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November 2017 Economic Affairs

  • India ranked 126 in terms of per capita GDP
    India has moved up one position to 126th in terms of per capita GDP of countries, still ranked lower than all its BRICS peers, while Qatar remains the world’s richest on this parameter. 

    The IMF data, which forms part of the latest World Economic Outlook report of the International Monetary Fund, ranks over 200 countries in terms of per capita GDP based on purchasing power parity (PPP). 

    PPP between two countries is the rate at which the currency of one country needs to be converted into that of a second country to ensure that a given amount of the first country’s currency will purchase the same volume of goods and services in the second country as it does in the first. 

    India has seen its per capita GDP rise to $7,170 in 2017, from USD 6,690 last year, helping improve its rank by a position to 126th. 

    Qatar remains top-ranked with per capita GDP of $1,24,930, followed by Macao at the second position with $1,14,430 and Luxembourg third with $1,09,190. 

    Among BRICS countries, India has the lowest per capita GDP. Russia boasts of a GDP per capita of $27,900, while for China, it stood at $16,620, Brazil at $15,500 and South Africa at $13,400. 

    Interestingly, as per a recent Credit Suisse report, India is home to 2.45 lakh millionaires with a total household wealth of $5 trillion. 

    As per the IMF data, the richest 10 countries in the world in terms of per capita GDP also include Singapore (4th, $90,530), Brunei (5th, $76,740), Ireland (6th, $72,630), Norway (7th, $70,590), Kuwait (8th, $69,670), United Arab Emirates (9th, $68,250) and Switzerland (10th, $61,360). 

    The US has failed to make it to the top 10 and is ranked 13th with a per capita GDP of $59,500, while the UK is ranked even lower. 

  • Centre raises Rs. 14,500 cr from Bharat-22 Exchange traded Fund
    The Centre’s PSU disinvestment plan got a big boost with the Bharat-22 Exchange traded Fund (ETF) subscribed four times and raising Rs. 14,500 crore. 

    With this, the Centre is estimated to have raised Rs. 52,500 crore from disinvestment in public sector units, making it the highest ever mop-up from stake sales in a fiscal year. 

    The receipts are also expected to give some relief to the Exchequer, facing revenue losses from the excise duty cut on fuel and reduction in GST rates of over 200 items, while trying to meet the fiscal deficit target of 3.2 per cent of GDP. 

    The Centre plans to raise Rs. 72,500 crore from stake sales in PSUs this fiscal, including Rs. 15,000 crore from strategic disinvestment and Rs. 11,000 crore from listing of public sector insurers. 

    The Finance Ministry is still working on a number of issues, including minority-stake sales and initial public offers in PSUs such as IRCON, IRCTC, Bharat Dynamics Ltd, Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd and Mishra Dhatu Nigam Ltd, apart from strategic disinvestment in PSUs such as Air India, Engineering Projects (India) Ltd and Central Electronics Ltd. Additionally, a planned merger of oil PSUs ONGC and HPCL is also on the anvil. 

  • Hyderabad Metro Rail gets safety nod
    L&T Metro Rail (Hyderabad) Ltd announced on 20th November that the Railway Safety Commission has given safety clearance for the project. 

    A team headed by Commissioner of Metro Rail Safety Ram Kripal and members of the Railway Safety Commission inspected various aspects of the metro, including civil works, track, RoB, viaduct, stations, electrical, signalling and train control, telecommunication, and rolling stock among others. 

    The team conducted speed trials on the Metro train for three days during November 17-19, 2017 and issued clearance for the Mettuguda to SR Nagar route via Ameerpet Interchange Metro Station. 

  • Moody’s Investors Service upgrades ratings of nine PSUs
    Moody's Investors Service has upgraded ratings of nine state-owned firms. These are Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL), Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd (HPCL), Indian Oil Corp (IOC), Petronet LNG Ltd (PLL), Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC), National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), NHPC, National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) and GAIL India. 

  • IREDA inks $100-mn loan agreement with World Bank
    The government’s principal clean energy financing agency, the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA) has signed a $100-million loan agreement to fund shared infrastructure for solar parks in the country. According to IREDA, the World Bank and the Department of Economic Affairs have signed the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) loan agreement of $75 million, Clean Technology Fund loan agreement of $23 million and Clean Technology Grant Fund of $2 million to support lending by IREDA to the shared infrastructure for solar parks projects in India. 

    The World Bank credit line should provide long-term funds, which will help lower the cost of the project and, thereby, the cost of generation of power and help the sector to achieve development of 20 GW through solar parks, of an overall target of 60 GW for ground-mounted solar. 

  • Cabinet approves Pradhan Mantri Mahila Shakti Kendra scheme
    Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved a new scheme called Pradhan Mantri Mahila Shakti Kendra (PM-MSK) to empower rural women through community participation. National level and State level structures will provide technical support to the respective government on issues related to women. 

    The district and block level Centres will provide support to PM-MSK and also give a foothold to Beti Bachao Beti Padhao in 640 districts to be covered in a phased manner. More than 3 lakh student volunteers from local colleges will generate awareness about various important government schemes and programmes as well as social issues. 

