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15th July Current Affairs

I2U2 summit

(GS-II: Global grouping involving India, I2U2 etc)

In News:

The United Arab Emirates announced an investment of USD 2 billion to develop a series of integrated food parks across India as part of efforts by the four-nation grouping I2U2 (India-Israel-UAE-USA) to help tackle food insecurity in South Asia and the Middle East.

Key Highlights:

UAE to invest in Indian food parks: I2U2 leaders said the UAE – home to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and host of COP28 in 2023 – will invest USD 2 billion to develop a series of integrated food parks across India.

US and Israel to provide expertise: The S. and Israeli private sectors will be invited to lend their expertise and offer innovative solutions that contribute to the overall sustainability of the project.

These investments will help maximize crop yields and, in turn, help tackle food insecurity in South Asia and the Middle East.

Hybrid renewable energy project in Gujarat: It will consist of 300 megawatts (MW) of wind and solar capacity, complemented by a battery energy storage system.

Science-based solutions to enhance food security: will build more innovative, inclusive, and science-based solutions to enhance food security and sustainable food systems.

Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate initiative (AIM for Climate): India has shown interest in joining the United States, the UAE, and Israel in the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate initiative (AIM for Climate)

Support for Abraham Accord: The I2U2 leaders reaffirmed their “support for the Abraham Accords and other peace and normalization arrangements with Israel”.

I2U2:

It was initially formed in October, 2021 following the Abraham Accords between Israel and the UAE, to deal with issues concerning maritime security, infrastructure and transport in the region.

At that time, it was called the ‘International Forum for Economic Cooperation’, referred to as the ‘West Asian Quad’.

I2U2 initiative is a new grouping of India, Israel, USA and UAE.

This will not only revitalize and re-energize the system of alliances and partnerships around the world, but also stitch together partnerships that did not exist previously or were not utilized to their full extent.

Cooperation areas:

  • Security Cooperation
  • Technological Hubs
  • Food Security
  • Work Together in Different Fields like climate change, pandemics etc

Centre relaxes norms for adjusting states’ off-budget borrowings

(GS-II: Government budgeting, issues related to planning and mobilization of resources etc)

In News:

The Centre has relaxed norms for adjusting states’ off-budget loans and said such liabilities of the last fiscal year can be adjusted against their borrowing ceilings for the next four years till March 2026.

Details:

The move will free up resources for states to fund their capital expenditures in the current fiscal year.

As per a study by Crisil Ratings, off-balance sheet borrowings by states are estimated to have reached a decadal high of 4.5 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), or about Rs 7.9 lakh crore, in 2021-22.

Off-budget borrowings:

It refers to loans taken by state government entities, special purpose vehicles, etc, where principal and interest would be repaid from the state government’s own budget, instead of the cash flows or revenues generated by the borrowing entity.

Such borrowings bypass the net borrowing ceiling fixed for states in a fiscal year by routing loans outside the state budget through government-owned companies or statutory bodies.

Since the responsibility for repayment lies with states, it adversely impacts their revenue and fiscal deficit.

Key Highlights:

States restored off-budget borrowing to fund capital expenditure: Over the last two years, many states have resorted to off-budget borrowing to fund their capital expenditures and minimize the impact of the economic downturn induced by COVID-19.

As per norms, state governments are required to take the Centre’s approval for fresh borrowing over the limit set for a particular financial year.

Relief to states: ICRA Chief Economist said the modification regarding off-budget borrowings is likely to provide substantial relief to some states and allow them additional borrowing space in the current fiscal year.

Off-budget borrowings are to be equated with the states’ own debt: To bring transparency to state finances, the Centre informed states that off-budget borrowings are to be equated with the states’ own debt and any such fund raised by the governments in 2020-21 and 2021-22 would need to be adjusted out of the borrowing ceiling this year.

Ceiling on borrowing: The Centre has fixed the net borrowing ceiling of states at Rs 8,57,849 crore or 3.5 per cent of GSDP. States are also eligible for additional borrowing of 0.50 per cent of GSDP linked to reforms in the power sector.

Reasons for rising in off-budget borrowings:

Constrained revenue growth: Due to the pandemic-induced slowdown and increasing revenue expenditure have led to states’ fiscal deficits rising to 4 per cent of GSDP, well above the historical level of 2-3 per cent has been seen for the most part of the last decade.

This has reduced the wherewithal of states to directly fund the entities they own.

No prior approval of central government: Even if states wanted to do so by borrowing more, they can’t without the explicit approval of, and beyond the limits set by, the central government.

  • But states don’t need prior central consent to guarantee the loans and advances, and bonds issued by their entities.
  • Also, the ceiling on guarantees is self-determined and varies from state to state

Genomics

(GS-III: Science and Technology)

In News:

WHO’s Science Council launches report calling for an equitable expansion of genomics.

Details:

Genomics is the study of the complete set of DNA (including all of its genes) in a person or other organism. A genome is an organism’s complete set of DNA.

Report says:

Expand access: The report calls for expanding access to genomic technologies, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), by addressing shortfalls in the financing, laboratory infrastructure, materials, and highly trained personnel.

Tools used for equitable access: E.g. tiered pricing; sharing of intellectual property rights for low-cost versions; and cross-subsidization, whereby profits in one area are used to fund another.

Ethics: It argues that it is not justifiable ethically or scientifically for less-resourced countries to gain access to such technologies long after rich countries do.

Recommends WHO create a Genomics Committee for implementation of its recommendations

Recommendations:

Advocacy for genomics: It is needed to persuade governments and other actors about the benefits of genomic technologies.

Implementation: Local planning, financing, expanded training of essential personnel

Collaborations: Between Government ministries, funding agencies, and scientific organizations in academia and industry.

Effective oversight and standards: It is key to promoting ethical, legal, equitable use and responsible sharing of information obtained with genomic methods.

WHO’s steps:

WHO’s a 10-year strategy for genomic surveillance of pathogens.

India’s Steps:

GenomeIndia (Department of Biotechnology): cataloguing the Genetic variation in Indian

IndiGen Program (CSIR): Collectwhole genome sequences from different populations in India

INSACOG: Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium.

Right to Repair

In News:

The government is working on a “Right to Repair” framework so that people can get goods such as consumer durables, phones and cars fixed on their own.

Details:

Right to repair is would provide the practical means for equipment owners to repair their devices.

Repair is legal under copyright law and patent law.

Sectors identified: Farming Equipment, Mobile Phones/ Tablets, Consumer Durables and Automobiles/Automobile Equipment.

Current issues:

Planned obsolescence and creation of monopolies on spare parts by manufacturers: Monopoly on repair processes infringe the customer’s ‘right to choose’.”

Consumers often lose the right to claim a warranty if they get a product repaired from a “non-recognized” outfit.

No manual: Companies avoid(ing) the publication of manuals that can help users make repairs easily. Manufacturers have proprietary control over spare parts (regarding the kind of design they use for screws and others).

Other countries: The right to repair has been recognised in many countries across the globe, including the US, UK and the European Union.