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April 2018 Economic Affairs

  • RBI revised its “Know Your Customer” (KYC) guidelines 
    The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has revised its "Know Your Customer"(KYC) guidelines. It said the KYC norms have been revised following the government's decision to update the 'Prevention of Money Laundering' (PML) rules in June last year (2017). 

    In a circular issued in Mumbai the RBI made linking of national biometric ID Aadhaar to bank accounts mandatory. However, it said this will be subject to the final decision of the Supreme Court on making of Aadhaar mandatory. 

    Till now, an Officially Valid Document (OVD) for address proof together with Permanent Account Number (PAN) issued by the Income Tax department and a recent passport size photograph were the key KYC documents. 

    But in the amended Customer Due Diligence (CDD) procedure, the Aadhaar number, the PAN or Form No. 60 need to be obtained from an individual who is eligible for applying for the biometric ID. 

    The RBI made an exception in case of residents of Jammu and Kashmir, Assam or Meghalaya. In their cases, a certified copy of an OVD and one recent photograph will be sufficient in case they do not submit Aadhaar or proof of application of enrolment for Aadhaar. 

  • Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved a restructured Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Abhiyan scheme
    The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved a restructured Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Abhiyan scheme aimed at making rural local bodies self-sustainable, financially stable and more efficient. 

    Union Panchayati Raj Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said Prime Minister Narendra Modi will launch Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Abhiyan scheme on April 24 in Mandla in Madhya Pradesh on the occasion of National Panchayati Raj Day. 

  • Deposits in Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) accounts cross Rs 80,000 crore: Global Findex Report
    According to a finance ministry data, the deposits, which have been steadily rising since March 2017, were at Rs 80,545.70 crore on April 11, 2018. Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) accounts had come into focus during the demonetisation period when the deposits witnessed a meteoric rise. 

    The latest report of the World Bank titled Global Findex Report, 2017 released last week cited the success of the Jan Dhan Yojana. 

    India's financial inclusion efforts have won recognition from the World Bank as their data indicate that 55 percent of new bank accounts opened are from India, Financial Services Secretary Rajiv Kumar had said. 

    The deposits increased in the later part of November 2016 to over Rs 74,000 crore from about Rs 45,300 in the beginning of the month as people rushed to deposit the scrapped currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000, as per the government data. 

    Thereafter, deposits in the accounts dipped before picking up again in a steady manner from March 2017. It increased to Rs 73,878.73 crore in December 2017, to Rs 75,572 crore in February 2018 and further to Rs 78,494 crore last month. The number of people joining the financial inclusion programme too is on rise. 

    The number of account holders increased to 31.45 crore on April 11, 2018 from 26.5 crore at the beginning of 2017. 

    As per the data, the number of such account holders was 25.51 crore on November 9, 2016, the day demonetisation came into effect. 

    As per the Global Findex Report, adult bank account holders in India increased to 80 percent in 2017 as compared to 53 percent in 2014 and 35 percent in 2011. 

    Women at the forefront, highlights a sharp fall in gender gap from 20 percent in 2014 to 6 percent in 2017 in bank accounts due to government's efforts. 

    The report acknowledges impact of government policy in reducing gaps in bank account ownership between rich and poor to 5 percent in 2017, down from 15 per cent in 2014. 

    The report noted the rapid increase in financial inclusion that has taken place in India and how the number of account holders in the country has risen from 35 percent of the adults in 2011 and 53 percent in 2014 to 80 percent in 2017. 

  • India highest recipient of remittances at $69 billion, says World Bank
    Global remittances are expected to grow 4.6 per cent to $642 billion in 2018 but longer-term risks to growth of remittances include stricter immigration policies. Remittances to low- and middle-income countries rebounded to a record level in 2017 after two consecutive years of decline, says the World Bank’s latest Migration and Development Brief. 

    The stronger than expected recovery in remittances is driven by growth in Europe, the Russian Federation, and the United States. The rebound in remittances, when valued in US dollars, was helped by higher oil prices and a strengthening of the euro and ruble. 

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi launches Rashtirya Gramin Swaraj Abhiyan at Mandla in Madhya Pradesh
    Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 24th April launched the Rashtriya Gramin Swaraj Abhiyan at Ram Nagar on the occasion of National Panchayati Raj Day at Mandla in Madhya Pradesh. The scheme focuses on training, building infrastructure and stepping up initiatives for e-governance under the e-Panchayat Mission Mode Project. 

    On the occasion, the Prime Minister also unveiled a roadmap for overall development of tribal communities during the next five years. 

    Local Government Directory Code was also launched by the Prime Minister. 

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi also laid the foundation stone of an LPG bottling plant of Indian Oil Corporation at Maneri in Mandla District. 

    In keeping up with the Government's commitment towards clean, healthy, and electrified India, the Prime Minister felicitated the Sarpanches of villages which have achieved 100% smokeless kitchens, 100% vaccination under Mission Indradhanush, and 100% electrification under Saubhagya Scheme. 

    On the occasion, he also gave away E-Panchayat awards under the Sarvashreshth Panchayat Yojna and winners of Gram Panchayat competition Yojna. 

