India’s Modi puts his country’s faith in technology for ‘inclusive growth’

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gives a speech at the World Government Summit in Dubai on Sunday. (AP)
Updated 12 February 2018
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India’s Modi puts his country’s faith in technology for ‘inclusive growth’

DUBAI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched an eloquent advocacy of the power of technology to reduce poverty and bring about “inclusive growth for everyone” at the World Government Summit in Dubai.

Modi, who had previously addressed thousands of his compatriots at the Dubai Opera, told the summit that 21st century technology was essential for his country to face its big challenges: Poverty, unemployment, housing, education and natural disasters.

“Technology, from the Stone Age to the industrial revolution to the digital revolution, has fundamentally altered the condition of man for the better. It is a source of disruptive change, empowering men and women, minimizing government and maximizing governance,” he said.

But he warned that governments have a responsibility to see that technology is not used for negative ends.

“It is the job of governments to ensure that the power of technology is used for the good of the common man. Technology has got to be a constructive, positive force. Man sometimes fashions technology into destructive and violent areas, like when cyberspace is used for the spread of extremism.”

In a speech preceded by traditional Indian dancing and studded with references in Sanskrit, the ancient Indian language, Modi said: “Sometimes it seems like man is making the cardinal mistake of using technology to come into conflict with nature. Man has to coexist with nature, as India has done with yoga.”

It was his second visit to the UAE since he became prime minister in 2014. He said the UAE was a “home from home” for 3.3 million Indian workers.

“The vision of Dubai is backed by technology, innovation and enterprise, but it is not confined to the laboratories. It is applied in the real world, in Masdar (Abu Dhabi’s sustainable city) and the Future Accelerator in Dubai.”

He added: “In establishing ministries of happiness and the future, the UAE has recognized the idea of maximizing human happiness.”

Modi highlighted India’s achievements in biometric profiling, linking identities to financial details and mobile phone numbers, which he said was leading to the creation of a “cashless society” in his country, and also the commitment to solar energy use and Internet-based “long distance” education.


Jordanian cabinet approves new IMF-guided tax law to boost finances

Updated 21 May 2018
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Jordanian cabinet approves new IMF-guided tax law to boost finances

AMMAN: Jordan’s cabinet on Monday approved major IMF-guided proposals that aim to double the income tax base, as a key part of reforms to boost the finances of a debt-burdened economy hit by regional conflict.
“When only 4 percent of Jordanians pay (personal) income tax, this may not be the right thing,” Finance Minister Omar Malhas said in remarks after the cabinet meeting, adding the goal was to push that to eight percent. The draft legislation was submitted to parliament.
The IMF’s three-year Extended Fund Facility program aims to generate more state revenue to gradually bring down public debt to 77 percent of GDP in 2021, from a record 95 percent.
A few months ago Jordan raised levies on hundreds of food and consumer items by unifying general sales tax (GST) to 16 percent — removing exemptions on many basic goods.
In January subsidies on bread were ended, doubling some prices in a country with rising unemployment and poverty among its eight million people.
The income tax move and the GST reforms will bring an estimated 840 million dinars ($1.2 billion) in extra annual tax revenue that will help reduce chronic budget shortfalls normally covered by foreign aid, officials say.
Corporate income tax on banks, financial institutions and insurance companies will be pushed to 40 percent from 30 percent. Taxes on Jordan’s phosphate and potash mining industry will be raised to 30 percent from 24.
The government argues the reforms will reduce social disparities by progressively taxing high earners while leaving low-paid public sector employees largely untouched.
“This is a fair tax law not an unfair one,” said Malhas, who shrugged off criticism the law is lenient on many businesses connected to politicians whose transactions are not subject to tax scrutiny.
Husam Abu Ali, the head of the Income and Sales Tax Department, said a proposed IMF-recommended Financial Crime Investigations Unit will stiffen penalties for tax evaders. Critics say it will not tackle pervasive corruption in state institutions.
Abu Ali said the government could be losing hundreds of millions of dollars through tax evasion, which is as high as 80 percent in some companies.
The amendments lower the income tax threshold and raise tax rates. Unions said the government was caving in to IMF demands and squeezing more from the same taxpayers.
“It is penalizing a group that has long paid what it owes the state,” the unions syndicate said in a statement.
“It imposes injustice on employees whose salaries have barely coped with price hikes rising madly in recent years.”