Try biometric attendance to tackle teacher absenteeism: Economic Survey

Citing teacher absenteeism as one of the reasons for low quality primary education, the Economic Survey on Tuesday suggested biometric attendance system that would be monitored by local communities and parents.

The pre-Budget document tabled in Parliament by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said an important concern that is often raised in the context of school education is low learning outcomes.

Although there have been improvements in access and retention, the learning outcome for a majority of children is still a cause of serious concern, it said.

“Some of the underlying causes contributing to low Budget 2017-2018 quality of education in the primary sector are teacher absenteeism and the shortage of professionally qualified teachers,” the Survey said.

Suggesting measures to tackle the problem, it said: “An option to address teacher absenteeism that can be explored is biometric attendance of all teachers in primary schools for each scheduled class/lecture/session/distinct from the present system, where it is morning and evening to ostensibly record arrival and departures with little control on the activities during the working hours. A pilot project in one district of every State may be commenced for six months to be expanded to all districts in three years,” it added.

“Apart from the biometric attendance being regularly monitored by local communities and parents, it should also be put in public domain. This should be backed by adequate teaching aids, recorded lectures, etc. To fill in for absentee teachers,” the survey said.

It, however, added that the scope of implementation should leave room for flexibility at the local level so the same do not end up as top driven ‘Model Schools’.

“The pilot of biometric attendance of teachers should be accompanied with an evaluation of learning outcomes,” it added.

The Economic Survey lamented that despite increase in spending on Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) budget over the years from 35 per cent in 2011-12 to 59 per cent in 2014-15, “teacher absenteeism and the shortage of professionally qualified teachers remain an issue to be addressed”.

Try biometric attendance to tackle teacher absenteeism: Economic Survey

Rupee scales one-month high of 67.87 on Budget optimism

Extending its winning run for the fifth straight session, the rupee on Tuesday rose by 8 paise to hit one-month high of 67.87 against the US currency on sustained selling of the dollar by exporters and banks ahead of the Union Budget to be presented tomorrow.

Expectations of an economically balanced Budget by sticking to its fiscal consolidation path which will give room for RBI to cut key rates along with robust capital inflows predominantly weighed on the local unit, despite a massive sell-off in equities.

Extreme dollar volatility in the midst of new US President Donald Trump’s protectionist policies also supported the trading sentiment.

Though, the Economic Survey today projected a lower economic growth of 6.5 per cent for this fiscal, impacted by demonetisation shock, but said it will rebound to 6.75-7.5 per cent in the next financial year.

Domestic markets remained in tentative mood and took a steep plunge as investors turned cautious ahead of tomorrow’s Budget announcements.

The local unit resumed sharply higher at 67.84 from overnight close of 67.95 at the Interbank Foreign Exchange (forex) market and largely traded in a narrow range.

It gained further ground in late Budget News afternoon deals to hit an intra-day high of 67.79 before finishing at 67.87, showing a gain of 8 paise, or 0.12 per cent – a level not seen since December 26, 2016.

Meanwhile, foreign funds remained net buyers and bought shares worth a net Rs 607.36 crore on Monday.

In worldwide trade, the dollar remained weaker against a basket of the other major currencies on growing concerns over the destabilising impact of Trump’s immigration policy continued to generate risk aversion.

The US dollar index was trading sharply lower at 99.94 in the late afternoon session.

The RBI fixed the reference rate for the dollar at 67.8125 and for the euro at 72.5526.

In cross-currency trade, the Indian unit also rallied against the British pound to conclude at 84.36 from 85.11 per pound.

But, it fell back against the euro to finish at 72.67 from 72.56 and also drifted against the Japanese Yen to close at 59.60 per 100 yens from 59.22 earlier.

Rupee scales one-month high of 67.87 on Budget optimism

Arun Jaitley to take questions from Twitterati after budget

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will reply to questions by Twitterati on the proposals in the Budget after its presentation in the Lok Sabha.

“I shall be presenting the Union Budget for 2017-18 tomorrow (February 1). I shall be happy to respond to your questions which you can send directly to me,” Jaitley said in a video message.