    Earlier, Prime Minister also inaugurated an exhibition on Gond community in Mandla. 

  • Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) Decisions 
    The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) on 25th April approved the increase in the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for Raw Jute by 200 rupees for 2018-19 season. 

    MSP for Fair Average Quality of Raw Jute has now been fixed at 3700 rupees per quintal. 
    The MSP for Fair Average Quality of Raw Jute has now been fixed at 3700 rupees per quintal. The MSP of Raw Jute is expected to ensure appropriate minimum prices to the farmers and step up investment in Jute cultivation and thereby production and productivity in the country. 

    Centrally Sponsored Scheme of National Bamboo Mission, NBM
    The CCEA also gave nod to Centrally Sponsored Scheme of National Bamboo Mission, NBM, under National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture during remaining period of Fourteenth Finance Commission. The Mission will ensure holistic development of the bamboo sector by addressing complete value chain and establishing effective linkage of producers with industry. 

    Empowerment of Executive Committee for formulation of guidelines of the NBM
    The committee also approved Empowerment of Executive Committee for formulation of guidelines of the NBM. An outlay of 1290 crore rupees is provisioned for implementation of the Mission during the remaining period of 14th Finance Commission. 

  • Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), under the NITI Aayog, launched the Atal New India Challenge
    Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), under the NITI Aayog, launched the Atal New India Challenge on 26th April. Under the challenge, grants of up to one crore rupees, and mentorship will be given to the winning ideas. According to the NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant, Atal New India Challenge is very critical as it involves innovating for the requirements of India. He said, the country needs tailor-made solutions for the 1.3 billion people of the country. 

    AIM will invite prospective innovators, MSMEs and start-ups to design market-ready products, using cutting-edge technologies or prototypes. The focus areas include climate-smart agriculture, smart mobility, predictive maintenance of rolling stock, and waste management. 

    Applicants showing capability, intent and potential to productize technologies will be awarded grants up to one crore rupees. 

    This grant will be further supplemented by mentoring, handholding, incubating and other support as needed at various stages of commercialisation, while generating wider deployment for the product. 

  • Defence Acquisition Council approves capital acquisition proposals of over Rs 3,687 crore
    The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) on 27th April approved the capital acquisition proposals of over 3,687 crore rupees. The decision was taken in the meeting council, chaired by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in New Delhi 
    Procurement of DRDO’s designed and developed NAG Missile System 
    In a boost to indigenisation and in realisation of India's growing technological prowess, the DAC approved procurement of DRDO’s designed and developed NAG Missile System at the cost of 524 crore rupees. 

    Anti-Tank Guided Missile- NAG, along with the Missile Carrier Vehicle. 
    The system includes a third generation Anti-Tank Guided Missile- NAG, along with the Missile Carrier Vehicle. The NAG missile has top attack capabilities that can effectively engage and destroy all known enemy tanks during day and night. This will give a quantum boost to the Army's capability against enemy armour. 

    Procurement of thirteen 127 mm calibre guns for the Navy
    The DAC also approved procurement of thirteen 127 mm calibre guns for the Navy. These guns will be fitted on-board new construction ships for undertaking surface engagements including Naval Gunfire Support Operations. The guns will enable Naval ships to provide fire support and engagement of targets on the land. 

    These guns have engagement range of 24 kilometres, which could be extended further by using Extended Range Gun Munitions. These guns, a long outstanding requirement of the Navy would be procured from BAE Systems of the United States of America under the categorisation of Buy (Global) at an approximate cost of over 3,000 crore rupees. 

    The DAC also reviewed the progress of the DRDO programme to develop indigenous Airborne Warning and Control System. 

  • 35.3 lakh new jobs generated in 6 months till February, 2018: Niti Aayog
    Government think tank Niti Aayog has said 35.3 lakh new jobs were generated between September 2017 and February 2018. 

    As per data released by retirement fund body Employees' Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) and Pension Fund Regulatory Development Authority (PFRDA)," 35.3 lakh new payrolls were generated during this six-month period”, a Niti Aayog statement said. 

    The EPFO data shows that during September 2017 to February 2018, 31.10 lakh new payroll additions were made across all age groups. 

    Given that the data for recent months is provisional due to continuous updation of employee records, this could be called a conservative estimate. The actual figures may well be more than this, it added. 

    From the PFRDA, the New Pension Scheme (NPS) data indicates generation of 4.2 lakh new payroll during the given period, that too only from tier-1 account, it added. 

    The NPS currently manages the corpus of around 50 lakh employees in state and central government. 

    The Niti Aayog said that the payroll data from these three organisations would now be released every month. 

    Given that till now there was no such system in place, this data would provide a more firm basis for various analysis and studies of the economy and job creation. 

    The EPFO, Employees' State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) and the PFRDA have released payroll data. India has, for the first time, introduced monthly payroll reporting for the formal sector to facilitate analysis of new and continuing employment, it added. 

    The payroll data, categorized age-wise, for the months September 2017 to February 2018 has been released on April 25, 2018. The numbers from these three organizations are an eye opener and put an end to all speculations and conjectures regarding job creation in the economy. 

