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12 December Current Affairs

National Pension Scheme

In News:

The government has approved a slew of measures under the National Pension Scheme (NPS).

Changes approved in the National Pension System:

Mandatory contribution by the Central Government enhanced by 4 percent from the existing 10 percent to 14 percent for employees covered under NPS Tier-I

Central government employees will be provided with freedom of choice for selection of Pension Funds and pattern of investment.

Payment of compensation for non-deposit or delayed deposit of NPS contributions during 2004-2012

Contribution by Government employees under Tier-II of NPS will now be covered under Section 80 C for deduction up to Rs 1.50 lakh for the purpose of income tax at par with schemes such as General (PF), Contributory PF, Employees PF and Public PF, with lock-in period of 3 years.

The entire withdrawal will now be exempt from income tax as the tax exemption limit for lump sum withdrawal on exit has been enhanced to 60 percent.

Implications:

The move is set to benefit around 36 lakh subscribers, including approximately 18 lakh Central government employees covered under NPS. It will cost the exchequer Rs 2,840 crore in the current financial year.

What is National Pension System (NPS)?

National Pension System (NPS) is a government-sponsored pension scheme. It was launched in January 2004 for government employees. However, in 2009, it was opened to all sections.

The scheme allows subscribers to contribute regularly in a pension account during their working life. On retirement, subscribers can withdraw a part of the corpus in a lumpsum and use the remaining corpus to buy an annuity to secure a regular income after retirement.

This system is managed by PFRDA (Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority).

Who can join NPS?

Any Indian citizen between 18 and 60 years can join NPS. The only condition is that the person must comply with know your customer (KYC) norms.

Can a Non Resident Indian (NRI) join NPS?

Yes, an NRI can join NPS. However, the account will be closed if there is a change in the citizenship status of the NRI.

Source: The Hindu

PCS 1x System

In News:

Indian Ports Association (IPA) under the guidance of Ministry of Shipping launched the Port Community System ‘PCS1x’.

Significance:

The platform has the potential to revolutionize maritime trade in India and bring it at par with global best practices and pave the way to improve the Ease of Doing Business world ranking and Logistics Performance Index (LPI) ranks.

About PCS 1x:

‘PCS 1x’ is a cloud based new generation technology, with user-friendly interface.

This system seamlessly integrates stakeholders from the maritime trade on a single platform.

The platform offers value added services such as notification engine, workflow, mobile application, track and trace, better user interface, better security features, improved inclusion by offering dashboard for those with no IT capability.

Another major feature is the deployment of a world class state of the art payment aggregator solution which removes dependency on bank specific payment eco system.

Other Features:

It is an initiative that supports green initiatives by reducing dependency on paper.

It has been developed indigenously and is a part of the ‘Make in India’ and ‘Digital India’

Indian Ports Association (IPA):

IPA was constituted in 1966 under Societies Registration Act, with the idea of fostering growth and development of all Major Ports which are under the supervisory control of Ministry of Shipping.

Source: The Hindu

UN Panel of Auditors

In News:

Comptroller and Auditor General Rajiv Mehrishi has become the Vice-Chair of the UN Panel of Auditors.

About UN Panel of Auditors:

The United Nations Panel of Auditors consists of External Auditors of the United Nations and its agencies.

The United Nations General Assembly in 1959 established the Panel of External Auditors, comprising the individual external auditors of the United Nations system, who are also Heads of Supreme Audit Institutions.

Presently, the panel consists of 11 countries — India, Germany, Chile, Canada, France, Italy, Philippines, Ghana, Indonesia, Switzerland and United Kingdom. Currently, the panel is chaired by the Comptroller and Auditor General of the UK.

Functions of the Panel of External Auditors:

Panel Members share experiences and methodologies so as to ensure uniformity of external audit practices throughout the United Nations system.

Panel Members provide independent assurance to Member States and other stakeholders in relation to the proper use of the Organizations’ resources as well as their economic, efficient and effective use.

They also play a significant role in assisting the Organizations to improve their operations and their internal control activities.

The findings and recommendations of Panel Members are taken seriously, and the status of recommendations is closely monitored to ensure timely and effective implementation.

Source: The Hindu

Global Compact for Migration

In News:

The global compact on migration was adopted recently at an intergovernmental conference in Marrakech, Morocco by 164 UN Member States. Alongside, the UN also launched the Migration Network to support the compact’s implementation at country level.

