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December 2017 Economic Affairs

  • IRDAI frames guidelines for insurance firms to set up offices in financial service SEZs
    The country’s insurance regulator has cleared the way for setting up of IFSC (International Financial Services Centre) Insurance Offices (IIOs). 

    With this, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) has put in place the process of registration and operation of insurers and re-insurers in IFSC Special Economic Zones, in alignment with the objectives of IFSC-SEZ. 

    Insurers and re-insurers from India and abroad are eligible to apply for registration to set up IIOs, subject to certain norms. 

    As per the IRDAI (Registration and Operations of IIOs) Guidelines, 2017, no person or entity shall commence or undertake insurance or reinsurance business from an IFSC without obtaining prior registration as an IIO from the Authority. 

    The registered IIO may be permitted to transact direct insurance business within the IFSC, from other SEZs and from outside India. In the case of reinsurance business, the IIO may accept reinsurance business from within the IFSC, from other SEZs and from outside India. 

    It may also accept reinsurance business from insurers operating in the Domestic Tariff Area in accordance with the order of preference for cession, as per the existing norms. 

    IIOs may be registered for carrying on business in various classes/sub-classes of life, general, or health insurance as also reinsurance businesses. 

    The applicant should demonstrate a minimum assigned capital of Rs. 10 crore. In case the applicant is a Foreign Direct Insurer, the applicant company shall possess paid-up equity capital as per existing provisions. 

  • E-commerce market may cross $50 bn in 2018
    The e-commerce market in the country is expected to cross $50 billion in value by the end of 2018 from the current level of $38.5 billion. This is due to a growing internet population and increased number online shoppers, according to a recent study. 

    The digital-commerce market in India has grown steadily from $19.7 billion in 2015 to $13.6 billion in 2014, according to the study. 

    The increasing mobile and internet penetration, advanced shipping and payment options, discounts, and the push into new international markets by e-businesses are the major drivers behind this unprecedented growth, it said. Banks and other players in the e-commerce ecosystem are providing a secured online platform to pay effortlessly through payment gateways. 

  • Govt releases Rs 167 cr to 9 states with international border for development of infrastructure
    Home Ministry has released 167 crore rupees to nine states with international border for the development of infrastructure in forward areas. 

    The states which will benefit include Rajasthan and Punjab, both having international border with Pakistan, and West Bengal and Assam, which share boundary with Bangladesh. Official sources said the amount was recently released to Meghalaya, Punjab, Rajasthan, Bihar, Sikkim, Tripura, Assam, Himachal Pradesh and West Bengal under the Border Area Development Programme. 

    The fully centrally funded BADP programme covers all villages which are located within 0-10 km of the International Border in 17 states. However, priority is given to those villages which are identified by border guarding forces for speedy development of infrastructure. 

  • World Bank loan for Tamil Nadu irrigation overhaul
    Tamil Nadu will get a World Bank loan worth $318 million for the revival and modernisation of over 5,000 irrigation tanks and check dams, benefiting about 500,000 small and marginal farmers in the State. 

    Central and State government officials on 26th December signed a loan agreement with a representative of the World Bank for the Tamil Nadu Irrigated Agriculture Modernisation project, which is aimed at promoting climate resilient agriculture technologies. 

    The funds will be used to rehabilitate and modernise about 4,800 irrigations tanks, 477 check dams, spread across 66 sub-basins in the State. 

    The project is expected to bring over 1, 60,000 hectares of cultivated land, currently partially irrigated, into full irrigation and would help farmers increase the yield of rice, maize, and pulses by 18 to 20 per cent, the release said. 

  • India likely to be fifth largest economy in 2018
    India looks set to leapfrog Britain and France next year to become the world’s fifth-largest economy in dollar terms, a report showed on 26th December. 

    The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) consultancy’s 2018 World Economic League Table painted an upbeat view of the global economy, boosted by cheap energy and technology prices. 

    India’s ascent is part of a trend that will see Asian economies increasingly dominate the top 10 largest economies over the next 15 years. 

    China is likely to overtake the United States as the world’s No 1 economy in 2032, CEBR said. While Britain looks set to lag behind France over the next couple of years, CEBR predicted that Brexit’s effects on Britain’s economy will be less than feared, allowing it to overtake France again in 2020. 

    Russia was vulnerable to low oil prices and too reliant on the energy sector, and looked likely to fall to 17th place among the world’s largest economies by 2032, from 11th now. 

  • Lok Sabha passes GST (Compensation to States) Amendment Bill- 2017
    The Lok Sabha on 27th December passed the Goods and Services Tax (Compensation to States) Amendment Bill- 2017. The Bill will replace Ordinance which was promulgated in September this year. It amends the Goods and Services Tax (Compensation to States) Act, 2017. The Act allows the central government to notify the rate of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Compensation Cess on items such as pan masala, coal, aerated drinks, and tobacco, subject to certain caps. 

    The amount received by levying the GST Compensation Cess is used to compensate states for any loss in revenue following the implementation of GST. 

    According to the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, the bill will enhance the Cess from 15 percent to 25 percent. Hike in Cess was necessitated to match the loss arising due to GST rate cuts on different items. 

  • Lok Sabha passes Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code Amendment Bill
    The Lok Sabha passed the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Bill -2017 with a voice vote. The bill prohibits certain persons from submitting a resolution plan in case of defaults. These include wilful defaulters, promoters or management of the company having an outstanding non-performing debt for over a year. The Bill also has provisions to bar the sale of property of a defaulter to such persons during liquidation. 

  • Fiscal deficit hits full-year target by November, 2017
    The government has missed its fiscal deficit target for the current financial year till November end, according to data revealed by the Controller General of Accounts. 

    An official statement said the fiscal deficit as at the end of April to November 2017 for the current financial year stood at 112 per cent. Comparably, it stood at 85.8 per cent during the corresponding period of the previous financial year. 

    In absolute terms, the difference between government revenue and expenditure stood at Rs.6.12 lakh crore. The government was expecting the difference to be at Rs. 5.46 lakh crore during the period under consideration. 

    The higher fiscal gap is due to the lower than expected revenue collections at the back of higher government expenditure during the current financial year. 

    An official statement said the government has received Rs. 8.66 lakh crore till November 2017. This includes Rs. 6.99 lakh crore tax revenue, Rs. 1.05 lakh crore of non-tax revenue and Rs. 61,849 crore of Non- Debt Capital Receipts. 

    Through these Non-Debt Capital Receipts, the government mopped up Rs. 9,471 crore through recovery of loans and Rs. 52,378 crore through disinvestment of public sector undertaking companies. 

    Of the total collections, Rs. 3.85 lakh crore has been transferred to State governments as devolution of share of taxes by the government during this period. 

