India: We have dispelled atmosphere of gloom and doom: Indian PM

We have dispelled atmosphere of gloom and doom: PM

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
MUMBAI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singhtoday said the government has dispelled theatmosphere of ‘gloom and doom’ and will soon announce steps to stave off investors’ fears ensuing from taxations measures like anti-tax avoidance rule and retrospective tax amendments.

“We have dispelled gloom and doom, improved the climate for foreign investment, improved ministry coordination, and are working hard to restore investor confidence and the growth environment,” he told captains of India Inc at the Economic Times Award function here.

Admitting that certain tax measures like GAARgeneral anti avoidance rules) and retrospective tax amendments in the Budget have led to “a very negative” reaction from investors, he said: “We hope to announce decisions on all these issues within the next few weeks.”

Pointing out that the Cabinet has approved changes in the banking and insurance laws and also a new pension law, with higher FDI limits, the Prime Minister said: “It will be our endeavour to have them passed by Parliament as soon as possible. They will make our financial system more able to support growth.”

As regards the growth prospects for the current financial year, Singh said the Indian economyhas been affected by the global slowdown and this has dampened the investor sentiment.

“Growth decelerated to 6.5 per cent last year and may be only around 6 per cent in the current year. This has dampened investor sentiment. Doubts are being raised in some quarters about the India growth story going astray…”

“But we can, and we must, correct our own weaknesses, and create new opportunities for economic growth and employment at home. This is the challenge before us,” he added.

Referring to the recent government action to raise price of petroleum products and capping supply of subsidised cooking gas cylinders, Singh said the government is conscious of their effects on poor people.

“We will take all possible measures to protect their life line needs,” he said.

Referring to recent reform measures announced by the government, the Prime Minister said some of those were considered by many of critics as politically impossible.

“We bit the bullet and did what we felt was the right thing to do. Undoubtedly, more needs to be done,” Singh said. He further said one of the major negative features of the present situation is that a large number of infrastructure projects are stuck because of the delay in granting various clearances and the non-transparency in determining the conditions under which clearances can be given. “We are looking at ways to speed up clearance processes and making them more transparent,” he said.

Ramping up of investment in infrastructure, Singh said, is critical for reviving the growth momentum. The 12th Plan (2012-17) envisages an investment of about USD 1 trillion, and the government expects half of it to come from the private sector.

“Investment in infrastructure has to be in the vanguard of public investment for many years to come and we are working in that direction…We have set ambitious targets for the infrastructure sector and ministries are being monitored regularly to see that they perform as expected,” Singh said.

He also told the India Inc that government is ramping up coal production and promoting pooling of imported coal to deal with the fuel supply problem of the power sector. Talking about the recent liberalisation of FDI policy in retail, aviation, insurance, power exchanges and broadcasting, Singh said that “some people still try to make FDI into a bogey even invoking fears of the East India Company”.

In democratic politics, he said, any action of the government should be open for scrutiny and criticism. “But our experience should teach us not to be fooled by naysayers and Cassandras of doom. Indian industry has responded to the opening of the economy in ways which were not easily foreseen,” Singh said.


Military shake-up in Russia adds luster to Putin

MOSCOW, Nov. 10 (Xinhua) — Russia’s top military leadership has undergone a dramatic shake-up recently with both the defense minister and the chief of General Staff being removed.

President Vladimir Putin fired Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov on Tuesday over a corruption scandal, replacing him with former Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu. Three days later, the president dismissed army chief Nikolai Makarov.

The ministerial replacement stems from the corruption scandal in the Oboronservice company, in which the former defense minister had served as board chairman until 2011.

According to the Russian Investigative Committee, the state-controlled company embezzled around 3 billion rubles (95 million U.S. dollars) of national defense budget and investigators were also probing Oboronservice as part of a criminal inquiry into public assets fraud.

In order to “create conditions for an objective investigation of all the issues,” Putin decided to replace Serdyukov, a move which was well received in both the political arena and by the public.

The 50-year-old Serdyukov had been Defense Minister since February 2007. He launched military reforms, which included reorganizing the army and cutting the number of officers.

Meanwhile, Serdyukov replaced some military officials with civilians who had worked with him when he headed the tax ministry. This action triggered discontent among the military and political circles.

Speculation he would fall from grace had circulated for years, but he had received Putin’s staunch backing.

However, this time the president moved to replace him without hesitation because people had started to question the country’s national defense budget following the scandal.

Analysts said the reshuffle in the military ensured a smooth process of reforms, complied with people’s aspirations and added luster to Putin’s political achievements.