About the Marrakech Compact on Migration:

In the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, adopted in September 2016, the General Assembly decided to develop a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration.

The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) sets out a common, comprehensive approach to international migration.

The GCM is a voluntary, non-binding document that introduces no additional obligations to states. It is a global agreement setting out a common framework, shared principles and best practices on international migration.

It aims at cooperation between states and promotes measures to strengthen regular migration pathways, to tackle irregular migration, and to protect human rights of migrants among other objectives.

The compact includes 23 objectives and a set of possible actions for each one, from which governments can draw in responding to the issue.

Notably, the Global Compact establishes a United Nations mechanism allowing Governments and companies to contribute technical, financial and human resources for implementing it.

The global compact is framed consistent with target 10.7 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in which member States committed to cooperate internationally to facilitate safe, orderly and regular migration.

Opposition:

The US quit negotiations early on, in December 2017, and was followed by Hungary seven months later. Dominican Republic, Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Israel, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia also refused to sign the document.

Why is it being opposed?

States with a restrictive migration agenda, such as Hungary, consider the symbolic act of approving the GCM as a sign that they are promoting migration.

Those that have rejected it fear it will turn into common practice, or even common law. While not legally binding, it should be a politically guiding framework, which sets out ground rules for the long term.

Some states that have rejected the GCM are especially worried about human rights references within the document. In their view, an emphasis on human rights contradicts what matters for them: securing borders.

Need for a global compact:

Over 250 million migrants worldwide account for 3% of the world’s entire population, but contribute 10% of the global gross domestic production (GDP). Migrants remittance is huge contributor to their home countries’ development.

Source: The Hindu

Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT)

In News:

SWIFT India has appointed ex-SBI chief Arundhati Bhattacharya as the new chairman of its board.

Background:

SWIFT India is a joint venture of top Indian public and private sector banks and SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication). The company was created to deliver high quality domestic financial messaging services to the Indian financial community. Bhattacharya said the venture has a huge potential to contribute significantly to the financial community in many domains.

What is SWIFT?

The SWIFT is a global member-owned cooperative that is headquartered in Brussels, Belgium. It was founded in 1973 by a group of 239 banks from 15 countries which formed a co-operative utility to develop a secure electronic messaging service and common standards to facilitate cross-border payments. It carries an average of approximately 26 million financial messages each day. In order to use its messaging services, customers need to connect to the SWIFT environment.

Functions:

SWIFT does not facilitate funds transfer: rather, it sends payment orders, which must be settled by correspondent accounts that the institutions have with each other.

The SWIFT is a secure financial message carrier — in other words, it transports messages from one bank to its intended bank recipient.

Its core role is to provide a secure transmission channel so that Bank A knows that its message to Bank B goes to Bank B and no one else. Bank B, in turn, knows that Bank A, and no one other than Bank A, sent, read or altered the message en route. Banks, of course, need to have checks in place before actually sending messages.

Significance of SWIFT:

Messages sent by SWIFT’s customers are authenticated using its specialised security and identification technology. Encryption is added as the messages leave the customer environment and enter the SWIFT Environment. Messages remain in the protected SWIFT environment, subject to all its confidentiality and integrity commitments, throughout the transmission process while they are transmitted to the operating centres (OPCs) where they are processed — until they are safely delivered to the receiver.

Source: The Hindu

‘Eco-sensitive zones’

In News:

The Supreme Court has directed the Union Environment Ministry to declare 10 km area around 21 national parks and wildlife sanctuaries across the country as ‘eco-sensitive zones’.

Details:

The court took the initiative after its amicus curiae informed the court that the State governments have taken no effort to protect the area around these sanctuaries and parks.

What are Eco-sensitive zones?

The Environment Protection Act, 1986 does not mention the word “Eco-sensitive Zones”.

The section 3(2)(v) of the Act, says that Central Government can restrict areas in which any industries, operations or processes shall not be carried out or shall be carried out subject to certain safeguards.

Besides the section 5 (1) of this act says that central government can prohibit or restrict the location of industries and carrying on certain operations or processes on the basis of considerations like the biological diversity of an area, maximum allowable limits of concentration of pollutants for an area, environmentally compatible land use, and proximity to protected areas.

The above two clauses have been effectively used by the government to declare Eco-Sensitive Zones or Ecologically Fragile Areas (EFA). The same criteria have been used by the government to declare No Development Zones.