    Total Expenditure incurred by government during the period stood at Rs. 14.78 lakh crore, out of which Rs.12.94 lakh crore is on Revenue Account and Rs. 1.84 lakh crore is on Capital Account. 

  • Centre allots Rs. 7,577 cr into 6 public sector banks
    Coming to the rescue of ailing banks, the Centre has pumped in capital of Rs. 7,577 crore in various weak public sector banks. This capital infusion is timely and would help these banks shore up their capital adequacy as they close the books for the December quarter, said a banking industry observer. 

    The government has released Rs. 2,257 crore to Bank of India, which was recently placed under prompt corrective action by the Reserve Bank of India. The other big beneficiary of the latest capital infusion round is IDBI Bank, which has received Rs. 2,729 crore. 

    While Central Bank of India has got capital support of Rs. 323 crore, Dena Bank has got capital support of Rs. 243 crore from the government. 

    UCO Bank, another weak public sector bank, has got capital support of Rs. 1,375 crore. Bank of Maharashtra has received capital support of Rs. 650 crore, sources said. 

    Reacting to the government move to release capital to these six public sector banks, the All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) General Secretary CH Venkatachalam expressed confidence that this capital support will help mitigate the immediate problems faced by these weak banks. 

    The benefiting Banks
    • Bank of India Rs. 2,257 crore
    • IDBI Bank Rs. 2,729 crore
    • Central Bank of India Rs. 323 crore
    • Dena Bank Rs. 243 crore
    • UCO Bank Rs. 1,375 crore
    • Bank of Maharashtra Rs. 650 crore

  • Investment in electronic manufacturing grew by 27% this year: Govt
    The government said that investment in electronic manufacturing grew by 27 per cent this year. The total volume of investment reached 1.57 lakh crore this year as compared to 1.43 lakh crore last year. In an year end review, the Ministry of Electronics and IT said, the flagship project of the government Digital India has made rapid progress and digital transactions witnessed a growth of over 300 per cent during this year. 

    The Ministry said, there has been almost 60 per cent rise on the production of mobile phones, adding 4 lakh direct and indirect jobs in the sector. 

    The Ministry said, with an objective to empower the people with a unique identity and a digital platform to authenticate anytime, anywhere, Aadhaar is the world’s largest biometrics based digital identity system. It said, total number of Aadhaar account holders reached to 119 Crore in 2017 compared to 104 Crore in 2016. 

  • Indian exports increase 30.55% to USD 26.19 bn in November
    Country's exports rose by 30 point 55 percent to 26 point 19 billion US Dollars in November on account of improved global demand, government incentives and simplification of GST refund process. 

    The data released by the commerce ministry said, the month witnessed robust growth in outward shipments of gems and jewellery, engineering goods, chemical and pharmaceutical products. 

    The government has simplified the process for exporters to claim refunds under the GST. Input Tax Credit and Integrated-GST refunds for exporters are being expedited for quick unlocking of their capital. 

    Earlier this month, the government had announced 8,450 crore rupees incentives for exporters in sectors like leather and agriculture. 

    Exports had witnessed a decline of 1.12 percent to 23 billion dollars in October this year, retreating from a six-month high growth rate in September. The data said, imports also grew by 19.61 percent to 40 billion Dollars in November from 33.46 billion dollars in the same month last year. 

  • ASEAN free trade pact: House panel calls for better access to Indian goods
    The Department of Commerce should furnish a note on the assessment of the working of India-ASEAN trade in goods agreement and seek better market access for goods in order to have more balanced trade, a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce on ‘Trade with ASEAN countries’ has recommended. 

    The report, presented to the Rajya Sabha on 18th December, by the Parliamentary Committee headed by Naresh Gujral, points out that a number of items including farm products, textiles, leather and steel have been adversely affected due to the provisions of the agreement. The India-ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement came into force on January 1, 2010. 

    The report pointed out that better market access in terms of higher export has not materialised for India and this was a matter of concern. 

    The Committee is of the view that if this approach or argument is subscribed, then there was no need for the trade agreement with ASEAN, various trade instruments/agreements must aim towards better market access. 

    The Commerce Department may look into the cause of huge trade deficit with Indonesia and review the existing trade policy framework in respect of the country, the report said. Trade with CLMV countries (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam) is also not at desired level. 

    The Committee desires that the Department may engage the ASEAN member States for giving better market access to Indian goods where we have an edge over them like leather goods and pharmaceuticals, so that trade balance improves. 

    On the decline in exports of agriculture commodities to the ASEAN, the Committee said that it was a matter of concern and should be dealt with strictly. 

  • Indian Forest (Amendment) Bill, 2017 introduced in Lok Sabha
    The Indian Forest (Amendment) Bill, 2017 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 18th December. The proposed legislation will put an end to the need for getting inter-state permit to transport bamboo. The government is protecting interest of the trader and the not the farmers. 

    The other bills introduced by the government amid the uproar included National Council for Teacher Education (Amendment) Bill, Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Bill, Dentists (Amendment) Bill, 2017 and Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill, 2017. 

  • Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2017 passed in Parliament
    Parliament has passed the Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2017 with the Rajya Sabha adopting it on 19th December. The Lok Sabha had passed it earlier in the monsoon session. The bill seeks to strengthen corporate governance standards, initiate strict action against defaulting companies and help improve ease of doing business. It provides for more than 40 amendments to the Companies Act, 2013, which was passed during the previous UPA regime. 

  • I-T made ‘exaggerated’ demands on large firms: CAG
    As the Central Board of Direct Taxes races to meet its revenue collection target for the fiscal year, it has been rapped by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) for making “exaggerated” tax demands on large corporate firms which were refunded in the next financial year. 

    The income tax department had raised exaggerated demands on certain corporate assessees like State Bank of India, Bank of Baroda, Bank of India, IDBI Bank, HDFC, Kotak Mahindra Bank, Air India, Deposit Insurance & Credit Guarantee Ltd, to achieve its revenue collection targets, by resorting to methods that were irregular and unwarranted

    The report, which was tabled in Parliament on 19th December, further noted that the demands so collected were refunded in the next financial year along with interest, which eventually put a heavy burden on the Exchequer. 

    The CAG also noted that there were “persistent and pervasive irregularities in respect of corporation tax and income tax assessments cases over the years” with arithmetical errors in calculating income and corporate tax in nearly 500 cases. 

    These include 320 high-value cases involving Rs. 3,851 crore of corporate tax and 131 cases of income tax and six cases of wealth tax involving a combined tax effect of Rs. 336 crore. 

    The CAG also pulled up the department for not adopting a uniform approach to deal with cases of fictitious donations or bogus purchases that are generally used to launder money. This caused a revenue loss to the government. 

