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CRR Rate increased
In a surprise decision on 20 September 2013, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Raghuram Rajan raised the repo rate at which the central bank lends short-term funds to banks by 25 basis points to 7.5%. One basis point is one-hundredth of a percentage point.

It reduced the rate on borrowing from the so-called marginal standing facility, an RBI lending window for banks, by 75 basis to 9.5%. The rate had been hiked by 2 percentage points in July.

RBI also reduced the daily balance limit for banks for the purpose of maintaining the Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR), or the portion of deposits banks need to park with the apex bank, to 95% from 99%.

Soon after the RBI announcement, the yield on the 10-year benchmark bond shot up to 8.39% from 8.206% before the policy.

Mr Raghuram Rajan said, “the postponement of tapering by the US Fed is only that, a postponement.”

“We must create a bullet-proof national balance sheet," Rajan emphasised. He added that while marginal standing facility (MSF) which was reduced by 75 bps, is the effective rate today, over a period of time the economy will return to repo rate being the effective one.

Lalu Prasad is convicted in fodder scam case
On 30 September 2013, a CBI court convicted RJD leader Lalu Prasad and 44 others in the fodder scam case that will not only decide the fate of Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad, the main accused, but also shape the future of Bihar politics.

The fodder scam related to a series of fraudulent transactions in the department, totalling about Rs. 950 crore.

Prasad and 44 others were charged with fraudulent withdrawal to the tune of Rs. 37.7 crore on fake fodder bills from Chaibasa treasury in the 1990s. Chaibasa was part of undivided Bihar then. Former Bihar Chief Minister Jagannath Mishra and JD(U) MP Jagdish Sharma were also charged in the case.

PMEAC lowers the GDP forecast for the current fiscal year to 5.3 per cent 

The Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council (PMEAC), headed by C. Rangarajan, has lowered the GDP forecast for 2013-14 to 5.3 per cent from 6.4 per cent projected earlier.

Rangarajan cited strong growth in agriculture and a modest recovery in manufacturing as the reasons for better performance in the second half of the year to peg the GDP estimate at 5.3 per cent.

The PMEAC estimate is more optimistic than other analysts who are pegging the growth at between 4.5 and 5 per cent while some have even lowered to a sub 4 per cent level.

The PMEAC had in April projected 6.4 per cent growth for Indian economy for 2013-14. The GDP grew by 5 per cent in 2012-13. RBI too had earlier lowered its growth projection for this fiscal to 5.5 per cent from 5.7 per cent.

Rangarajan has advocated further liberalisation of FDI norms to boost growth. Among the other measures include resolve tax concerns of the industry, fast track public sector investment and initiate measures to contain fiscal deficit.

Sounding caution on the fiscal deficit, Rangarajan said containing fiscal deficit within the budgeted estimate could be a challenge. He said the fiscal deficit during the first four months of 2013-14 had already reached 62.8 per cent, and expenditure on major subsidies 51.3 per cent, of the budgetary provision for the full financial year.

Discretionary expenditure budgeted may need to be compressed, and subsidies restructured in the remaining months of the financial year in a growth friendly manner to limit fiscal slippages.

Referring to the external sector, Rangarajan expressed hope that the current account deficit (CAD) in 2013-14 will come down to $ 70 billion from $ 88.2 billion a year ago. As regards rupee, he hoped “at the current level (it) is well corrected. Stability is returning to the foreign exchange market. As capital flows return and as CAD begins to fall, this tendency will  strengthen”.

The projections
—GDP growth forecast lowered to 5.3%, from 6.4% in April
—Growth likely to pick up in the second half of 2013-14
—Agriculture growth pegged at 4.8%, industry at 2.7%
—Services growth to decelerate to 6.6%
—March-end inflation projected at 5.5%
—Current Account Deficit may come down to $70 bn or 3.8% of GDP
—Trade deficit projected at $185 bn
—Gold imports seen at $38 bn

Raghuram Rajan panel report 
The Raghuram Rajan panel report has made a case for ending the ‘special category’ criteria for providing additional assistance to poorer States, as it ranked Goa and Kerala as the economically most advanced States and Odisha and Bihar the least.