Criteria:

The MoEF (Ministry of Environment & Forests) has approved a comprehensive set of guidelines laying down parameters and criteria for declaring ESAs. A committee constituted by MoEF put this together. The guidelines lay out the criteria based on which areas can be declared as ESAs. These include Species Based (Endemism, Rarity etc), Ecosystem Based (sacred groves, frontier forests etc) and Geomorphologic feature based (uninhabited islands, origins of rivers etc).

Source: The Hindu

Online portal “ENSURE”

In News:

Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare launched a portal ENSURE – National Livestock Mission-EDEG developed by NABARD and operated under the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries.

Entrepreneurship Development and Employment Generation (EDEG):

Under the Mission’s component EDEG, subsidy payment for activities related to poultry, small ruminants, pigs etc., through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) goes directly to the beneficiary’s account.

To make it better, simpler and transparent, the NABARD has developed an online portal “ENSURE” which makes the information related to beneficiary and processing of application readily available.

Benefits:

The flow of information/funds will be quicker and more accountable.

The burden of extra interest due to delay in the disbursal of the subsidy would now be reduced.

Accessing the portal will be on real-time basis and list of beneficiaries can be easily prepared.

Source: PIB

Vision of a New India – USD 5 Trillion Economy

In News:

The Ministry of Commerce & Industry is creating an action-oriented plan which highlights specific sector level interventions to bolster India’s march towards becoming a USD 5 trillion economy before 2025.

Details:

Services sector – USD 3 trillion,

Manufacturing sector – USD 1 trillion, and

Agriculture sector – USD 1 trillion.

Impact on Services Sector:

The share of India’s services sector in global services exports was 3.3% in 2015 compared to 3.1% in 2014. Based on this initiative, a goal of 4.2% has been envisaged for 2022.

As the Services sector contributes significantly to India’s GDP, exports and job creation, increased productivity and competitiveness of the Champion Services Sectors will further boost exports of various services.

Embedded services are substantial part of ‘Goods’ as well. Thus, competitive services sector will add to the competitiveness of the manufacturing sector as well.

Promotion of Trade:

Commerce Ministry is closely working with the Finance Ministry to ease credit flow to the export sector, especially small exporters to ensure adequate availability of funds to them.

The Commerce Minister has identified 15 strategic overseas locations where the Trade Promotion Organizations (TPOs) are proposed to be created.

Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme (TIES):

TIES aid with setting up and up-gradation of infrastructure projects with overwhelming export linkages like the Border Haats, Land customs stations, etc.

The Central and State Agencies, including Export Promotion Councils, Commodities Boards, SEZ authorities and apex trade bodies recognized under the EXIM policy of Government of India, are eligible for financial support under this scheme.

India Improves Ranking in Ease of Doing Business:

India had made a leap of 23 ranks in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Ranking this year (2018) to be ranked at 77.

India now ranks first in Ease of Doing Business Report among South Asian countries compared to 6th in 2014.

Multi-Modal Logistics Parks Policy (MMLPs):

MMLPs is to improve the country’s logistics sector by lowering over freight costs, reducing vehicular pollution and congestion and cutting warehouse costs with a view to promoting moments of goods for domestic and global trade.

Reasons for Improvement in Ease of Doing Business:

To support start-ups and lower tax rates for MSMEs quicker environmental clearances from 600 days to 140 days has been implemented, Abolition of inter-state check post after implementation of GST has been done, Enhanced input tax credit and electronic GST network has been put in place and the creation of commercial courts to fast track enforcement of contracts and faster security clearances has lent support to the start-ups in the country.

Among BRICS countries, India improved its rank from 5th (in 2010) to 3rd (in 2018).

Twenty-One regulatory changes have been made for ease of doing business for start-ups.

To optimize resource utilization and enhance the efficiency of the manufacturing sector, DIPP launched the Industrial Information System (IIS), a GIS-enabled database of industrial areas and clusters across the country in May 2017.

Source: PIB

UAE to double women’s representation in Federal National Council to 50 per cent

In News:

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has decided to increase the representation of Emirati women in the Federal National Council from 22.5 per cent to 50 per cent from the coming Parliamentary term.

Hand-in-Hand Military exercise:

The seventh edition Hand-in-Hand Military exercise between India, China is being held in Chengdu, China. The main focus is on counter-terrorism operations. It will involve tactical level operations in an International Counter Insurgency/ Counter Terrorist environment under UN mandate.

 

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