    They also strengthen the efforts made by the government on job creation and formalization of the economy, it added. 

  • Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar expects India's economy to grow by at least 7.5 per cent in 2018-19
    Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar expects India's economy to grow by at least 7.5 per cent in 2018-19 on the back of improvement in investment cycle and capacity utilisation. He said, the government should now concentrate on consolidating the reform initiatives undertaken in the last 47 months. 

    Mr Rajiv Kumar said, the economic environment is extremely positive and optimistic and inflation is well under the target. He said, the economy is expected to grow at 6.6 per cent in 2017-18. Mr Rajiv Kumar was speaking at the BSE-organised India Economic Summit in Mumbai on 28th April

    Mr Rajiv Kumar said more than 45 % exports in covered by SME sector and the importance of this sector can never be undermined. He said two main objectives of the NITI Ayog are creating more jobs and providing a boost to export. 

  • Government enters agreement with World Bank on biotech
    The government has entered into a legal agreement with the World Bank for a flexible financing arrangement to accelerate research towards early development for biopharmaceuticals. 

    The mission has been approved at a cost of 250 million dollars for five years with 50 per cent funding through the World Bank Loan

    The aim is to make India a hub for design and development of novel, affordable and effective biopharmaceutical products. 

    The statement also said the agreement was executed between the project implementing agency, Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council, a PSU of Department of Biotechnology, Department of Economic Affairs Ministry of Finance and International Bank for Reconstruction and Development on behalf of World Bank. 

  • India can play major role in shaping global fourth industrial revolution: World Economic Forum (WEF) 
    India is well positioned to play a key role in shaping the global fourth industrial revolution with a young labour force, a large English-speaking population and the second largest numbers of internet users, top World Economic Forum said. 

    But, the country will need access to infrastructure, electricity, and stability in monetary and fiscal policies, World Economic Forum (WEF) President Borge Brende told 

    Fourth industrial revolution -- a technological revolution through artificial intelligence, blockchains and Internet of Things -- is changing the scale, scope and complexity of the opportunities and challenges people face at present

    India can play a major role in shaping the global fourth industrial revolution as more than half of India's population is under the age of 27. Besides, the country has the second largest English speaking population as well as the second largest number of internet users on mobile devices. However, the country is lagging behind when it comes to skills and education

    According to Brende, India can lead the fourth industrial revolution and simultaneously enhance the quality, equity and sustainability of its own growth and development outcomes. 

    The WEF has already partnered with the Indian government to set up the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution India in Mumbai. It will work to accelerate the development and implementation of governance protocols for emerging science and technology to serve citizens, society and the public at large. The forum has identified India as a partner since it is a key economic, political and social shaper of the 21st century's global, regional and industry systems. 

  • Wholesale Price Index (WPI) inflation eases to 2.47 % in March as food articles turn cheaper
    Inflation, based on wholesale prices, eased marginally to 2. 47 per cent in March on cheaper food articles, especially pulses and vegetables. It was 2.48 per cent in the previous month. 

    According to the Commerce Ministry data released on 16th April, food articles showed deflation at 0.29 per cent in March as against 0.88 per cent in the preceding month. 

    The WPI inflation in March last year (2017) was at 5.11 per cent. Retail inflation, as per data released last week, slipped to a five-month low of 4.28 per cent in March on account of decline in food prices. Inflation in 'fuel and power' basket however rose to 4.70 per cent in March from 3.81 per cent in the previous month. 

  • Union Textiles Smriti Irani inaugurates 7th edition of Home Expo India 2018
    The 7th edition of Home Expo India 2018 began at the India Expo Centre and Mart in Greater Noida. Union Textiles Minister Smriti Irani inaugurated the three day fair. Being organized by the Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts, the fair is a three segmented categories show comprising Housewares, Textiles and Furniture under one roof at the same time making it a One-Stop Expo for every visitor. 

    Over 650 Indian exporters of all the three categories will be displaying exquisite products of House-ware, decorative, furnishing, flooring and textiles and furniture and furniture accessories. 

  • India must grow at 18% to ensure jobs to growing workforce: World Bank
    If employment growth per percentage point gross domestic product (GDP) growth remains business-as-usual, then India would need to grow at 18 per cent per year to ensure employment to the burgeoning workforce, a World Bank (WB) report has said. 

    However, it has said that attaining such rates is not possible and that growth rates alone cannot solve the looming jobs challenge in India, at a time when the job-demanding population is on an organic rise. 

    The WB released its bi-annual South Asia Economic Focus report for Spring 2018 titled ‘Jobless Growth? on 15th April. In its previous South Asia economic focus reports, it had focused on backlash of globalisation, tepid investment growth, and fading global tailwinds in the South Asian context. 

    Against the backdrop of an uptick in global growth in the current year, the report predicts that global demand and thus, the exports from emerging economies would moderate in the upcoming years to 2020. It also notes that the 6 per cent growth in Indian exports in 2017 (calendar year) was lower than what the WB expected in its January update. 

    Exports growth is key to employment growth in India, economists and policy planners have observed time and again. 