The committee, headed by the then chief economic advisor Raghuram Rajan (now RBI Governor) was set up by the government amid demand for “special category” status by Bihar. It has  suggested a new methodology for devolving funds on States based on a ‘multi dimensional index (MDI)’.

The committee has suggested that the 28 States be split into three categories—least developed, less developed and relatively developed—depending upon their MDI scores. As regards the allocation of funds, the report has suggested that each State should get a basic fixed allocation and an additional allocation depending on its development needs and development performance.

According to the committee, these two recommendations, along with the allocation methodology, will effectively subsume what is now “special category” status.

Based on the MDI scores, the 10 least developed Atates are Odisha, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

The seven most developed States are Goa, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Maharashtra, Uttrakhand and Haryana.

Supreme Court gives voters right to reject all candidates in a poll
The Supreme Court has directed the Election Commission to provide a button on voting machines to allow voters to reject all candidates contesting an election in a constituency. Election Commission sources said this will be done starting with the next set of Assembly Elections in 2013.

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India P. Sathasivam asked the Election Commission to make changes in voting machines and ballot papers, giving voters a “none of the above” choice, and publicise this change widely.

The court observed that negative voting would lead to systemic change in elections and political parties will be forced to project clean candidates. It also held that this will “foster purity and vibrancy in elections.”

Voters in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram—where Assembly elections are due in November 2013—will have the right to reject option.

Before the SC order, if a voter going to a polling booth and not wanting to vote for any candidate could sign a register and come out. That violated the right of secret ballot. There was no provision to count the “rejection” votes and so these did not impact the result of the election.

Activists proposed that if more than 50 per cent of those who vote reject all candidates, there should be a re-election in that constituency. The court upheld the argument of petitioner, the People's Union for Civil Liberties, an NGO, that a voter has the right to record disapproval of all candidates listed.  The Election Commission had supported this stand. It had recommended that the government amend rules to include this, but that had not been done.

The Centre had opposed the proposal. It contended that an election is meant to elect and not to reject. It also argued that including a rejection button will confuse voters and will not serve any purpose.

Political parties have not made their stand on right to reject clear yet. The BJP had asked for a detailed debate. The Left had sought clarity on what purpose it hoped to serve.

Constitution (120th Amendment) Bill 

On 5 September 2013, the Rajya Sabha passed the Constitution (120th Amendment) Bill  by a two-thirds majority. It provides a role to the Executive in the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and the High Courts.

Under the proposed law, a panel, known as the Judicial Appointments Commission, will be set up, comprising the Chief Justice of India, two Supreme Court judges, the Union Law Minister and two eminent persons. Currently, judges to the higher judiciary are being appointed solely on the recommendations of a collegium comprising senior-most judges.

The Bill, after being passed by the Parliament,  would not become a law until half of the States in the country give their consent to it.

India-Japan agree on triple currency swap arrangement
India and Japan have decided to more than triple their bilateral currency swap arrangement to $50 billion, a development that is likely to bring stability in financial markets in the country.

Earlier in December 2012, the two countries had entered into a bilateral currency swap arrangement for $15 billion. “This arrangement aimed at addressing possible short-term liquidity mismatches and supplementing existing international financial arrangements, is part of the effort to strengthen mutual cooperation between Japan and India,” RBI said.

Visit of President of Liberia

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia came on an official visit to India on 11 September 2013. She also happens to be Africa’s first female President.

During the bilateral talks, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced a $ 144 million line of credit for Liberia. India also signed four agreements for cooperation in various fields, including the critical oil and gas sector.

The accords are for establishing a joint commission; promoting academic exchanges of students, faculty and experts; and establishing a cooperative institutional framework to facilitate and to enhance bilateral cooperation in the oil and gas sector on the basis of equality and mutual benefit.

The credit line has been extended for the setting up of a power transmission and distribution project in Liberia.

