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Buggana meets Nirmala Sitharaman

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Andhra Pradesh finance minister Buggana Rajendranath on Friday met Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman in New Delhi to press upon the central government for early release of pending funds to the state government.

Buggana urged the Union Finance Minister to release pending funds of the Polavaram project. Later taking to mediapersons, Buggana said he had appealed to Nirmala Sitharaman to resolve the issue of revenue deficit, release funds for completion of Polavaram project and seven backward districts and Ramayapatnam port.

“I made an appeal to the finance minister to set up a revolving fund for expediting the works of the Polavaram project. On the behalf of the government of Andhra Pradesh, I requested the finance minister to release funds for various projects, funds for the backward areas, development schemes under Bifurcation Act,” Buggana said. He also met minister for water resources Gajendra Singh Shekhawat to discuss the pending dues for the Polavaram project.

The state finance minister was accompanied by Principal Advisor to Chief Minister Ajeya Kallam, irrigation special chief secretary Adityanath Das and finance Secretary Rawat.

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Honour international agreements: Nirmala Sitharaman to Jagan sarkar

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman gave her piece of mind to the Jagan government. She advised the Andhra Pradesh government to honour legally binding international agreements and projects.

Sitharaman said if the international agreements are not honoured, it would cause significant impairment to the business environment and also cause a dent to the image if the country. She said foreign investors are now watching closely the situation unfolding in the state regarding the cancellation of international agreements. “I am not getting into local politics, but if the government cancels international agreements, we will face difficulties in getting projects,” she suggested while addressing the party’s virtual rally from New Delhi.

After the YSRCP rode to power in 2019 polls, Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy cancelled and renegotiated several power purchase agreements (PPAs) signed by his predecessor N Chandrababu Naidu raising concerns among investors and prompted questions over the sanctity of signed contracts in India.

During Naidu’s regime, UAE based Lulu Group announced to invest more than Rs 2,000 crore to build an five-star hotel, an international convention centre and a shopping mall. The Naidu government had entered into an agreement with Lulu Group, but was later cancelled by the Jagan government following which Lulu Group said it will not invest in Andhra Pradesh and evinced interest in investing in Telangana. The Jagan government cancelled the land allotted to the Lulu Group.

The AP goverment also terminated Startup Area project in Amaravati given to a Singapore consortium, a project which was signed during Naidu’s regime.

As a matter of fact, Japanese ambassador to India Kenji Hiramatsu wrote to Jagan about concerns regarding the state’s renewable energy sector after his government decided to review the tariffs of sealed-and-signed renewable energy contracts. Japanese companies have substantial investments in at least two major renewable energy developers with stakes in the state.

Nirmala Sitharaman advised the Andhra Pradesh government to continue with the power purchase agreements (PPA). She said the government should be cautious in internationally funded projects.
Already, the World Bank had “dropped” its plan to extend a loan of $300 million (nearly Rs 2,065 crore) to Andhra Pradesh for the construction of Amaravati.

The Union Finance Minister also suggested that the AP government introduce energy reforms while expressing utter shock that the government has imposed electricity charges of Rs 9.75 per unit while the central government was extending electricity to Andhra Pradesh at Rs 2.75 per unit.

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FM untangles regulations in mining, defence sectors

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday gave massive reform boost to mining, defence, civil aviation and power distribution sectors under the government’s Rs 20 lakh crore economic package for the ‘Self-reliant India Movement’ announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently.

Besides, viability gap funding has been provided for the creation of social infrastructure like hospitals, while PPP model has been proposed for the country’s space programme.

The government also decided to establish research atomic reactor in PPP mode for the production of medical isotopes to provide affordable treatment for cancer and other diseases.

The minister detailed reforms for eight key sectors which will be supported and promoted via structural reforms.

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11-point plan for farmers’ welfare announced

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In the third tranche of Rs 20 lakh-crore package announced by the Prime Minister, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday came up with an 11-point plan for farmers’ welfare, fisheries and food processing.

The third tranche of measures being announced today focuses on agriculture and allied activities, including fisheries, said the Finance Minister.

The government announced Rs 1 lakh crore for aggregators and startups in agriculture sector, including warehouse and cold chains. The benefit will also go to farmers’ cooperatives.

The government also announced Rs 10,000 crore for cluster-based manufacturing for nutritional products in which 2 lakh MFI will benefit, for example, Kashmir can have ‘Kesar’ and Bihar can have ‘Makhana’ clusters.

“India is the largest milk producer, largest jute and pulses producer, second largest in sugarcane, cotton, groundnut, fruits, vegetables and fisheries and third in cereals. Indian farmer has really endured and made sure that he would give us the highest yield, said Sitharaman.

The Finance Minister said it goes to the credit of the Indian farmer who has always stood up to various challenges and has made India reach certain global benchmarks.

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Migrant workers, street vendors, small farmers to benefit from economic stimulus: FM

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday said the second tranche of the economic stimulus package will benefit migrant workers, street vendors, and small farmers.

Emphasising on building a self-reliant India, she said Thursday’s initiative, which is the second tranche, focuses on migrant workers, street vendors, small traders, self-employed and small farmers. She insisted the stimulus consists of nine steps benefiting each category.