The questions can be asked Union Budget on Twitter by using the hashtag: #MyQuestionToFM.

This year, the government has decided to advance the Union Budget presentation to February 1, doing away with a decade-old practice of presenting it on the last working day of February.

Arun Jaitley to take questions from Twitterati after budget

India Inc’s biz confidence hit post note ban as sales plunge

Ahead of the Budget, a survey has revealed that India Inc’s business confidence slipped to a four quarter low as demonetisation pulled down performance and clouded its assessment of the economy.

According to Ficci’s latest Business Confidence Survey, the Overall Business Confidence Index (OBCI) slipped to a four quarter low of 58.2 vis-a-vis 67.3 in the last round as 4 out of 5 companies reported weak demand.

“The fall in overall index value was largely on account of the weakness that has gripped the performance of corporate India on account of demonetisation and their assessment of the current state of economy,” the survey said.

A decline was noted in the proportion of respondents foreseeing higher sales. About 46 per cent respondents said that they expect sales to increase over the next six months as compared to 62 per cent in the previous round.

The survey was conducted between December 2016 and January 2017 to capture the assessment of the current situation as well as gauge expectations regarding performance for the next six months. It drew responses from about 207 companies belonging to a wide array of sectors.

Notably, the outlook of respondents on employment generation worsened with only 18 per cent of the surveyed firms anticipating an increase in hiring in the coming six months as against 31 per cent in the previous round. Further, 66 per cent do not foresee any fresh hiring in the near term.

Significantly, weak demand once again emerged as a key impediment to business performance of companies.

While some respondents indicated a time frame of three months for things to normalise, others felt it could even take about a year. Nonetheless, a majority of them said that things should be back to normal in next six months (by June 2017).

Majority of respondents said demonetisation is a positive step towards reducing black money and corruption, while admitting that the move did have an impact on their sales.

Firms belonging to sectors such as automobile and ancillary industries, farm based products, construction, mining and cement reported a direct hit on their performance.

Respondents opined that GST implementation, uptick in US economy, lower interest rate and new infrastructure projects kicking off will aid growth going ahead.

Sharing their Budget wish-list, the companies said they Budget Highlights expect the government to stimulate demand for consumer goods, lay a thrust on infrastructure and further ease of doing business through measures like reduction in compliances with the Labour Department.

The firms want removal of remaining inverted duty structure that does not favour local manufacturing, reduction in corporate tax and income tax rates and roll out of the GST.

The respondents seemed upbeat about the export prospects, with 54 per cent foreseeing higher exports over the next two quarters as against 32 per cent in the previous round.

Besides, 44 per cent of the participants anticipate higher investments over the next six months, 3 percentage points higher than in the previous round.

The private domestic capex cycle has been weak and a break away from this trend will be critical to support and sustain growth, according to the survey.

However, they foresee a pickup in demand (both domestic and external) over the period January to June 2017.

India Inc’s biz confidence hit post note ban as sales plunge

PM Modi dismisses opposition’s criticism of an early Budget

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said the opposition has no real issue against his government and defended the decision to advance presentation of the Union Budget, to be tabled on February 1, saying it will facilitate execution of more development work.

He also cited the inclusion of several “common achievers” among the Padma awardees this year to claim it had happened for the first time as earlier the honour would be bestowed on those doing the rounds of power corridors.

At a meeting of BJP parliamentary party executive, which was followed by another of NDA leaders, Modi said the early passage of budget would lead to early start of developmental work. Earlier these works would begin only after monsoon had ended, he said referring to the practice when the budget would be tabled in February and passed in May.

Opposition parties have Budget 2017-18 slammed the decision to change the long-standing practice, alleging it was being done with an eye on the assembly polls in five states, including the key Hindi heartland state of Uttar Pradesh.

“They have no issue against us,” he said, according to NDA sources.

He also asked party leaders to ensure maximum presence MPs during the session except for those busy campaigning in the elections.