  • Lok Sabha passes Immovable Property Amendment Bill; Also clears Forest Amendment Bill
    The Lok Sabha has passed a bill amending regulations governing compensation amount payable for acquisition of immovable property by the central government for defence and security purposes. The 'Requisitioning and Acquisition of Immovable Property (Amendment) Bill, 2017 seeks to amend a provision to allow the Centre to re-issue the notice of acquisition in order to ensure that the property's owner gets an opportunity to be heard. 

    The bill will have retrospective effect from 1952. Replying to a debate on the Bill in the House, Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri said, the amendment is being done only for national security and defence purposes. He said, the government intention is to pay fair and just compensation land owner. 

    Mr. Puri said, in cases where a notice has been re-issued, the property owner will be entitled to an interest on the compensation payable to them. However, the re-issue of notice will not apply to cases where the compensation has already been awarded and accepted by the claimants. 

    The Lok Sabha has also passed the Indian Forest (Amendment) Bill, 2017. The bill will replace the ordinance promulgated by the President on 23rd of November this year. The Bill seeks to exempt bamboo grown in non-forest areas from definition of tree, thereby dispensing with the requirement of felling and transit permit for its economic use. 

  • Cabinet approves new skill development scheme in Textiles sector
    Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs on 20th December gave its approval for a new skill development scheme covering the entire value chain of the textile sector excluding spinning and weaving. 

    The Scheme for Capacity Building in Textile Sector, SCBTS will have an outlay of 1300 crore rupees upto 2019-20. The scheme will have National Skill Qualification Framework compliant training courses with funding norms as per the Common Norms notified by Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship. 

    The objectives of the scheme is to provide demand driven, placement oriented skilling programme to incentivize the efforts of the industry in creating jobs in the organized textile and related sectors. 

  • Cabinet approves new Consumer Protection Bill
    Union Cabinet has approved a new Consumer Protection Bill that seeks to establish an authority to safeguard consumers' rights. The new bill also has provisions for penalty and jail terms in case of adulteration and misleading advertisements by companies. 

    The celebrities endorsing misleading advertisements will also liable for fine and ban of up to three years as per the new bill. The Cabinet pm19th December approved introduction of the Consumer Protection Bill, 2017, which will result in withdrawal of a bill brought in 2015. 

    In August 2015, the Centre had introduced the Consumer Protection Bill in the Lok Sabha to repeal the 30-year-old Consumer Protection Act, 1986. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had recently said that consumer protection is the government's priority. Mr Modi had said that the stress is being given on consumer empowerment. Strict provisions are being contemplated against misleading advertisements, he had said. 

  • SEBI hikes FPI investment limit
    Capital market regulator, SEBI, on 20th December raised the investment limit for foreign portfolio investors in central government securities to over 1.91 lakh crore 

    Currently, investment limit for foreign portfolio investors is 1.89 lakh crore rupees. The move is part of an effort by Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to push inflow from overseas investors in the country's capital markets. 

  • Lok Sabha passes Supplementary Demands for Grants, Appropriation Bill, 2017
    Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on 21st December assured the Lok Sabha that every deposit of the people in public sector banks is safe and there should not be any apprehension in this regard. 

    On members' demand for more money for Cyclone OCKHI hit States -Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Lakshadweep, Mr Jaitley said, as soon as the assessment report of the Central Team is finalised, the best possible relief will be given to these States. 

    According to Finance Minister Jaitley, States are not losing revenue following the implementation of GST. Under the Constitution, the States are guaranteed 14 per cent increase per annum for next five years on base year 2015-16. He said, 80 per cent of GST goes to States, therefore, they cannot say that they are getting less money. 

    Later the House voted the Supplementary Demands for Grants and passed the Appropriation bill to authorise the government to spend the money from consolidated fund of India. 

    Under Supplementary Demands for Grants, the government proposes for additional expenditure of 66,113 crore rupees under different heads. Of the total expenditure, over 20,532 crore rupees will be provided for urea freight subsidy, while another 15,908 crore rupees towards National Highways. 

  • Union Cabinet approves new Consumer Protection Bill 
    Union Cabinet has approved a new Consumer Protection Bill that seeks to establish an authority to safeguard consumers' rights, has the provisions for penalty and jail terms in case of adulteration and misleading advertisements by companies. 

    Celebrities endorsing misleading advertisements will also be liable for fine and ban up to three years as per the new bill. The Cabinet on 20th December approved the introduction of the Consumer Protection Bill, 2017, which will replace a bill of 2015. In August 2015, the Centre had introduced the Consumer Protection Bill in the Lok Sabha to repeal the 30-year-old Consumer Protection Act of 1986. 

    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had recently said that consumer protection is the government's priority. He had said that the stress is being given on consumer empowerment. Mr Modi said strict provisions are being contemplated against misleading advertisements. 

  • CRISIL lowers growth forecast, GDP to grow at 7.6% in 2018-19
    Rating agency CRISIL has lowered its projection of India's economic growth in 2017-18 to 6.8 per cent from 7 per cent estimated earlier. The gross domestic product (GDP) will grow 7.6 per cent in 2018-19, which is also lower than CRISIL’s earlier forecast of 7.8 per cent. 

    The rating agency projected inflation based on the consumer price index (CPI) will be 4 per cent in 2017-18. This is higher than the 3.7 per cent forecast by the Reserve Bank of India. CRISIL reckons inflation will rise to 4.6 per cent in 2018-19. 

    The RBI's monetary policy committee has revised its inflation forecast for the next two quarters from 4.2-4.6 per cent to 4.3-4.7 per cent. CPI inflation rose to a 15-month high of 4.88 per cent in November, up from 3.58 per cent in October. 

    CRISIL’s estimate of 6.8 per cent growth for 2017-18 requires the GDP to expand by 7.5 per cent in the second half of the year after having expanded by 6 per cent in the first half. 

    India’s economic growth slowed down in the second half of 2016-17 due to demonetization. The GDP expanded by 6.9 per cent in the third quarter and by 6.1 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2016-17, yielding 6.5 per cent growth in the second half of the previous fiscal year. 

    The farm sector was expected to grow 3 per cent in 2017-18, CRISIL said. As much as 50 per cent of agricultural production was now contributed by horticulture and livestock. 

    The IMF has projected the world economy will grow 3.6 per cent in 2017, up from 3.2 per cent in 2016, which was the weakest pace of growth since the 2008 global financial crisis. Advanced economies are expected to grow 2.2 per cent in 2017, up from from 1.7 per cent in 2016, while emerging market economies are expected to grow 4.6 per cent, up from 4.3 per cent. 

