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After victory, a to-do list for Narendra Modi’s BJP government

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Following its staggering landslide victory, Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has a mandate for real reform. Still, quick successes are needed to sustain political and market momentum. The pro-business former chief minister of Gujarat state should start with infrastructure, tax, and banking.

The central challenge is growth. For the past two years, GDP has expanded by less than 5 percent annually, down from an average of almost 9 percent in the five years before 2008.

That means fewer jobs for the millions of young Indians joining the workforce each year. Employment increased by just 2 million each year between 2010 and 2012, down from 8 million annually in the first five years of the millennium.

Some of the blame lies with fiscal indiscipline, runaway inflation, a wobbly rupee, and cagey foreign investors. But a huge culprit is collapsing investment.

India has all but stopped building new factories and machinery. The problem, particularly acute in infrastructure and mining, stems from infighting between Delhi ministries and interminable local approvals.

An understandable backlash against corruption hasn’t helped. The outgoing Congress Party’s “cabinet committee” has helped dent the backlog. But a lot remains to be done. Modi needs to force through more approvals from central government, insist that departments work together, and browbeat local officials.

TAX BATTLES

Tax is another target. India has taken a tough line with multinationals like Nokia, Shell and Vodafone. The UK mobile phone group won a $2 billion-plus tax case in India’s top court, only for New Delhi to retrospectively change the law. The dispute is now headed for international arbitration.

Global companies are often aggressive with tax. But India’s current stance deters foreign investment. The BJP calls this “tax terrorism”, which implies it is planning to change tack. Modi’s finance minister could use his first budget to send a powerful message to international business that India’s tax policy is becoming more predictable.

For domestic companies, too, tax could change. For years, politicians have debated a so-called goods and services tax to replace some of India’s many indirect charges. Business lobby groups reckon this could add 1.5 percentage points or more to GDP growth, while slowing inflation.

Pushing the levy through parliament, though, will be a challenge because Modi’s party doesn’t control the legislature’s upper house.

BAD BANKS

The financial system is also due an overhaul. Most lending is still done by badly run, overstaffed, and undercapitalised public-sector banks.

A recent timely report from the Reserve Bank of India lambasted the banks’ governance and performance, said the government should give up its majority shareholding in state lenders, and warned the sector may need 2.1 to 5.9 trillion rupees ($36 to $100 billion) of fresh capital by 2018. The central bank’s recommendations provide a helpful spur to government action.

Downsizing welfare programmes like India’s rural job guarantee and using the savings to recapitalize banks would help to give lending a short-term boost without burdening an overstretched federal budget.

Even outside banking, there is ample scope for privatisation. The state has stakes in everything from miners and airlines to hotels and a major producer of newsprint. Drawing up a privatisation plan would be a bold statement of intent, though it will take at least a year to get the auction going.

The new government can also open the door to overseas investment. Though the BJP has pledged to keep out international supermarket chains, many of the existing limits on foreign direct investment can be eased without legal manoeuvring. Obvious candidates are railways and defence production.

Meanwhile, an immediate increase in government-controlled natural gas prices will boost domestic production and get some idle power plants humming again.

MODI RALLY

This is just a first-year agenda. India sits a miserable 134th in the World Bank’s “ease of doing business” rankings: it is an especially bad place to start a business, enforce contracts and obtain building permits. Addressing these gripes would help restore confidence.

Agriculture, too, deserves attention. Far too much food is wasted between farm and plate. For now, though, sustaining the “Modi rally” in the stock market is crucial, as it will give the most indebted Indian groups an opportunity to raise equity.

With the most decisive electoral mandate of any Indian government in three decades, Modi’s government can start ticking things off its to-do list at once.

Canadian News

Joint statement from the Greater Toronto Area & Hamilton Mayors and Chairs

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Ontario Premier Doug Ford, left, and Toronto Mayor John Tory
Ontario Premier Doug Ford, left, and Toronto Mayor John Tory take part in a candlelit vigil to honour the victims of a deadly shooting in Toronto on Wednesday July 25, 2018. Ten-year-old Julianna Kozis of Markham, Ont., and 18-year-old Reese Fallon of Toronto were killed in Sunday's shooting attack, and 13 other people were injured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

We are united in fighting COVID-19 – protecting our residents and saving lives.

While the measures we have taken to stop the spread of the virus have made a difference, this virus has still taken far too many lives in our communities and continues to threaten the lives of our residents.

At the same time, there is no denying the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the economy. Jobs have been lost, many businesses have closed or are at risk of closure, and many families are worried about their financial future.

We’ve been hit hard but that’s why it is so important that we keep moving forward and come back as strong as possible.

Today, the GTHA Mayors and Chairs met to discuss the impacts of COVID-19 on the region and how our municipalities can work together on the economic restart and recovery.

We know the Toronto Census Metropolitan Area alone is projected to lose 355,000 jobs and 28% of GDP along with $894 million in lost wages and $3.7 billion in revenue losses for businesses. This will be felt right across the GTHA but it also threatens the provincial and national economies.

A strong recovery right here in the GTHA is crucial to healing the economic damage done by COVID-19 and helping the families and businesses all governments have been working to protect throughout this emergency.

Ontario’s economy and Canada’s economy need the GTHA to come back stronger than ever when the restart begins.

We are determined to deliver this recovery and we agreed today that the GTHA municipalities will be working together to successfully and smoothly reopen our vital regional economy when the time comes.

We also discussed how we can in a consistent way achieve significant, necessary financial support from the other governments to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and protect our ability to contribute to the recovery. A strong recovery needs strong cities and regional governments.

We have agreed we will work together to share information about our respective financial positions and explore together measures we can advocate to the other governments which will help to ensure the financial stability of local and regional governments in the GTHA.

