Wednesday, August 3, 2016

US hiring stays healthy; India clears unified tax bill; UN appeal to end Yazidi genocide

1 US hiring stays healthy (Gulf News) US companies added 179,000 jobs last month, according to a private survey, a steady gain that suggests hiring remains healthy after a sharp fall-off in the spring.

The report shows that many businesses are still hiring even as growth has been sluggish this year. The additional jobs, in turn, could keep Americans spending and support a pickup in growth in the second half of the year.

Still, the data cover only private businesses and often diverge from the official figures. Economists forecast that the government’s jobs report, to be released Friday, will show a gain of 175,000 jobs. The unemployment rate is expected to tick down to 4.8 per cent from 4.9 per cent.

Even so, this year’s sluggish growth has raised concerns about the economy’s broader health. Growth has slowed to an annual pace of just 1 per cent in the first six months of the year, half the already-tepid 2 per cent pace of the seven-year old recovery.

The unemployment rate may keep falling, however. Most analysts estimate the economy needs to add just 85,000 a month to absorb population growth and keep the unemployment rate steady.

2 India clears unified tax bill (Soutik Biswas on BBC) India's parliament has passed the much-awaited Goods and Services Tax (GST) bill. The tax reform has been labelled a landmark and India's biggest tax reform since independence. The changes aim to streamline India's fragmented tax system with a single levy.

Indian businesses have been lobbying for the single tax rate as it would reduce costs, particularly for shipping goods across state borders. What promises to one of the world's most complex tax reforms is expected to be serviced by state-of-the-art technology.

Indian software giant Infosys is building a gigantic electronic infrastructure - a GST portal - where taxpayers can register, make payments and file returns. Some 7.5 million businesses will be covered by the tax. Clearly, a successful GST in India will be a minor miracle.

Currently, everything sold in India is subject to a multitude of taxes varying from state to state. This is a bureaucratic burden, with a lot of money lost in a fragmented market. With every state deciding its own taxes it also encourages local protectionism.

The new efficiency aims to boost growth, with optimistic estimates suggesting more than 2% of added economic growth. India already has overtaken China as the world's fastest growing economy. The Goods and Services Tax will replace that confusing jumble of existing taxes - ranging from lottery and entertainment tax to VAT, sales tax or luxury tax - with one single tax.

The individual states fear they will lose money. They will now be compensated for their lost revenue over the next five years. Another compromise is that the lucrative businesses of fuel and alcohol have been entirely left out of the new tax for now.

The government target for the tax coming into effect is April 2017 but many doubt it will be in place by then. It's to be an electronic tax with no more manual filing - the massive IT infrastructure will be an added challenge on the way to India's tax miracle.

3 UN appeal to end Yazidi genocide (San Francisco Chronicle) The Islamic State group is still committing genocide and other crimes against the Yazidi minority in Iraq, a United Nations commission investigating human rights abuses in Syria has said.

The commission's statement — released on the second anniversary of the initial IS attack on the Sinjar area in Iraq — urged action to prevent further death and suffering. About 5,000 Yazidi men were killed by IS when the Sunni militant group took control of Iraq's northwest two years ago. Thousands more, mostly women and children, were taken into captivity, according to the UN.

The commission of inquiry said IS crimes "against the Yazidis, including the crime of genocide, are ongoing." It called for a refocus on the "rescue, protection of, and care for the Yazidi community." 
Iraq's Yazidi community - a small and isolated religious minority that combines elements of Islam, Zoroastrianism and Christianity - has been repeatedly persecuted by successive governments and invading armies.

The UN panel's statement said that more than 3,200 women and children from the minority continue to be held by IS, and are "subjected to almost-unimaginable violence," including the sexual enslavement of girls while young Yazidi boys are forced to fight for IS.

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