  • Demonetization has increased the number of taxpayers by 19.5%
    The number of taxpayers post demonetization grew by nearly 20 per cent. During the current financial year (up to November 11), 3.89 crore income-tax e-returns were filed as compared to 3.25 crore e-returns filed during corresponding period of last financial year, which translates into a growth rate of 19.5 per cent

    According to provisional estimates, net direct tax collections also jumped up by 14.3 per cent to Rs. 4.8 lakh crore between April and November this fiscal as compared to Rs. 4.20 lakh crore collected a year ago. After demonetization of high value currency notes of Rs. 1,000 and Rs. 500, the tax authorities also began to tighten monitoring of tax evaders. 

    Between November 2016 and March 2017, the tax authorities conducted searches on around 900 groups, where Rs. 7,900 crore of undisclosed income was admitted. 

    During the same period, more than 8,200 surveys were conducted leading to detection of undisclosed income of more than Rs. 6,700 crore. 

    Between April 2017 and October 2017, around 275 groups were searched by the by the Income-Tax Department in which undisclosed income of over Rs.7,800 crore was admitted. 

    Further, in the same period, tax authorities also conducted over 3,100 surveys in which undisclosed income of over Rs. 2,400 crore was detected. 

  • Centre recognizes Odisha as Champion state in Export
    Odisha has been recognized as “Champion State” by the Centre for recording the highest growth in exports during 2016-17. The announcement was made during a Review meeting of Ministry of Commerce and Industry on Export performance of States and formulation of strategy at New Delhi on 23rd December. The Merchandise exports from Odisha have registered the highest growth rate of 114 per cent amongst all the states. Odisha exports have increased from Rs19,082 crore in 2015-16 to Rs 40,872 crore in 2016-17. 

  • Centre sanctions Rs. 75 crore for setting up LPG bottling plant in Meghalaya
    The Centre has sanctioned Rs. 75 crore for setting up a Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) bottling plant in Meghalaya. Meghalaya is the only state in the region which has no bottling plant. 

    Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said that the new bottling plant will be constructed at an existing site located in Shillong itself. 

    A memorandum of understanding was inked between the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas and the state government in the presence of Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma in Shillong on 9th December. 

    Union Petroleum Minister said that the Centre has decided to implement the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana in the state in full swing. 

    He said that only 27 per cent of the households in the state are linked with LPG connectivity which is much below the national average. 

  • India to grow at 7.2 per cent in 2018, 7.4 per cent in 2019: UN report
    Indian economy is likely to grow by 7.2 per cent in 2018 and go up further to 7.4 per cent in the following year on the back of strong private consumption, public investment and the ongoing structural reforms, says a UN report. 

    The 'World Economic Situation and Prospects 2018' report unveiled by United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) said overall, economic outlook for South Asia is seen largely favourable and steady for the short term, notwithstanding significant medium-term challenges. 

    On India, the report has projected a positive outlook despite the slowdown early this year and the lingering effects of demonetisation. The UN DESA report said the GDP growth is projected to accelerate from 6.7 per cent in 2017 to 7.2 per cent in 2018 and 7.4 per cent in 2019. 

  • India seeks permanent solution to food stockpile issue at WTO
    India has called upon WTO members to find a permanent solution to the public food stockpile issue, saying it concerns the survival of 800 million hungry people across the globe. It also asked them to refrain from raising new issues, especially those which are not linked to trade. 

    In his address at the plenary session of the 11th ministerial conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Buenos Aires, Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu urged the member countries to reaffirm their commitment to a rule-based multilateral trading system as it would benefit the entire world. 

    Under the global trade norms, a WTO member country's food subsidy bill should not breach the limit of 10 percent of the value of production based on the reference price of 1986-88. 

    Apprehending that the full implementation of food security programme may result in breach of the WTO cap, India has been seeking amendments to the formula for calculating the food subsidy cap. 

  • Rural job scheme not reducing migration significantly, shows survey
    The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) has succeeded in creating livelihood assets but might not have a big impact in curbing migration -- one of its objective. 

    According to a survey conducted by Institute of Economic Growth (IEG), almost 78 per cent of households covered reported an increase in water table after building conservation structures through MGNREGA. 

    There was an 11 per cent increase in rural incomes. But around 80 per cent of the surveyed districts did not show any change in migration. Only 20 per cent districts reported a dip in migration, the survey showed. 

    In all the 30 districts the survey covered, around 18 per cent beneficiary households of the natural resource management (NRM) component under MGNREGA reported migration with a range varying from 8 per cent in Mahendergarh (Haryana) to 40 per cent in Nainital (Uttaranchal). 

    The study was conducted in 21 states spread over 14 agro-climatic zones. Around 1,200 (40 from each district) beneficiary households were given the questionnaire. One of the objectives of the rural job guarantee scheme was stopping or lowering migration from rural areas for jobs. 

    The survey found instances of a delay in wage payment beyond the mandatory 15 days in some cases. But the delay was more acute in payment of material costs than wages. Around 75 per cent of the material cost is from the Centre and the rest from states. The delay in this count could also be because of states’ failure to release their share of material expenditure, the survey said. 

    In many regions, the average wage earned by an MNREGA worker was lower than the market rate, while in some it was even lower than the minimum wage. 

    The selection of districts for the survey was based on NRM expenditure per MNREGA worker. The NRM component includes work related to soil and water conservation, groundwater recharge, irrigation-related works and drainage-related works, etc. Of more than 150 types of works permitted under MGNREGA, almost 100 are related to natural resource management. 

    The survey also showed that cereal productivity increased by 11.5 per cent and vegetable productivity rose by 32.3 per cent in households in areas where such assets were created under MGNREGA. Around 76 per cent of the households surveyed said water conservation and other such kind of assets created were of good quality. Around 73 per cent of the respondents said they themselves were actively involved in the maintenance of assets created under MGNREGA on individual land. 

  • Retail inflation rises to 4.88 per cent in November
    Retail inflation has risen to 4 point 88 per cent in November this year on account of costlier fuel, vegetables and eggs. According to the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, the inflation, based on Consumer Price Index (CPI), was at 3.58 per cent in October. It was 3.63 per cent in November last year. 

    Inflation in eggs shot to 7.95 per cent in November on annual basis, as against 0.69 per cent in the previous month.In the fuel and light segment, it was 7.92 per cent, as against 6.36 in October. 

    For vegetables it was 22.48 per cent in November. The inflation in the segment was a only 7.47 per cent in October. 

    However, in the pulses segment the print continued to show disinflationary trend as it contracted by 23.53 per cent on annual basis.On overall basis, the inflation in the food segment increased to 4.42 per cent in November as compared to 1.9 per cent in the preceding month. 

  • Industrial output growth hits to 3-month low of 2.2% in October
    Growth in the country's industrial production hit a three-month low of two point two per cent in October this year. Factory output, measured in terms of the Index of Industrial Production, had increased 4.2 percent in October last year, and 4.14 percent in September this year. 