    CCEA has also approved expansion and intensification of efforts for Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) through sustained nation-wide advocacy and media Campaign across all districts and focused multi-sectoral action in selected 405 districts of the country. 

    All low child sex ratio districts will be taken up in the first year itself under BBBP. 190 more Working Women Hostels will be set up to accommodate 19 thousand additional working women. CCEA has also approved additional SwadharGrehs to provide relief and rehabilitation of 26 thousand beneficiaries. 

    CCEA has also given its approval for expansion of the schemes for Protection and Empowerment for Women for 2017-18 to 2019-20. 

  • 15th Finance Commission gets approval
    The Union Cabinet on 22nd November cleared the setting up of the 15th Finance Commission that will prescribe the formula for devolution of taxes between the Centre and States for the five years commencing on April 1, 2020. 

    The Finance Commission, a statutory body under Article 280(1) of the Constitution, is set up every five years to decide on how the net proceeds of taxes would be shared between the Centre and States. It also decides the principles for grants-in-aid of the revenues of the States out of the Consolidated Fund of India. 

    This time round, the panel will have a more unusual task with the roll out of the Goods and Services Tax. There have been many changes. The expenditure pattern of the Centre and States should be maintained and the impact of the new tax on the finances of both the pattern has changed with the GST. 

  • Wage policy for Central Public Sector Enterprises cleared
    The Cabinet on 22nd November cleared the decks for the 8th round of wage negotiations for workmen in Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs) by approving a policy framework that makes it clear that no budgetary support would be provided by the government for any wage increase, and the entire financial implication would be borne by the respective CPSEs from their internal resources. 

    In those CPSEs for which the government has approved restructuring/revival plan, the wage revision will be done as per the provisions of the approved restructuring/revival plan only

    As per the approved policy, CPSE managements would be free to negotiate wage revision for workmen where the periodicity of wage settlement of five years or 10 years has expired generally on December 31, 2016 

    Also, CPSE managements need to ensure that the negotiated pay scales do not exceed the existing pay scales of executives/officers and non-unionised supervisors of respective CPSEs

    There are about 12.34 lakh employees in 320 CPSEs in the country. Out of these, 9.35 lakh employees are in the workmen category and about 2.99 lakh are board-level and below board-level executives and non-unionised supervisors. 

    The wage policy also makes it clear that CPSEs must ensure that any increase in wages after negotiations does not result in increase in administered prices of their goods and services. Also, any wage revision “shall be subject to the condition that there shall be no increase in labour cost per physical unit of output.” 

  • Cabinet recommends President to issue ordinance to amend Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code
    Union Cabinet has recommended to the President to issue an ordinance to make certain amendments to the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code. The Code, which became operational last year, provides for a market-determined and time-bound insolvency resolution process. 

  • Cabinet approves India's membership for European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
    Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved India's Membership for European Bank for Reconstruction & Development. 

    Membership of the EBRD would enhance India's international profile and promote its economic interests and contribute to an improved investment climate in the country. 

    It would increase the scope of cooperation between India and EBRD through co-financing opportunities in manufacturing, services, Information Technology, and Energy. EBRD's core operations pertain to private sector development in their countries of operation. 

  • Oil and gas PSU mergers to be exempt from CCI purview
    To ensure that the transfer of State-owned oil major HPCL’s promoter stake to ONGC does not breach any norms on anti-competitive practices the government has exempted the merger of oil and gas PSUs from the purview of competition watchdog CCI. The Centre intends to complete the transfer of HPCL’s stake to oil giant ONGC early next year. 

    The relaxation will be available for a period of five years. A similar mechanism has been adopted for public sector banks, for a period of 10 years. Originally proposed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in Budget 2017-18, the HPCL-ONGC deal was approved by the Cabinet in July. 

    According to the plan, ONGC will acquire a 51.11 per cent stake in HPCL, in line with the government’s objective to create an integrated energy major with businesses spread across the hydrocarbon value chain. 

  • Global rating agency S&P keeps India's sovereign rating unchanged
    Global rating agency, Standard & Poor's (S&P) on 24th November kept India's sovereign rating unchanged, at 'BBB minus' with a stable outlook. S&P said, the ratings reflect the country's strong GDP growth, sound external profile, and improving monetary credibility. It said, the country's strong democratic institutions, and its free press promotes policy stability and compromise. 

    S&P added that these strengths are balanced against vulnerabilities stemming from the country's low per capita income and relatively high general government debt stock. 

    The rating stance taken by S&P comes days after Moody's Investors Service raised India's sovereign rating for the first time in over 13 years. Moody's had said that India's growth prospects have improved with continued economic and institutional reforms. 

  • FDI up 17 pc to $25.35 bn during April-September 
    Foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country increased by 17 per cent to USD 25.35 billion during April-September fiscal. 

    The department of industrial policy and promotion said on its 'Make in India' twitter handle thta FDI equity during the current FY 2017–18,up to September surged by 17 per cent to USD 25.35 billion from USD 21.62 billion in the year-ago period. 

    It said that the total FDI into India including equity inflows, reinvested earnings and other capital stood at USD 518.10 billion during April 2000 to September this year. 

