CURRENT AFFAIRS


18th Dec, 2020

US Puts India on Currency Watchlist

Recently, the US treasury has placed India on its currency manipulator watch list.

Vietnam and Switzerland have been labelled as currency manipulators.

USA lists those countries which it feels are engaging in unfair currency practices by deliberately devaluing their currency against the dollar.

The US Department of Treasury releases the semi-annual report where it has to track developments in international economies and inspect foreign exchange rates.

Lowering the value of its currency provides an unfair advantage to that particular country over others. 

This is because the devaluation would reduce the cost of exports from that country and artificially show a reduction in trade deficits as a result.

A country which meets two of the three criteria of the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 is placed on the Watch List. This includes

(1) A significant bilateral trade surplus with the US which is at least USD 20 billion over a 12-month period; 

(2) A material current account surplus equivalent to at least 2% of GDP over a 12-month period; 

(3) Persistent one-sided in at least six out of 12 months.

Inclusion in the list does not subject to any kind of penalty and sanctions but it deteriorates the global financial image of the country.


Prime Minister’s Special Scholarship Scheme (PMSSS)

AICTE has decided to release the instalment of Rs. 20,000/- as maintenance allowance under Prime Minister’s Special Scholarship Scheme (PMSSS).

Prime Minister’s Special Scholarship Scheme (PMSSS)

An Expert Group was constituted by the Prime Minister for enhancing employment opportunity among youths of J&K and Ladakh and  to formulate job opportunities in public and private sectors.

Implemented by: J&K Cell of All India Council for Technical Education(AICTE), New Delhi.

The scheme helps J&K Students to pursue undergraduate studies outside the Union Territory. 

Aim: To build the capacities of the youths of J&K and Ladakh by Educating, Enabling and empowering them to compete in the normal course.

The youths are supported by way of scholarship in two parts – academic fee and maintenance allowance.

Main objectives:

(1) Evolving guidelines for proper implementation;

(2) To Conduct Awareness Workshops about the Scheme;

(3) To Conduct Counselling for admission of candidates to different programs/courses;

(4) Disbursal of Scholarship for the eligible Candidates;

(5) Redressal of Grievances of PMSSS Candidates.


Accelerating India’s Covid-19 Social Protection Response Programme

The Indian Government and the World Bank signed a $400 million project to support India’s efforts at providing social assistance to the poor and vulnerable households, severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The credit is from the International Development Association (IDA) – the World Bank’s concessionary lending arm.

This is the second operation in a programmatic series of two. 

The first operation of $750 million was approved in May 2020.

The programme will strengthen the capability of state and national governments in India to provide coordinated and adequate social protection to the poor and vulnerable from the shocks triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It will help further expand and deepen the coverage of India’s social protection systems by helping these vulnerable groups in urban and peri-urban areas.

The International Development Association is an international financial institution which offers concessional loans and grants to the world’s poorest developing countries. 

The IDA is a member of the World Bank Group.

It is headquartered in Washington, D.C., USA


IFSCA issues consultation paper on proposed Aircraft Leasing Regulations

International Financial Services Centres Authority (IFSCA) has issued consultation paper on proposed Aircraft Leasing Regulations.

Background

India is poised to become the 3rd largest aviation market in the world by 2022.

In January 2019, India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation published a report, ‘Project Rupee Raftar’, that provided roadmap to developing an aircraft financing and leasing industry in India.

The report identified International Financial Services Centre (GIFT city) for developing aircraft leasing and financing eco-system in the country.

In October, 2020, on the recommendation of IFSCA, the Central Government had notified Aircraft lease which shall include operating and financial lease of aircraft or helicopter and their engines as a financial product under International Financial Services Centres Authority Act, 2019.

Considering, Aircraft leasing is a relatively new industry in India and Aircraft Leasing related regulations are different across various financial centres, IFSCA has prepared draft regulations for Aircraft Leasing and in order to get inputs from stakeholders as well as public comments.

IFSCA has an objective to develop a world class FinTech hub at the IFSC in GIFT City, Gandhinagar (Gujarat).