    Data released by the Central Statistics Office on 12th December showed that growth in the manufacturing sector, which accounts for almost 78 per cent of the index, slowed to 2.5 per cent in October, mining output rose 0.2 per cent, and consumer durable goods output contracted 6.9 per cent. 

    But consumer non-durables output increased 7.7 per cent, and capital goods output rose 6.8 per cent in October. 

  • WTO talks collapse; no agreement on food security
    The talks at the WTO's 11th ministerial conference have failed, as the US going back on its commitment to finding a permanent solution to the public food stockholding issue. This brought disappointment to developing countries like India. 

    The four-day conference, which ended without a ministerial declaration or any substantive outcome, did manage to make some feeble progress on fisheries and e-commerce by agreeing to work programmes. 

    As the US refused to engage, the 164-member World Trade Organisation (WTO) failed to reach a common ground for resolving the food security issue, a demand raised prominently by India. 

    Following the breakdown of talks, there was no ministerial declaration, though conference chair and Argentinean Minister Susana Malcorra made a statement highlighting the developments. 

    For India, failure to successfully push the food security the issue was a disappointment, but the officials took comfort from the fact that the country did not yield any ground on other issues and kept its defensive interests in various fields intact. 

    WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo expressed disappointment over the way the negotiations progressed and called for soul-searching among the member countries. The Indian team led by Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu, in cooperation with the G33 grouping, had pitched hard for a permanent solution to food security issue as it was crucial for the livelihood of 800 million people across the globe. 

  • Wholesale price index hits 8-month high of 3.93% in November
    Wholesale price index (WPI)-based inflation rose to an eight-month high in November as vegetables, onion and fuel became more expensive, indicating that retail prices could see a further uptick in the coming months. 

    Though wholesale prices are no longer monitored by the RBI for fixing interest rates, they provide an indication of possible trends in retail inflation. 

    In its Monetary Policy statement on December 6, the RBI had marginally raised its inflation forecast for the second half of the fiscal and analysts expect wholesale prices to be on the rise as well. Official data released on 13th December showed that WPI inflation rose by sharpest pace this fiscal to 3.93 per cent in November. It had been 3.59 per cent in October this year, and 1.82 per cent in November last year. 

    Meanwhile, the rate of inflation based on the WPI Food Index rose to 4.1 per cent in November from 3.23 per cent in October. 

    Retail inflation, based on the Consumer Price Index, hit a 15-month high of 4.88 per cent in November, according to data released earlier this week. 

  • Govt to bear MDR charges on transactions up to Rs 2000 made through debit cards
    The government has decided to bear the Merchant Discount Rate (MDR) charges on transactions up to 2,000 rupees made through debit cards, BHIM UPI or Aadhaar-enabled payment systems to promote digital transactions. MDR will be borne by the government for two years with effect from 1st of January, 2018 by reimbursing the same to the banks. It will help move towards a less cash economy. 

    A committee comprising Secretaries, Department of Financial Services, and Ministry of Electronics and IT, and the CEO, National Payment Corporation of India will look into the industry cost structure of such transactions. It is estimated that the MDR to be reimbursed would be 1,050 crore rupees in 2018-19 and 1,462 crore rupees in 2019-20. 

  • Cabinet approves continuation of National AYUSH Mission
    Union Cabinet on 15th December gave its approval for continuation of centrally sponsored scheme of National AYUSH Mission, NAM, from April 2017 to March 2020. The NAM is being implemented by the Central government to provide cost effective AYUSH services. The mission was launched in September 2014. 

  • GST Council decides to implement uniform system of e-way bill
    The Uniform System of e-way Bill for inter-State as well as intra-State movement of good will be implemented across the country by 1st June next year. The decision to this effect was taken by the GST Council at its 24th Meeting held on 16th December. The meeting was held through video conferencing and was chaired by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. 

    The System for e-way bill generation will be ready by 16th of next month and the States may choose their own timings for its implementation on any date before 1st June next year. 

    In a statement the Ministry of Finance said, the rules for implementation of nationwide e-way Bill system on a compulsory basis will be notified on 1st February next year. It will bring uniformity across the States for seamless inter-State movement of goods. 

    The GST Council on 16th December also reviewed the progress of readiness of hardware and software required for the introduction of nationwide e-way Bill System. 

  • Venezuela to launch new virtual currency
    Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has announced the creation of a new virtual currency in a bid to ease the country's economic crisis. He said the Petro would be backed by Venezuela's oil, gas, gold and diamond wealth. Opposition MPs, however, poured scorn on the plan. 

    Venezuela's economy has been hit by falling oil revenue and the plummeting value of its existing currency, the bolivar. 

    President Maduro has also railed against US sanctions which he describes as a blockade. In a televised announcement on on 3rd December, Mr Maduro said the new crypto-currency would allow Venezuela to advance in issues of monetary sovereignty, to make financial transactions and overcome the financial blockade. He gave no details on how, or when, the new currency would be launched. 

    Venezuela is mired in a deep economic crisis triggered mainly by a fall in crude oil prices and a drop in oil production. Petroleum is its main source of hard currency. Over the past year, the Venezuelan bolivar has plummeted 95.5 per cent against the dollar on the black market. 

  • RBI may cut policy rate: Fitch
    Ahead of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI)’s monetary review of RBI, rating agency Fitch on 4th December said the central bank had headroom to "keep the policy rate low" to perk up the economy, which grew "weaker than expected" in the second quarter. 

    There is widespread expectation that the RBI would maintain status quo on the policy rate. Fitch, which assigns its lowest investment grade to India, recalled its earlier scaling down of India's economic growth estimate to 6.7 per cent for the current financial year from 6.9 per cent. 

    However, retail food price inflation rose to 1.90 per cent in October from 1.25 per cent in the previous month, pushing up the rate of price rise to 3.58 per cent from 3.28 per cent. Inflation was still within the rate of four per cent, plus or minus two, mandated to the Monetary Policy Committee. 

    Fitch said it expected inflation to rise to 3.9 per cent by this month-end, compared with 3.4 per cent in the corresponding period previous year. 

    The rating agency said it had revised down India's economic growth to 6.7 per cent for the current financial year from 6.9 per cent in its September outlook. It said economic growth at 6.3 per cent in the second quarter of 2017-18 was weaker than what it expected, though it was a rebound compared with 5.7 per cent in Q1. It had also cut growth forecast to 7.3 per cent for 2018-19, from 7.4 per cent. 

  • Govt's public debt rises by 2.53% in July-Sept quarter
    Public debt of the central government rose by 2.53 per cent to 65.65 lakh crore rupees in the July-September quarter compared to the previous quarter. 

    According to the Quarterly Report on Public Debt Management for July-September 2017 which was released by Finance Ministry, the public debt was 64,03 lakh crore rupees at end-June 2017. Internal debt constituted 93 per cent of public debt at end-September 2017, while marketable securities accounted for 82.6 per cent of public debt. 

