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Financing urban development

June 30th, 2017 No comments

India’s urban population has grown by 32% from 2001 to 2011 as compared to 18% growth in total population of the country.[1]  As per Census 2011, 31% of the country’s population (377 million people) live in cities, and contribute to 63% of the country’s GDP.[2]  The urban population is projected to grow up to 600 million by 2031.2  With increasing urban population, the need for providing better infrastructure and services in cities is increasing.[3]  The government has introduced several schemes to address different urban issues.  These include the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), Smart Cities Mission, Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY), Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana – Housing for All (Urban) (PMAY-U), and Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban).

Last week the Ministry of Urban Development released the next batch of winners under the Smart Cities Mission.[4]  This takes the number of smart cities to 90.  The government has also announced a few policies and released data indicators to help with the implementation of the urban schemes.  In light of all this, we discuss how the new schemes are changing the mandate of urban development, the fiscal challenge of implementing such schemes, and the policies that are trying to address some of these challenges.

Urbanisation in India

The Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JnNURM), launched in 2005, was one of the first urban development schemes implemented by the central government.  Under JnNURM, the central government specified certain mandatory and optional reforms for cities, and provided assistance to the state governments and cities that were linked to the implementation of these reforms.  JnNURM focused on improving urban infrastructure and service delivery, community participation, and accountability of city governments towards citizens.

In comparison, the new urban schemes move beyond the mandate that was set by JnNURM.  While AMRUT captures most of the objectives under JnNURM, the other schemes seek to address issues around sanitation (through Swachh Bharat), affordable housing (through PMAY-U), and technology innovation (through Smart Cities).  Further, the new schemes seek to decentralize the planning process to the city and state level, by giving them more decision making powers.2  So, while earlier, majority of the funding came from the central and state governments, now, a significant share of the funding needs to be raised by the cities themselves.

For example, under the Smart Cities Mission, the total cost of projects proposed by the 60 smart cities (winners from the earlier rounds) is Rs 1.3 lakh crore.[5]  About 42% of this amount will come from central and state funding towards the Mission, and the rest will be raised by the cities.[6]

The new schemes suggest that cities may raise these funds through: (i) their own resources such as collection of user fees, land monetization, property taxes, etc., (ii) finance mechanisms such as municipal bonds, (iii) leveraging borrowings from financial institutions, and (iv) the private sector through Public Private Partnerships (PPPs).[7]

In 2011, an Expert Committee on Indian Urban Infrastructure and Services (HPEC) had projected that creation of the required urban infrastructure would translate into an investment of Rs 97,500 crore to Rs 1,95,000 crore annually.[8]  The current urban schemes are investing around Rs 32,500 crore annually.

Financial capacity of cities

Currently, the different sources of revenue that municipal corporations have access to include: (i) tax revenue (property tax, tax on electricity, toll tax, entertainment tax), (ii) non-tax revenue (user charges, building permission fees, sale and hire charges), (iii) grants-in-aid (from state and central governments), and (iv) debt (loans borrowed from financial institutions and banks, and municipal bonds).

While cities are now required to raise more financing for urban projects, they do not have the required fiscal and technical capacity.8,[9]  The HPEC had observed that cities in India are among the weakest in the world, both in terms of capacity to raise resources and financial autonomy.  Even though cities have been getting higher allocations from the centre and states, their own tax bases are narrow.8  Further, several taxes that cities can levy are still mandated by the state government.  Because of their poor governance and financial situation, cities also find it difficult to access external financing.8,7

In order to help cities improve their finances, the government has introduced a few policies, and released a few indicators.  Some of these are discussed below:

Policy proposals and data indicators

Value Capture Financing (VCF):  The VCF policy framework was introduced by the Ministry of Urban Development in February 2017.[10]  VCF is a principle that states that people benefiting from public investments in infrastructure should pay for it.  Currently when governments invest in roads, airports and industries in an area, private property owners in that area benefit from it.  However, governments recover only a limited value from such investments, constraining their ability to make further public investments elsewhere.  VCF helps in capturing a part of the increment in the value of land due to such investments, and use it to fund new infrastructure projects.

The different instruments of VCF include: land value tax, fee for changing land use, betterment levy, development charges, transfer of development rights, and land pooling systems.10  For example, Karnataka uses certain value capture methods to fund its mass transit projects.  The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), and City and Industrial Development Corporation Limited (CIDCO) have used betterment levy (tax levied on land that has gained in value because of public infrastructure investments) to finance infrastructure projects.