    The main sectors which attract foreign inflows include services, telecom, trading, computer hardware and software and automobile. Bulk of the FDI came in from Singapore, Mauritius, the Netherlands and Japan. 

  • Price of new series of Sovereign Gold Bonds fixed at Rs 2,961 per gram
    The price of the new series of Sovereign Gold Bonds (SGBs) which will open on 13th November has been fixed at 2,961 rupees per gram. Finance Ministry in a statement said, the government, in consultation with the RBI, has decided to offer a discount of 50 rupees per gram to investors applying online and making payments digitally. This round is part of the SGB calender announced till December and is spread over 12 weeks. 

    The subscription opens from 13th November to 15th November every week between 9th of October and 27th of December. The settlement is to be made on the first business day of the following week. 

  • PM Modi says his govt intends to make India a global manufacturing hub
    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said his government intends to make India a global manufacturing hub. Addressing the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit in Manila, he highlighted India’s growth story to portray it as an attractive investment destination. Mr Modi said he wants to make Indian youth job creators instead of job seekers. 

    Substantiating his claim, the Prime Minister said, over 90 percent of the Indian economy is open for foreign direct investment. Mr Modi added that the processes to start companies in India and to secure clearances have been simplified. Referring to digitization of Indian economy, he said cashless transactions have registered 34 percent growth since demonetization brought in about a year back. He stressed that technology is being put to ensure transparency at an unprecedented scale. 

    Prime Minister Modi highlighted the implementation of GST saying, the complex process has been successfully completed, and added that much needs to be done. Pointing out at India climbing 30 places in the World Bank’s ‘ease of doing business’ list this year, Prime Minister said, it was the biggest jump by any country in a single year. He mentioned that South and South-East Asia would be the growth engine of the world, adding India attaches greater importance to boosting economic ties with the ASEAN nations. 

    He referred to the Jan Dhan Yojana saying, it has transformed the lives of millions by way of bringing banking services to them in a short span of time. 

    He said direct benefit transfer involving crediting of subsidies under 59 schemes of upto ten billion dollars has helped to check pilferages. He said, about 1200 outdated laws have been repealed in the last three years, in keeping with the emphasis on ‘minimum government, maximum governance’ principle. 

  • India to overtake Japan in nominal GDP by 2028
    India is likely to achieve strong growth over the next decade and will overtake Japan in nominal GDP by 2028, to emerge as the world's third largest economy. 

    A Bank of America Merrill Lynch report titled, 'India 2028' said that the country has already overtaken Brazil and Russia to emerge as the second largest BRIC economy after China. 

    The report said India is well on track to cross France and Britain to emerge as the world's fifth largest economy after Germany by 2019. 

    The report said India will cross Germany and Japan in nominal GDP in dollar term by 2028. This assumes that the Indian economy grows at 10 per cent (in nominal US GDP) in the next decade, well ahead of Japan's 1.6 per cent. The American brokerage has conservatively projected the country's real GDP growth at 7 per cent potential. 

  • President inaugurates 37th India International Trade Fair in New Delhi
    Indian President Ram Nath Kovind on 14th November inaugurated the 37th India International Trade Fair (IITF) at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi. The 14-day annual event is organised by the India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO). 

    The theme of the fair is "Startup India Standup India". Vietnam is the Partner Country, while Kyrgyzstan is the Focus Country. Jharkhand is participating as a Partner State in the event. As many as 7,000 participants from 22 countries will showcase their products ranging from electronics to textiles. 

  • India’s 1st Tribal Entrepreneurship Summit at Dantewada
    India’s first Tribal Entrepreneurship Summit has been organised on 14th November at Dantewada in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh. 

    The event is being organized by NITI Aayog in partnership with Government of United States of America. The event is a part of 8th Global Entrepreneurship Summit being held in India. The Tribal Entrepreneurship Summit in Dantewada has been organised with the motive to inspire, nurture and promote the spirit of entrepreneurship in tribal youth. This ensures yet another step towards tribal-centric sustainable and inclusive development. The summit not only provides a platform to tribal youth but also addresses the issues faced by the tribal community in pragmatic and progressive ways. 

  • Cabinet approves creation of National Anti-profiteering Authority under GST
    Cabinet on 16th November approved the creation of National Anti-profiteering Authority (NAA) under GST, to ensure benefits of reduction in indirect tax rates are passed on to consumers. According to the Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad: 

    The decision reflects governments full commitment to take all possible step to ensure benefits of implementation of GST to the common man. 

    The authority will comprise a standing committee, screening committee in every state and Director General of safeguards in the central board of Excise and customs. 

    The constitution of NAA will bolster the confidence of consumer as they reap the benefits of recent reduction in GST rates. 

    NAA enables consumers to apply for relief if they feel reduction in prices is not passed on to them and for this an institutional framework has been provided to take appropriate remedial action. 

    In case the consumers do not get the benefit of reduction in prices, they can apply for the relief to the screening committee to the particular state

    In case the incident of profiteering relates to an item to mass impact the application may be directly made to the standing committee. 