    India’s GDP growth plummeted from 7.9 per cent in 2015-16, to 7.1 per cent in 2016-17 (Revised Estimate) to 6.6 per cent in 2017-18 (Advance Estimate). Keeping its eye on South Asia, the WB report said there is an addition of 750,000 jobs in India per percentage point of GDP growth. In Pakistan, 200,000 jobs are added for 1 per cent upswing in GDP growth, while the figure is 110,000 for Bangladesh. 

    Deconstructing the debate on unemployment, it says female employment rate dropped by 5 per cent per year in India in 2005-2015, whereas male employment rate decreased very little. 

    Labour force participation rate is defined as the number of persons looking for a job as a proportion of the working age population (age group 15-59). In 2015-16, the labour force participation for males was 75.5 per cent, while that for females was a meagre 27.4 per cent. 

    The national sample surveys in India indicate that female labour force participation has reduced, while the census data says it has remained constant, notes the WB report. This incongruity in data, the report said, makes it difficult to ascertain employment estimates and prospects for not just India, but all South Asian countries. 

    The report notes that “faster economic growth leads to either more jobs in the aggregate, or to a reallocation of jobs away from self-employment”, but it also observed that this correlation is the weakest for India. 

    Though India has grown faster than before past 2005, the report says that job growth has rather reduced in the reference period 2005-2015. 

    On the growth front, the report said that though improvement in global growth was the biggest relief for South Asian emerging economies in 2017, it is going to dampen in 2019 and 2020. It also noted that the growth in exports would be lower than expected in certain sectors. The WB has put 2017-18 growth estimate for India at 6.7 per cent. 

  • Minister of State for Communication Manoj Sinha launched DARPAN-Postal Life Insurance App, in New Delhi 
    Minister of State for Communication Manoj Sinha on 17th April launched DARPAN-Postal Life Insurance App, in New Delhi. The DARPAN-PLI App will help in collection of premium for postal life insurance and Rural postal life insurance policies at Branch Post offices anywhere in India, with online updation of the policies. 

    Mr Manoj Sinha said, these initiative will help Department of Posts in providing better after-sales service to customers, particularly those living in rural areas of the country. 

    He said, with a view to achieve total digitisation of postal operations in the country, the department has launched Digital Advancement of Rural Post office for a new India (DARPAN) Project, which aims at connecting all one lakh 29 thousand Rural Branch Post Offices. 

    The Hand-held devices installed under DARPAN Project will ensure improvement in the quality of Postal services being offered in remote rural areas. 

    Customers in these areas can now avail the facility of online Core Banking, booking of Registered and Speed Post articles, booking of Money Orders, deposit of Postal Life Insurance and Rural Postal Life Insurance premium through these hand-held devices. 

  • Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi-led group of ministers discusses simplification of GST returns
    A Group of Ministers headed by Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi on 17th April held consultations with trade and industry organisations and tax experts on simplification of filing of GST returns. 

    Mr Sushil Kumar Modi said, GoM discussed two models for simplification of returns and also devised a third fusion model taking the best features of the two models. He said, by incorporating the fusion model and suggestions of the stakeholders a draft will be finalised. 

    He said, the draft on simplification of the tax return will be placed before the GST Council for final approval. Mr Sushil Kumar Modi said, till the new system is implemented, GSTR-3B summary return form will continue. 

  • International Monetary Fund (IMF) projected a global growth of 3.9 per cent in the next two years 
    The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on 17th April projected a global growth of 3.9 per cent in the next two years due to strong momentum, favourable market sentiment among other factors but warned that any trade disputes threaten to undermine confidence and derail global growth prematurely. 

    The IMF said in its latest World Economic Outlook report that the partial recovery in commodity prices should allow conditions for commodity exporters to gradually improve. 

    The 3.9 per cent global growth forecast for 2018, 2019, Maurice Obstfeld, Economic Counsellor and Director of the Research Department, IMF said, is being borne out by continuing strong performance in the euro area, Japan, China, and the US, all of which grew above expectations last year (2017). 

  • World Bank projects India's growth rate at 7.3 per cent for the current fiscal
    The World Bank has projected a growth rate of 7.3 per cent for India this year (2018) and 7.5 per cent for 2019 and 2020. The bank also noted that Indian economy has recovered from the effects of demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax. 

    The World Bank in its twice-a-year South Asia Economic Focus report in Washington on 16th April said that growth is expected to accelerate from 6.7 in 2017 to 7.3 per cent in 2018 and to subsequently stabilise supported by a sustained recovery in private investment and private consumption. 

    In the India section of the report, it said India should strive to accelerate investments and exports to take advantage of the recovery in global growth. World Bank acknowledged that disruptions from demonetisation and events surrounding the implementation of the GST led to a setback in economic activity and a potentially larger negative effect on the poor and vulnerable. 

  • Union Government launches first tranche of Sovereign gold bonds for financial year 2019
    The Union Government (Finance Ministry) in consultation with Reserve Bank of India (RBI) launched the first tranche of sovereign gold bonds (SGBs) for Background Households in India hold a large amount of their savings as physical assets such as gold, silver and other precious metals and real estate. The Households in India hold a large amount of their savings as physical assets such as gold, silver and other precious metals and real estate. The minimum subscription for individual and HUF is 1 gram and maximum is 4 kg. 