  • Reserve Bank of India keeps repo rate unchanged at 6%
    The Reserve Bank of India kept its key lending rate unchanged after its monetary policy review, on 6th December. The 6-member Monetary Policy Committee headed by Reserve Bank of India Governor Urjit Patel kept the repo rate, the rate at which the RBI lends, short-term, to banks, unchanged at 6 per cent. 

    The reverse repo rate was kept steady at 5.75 per cent. The Reserve Bank said the reason for the decision was achieving the medium-term target for consumer price index inflation of 4 per cent, while supporting growth. 

    Expecting the price situation to harden, the RBI raised its inflation estimate to 4.3 to 4.7 per cent, from the earlier projection of 4.2 to 4.6 per cent, for the second half of the current fiscal. 

    The MPC decided to continue with its neutral policy stance. The apex bank retained its GDP growth forecast of 6.7 per cent for 2017-18. 

    The Reserve Bank said the recent rise in global crude oil prices may sustain. And it said the implementation of farm loan waivers by some states, partial rollback of excise duty and VAT in the case of petroleum products, and a decrease in revenue due to a reduction in GST rates may result in fiscal slippage. 

    Finance Ministry has said, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) in its fifth bi-monthly policy statement has recognized that inflation remains firmly under control. 

    Taking note of the MPC statement, the Ministry said that it has retained its inflation projection for the second half of the financial year 2018 while assessing that the risks to this projection are evenly balanced. The Ministry said, due to this reason, it has maintained a neutral policy stance. 

    The MPC has also retained its annual GVA forecast for the financial year 2018 of 6.7 per cent recognizing several significant developments and emphasizing the Government’s reform efforts such as GST, Bank Recapitalization Package and improving Ease of Doing Business Ranking. 

  • Govt engages ICICI Bank to enable cashless payments on e-NAM
    The government has engaged private lender ICICI Bank to enable online payments at 470 mandis integrated with the national portal of electronic National Agriculture Market (e-NAM). 

    At present, e-NAM participants are doing payments through traditional ways via bank branches, debit cards and net banking. 

    Online payments should to be smooth and without any delay which is why ICICI Bank has been roped in as a banker for e-NAM. 

    ICICI Bank will enable BHIM (Bharat Interface for Money) and Unified Payments Interface (UPI) on the e-NAM portal for making cashless payments. 

  • RBI rationalises charges on debit card transactions
    In order to promote digital payments, RBI has come out with differentiated merchant discount rates (MDR) for debit card transactions, prescribing separate caps for small and large traders. 

    MDR is the rate charged to a merchant by a bank for providing debit and credit card services. As per the latest notification, MDR charges for small merchants with an annual turnover of up to 20 lakh rupees has been fixed at 0.4 per cent with a cap of 200 rupees per transaction by debit cards through Point of Sale (PoS) machines or online transactions. 

    For accepting payments via QR (quick response) code based transactions, the charge will be 0.3 per cent subject to a cap of 200 rupees per transaction. 

    In case the annual turnover of a merchant is over 20 lakh rupees, MDR charges would be 0.9 per cent with a cap of 1,000 rupees per transaction. If the transaction is through QR code, the charges will be 0.8 per cent with a similar cap. The directions will come into effect from 1st January. 

  • Govt extends deadline to link Aadhaar with PAN by 3 months to March 31
    The government on 8th December extended the deadline for mandatory linking of PAN with Aadhaar by three months to March 31, 2018. 

    This is the third extension given by the government to individuals to link the Permanent Account Number (PAN) with the biometric ID. 

    The Centre had already informed the Supreme Court that it is willing to extend till March 31 the deadline fixed for mandatory linking of Aadhaar to avail various services and welfare schemes. As of November, 132.8 million out of 330 million PANs have been linked to the 12-digit biometric identifier Aadhaar. 

  • EU, Japan conclude world's largest free-trade agreement
    The European Union and Japan concluded negotiations on a free-trade deal to create the world's largest open economic area, signalling their rejection of the more protectionist stance of US President Donald Trump. 

    The two parties, who agreed the outlines of a deal in July, said on 8th December negotiators had now finished a legal text that would open up trade for economies making up about 30 per cent of global output. 

    Japan and the EU will join hands and build a free, fair and rule-based economic zone, which will be a model of an economic order in the international community in the 21st century. 

    Japan had been one of the signatories to the planned Trans-Pacific Partnership, a massive 12-nation trade alliance that Trump ditched on his first day in office. Abe said a "new era" would now start for the EU and Japan. 

    The deal, combining the 28-nation bloc and the world's third largest economy, will remove EU tariffs of 10 per cent tariffs on Japanese cars and the 3 per cent rate typically applied to car parts. 

    For the EU, it will scrap Japanese duties of some 30 per cent on EU cheese and 15 per cent on wines as well as allowing it to increase its beef and pork exports and gain access to large public tenders in Japan. 

    In the past five months, negotiators worked on stabilising tariffs in services, regulatory cooperation and the means to protect food and drink categories so that, for example, only sparkling wines from a specific Italian region can be called Prosecco. 

    Discussions will continue on the contentious issue of investor protection. Japan has been reluctant to adopt the investment court system the EU has devised as an answer to fierce criticism that disputes between foreign companies and states should not be settled by opaque tribunals. 

    The European Union is also hoping to seal free trade agreements with the Mexico and the Mercosur bloc of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. 

  • NK Singh appointed Chairman of 15th Finance Commission
    Former Expenditure and Revenue Secretary NK Singh will chair the Fifteenth Finance Commission. Former Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das and adjunct professor of Georgetown University Anoop Singh will be its full- time members. Chairman of Bandhan Bank Ashok Lahiri and NITI-Aayog member Ramesh Chand will be part-time members. IAS officer Arvind Mehta will be the Secretary to the Commission. The Union Cabinet had on November 22 approved the setting up of the Fifteenth Finance Commission. 

    The panel, which is a statutory body under Article 280(1) of the Constitution, will prescribe the formula for devolution of taxes between the Centre and States for the five years commencing on April 1, 2020. It is expected to submit its report by October 30, 2019. 

    This time around, the Finance Commission will have to finalise its recommendations in a new setting — after the abolition of the Planning Commission and Plan and Non-Plan expenditure as well as the roll out of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). 

    It will also review the current status of the finance, deficit, debt levels, cash balances and fiscal discipline efforts of the Union and the States and suggest a fresh fiscal consolidation roadmap. Significantly, Singh, who is a former Member of the Rajya Sabha, had recently chaired a committee to review the FRBM Act and goalposts. 

