Monday, July 29, 2013

NASA, ISRO in talks to jointly develop a satellite for the first time

US space agency NASA and India's premier space agency ISRO are in talks for jointly building a satellite for the first time.

"Now, there is a feasibility study going on whether we can jointly make a satellite, with synthetic aperture radar (SAR) payloads working on two frequency bands - L-band and S-band", Chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) K Radhakrishnan told PTI in Bangalore.

Charles F Bolden Jr, Administrator of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of United States, visited the Space Applications Centre (SAC) of ISRO in Ahmedabad on June 25.

He had a meeting with Mr Radhakrishnan, also Secretary, Department of Space, along with senior officials of ISRO to discuss the ongoing cooperative activities between ISRO and NASA and also the potential areas of future cooperation.

"...the joint satellite mission is an important step. It's not making an instrument and plugging it actually. It's working together. That's what we are discussing. It (working together) should happen in the next few months", Radhakrishnan said.

"Both organisations are coming together and saying let's develop it together...use your strength, use my strength. That's a good way of working", he said.

"It (the proposed satellite) is interesting from scientific point of view, it's interesting from normal
resource management point of view," he said.

Mr Radhakrishnan said NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory would make the radar system "if it (in case of NASA, ISRO deciding to work together on the mission) is getting through".

On ISRO's role, he said, "We will be working together. Some will be built by us, some will be built by them. So, this (work-sharing) has to be finalised", adding, data generated by the mission would be used by both ISRO and NASA.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Pollution costs India $80 billion a year: World Bank

Pollution and other environmental degradation costs India $80 billion a year, nearly six per cent of gross domestic product, the World Bank said in a report released on Wednesday.

The report, requested by the national government, points to air pollution and contaminated water supplies as some of the main environmental problems facing India.

The study, which assesses the impact of environmental damage in India, also said that air pollution and contaminated water could be responsible for large numbers of child deaths in the country.

"About 23 percent of child mortality and 2.5 percent of all adult deaths in the country can be attributed to environmental degradation," Muthukumara S. Mani, a senior economist at the World Bank, said at the launch of the report in New Delhi.

The report cited a recent survey of 132 countries which ranked India 126th for environmental performance and last for air pollution, even worse than neighbouring China, due to its power stations, traffic congestion, industry and other factors.

"The rankings show that India's stellar economic record during the last decade is not reflected in its environmental performance," Mani said, adding the government needed to focus on sustainable economic growth and greener growth options.

"India needs to put a value to its natural resources and ecosystem services for an environmentally sustainable future," he said.

Reducing harmful carbon emissions was possible without a negative impact on economic growth, the report stated.
"India can reduce its emissions at very little cost to the GDP by switching to green technology, even this loss gets offset by the tangible health benefits," Mani said.

The World Bank study comes on the back of the devastating flash floods in the northern Himalayan state of Uttarakhand which environmentalists have blamed on unregulated development and deforestation in the area.

Nearly 6,000 people are believed to have died in the disaster triggered by heavy early monsoon rains that lashed the region last month.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Indian money in Swiss banks dips to record low at Rs 9,000 cr

Zurich/New Delhi: Indians' money in Swiss banks has fallen to a record low level of about Rs 9,000 crore (1.42 billion Swiss francs), as a global clampdown against the famed secrecy wall of Switzerland banking system made it unattractive for their global clients.

The total funds held by Indian individuals and entities included 1.34 billion Swiss francs held directly by Indian individuals and entities, and another 77 million Swiss francs through 'fiduciaries' or wealth managers at the end of 2012, as per the latest figures released by the Swiss National Bank (SNB) in Zurich Thursday.

The official data, which forms part of SNB's annual report on Swiss banks, further showed that Indians' money there fell by about 35 percent or Rs 4,900 crore in 2012.

This was much steeper than a 9.1 percent fall in the funds held by entities from across the world in Swiss banks, which also hit an all-time low of 1.4 trillion Swiss francs (USD 1.5 trillion) at the end of 2012.

