(Current Affairs) Economy & Energy | December: 2016


The centre is reconsidering a plan to widen the social security net

  • The centre is reconsidering a plan to widen the social security net for workers by bringing more factories under the provident fund coverage.
  • The Cabinet Secretariat has pointed out a few contradictions in the Labour Ministry’s proposal to amend the Employees’ Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act of 1952.
  • The Labour Ministry had proposed to bring down the threshold limit for coverage of firms under the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) to factories with at least 10 workers. At present, the EPF Act is applicable to factories with minimum 20 workers.
  • The proposal to decrease the threshold limit was found to be contradictory with another proposal in the Act to give an option to workers to switch to the NPS, managed by the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority.
  • In his Union Budget 2015-16 speech, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had proposed allowing EPF subscribers to opt for NPS and to make EPF contributions optional for workers below a certain income threshold.
  • In June this year, Centre proposed making EPF optional for textile workers earning less than Rs 15,000 a month as a part of a special package for the garments sector.
  • The government’s proposal to bring factories with at least 10 workers under the EPF fold can bring 50 lakh additional workers under the social security coverage.
  • At present, 8.7 crore workers are subscribing to the EPFO out of which around 3.77 crore workers have been making active contributions to their provident fund account till 2015-16, data showed.
  • The proposal to cover factories with at least tenworkers under the Employee Provident Fund Act was one of the recommendations of the 44th Indian Labour Conference Session which was held in February 2012.

Govt received Bids of 53000 crore

  • The government received bids worth more than Rs.53,000 crore on the first day of the biggest ever auction of the country’s telecom spectrum, according to sources. A total of 2,300 MHz of spectrum worth Rs.5.6 lakh crore has been put up for sale.
  • Five rounds of bidding were completed. No bids were received for the much-touted 700 MHz band, which is being put up for auction for the first time.
  • While 700 MHz is considered most suitable for offering high speed broadband services, industry players have been complaining about its high pan-India reserve price of about Rs.11,500 crore per MHz.
  • Seven firms — Airtel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular, Reliance Communications, Aircel, Reliance Jio Infocom, and Tata Teleservices —are in the fray to acquire spectrum in seven bands.
  • The government had raked in Rs 1.1 lakh crore from the last spectrum auction held in March 2015. It had sold spectrum across 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1,800 MHz and 2,100 MHz bands.

To Boost BRICS trade, India will organise trade fair for BRICS

  • To boost trade among the BRICS nations, India, for the first time, will organise a trade fair for the bloc that also includes Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa.
  • Intra-BRICS trade in 2014 was just $297 billion — less than five per cent of the $6.5 trillion worth trade that the five countries had with the world that year.
  • Goods imports from the world into the BRICS countries were $3.03 trillion in 2014, while global goods exports of BRICS countries were $3.47 trillion that year.
  • The first BRICS Trade Fair & Exhibition will be held from October 12-14 in the national capital, ahead of the BRICS political summit in Goa. This initiative was proposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year.
  • The focus of the Fair is ‘Building BRICS – Innovation for Collaboration’. The Fair is meant to give an impetus to intra-BRICS economic engagement. It will showcase about 20 key sectors.
  • Besides established companies, start-ups and innovators from BRICS will showcase their offerings to help technology solution providers share knowledge in dealing with challenges in healthcare, education, energy efficiency, waste management etc.
  • Leaders from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand have been invited for meetings at the Fair.

PMI in sept saw a slight dip

  • The country's manufacturing growth has lost momentum with the Nikkei India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI), a measure of manufacturing performance, falling to 52.1 in September from 52.6 in August.
  • This development comes just ahead of the RBI's monetary policy review on October 4 and amid India Inc. clamouring for an interest rate cut even as the central bank has had concerns over rising inflation.
  • An index reading above 50 indicates an expansion, while a reading below 50 shows an overall decrease or contraction.
  • Output is still rising at a decent clip and the sector looks likely to have delivered a stronger contribution to GDP growth in Q2 2016-17, with the quarterly reading for the PMI’s Output Index up from 51.4 during April-June to 53.6.
  • Although inflation rates edged higher, these remain weak by historical standards and indicate that one may still see the RBI loosening monetary policy in 2016.

Country’s services sector business activity softer in September

  • The expansion of the country’s services sector business activity was softer in September vis-à-vis August as the level of new business placed with Indian services firms increased moderately.
  • The headline seasonally adjusted Nikkei India Services Business Activity Index registered 52.0 in September, down from August’s 43-month high of 54.7. An index reading above 50 indicates an expansion, while below 50 a contraction.
  • Reflecting softer expansions in activity at both service providers and manufacturers, the seasonally adjusted Nikkei India Composite PMI Output Index fell from August’s 42-month high of 54.6 to 52.4 in September.