Referring to President Pranab Mukherjee’s address to the joint sitting of two Houses of Parliament, Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said it outlined the government’s “pro-poor” vision with emphasis on the work being done for the poor, Dalits and other deprived sections.

He asked leaders to take the message conveyed in the address to the masses, saying it should be their answer to all opposition criticism.

Naidu also referred to opinion polls carried out by media groups to insist that people had a favourable view of the government’s work.

Sources said Shiv Sena sought more governmental help for cooperative societies, while another ally- TDP- supported the government’s stress on digitisation and demonetisation exercise.

PM Modi dismisses opposition’s criticism of an early Budget

Infographic: Economic Survey points to macroeconomic challenges

The Economic Survey 2016-17 underscores the need to re-establish private investment and exports as the major drivers of growth and reduce reliance on government and private consumption. Addressing the over-indebted companies and bad-loan encumbered public sector banks will be vital.

Economic Survey: Street view

India’s benchmark Sensex has gained nine per cent so far this financial year and nearly 20 per cent since February 28, 2016, when the Economic Survey 2014-15 was presented in Parliament. Around the last Budget, the markets were at their 21-month low. Loose monetary stance by developed world central banks and improving earnings and economic outlook have supported gains in the domestic equities. However, improved growth outlook in the US and shocks caused by demonetisation have resulted in a decline, both in the markets and in investments by foreign institutional investors (FIIs).

Click on the image to enlarge Click on the image to enlarge FIIs have invested only Rs 10,700 crore ($1.7 billion) in domestic stocks so far in 2016-17. Contrary to last year, the benefit of low crude oil prices and other commodities is disappearing. The India basket for crude oil has gone up 71 per cent to $54.6 per barrel so far this Union Budget 2017 financial year. Metal prices, too, have seen an uptick with the MCX Metal Index gaining 11 per cent during the financial year so far.

Interesting facts about India

One innovation of the Economic Survey 2016-17 was eight infographics devoted to interesting facts about India. Arvind Subramanian, the chief economic advisor, even tweeted all these punchy charts from his personal handle. Among those was new evidence on weak targeting of social programmes.

Click on the image to enlarge Click on the image to enlarge A pair of charts showed, the districts with the most poor are the ones that suffer from the greatest shortfall of funds in social programmes. Another showed the rising spatial dispersion in income.

Infographic: Economic Survey points to macroeconomic challenges

Economic Survey primer

On Fiscal consolidation

Advanced countries have embraced fiscal activism, giving a greater role to counter-cyclical policies and attaching less weight to curbing the debt stock. But, India’s experience has taught opposite lessons

India’s fiscal stance has an in-built bias toward higher deficits, because spending rises pro-cyclically during growth surges, while revenue and spending are deployed counter-cyclically during slumps

It (India’s experience) has reaffirmed the need for rules to contain activism, so as to rein in excessive spending during booms and inordinate deficits during downturns, a pattern that contributed to both recent episodes of severe macroeconomic instability (1991 and 2013)

FarmersImpact of demonetisation

An uncertainty shock because economic agents Budget 2017 India face imponderables related to the impact and duration of the liquidity shock as well as further policy responses (causing consumers to defer or reduce discretionary consumption and firms to reconsider investment plans)

Agricultural sowing, passenger car sales, and overall excise taxes bear little imprint of demonetisation; sales of two-wheelers show a marked decline after demonetisation; credit numbers were already looking weak before demonetisation, and those pre-existing trends were further reinforced after November 8

If nominal GDP growth declines, corporate and indirect tax revenues of the Centre could decline but so far there is no clear evidence

On Universal Basic Income

The Mahatma as the embodiment of universal moral conscience would have seen the possibility of UBI in achieving the outcomes he so deeply cared about and fought for all his life

As a fiscal conservative he (Mahatma) would permit UBI only if convinced that macro-economic stability would not be jeopardised Recognising the difficulty of exit, the Mahatma, as an astute political observer would have anxieties about UBI as being just another add-on government programme. But on balance he may have given the go-ahead to UBI

Economic Survey primer