Netanyahu will start his four-day visit with talks with his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull at his official Sydney address.
Turnbull wrote an opinion piece in today's The Australian newspaper that backed Netanyahu's criticism in 2015 that the United Nations General Assembly had adopted 20 resolutions critical of Israel in the preceding year and only one in response to the Syrian war.
"My government will not support one-sided resolutions criticizing Israel of the kind recently adopted by the UN. Security Council and we deplore the boycott campaigns designed to delegitimize the Jewish state," Turnbull wrote.
Netanyahu flew into Sydney early today from Singapore. High on the list of discussion topics is likely to be whether Israel remains committed to a two-state solution to resolve the Palestinian conflict and whether Netanyahu will heed President Donald Trump's call to "pull back" on settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank.
Netanyahu and Turnbull will sign agreements on technology and air services as well as discuss expanding co-operation in areas including cyber-security, innovation and science.
Vehicle manufacturer Tomcar Australia recently won an AusIndustry Innovation Award, at the same time as Toyota and Holden prepare to close their Australian production facilities.
Tomcar Australia, which makes a range of off-road vehicles and soon the nation’s first production electric car, has been recognised for its foresight, resilience and innovative achievements.
Sponsored by the Australian Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, the award is the first for Victorian-based Tomcar Australia.
On receiving the AusIndustry Business Award, Tomcar Australia Co-Founder & CEO David Brim said: “This award is a great recognition of our commitment to innovative Australian technological know-how and our unique sustainable manufacturing techniques.
“I want to pay tribute to all the Tomcar Australia team and our suppliers for their dedication, hard work and belief in what we are trying to do – bring life back to the Australian automotive industry.
“We have come a long way since we began this journey in 2005 and I must say our future is looking even more exciting as we work towards the introduction of Australia’s only full-scale production vehicle.”
Wheat production in the ongoing crop season is expected to be at an all-time high of 96.6 million tonnes (mt) on the back of good southwest monsoon, favourable weather and record acreage, the second advanced estimate for foodgrain production showed
The estimate released on Wednesday also showed that overall foodgrain production, including kharif harvest, in 2016-17 was expected to be a record 271.98 mt, showing that demonetisation didn’t have a big impact on rabi crops
If the production numbers turn out to be correct, agriculture and allied sector growth in 2016-17 could reach more than 5 per cent. The Central Statistics Office (CSO)’s had pegged growth at 4.1 per cent in the first advanced estimate of 2016-17. Agri growth in previous financial year was at 1.2 per cent
"Although the record high growth in output of foodgrains and oilseeds bodes well for the trajectory of food prices, the seasonal rise in prices of vegetables and stickiness in prices of sugar, would result in retail food and beverages inflation rising over the next few months, from the series-low 1.3 per cent in January 2017. In addition to the estimate of crop production for the ongoing fiscal, the Central Bank would weigh the cues regarding the upcoming monsoon season while assessing the outlook for food inflation," Aditi Nayar, Principal Economist, ICRA Limited said
The data also showed that production of mustard, the biggest oilseeds grown during the rabi season, was expected to be 7.91 mt, 1.11 mt more than last year
Chana or gram production in 2016-17 was expected to be around 9.12 mt, 29 per cent more than last year. Overall, pulses production in 2016-17 was expected to be 22.14 mt, the highest India has produced
This should help in reducing imports as consumption was estimated to be 23-24 mt. But this could signal bad news for farmers as prices have already dropped much below the minimum support price (MSP)
“Demonetisation was announced in November 8. By that time wheat sowing was already on. Thereafter climate was very favourable, which helped in raising the per-hectare yield, leading to a record wheat production this year,” P K Joshi, South-Asia Director of International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), told Business Standard
Demonetisation didn’t have any impact on rabi sowing as more than 80 per cent of rural economy ran on credit. “To me, in the final analysis, India’s agriculture and allied sector growth in 2016-17 is expected to be around 5-6 per cent, much more than the advanced estimated by CSO,” Joshi added
The data also showed that among other crops, rice production in 2016-17 was expected to be a record 108.86 mt, almost 4.26 per cent more than last year. Oilseeds production in 2016-17 was pegged at a record 33.60 mt, soyabean output at 14.13 mt, groundnut at 8.47 mt and castorseed at 1.74 mt
Last year, oilseed output was 25.25 mt and the previous record was 32.75 mt in 2013-15
Coarse cereal output was estimated to be a record 44.34 mt this year, against 38.52 mt last year. The previous record was 43.40 mt in 2013-14
The foodgrain basket comprises wheat, rice, pulses and coarse cereals
Among cash crops, cotton output was estimated at 32.51 million bales (of 170 kg each) this year, against 30 million bales last year
However, sugarcane output was likely to be lower at 309.98 mt this year, against 348.44 mt last year. Jute and mesta output was estimated to be lower at 10.06 million bales (of 180 kg each) against 10.52 million bales last year
The government releases total four estimates on foodgrain production before the final one at various stages of production and harvesting period. It also lowered its last year’s wheat production to 92.29 mt, against the previous estimate of 93.5 mt.