Municipal bonds:  Municipal bonds are bonds issued by urban local bodies (municipal corporations or entities owned by municipal bodies) to raise money for financing specific projects such as infrastructure projects.  The Securities and Exchange Board of India regulations (2015) regarding municipal bonds provide that, to issue such bonds, municipalities must: (i) not have negative net worth in any of the three preceding financial years, and (ii) not have defaulted in any loan repayments in the last one year.[11]  Therefore, a city’s performance in the bond market depends on its fiscal performance.  One of the ways to determine a city’s financial health is through credit ratings.

Credit rating of cities:  In September 2016, the Ministry of Urban Development started assigning cities with credit ratings.[12]  These credit ratings were assigned based on assets and liabilities of the cities, revenue streams, resources available for capital investments, accounting practices, and other governance practices.

Of the total 20 ratings ranging from AAA to D, BBB is the ‘Investment Grade’ rating and cities rated below BBB need to undertake necessary interventions to improve their ratings for obtaining positive response to the Municipal Bonds to be issued.  By March 2017, 94 cities were assigned credit ratings, 55 of which got ‘investment grade’ ratings.[13]

Credit ratings indicate what projects might be more lucrative for investments.  This, in turn, helps investors decide where to invest and determine the terms of such investments (based on the expected returns).

Earlier this month, the Pune Municipal Corporation raised Rs 200 crore through the sale of municipal bonds, to finance water supply projects under the Smart Cities Mission.[14]  The city had received an AA+ credit rating (second highest rating) in the recent credit rankings assigned by the central government.

Other than credit ratings, the Ministry of Urban Development has also come up with other data indicators around cities such as the Swachh Bharat rankings, and the City Liveability Index (measuring mobility, access to healthcare and education, employment opportunities, etc).  These rankings seek to foster a sense of competition across cities, and also help them map their performances year on year.

Some financing mechanisms, such as municipal bonds, have been around in India for the last two decades, but cities haven’t been able to make much use of them.  It remains to be seen whether the introduction of indicators such as credit ratings helps the municipal bond market take off.  While these mechanisms may improve the finances of cities, the question is would more funding solve the cities’ problems.  Or would it require municipal government to take a different approach to problem solving.

[1] Census of India, 2011.

[2] Mission Statement and Guidelines, Smart Cities, Ministry of Urban Development, June 2015, http://smartcities.gov.in/writereaddata/SmartCityGuidelines.pdf.

[3] Report on Indian Urban Infrastructure and Services, March, 2011, The High Powered Expert Committee for estimating the investment requirements for urban infrastructure services, http://icrier.org/pdf/FinalReport-hpec.pdf.

[4] “30 more smart cities announced; takes the total to 90 so far”, Press Information Bureau, Ministry of Urban Development, June 23, 2017.

[5]  Smart Cities Mission, Ministry of Urban Development, last accessed on June 30, 2017, http://smartcities.gov.in/content/.

[6] Smart City Plans, Last accessed in June 2017.

[7] “Financing of Smart Cities”, Smart Cities Mission, Ministry of Urban Development, http://smartcities.gov.in/upload/uploadfiles/files/Financing%20of%20Smart%20Cities.pdf.

[8] “Report on Indian Urban Infrastructure and Services”, March, 2011, The High Powered Expert Committee for estimating the investment requirements for urban infrastructure services, http://icrier.org/pdf/FinalReport-hpec.pdf.

[9] Fourteenth Finance Commission, Ministry of Finance, February 2015, http://finmin.nic.in/14fincomm/14fcrengVol1.pdf.

[10] Value Capture Finance Policy Framework, Ministry of Urban Development, February 2017, http://smartcities.gov.in/upload/5901982d9e461VCFPolicyFrameworkFINAL.pdf.

[11] Securities and Exchange Board of India (Issue and Listing of Debt Securities by Municipalities) Regulations, 2015, Securities and Exchange Board of India, July 15, 2015, http://www.sebi.gov.in/sebi_data/attachdocs/1436964571729.pdf.

[12] “Credit rating of cities under urban reforms begins”, Press Information Bureau, Ministry of Urban Development, September 6, 2016.

[13] “Credit Rating of Urban Local Bodies gain Momentum”, Press Information Bureau, Ministry of Urban Development, March 26, 2017.