While the Swiss banks had close to Rs 14,000 crore (2.18 billion Swiss francs) of Indians' money at the beginning of 2012, the equivalent figure for entities from across the world stood at 1.5 trillion Swiss francs (USD 1.65 trillion).

The data has been released at a time when Switzerland is facing growing pressure from the US and other countries to share the foreign client details, while its own lawmakers are resisting such measures.

The funds, described by SNB as 'liabilities' of Swiss banks towards their clients from India, are the official figures disclosed by the Swiss authorities and do not indicate towards the quantum of the much-debated alleged black money held by Indians in the safe havens of Switzerland.

SNB's official figures do not include the money that Indians or others might have in Swiss banks in the names of others.

The sharp decline in Indian money in Swiss banks during 2012 followed a significant increase in the previous year, when such funds had risen for the first time in five years.

The quantum of funds held by Indians in Swiss banks stood at a record high level of 6.5 billion Swiss francs (over Rs 41,000 crore) at the end of 2006, but has declined by over five billion Swiss francs (over Rs 32,000 crore) since then.

For clients across the world, total funds in Swiss banks stood at a record high level of USD 2.6 trillion at the end of 2007, but has fallen by over USD one trillion since then.

In a White Paper on black money tabled in Parliament last year, the Indian government said that the total liabilities of Swiss banks towards Indians have been coming down since 2006 and fell by more than Rs 14,000 crore during 2006-2010 period.

Amid allegations of Indians stashing huge amounts of illicit wealth abroad, including in Swiss banks, the government has said it is making various efforts to bring back the unaccounted money.

While a new treaty has been put in place for sharing of information on issues related to tax crimes on a prospective basis, Switzerland has also agreed to a limited retrospective clause for such information exchange in case of India.

As per SNB data, funds held by Indians directly in the Swiss banks declined sharply by about 700 million Swiss francs in 2012 to 1.34 billion Swiss francs (Rs 8,500 crore) in 2012.

On the other hand, the funds held through 'fiduciaries' nearly halved to 77.4 million Swiss francs (about Rs 500 crore) in 2011 -- marking the sixth straight year of decline.

Fiduciaries are essentially wealth fund managers who hold the money of Indian private holders and families in the so-called numbered accounts.

The Swiss banks' direct liabilities towards clients from India include funds held in savings and deposit accounts by Indian individuals, financial institutions and corporates.

The size of Swiss banks' assets in India also fell by about two billion Swiss francs to 4.3 billion Swiss francs in 2012. Prior to this, these assets had been continuously increasing since 2006 and had more than doubled by 2011.

The experts have been saying that there has been a "perceptible flight of funds" of Indian holders from Swiss banks to other places in the recent years.

At the same time, the global pressure has been rising on Switzerland to ask its banks to share information about their clients with foreign governments.

It is being suspected now that Indians having illicit wealth in Swiss banks may be moving their funds in fear of being exposed due to growing scrutiny. At the same time, even those having legitimate funds in Swiss banks may be moving away, due to a growing level of negativity attached to them.

Top financial regulators Sebi and RBI have already stepped up their vigil over Indian entities routing their funds from secretly held Swiss bank accounts to India through other locations.

It is feared that the money might be routed back to India, either into the stock market through FIIs or even via the FDI route.

Indians' direct exposure to Swiss banks stood at a record high level of about five billion Swiss francs in 2006, while the amount held through fiduciaries at that time was close to 1.5 billion Swiss francs.

Globally, all the foreign clients of Swiss banks had a direct exposure of over two trillion Swiss francs in 2007, while their funds held through fiduciaries were about 365 billion Swiss francs.

Indian investment in US touches $11 billion, helps create 1 lakh jobs: study

 Investment by Indian companies in the US has touched a record $11 billion and in the process has created more than 100,000 jobs, a study has revealed.