The Indian Prime Minister observed that there was a great potential to further strengthen bilateral trade and investment relations between the two countries. Indian investments in Liberia, especially in the mining sector, were growing.  He also asked President Sirleaf to facilitate Indian investment in agriculture, infrastructure, hydrocarbon, mining and manufacturing in line with Liberia’s national development goal policies.

India, Pakistan agree to work out a way to maintain ceasefire on LoC
On 29 September 2013, taking their first tentative steps towards putting the peace process back on track, Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Nawaz Sharif agreed to have the DGMOs on both sides work out a way to maintain ceasefire on the Line of Control. This would mark the first military-to-military conversation between the two countries.

India put its premium on results this time, which would mean no more LoC violence, an early resumption of the 26/11 trial in Pakistan and taking measures to crack down on anti-India terror groups.

There was no one-on-one session between Singh and Sharif. While India called such high-level meetings “useful”, Pakistan went one step further to call these “positive” and “constructive”.

The priority for the Indian camp was to convey a strong message, hoping it would be reflected on the ground. This is important because the last time India agreed to set up new mechanism was on the margins of the 2006 NAM Summit in Havana, to unlock the bilateral conversation which was stalled after the Mumbai train blasts. At that time, a joint anti-terror mechanism was set up but it proved to be a failure except for facilitating the resumption of the dialogue process. It barely met a few times before fading away despite presence of members of intelligence agencies from both sides.

Manmohan-Obama meet boosts defence, security ties
The US and India sought more intensive engagement on a gamut of issues, including defence, security, bilateral trade, and efforts to dismantle terrorist safe havens and promote clean energy. This declaration was made in a joint statement issued after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met US President Barack Obama at the White House on 27 September 2013.

The two sides also welcomed conclusion of a preliminary contract between the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) and US nuclear giant Westinghouse to develop a nuclear power plant in Gujarat.

Both leaders emphasised the need for more intensive defence cooperation. Defence trade between the nations has reached nearly $9 billion. President Obama encouraged the further participation of US firms in partnering India’s efforts to enhance its defence capacities.

Washington has placed New Delhi in the category of “closest partners” for defence cooperation, putting India on a par with the United States’s closest allies like the United Kingdom when it comes to transfer of defence technology. This significant milestone was crossed when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President Barack Obama endorsed a joint declaration on defence cooperation, which takes forward the 2005 framework agreement on defence.

Both leaders condemned the 26 September 2013 terror strike in Jammu and Kashmir and reaffirmed their commitment to eliminate terrorist safe havens and infrastructure and disrupt terrorist networks, including Al-Qaida and Lashkar-e-Toiba. They also called on Pakistan to bring the perpetrators of the November 2008 Mumbai attacks to justice.

Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to concluding a Bilateral Investment Treaty. The joint statement noted that US-India trade had increased five-fold since 2001 to nearly $100 billion and that Obama and Manmohan Singh agreed that “there are no insurmountable impediments to bilateral trade increasing an additional five-fold.”

The leaders also affirmed their commitment to work towards a successful outcome at the World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference in Bali, as also welcomed cooperation in scientific research and joint collaboration in science, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

They endorsed a proposal to launch an initiative to deploy innovative renewable energy solutions to those in need and announced establishment of an India-US Climate Change Working Group to, among other things, develop and advance action-oriented cooperation.

Business News

The US-based phone company Verizon Communications has agreed to buy UK-based Vodafone Group PLC for 130 billion dollars, making it the third largest corporate deal ever.

Microsoft Corp has decided to buy Nokia’s mobile phone business for 5.44 billion euros, and the Finnish firm said its CEO, Stephen Elop, would join Microsoft when the transaction is closed. Finland’s Nokia, once the undisputed leader in mobile phones, has been struggling to respond to the challenge from smartphone makers such as Apple and Samsung.

Jaiprakash Associates Ltd has agreed to sell its cement plant in Gujarat to UltraTech Cement Ltd for around 38 billion rupees including debt. UltraTech, India’s largest cement maker by production capacity, will issue shares worth up to 1.5 billion rupees to Jaiprakash and assume debts of about 36.50 billion rupees.