  • Government will cover 235 districts in the second phase of its POSHAN Abhiyaan 
    The government will cover 235 districts in the second phase of its POSHAN Abhiyaan which aims to reduce stunting, under-nutrition, anaemia among children, women and adolescent girls along with reducing low birth weight in the country. 

    The decision was taken in the first meeting of the National Council on India's Nutrition Challenges under the POSHAN Abhiyaan, chaired by vice chairman of NITI Aayog Rajiv Kumar in New Delhi on 18th April Regarding the direct transfer of funds to states and UTs to frontline functionaries, instead of the creation of a corpus fund, it was decided that the matter will be examined in consultation with the Finance Ministry. 

    During the meeting, it was decided that a pilot project will be conducted in 10 districts for conditional cash transfer (CCT) through direct benefit transfer and the states/UTs would continue their existing system of providing supplementary nutrition under Anganwadi services. 

  • India at the forefront of global growth in financial inclusion: World Bank
    The Global Findex Report, 2017 released by the World Bank on 20th April gives India more than one reason to cheer, as it notes the rapid increase in financial inclusion that has taken place in the country. 

    The report lists how the number of account holders in the country has risen from 35 percent of the adults in 2011 and 53 percent in 2014 to 80 percent in 2017. This, as per the report, is comparable to 80 percent of adults in China who have an account. 

    It also attributes the progress being driven by the Jan Dhan Yojana policy which has used biometric ID to expand access to financial services. 

    Further, it may be pertinent to note that the report sources its data largely from surveys that were conducted in the summer of 2017. 

    According to the government data sourced from the banks, the total number of Jan Dhan account holders has risen from 281.7 million in March 2017 to 314.4 million in March 2018. 

    The total number of current and savings accounts in banks has risen from 1.22 billion in March 2015 to 1.57 billion in March 2017. 

    The report states that about 514 million accounts have been opened globally from 2014 to 2017. 

    It is heartening to see that of these 514 million accounts, the number of Jan Dhan Accounts opened in India during the same period is about 28.17 crore, constituting almost 55 percent of the accounts opened globally during this period. 

    Further, the report takes cognizance of the "dramatically increased account ownership" in India and reduced gender gap in ownership by six percentage points vis-a-vis 2014 with 83 percent of the men and 77 percent women now having an account. 

    Moreover, among MUDRA loan beneficiaries, women account for almost 75 percent. 

    This reveals how, building on this basic foundation of providing a bank account to all its people, India has huge potential to further improve the account usage. 

    In what can be seen as an answer to apprehensions raised earlier by some critics on usage of digital payments in India, the report states that 36 percent of account owners in India are already using their accounts to make or receive digital payments. 

  • Cabinet approves ordinance on promulgate Fugitive Economic Offenders Ordinance 2018
    The Cabinet has approved the Finance Ministry's proposal to promulgate the Fugitive Economic Offenders Ordinance 2018 that provides for confiscating properties of escapees. 

    The ordinance would lay down the measures to empower Indian authorities to attach and confiscate proceeds of crime associated with economic offenders and the properties of the economic offenders. 

    It will deter economic offenders from evading the process of Indian law by remaining outside the jurisdiction of Indian courts. 

    The Ordinance is expected to re-establish the rule of law with respect to the fugitive economic offenders as they would be forced to return to India to face trial for scheduled offences. This will also help banks and other financial institutions to achieve higher recovery from financial defaults committed by such fugitive economic offenders. 

  • International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said India’s role in the development of the Indo-Pacific region will continue to expand
    International Monetary Fund, IMF has said India's role in the development of the Indo-Pacific region will continue to expand because of its robust growth. 

    Deputy Director of Asia and Pacific Department in the IMF, Ken Kang said in a news conference in Washington that India's growth is rising from 7.4 percent in 2017-2018 to 7.8 percent in 2019 and there is room to increase its export orientation and to reduce further barriers. 

    Answering a question on the role India can play in the development and growth of the Indo-Pacific region, Kang, said there is scope to do more on trade reform. He said the statutory tariff rate in India is relatively high at about 15 percent and higher than those in the rest of the region. 

    The IMF in the latest World Economic Outlook (WEO) has projected India to grow at 7.4 percent in 2018 and 7.8 percent in 2019. 

  • India imposed anti-dumping duty on import of phosphorus pentoxide from China
    The revenue department has imposed an anti-dumping duty on import of a chemical from China to protect the domestic manufacturers from cheap shipments. 

    According to a notification of the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC), anti-dumping duty of $1,685.42 per metric tonne has been imposed on import of Phosphorus Pentoxide from China. The duty has been imposed for five years. 

    Phosphorus Pentoxide is used as a powerful desiccant and dehydrating agent and is a useful building block and reagent in the chemical industry. 