  • Govt removes restrictions on export of all types of pulses
    The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, CCEA has removed restrictions on export of all types of pulses. According to Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, the decision will give farmers greater choice in marketing their produce and enhance their incomes. 

    Opening of export of pulses will help the farmers to dispose of their products at remunerative prices and encourage them to expand the area of sowing. 

    It is expected that pulses production will be sustained in the country and its import dependence on pulses will come down substantially. 

    This is also likely to provide higher levels of protein to the population and work towards nutritional security. 

    The CCEA also empowered the Committee chaired by Secretary, Food and Public Distribution to review export-import policy on pulses and consider measures such as quantitative restrictions and change in import duties. 

    The CCEA also gave its nod for continuation of sub-schemes under Integrated Child Development Services, ICDS till November 2018 with an outlay of over 41 thousand crore rupees. 

    The schemes under it are Anganwadi Services, Scheme for adolescent girls, Child Protection Services and National Creche scheme. More than 11 crore children, pregnant women and lactating mothers and the adolescent girls will be benefited through this scheme. 

    Besides, it approved implementation of Scheme for Adolescent Girls for out of school girls in the age group of 11 to 14 years and phasing out of the ongoing Kishori Shakti Yojana. 

    Anganwadi Services and Child Protection Services are already in operation in the entire country while the Scheme for Adolescent Girls will be expanded in a phased manner and National Creche Scheme will continue to be implemented in over 23 thousand crèches. 

    The Cabinet also approved increase in carpet area of houses eligible for interest subsidy under the Credit-Linked Subsidy Scheme, CLSS for the Middle Income Group-MIG under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana. 

    Under it the carpet area in the MIG- I category of CLSS has been increased from the existing 90 square metre to 120 square meters and for MIG II category, from 110 square meters to 150 square meters. 

    Under the MIG-I category, a four-percent interest subsidy is provided to the beneficiaries, whose annual income is between 6 lakh rupees and 12 lakh, on a loan of up to 9 lakh rupees. 

    Similarly, under the MIG-II category, the beneficiaries with an annual income of 12 lakh to 18 lakh rupees get an interest subsidy of three per cent on a loan of up to 12 lakh rupees. 

  • RBI Governor Urjit Patel appointed to Financial Stability Institute Advisory Board
    RBI Governor Urjit Patel has been appointed to the Financial Stability Institute Advisory Board or the Bank of International Settlement (BIS). Bank for International Settlements is an international financial organisation owned by 60 member central banks across the world. 

    The Financial Stability Institute (FSI) of the BIS assists financial sector authorities worldwide in strengthening their financial systems. Since the beginning of 2017, the FSI has been implementing a new strategy that includes achieving closer interaction with central banks and financial supervisory agencies. 

  • Moody's upgrades India's credit rating to Baa2
    International rating agency Moody's Investors Service has upgraded India's local and foreign currency issuer ratings to Baa2 from Baa3 and changed the outlook on the rating to stable from positive. Moody’s has revised the sovereign rating of India a notch above investment grade after a long gap of 14 years. Moody's had last upgraded India's rating to 'Baa3' in 2004. In 2015, the rating outlook was changed to positive from stable. 

    The 'Baa3' rating was the lowest investment grades just a notch above 'junk' status. Moody’s said in a statement, the decision to upgrade the ratings is underpinned by Moody's expectation that continued progress on economic and institutional reforms will enhance India's high growth potential. 

    It will also improve large and stable financing base for government debt, and will likely contribute to a gradual decline in the general government debt burden over the medium term. 

    The global ratings agency, however, cautioned that high debt burden remains a constraint on the country's credit profile. 

  • Centre hikes import duty on edible oils to help farmers
    The Centre has raised import duty on crude palm oil to 30 per cent from 15 per cent and on refined oil to 40 per cent from 20 per cent in a bid to curb cheaper shipments and boost local prices for supporting farmers and refiners, according to a notification. 

    Import duty on soyabean oil, sunflower oils, canola/ mustard oils -- both crude and refined format -- has been raised, the notification released by the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC). Import duty on Soyabean has also been increased. 

    An inter-ministerial group headed by Union minister Nitin Gadkari and the Economic Advisory Council to Prime Minister (EAC-PM) had examined the local price situation and suggested raising the import duties on edible oils and some oilseeds. 

    The Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) said import duty of crude palm oil has been doubled to 30 per cent, while the refined crude palm oil been increased to 40 per cent from 25 per cent. 

    Import duty on crude soyabean oil has been increased to 30 per cent from 17.5 per cent, while refined soyabean oil has been raised to 35 per cent from the current 20 per cent. 

    India imports palm oil mainly from Indonesia and Malaysia and a small quantity of crude soft oil, including soyabean oil from Latin America. Sunflower oil is imported from Ukraine and Russia. 

  • India to be high middle income economy in 30 years: World Bank
    The World Bank has said that the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and reforms push by the government will catapult the country to high middle income economy in 30 years. It credited India's extraordinary achievement of quadrupling of per capita income to reforms taken in last three decades. 

    Speaking at India's Business Reform event organised by Ministry of Commerce and Industry in New Delhi, World Bank Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Kristalina Georgieva said, high level ownership and championship of reforms is critical for success. 