The report, 'Investing in America, How India Helps Create American Jobs' by the US India Business Council demonstrating the ways the US economy is benefiting from the successful bilateral and business relationship with India, is slated to be released during the USIBC' 38th Anniversary Leadership Summit on July 11.

In October last year, the US Deputy Secretary of State, William Burns, had said that between 2000 to 2010, the Indian direct investment in America grew from $200 million to nearly $5 billion. In his same speech he had said that Indian firms have helped create some 50,000 jobs in the US.

However, according to the latest USIBC study, Indian investment in the US "recently touched $11 billion, with as many as 100,000 American jobs created".

"The contribution of Indian businesses ... is expected to give a fitting reply to all those who have been calling for a trade war between the two countries," the study said.

During a Congressional hearing last month, several US lawmakers and business and trade representatives had urged the Obama Administration to impress upon India against what they alleged as are protectionist measures and discriminatory to the US businesses.

To address such concerns and to protect the interest of Indian companies in the US, which helps American businesses remain competitive in the global economy, the USIBC has launched the Coalition for Jobs and Growth (CJG).

"USIBC supports the free movement of technical professionals. This freedom of movement is essential to US job creation, and is at the heart of our future economic prosperity," USIBC president Ron Somers said at the time of the launch of the coalition in June.

"USIBC endorses immigration reform, but the legislation as currently written restricts a company's ability to source skilled talent, which hamstrings American competitiveness," Mr Somers added.

The USIBC-led Coalition for Jobs & Growth believes that an open American economy helps give the United States the influence it needs to ensure that other economies stay open as well, it said.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

How Facebook’s IPO Created the Best-Paid County In America

It’s not very often that the actions of a single company register in national economic statistics, but Facebook Inc. FB -0.32%’s 2012 initial public offering appears to have hit the mark.

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics last week reported that the average weekly wage in San Mateo County, California in the fourth quarter of 2012 rose an astounding 107% from a year earlier, to $3,240. That’s the equivalent of $168,000 a year, and more than more than 50% higher than the next highest county, New York County (better known as Manhattan), which came in at $2,107 a week, or roughly $110,000 a year.

What’s behind the numbers? The labor department doesn’t discuss specific employers, but several clues point to Facebook, which is based in Menlo Park, Calif., part of San Mateo County.

The county’s wage surge was included in a detailed report on employment and wages for each of the nation’s more than 3,000 counties, based on reports filed by employers. Within San Mateo County, the industry that most stands out is “computer systems design services.”

According to the labor department, the roughly 6,200 workers in San Mateo County in that industry group collected total wages of $6.8 billion in the fourth quarter alone. That’s an average of $82,891 a week, or roughly $4.3 million a year.

Those weren’t regularly weekly paychecks, of course. That’s because the labor department’s definition of “wages” can include bonuses, stock and stock options, according to David Hiles, a supervisory economist at the department.

That’s where Facebook’s May 2012 IPO comes in. According to the social network’s securities filings, the bulk of restricted stock units that Facebook issued before 2011 vested six months after the IPO, in November 2012. In one filing, Facebook said it withheld and paid taxes of $2.86 billion when those units vested in 2012. In a previous filing, it said it expected to withhold taxes at roughly a 45% rate, suggesting the shares were valued at more than $6 billion at the time. Facebook employees also exercised roughly 51 million stock options in the fourth quarter, which might have added $1 billion to the “wage” total.

Doug Henton, chief executive of Collaborative Economics, a San Mateo, Calif., consulting firm that has worked with the detailed county reports for more than two decades, agreed that the signs pointed to Facebook as the source of the county’s growing wealth.

“That kind of a jump can only be explained by what’s happening with stock” and stock options from recent IPOs, Mr. Henton said. “It will be interesting to see if that wealth bump is reflected in giving back to the community.”

The Labor Department’s Mr. Hiles said the quarterly wage numbers tend to fluctuate, reflecting the payout of bonuses on Wall Street, for example. Prior department reports also have highlighted the impact of corporate mergers and acquisitions.

A Facebook spokeswoman declined to comment.