Polity & Governance
- Cabinet approves Project SAKSHAM
- WEF ranks India as 39th most competitive economy
- Joblessness rises to 5-year high
Environment & Ecology
- IGI is Asia-Pacific’s first ‘carbon neutral’ airport
Bilateral & International Relations
- India to invest $2 billion in Sri Lanka over 3-4 years
- Govt nod for India, Korea pact for seafarers certificate
Science & Technology
- Proof of water plumes on Jupiter’s moon
Key Facts for Prelims
- Jim Yong Kim
- Productivity Linked Bonus
- MCGS Victory
Polity & Governance
Cabinet approves Project SAKSHAM
Project Saksham, a new indirect tax network of the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC), has been approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA).
About the Project Saksham:
Under the project, the CBEC’s existing IT systems will be integrated with the GST Network.
- This is required for processing of registration, payment and returns data sent by GSTN systems to CBEC, as well as act as a front-end for other modules such as audit, appeals, investigation.
- The total cost of the project is estimated to be Rs 2256 crore, which will be incurred over a period of seven years.
Significance of the project:
- The project is also expected to help the indirect tax department cater to the larger number of taxpayers when GST rolls out from April 1, 2017. According to official estimates, the number of taxpayers under various indirect tax laws administered by CBEC is about 36 lakh at present, and will nearly double to 65 lakh after the introduction of GST.
- It will also help in implementation of GST, extension of the Indian Customs Single Window Interface for Facilitating Trade and other taxpayer-friendly initiatives under Digital India and ease of doing business.
WEF ranks India as 39th most competitive economy
India has been ranked 39th among the 138 countries in the 2016-17 Global Competitiveness Index (GCI).
- The index was released as part of the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Competitiveness Report for 2016-17.
- The list is topped by Switzerland (1st), Singapore (2nd), United States (3rd), Netherlands (4th) and Germany (5th).
- Among BRICS Countries, China is ranked 28th, followed by Russia (43rd), South Africa (47th) and Brazil (81st).
- In the 2016-17 edition of GCI, India has jumped 16 places compared to 55th position in 2015-16 GCI.
- India has emerged as the highest rising economy due to improvement in goods market efficiency, business sophistication and innovation.
- India’s overall competitiveness has increased due to improvements in institutions and infrastructure along with recent reforms such as opening the economy to foreign investors and increasing transparency in the financial system.
- Indian economy boasts the highest growth among G20 economies mainly due to improved monetary and fiscal policies, as well as lower oil prices which has stabilized economy.
- India’s competitiveness has improved across the board, particularly in innovation (29), goods market efficiency (60) and business sophistication (35) indicators of GCI.
- India still needs remove labour market rigidities and the presence of large, public enterprises especially in the utilities and financial sector make the economy less efficient.
Challenges ahead for India:
According to the report, huge challenges lie ahead on India’s path to prosperity.
- Despite significant improvements in infrastructure and social indicators such as health and education over the past decade, India lags other nations in various parameters.
- India’s tax regulations, corruption, tax rates and poor public health are the most problematic factors for doing business.
- The labour market rigidities and the presence of large, public enterprises especially in the utilities and financial sector make the economy less efficient. The labour market is segmented between workers protected by rigid regulations and centralised wage determination, especially in the manufacturing sector, and millions of unprotected and informal workers.
- Lack of infrastructure and ICT use (where India is ranked 120th in the world) remain bottlenecks. Besides, progress in recent years has been slow and further investment is necessary to connect rural areas and ensure they equally benefit from and contribute to India’s development.
- The country’s biggest relative weakness today is in technological readiness, where initiatives such as Digital India could lead to significant improvements.
- The efficiency of the goods market in India has also deteriorated over the past decade, and the WEF reckons this would change once the GST regime is implemented.
About Global Competitiveness Index (GCI)
The GCI released by the World Economic Forum (WEF) is one of the major studies which indicate how a country scores in the scale of global competitiveness.
- The index is calculated by aggregating indicators across 12 pillars in the report which covers both business and social indicators.
- These 12 pillars or indicators directly or indirectly impact the competitiveness of the country in the global arena.
- The GCI measures 12 pillars which include institutions, macro-economic environment, infrastructure, health and primary education, higher education and training, labour market efficiency, goods and market efficiency among others.
Joblessness rises to 5-year high
According to the latest annual household survey on employment conducted by Labour Bureau, jobless economic growth continues to haunt India’s youth, with the country’s unemployment rate rising to a five-year high of five per cent in 2015-16.
Highlights of the report:
- India’s unemployment rate stood at 4.9% in 2013-14, 4.7% in 2012-13 and 3.8% in 2011-12.
- Female job seekers were the worst hit as the pace of unemployment rose sharply to 8.7% in 2015-16 compared to 7.7% in 2013-14.
- While unemployment rate in rural areas rose to 5.1% in 2015-16 from 4.7% in 2013-14, it declined to 4.9% from 5.5% in urban areas during the same period.
- The annual survey also showed that 47.8% of the surveyed population was reported to be employed in 2015-16 compared with 49.9% (also known as worker population ratio) two years earlier when the previous survey was conducted by the Labour Bureau, under the Ministry of Labour and Employment.
- The survey also shows that fewer households benefited from various employment schemes of the government in 2015-16. For instance, the benefits of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act scheme were availed by 21.9% households compared to 24.1% households in 2013-14.
- The survey showed a decline in the proportion of self-employed and salaried workers and a rise in contractual employment.