    Comparing the achievement of securing 100th rank in the latest Ease of Doing Business Report, she said a jump of that nature is very rare since the beginning of the survey 15 year ago. 

    Last week, India moved for the first time into the top 100 of World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business global rankings due to sustained business reforms over the past several years. 

  • IPPB Bank to become operational in 650 districts by April 2018
    The government on 5th November said India Post Payments Bank will become operational in all 650 districts of the country by April next year. They will facilitate financial inclusion. In reply to a question, Minister of Communications Manoj Sinha said in New Delhi that these banks will be linked to 1.55 lakh rural post offices and carry out banking services. The Minister said, two such banks are already operational in Ranchi and Raipur. 

  • Multi-agency group on Panama leak to probe Paradise Papers
    Government has ordered a probe into cases of Paradise Papers by the Multi-Agency Group (MAG) which is also probing the Panama Papers leak. 

    The reconstituted MAG headed by the Chairman of Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) will have representatives from ED, RBI and Financial Intelligence Unit. 

    The MAG was constituted in April last year to investigate the legality of money stashed in offshore entities by Indians named in the Panama Papers. 

    The CBDT, in a statement, said the Investigation units of the Income Tax Department have been alerted to take note of revelations for immediate action. 

  • India's logistics sector likely to grow by 9-10% annually: ICRA
    Terming the outlook for logistics companies as positive in the medium term, rating agency ICRA on on 6th November said India's logistics sector is likely to grow by about 10 per cent annually. It said while there have been fluctuations in the economy and freight demand due to GST implementation, the impact of the same would be temporary and would be corrected over the near term. 

    In addition, companies have benefited from the underlying sectors such as automobile, consumer durables etc. which have bucked the economic slowdown trend, it said. 

    From a profitability perspective, while the aggregate operating profit margins improved marginally on a sequential basis to 9.7 per cent during Q1 FY 2018, there was pressure on the margins on a Y-o-Y basis

    Although the manufacturing activity has declined further in July 2017 post GST implementation, there has been a gradual improvement in most of economic indicators over the past couple of months, which suggest the outlook for logistics companies is likely to turn favourable going forward. 

    The road freight rates also followed a similar trend, with the decline in industrial activity and lack of freight demand resulting in a sharp decline of freight rates in July 2017, and subsequent recovery in August 2017 as the industrial activity and freight demand improved, it added. 

  • 19 states freeze Rs 3,066-cr MNREGS wage payments to over 92 mn workers
    Wage payments under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) have been frozen in 19 states as of October 31, 2017, official data show. In Haryana, wages have not been paid since August 31, 2017. In 12 states, including Jharkhand, Karnataka and Kerala, payments have not been made since September 2017. No payments have been made in six states including Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh since October 2017. 

    Over 92 million active workers may not be getting their wages on time and the delayed wage payments amount to nearly Rs 3,066 crore, according to a statement by NREGA Sangharsh Morcha, a network of grassroot organisations. 

    It is mandatory for states to send audited reports of the previous financial year after September 30 every year for the central government to release the second tranche of funds. The rural development ministry statement said Rs 40,480 crore has been released so far in this financial year, which is around Rs 4,500 crore more than the release during the corresponding period of the last financial year. 

    The ministry has also sought funds from the finance ministry to meet additional requirements. The central government has not approved most payments for 20 days in March-April 2017, and 80% wage payments in May 2017 were not processed. 

  • India pledges additional $100 million towards UN partnership fund
    India has pledged an additional 100 million US Dollar towards the UN partnership fund, significantly scaling up it support to sustainable development projects across the developing world. 

    This was announced by the Counsellor at the Permanent Mission of India to the UN, Anjani Kumar on Monday at the 2017 UN Pledging Conference for Development Activities. He said this contribution would be in addition to India's contribution of 10.582 million US dollar to various other UN programmes. 

    Kumar said, of the 5 million US dollar, India contributed to the fund this year, 2 million US dollar would be utilised for reconstruction in Dominica and Antigua and Barbuda, which took a big hit from hurricanes. 

    The Counsellor said India believes that the UN should have the necessary resources to finance its activities, in an appropriate and balanced manner. 

    The India-UN Development Partnership Fund was set up earlier this year as a partnership between India and the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC). The first project from the fund is being executed in partnership with seven Pacific Island countries. 

  • DIPP inks pact with Anna University to set up tech support centre
    The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) on 8th November said it has signed an agreement with Anna University to set up a Technology and Innovation Support Center (TISC) in Chennai. 

    This will be the second centre in the country to be set up under the World Intellectual Property Organisation’s (WIPO) TISC programme. It will be established at the Centre for Intellectual Property Rights (CIPR), Anna University in Chennai. 

    WIPO’s TISC programme provides entrepreneurs in developing countries with access to locally-based, high quality technology information and related services, helping them to exploit their innovative potential and to create, protect and manage their Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs). 

    CIPR has an experience of filing more than 185 patents, 29 trademarks, 39 copyrights, 25 industrial design and has also assisted in filing 12 international patent applications. 

