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According to some experts, the least that needs to be done is that UIDAI should make a comprehensive case to justify why what was rejected in the UK is good for India
The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has been busy assembling bits and bytes for its ambitious citizen identification (ID) project. However, in another part of the world, a similar identification project has now been scrapped by none other than the UK government. This has given a boost to pro-privacy architects in India who are worried about the privacy implications of the UID project.
The scrapping of the National ID programme by the new government in the UK was not unexpected. Many people, organisations and even some politicians were questioning the viability of the NID project. According to a BBC report, the NID scheme was aimed at tackling fraud, illegal immigration and identity theft—but it was criticised for being too expensive and an infringement of civil liberties.
Theresa May, UK's home secretary, was quoted as saying that the NID will be abolished within 100 days with all cards becoming invalid. The new government would put legislation to this effect before Parliament with an aim to make it a law by August. Around 15,000 people who voluntarily paid £30 for a card since the 2009 rollout in Manchester, will not get a refund, the BBC report says.
What’s interesting is that the UK government has cited higher costs, impracticality and ungovernable breaches of privacy as reasons for cancellation of the NID project. These reasons may have a similar kind of impact in India as well.
According to some experts, the least that needs to be done is that UIDAI should make a comprehensive case to justify why what was rejected in the UK is good for India. They feel surprised about why the media has not publicised the reports that the UK has rejected the UID primarily because of concerns regarding civil liberties.
"One hopes that the UID-related contracts awarded already to E&Y and MindTree do not have any lingering after-effects, should commonsense (we don't have a great track record in commonsense, especially where money is concerned, but it's never too late to hope) hit our government and the UID agency be asked to pack up its tents," said one expert.
While announcing the abolition of NID in the UK, Ms May said, “This Bill is a first step of many that this government is taking to reduce the control of the state over decent, law-abiding people and hand power back to them. With swift Parliamentary approval, we aim to consign identity cards and the intrusive ID card scheme to history within 100 days."
Back home, according to UIDAI, the first UID numbers will be issued from August 2010. Over five years, the Authority plans to issue 600 million UIDs. The numbers will be issued through various ‘registrar’ agencies across the country, UIDAI said on its website.
Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee had sanctioned Rs1,900 crore for the UIDAI in his budget for FY10-11. According to a document on UID numbering available on UIDAI's site, systems that are to be as widely used and for multiple different applications as UID, tend to be very sticky in the sense that these systems would be in active use for centuries. Once a billion plus people have been assigned a UID, and applications using the UID to conduct their transactions are evolved, anything that requires modifications to existing software applications and databases will cost a lot.
Over eight years, the UK government spent around £250 million on developing the national ID programme. However, its abolition means the government will avoid spending another £800 million over a decade. The NID was launched in July 2002 and as of February 2010, its total costs rose to an estimate of £4.5 billion.
The Cost of the UID project may not be a hindrance for the Indian government, whose accounts are flush with money from the 3G auction, but what about its impact on civil liberties? Will there be a comprehensive discussion on the subject? One can only hope that the Indian government and the UIDAI closely study the reasons for the UK government’s decision to scrap its National ID project and then provide compelling reasons for India to go ahead with its UID project.
According to the Sovereign Brands Survey, Egypt, Germany, Brazil and China are among the most familiar and the most favourable
India has been placed alongside the US and the UK as the least familiar and least favourable to sovereign wealth fund (SWF) investment, a new survey has revealed, reports PTI.
According to the Sovereign Brands Survey, conducted by research and communications strategy consultants Hill & Knowlton and Penn Schoen Berland, Egypt, Germany, Brazil and China are among the most familiar and the most favourable.
The survey looks at the factors on which SWFs intended to invest in their country or industries.
Stephen Davie, Hill & Knowlton's head of financial communications in the Middle East, said: "Despite being considered one of the least volatile forms of investment compared to other sources of capital, it is surprising that low familiarity still drives low favourability towards this type of funding.
The survey results show by working on their reputation and by increasing awareness of their SWFs is a key step for Middle East countries looking to open up significant investment opportunities."
The survey identified transparency as essential, 72% citing this as very important, closely followed by accountability (68%) and good governance (65%).
Dubai did not score well on transparency with Western countries—only 3% of UK, 9% of the US and 14% of German respondents believing its SWFs to be transparent.
Asian countries had a more positive view with 29% of Chinese and 30% of Indian elites having confidence in Dubai's approach.
Nearly three quarters (73%) of elites would approve of investment coming from Dubai, according to the Sovereign Brands Survey 2010, the most extensive study into the attitudes of global broad elites to sovereign wealth as a concept, the reputation of host nations and sovereign wealth funds (SWFs).
The study interviewed elites in seven markets on their views of 19 host countries and their SWFs.
Nearly all (98%) of the respondents felt the reputation of the country directly influences the reputation of SWFs.
It also identified that lack of familiarity with SWFs may lead to suspicion about the overall objectives of the funds.
The survey showed that knowledge of Dubai is still low.
When elites were asked whether they thought Dubai shares their values, only 1% of the respondents from Germany believed this to be true, while it was 3% in the UK and 5% in the US, compared with 84% in Egypt.
Most countries have a positive view of investment from Dubai, and when asked about the areas they would like to see Dubai investing, the respondents pointed to construction, leisure and finance.
Joel Levy, chief executive officer, Penn Schoen Berland, EMEA, said: "The economic downturn has created a real opportunity for sovereign wealth funds.
SWF's images are largely determined by country reputation, and despite low familiarity and concerns over transparency, broad elites see SWFs as least likely to have contributed to the recent market turmoil.
This puts sovereign wealth funds in a prime position to consider their positioning and reputation in contrast to other funds and asset classes.
The Central Statistics Organisation also revised upwards the growth rates for Q2 and Q3 of 2009-10 on better-than-expected performance by manufacturing, mining and quarrying industries
Driven by a robust performance by the manufacturing sector, the Indian economy grew by 8.4% in the last quarter of 2009-10, pushing up the overall growth to a better-than expected 7.4% for the fiscal, reports PTI.
The manufacturing sector grew by 16.3% in the fourth quarter (January-March 2009-10) and 10.8% in the fiscal.
The gross domestic product (GDP) grew at 7.4% for 2009-10, higher than the February projection of 7.2%.
The Central Statistics Organisation (CSO) also revised upwards the growth rates for Q2 and Q3 of 2009-10 on better- than-expected performance by manufacturing, mining and quarrying industries than first thought.
There was no decline in agriculture growth in 2009-10, despite widespread drought and floods hitting the farm output.
According to the CSO data, the farm sector recorded a growth rate of 0.2% contrary to expectations of negative growth.
Following the global financial crisis, the GDP had moderated to 6.7% in 2008-09 after recording a growth rate of 9% in the three preceding years.