World Economic Forum says India and Pak problem will not impact regional growth

  • The current standoff between New Delhi and Islamabad will not impact the growth prospects of the South Asian region including India, the Geneva-based ‘World Economic Forum’ said.
  • Chief economist and member of the executive committee, WEF, said South Asia was the world’s fastest growing region and there was no reason to believe that the recent geopolitical tension would impact the region’s growth prospects.
  • Director-general, CII, also said the economy and business in India and South Asia would not get affected due to the tension at the India-Pakistan border.
  • India Economic Summit’s focus area includes the digital economy, travel & tourism, energy, entrepreneurship, infrastructure, start-ups, skill development, gender equity, urbanisation, boosting manufacturing and urbanisation.

India is examining mechanisms to offset higher emissions

  • India is examining possible mechanisms to offset higher emissions from rising civil aviation traffic, even as it has firmly opposed a global pact for curbing aviation emissions proposed by International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO.
  • “India’s aviation sector is growing at 22 per cent to 23 per cent over the last year and we expect it to continue to grow very rapidly over the next decade and a half, so emissions would rise,” said Minister of State for Civil Aviation
  • India has ratified the COP21 accord on climate change, but while approving its ratification, the Union Cabinet had last week empowered the civil aviation ministry to flag India’s concerns about the proposed aviation emissions pact.
  • Capping emissions from aviation would be unfair for developing countries where the civil aviation market is not mature and the number of airlines is limited compared to the developed world
  • BASIC countries had met in New Delhi and opposed the ICAO accord as one that could be forced upon developing nations. Aviation is estimated to account for two per cent of global greenhouse emissions.
  • But air travel volumes are expected to double by 2030. About 58 out of the 191 countries participating at the ICAO meet have backed the pact so far.

India’s foreign exchange reserves scaled to a new high

  • India’s foreign exchange reserves scaled a new high of $371.99 billion, up $1.223 billion for the week to September 30, as per the Reserve Bank data.
  • The increase was on account of a $1.468-billion surge in the foreign currency assets. In the previous week, the reserves had risen by $1.166 billion to $370.766 billion.
  • Previously, they had touched a high of $371.279 billion in the week to September 9. Foreign currency assets which are a major component of the overall reserves surged by $1.468 billion to $346.71 billion, the Reserve Bank said.

Telecom secretary says despite low response in spectrum govt will meet targets

  • With the government expected to receive about Rs.32,000 crore in the current fiscal as upfront payment for the spectrum sold in the recently concluded auctions, Telecom Secretary said the Telecom Ministry is on course to meet its budgetary target.
  • As per the Budget documents, the revenue target from the telecom sector this fiscal is Rs.98,994.93 crore. Mr. Deepak said the figure agreed to between the two ministries was Rs.70,000 crore, which they will be able to meet.
  • Experts had pointed out that the ministry is unlikely to meet its budget target as premium 700 MHz band saw no demand, leading to revenues of Rs.65,789 crore for the government as against spectrum worth Rs 5.6 lakh crore put on sale.
  • The 700 MHz spectrum was alone worth about Rs.4 lakh crore.
  • As per the Union Budget 2016-17, the government is expected to raise at least Rs.64,000 crore from the auction of about 2,354.55 megahertz (MHz) of spectrum and a total of Rs.98,995 crore from various levies and services in the telecom sector in the current financial year.
  • The spectrum auction started on October 1 and ended on October 6, wherein about 965 megahertz (MHz) was sold out of 2,300MHz on offer.
  • The government will only collect about Rs.32,000 crore in the current financial year as the rest will be spread over a period of 10 years after a 2-year-moratorium.

Government to give push to stalled hydro projects

  • In a bid to boost hydro power sector, the government is planning to formulate a policy to push stalled projects and extend the benefits for renewable sources like wind and solar to hydro projects beyond 25 MW capacity.
  • According to a proposal of the Power ministry, projects with capacities of up to 25 MW have been categorised as small hydro-power projects and would get the benefits as extended to other renewable energy projects.
  • Hydro power potential in the country has been estimated at about 150 GW, with 50 GW coming from Arunachal Pradesh alone.
  • The Power ministry had earlier said that the planned hydro power generation capacity addition of 4,371 MW out of the total target of 10,897 MW in the 12th Plan will not be completed.

A federal appeals court reinstated a $120 million jury award for Apple

  • A federal appeals court reinstated a $120 million jury award for Apple Inc. against Samsung, marking the latest twist in the fierce patent war between the world's top smartphone manufacturers.
  • The court said that there was substantial evidence for the jury verdict related to Samsung's infringement of Apple patents on its slide-to-unlock and autocorrect features, as well as quick links.
  • The three-judge panel did not follow U.S. Supreme Court limits on the scope of its review, because it examined evidence outside the record of the case.
  • Representatives for Samsung and Apple could not immediately be reached for comment.
  • Infringement of the quick links feature accounted for nearly $99 million of the damages.

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