In a move that would boost investments in the semiconductor sector and provide an impetus to the India’s beleaguered economy, the Union Cabinet has given its in-principle approval to subsidise setting up of chip-fabrication units. The facilities are expected to provide a significant push to domestic electronics manufacturing and act as magnets for the electronics components and ancillary industry, setting the stage for a conducive electronics manufacturing ecosystem in the country. Of the two chip-fabrication projects the government has shortlisted for subsidy, the consortium for one is led by Jaypee Group, which has partnered with IBM as its technology partner. The other has been mooted by domestic chipmaker Hindustan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp (HSMC), which will get technology support from Geneva-based STMicroelectronics NV. The projects are said to be worth Rs 25,000 crore each.

Ogilvy & Mather, a global advertising, marketing and public relations agency, has agreed to acquire a majority stake in PennyWise Solutions, a Hyderabad-based digital technology and production company.

Two decades after selling off its carbonated soft drinks portfolio, Prakash Chauhan-headed Parle Agro has announced its re-entry into the segment with a new coffee-flavoured carbonated drink, Cafe Cuba.  Parle Agro had sold its popular and iconic soft drink brands, namely Thums Up, Limca, Gold Spot and Citra, to Coca-Cola in 1993 and had also signed a non-compete agreement for 10 years.

Online commerce major eBay Inc has agreed to acquire payment platform Braintree for about $800 million in cash in order to strengthen its PayPal business.

Arundhati Bhattacharya has been appointed as the first woman managing director of State Bank of India.


Elections in Germany
The 22 September 2013 election rattled Germany’s political landscape, kicking a bastion of the conservative establishment out of Parliament for the first time since 1949 and catapulting an upstart anti-euro party to national prominence.

Chancellor Angela Merkel kept her post for four more years, with her Christian Democratic Union and its Bavarian sister party drawing a remarkable 41.5% of the vote. But while it cemented Ms. Merkel’s dominance, the election left the rest of German politics in disarray.

The business-oriented Free Democratic Party, Ms. Merkel’s junior partner in her center-right government since 2009, suffered a historic defeat with just 4.8% of the vote. The result put the FDP, a party that served as a junior partner in government for 46 of the last 64 years, below the 5% of the vote needed for seats in Parliament for the first time in German post-war history.

FDP supporters chalked up their collapse in part to the rise of an anti-euro party founded just months ago, the Alternative for Germany, known by its German initials AfD. The party drew about 4.7% of the vote, but better than what was predicted.

The left-of-centre also appeared rudderless. The Social Democrats, the main opposition party, had its second-worst election result in history with just over 25% of the vote and struggled with an uninspiring candidate, former Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück. The environmentalist Greens, who lost ownership of a core issue after Ms. Merkel agreed to wean Germany off of nuclear power in 2011, dropped to 8.4%.

Ms. Merkel’s alacrity in adopting rival policies made it hard for the opposition to attack her. She has often justified her ideological flexibility by saying that the CDU is a big tent, not a narrowly conservative movement.

BRICS to set up a $100 billion fund to steady currency markets
The BRICS emerging economies will set up a $100 billion fund to steady currency markets, but it looks unlikely to be in place soon enough to temper the effects of an expected pullback of US monetary stimulus.

China, holder of the world’s largest foreign exchange reserves, will contribute the bulk of the currency pool.

Cheap dollars that fuelled a boom in Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa over the past decade have turned tail since Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, warned in May 2013 of a ‘taper’ in the US bond-buying scheme.

China has committed $41 billion; Brazil, India and Russia $18 billion each; and South Africa $5 billion.

The emerging nation facing the biggest financial shock, India, received scant sympathy from China and Russia as both called for policy action to tackle external deficits. Nonetheless, Indian officials said they were counting on the strong support of the G20 to provide reassurance over the winding down of the Fed’s quantitative easing programme as the US economy picks up.

