Below the line

| Updated on September 16, 2018 Published on September 16, 2018

Miscommunication reigns

On the issue of closing down Coal India’s Delhi office, the Coal Minister and Coal Secretary were not on the same page. The new Coal Secretary was quick to brush aside the question saying that there was no such proposal. Coal Minister Piyush Goyal when confronted with the action taken report on his proposal said that this was very much on the cards, adding that not just Delhi, even other CIL offices in metros must be shut down. He said this with the Coal Secretary standing beside him.

Policy deadlock

With the proposed e-commerce policy being sent to a panel of secretaries, which has been tasked with ironing out the contentious issues, some people involved in the drafting of the document are disappointed. Officials say that with no deadline for resolving the issue and finalising the draft, Indian negotiators will have to continue holding talks on e-commerce at various bilateral and regional forums and also at the World Trade Organisation without a sound domestic policy guiding them. Now that the panel of secretaries, which met last week, has decided to meet next in October, the policy may not be in place anytime soon.

Rural housing boost

The Centre is “dead serious” about giving rural housing push, as part of its “Housing for All” by 2022 goal. So much so that the interim Managing Director and CEO of National Housing Bank Dakshita Das (Additional Secretary in the Finance Ministry) herself chaired a meeting of CEOs of the top 15 housing finance companies in the country last week. When quizzed about the deliberations of the closed door meeting, a chief executive merely said that the new NHB Chief had in national interest given some “guidance” to the companies for providing a push to rural housing. The CEO also quipped that such guidance should be seen as “directives” for the sector given that all housing finance companies are licensed with the NHB. Can’t agree with him more.

Smart approach

The Finance Ministry mandarins are now taking a smart approach in dealing with the broking community’s demand for cuts in securities transaction tax (STT)/Commodities Transaction Tax (CTT). This came to the fore at a recent capital market summit in the Capital. A senior Finance Ministry official admitted that STT/CTT rates in India are higher than those prevailing internationally.

This official said that over a period of time transaction charges such as STT/CTT in India will have to come down, but in the same vein also remarked that the transaction charges levied by exchanges should also be reduced! Fair point, but the bourses may not relish this as it would eat into their revenues.

Promoter’s call

Rarely does Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan cancel his programme. So when 48 hours before the maiden open acreage auction OALP-1 contracts were to be signed on September 6, a communication from the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons stated that it had been postponed without citing any reasons. No new dates were communicated.

Though the official word is yet to come out, whispers are that the new date is September 24.

There is speculation about the real reason and some say the contract signing was put off on Vedanta’s behest.

Anil Agarwal-led Vedanta Ltd won 41 out of the 55 oil and gas exploration blocks offered in OALP-1, and needed its shareholders nod. This issue cropped up because initially the team was looking for 20 bids only, but later on the promoters wanted to go for all, those in the know said.

A clear case of the government succumbing to the whims of the promoter!

Our Delhi Bureau

Published on September 16, 2018
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