Insights Daily Current Affairs, 01 December 2016
Paper 3 Topic: Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.
Trade costs of India remain high: UN body
The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) said, in its recently released Asia-Pacific Trade and Investment Report 2016, that international and intra-regional trade costs of India remained higher compared with the trade costs of best-performing economies in Asia and the Pacific, although a declining trend has been observed since 2009.
Highlights of the report:
- FDI inflows to India expanded by 10% on average during 2010-2015, while in 2015 inflows recorded an even stronger expansion at 27.8%, which was significantly higher than the Asia-Pacific region’s average 5.6%.
- The services, construction development, computer software and hardware, and telecommunications sectors attracted the highest investments.
- Overseas investment from India contracted considerably by 36% in this period, which may reflect FDI diversion as Indian investors start to invest more at home than overseas.
- In addition to India’s robust economic growth and large domestic market, the Government’s “Make in India” initiative and easing of FDI regulations for about 15 sectors including aviation, defence and pharmaceuticals may contribute to the FDI attractiveness of India.
- However, in 2015, Indian goods exports shrank by 17.2%, which was close to twice as much as the Asia-Pacific region decline of 9.7%. But, India was the largest partner with several economies in South Asia, such as Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Since India is the fastest-growing emerging economy, it is somewhat expected to start filling the void in demand for intraregional exports that will emerge with the rebalancing of China’s trade patterns.
Performance of Asia Pacific:
Asia-Pacific trade flows were wavering amid sluggish global economic and trade growth, downward movement of world commodity prices and an uncertain policy environment, the report said. Sluggish growth in trade is expected to continue through to the end of 2016.
However, rebounding somewhat, exports from Asia-Pacific are expected to increase by 4.5% and imports by 6.5% in developing countries of Asia and the Pacific in 2017, but the Report forecasts more modest growth in exports and imports in volume terms, at 2.2% and 3.8%.
According to the report, a worrying trend is the increased usage of restrictive trade policies, especially non-tariff measures, within the Asia-Pacific region, which is partly driven by past distortive trade measures and current excess capacity in several key sectors. Additionally, the region is seeing a proliferation of preferential trade agreements (PTA), with Asia and the Pacific rim contributing to almost 63% of world PTAs, curbing a momentum towards region-wide free trade.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: India and its neighbourhood- relations.
Afghanistan, India hope to corner Pakistan
In the wake of the brazen Nagrota attack, India and Afghanistan are planning to seek to isolate Pakistan on terror at the upcoming two-day Heart of Asia conference in Amritsar as the two countries have pitched for a regional counter-terror framework to effectively deal with the menace.
- Finance minister Arun Jaitley will lead the Indian delegation at the two-day Sixth Heart of Asia (HoA) conference to be held in Amritsar.
- Afghanistan has been pushing for finalising an effective counter-terror framework to deal with terror at the conference which will be attended by representatives from over 30 countries including China, the US, Russia, Pakistan and Iran.
Tension over the cross-border terrorism has increased between India and Pakistan in the past few months. This is also seen as the biggest challenge to peace and security in the region.
About the conference:
The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process presents a new vision of cooperation and confidence building for the region with Afghanistan at its centre.
- The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process was launched in 2011 and the participating countries include Pakistan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and the United Arab Emirates.
- The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process articulates a set of principles, such as respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, and promoting cooperation in the areas of common challenges and shared interests in the region.
- It provides a platform for discussing key regional issues among participating states.
- Since its inception in 2011, the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process has been lead by two co-chairs: Afghanistan as a permanent co-chair, and one of the Heart of Asia countries hosting the annual ministerial meeting as the co-chair.
- As permanent co-chair of this regional process, Afghanistan has been recognized as the main focal point/ coordinator of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process.
The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process has three main elements:
- Political Consultation involving Afghanistan and its near and extended neighbours.
- A sustained incremental approach to implementation of the Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) identified in the Istanbul Process document.
- Seeking to contribute and bring greater coherence to the work of various regional processes and organisations, particularly as they relate to Afghanistan.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Airlines seek stay on levy, HC issues notice
The Delhi High Court has issued notices to the Centre, the Airports Authority of India and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation as the Federation of Indian Airlines (FAI) sought a stay on the government’s notification on levy of Rs.7,5000 to Rs.8,500 per flight operated by Indian airlines to create a regional connectivity fund (RCF).
- The court has sought the Centre’s response on the plea challenging the levy of tax and the UDAN scheme.
- The FAI has sought quashing of the October 21 notification, by which a rule for such a levy was brought into the Aircraft Rules, 1934.
What the opponents say?
