Current Affairs Current Affairs - 22 February 2016 - Vikalp Education

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Current Affairs - 22 February 2016

General Affairs 

In an important initiative about 25 Indian and 100 Israeli firms came together for a unique business seminar on defence and security in Israel. The 5-day seminar started on 21 February 2016 and will mainly focus on increasing collaborations and JVs between the MSME ministries on both sides. Which Indian trade entity is associated with this event?
    The Indo-Israel defence seminar is organised jointly by SIBAT, the Israeli defence ministry, the International Defence Cooperation Directorate and FICCI. This is the fourth edition of SIBAT-FICCI event on defence and security.
     The seminar will highlight the huge potential to cooperate under PM Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ initiative and will deal with the new Defence Procurement Procedure for 2016, with a special focus on JVs between industries in Israel and India.
     More than 500 business-to-business meetings are taking place during the seminar. Both countries’ defence establishments and industries have been partnering for many years in various areas. This will be the fourth joint seminar for SIBAT and FICCI in recent years.
     Another seminar, dedicated to armoured vehicles, is expected to take place in Chennai later this year.

What important and interesting trend in India’s petroleum imports was witnessed recently as reported in the data released by Thomson Reuters Oil Research & Forecasts during February 2016?

  •  India’s oil imports from Saudi Arabia and Iraq hit the highest in more than a decade during January 2016
    During January 2016 country import of oil from Saudi Arabia and Iraq hit the highest in more than a decade as OPEC’s top producers gained at the expense of Latin American crude exporting countries.
     Saudi Arabia was the top supplier to India in January, with volumes jumping 29% from the same month a year ago to nearly 940,000 barrels per day (bpd).
     Just behind was Iraq at 930,000 bpd, up 52% from January levels last year. The daily rates from both were at their highest since at least 2001.
     In contrast, total imports from Latin America fell by a quarter in January from a year ago to 706,000 bpd.
     India is the world’s third-largest crude oil importer. Competitive prices and shorter shipping distances are giving the Middle East members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) the upper hand in India.

Who struck the fastest ever century in Test cricket on 20 February 2016 to overtake the joint record of West Indies’ Viv Richards and Pakistan’s Misbah-ul-Haq?

  • Brendon McCullum (New Zealand)
    Brendon McCullum struck the fastest ever test century on 20 February 2016 against Australia as he reached the three-digit mark in just 54 balls on the first day of the second and final Test Match against Australia at Hagley Oval Christchurch.
     This knock beat the mark of 56 balls set by West Indies great Sir Viv Richards against England in 1986, and equalled by Pakistan’s Misbah-ul-Haq in 2014.
     What was important about this knock was this was the farewell Test for McCullum. This was the 101st Test for him and the century was the 12th of his career.

Who was re-appointed as IMF’s Managing Director for a second five-year term on 19 February 2016?

  • Christine Lagarde
    The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on 19 February selected 60-year-old Christine Lagarde to serve as IMF Managing Director for a second five-year term starting on 5 July 2016.
     Lagarde, who has been a former French finance minister, took the IMF’s top spot in mid-2011 after its former managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested in New York under rape allegations. She is the first-ever woman to reach this post since the institution’s inception in 1944.
     She is known to have steered the IMF through some troubled times including the European financial crisis.

What is the proposed date for holding the historic referendum in the United Kingdom to decide whether the country remains in the European Union (EU), as announced by Prime Minister David Cameron on 20 February 2016?

  •  23 June 2016
    The UK will hold the important referendum on 23 June 2016 to decide on the issue of country’s choice – whether it will remain part of the European Union (EU) or exit from it. British Prime Minister David Cameron made this announcement on 20 February 2016 in Downing Street after briefing the Cabinet.
     PM Cameron said he would be campaigning to remain in a reformed EU and described the vote as one of the biggest decisions in UK’s lifetime.
     The referendum date announcement came after renegotiations on the UK’s relationship with Europe were finalised on 19 February 2016 after intense wrangling at a two-day summit in Brussels.
     A British exit from the EU would rock the Union. The organisation has already been shaken by differences over migration and the future of the euro zone, by ripping away its second-largest economy, one of its top two military powers and by far its richest financial centre.
     UK has been the part of the EU since 1973.

Business Affairs 

Oil prices likely to remain low for 3-5 years, says Mukesh Ambani

  • Billionaire Mukesh Ambani, owner of the world's largest refining complex, today said global oil prices are likely to remain low for 3-5 years, benefitting a net importing nation like India.
    "Well, as we see the situation (oil prices), it s low for long. And this is really the first time in the world that oil prices have gone down on incremental supply," he told CNN's Fareed Zakaria in an interview.
    Ambani, the richest Indian, said there have been spikes in oil prices in past. "But never has it (fallen) because there has been more supply than demand. It's also the first time that you now have, because of the innovation in the US, large quantities of oil," he said.
    The US, he said, has gone from less than a million barrels a day to nine million barrels a day of oil production.
    "And with the oil supply, OPEC has lost the controlling factor. And with that, there is oversupply in the world," he told Zakaria, the only person to have interviewed Mukesh Ambani twice.
    The elder Ambani sibling has a net worth of almost $20 billion, while Reliance Industries has a market capitalisation of over $40 billion.
    Asked how long the scenario will last, he said: "I think for at least three to five years, until we see a structural change, in my view. But I have always been wrong, so," he said.
    Speaking about its consequences, Ambani said the situation is "very favorable" for India, which is one of the largest importers of oil.
    "And it helps our foreign exchange bill. And in a certain sense, it helps the fiscal deficit of government because it can mop up incremental revenue. So for oil importing countries, it s very good.
    "On an overall economic basis, it s deflationary and all of us understand the dangers of deflation," he said.
    Asked if it meant central banks will have to keep interest rates low for much longer than they thought, he said, "Absolutely".