    The centre will also give an impetus to sharing of best practices among these centres, capacity building, generation and commercialisation of Intellectual Properties. 

  • Smriti Irani starts Digital Rath in New Delhi
    Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani flagged off Digital Rath in New Delhi on 8th November to create awareness among people for cashless transaction. Interacting with the traders, Mrs Irani said, digital transactions have increased sharply after demonetization. 

    She said, UPI transactions have increased from 3.8 million in April to 77 million in October this year, which is a huge growth. The Minister said, small merchants are the backbone of Indian economy and a less-cash society will bring more transparency. 

  • GST rate on mass consumption items cut to 18% from highest slab of 28%
    In a major relief to promote ease of doing business, the GST Council on 10th November decided to reduce tax rate on a wide range of products. According to Union Finance minister Arun Jaitley, the tax on 178 items has been reduced to 18 percent from 28 percent. 

    These include a wide range of common use items. 

    Eight items have been moved from 12 percent slab category to 5 percent. Taxes on two items -- armoured vehicles and weight grinders --have been reduced to 12 percent from 28 percent. 

    All stand-alone restaurants irrespective of air-conditioned or otherwise would attract 5 percent tax without Input Tax Credit, ITC. GST implemented from July 1, has five tax slabs of 0 per cent, 5 per cent, 12 per cent, 18 per cent and 28 per cent. 

  • Economic advisory panel spells out road map for skill development, job creation
    The Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister in its second meeting spelt out a clear road map for stepping up skill development, job creation, enhanced resource investment in the social sector, including for health and education, and for boosting Infrastructure financing. 

    According to an official statement, the Council chaired by Bibek Debroy, Member, NITI Aayog, which met on 10th November, also deliberated upon improvements needed in national accounts and innovative steps for unlocking growth, exports and the employment potential of growth drivers, including through transformation of India’s gold market. 

    It has formulated far-reaching recommendations to guide the evolving framework for the 15th Finance Commission, including the incentivisation of states for achieving health, education and social inclusion outcomes. 

    The council is also evolving the design of a new Economy Tracking Monitor, linking economic growth indicators with social indicators for last mile connectivity

    Lead presentations to the council were made by experts on key themes, including infrastructure financing by the Chairman EAC-PM Debroy, who underlined the need for infrastructure financing to be accorded high priority, with new mechanisms for a risk coverage umbrella. 

    Member, NITI Aayog, Vinod K. Paul, highlighted strategies for achieving Swastha Bharat by 2022. Skill Development Strategies were presented by the Secretary, Skill Development, K.P. Krishnan, who highlighted convergent initiatives to reach out to youth and women. 

    Secretary, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, T.C.A. Anant, outlined improvements needed in national accounts, complemented by the presentation by Member Secretary EAC-PM, Ratan P. Watal, demystifying issues on the current account deficit and the gold market. He also shared recommendations on the evolving framework for the 15th Finance Commission. 

    The deliberations of the council took stock of the economic and social analysis done by the theme groups and evolving initiatives led by different members. The Council identified key issues, strategies and recommended interventions in respect of these themes. 

  • Govt approves utilisation of pulses from buffer stock
    Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, CCEA has approved utilisation of pulses from the buffer stock for meeting the protein component under various Central Government schemes providing nutrition to beneficiaries. 

    The move will help ensure an adequate supply of nutrients and pulses under the various schemes including Mid Day Meal, hospitals as well as Ministries and Departments providing food, catering and hospitality services. 

    To give effect to the decision, the CCEA has empowered the concerned Ministries and Departments to carry out suitable amendments in their schemes and guidelines to enable them to utilise pulses from the buffer stock. 

    The disposal through the Central Government Schemes is in addition to the disposal of pulses from the buffer through open market sale and supply to States. However, the cost of pulses supplied to States would in no case be higher than the market price. 

    In case of non-availability of pulses in the buffer, the concerned Departments may revert to the current system of making nutrition available. 

  • Trans-Pacific Partnership members agree on new framework to revive proposed trade deal
    Members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) have agreed on a new framework to revive the proposed trade deal, following the US withdrawal earlier this year. 

    At a meeting on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Vietnam, the remaining eleven nations in a joint statement on 11th November said they had agreed on the core elements of a deal. Vietnam’s Trade Minister, Tran Tuan Anh, said the agreement, which still needs to be finalised, would now be called the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). 

    The countries working towards an agreement are Canada, Australia, Chile, New Zealand, Brunei, Singapore, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru and Vietnam. U.S. President Donald Trump ditched the TPP this year in favour of an America First policy he believes would save U.S. jobs. 

  • Foreign investors infuse $3bn into Indian capital markets in October
    Foreign investors have pumped in close to 3 billion dollars in the Indian capital markets so far this month due to high nominal and real yields and stable macroeconomic conditions. Most of the funds have been infused in the debt markets. 

    According to the latest depository data, FPIs invested a net sum of Rs. 2,806 crore in the stock markets and another Rs. 15,132 crore in debt, taking the total to Rs. 17,938 crore during October 3-27. 

    This follows a net outflow of over Rs. 10,000 crore from the capital markets last month. 