[14] “Pune civic body raises Rs200 crore via municipal bonds”, LiveMint, June 19, 2017, http://www.livemint.com/Money/JOOzaSTKnC6k1EZGeFh8LJ/Pune-civic-body-raises-Rs200-crore-via-municipal-bonds.html.

Road to Raisina: How the President of India will be elected

June 20th, 2017 No comments

Yesterday, the BJP announced its candidate for the upcoming election of the President, which is scheduled to be held on July 17.  In light of this, we take a look at the manner in which the election to the office of the President is conducted, given his role and relevance in the Constitutional framework.

In his report to the Constituent Assembly, Jawaharlal Nehru had explained, “we did not want to make the President a mere figurehead like the French President.  We did not give him any real power but we have made his position one of great authority and dignity.”  His comment sums up the role of the President as intended by our Constitution framers.  The Constituent Assembly was clear to emphasise that real executive power would be exercised by the government elected directly by citizens.  It is for this reason that, in performing his duties, the President functions on the aid and advise of the government.

However, it is also the President who is regarded as the Head of the State, and takes the oath to ‘protect and defend the Constitution and law’ (Article 60 of the Constitution).  In order to elect a figure head who would embody the higher ideals and values of the Constitution, the Constituent Assembly decided upon an indirect method for the election of the President.

The President is elected by an Electoral College.  While deciding on who would make up the electoral college, the Constituent Assembly had debated several ideas.  Dr. B.R Ambedkar noted that the powers of the President extend both to the administration of the centre as well as to that of the states.  Hence, in the election of the President, not only should Members of Parliament (MPs) play a part, but Members of the state legislative assemblies (MLAs) should also have a voice.  Further, in relation to the centre, some members suggested that the college should comprise only members of the Lok Sabha since they are directly elected by the people.  However, others argued that members of Rajya Sabha must be included as well since they are elected by members of directly elected state assemblies.  Consequently, the Electoral College comprises all 776 MPs from both houses, and 4120 MLAs from all states.  Note that MLCs of states with legislative councils are not part of the Electoral College.

Another aspect that was discussed by the Constituent Assembly was that of the balance of representation between the centre and the states in the Electoral College.  The questions of how the votes of MPs and MLAs should be regarded, and if there should be a consideration of weightage of votes were raised.  Eventually, it was decided that a ‘system of Proportional Representation’ would be adopted, and voting would be conducted according to the ‘single transferable vote system’.

Under the system of proportional representation, the total weightage of all MLA votes equals the total value of that of the MPs.  However, the weightage of the votes of the MLAs varies on the basis of the population of their respective states.  For example, the vote of an MLA from Uttar Pradesh would be given higher weightage than the vote of an MLA from a less populous state like Sikkim.

Under the single transferable vote system, every voter has one vote and can mark preferences against contesting candidates.  To win the election, candidates need to secure a certain quota of votes.  A detailed explanation of how this system plays out is captured in the infographic below.

IGSources: Constitution of India; ECI Handbook; PRS.

Coming to the Presidential election to be held next month, the quota of votes required to be secured by the winning candidate is 5,49,452 votes.  The distribution of the vote-share of various political parties as per their strength in Parliament and state assemblies looks like this:

 

  • As shown in the infographic, the NDA and its allies approximately have 48% of the vote share.
  • This includes parties like the BJP, Telugu Desam Party (TDP), Shiv Sena, Shiromani Akali Dal, among others.

 

 

 

Note that the last date for filing nominations is June 28th.  In the next few days, political parties will be working across party lines to build consensus and secure the required votes for their projected candidates.

[The infographic on the process of elections was created by Jagriti Arora, currently an Intern at PRS.]

Overview of the Legal Issues around Aadhaar

June 10th, 2017 No comments

Yesterday, the Supreme Court delivered its first verdict in a series of legal challenges that have been made against the Aadhaar project.[1]  In the present matter, the court was examining whether a provision of the Finance Act, 2017 that made Aadhaar mandatory for filing of income tax returns and applying for Permanent Account Number (PAN) cards was constitutionally valid.  The court has upheld the validity of this provision, subject to a few qualifications.  Below, we discuss the background of the Aadhaar project, why the courts have stepped in to examine its legality, and some aspects of the recent judgement.

What is Aadhaar about, and how is it being used?