  • RBI and FBI aid Fiscal deficit to be below revised target 
    The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Food Corporation of India (FCI) came to the aid of the government in bringing down its fiscal deficit for 2017-18, slightly below the Revised Estimates (RE) of Rs 5.95 trillion. The deficit clawed back from a Rs 1.2-trillion overshoot at the end of February. 

    This was achieved primarily because the RBI transferred an additional Rs 100 billion in surplus to the exchequer and the FCI returned about Rs 500 billion, it was allocated, to the finance ministry. 

    The fiscal deficit for April-February 2017-18 was Rs 7.16 trillion, 120 per cent of the RE for the full fiscal year, the highest overshoot for the 11-month period in any recent fiscal year. 

    Finance Secretary Hasmukh Adhia and Economic Affairs Secretary Subhash Garg have announced that the revised fiscal deficit target for 2017-18 has been met, though no official numbers for March other than those for direct tax, and some disinvestment details, have been made public so far. 

    The RBI had transferred Rs 306 billion as surplus to the Centre for July-June 2016-17. The Centre had been asking for at least Rs 130-billion additional surplus, which the RBI was supposed to have kept aside for provisioning requirements. Provisional figures for direct tax collections, net of refunds, stood at Rs 9.95 trillion. 

  • Central Vigilance Commission new norms for global projects
    The Central Vigilance Commission has drawn up a new set of guidelines for projects funded by international agencies such as the World Bank, IMF and Asian Development Bank. 

    The new guidelines will put an end to existing practice of government departments and agencies adhering to the guidelines of foreign donors, while ignoring Indian government rules, in concluding contracts for projects funded by them. 

    The new guidelines also draw a distinction between grants-in-aid and loans. 

    The decision could open up a debate on whether Indian guidelines that insist on the lowest financial tender to be selected, even if quality questions remain, is better than standards followed by the international agencies. 

    A key difference in projects funded by foreign agencies was that most of them had a different way of awarding tender, different from CVC guidelines for selecting the lowest financial tender for negotiations. 

    The earliest record of a formal clarification that allowed government agencies to ignore Indian norms for such contracts is an order issued on October 1, 1999 by the then CVC. It amended the 1998 guidelines on post-tender negotiations by government departments. 

    More than a decade later, on October 28, 2011 the Commission clarified that the CVC guidelines “would not be applicable in projects funded by the World Bank, ADB etc. if found to be in conflict with the applicable procurement rules of the funding agencies.” The new guidelines, issued on April 6, overturn those norms. 

  • NITI Aayog's northeast forum highlights 'HIRA' for development
    The first meeting of NITI Forum for North East has outlined five development missions for promoting sectors like horticulture, tourism and food processing in the region. 

    The focus of development projects in the region will be based on the concept of "HIRA" which stands for Highways, Internet ways, Railways and Airways. 

    Vice Chairman of NITI Aayog Dr Rajiv Kumar said, the emphasis will also be given on education, health and skill development in the region. He further said that there is also a planning for UDAN three through which the state capitals will be interconnected. 

    The NITI Forum was formed to explore and formulate the framework for sustainable growth of the Northeast. It was constituted in February this year. 

  • India to grow 7.3% this financial year, 7.6% in next year says ADB
    The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has said, India's economic growth is set to rise to 7.3 per cent this fiscal and further to 7.6 percent in the next financial year, on back of GST and banking reforms. 

    In its Asian Development Outlook (ADO), 2018, ADB said, Indian economy grew 6.6 percent in the last fiscal as it battled the lingering effects of demonetisation in 2016, businesses adjusting to GST in 2017, and a subdued agriculture. 

  • 60% of India's GDP to come from Artificial Intelligence, other digital services by 2021: Study
    By the year 2021, around 60 per cent of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is expected to be derived from digital products and services created through the use of technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things and cloud computing, among others. 

    So says a study commissioned by information technology major Microsoft. It says digital transformation will add an estimated $154 billion to our GDP by 2021. "India is clearly on the digital transformation fast track," says Anant Maheshwari, president, Microsoft India. 

    To illustrate, he said Microsoft had applied AI in Andhra Pradesh schools, where the government wants to address the issue of high numbers of students exiting in class 10. "About 25 per cent of students drop out at 10th standard. If you can use AI to predict and identify why students want to drop out, you can pro-activel engage with the students or their families to keep them back in school...you can do so much for the economy," he said. 

    "Technology can play a role in providing facilities like preventive health care and augmented diagnosis to the needy. Then, there is agriculture, where productivity can be increased by 20-30 per cent, simply by using predictive technology." 

    The central government has formed a committee on AI to suggest a technical framework or platform for the emerging technology. It is chaired by P P Chakraborty, a professor at IIT, Kharagpur, and has representatives from Google, Microsoft, NVIDIA and TCS. Also, from Nasscom, the apex association of the information technology (IT) sector, beside the National Informatics Centre and the ministry of electronics and IT. Its recommendations are expected by the end of this month. 

  • India's social sector spending remains woefully below peers: Study
    India's social sector spending remains woefully below peers, including Latvia and Iceland, in terms of GDP. A study published in RBI's monthly bulletin on an analysis of 17 countries, including India, with respect to their social sector expenditure as per cent of GDP 2016. The study titled 'Union Budget 2018-19: An Assessment' has been published in the latest monthly bulletin. 