The Russian military was crying out for achievements in the armed forces, implementation of state defense orders and ongoing modernization, Putin said. Therefore he appointed Shoigu, who is considered a great strategist or a powerful military officer, to the post.

In August, the Russian president said the military-industrial complex was stimulating the development of other sectors. Meanwhile, he acknowledged that, in the past 30 years, Russia’s military industry had missed several modern cycles due to inadequate funding. Only proper reforms could make up for the lost opportunities.

Serdyukov’s dismissal also demonstrated the government’s determination to combat corruption, which has long disturbed social development.

Yevgeny Primakov, former Russian prime minister, said sacking Serdyukov was not a simple change of personnel, but the start of purification of the authorities in the country.

In addition, the reshuffle would help Putin restore his reputation, said Igor Bunin, president of the Center for Political Technologies.

Bunin said, according to an opinion poll, Putin had seen a declining approval rating compared with his two previous presidencies. “Decisively removing tainted officials shows Putin’s attitude towards corruption. To cut the Gordian knot will earn more reputation for the president in the army and among the people,” he said.

Woman Linked to Petraeus Is a West Point Graduate and Lifelong High Achiever


WASHINGTON — Paula Broadwell, whose affair with the nation’s C.I.A. director led to his resignation on Friday, was the valedictorian of her high school class and homecoming queen, a fitness champion at West Point with a graduate degree from Harvard, and a model for a machine gun manufacturer.

T. Ortega Gaines/The Charlotte Observer, via Associated Press

Paula Broadwell, who wrote a biography of David H. Petraeus, moved into public view on Friday after an affair with Mr. Petraeus was uncovered.

It may have been those qualities — or a lifetime of achievement that included being state student council president, all-state basketball player and orchestra concertmistress in her native North Carolina — that drew the amorous attention of David H. Petraeus, the nation’s top spy and a four-star general, as the two spent hours together for a biography of Mr. Petraeus that Ms. Broadwell co-wrote.

Ms. Broadwell’s name burst into public view on Friday evening after Mr. Petraeus resigned abruptly amid an F.B.I. investigation that uncovered evidence of their relationship.

But Ms. Broadwell was hardly shy about her interactions with Mr. Petraeus as she promoted her book, “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus,” in media appearances earlier this year. She had unusual access, she noted in promotional appearances, taping many of her interviews for her book while running six-minute miles with Mr. Petraeus in the thin mountain air of the Afghan capital.

Ms. Broadwell said in an interview in February that Mr. Petraeus was enjoying his new civilian life at the C.I.A., where he became director in September 2011. “It was a huge growth period for him, because he realized he didn’t have to hide behind the shield of all those medals and stripes on his arm.” Ms. Broadwell was 39 at the time.

Her biography on the Penguin Speakers Bureau Web site says that she is a research associate at Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership and a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London. She received a master’s in public administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

A self-described “soccer mom” and an ironman triathlete, Ms. Broadwell became a fixture on the Washington media scene after the publication of her book about Mr. Petraeus, who is 60. In a Twitter message this summer, she bragged about appearing on a panel at the Aspen Institute, a policy group for deep thinkers.

“Heading 2 @AspenInstitute 4 the Security Forum tomorrow! Panel (media & terrorism) followed by a 1v1 run with Lance Armstrong,” she wrote. “Fired up!”

On her Twitter account, she often commented on the qualities of leadership. “Reason and calm judgment, the qualities specially belonging to a leader. Tacitus,” she wrote. In another message, she said: “A leader is a man who has the ability to get other people to do what they don’t want to do and like it. Truman.”

She also used her Twitter account to denounce speculation in the Drudge Report that Mr. Petraeus would be picked as a running mate by Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate for president.

Married with two children, she was described in a biography on the Web site of Inspired Women Magazine as a woman who has been a high achiever since high school.

The biography says that Ms. Broadwell received a degree in political geography and systems engineering from West Point, where she was ranked No. 1 over all in fitness in her class. She benefited from a different ranking scale for women, she told a reporter this year. But “I was still in the top 5 percent if I’d been ranked as a male,” she said.

The official Web site for Ms. Broadwell’s book was taken down Friday, but comments from her echoed across the Internet.

“I was driven when I was younger,” she was quoted as saying on the Web site noting her induction into her high school’s hall of fame. “Driven at West Point where it was much more competitive in that women were competing with men on many levels, and I was driven in the military and at Harvard, both competitive environments.”

“But now,” she is quoted as saying, “as a working mother of two, I realize it is more difficult to compete in certain areas. I think it is important for working moms to recognize that family is the most important.”

