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Cabinet okays big ticket economic plans

November 30, 2007 12:11 IST

The Union Cabinet on Friday decided to place the Eleventh Five-Year Plan before the National Development Council for approval. The NDC meeting will be held on December 19.

Announcing the decision taken at the meeting of the Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, on Thursday night, Information and Broadcasting Minister P R Dasmunsi told reporters that this would enable operationalisation of the Plan for the period 2007-12.

The draft plan document was cleared by the Planning Commission on November 9, with a target of 9 per cent annual economic growth, up from 7.6 per cent in the Tenth Plan.

NDC, the country's highest policy making body, comprises the prime minister, Union ministers, state chief ministers and members of the Planning Commission.

The Plan, the most ambitious document prepared by the commission so far, aims at raising the average gross domestic product growth rate to 9 per cent with an estimated outlay of Rs 36,44,147 crore (Rs 36,441.47 billion).

Among other things, it also proposes to increase farm sector growth rate to 4 per cent from 2.13 per cent in the previous Plan.

The Plan proposes to reduce poverty by 10 percentage points, generate 7 crore (70 million) new employment opportunities and reduce unemployment among educated persons to less than 5 per cent.

It will also focus on the education sector by increasing the outlay to 19 per cent of the Central budgetary support from less than 8 per cent in the previous Plan.

Nod for SBI's Rs 10,000 cr issue

The government on Friday gave a much awaited nod to the nation's leading lending institution State Bank of India to enhance equity by Rs 10,000 crore (Rs 100 billion), a move that would help the bank meet its capital requirement.

Announcing the decision taken at the Union Cabinet, the Information and Broadcasting Minister P R Dasmunsi told reporters that the bank would enhance the capital by subscribing to the Rights issue of equity shares.

This would be done against issue of marketable government securities and Statutory Liquidity Ratio

The details of the issue including the number of shares to be subscribed, the amount to be subscribed, coupe rate and tenure of the securities would be worked out by the government in consultation with the bank, in accordance with Sebi guidelines and market conditions.

The government has a 59.73 per cent equity in the bank, whose share value shot up by over Rs 50 within minutes of the announcement of the decision. In the morning hours, SBI shares were quoted at Rs 2,322, an increase of over 2 per cent, at the Bombay Stock Exchange.

India to cut tariff on products from Singapore

India will eliminate or reduce tariff on 555 products it imports from Singapore to boost bilateral trade, Information and Broadcasting Minister P R Dasmunsi said on Friday.

"The Cabinet at its meeting yesterday evening gave itsapproval for tariff elimination/reduction on 555 products through a protocol of amendment of India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement," he told reporters in New Delhi.

New Delhi would also offer Singapore any subsequent improvement made at the time of ASEAN-India Free Trade Agreement in terms of product coverage timeline, Rules of Origin with appropriate amendments to India-Singapore CECA.

"The tariff concessions would further enhance growth in bilateral trade with economic benefits to both countries," he said.

As Singapore is a member country of ASEAN, betterment made in ASEAN-India FTA over CECA may be incorporated in the latter to maximize gains of both the countries.

The tariff elimination/reduction will commence from December 1, 2007, he added.

Shell to buy BPCL pie in Bharat Shell

Global oil major Royal Dutch Shell will buy Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd's 49 per cent stake in lubricant marketing firm Bharat Shell Ltd for Rs 152.40 crore (Rs 1.524 billion).

BPCL is exiting the joint venture company, floated in 1993 to market Shell branded lubricants in India, as it has developed a competing product.

"The Cabinet gave its approval for the sale of 49 per cent equity stake of BPCL in BSL to Shell or its affiliate for a consideration of Rs 152.40 crore in cash," Information and Broadcasting Minister P R Dasmunsi told reporters in New Delhi on Friday.

Shell currently holds 51 per cent stake in BSL. BSL incurred losses till financial year 2001-02 but after hiving off its loss-making LPG business, the company showed signs of turnaround and posted a net profit of Rs 12.12 crore (Rs 121.2 million) in 2006-07.

Besides paying BPCL cash, Shell will also takeover the state-run firm's 49 per cent of BSL's debt amounting to Rs 31.2 crore (Rs 312 million) as on March 31, 2006.

"The proposed sale will enable BPCL to withdraw from a joint venture company which has a competing business interest, i.e. production and sale of branded lubricants in India," he said.

"This would enable BPCL to concentrate on building and promotion of its own brand of lubricants resulting in improved brand image, higher growth, efficiency and profits."

Official sources said BSL was formed to strengthen BPCL's position in the lubricant market by availing the opportunity for blending and marketing high performance speciality lubricants. BPCL did not have its own production of base oil at that time.

Both BPCL and Shell recognised the need for building their own brands independently in India and the state-run firm decided to exit BSL.

Sources said the board of Shell had on May 10 approved share purchase agreement with BPCL to acquire its 49 per cent stake in BSL at a price not exceeding Rs 177 crore (Rs 1.77 billion).

After the acquisition, Shell would remove the 'Bharat' name in BSL. Shell currently has operational control of BSL.

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