    The study said, with the National Health Protection Scheme under the 'Ayushman Bharat' programme and the reform of the education system, the expenditure on health and education together is budgeted to grow by 4.6 per cent as per the 2018-19 Budget. 

    As per the chart cited in the study, India's social sector expenditure as per cent of GDP in 2016 was 7.5 per cent whereas it was 29 per cent in Belgium, 15.2 per cent in Iceland, 14.5 in Latvia and 10.4 per cent in Korea, among other countries. 

  • India ranked at 143 in annual Index of Economic Freedom
    India has jumped 13 places in the last one year to 130th spot in the latest annual Index of Economic Freedom released by a top American think-tank the Heritage Foundation. In 2017, India with a score of 52.6 points was ranked at 143 among 180 countries, two spots below neighbour Pakistan. 

    As per the latest Index of Economic Freedom, China has jumped one spot and Pakistan is now at 131 position. China with 57.4 points was ranked 111 in the 2017. 

    Noting that India is developing into an open-market economy, the Index said traces of its past autarkic policies still remain. 

    The report said Economic liberalisation measures, including industrial deregulation, privatisation of state-owned enterprises and reduced controls on foreign trade and investment that began in the early 1990s, accelerated growth. 

    The report also mentioned that Corruption, underdeveloped infrastructure, a restrictive and burdensome regulatory environment, and poor financial and budget management continue to undermine overall development. 

  • India's merchandise Exports fall for first time in five months
    India's merchandise exports fell for the first time in five months in March and the trade deficit widened amid concerns over global trade and US moves to review a programme allowing duty-free imports of goods. The US Trade Representative's Office said on 12th April it launched reviews over concerns that India and Indonesia were not complying with rules of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) programme on market access. 

    New Delhi is worried that its exports of engineering goods and services to the US and China could be hit following a possible slowdown in global trade this year. 

    India's merchandise exports in March fell 0.7 per cent year-on-year to $29.1 billion, and the trade deficit widened to $13.7 billion due to a surge in imports, government data showed on 12th April

    Imports rose 7.2 percent on year to $42.8 billion in March. For the year ending in March, goods exports rose 9.8 percent to $302.8 billion from a year ago, while imports rose 19.6 percent to $459.7 billion. 

    Separately, India exported services worth $175.3 billion in first 11 months ending February compared with $105.7 billion imports of services, data from the central bank showed. 

    The total export numbers bode well for India's $2.5-trillion economy that is expected to grow over 7 percent in the fiscal year beginning April. 

    However, the trade deficit for the year ending in March widened to $156.8 billion from $105.72 billion in the previous year, a growing concern for the central bank, the data showed. 

  • E-Way Bill for Inter-State movement of goods comes into force
    With the beginning of the financial year 2018-19, the e-way Bill System for Inter-State movement of goods comes into force; An E-way Bill will be required for moving goods worth over 50,000 rupees from one state to another. 

    The electronic way Bill system has come into effect across the country. Under this system businesses and transporters have to produce before a GST inspector e-way bill for moving goods worth over Rs 50,000 from one state to another. 

    The Bill is touted as an anti-evasion measure that would help boost tax collections by clamping down on trade that currently happens on cash basis. The e-way Bill will apply to inter-state transportation of goods worth over Rs. 50,000. 

  • India replaces Vietnam to become second largest producer of mobile phones
    India is now the second-largest mobile phone producer in the world after China. According to the data shared by Indian Cellular Association with the government, annual production of mobile phones in India increased from 3 million units in 2014 to 11 million units in 2017. 

    With this, India replaced Vietnam to become the second largest producer of mobile phones in 2017. With the rise in mobile phone production, imports of the devices in the country also reduced to less than half in 2017-18. 

  • Core sector growth up 5.3 per cent in February
    Eight infrastructure sectors grew by 5.3 per cent in February, mainly helped by a robust performance of refinery products, fertiliser and cement segments. 

    The eight infrastructure sectors, coal, crude oil, natural gas, refinery products, fertilisers, steel, cement and electricity had grown by just 0.6 per cent in February 2017. The core sectors expanded by 6.1 per cent in January. 

  • China increases tariffs on 128 US goods by up to 25 percent
    China on 2nd April increased tariffs by up to 25 percent on 128 U S products, from frozen pork and wine to certain fruits and nuts in response to U S duties on imports of Aluminium and Steel. 

    China said, the tariffs affecting some 3 billion US Dollars of imports was to safeguard China's interests and balance losses caused by new US tariffs. 

    The Donald Trump administration had said its duties were aimed at Steel and Aluminium imports that it deemed a threat to US national security, but China's Commerce Ministry called that reasoning an abuse of World Trade Organization guidelines. 

  • Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu launches digital initiatives for ease of exports
    Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu on 3rd April launched digital initiatives for ease of exports. Speaking on the occasion in New Delhi, Mr Suresh Prabhu said, this is a major step towards digital India in export trade ushering in efficient assessment, quality monitoring and traceability. 