Earlier, various identity proofs were required for access to governments benefits, subsidies and services, such as a ration card, driving license or voter id.  However, as these proofs could be easily duplicated or forged, there was leakage of benefits and subsidies to ineligible beneficiaries.  The Aadhaar project was initiated in 2009 to address these problems.  It was envisaged as a biometric-based unique identity number that could help identify eligible persons.  It was thought to be a more reliable identity proof, because it sought to authenticate a person’s identity based on their unique biometrics, like fingerprints and iris scans.1

In 2016, Parliament enacted the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 to provide legislative backing to the project.  This Act allowed Aadhaar to be used for authentication purposes by the central and state government, as well as by private bodies and persons.[2]

Under its provisions, government has been issuing various notifications making Aadhaar mandatory for government projects, such as LPG subsidies and Mid-Day Meal scheme.[3]  In addition, in 2017, Parliament passed the Finance Act to amend the Income Tax Act, 1961, and made Aadhaar mandatory for filing of income tax returns, and applying for PAN.[4]

What is the information collected under Aadhaar?

To obtain an Aadhaar number, a person is required to submit their : (i) biometric information (photograph, 10 fingerprints, scans of both irises), and (ii) demographic information (name, date of birth, gender, residential address) to the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI).[5]  The Aadhaar number, the demographic and biometric information (called identity information) is together stored in the Central Identities Data Repository.  In addition, every time a person’s identity is authenticated using Aadhaar, information related to the authentication request is recorded as well.

How is this information protected?

While India does not have a comprehensive law on privacy and data security, the Aadhaar Act, 2016 has some protections.  For example, it prohibits UIDAI and its officers from sharing a person’s identity information and authentication records with anyone.  It also forbids a person authenticating another person’s identity from collecting or using their information without their consent.  Other protections include prohibitions against publicly displaying a person’s Aadhaar number and sharing of a person’s fingerprints and iris scans with anyone.  Note that there are penalties prescribed for violation of these provisions as well.[6]

However, the Act permits information be disclosed in the interest of national security and on the order of a court.[7]

The UIDAI authority has been made responsible for the operation and maintenance of the Aadhaar database, and for laying down the security protocols for its protection.[8]

Why did the courts step in?

Even as Aadhaar is being rolled out, with about 111 crore of the 125 crore population already on the database, there are several important constitutional and legal questions around the unique identity project.[9][10]  While yesterday’s judgement addresses one of these issues, other questions remain unresolved.  A description of the key legal questions is provided below.

Privacy:  It has been argued that the collection of identity data without adequate safeguards interferes with the fundamental right to privacy protected under Article 21 of the Constitution.  Article 21 guarantees right to life and personal liberty.  In August 2015, a three judge bench of the Supreme Court passed an order stating that a larger bench must be formed to decide the questions of: (i) whether right to privacy is a fundamental right, and (ii) whether Aadhaar violates this right.[11]  However, the court has not set up a larger bench to hear these petitions till June 2017.[12]

Mandatory vs voluntary:  Another question before the court is whether Aadhaar can be made mandatory for those government benefits and services, that citizens are entitled to under law.  In 2015, the Supreme Court passed some interim orders stating that: (i) Aadhaar cannot be made mandatory for providing citizens with benefits and entitlements, and (ii) it can only be used for seven schemes including PDS distribution of foodgrains and kerosene, LPG distribution scheme, MGNREGA wage payments, and Prime Minister’s Jan Dhan Yojana.11

Subsequently, Parliament enacted the Aadhaar Act, 2016, and the government has been issuing notifications under it to make Aadhaar mandatory for various schemes.3  In light of this, more petitions have been filed challenging these notifications.[13]  Judgements on these petitions are awaited as well.

Linking Aadhaar with PAN:  In 2017, after Parliament made Aadhaar mandatory for filing of tax returns and applying for PAN under the Income Tax Act, 1961, fresh petitions were filed in the Supreme Court.  The new provision stated that if a person failed to link their PAN with the Aadhaar number by a date notified by the central government, their PAN will be invalidated.  The government said this will decrease the problem of multiple PAN cards obtained under fictitious names and consequent tax fraud and tax evasion, because Aadhaar will ensure proper identification.1,[14]  However, the petitioners argued that this may interfere with a person’s fundamental rights, such as their right to practice any profession, trade or business and right to equality.  It is this question that has been addressed in the new judgement.1

Money Bill:  The fourth question is related to the manner in which the Aadhaar Act, 2016 was passed by Parliament.  The Act was passed as a Money Bill.  A Money Bill only needs to be passed by Lok Sabha, while Rajya Sabha may make non-binding recommendations on it.  In case of the Aadhaar Act, Rajya Sabha made some recommendations that were rejected by Lok Sabha.  It has been argued before the courts that the Aadhaar Act does not qualify as a Money Bill because it contains provisions unrelated to government taxation and expenditure.13,[15]

What has the judgement held?