US Fed leaves decides to continue with the stimulus
On 18 September 2013, the US Federal Reserve decided to leave its $85 billion a month stimulus programme in place, against broad expectations that it would reduce it as the economy grows. Fed policy makers instead cut their growth forecast for 2013 and 2014, suggesting the economy is feeling the impact of government spending cuts and continues to struggle to break free from the Great Recession.

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) said that although the economy appears to be holding up amid government “sequester” spending cuts, it “decided to await more evidence that progress will be sustained before adjusting the pace of its purchases.”

In addition, it pointed to the impact of a sharp rise in interest rates since May as possibly already slowing the economy.

The FOMC acknowledged that the economy is still expanding “at a moderate pace,” and that labour market conditions — a central focus of current Fed policy — have improved in recent months. However, it noted, the jobless rate at 7.3 per cent in August “remains elevated.”

Fed’s move came against the backdrop of a somewhat gloomier outlook for economic growth from US Fed officials. In a new set of quarterly forecasts, the Fed now sees growth in a 2 per cent to 2.3 per cent range in 2013, down from 2.3 per cent to 2.6 per cent in its June estimates.

The downgrade for 2014 was even sharper: 2.9-3.1 per cent from 3.0-3.5 per cent.

Fed’s decision means the policy of super easy money will continue for a few more months. For emerging economies like India, this is good news. Indian economy is heavily dependent on foreign funds to finance its record current account deficit, which hit a record 4.8 per cent of GDP in the in 2013-13.

Between June and August 2013, India saw the sharpest foreign fund outflow since the global financial crisis in 2008. Investors feared that this exodus would worsen and the rupee would depreciate further. But that is unlikely now.

The Fed’s decision also gave Reserve Bank of India’s new Governor Raghuram Rajan much needed leeway to formulate his maiden monetary policy. A tapering by the US Fed would have forced Dr Rajan’s hands to hike key interest rates to defend the rupee by making India attractive for foreigners.

US-Russia deal on Syria’s chemical weapons
US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reached agreement on 14 September 2013, on a framework for Syria to destroy all of its chemical weapons, and said they would seek a UN Security Council resolution that could authorise sanctions—short of military action—if Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government fails to comply.

The deal calls for international inspectors to be on the ground in Syria by November and to complete their initial work by the end of that month. All of Syria’s chemical weapons stocks, material and equipment would have to be destroyed or removed by mid-2014.

Administration officials had said that President Barack Obama was open to a Security Council resolution that did not include military force as a punishment if Assad doesn’t follow through on promises regarding the weapons. While Russia would be all but certain to veto any measure with such a penalty, Obama’s willingness to concede the point –after threatening a US-led military strike with or without approval by the US Congress—provided a step forward.

Thaw in US-Iran relations
US President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke on the phone on 27 September 2013, in the first talks between the leaders of the two nations since 1979. The phone call capped a week of breakthroughs in Washington’s estranged relationship with Tehran.

The 15-minute phone call was dominated by discussions on efforts to reach an agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme.

President Obama said he believed both sides can reach a “comprehensive solution” and both leaders instructed their top diplomats to continue pursuing efforts to resolve the nuclear impasse.

On 26 September, in another first in the US-Iran relationship, Secretary of State John F. Kerry had met Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session in New York. The two diplomats participated in the P5-plus-one talks and held a brief bilateral meeting.

Rouhani wrote on Twitter that he and Obama had expressed their mutual political will to rapidly resolve the nuclear issue. The Iranian President wants to reach an agreement between three and six months.

Noting that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons and Rouhani has said Iran would never develop nuclear weapons, Obama said he had made clear that “we respect the right of the Iranian people to access peaceful nuclear energy in the context of Iran meeting its obligations.

Obama said he believed that “there is a basis for a resolution.” He said he had also conveyed to Rouhani his deep respect for the Iranian people.

Rouhani said Ayatollah Khamenei supports his efforts to negotiate. “Whatever result we achieve through negotiations, my government will have the full backing of all the main branches of power in Iran as well as the support of the people of Iran,” he said.