    Under the digital initiatives for ease of export, the Minister launched three integrated digital portals, namely Safe Food Export Traceability Portal, One Laboratory One Assessment Portal and Monitoring Export Alerts Portal. 

    Mr Suresh Prabhu said, the portals will brought together all regulators, accreditation bodies and other stakeholders at one place. He said, tracing safe food is utmost important for providing quality assurance both to the consumers and the authorities. 

  • Direct tax collections grow 17 percent to Rs 9.95 lakh crores in 2017-18
    The Direct Tax collections for the fiscal year 2017-18 stood at 9(point) 95 lakh crore rupees, which is 17(point)1 per cent higher than net collection of 2016-17. 

    The tax collections during the fiscal year 2017-18 has exceeded the budget estimates of 9.80 lakh crore rupees. 

    Giving more details on direct tax collection, Central Board of Direct Taxes, Chairman Sushil Chandra said, during the last fiscal, 6.84 crore income tax returns were filed as compared to 5.43 crore returns filed in 2016-17 showing a growth of 26 per cent. 

  • Central Government Cabinet decisions
    Rightsizing the Competition Commission of India (CCI) 
    Union Cabinet approved rightsizing the Competition Commission of India (CCI) from One Chairperson and Six Members to One Chairperson and three Members. The reduction of three Posts in the Commission is expected to boost the Minimum Government - Maximum Governance. 
    Transfer of administrative control of Hemisphere Properties India to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MOHUA) 
    Cabinet has also approved the transfer of administrative control of Hemisphere Properties India to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) after infusion of equity amounting to Rs. 700 crore
    Protection of Human Rights (Amendments) Bill, 2018
    It has also approved the Protection of Human Rights (Amendments) Bill, 2018 for better protection and promotion of human rights in the country. The Amendment will strengthen the Human Rights Institutions of India further for effective discharge of their mandates, roles and responsibilities. 

  • Reserve Bank of India (RBI) keeps repo rate unchanged 
    The RBI has kept all its key rates unchanged in the first bi-monthly policy review for the financial year 2018-19 for the fourth time in a row. 

    The Monetary Policy Committee, MPC, headed by RBI Governor Urjit Patel kept the repo rate at which the central bank lends short-term money to other banks at 6 per cent. The reverse repo, rate at which it borrows from banks and absorbs excess liquidity, will remain at 5.75 per cent. 

    The status quo policy of RBI will be neutral to the EMIs for housing and vehicle loan borrowers, but banks are free to tinker with both deposit and lending rate depending on their asset liability position. 

    RBI Governor Urjit Patel said there are several uncertainties surrounding the baseline inflation path. 

    These include the impact of revised formula for Minimum Support Price (MSP) for kharif crops, house rent allowance revisions by various state governments, fiscal slippages and volatility in crude oil prices. 

    RBI has said that overall food inflation should remain under check on the assumption of a normal monsoon and effective supply management by the Government. 

    The RBI has said that GDP growth is likely to strengthen from 6.6 per cent in 2017-18 to 7.4 per cent in 2018-19 as there are clear signs of revival in investment activity and improvement in global demand. 

  • Reserve Bank of India, RBI has decided to set up Data Sciences Lab
    Reserve Bank of India, RBI has decided to set up Data Sciences Lab to improve its forecasting, surveillance and early warning detection abilities which will aid policy formulation. According to RBI, Policy making not only benefits from data collected through regulatory returns and surveys but also from large volumes of structured and unstructured real-time information. 

    RBI said the lab will comprise experts and budding analysts, who are trained in Computer Science, Data Analytics, Statistics, Economics, Econometrics and Finance. The unit is likely to become operational by December this year (2018). 

    Meanwhile, the RBI has deferred the implementation of the Indian Accounting Standards by one year as many banks are not prepared to migrate to the new accounting system. 

  • Centre, Maharashtra Government and World Bank sign $ 420 mn project to help farmers
    The Centre, Maharashtra Government and World Bank on 6th April signed a 420 million dollar project to help small and marginals farmers in the Marathwada and Vidarbha region of the State. 

    The project will help in increasing climate resilient practices in agriculture and ensuring that farming continues to remain a financially viable activity for them. 

    It said, the Maharashtra Project for Climate Resilient Agriculture will be implemented in rural areas largely dependent upon rain fed agriculture. The project will take up a series of activities at the farm and watershed level. 

    According to the Joint Secretary, in the finance Ministry Sameer Kumar Khare said, the Centre accords high priority to welfare of farmers and is implementing several schemes to revitalize the agriculture sector and improve the economic condition of farmers. 

  • Reserve Bank of India (RBI) ruling to bar banks from dealing in cryptocurrencies 
    The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) ruling to bar banks from dealing in cryptocurrencies has panicked investors, who are now selling their virtual currencies stored in Bitcoin exchanges and seeking advice from the experts. 

    The investors, who are clueless about the quantum of tax and fear a crackdown by tax authorities, rush has led to a spike in transaction volumes of around 40 percent, with about 90 per cent of that being on the sell side, on Bitcoin exchanges such as Coinsecure and Zebpay.
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