Land acquisition hitches leading to delays in road projects

New Delhi: Government on Monday said problems in land acquisition was one of the main factors in delays in the implementation of National Highway Development projects (NHDP).

Answering queries on the issue during Question Hour in the Lok Sabha, minister of road transport and highways, C. P. Joshi said, “Land acquisition is one of the factors contributing to delay in implementation of some projects under NHDP."

Flags of the member states of EU on display. Photo: Bloomberg

The issues causing hindrance in the NHAI projects are forest clearance, poor performance of contractors and utility shifting. (PTI)

Impressive improvement in PDS, leakage down to 10-15%: Thomas

New Delhi: The government on Monday claimed there has been an “impressive improvement" in the performance of the targeted public distribution system (TPDS), with leakage reduced to about 10-15% on average now from 40% earlier.

“The leakage, on an average, is nearly 10-15%," minister of state for consumer affairs and public distribution K. V. Thomas said in a reply during Question Hour in the Rajya Sabha.

The government provides subsidised foodgrains to the poor through the TPDS. The Economic Survey for 2010-11 prepared by the finance ministry had indicated that over 40% of the grain meant for distribution to the poor through the TPDS does not reach the target audience.

The onus for procurement, allocation and transportation of foodgrains up to the designated depots of Food Corporation of India (FCI) lies with the central government.

The duty of lifting and distributing the allocated foodgrains to the eligible people through fair price shops is with the states.

Thomas said that the estimates in the Economic Survey for 2010-11 were prepared on the basis of a study conducted by economist Reetika Khera and the latest study, done by a group of research scholars, including Khera, recently opined, “There has been an impressive revival in the TPDS across the country." (PTI)

China shares fall to 33-month closing low

Shanghai: China’s main stock index closed down 1% at its lowest level since March 2009 in thin volume on Monday, with investors jittery over a possible policy response from Beijing after data last week pointed to a serious risk of a sharp industrial slowdown.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index finished down at 2,291.5 points, after a 1.9% fall last week. Turnover hit a near-three-year low of 36 billion yuan. (Reuters)

Euro dips after EU summit; more pain to come

Tokyo: The euro slipped in Asia on Monday, and was expected to struggle going into the year-end after the European Union (EU) agreed on deeper economic integration but fell short of a convincing plan to deal a decisive blow to the region’s debt woes.

The currency fell to a session low of $1.3334 after Moody’s ratings agency said the two-year-old crisis is still in a “critical" and “volatile" stage, adding that the region is prone to further shocks and faces rising threats to cohesion.

Except for Britain, the EU states decided at a summit to pursue stricter budget rules for the single currency area and to provide up to €200 billion in bilateral loans to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help tackle the crisis.

But uncertainty about the drawn-out process of implementing changes, a bitter divide between the United Kingdom (UK) and the rest of Europe, almost no mention of policies aimed at boosting the ailing European economy, and no emphatic action on cash-starved European banks undermined the outcome of the summit.

The euro fetched $1.3340, down 0.4% from $1.3371 late in New York on Friday. It is now almost 6% below its October peak and 10% off its 2011 high of just under $1.50, struck in early May. (Reuters)

Olympus ex-CEO Woodford to meet MPs in push for Japan reform

Tokyo: The whistleblower in Japan’s Olympus Corp scandal, former chief executive officer (CEO) Michael Woodford, plans to meet ruling-party lawmakers in Tokyo this week as he lobbies for reforms to Japanese boardrooms, a source said on Monday.

Woodford, an Englishman who was sacked as Olympus CEO by the firm’s board two months ago, arrives in Tokyo on Tuesday on a mission to persuade employees and investors that he is the right person to return to his old job and put the firm back on track.

The 92-year-old maker of cameras and endoscopes has been engulfed by one of the country’s worst accounting frauds, a 13-year cover-up of investment losses which has revived calls for reforms to check the power of executives in Japanese boardrooms.

Woodford plans to meet the lawmakers, members of a panel on corporate governance reform within the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), on Thursday, a day after a much-anticipated deadline for Olympus to iron out its accounts, said the source familiar with the ex-CEO’s itinerary. (Reuters)

Australia may opt for early Afghan pullout

Canberra: Australia could start pulling its troops out of Afghanistan well ahead of a planned withdrawal in 2014, the government said on Monday, but rejected reports that most could be gone by next year in response to a fast mounting death toll.

Defence minister Stephen Smith said while Australia could be in a position to withdraw and hand over to Afghan forces in restive southern Uruzgan province by next year, any decision would be based on security improvements on the ground.

“We’re neither seeking to rush, nor seeking to slow it down. We may well get there earlier than 2014, but that outcome is conditions-based," Smith said.

Australia, a close U.S. ally, has around 1,550 troops in Afghanistan, including elite special forces, based mainly at Tirin Kot in southern Afghanistan’s Uruzgan province.

But with 32 soldiers killed since the country signed up as an original member of the U.S.-led coalition that invaded the country a decade ago to oust the Taliban, the government is under mounting pressure to withdraw troops. (Reuters)

Japan consumer mood worsens in Nov, govt cuts view

Tokyo: Japanese consumer confidence in November worsened from the previous month, a Cabinet Office survey showed on Monday, suggesting that turmoil from Europe’s debt crisis and slowing global growth are weighing on sentiment.

The survey’s sentiment index for general households, which includes views on incomes and jobs, was 38.1 in November, down from 38.6 in October.

The Cabinet Office downgraded its assessment to say that consumer confidence is almost flat. Previously, it had said the pace of pickup in consumer confidence was moderating.

A reading below 50 suggests consumer pessimism. (Reuters)

Pakistani government denies talks with Taliban

Islamabad: Pakistan’s interior minister and Prime Minister have both denied the government is holding peace talks with its homegrown Taliban, according to media, saying it would do so only if the militants first disarmed and surrendered.

The deputy commander of the Pakistan Taliban, who have been waging a four-year war against the government in Islamabad, said on Saturday that the two sides were holding talks, a move that could further fray the US-Pakistan relationship.

But both Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and interior minister Rehman Malik denied the reports.

“Categorically, I’m telling on behalf of the government, no dialogue," Malik told reporters in Islamabad.

Gilani left the door open to negotiations. “Whosoever surrenders and denounces violence, they are acceptable to us," Gilani said in an interview with the BBC.

At the end of September, Pakistan’s government pledged to “give peace a chance" and talk with its homegrown militants. (Reuters)