Insights Daily Current Affairs, 16 September 2016
Paper 2 Topic: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.
African Development Bank (AfDB) Group annual meeting
India will be hosting the next Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group in Ahmedabad in May 2017.
- In this regard, a MoU has been signed between GoI and AfDB. The MoU outlines the roles of Govt of India and AfDB.
- The mega international event will be attended by more than 5000 delegates from 80 member countries of the African Development Bank including the Governors, Alternate Governors, Executive Directors, policy makers and businesses.
The African Development Bank (AfDB) was established in 1963 with a view to promote the Economic Development and social progress of its regional members.
India and AfDB:
India became member of the African Development Bank (AfDB) in 1983. The Union Finance Minister and Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs (DEA), Ministry of Finance are the Governor and Alternate Governor of the Bank respectively.
Paper 2 Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Direct Tax Dispute Resolution Scheme, 2016 extended
The government has extended the time period of the Direct Tax Dispute Resolution Scheme, 2016. Now the scheme can be availed up to 31st December, 2016. This move is aimed at reducing the pending litigation.
The Direct Tax Dispute Resolution Scheme, 2016 has come into force from 1st June, 2016.
- The Scheme is available to the cases pending with the first appellate authority as on 29th February, 2016, subject to certain conditions.
- It also extends to the cases pending litigation owing to retrospective amendment at different levels.
Under the Scheme, if the amount of disputed tax is:
- Up to Rs.10 lakh, complete waiver from levy of penalty and from initiation of prosecution is provided on payment of assessed tax along with the interest.
- More than Rs.10 lakh, the declarant is required to pay only 25% of the minimum penalty leviable along with the due tax and interest.
Also, in respect of penalty appeals, the declarant shall get waiver of the 75% of the penalty levied and immunity from prosecution. In respect of specified tax, the declarant gets complete waiver of/immunity from levy of penalty and immunity from prosecution.
Paper 2 Topic: Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.
Gold key to lower GST rate
The Centre is set to propose that the rate of tax on gold consumption be doubled under the Goods & Services Tax (GST) regime so as to allow the GST council the elbow room to set a lower standard GST rate.
Intention behind such move:
To protect their revenues, States had sought that the standard GST rate, which will fall on the bulk of goods and services, be fixed at 20% or higher. According to the government, increase in revenue from gold consumption will provide the necessary cushion for the standard GST rate to be fixed at a level lower than 20%.
The proposal is based on last year’s recommendation from a government committee headed by Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian. The panel had suggested taxing gold and other precious metals at rates ranging between 2% and 6%. This, the panel had argued, would protect the revenues of the States even if the standard rate of GST was pegged below 20%.
At present, the Centre and States tax precious metals at rates between 1% and 1.6%. Currently, about 70% of goods and services get taxed at an average rate of 27%.
Is it a good move?
Yes, say few experts. It is because in a system in which the rate on gold was kept low and the standard GST rate was high, poor people end up subsidising the gold consumption of the rich. Gold is also an item which is prone to tax evasion, being a very high-value item.
Also, the higher tax rate proposed for precious metals actually subsumes many hidden taxes on them and brings many parts of the jewellery industry so far outside the tax net into the tax base.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
Delink drug prices from R&D costs: UN
A landmark report by the United Nations High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines has called for delinking drug prices from research and development (R&D) costs.
- The report calls for human rights to be placed over intellectual property laws and all countries must freely be able to use flexibilities granted under TRIPS to access affordable medicines.
- The report also recognises the incoherence between the human rights and the intellectual property rules.
Important recommendations made:
- Countries that threaten generic drug makers like India for using their entitlements under the TRIPS agreement should be forced to face serious sanctions.
- Governments should negotiate the coordination, financing and development of health technologies to aid existing models.
- Governments should also increase current levels of investment in health technology innovation to address unmet needs.
- WTO Members must register complaints against undue political and economic pressure which includes taking punitive measures against offending WTO Members.
- Governments engaged in bilateral and regional trade and investment treaties should ensure that these agreements do not include provisions that interfere with their obligations to fulfil the right to health. Public health impact assessments should be undertaken, inform negotiations, and made publicly available.
- Several United Nations agencies should collaborate with one another and with other relevant bodies with the relevant expertise to support governments to apply public-health-sensitive patentability criteria.
- United Nations Secretary-General should establish an independent review body tasked with assessing progress on health technology innovation and access, which would monitor challenges and progress on innovation and access to health technologies under the ambit of the UN 2030 Agenda.
- Membership of this review body should include governments, representatives from the UN and multilateral organisations, civil society, academia, and the private sector.
- Separately, the report calls for the UN Secretary-General to establish an inter-agency taskforce on health technology innovation and access. This taskforce, operating for the duration of the SDGs, should work toward increasing coherence among United Nations entities and relevant multilateral organizations like the WTO.
- It has also called for greater transparency in drug pricing and public health impact assessments in free trade agreements.
Access to medicines is not just a poor country problem. The high price of drugs is crippling healthcare systems across the world. Millions of people are suffering and dying because the medicines they need are too expensive. If implemented, the report’s recommendations will go a long way towards ensuring all people have access to affordable quality medicines.
Sources: the hindu.
Facts for Prelims:
- Exercise YUDH ABHYAS 2016: It is a joint military training exercise of Indian and US Armies. It has commenced at Chaubattia, Uttarakhand.
- Tiangong 2: It is a space station launched by China recently. It is part of China’s plan to establish a manned space station around 2022. It is placed at 380 kilometres above Earth. There are two astronauts on board. Tiangong 2 will be used to test space technology and conduct medical and space experiments.
- Yatri Mitra Seva: It is an initiative of railways to improve the railway travel experience of elderly, differently-abled and ailing passengers. It aims to simplify access to wheelchairs, battery operated cars and porter services. The scheme will be operational at all major railway stations. The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Ltd. has been entrusted with implementing services that can be availed at the time of booking tickets online, accessing an app to be developed by the Centre for Railway Information Systems, calling or messaging ‘139’ IVRS, or by dialling a dedicated mobile phone number.