    The panel has also been tasked with proposing measurable performance-based incentives for States based on deepening the GST net, population, progress in capital expenditure, sanitation and drinking water efforts as well steps to curb populist measures. 

  • PM Narendra Modi flags off Hyderabad Metro Rail
    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated to the nation Hyderabad Metro Rail on 28th November. Mr Modi unveiled a pylon at Miyapur metro railway station on the outskirts of Hyderabad to mark the formal inauguration of the first phase of Hyderabad Metro from Miyapur to Nagole. 

    The stretch of 30 kilometres with 24 metro stations will be open for commercial operations from 29th November onwards. 

  • PM Modi, Ivanka Trump inaugurate Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Hyderabad
    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 28th November gave a clarion call to global Entrepreneurs to invest and take part in the Indian growth story. He said India has provided an enabling atmosphere by removing redundant laws and improving ease of doing business. 

    He was addressing the 8th Global Entrepreneurship Summit after formally inaugurating the three-day event along with US President Donald Trump's advisor and daughter Ivanka Trump. 

    Stating that several measures have been taken to provide enabling atmosphere in favour of entrepreneurship, Mr Modi said fiscal deficit has been contained and stringent measures have been taken against black money. 

    The Prime Minister further said that by December next year, every household will be provided electricity through Sowbhagya programme. He said a comprehensive energy policy is in the pipeline. 

    He further said infrastructure projects are progressing well and agriculture and food processing industry is flourishing in the country. Stating that India will not satisfy herself by the improvement of the world bank ranking to 100 from the 140, he said, the country will strive to achieve 50th rank. 

    Mr Modi said India has been giving women honour and due respect from ancient times. Mr Modi said about 50 per cent of the loans under Mudra programme have been given to women. 

    Ivanka Trump said without growth of women, humanity will not prosper. Strongly advocating that the cutting edge technology will help entrepreneurs, she asked them to be innovative and think to stand apart. 

    Ivanka Trump will take part in two plenary sessions mainly on women entrepreneurship during the summit. She leads a delegation of entrepreneurs that has representation from 38 states of the US. 

    Over 1500 delegates from 150 countries are taking part in the summit focusing on 'Women first-Prosperity for all'. Ten countries are being represented by all women delegations. Prime Minister Narendra Modi presented Ivanka Trump a wooden box of Sadeli craft. 

    Sadeli craft is a highly skilled craft technique, native to Surat, of fabricating geometric patterns in wood. It was traditionally used for decorating doors, windows and furniture. It is now also used for embellishing jewellery boxes, containers and photo frames. 

  • Telecom Regulatory Authority of India upholds net neutrality
    The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has upheld the basic principles of an open and free internet in its recommendations on net neutrality. 

    Net neutrality means that telecom service providers must treat all internet traffic equally, without any regard to the type, origin or destination of the content or the means of its transmission. 

    TRAI on 29th November recommended prohibiting Internet service providers from making any discrimination in traffic while providing web access by either blocking or throttling some apps, websites and services or by offering fast lanes to others. 

    The telecom regulator's recommendations pave the way to end all sorts of discriminatory practices that telecom operators may exercise to differentiate among services. It has suggested changing licence terms of players to explicitly restrict any form of discrimination in Internet access based on content. 

    TRAI has also restrained service providers from entering into pacts with any person which discriminates on content, protocol or user equipment.It has recommended that the Department of Telecommunication (DoT) may identify specialized services. 

    However, the specialized services may be offered by the service provider only if they are not usable as a replacement of Internet access services. Internet of Things (IoT) as a class of services are not excluded from the scope of restriction on non-discriminatory treatment. 

    However critical IoT services identified by DoT would be automatically excluded. The other recommendations include reasonable measurement for traffic management by Internet access service provider. 

    In finalising these recommendations the TRAI issued a pre-consultation paper in May last year and followed it up with a detailed consultation paper on 4th of January this year focussing especially on questions of requirements, design, scope and implementation of net neutrality framework in India. 

  • Ivanka Trump, Cherie Blair, Chanda Kochhar share common ideas at GES
    Advisor to US president Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump, and wife of former British Prime Minister Cherie Blair, and ICICI bank MD, Chanda Kochhar have shared common ideas that cutting edge technology and a strong family support will take forward women Entrepreneurship. 

    They took part in a plenary panel discussion along with Karen Hughes Quntos of Dell company on 29th November on Innovations in Workforce development and Skills training during the ongoing GES in Hyderabad. 

    The plenary session was moderated by Telangana IT minister K Taraka Ramarao. He stressed on 3 Cs for growth of women entrepreneurs they include confidence, capacity and capital. 

    Ivanka laid emphasis on technology as it reduces the barriers in starting businesses for women entrepreneurs. She said technology opened tremendous opportunities for women. 

    She also added that US government is actively considering a policy in support to providing enabling environment for women entrepreneurs by New Year are so. 

    Taking part in the deliberations, Cherie Blair said using IT advantages will help women to reach their goals. Referring her own experience, she said by taking advantage of technology, she is reaching out women in need across the world. 

    Laying emphasis on strong family support for each step that women take, Chanda Kochhar said her bank is providing wide training programmes that bridge the digital divide. She said one lakh youth are being trained every year in various sectors out of which 50 percent are women. 

    In another panel discussion, Badminton National coach Pullela Gopichand and Mithali Raj and Sania Mirza opined that community has to connect with the champions and sports winners. 

    Gopichand pointed out that the country should have a vision to encourage local sports as sports itself is local one. Sports need to be played at regional level and asked intellectuals to put their brains together to promote this. 

    Harsha Bhogley who moderated the discussion said women are doing well but athletes are facing tough situations. 

    There are discussions held on various topics such as future of cinema, mentoring and networking, innovations to bridge the digital divide, investments in healthcare and Agritech Matters- Feed billions by harvesting technology are among others on 29th November on the GES. 

  • ADB approves $500-mn loan for rural roads in five states
    Multilateral funding agency Asian Development Bank (ADB) on 29th November said it will provide a $500 million loan to improve rural road connectivity in five states, including Assam and West Bengal. 

    The board of directors of ADB has approved the multi-tranche financing facility (MFF) for the 'Second Rural Connectivity Investment Programme' to improve rural roads in five states of India

    Under this project, ADB will invest to construct and upgrade over 12,000-kilometre rural roads in Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and West Bengal. It will also support state governments to improve rural road maintenance and safety. 

    ADB is building on the success of previous assistance for rural roads in India. The agency will work closely with the government to improve connectivity for the rural people to access markets, health centers, education and other opportunities

    In the first tranche, ADB is expected to invest $250 million in December for construction of initial 6,254 km all-weather rural roads in these states. 

    This leg of the ADB loan assistance for rural roads builds on the first 'Rural Connectivity Investment Programme in 2012' financing $800 million MFF to add about 9,000 km all-weather rural roads in these five states. 