Thus, it endeavours to encourage the promotion of financial technologies (‘FinTech’) initiatives in financial products and services across the fields of banking, insurance, securities and fund management.


National Hydrology Project reveiwed

Review of the National Hydrology Project was carried out by Minister of Jal Shakti recently.

The project is World Bank supported initiative of Ministry of Jal Shakti

National Hydrology Project (NHP) was started in the year 2016 

It is a Central Sector Scheme with 100% grant to Implementing agencies on pan India basis.

Budget outlay is of Rs 3680 Crore to be spent over a period of 8 years.

Aim: 

(1) Improving the extent, reliability and accessibility of water resources information;

(2) To strengthen the capacity of targeted water resource management institutions in India.

Under the NHP, a nationwide repository of water resources data – NWIC has also been established.


Revised Cost Estimate of North Eastern Region Power System Improvement Project (NERPSIP) approved

The Union Cabinet has approved the Revised Cost Estimate (RCE) of North Eastern Region Power System Improvement Project (NERPSIP) at an estimated cost of Rs. 6,700 crore.

The scheme is being implemented through POWERGRID, a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU).

Ministry: Ministry of Power 

Beneficiary states: Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura.

The scheme is targeted to be commissioned by December 2021. 

After commissioning, the project will be owned and maintained by the respective North Eastern State Utilities.

Objective of the project: Economic development of North Eastern Region through strengthening of Intra – State Transmission and Distribution systems.

The Scheme was initially approved in 2014 as a Central Sector Plan Scheme of Ministry of Power.

It is being funded with the assistance of World Bank fund and by the Government of India (Gol) on 50:50 basis except for the capacity building component for Rs 89 crore, which will be entirely funded by the Gol.


Government of India and New Development Bank sign a loan agreement for $1,000 million to provide support to Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan through MGNREGS

The Government of India and New Development Bank signed a loan agreement for $1,000 million to provide support to Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan through Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).

The programme will support Government to enable economic recovery in the rural areas through Natural Resource Management (NRM) works.

The programme proposes creation of durable rural infrastructure assets relating to NRM and generation of employment opportunities for rural poor, especially migrant workers who have returned from urban areas and have lost their livelihoods due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The $1 billion loan from the NDB has a tenor of 30 years, including a 5-year grace period.
 

The NDB was established based on the Inter-Governmental agreement among the BRICS countries (Brazil, the Russian Federation, India, China and South Africa) signed in 2014.

Objective: To mobilise resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other emerging market economies and developing countries.

Headquarter: Shanghai, China. 

The first regional office of the NDB is in Johannesburg, South Africa.


Proposal of Spectrum Auction approved

The Union Cabinet has approved a proposal of the Department of Telecommunications to conduct spectrum auction through which spectrum will be assigned to the successful bidders for providing commercial mobile services.

The auction will be for spectrum in 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz and 2500 MHz frequency bands.

Spectrum will be offered for assignment for validity period of 20 years.

 A total of 2251.25 MHz is being offered with total valuation of Rs. 3,92,332.70 crore (at reserve price).

By winning right to use spectrum through the auction, incumbent telecom service providers will be able to augment their network capacity whereas new players will be able to start their services.

Successful bidders may pay entire bid amount in one go (upfront) or may exercise an option to pay a certain amount upfront and remaining amount in a maximum up to 16 equated annual instalments, after a moratorium of two years.

In addition to the bid amount, successful bidders will also have to pay 3% of the Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) excluding wireline services as spectrum usage charges for the spectrum won through this auction.


India – USA MOU In Electricity Sector

Union Cabinet has approved MoU between India and USA for exchange of information in areas of mutual interest in the electricity sector.

Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC), India and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), United States of America (USA) will enter into a MoU for exchange of information and experiences in areas of mutual interest to both in the electricity sectors.

The MoU will help in improving regulatory and policy framework for developing efficient whole sale power market and enhancing grid reliability.

Under the MoU, the two sides will identify energy-related issues and develop topics and possible agendas for the exchange of information and regulatory practices in areas of mutual interest.


 






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