In sharp contrast to his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who referred to the US as the Great Satan, Rouhani described the US as a great nation.

G20 Summit
At the G20 Summit, held on 5 September 2013, at St Petersburg, Russia, emerging and developed G20 powers struggled to find common ground over the turmoil unleashed by the prospect of the United States reducing a flood of dollars to the world economy.

The Group of 20, which united in response to global crisis in 2009, now faces a US economy picking up, Europe lagging and developing economies facing blowback from the looming ‘taper’ of the Federal Reserve’s monetary stimulus.

“Our main task is returning the global economy towards steady and balanced growth. This task has unfortunately not been resolved,” Russian President Vladimir Putin told leaders as they met at an annual summit.

Leaders signed off on a jobs and growth initiative, as well as steps to combat international tax evasion and tighten financial regulation. But concerns persisted that renewed market turbulence could hit developing economies hardest.

The summit was overshadowed by great-power tensions over the Syria crisis, with leaders addressing security matters over dinner after their traditional debate on a world economy that is doing slightly better than a year ago.

A Japanese government official said that at Finance Ministers’ talks over dinner, no countries were explicitly critical of the Fed although it was discussed at length.China and Russia said vulnerable countries, including G20 member India, will need to take steps to rebalance their economies, ruling out bailouts for countries that have hit trouble.

Washington, while playing up its contribution to growth, said emerging economies would have to do their homework as it dials back its expansive policy settings.

Advanced economies led by the United States will drive global growth while emerging countries are at risk of slowing due to tighter U.S. monetary policy, the International Monetary Fund warned in a pre-summit briefing paper.

Loose monetary policy must be adjusted step by step without causing economic disruptions, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on the G20 sidelines.

The high debt burden piled up by industrialised economies has also driven calls from some members of the G20—which accounts for 90 percent of world output and two-thirds of its population—to get borrowing down.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a champion of the debt-reduction agenda, said he would nonetheless seek to balance his budget by 2015 as he seeks to boost investment and growth.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the G20 that Tokyo aimed to achieve both economic growth and fiscal reforms with his pro-growth policy agenda, but made no mention of a planned doubling of the sales tax over the next two years.

The G20 Declaration: In the five years since we first met, coordinated action by the G20 has been critical to tackling the financial crisis and putting the world economy on a path to recovery. But our work is not yet complete and we agreed that it remains critical for G20 countries to focus all our joint efforts on engineering a durable exit from the longest and most protracted crisis in modern history.

Need of the hour is to: (i) increase the momentum of the global recovery; (ii) generate higher growth and better jobs while strengthening the foundations for long-term growth; (iii) Avoid policies that could cause the recovery to falter or promote growth at other countries’ expense.

Nearly 500 
participants from more than 50 countries  came together to deliberate upon actionable strategies to fight the global tobacco epidemic, in a three-day conference beginning 10 September 2013, in New Delhi.  Union Ministry of Health and Family welfare, which organized the conference along with Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and HRDIAY, announced former Indian cricket team captain, Rahul Dravid, as brand ambassador for its National Tobacco Control Campaign.

Tokyo, Japan has been awarded the 2020 Summer Olympic Games.

The Indian Ocean and the safety of vital trade routes that run through were the focus of specialists at the multi-country Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS), held in Mumbai on 11-13 September 2013.

According to the 2013 World Happiness Report by Columbia University’s Earth Institute, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Sweden are the world’s happiest countries. Rwanda, Burundi, the Central African Republic, Benin and Togo—all nations in Sub-Saharan Africa—are the least satisfied with their lives. The United States came in at number 17 and lags behind Canada (6), Australia (10), Israel (11) the United Arab Emirates (14) and Mexico (16).  India has been ranked 94, Bangladesh 104, Pakistan 85 and China is 112 among 156 countries. The 2013 World Happiness Report comes on the back of a growing global movement calling for governments and policy makers to reduce their emphasis on achieving economic growth and focus on policies that can improve people's overall well-being. An idea first proposed in 1972 by Bhutan’s former King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the concept of “happiness economics” has now gained traction in many countries across the world. The UN first encouraged member countries to measure and use the happiness of their people to guide public policies in July 2011.