“Three steps for migrant workers, 1 for ‘sishu’ loan within Mudra, one related to street vendors, one to housing, one for employment generation for tribals, and two related to small farmers,” Sitharaman said.

The Minister assured that there will be more steps for farmers in the near future besides these measures.

Sitharaman said the government is extremely concerned with the issues concerning the migrant workers, and within hours of having announced the lockdown, the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana was made operational for the poor.

Unveiling the second tranche of the economic package, she added that 3 crore farmers availed Rs 4.22 lakh crore loans on concessional rates and benefited from three month loan moratorium. “Interest subvention and prompt repayment incentive on crop loans due from March 1 extended up to May 31. 25 Lakh new Kishan credit cards sanctioned with a loan limit of Rs 25,000 crore,” she said.

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Rs 3 lakh cr collateral free automatic loan for MSMEs

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Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday announced collateral free automatic loans for businesses including MSMEs up to Rs 3 lakh crore.

Under the measure, borrowers with up to Rs 25 crore outstanding and Rs 100 crore turnover would be eligible for the special collateral free loan.

The loan will have a 4 year tenor with moratorium of 12 months on principal repayment and the interest will be capped.

There will be a 100 per cent credit guarantee cover to banks and NBFCs on principal and interest. The initiative can be availed till October 31, 2020, and no guarantee fee and fresh collateral would be required.

On the back of the scheme, 45 lakh units can resume business activity and safeguard jobs.

The move is part of the Rs 20 lakh crore economic package announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday evening.

It is one among the schemes announced by the Finance Minister on Wednesday.

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Buggana meets Sitharaman over Polavaram project funds

Andhra Pradesh finance minister Buggana Rajendranath met Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in New Delhi and requested ‘urgent reimbursement’ of the expenditure made by the State for the Polavaram project, the heart and lifeline of Andhra Pradesh.

Highlighting the need for quicker disbursal of funds, Buggana Rajendranath noted that the State government had borrowed Rs 5,103 crore and spent it on the construction of Polavaram irrigation project. The state finance minister said the YSRCP government was expecting cooperation from Nabard in its effort to drive the state on a development path. On her part, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman informed Buggana Rajendranath that the funds were getting delayed from Nabard to the central government and from central government to the Polavaram Project Authority.

After consultations with Nirmala Sitharaman, Buggana Rajendranath also met finance secretary S S Rawat and Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and informed them that the YSRCP government had spent Rs 5,000 cr on Polavaram project so far and was paying Rs 500 crore as interest on it. The state finance minister requested reimbursement of Rs 3,000 cr on war-footing for the speedy construction of Polavaram project.

In 2019, replying to a question in Rajya Sabha, Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat had asked the YSRCP government to a ‘proactive’ manner in completing Polavaram project and that the funds for the national project would be released only when the State submits the audit reports of the expenditure made prior to April 1, 2014. The State government had submitted audit reports only for Rs 3,000 crore of the Rs 5,130 crore spent on the project and added that approval for the revised cost estimates (RCE) could be given only after the reports for the remaining amount are furnished. The state government has to furnish audit reports for Rs 2,000 crore. Gajendra Singh Shekhawat told Rajya Sabha that until these reports are submitted, it will not be possible to finalise the cost necessary for the revised detailed project report’s approval.

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Govt creates mega PSB entities with large balance sheets, lower NPAS

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The planned merger of the 10 Public Sector Banks (PSBs) into four entities is slated to result in lower non-performing assets, larger balance sheets, high risk appetite, more customers and global reach.

Accordingly, the latest announcement comes after a similar exercise was conducted with the State Bank of India when it was merged with 5 other banks.

Just a year back, the government had amalgamated the Bank of Baroda with two other banks which resulted in a strong result in strong retail loan growth, robust CASA (current account savings account) and bigger profits.

The government’s logic, merge weak state-owned banks with large ones, is aimed at shoring up balance sheets and get the entire entity out of the Reserve Bank’s Prompt Corrective Action guidelines.

By carrying out the second wave of banking reform, the government wants to scale up their lending ability, a key to India becoming $5 trillion economy by 2024-25. Experts have said that credit offtake has to grow by 18-20 per cent annually against about 12 per cent now to achieve the target.

“For an economy that is aiming to reach the $5 trillion mark, we need a very strong and stable banking sector that can efficiently meet the credit requirements,” FICCI President Sandip Somany said.

Srikanth Vadlamani, Vice President, Financial Institutions Group, Moody’s Investors Service termed the government move on PSBs incremental rather than structural, adding the quality of their implementation will determine the effectiveness.

In case of merger between the Oriental Bank of Commerce and the United Bank of India with the Punjab National Bank, the government expects the new entity to have a total business of Rs 17,94,526 crore, whereas the PNB on standalone basis had only Rs 11,82,224 crore.

The new entity will have total branches of 11,437 and a net NPA ratio of 6.61 per cent compared with PNB’s 6,992 branches and 6.55 per cent.