Such a levy mentioned under the scheme is not contemplated in the aircraft rules and cannot be brought in as an obligation. Since this levy of tax is also not an amount payable by passengers for provision of any service of facility to them, this levy is nothing but a tax, and therefore cannot be levied without statutory sanction.
About the scheme:
The UDAN scheme is aimed at connecting under-served airports and regions. As per the government, a participating carrier — which would be extended Viability Gap Funding — has to bid for at least nine seats and a maximum of 40 seats. In the case of a helicopter, the operator has to bid for a minimum of five seats and a maximum of 13 seats.
The fund under the scheme will be used to develop regional airports and enhance regional connectivity under its Ude Desh Ka Aam Naagrik (UDAN) scheme.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.
National anthem must be played before screening of films: Supreme Court
The Supreme Court has ordered all cinema halls across the country to play the national anthem before the screening of films and that all present must “stand up in respect” till the anthem ended.
- The court has also asked the Cinema halls to display the national flag on screen when the anthem is played.
Why such move?
According to the court, the practice would “instil a feeling within one a sense of committed patriotism and nationalism.” Also, the protocol of showing respect and honour to the anthem and flag is rooted in “our national identity, integrity and constitutional patriotism.”
The court observed that it is the duty of every person to show respect when the national anthem is played or recited or sung under the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act of 1951.
- In its interim order, while awaiting a detailed response from the Centre, the court has issued a complete ban on the commercial exploitation of the national anthem and the flag.
- The court also banned dramatisation of the anthem or it to be used in any part of any variety shows or for entertainment purposes.
- It also banned the display, recitation or use of the abridged version of the national anthem.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
Cabinet approves India’s negotiating position adopted at Kigali conference
The Union Cabinet has given its ex-post facto approval to the negotiating position adopted by the Government of India at the recent Meeting of Parties (MoP) to the Montreal Protocol of the Vienna Convention for Protection of Ozone Layer that took place in October, 2016, in Kigali, Rwanda.
- The Cabinet has also approved the proposal of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to argue for adoption of an appropriate baseline years from out of 3 options within a range of 2024 to 2030 with freeze in a subsequent year.
- The flexibility of using any of the options within this range with a combination of the features of the proposed options in consultation with the Government has also been approved.
- During negotiations held at Kigali India successfully negotiated the baseline years and freeze years which will allow sufficient room for the growth of the concerned sectors using refrigerants being manufactured domestically thus ensuring unhindered growth with least additional cost and maximum climate benefits.
- It was agreed at Kigali that there would be two set of baselines or peak years for developing countries and India will have baseline years of 2024, 2025, 2026. This decision gives additional HCFC allowance of 65% that will be added to the Indian baseline consumption and production.
- The freeze year for India will be 2028, with a condition that there will be a technology review in 2024/2025 and, if the growth in the sectors using refrigerants is above certain agreed threshold, India can defer its freeze up to 2030. On the other hand, developed countries will reduce production and consumption of HFCs by 70% in 2029.
- As per the decisions taken in Kigali, India will complete its phase down in 4 steps from 2032 onwards with cumulative reduction of 10% in 2032, 20% in 2037, 30% in 2042 and 85% in 2047.
The negotiations at Kigali were aimed at including Hydrofluoro Carbons (HFCs) in the list of chemicals under the Montreal Protocol with a view to regulate their production and consumption and phase them down over a period of time with financial assistance from the Multilateral Fund created under the Montreal Protocol.
The Kigali amendments to the Montreal Protocol will, for the first time, incentivise improvement in energy efficiency in case of use of new refrigerant and technology. Funding for R&D and servicing sector in developing countries has also been included in the agreed solutions on finance.
Sources: the hindu.
Facts for Prelims
Cuban rumba and Ugandan music now on UNESCO’s heritage list:
- Cuba’s sensual rumba dance and Belgium’s thriving beer culture have been added to UNESCO’s coveted list of “intangible” heritage.
- The list of “intangible” cultural treasures was created 10 years ago, mainly to increase awareness about them, while UNESCO also sometimes offers financial or technical support to countries struggling to protect them.
- The President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee recently presented the second ICCR ‘Distinguished Indologist’ Award to Prof. Yu Long Yu of the People’s Republic of China.
- The annual ‘Distinguished Indologist’ Award has been instituted by ICCR to recognize eminent Indologists working abroad who have made outstanding contribution to the study/teaching/research of India’s philosophy, thought, history, art, culture, languages, literature, civilization, society etc. The Award amount is US$ 20000/-.
- The first ‘Distinguished Indologist’ Award was presented to Prof. Heinrich Freiherr Von Stietencron of Germany last year.