount of new bad loans. Worse, in order to avoid inflation, the Chinese authorities may have to try harder to tighten an out-of-control money supply. Whatever the reaction, the result will not be pretty. Also like Wall Street, China's financial problems will not stay at home.
Kolkata: The roll-out of much-awaited third generation (3G) services by mobile service providers will lead to increase in the number of Internet Telephony Service Providers and sharp reduction in International Long Distance (ILD) call rates due to mobile voice over internet protocol (VOIP) service, reports PTI quoting a top official of a VOIP company.
"Mobile phone customers with 3G subscriptions will be able to replace high cost ILD calls by making VOIP calls for as little as one-tenth to one-eighth of the cost with the introduction of the mobile VOIP applications by ITSP," said Sanjit Chatterjee, director global marketing and strategy, Reve Systems of Singapore.
To make cheap ILD calls over mobile VOIP, all a mobile phone user has to do is download the 100 kb application iTel mobile dialler developed by Reve Systems, the global pioneer in VOIP, says Mr Chatterjee.
A typical voice call from an Indian mobile user’s phone can be made by dialling out a mobile or a fixed line number from the mobile phone book using Reve’s mobile Dialler.
The call travels over the data line of mobile service provider or Wi-Fi network and terminates at caller’s desired phone using last mile connectivity of his service provider, say an AT&T in the USA or an Orange in Europe.
An ILD call to say a country like the USA would normally cost Rs8-Rs10 per minute can now be made using a Mobile VoIP service at just Re1 per minute or lower, he claimed.
Mr Chatterjee claimed Reve has a customer base of 1200-plus ISPs in over 50 countries where 3G services are being offered currently and the 100 KB iTel Mobile Dialler has been downloaded in over 30 million mobile phones in 50 countries of the world.
Mobile VoIP is gaining ground globally, he claimed and said in October, 2009 AT&T in the US allowed its iPhone users to use iPhone VoIP application on its 3G network, responding to surging customer demand (earlier, iPhone users on AT&T network could use the mobile VoIP application only through Wi-Fi connectivity).
"Reve’s mobile VoIP dialler is versatile, has easy user interface and built in tunnelling capability," he added.
Reve’s iTel Mobile Dialler Express, is the category leader in Mobile VoIP, enables service providers to offer seamless Mobile VoIP experience to end users. iTel Mobile Dialler was named product of the year by Internet Telephony magazine in 2009.
Reve is also a member of Symbian Foundation and part of iPhone, BlackBerry developer community. The company is headquartered in Singapore with offices in Bangladesh, India and the UK.