Environment & Ecology
IGI is Asia-Pacific’s first ‘carbon neutral’ airport
The Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) announced that the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) has become the first airport in the Asia-Pacific region to achieve carbon neutral status.
- DIAL is a GMR Group-led consortium which manages and operates IGI airport.
- The announcement on the carbon neutral status was made by Airports Council International (ACI) during the Airport Carbon Accreditation certificate presentation ceremony held in Montreal, Canada.
- The Airport Carbon Accreditation has upgraded Delhi Airport to ‘Level 3+, Neutrality’, which is the highest level of achievement available to airports across the world.
Environment-friendly measures taken at IGI:
What is carbon neutrality?
- Carbon neutrality, or a net zero carbon footprint, occurs when the net carbon emissions over an entire year is zero. This means the airport absorbs or offsets the same amount of emission that was generated.
- It is used in the context of carbon dioxide releasing processes associated with transportation, energy production, and industrial processes such as production of carbon neutral fuel.
Bilateral & International Relations
India to invest $2 billion in Sri Lanka over 3-4 years
Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, during a recent meeting on the Economic and Technological Cooperation Agreement (ETCA), said that India will invest $2 billion in Sri Lanka in the next three-four years.
- The Minister also called on Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to discuss the terms of the agreement.
- The ETCA initiative follows unfruitful negotiations, spanning nearly a decade, on a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between the neighbours. India and Sri Lanka already have a Free Trade Agreement since 1998.
The Indo-Lanka Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement better known as ETCA (formerly CEPA) is a trade agreement.
- The ETCA agreement seeks to boost cooperation in technical areas, scientific expertise and research amongst institutions, boost standards of goods and services able to compete on the global market and improve opportunities for manpower training and human resource development.
- The ETCA initiative follows unfruitful negotiations on a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between two countries.
Objectives of ETCA:
- Strengthen and advance the economic, trade, investment and technology cooperation.
- Promote further liberalization of trade in goods, trade in services and gradually establish transparent, fair and facilitative trading, investment and investment protection mechanisms
- Establish a cooperation mechanism and expand areas of economic cooperation.
Govt nod for India, Korea pact for seafarers certificate
The Union Cabinet has given its approval for signing of an Undertaking between India and Korea on Mutual Recognition of Certificates.
- It is in pursuance of the Regulation 1/10 of International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) for Seafarers, 1978, as amended.
Significance of the move:
- Signing of the Undertaking will pave way for recognition of maritime education and training, certificates of competency, endorsements, training documentary evidence and medical fitness certificates for seafarers issued by the Government of the other country.
What is STCW?
The International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), 1978 sets qualification standards for masters, officers and watch personnel on seagoing merchant ships.
- STCW was adopted in 1978 by conference at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in London, and entered into force in 1984.
- The Convention was significantly amended in 1995.
- Previously the standards of training, certification and watchkeeping of officers and ratings were established by individual governments, usually without reference to practices in other countries. The 1978 STCW Convention was the first to establish basic requirements on training, certification and watchkeeping for seafarers on an international level.
Science & Technology
Proof of water plumes on Jupiter’s moon
Using its Hubble Space Telescope, NASA has discovered more evidence that water erupts from beneath the surface of Europa, one of the many moons of Jupiter.
- Scientists estimate that the plumes rise about 125 miles (200 km) before, presumably, raining material back down onto Europa’s surface.
- The findings might make it easier to investigate whether life exists in the warm, salty ocean believed to be deep beneath the world’s icy surface.
- If the findings are confirmed, Europa would be the second moon in the solar system known to have water vapor plumes.
- Jupiter has 67 known moons. Europa is the sixth-closest to the planet and about 1,900 miles (3,100 km) in diameter, slightly smaller than Earth’s moon.
About the Plumes on Europa:
- The plumes are estimated to rise about 125 miles (200 kilometers) before, presumably, raining material back down onto Europa’s surface.
- Europa has a huge global ocean that contains twice water than Earth’s oceans, which is protected by a layer of extremely cold and hard ice of unknown thickness.
- The plumes provide a tantalizing opportunity to gather samples originating from under the surface without having to land or drill through the ice.
- In 2012, Hubble detected signatures of water vapor erupting from Europa’s frigid south polar region and reaching more than 100 miles (160 km) into space.
- In 2005, NASA’s Cassini orbiter detected jets of water vapor and dust spewing off the surface of Saturn’s moon Enceladus.
Key Facts for Prelims
Jim Yong Kim
- Jim Yong Kim has been re-appointed as President of World Bank for a second five-year term beginning 1 July 2017.
- He was unanimously chosen by the Executive Directors of the World Bank.
- He was the only candidate in a process.
Productivity Linked Bonus
- The Union Cabinet has given its approval to pay Productivity Linked Bonus (PLB) equivalent to 78 days’ wages to eligible non-gazetted railway employees (excluding RPF/RPSF personnel) for the financial year 2015-16.
- Payment of PLB would result in motivating a large number of railway employees to improve the performance of the Railways and enhance the productivity levels further besides maintaining industrial peace.
- The payment of this Bonus to eligible Railway Employees will be made before Dussehra/Puja holidays.
- It is the first fast patrol vessel delivered to Mauritius by Goa Shipyard Limited.
- The 50m vessel has been designed for coastal patrolling, anti-piracy, anti-smuggling, anti-drug surveillance, anti-poaching operations, and search and rescue operations.
- GSL is the largest exporter of military ships from the Indian subcontinent and is presently executing export orders worth 1,200 crore.