  • Government sets up Arun Jaitley led panel on PSU bank mergers
    The government has constituted a ministerial panel headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to oversee merger proposals of state-owned banks. The other members of the panel include Railway and Coal Minister Piyush Goyal and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. 

    Financial Services Secretary Rajiv Kumar said that the government is working on banking reforms and constituted an Alternative Mechanism for Public Sector Banks, PSB consolidation. 

    Last week, Mr Jaitley had announced 2.11 lakh crore rupees capital infusion roadmap for the public sector banks. The Union Cabinet had decided to set up an Alternative Mechanism to fast-track consolidation among public sector banks to create strong lenders. 

    The move to create large banks aims at meeting the credit needs of the growing Indian economy and building capacity in the PSB space to raise resources without dependence on the state exchequer. The mechanism will oversee the proposals coming from boards of PSBs for consolidation. 

  • India breaks into top 100 club in ease of doing business
    India has for the first time broken into the club of the top 100 nations easiest to do business in. The World Bank's Doing Business Report 2018, released on 31st November, showed that the country's global rank in ease of doing business jumped by 30 places to reach the 100th rank. 

    The rank was 130th in the previous year. India has also been adjudged the 5th best performing nation globally in reforming the business environment. 

    It also improved it's ranking in six of the ten sub-categories used by the World Bank to judge the climate of business ease in a country. The multilateral agency has recognised reforms by the government in eight sub-categories. 

    Among these, the biggest improvement in rankings was seen in the category of paying taxes where India managed to reach 119th position from the 172nd position earlier. 

    The World Bank, however, did not specifically ask respondents about the implications of the Goods and Services Tax regime. While the multilateral body said that GST was not a majorly mentioned issue from the respondents side, it cautioned that the tax system would play out significantly in the rankings over the next few years. 

    In the protecting minority investors category, India is now the 4th best in the world, a jump of 9 ranks from the 13th place last year. 

    However, despite hoping to get a better ranking in the securing construction permits category, India's rank has only improved to 181 from last year's 184. 

  • Fiscal deficit touches 91.3% of full-year target between April-September 2017
    The Centre’s financial situation improved marginally but remained precarious in the first six months of the fiscal as its spending outpaced its receipts by a wide margin. 

    The Centre’s fiscal deficit rose to Rs. 4,98,938 crore or 91.3 per cent of the Budget target between April and September 2017. This is a marginal improvement from the August data when fiscal deficit touched 96.1 per cent of the full-year target, but it remains high compared to April-September 2016 when it was at 83.9 per cent of the Budget estimate. 

    The revenue deficit was also contained but remained in excess of the Budget target at 118 per cent or Rs.3,79,591 crore between April and September this fiscal. 

    It was at 133.9 per cent of the target between April and August this fiscal, although it was much lower at 91.9 per cent in the first six months of 2016-17. 

    Total expenditure amounted to Rs. 11,49,187 crore or 53.5 per cent of the Budget target in the first six months of this fiscal, while total receipts stood at Rs. 6,50,249 crore or 40.6 per cent of the Budget estimate. 

  • CCEA approves extension of RKVY for 3 years
    Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved the continuation of Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana as Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana- Remunerative Approaches for Agriculture and Allied sector Rejuvenation, RKVY-RAFTAAR for three years to 2019-20. 

    The financial allocation of the scheme will be 15,722 crore rupees with the objective of making farming a remunerative economic activity through strengthening the farmer's efforts, risk mitigation and promoting agri ­business entrepreneurship. 

    The funds would be provided to the states as 60:40 grants between Centre and States and 90:10 for North Eastern states and Himalayan states. 

    The scheme will incentivize states in enhancing more allocation to Agriculture and Allied Sectors. 

    This will also strengthen farmer’s efforts through creation of agriculture infrastructure that help in supply of quality inputs and market facilities. 

    This will further promote agri-entrepreneurship and support business models that maximize returns to farmers. 

    Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana is a continuing scheme under implementation from Eleventh Five Year Plan. 

    It provides considerable flexibility and autonomy to states in planning and executing programmes for incentivizing investment in agriculture and allied sectors. 

  • PFRDA increases maximum age of joining National Pension Scheme to 65
    Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) has increased the maximum age of joining National Pension Scheme (NPS) Private Sector from the 60 to 65 years of age to increase the pension coverage in the country. 

    Now, any Indian citizen, resident or non-resident, between the age of 60- 65 years can join the NPS and continue up to the age of 70 years. 

    The increase in joining age will provide the options to the subscribers who are at the fag-end of the employment and expecting lump-sum amount at the time of retirement. 

    Subscriber joining NPS after the age of 60 years will have an option of normal exit from the scheme after completion of 3 years. 

    In this case, the subscriber will be required to utilize at least 40 per cent of the corpus for purchase of annuity and the remaining amount can be withdrawn in lump-sum. 

    However, if the subscriber wants to exit from NPS before completion of 3 years, he or she will have to utilize at-least 80 per cent of the corpus for purchase of annuity and the remaining can be withdrawn in lumpsum. 