  • Telangana govt to set up World’s first IT Campus for differently abled persons
    The Telangana State Government will be setting up the World’s first IT Campus for differently abled persons on the occasion of the World Disability Day to be observed on 3rd December. 

    The state Government has entered into an agreement with a private entrepreneur to set up the Information and Technology campus to focus on creating employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. 

    The Department of IT in a note said the proposed campus will be set up in an area of 10 acres in eth IT park developed by the state Government near the Hyderabad international airport. The Government also said the campus will have all the amenities like Training, Residential facility and Delivery centers that will cater to various clients both domestic and International. The campus is expected to create two thousand jobs in next 5 years by providing apt training. 

  • India saved $15 billion on energy subsidies in past two years: Report
    India has saved over $15 billion on energy subsidies in the past two years, on the back of reforms to curb wasteful consumption in oil and gas subsidies along with the decrease in global oil prices, said a report by the International Institute of Sustainable Development (IISD). 

    According to the report, the total value of energy subsidies from the central government has declined substantially between financial years (FY) 2014 and 2016- from Rs 2,16,408 crore ($35.8 billion) to Rs 1,33,841 crore ($20.4 billion). 

    The report reveals that India has been steadily increasing central government subsidies on electricity transmission and distribution, while reducing subsidies on oil and gas over the past three years. Central government subsidies for electricity transmission and distribution increased from Rs 40,331 crore ($6.7 billion) in 2014 to Rs 64,896 crore ($9.9 billion). 

    As a member of the G-20, India had in 2009 committed to “phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption, while providing targeted support for the poorest.” In 2016, transmission and distribution became the main recipient of energy subsidies in India. 

    These figures, however, do not include the even larger volume of state government subsidies that have been provided through the government’s UDAY program that provided an additional Rs 1,70,000 crore ($25 billion) over 2016 and 2017. 

    Total subsidies to coal mining and coal-fired electricity have remained stable due to a slight decline in the said period and stood at Rs 14,979 crore ($2.3 billion) in FY16. 

    In 2016, around Rs 28,500 crore was collected through the Clean Environment Cess- a tax on coal whose revenues are allocated to a clean energy fund. However, out of this total sum, only Rs 9,310 crore was utilised for clean energy development. In the same year, India incurred an expenditure of Rs 14,990 crore to coal subsidies, it added. 

  • India’s GDP growth at 6.3% in 2nd quarter
    GDP growth rate at constant prices during the second quarter of this fiscal is estimated at six point three per cent which is up from five point seven per cent over the first quarter. It was 7.5 per cent in the corresponding period of last year. 

    Releasing GDP data in New Delhi on 30th December, Chief Statistician of India T C A Anant said the GDP growth has seen a reversal trend from declining trend in the last five quarters. 

    He said, this growth happened on the back of good growth in manufacturing sector, electricity, gas, water supply and other utilities. Mr Anant said, the manufacturing sector in the second quarter of 2017-18 grew by 7 per cent. Mr Anant said, agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors are estimated to have grown by 1.7 per cent. 

  • 50 new airports to come up under Udan scheme for regional connectivity: Finance Minister
    Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said India needs to upgrade its infrastructure in coming two decades to become a developed economy. Addressing a Defence Estate function in New Delhi, Mr Jaitley said, no one can expect infrastructure to come out of thin air. 

    He said the users have to pay for better infrastructure. Saying tax non compliant is impediment on country's development, the Finance minister stressed that government is making more efforts to make system more compliant. 

  • NITI Ayog announces its support to women entrepreneurs
    NITI Ayog on 30th November announced its support to women entrepreneurs in a big way. Addressing a press conference on the conclusion of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Hyderabad, Niti Ayog CEO Amitabh Kant said, Atal tinkering labs will be specially set up at women-owned schools to promote innovation and instilling entrepreneurship among women at an early stage. 

    He said, a special cell will be set up to handhold women entrepreneurs and assist them to get fund. He further said, the Atal innovation will have a tie-up with T- Hub, the incubation centre of Telangana. 

    Earlier, Telangana IT Minister Taraka Ramarao announced that a separate We- Hub, Women entrepreneurs Hub, will be set up to encourage entrepreneurship among women. He also announced a corpus fund of 50 crore rupees to extend assistance to women entrepreneurs. 

    The summit witnessed nearly 2000 delegates from over 140 countries including 500 investors. Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the GES on 28th November. US President’s Advisor Ivanka Trump led a delegation of nearly 40 entrepreneurs to the Summit. 

  • Union Cabinet has approved setting up of National Nutrition Mission: Maneka Gandhi
    The NNM, as an apex body, will monitor, supervise, fix targets and guide the nutrition related interventions across the country. According to Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi, the Government is committed to ensure that every child and pregnant woman and lactating mother gets adequate nutrition to eliminate malnutrition and stunting. 

    The NNM will strive to reduce the level of stunting, under nutrition, anemia and low birth weight babies. It will create synergy; ensure better monitoring and issue alerts for timely action. Ms Gandhi said, food which is being served to children will be monitored by the Ministry. 

    She said, the government will encourage states/ UTs to perform, guide and supervise the line Ministries and states/ UTs to achieve the targeted goals. She said, results of setting up National Nutrition Mission will show up within a year. 

    The Women and Child Development Ministry has already designed a real-time monitoring system ‘ICDS -CAS’ to track nutrition goals and Anganwadi functionality. 

  • Central Government eases mine auction rules
    More than two years after it introduced auctions as a means to allot mining rights for major minerals, the Centre on 30th November significantly eased the auction rules in a bid to rekindle investor interest in a process that has been marred by failed auctions. 

    While 33 blocks of minerals have been successfully auctioned since May 2015, when the mineral auction rules were introduced, as many as 60 auctions have flopped for lack of interest. The development assumes significance as the Centre is looking to auction more than 100 blocks over the next 15 months with a potential value of about Rs. 2 lakh crore. 

    States can now allocate blocks even if there are less than three bidders in the fray during the second round of auction, as opposed to the existing rule that requires the process to be annulled if there are less than three bidders in the first three rounds. 

    For an average annual output of up to Rs. 2 crore, bidders now need a net worth of just Rs. 0.5 crore. Similarly, for an average annual output of up to Rs. 20 crore, the net worth norm has been slashed from Rs. 40 crore to Rs. 10 crore. 

    Rigid end-use conditions on minerals excavated from a block, have been done away with. Miners can now dispose of 25% of unused low-grade ore. 

    The Centre aims to spur increased interest in the upcoming auctions — 34 mineral blocks are in the pipeline for the rest of 2017-18. The new norms also have a clause to discourage miners from ‘squatting’ on mine leases.


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