The Supreme Court has held that the new provision of the Income Tax Act that makes Aadhaar mandatory for income tax assessees is not in violation of the fundamental right to equality, or the fundamental right to practice one’s profession or trade.  The petitioners had argued that the new provision discriminates between individual and non-individual assessees (e.g. companies or firms), because it only seeks to address tax fraud by individuals.  They had also contended that Aadhaar could not address the problem of tax fraud through duplicate PANs because there was evidence to show that people had multiple Aadhaar numbers as well.  The court rejected these arguments (as well as arguments related to freedom to carry on business), stating that Aadhaar is perceived as the best method of eliminating duplicate PANs, and therefore there is reasonable rationale behind linking the PAN database with Aadhaar.1

The court decided not to examine questions related to human dignity and privacy, on the ground that issues affecting Article 21 will be examined by a larger bench to be set up by the court.  However, it granted relief to people, who have not enrolled for Aadhaar, by stating that their PAN cards cannot be invalidated till the time when the matter is finally decided by such a bench.

This, in effect, means that the debate around constitutionality and legality of the Aadhaar project will remain ongoing till a judgement is finally pronounced on whether Aadhaar is in violation of right to privacy under Article 21.

[1] Binoy Viswam vs Union of India, Supreme Court, Writ Petition (Civil) No. 247 of 2017, http://www.sci.gov.in/pdf/jud/wc24717_Sign.pdf.

[2] Sections 7, 8 and 57, Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016.

[3] Unstarred Question No. 4126, Lok Sabha, March 27, 2017; Unstarred Question No. 1209, Lok Sabha, February 9, 2017; S.O. 371 (E), Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, February 8, 2017, http://dfpd.nic.in/writereaddata/Portal/Magazine/Document/1_211_1_aadhaar-notification.pdf; S.O. 369 (E), Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, February 8, 2017, http://www.egazette.nic.in/WriteReadData/2017/174076.pdf.

[4] The Finance Bill, 2017, http://www.prsindia.org/billtrack/the-finance-bill-2017-4681/.

[5] Regulations 3 and 4, Aadhaar (Enrolment and Update) Regulations, 2016.

[6] Sections 28-47, Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016.

[7] Section 33, Section 23, Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016.

[8] Section 23, Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016.

[9] “UIDAI achieves 111 crore mark on Aadhaar generation; Unique identity covers over 99 percent adult residents of India”, Press Information Bureau, January 27, 2017.

[10] Justice K. Puttaswamy (Retd) and Another vs Union of India and Others, Supreme Court, Writ Petition (Civil) No. 494 of 2012; Jairam Ramesh vs Union of India, Writ Petition (Civil) 231 of 2016; S.G. Vombatkere and Another vs Union of India and Others, Supreme Court, Writ Petition (Civil) 797/ 2016; “Aadhaar: What are the pending cases before the Supreme Court”, Indian Express, May 31, 2017, http://indianexpress.com/article/india/aadhaar-what-are-the-pending-cases-before-the-supreme-court/.

[11] Justice K. Puttaswamy (Retd) and Another vs Union of India and Others, Supreme Court, Writ Petition (Civil) No. 494 of 2012, September 23, 2013, August 11, 2015, October 15, 2015.

[12] “The Aadhaar/ PAN Judgement”, Indian Constitutional Law and Philosophy Blog, https://indconlawphil.wordpress.com/2017/06/09/the-aadhaarpan-judgment/.

[13] “Aadhaar: What are the pending cases before the Supreme Court”, Indian Express, May 31, 2017, http://indianexpress.com/article/india/aadhaar-what-are-the-pending-cases-before-the-supreme-court/.

[14] Uncorrected Lok Sabha Debates, March 22, 2017, Pg. 240, http://164.100.47.193/newdebate/16/11/22032017/Fullday.pdf.

[15] Jairam Ramesh vs Union of India, Writ Petition (Civil) 231 of 2016.

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