On “The Daily Show,” Jon Stewart summed up Ms. Broadwell’s book by saying: “I would say the real controversy here is, is he awesome or incredibly awesome?”A short time later, Ms. Broadwell challenged Mr. Stewart to a push-up contest, which she won handily. Mr. Stewart had to pay $1,000 to a veterans’ support group for each push-up she did beyond his total. Ms. Broadwell said he wrote a check for $20,000 on the spot.

On Friday evening, her house in the Dilworth neighborhood of Charlotte, N.C., was dark when a reporter rang the doorbell. Two cars were in the home’s carport and an American flag was flying out front.



Manila Hospital, No Stranger to Stork, Awaits Reproductive Health Bill’s Fate


Jes Aznar for The International Herald Tribune

Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital in Manila delivers more babies than any other facility in the Philippines. 

MANILA — In the main ward at Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital, 171 women and nearly as many newborns share fewer than 100 beds. Dozens more expectant mothers line the street outside, some sleeping on the sidewalk while waiting to get in.

The women, most of whom cannot afford to give birth at a private hospital, move through a type of controlled chaos from the street, to the labor room, to the delivery room, to the maternity ward and back out the door, usually in less than 48 hours.

“It’s a never-ending story, 24 hours a day, every day,” said Dr. Romeo Bituin, who added that the government-run maternity hospital was legally required to serve as a safety net for the poor. “We can’t reject patients. If we turn them away, where will they go?”

After years of discussion in the Philippine Congress, the House of Representatives finally decided in August to end debate on a reproductive health bill that would subsidize contraception and require sex education in the Philippines, a country with one of the highest birthrates in Asia. If it passes in the House, which returned to session on Monday, the bill will also need to be approved by the Senate.

The bill’s proponents, led by President Benigno S. Aquino III, who has made the issue a priority of his two-year-old administration, say the measure will give poor women a chance to have fewer children and rise out of poverty. Opponents, backed principally by the Roman Catholic Church, say the bill is out of step with the moral tenets of the overwhelmingly Catholic Philippines and argue that a high birthrate lessens poverty.

“Our country’s positive birthrate and a population composed of mostly young people are the main players that fuel the economy,” said Jose Palma, the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

Whether it is a bane or a boon, the birthrate in the Philippines — 24.98 out of 1,000 people, compared with 13.7 in the United States — is not a matter of statistics at Fabella. It is a matter of logistics.

The hospital, in a former prison between a public market and the city jail, delivers more babies than any other facility in the Philippines. Last year, 17,639 babies were born there.

The women are allowed into the hospital only when they are ready to give birth. After the birth, they sleep two to a bed in the maternity ward. If they have a healthy delivery without complications, they are sent home after one day.

“We don’t have the capacity to let them come in early or stay long after delivery,” said Dr. Marie Pacapac, a spokeswoman for the hospital. “Our delivery room fills up.”

The hospital averages about 60 deliveries a day in the summer and about 80 deliveries in a 24-hour period during the peak delivery season, September to December.

Fabella, which accepts pregnant women that other facilities reject, charges 3,000 pesos, about $70, for a normal delivery. Women who cannot afford that pay whatever they can. Some babies have been delivered for 100 pesos, about $2.40, while some expectant mothers show up at the hospital without a single peso, hospital officials said.

Most of the women who deliver at Fabella have never had any sexual or reproductive health education — which is rarely taught here — and many cannot afford to buy contraception, said Dr. Bituin, who noted that these issues would be addressed by the pending legislation.

“These women will use birth control pills, they will use condoms, but they can’t afford them,” Dr. Bituin said.

“If they received these things for free, they would use them, and fewer of them would end up here,” he said. “We are just the last step in the process. We need to advocate reproductive health in the community at the grass roots. The church is already there spreading their message through services every Sunday.”

The hospital does offer family planning information, but budget constraints prevent it from giving patients contraceptives, said Dr. Esmeraldo Ilem, the facility’s head of family planning services.

“Family planning in the Philippines is not about population control,” Dr. Ilem said. “It is a health intervention. We are focusing on women who are too young, too old, too poor or too sick to have babies but their situation does not allow them to stop.”

That description could be applied to Jelly Galia, a 44-year-old with seven children who was in the main ward after her eighth child died shortly after birth the night before.

Sitting on a bed surrounded by women nursing their newborns, Ms. Galia said she lived with her children in a slum. Her husband is an unemployed taxi driver, and her family has no income.

“I don’t want to have any more babies,” she said, wiping tears from her eyes. “I would take the pills, but we don’t have money to buy those. We’ll try ‘control,’ ” she said, using the local term for abstinence.