    In case of death of the subscriber during his/her stay in NPS, the entire corpus will be paid to the nominee of the subscriber. 

    NPS provides a very robust platform to the subscriber to save for his/her old age income security. 

  • Tata is most valuable brand in India; RIL, Airtel ranked No 2, 3
    The Tata Group is India’s most valuable brand, followed by Reliance and Airtel. 

    In a press release, Interbrand India said the Tata’s brand value is estimated at Rs. 73,944 crore. 

    It has held on to the top position for the fifth year in a row. 

    Jio’s launch has pushed Reliance to the second position (Rs. 38,212 crore) and Airtel occupies the third ( Rs. 36,927 crore). 

    HDFC Bank, Life Insurance Corporation, State Bank of India, Infosys, Mahindra, ICICI and Godrej follow in that order to make up the top 10 best Indian brands. 

    Purpose, technology and brand were the key growth drivers, Interbrand said, adding that these qualities were reflected in the growth of Maruti, Reliance, HDFC, JSW and Kotak. 

    Over half of the brands on the list came from five sectors: Automotive (5), Diversified (10), Financial Services (12), Telecom (2), and Technology (2). 

    In Automotive, one of the top growing sectors, Maruti Suzuki led, posting a 19 per cent increase in brand value over 2016. 

    Royal Enfield, at 17th position, is a new entrant into the list, valued at Rs. 9,078 crore. It owes this to its financial performance year on year and branding efforts. 

    Ambuja Cement (Rs. 1,518 crore) is the other newcomer, at 40th rank, due to its financial performance despite the impact of demonetisation and recent merger with ACC, Interbrand said. 

    The Top 40 Indian brands have a combined total value of Rs. 4,75,570 crore, an increase of 5 per cent from 2016. 

    The ranking is based on the three key components that contribute to a brand’s cumulative value: Its financial performance, its role in influencing customer choice, and its ability to command a premium price or secure earnings for the company. 

  • Gender inequality widening after decade of progress: WEF
    A decade of slow progress towards better parity between the sexes has screeched to a halt, the World Economic Forum (WEF) said on 2nd November, warning the global gender gap was now widening. 

    In recent years, women have made significant progress towards equality in a number of areas such as education and health, with the Nordic countries leading the fray. 

    But the global trend now seems to have made a U-turn, especially in workplaces, where full gender equality is not expected to materialise until 2234, WEF said in a report. 

    The Geneva-based organisation’s annual report tracks the disparities between the sexes in four areas: education, health, economic opportunity and political empowerment. A year ago WEF estimated that it would take 83 years to close the remaining gap. 

    But since then women’s steady advances in the areas of education, health and political representation have plateaued, and for the fourth year running, equality in the workplace has slipped further from view. The present report said that at the current rate of progress, it would now take a full 100 years on average to achieve overall gender equality. 

    The estimated time needed to ensure full equality in the workplace meanwhile has jumped from 80 years in 2014 to 170 years last year to 217 years now, according to the report. 

    Even more than in the workplace, political participation stubbornly lagged behind, with women still accounting for just 23 percent of the world’s decision makers, according to the report. But political representation is also the area where women have made the most advances in recent years, the report said, estimating it will take 99 years to fully rectify the situation. 

  • India at 108 in World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap index 
    India slipped 21 places on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap index to 108, behind neighbours China and Bangladesh, primarily due to less participation of women in the economy and low wages. Moreover, India’s latest ranking is 10 notches lower than its reading in 2006 when the WEF started measuring the gender gap. 

    According to the WEF Global Gender Gap Report 2017, India has closed 67 per cent of its gender gap, less than many of its international peers, and some of its neighbours like Bangladesh ranked 47th while China was placed at 100th. 

    Globally also, this year’s story is a bleak one. For the first time since the WEF began measuring the gap across four pillars — health, education, the workplace and political representation — the global gap has actually widened. 

    The findings in this year’s report, published on 2nd November, showed that an overall 68 per cent of the global gender gap has been closed. This is a slight deterioration from 2016 when the gap closed was 68.3 per cent. At the current rate of progress, the global gender gap will take 100 years to bridge, compared to 83 last year. The case is worse in terms of workplace gender divide, which the report estimates will take 217 years to close. 

    On a positive note, however, a number of countries are bucking the dismal global trend as over one-half of all 144 countries measured this year have seen their score improve in the past 12 months, the report noted. 

    At the top of the Global Gender Gap Index is Iceland. The country has closed nearly 88 per cent of its gap. It has been the world’s most gender-equal country for nine years. Others in the top 10 include Norway (2nd), Finland (3rd), Rwanda (4) and Sweden (5), Nicaragua (6) and Slovenia (7), Ireland (8), New Zealand (9) and the Philippines (10). 

  • Aadhaar, Mobile SIM linking should be done by Feb 6, 2018
    The Aadhaar-Mobile SIM linking should be completed by February 6, under e-KYC verification, the Centre told the Supreme Court. The Centre also mandated production of 12-digit unique Aadhaar number for opening new bank accounts. The government has introduced three new methods, including through one-time password (OTP), to ease the process of linking the Aadhaar identity number with individual mobile numbers.
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