Indian Railways has set a daily target of laying 9.5 km of tracks to complete its ambitious line doubling and capacity expansion projects earmarked for the next financial year
The railway ministry is importing US-made track-laying machines that can lay around 1.5 km of tracks per day as against the 100 meters of tracks the railways lays manually on an average
The railway ministry has set aside a fund of around Rs 35,000 crore to undertake these works which include construction of new lines, gauge conversion and doubling of capacity
Of the total budget, around Rs 10,000 crore will be spent on construction of railway lines of dedicated freight corridors that will connect Delhi to Jawaharlal Nehru Port in Mumbai and Ludhiana in Punjab to Dankuni in West Bengal
“The US made new track laying machines being manufactured by Harsco will be used majorly across India from now on
“We have the target of delivering 9.5 km every day. It is for the first time that the railways will be working on such a deadline,” a senior railway ministry official said
For the next financial year, the total track laying target has been set at 3,500 km whereas the track electrification target has been set at 4,000 km
The target is significantly higher than the current one, where railway is constructing around 2,000 km of new tracks
Railway minister Suresh Prabhu has also instructed all his officials to wind up the long pending projects on priority basis. The ministry has already sent instructions to zonal railways
The railway ministry plans to spend `1.31 lakh crore — the highest-ever for capacity expansion — in the next financial year. It has received `55,000 crore from the finance ministry as gross budgetary support
“We have been told to move to the project-based funding model where all existing projects are to be provided funds immediately so that they are not delayed any more,” the official said
The ministry is also going to undertake major track renewal works to make the railway network safer in the wake of the recent train derailment cases
“Around 3,600 km of track renewal will also be taken in the next year,” the official said.
The budget has tasked the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard), India’s apex bank for rural finance, with supporting irrigation and dairy schemes totalling Rs35,000 crore. According to Harsh Kumar Bhanwala, chairman of Nabard, these measures will revive public investments in agriculture, and rejuvenate the dairy sector where processing infrastructure is outdated. Edited excerpts from an interview
How do you perceive this year’s budget announcements for the rural and agriculture sector
For the rural and agriculture sector, the budget is futuristic. For several years, public investment in agriculture was going down. It used to be very high during the Green Revolution years (in the 1960s), but recent estimates suggest nearly 80% of it is private investment (by farmers or rural entrepreneurs). This year, lots of public investment in irrigation and dairy is a positive sign. While the long-term irrigation fund (Rs 40,000 crore corpus announced in the past two budgets) will make available large volumes of water, the micro-irrigation fund (Rs 5,000 crore) will help in efficient use of that water
From a farmers’ income point of view, dairy will play a critical role. Our dairy processing infrastructure is outdated and requires rejuvenation. India is the largest producer of milk but only 20% of it goes for organized processing. We require larger processing capacities and whatever exists now is Operation Flood investments from 1970s and 1980s. So, the dairy processing fund announced in the budget (Rs 5,000 crore under Nabard) is a timely move
For small and marginal farmers, a model law on contract farming (proposed in the budget) will allow for collectivization of cultivation so that scale of operations (farming) can go up and investments are made
The budget tasked Nabard with schemes totalling Rs 35,000 crore for irrigation, dairy and cooperative banks. How will these take off ? Last year’s budget gave Nabard charge of a Rs 20,000 crore long-term irrigation fund. How much did you borrow and allocate to states
Most of the funds will be raised from the market and advanced as loans to states and central government agencies. The idea is to make large funds available upfront, than say, allocate Rs 4,000 crore every year, for the next few years. This will help finish pending irrigation projects on time. The centre will service the interest on these market borrowings and repay the principal amount (for its share) to Nabard. States will allocate the funds they borrow from us directly to complete the projects. They will have to repay the borrowed funds within 15 years
We have raised and disbursed Rs 5,600 crore to state governments for the long-term irrigation fund, and expect it to reach Rs 12,000 crore by year end (March 2017) depending on how projects are progressing
Will Nabard also monitor progress of these projects
Nabard does milestone-based funding. This means instalments are made available on satisfactory progress based on previous allocations. We have a monitoring arrangement and that’s why completion rates of projects that we are funding are higher
That’s a lot of responsibility. Do you think the budget has entrusted Nabard with more tasks, than say, the agriculture ministry
Nabard cannot do anything on its own. We work with state and central government departments. They need us for fund-raising upfront as there is a limitation on raising resources within one year. We are as much a part of the government as the department of agriculture is.