Our child care and recreation programs help parents get back to work.

Our emergency services keep people safe.

Our transit systems get people to work and home safely.

Our major infrastructure projects – often built in conjunction with the other governments – will help kick-start the recovery and create countless jobs.

Our economic development activities attract jobs and investment.

We built a strong and vibrant GTHA and we know that we will need to come back even stronger and as quickly as we can in order to keep Canada’s economy going.

With the cooperation and support of the provincial and federal governments, we are ready to rise to this challenge.”

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Canadian News

Four People Charged in Mississauga Pedestrian Fail to Remain Fatality

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Investigators from the Major Collision Bureau have charged four people in Mississauga’s most recent fatal fail to remain collision.

On Thursday, February 15, 2018, at approximately 8:40 p.m., the victim, a 61 year-old female from Mississauga, was struck by a south bound vehicle as she was crossing Mavis Road in the area of Knotty Pine Grove in the City of Mississauga. The vehicle did not remain and the victim, having suffered major injuries, was pronounced dead at the scene.

On Saturday, February 17, 2018 shortly before 7:00 p.m., Satchithanantha VAITHILINGAM, a 60 year-old male from Brampton, and the driver believed to be responsible in this incident, surrendered to police at 22 Division. Satchithanantha VAITHILINGAM has since been charged with Fail to Remain Cause Death.

Hivissa SATCHITHANANTHAN, a 25 year old female from Brampton, Shajeetha SATCHITHANANTHAN a 28 year-old female from Brampton and Gowtham SATKUNARAJAH a 28 year-old male from Brampton have each been charged with Accessory After the Fact in relation to this incident.

Satchithanantha VAITHILINGAM will answer to his charge on March 12, 2018. Hivissa SATCHITHANANTHAN, Shajeetha SATCHITHANANTHAN andGowtham SATKUNARAJAH will answer to their charges on Monday March 26, 2018 at the Ontario Court of Justice in Brampton

Anyone who may have witnessed the collision, have dashboard video footage of the incident or who may have any information regarding this incident is asked to contact investigators with the Major Collision Bureau at (905) 453-2121, ext. 3710. Information may also be left anonymously by calling Peel Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), or by visiting www.peelcrimestoppers.ca or by sending a text message to CRIMES (274637) with the word ‘PEEL’ and then your tip.

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Canadian News

Justin Trudeau in India: Hug missing! Mounting pressure?

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The much publicized and anticipated visit of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to India was marred with questions. The questions were centered on the kind of welcome he would be given in the Sikh dominated state of Punjab. Also the famous hug by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was being anticipated. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau finally made his much-touted visit to India. He landed on the Indira Gandhi Airport, New Delhi only to be received by Gajendra Singh Shekhawat not even a Cabinet Minister in Narendra Modi’s government.

He is presently the second rank Minister of State for Agriculture.  That comes in complete contrast to the warmth that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his NDA government has generally displayed towards the visiting dignitaries.  Only a couple of weeks ago, when the heads of the 10 ASEAN states arrived in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi didn’t receive Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the airport, as he has previously done with many leaders including Barack Obama, Xi Jinping, Shinzo Abe, and Benjamin Netanyahu.

The fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi didn’t join him is all surprising even when Prime Minister Trudeau visited Gujarat. This is unusual because the Indian Prime Minister has set a trend that he always accompanies head of the state when they visit his home state.

Even Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath did not show up, let alone accompany Prime Minister Trudeau to the Taj. However, during Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s 15 January visit to the Taj Mahal at Agra, Yogi Adityanath had received Netanyahu and his wife and shown them around as well as hosted a lunch for them. For first three days, none from the executive or the elected representative held any meeting with the delegation.

Media in India is trying to spread a message that the cold treatment given by Prime Minister could be because two of the four Sikh members of Trudeau’s cabinet – Harjit Sajjan and Amarjeet Sohi – support the Khalistan movement. However, had that been the case his visit to Punjab would have got a similar response.  However, the Punjab Government led by Captain Amarinder Singh rolled out a red carpet during his stay at Amritsar and even the two leaders held some fruitful discussions.

Thus putting an end to those criticisms that that Prime Minister Trudeau’s visit was devoid of any warmth.  Chief Minister of Punjab Amarinder Singh, for instance who met Prime Minister Justin Trudeau setting aside his earlier prejudice that he exhibited during the visit of Defence Minister Harjeet Singh Sajjan.

In recent months, Gurudwaras (Sikh temples) in Canada, the United States and Australia have banned Indian officials from visiting gurudwaras and the moment started with Gurudwaras here in Toronto. Could that be the reason for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to not accord one of the warmest welcomes that he is known to provide?  Or the use by Canada’s parliament of the term genocide to describe mass killings of Sikhs in India in 1984 has left the Indian Prime Minister disturbed?  However, more than Prime Minister Modi, this could have left the Congress party in troubled waters, but that was also not the case as Amarinder Singh hails from the same party.

The lukewarm welcome to Prime Minister Trudeau can have its political ramifications too. Will it hamper the significant 2015 deal, in which Canada agreed to supply 3,000 metric tons of Uranium to power India’s atomic reactors?

Somewhere Prime Minister Modi has not taken the issue of non allowing entry of Indian officials to Gurudwaras and the statement on Genocide too lightly. Prime Minister Modi however has failed to understand that Canada cannot curtail the right of freedom of speech and expression of its citizen.

Two nations perhaps failed to resolve the matter before Prime Minister boarded the flight from Canada and not welcoming Prime Minister Trudeau could be a tactical decision to put pressure on him. With Prime Minister Modi preferring to meet him at the far end of the tour has conveyed a lot about the myopic approach of Prime Minister Modi.

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