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GUEST COLUMN

 

FDI limit increased in credit information companies to 74% from 49%

Perspective from Mr. Arun Ramamurthy, Co-Founder, Credit Sudhaar

The new Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) norms could ease the path for many credit information companies, which are eager to rope in private sector banks as investors. 

A number of private sector lenders such as ICICI Bank and HDFC wanted to pick up stakes in credit bureaus but could not do so for fear of breaching the 49 per cent sectoral cap on FDI in credit companies. According to a note issued by the commerce ministry in February, 2009, a company will be deemed Indian-owned only if Indians own more than half of its equity capital and control its management.

Under these guidelines, seven private sector banks - ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, YES Bank, IndusInd Bank, Federal Bank, ING Vysya Bank and Development Credit Bank - could be categorized as foreign-owned because foreign investment in such institutions exceeds 50 per cent.

In addition, any onward investment by such companies would be deemed as foreign investment.

The move could bring in much needed investment and expertise in the form of technology, manpower and most importantly increased participation and awareness in this sector.

At the very least, it should serve to ease the situation for some credit bureaus which are possibly, at this in point in time, in breach of the 49 pc norm at this point in time.

"Freedom is first", in the movies and in real life

By Nada Al-Nashif, Assistant Director-General & ILO Regional Director for Arab States
 

I used to think I was pretty good at keeping my personal and professional lives apart – no “work” conversations at dinner parties, only action movies to disengage, no watching the news late at night.

Events in the Arab world have kept us on our toes these past two years and many lines have been crossed. This last week has confirmed that no such distinction is possible. First, I was privileged to have dinner with Clare Short, here in Beirut, at the beginning of the week.  A former UK Secretary of State for International Development, she was touring Palestinian refugee camps and meeting officials as part of a European delegation assessing the impact of the Syrian refugee crisis. 

\Her passion about refugee rights, her determination to tackle prejudices and myths, and her deep belief in the inevitability of justice, were incredibly inspiring.

The next day, I watched the Oscar-nominated movie “Lincoln”. Historians are quibbling about the details of this Hollywood version of the events leading to the passing of the 13th amendment of the United States Constitution, which abolished slavery, but it’s a powerful story. It contrasts President Lincoln’s unwavering commitment to a nation free of slaves, with the tactics needed to secure the vote. It’s particularly relevant now as the Arab states struggle to define a long-term vision for their societies, even as they respond to demands for social justice and freedom, re-assess economic and social constructs and re-define cultural, even ideological, norms.

It all came together a couple of days later – the official launch of our ILO-UNDP Report “Rethinking Economic Development: Towards Productive and Inclusive Arab Societies”.  This was the culmination of a collective UN effort which we have led over the past year, to capture the root causes behind the failure of decades of unequal, unjust and ultimately unsustainable growth.

The Report confirms that political and economic reforms must go hand-in-hand and that the quality of growth is as important as the quantity.  Transparency and accountability, it says, are core benchmarks and there is no substitute for the active participation of citizens. We will now take this debate across the region through workers’ groups, advocates of women’s economic empowerment and with young people who are no longer willing to accept exclusion.

A difficult journey lies ahead but we must believe – as they say in “Lincoln” – that “Freedom is First”, and I am proud that the ILO will have a part in it.

Tunisia, two years on

By Raymond Torres, Director of the ILO’s International Institute for Labour Studies

 


The fall of Tunisia’s authoritarian regime two years ago brought hopes of major change in the North African country. Today, some disenchantment can be felt.

Take the labour market situation:  Since 2010, the unemployment rate has increased by four percentage points to 17 per cent. Young people, including graduates, are hard hit, and the crisis in advanced economies is making it more difficult for them to find decent jobs abroad. Social unrest – which often marks periods of political change – is still high and risks paving the way for populist solutions.

Yet, there are grounds for hope. The economic and employment situation improved slightly in recent months, partly thanks to a better than expected tourism season. More fundamentally, Tunisia is building a new social contract. Implementing it is taking time and will undoubtedly try Tunisians’ patience, but it is crucial.

Trust in political leaders and confidence that living conditions will improve for everybody are essential ingredients of a stable society. Tunisia is moving on both fronts.

Work on a new Constitution is moving ahead. There are plans to reinforce the independence of the judiciary and other institutions that tackle corruption. Key sectors like telecommunications and some services are becoming more open to new investment, breaking monopoly situations. Social dialogue is now regarded as an essential pillar of good governance.

As for living conditions, the government has adopted a comprehensive set of measures to boost employment. An employment strategy has been launched. It addresses controversial issues like labour market reforms, the informal economy and social protection in a balanced manner, and includes specific measures for disadvantaged groups.

Tunisia also has important economic and social assets.  Its economy is relatively diversified and includes agro-food, industrial and tourism sectors which, if properly encouraged, could become the backbone of a new era of development. The health and education systems are efficient and the role of women in the economy is greater than in other developing countries. Strong representative organisations for employers and workers make it possible to voice dissatisfaction over the present situation, but should also facilitate implementation of the new social contract.

In short, Tunisia’s new social contract could lead to shared prosperity. There is no doubt that such a strategy will pay off in the medium term. The problem is that the difficult employment situation is fuelling social unrest. Urgent responses are needed to avert the rise of populist solutions that would compromise the achievements of the revolution.

What can be done to improve the employment outlook quickly while maintaining the reform momentum?

There is no simple solution. Perhaps Tunisia could be offered breathing space through improved access to other markets, including those of successful emerging economies. Another approach would be to move towards a faster economic integration in Northern Africa. Experience from Latin America and East Asia shows that such regional integration can help cushion a crisis. Development loans tied to the completion of the reform process may also be considered. And mobilising ILO expertise in the area of decent-work-friendly policies could help support Tunisia’s effort to engage in a more inclusive development model

 


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