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Video: Nirmala Sitharaman To Be The First Full-Time Woman Finance Minister

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Nirmala Sitharaman confronts KTR on, KCR’s comments on PM Modi

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Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman came down to Hyderabad for the inaugural ceremony of ‘Boeing Aircraft Parts Manufacturing Unit’. Tata Group Former Chairman Ratan Tata, and Telangana IT Minister K Taraka Rama Rao were also present at the ceremony.

Post the inaugural ceremony, Nirmala Sitharaman spoke to the media. ‘After I came to know about the KCR’s comments on PM Modi, I immediately called KTR. I was left in a dilemma whether to even come for this inaugural function or not. When asked justification over KCR’s comments, KTR said that it might have been a slip of the tongue. He tried to explain me about the whole thing, and in what context his father, CM KCR might have uttered the words.

Even before I board the flight to Hyderabad, I spoke to KTR. Despite Telangana CM’s reference to the Prime Minister in a singular tone. The only reason I flew down to Hyderabad for today’s inaugural meeting is the commitment towards Make in India program launched by the Prime Minister.

Though KTR claims it to be a slip of a tongue, it would have been proper on behalf of CM KCR, if he had explained about that incident by himself.’

Though this doesn’t come as a surprise, Nirmala Sitharaman’s over-enthusiastic nature to uphold the dignity of the PM surely raised some eyebrows.

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Telangana urges Centre to sanction defence corridor

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The government of Telangana has urged the Centre to sanction a defence industrial production corridor as the state has the required eco-system and it is also number one in the country in ease of doing business.

In a letter to Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday, state Industries Minister K. T. Rama Rao outlined the various advantages of Telangana and Hyderabad.

Reminding that the fledgling state of Telangana needs all the support possible from the Union Government, the minister said that the state has trained manpower and the proposed corridor would generate much needed jobs for local youth.

He also stated that the defence industrial production corridor would boost the manufacturing sector in the state.

Union Budget 2018-19 proposed two defence industrial production corridors. While the first corridor was proposed between Chennai and Bengaluru, the second one was proposed in Bundelkhand.

Rama Rao, who is also the son of Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao, pointed out that Telangana is strategically located in the centre of the country and is home to several public sector defence enterprises and DRDO labs.

The industries minister wrote that the state already has a vibrant ecosystem in the private sector with several established companies in the aerospace and defence sectors.

The state has two operational aerospace manufacturing parks near Adibatla region, besides an aerospace park operated by GMR adjoining the international airport.

The state is also planning to set up a larger aerospace and defence park in Eliminedu and create another aerospace cluster within the National Investments and manufacturing Zone (NIMZ) planned at Medak district.

The state is planning to set up a defence incubator in Hyderabad with support from the central government.

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Sitharaman teaches ‘namaste’ to Chinese troops

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When Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman visited the India-China border on Saturday, she did not just review security there but also taught Chinese soldiers how to greet with a ‘namaste’.

The video clipping of the visit shows a Chinese soldier introducing one of them to the Minister, after which Sitharaman gave the traditional salutation of “namaste”.

“You know what namaste is?” Sitharman is seen asking a Chinese soldier who is speaking in English.

While some on the Indian side tried to explain what namaste was, Sitharaman asked them to let the Chinese soldier tell what he thought it meant. “He knows; let him say,” said Sitharaman.

“Does that mean nice to meet you,” the Chinese soldier asked. At this, she asked: “What would you say in Chinese”.

As he responded: “We just say ‘ni hao'”, she said: “So, I say namaste.”

The Chinese soldiers replied saying ‘ni hao’ with folded hands.

The Chinese soldier who was translating then explained his name meant ‘king’ in English, at which Sitharaman quipped: “And to have a king do the translation…”

Amid laughter from both sides, the soldier explained his English was good.

Sitharaman was at the Nathu La pass on Saturday when she met the Chinese soldier.

The Defence Minister was on a tour to Sikkim after India-China stand-off and was also supposed to visit the stand-off area but could not due to bad weather.

On Sunday, Sitharaman visited Tezpur as part of her maiden visit to the Eastern Command as Defence Minister.

Accompanied by Army Vice Chief Lt Gen Sarath Chand and Eastern Command chief Lt Gen Abhay Krishna, she was received at the Tezpur Airforce Station by Gajraj Corps commander Lt Gen A.S. Bedi and other senior dignitaries of the Army and the Indian Air Force.

The visit, which is part of her familiarisation with all the formations of the Indian Army and the IAF, comes close on the heels of her visit to Northern Command recently and her visit to Sikkim on Saturday.

An official statement said the Minister extended her good wishes to the Air Warriors on the occasion of 85th Air Force Day as she interacted with them at the strategically important Tezpur airbase and reviewed its operational readiness, while seeing the Sukhoi fighter aircraft and other IAF assets first-hand.

Sitharaman also visited the Gajraj Corps headquarters where she was briefed by Lt Gen Bedi on the overall security situation in Assam and the Kameng Sector of Arunachal Pradesh and the operational preparedness of the Corps.

She subsequently visited Solmara Military Station, Tezpur where she interacted with the officers and jawans over a cup of tea and appreciated their high standards of military discipline and preparedness.

The Minister also extended her greetings to the troops for Diwali before her departure for Delhi.

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