The National Food Security Act guarantees 5 kg of rice, wheat and coarse cereals per month per person at Rs 3, 2, 1, respectively. India has joined a select league of nations that guarantee majority of its population cheap foodgrains. At Rs 1,30,000 crore government support, the food security programme will be the largest in the world. It would require 62 million tonnes of foodgrains.

The Union government has permitted RBI to invest 4.3 billion dollars in special bonds of the World Bank, which would raise the agency’s lending limit to India by a similar amount to 21.8 billion dollars for infrastructure investment. The additional borrowing space would enable government of India to commit new projects with the World Bank assistance.

The International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer was observed on 16 September, with the theme “A Healthy Atmosphere, the Future We Want”.

China has opened the world’s highest civilian airport in a restive and remote Tibetan region of south-western Sichuan province. Daocheng Yading airport in Garzi, a heavily ethnic Tibetan part of Sichuan, is 4,411 meters (14,472 feet) above sea level, and overtakes Qamdo airport in Tibet, which sits at 4,334 meters above sea level, for the title of world’s highest civilian airport.

The latest edition of the Guinness Book of World Records has confirmed the world’s largest walking robot. That robot is a 51-foot, 11 ton, radio-controlled dragon that, of course, also breathes fire. The dragon was designed and built by German company Zollner Elektronik AG. The dragon is powered by a 2.0-liter Diesel engine with about 140 horsepower. It also has wings that span 12 meters and is filled with 80 litres of stage blood.

The first Indian Himalayan Youth Summit, was held on 23-24 September 2013, at Naga Heritage Village, Kisama, Nagaland, to address issues of environment and sustainable development of mountain States of India. Youths from 11 Indian Himalayan States, including Nagaland, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Assam, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura and West Bengal’s hill district Darjeeling, attended.

Insurance repository is a facility that allows you to hold insurance plans in the demat form. As is the case with shares and bonds, which can be held in a demat account with a depository, you can keep your insurance policies in an e-insurance account with an insurance repository. Even if you have policies from multiple insurance companies, they can be stored in the same account. As of now, only life insurance policies and pension plans are being allowed to be held in e-insurance accounts. The facility will eventually be extended to health, car, home and other forms of general insurance. The policyholder has to pay nothing to open an e-insurance account or hold the policies in the demat form. The insurance companies will recoup their costs from the savings in policy issuance and delivery. IRDA has given five companies the status of insurance repositories and provided with a licence that will be valid till July 31, 2014. The five companies are: NSDL Database Management Limited, Central Insurance Repository Limited, SHCIL Projects Limited, CAMS Repository Services Limited and Karvy Insurance Repository Limited.

September 26 is observed as World Pharmacists Day.

In an experiment carried out by the “Readers’ Digest” magazine, Mumbai ranked second in the world in returning a lost wallet. Helsenki came first. The experiment was simple: drop a wallet and see how many are returned to the owner.  As part of the experiment, 192 wallets were dropped in 16 cities spread over four continents. The locations—shopping malls, footpaths and parks. Mumbaikars returned nine out of 12 wallets they found on the road. Each wallet had Rs 3,000 stashed inside, as also contained a cell-phone number, business cards and a family photo. Overall, around 47% of the total wallets dropped were returned. Among the cities which fared badly include Zurich, London, Warsaw and Berlin. Lisbon in Portugal was crowned the most dishonest city in the world where only one wallet was returned and that too by tourists from Netherlands.

International Day of Elderly Persons is observed on 30 September.

World Heart Day is observed on 29 September.

ISON, which belongs to a special category of comets called sungrazers, will be visible to the naked eye in the morning sky an hour before dawn from October-end 2013 to January-end 2014.

CURRENT AFFAIRS SEPTEMBER 2013 Reviewed by sambasivan srinivasan on 4:41:00 PM Rating: 5

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