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The Week in Review 25 March 2011

The Week in Review 25 March 2011

The budget session of Parliament is over. It ended on Friday soon after the budget 2011-12 was passed. Typically, the budget session continues into April with a recess in between. But with state elections coming up at the same time, it’s been cut short.

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The last week of the budget session saw a flurry of reform-oriented bills introduced in Parliament. Topping the list was the bill for the Goods and Services Tax. Another is the much-awaited banking bill. That proposed legislation would give the Reserve Bank the extra powers it needs to give industrial houses banking licenses.

A third crucial bill brought in during the week was the one intended to reform India’s pension industry. The PFRDA bill allows for a portion of the pension corpus to be invested in stock markets. Significantly though, it doesn’t mention foreign companies. The bill’s original draft allowed 26% FDI in pension funds.

Switching to other news, a fresh set of norms could soon be put in place for India’s mutual fund industry. Market regulator Sebi plans to bring in additional regulations to prevent distributors from mis-selling mutual funds. Last month it sent funds a note on practices used to sell schemes. It then held a follow-on meeting with the larger asset management companies. There are roughly one hundred thousand distributors in India. And since Sebi can’t regulate them directly, it’s going through asset management companies.

ONGC’s overseas arm OVL may have paid top dollar to acquire Imperial Energy, but that deal is now under fire. India’s top auditor, the CAG, says the acquisition has resulted in a loss of nearly Rs1,200 crore. That estimate is for the period from January 2009 to March 2010. The CAG says Imperial’s main Siberian oil field only produces some 17,000 barrels per day. OVL’s original target was 35,000 barrels per day.

Airline passenger traffic has shown steady growth in February, despite the hike in oil prices. Air India’s domestic traffic increased 15.8%, while Kingfisher’s went up by 19%. IndiGo saw an 18.7% increase and SpiceJet’s growth was at 13.8%. Overall growth on domestic routes stood at 18.5%.

Staying with airlines, private carriers only have a few days left to hire dedicated ground handlers at top destinations. The aviation ministry has told airlines to outsource ground handling at the six biggest airports. They have until the end of this month to comply. Airlines have appealed against the order in the Supreme Court.

And in a separate development, SpiceJet has suspended controversial pilot Garima Passi. The move came after reports that she fared badly during pilot training in the US. Earlier, the airline fired two other pilots for allegedly getting their flying licenses using forged documents.

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