Budget to focus on poor, progress, jobs: Jayant Sinha

  • The uplift of the poor, progress of farmers and employment for the youth will be the focus of the upcoming budget, Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha said in a Youtube post on Saturday.
    "This budget will be a forward-looking budget that will ensure that India will continue to be a haven of stability and growth in a very turbulent and choppy global environment," he said in a rare message ahead of the annual exercise.
    Sinha had also said in a tweet on Friday that the present government has managed to kept prices in check. "The NDA government has been successful in contain inflation," he said, adding this was far less than the pace during the previous UPA regime.
    Earlier, his boss and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley also spoke about facilitating tax payers.
    The use of technology has gone a long way in helping taxpayers with 1.4 crore assessees notified and also paid their refunds using this medium, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said, ahead of the budget presentation for the next fiscal year.
    "The government has been increasing using technology for the advantage of all tax payers and 1.4 crore, that is assessees, have been notified of their refunds and refunds have been given to them also using this very medium," Jaitley said.

Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan set up SPVs for Smart Cities

  • Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have set up Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) for the development of Smart Cities.
    "The Ministry of Urban Development has been informed that SPVs have been set up for Jabalpur, Indore and Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh and Jaipur and Udaipur in Rajasthan," an official release said.
    These cities are among the first 20 to bag Smart City challenge competition announced on January 28 this year.
    The Ministry has also been informed that SPVs for the remaining 15 cities will be formed in the next two weeks, the release said.
    The Ministry will release Rs 200 crore for each of the 20 selected cities only after the SPVs are set up.
    SPVs are required to be set up under Smart City Mission Guidelines to ensure timely and efficient execution of plans.
    Besides mobilising resources from various sources, SPVs will approve, sanction and execute the projects.
    Madhya Pradesh has set up a 12-member SPV for each of the three cities, while Rajasthan has set up a 11-member SPV for Jaipur and a 13-member body for Udaipur.

Should we focus on financial planning or just tax planning?

  • The Budget may not have much for you. So, it's best to plan your finances in such a way that this does not matter. India is perhaps the only country where the Union Budget is almost like a carnival. What is otherwise meant to be a statement of the government's finances is a lot more in India. It is also a vision statement of the government's policies. But that is hardly the reason why every Indian citizen looks forward to it and why it is covered in a high-decibel manner across the media. The reason is: Tax.
    Unlike in most countries, the government tweaks tax rates, exemptions and deductions, almost every year. Consistency is not our forte. It is, therefore, not surprising that we all stay glued to the TV to listen to the Budget speech to figure out whether we need to pay more taxes, which product will be cheaper or expensive and, above all, which new products will we now be able to invest in for saving tax. In India, it is the government that does our financial planning. It decides which products we should put our money in by identifying products that qualify for tax deduction. It keeps changing the list every year. And most citizens merely follow the direction given by the government as product manufacturers line up one product after another with one simple hook: "Save Tax".
    Never mind if the product is suitable for us or not. As long as it provides a tax break, we must buy it, we are told. And most of us take the bait and buy it too. Should we save tax? Of course we must. But should we focus on financial planning or merely on tax planning? Tax planning is an integral part of financial planning. The focus should be first on drawing up our financial plan. On finding out our earnings and expenses. On figuring out our Tax rates, exemptions and deductions are tweaked by the govt almost every year By Vivek Law goals in life. On figuring out our need for money in the short term (one-two years) and the long term (more than five years). Once this is done, we must figure out how much to put in equity and how much in debt. How much to set aside for buying our home and how much to set aside for gold. But before all this, have a health insurance policy, and if you have a dependant, a term insurance as well.
    After this comes the bit about picking products. The remarkable thing about our successive governments has been how they have clubbed together everything in the bracket of products that allow us tax deductions and exemptions. So, for example, your children's school fees as well as your provident fund are eligible in the same category. So are your insurance and equity-linked savings scheme (ELSS) investments. There is a separate category for health insurance as also for the National Pension Scheme.
    In other words, once you have figured out your financial plan, putting aside money to make the most of tax breaks is easy. What can be dangerous is doing it the other way around. For example, if you do not need a ULIP or an endowment policy, and buy one just because your agent tells you that it gets you a tax break, it is disastrous for your financial plan. Similarly, putting all your money in a PPF account may not be prudent either. Sound financial planning is about asset allocation. Not putting all your eggs in one basket.
    Financial plans are also not made for one year. Yes, one must look at one's financial plan periodically but not change it every year just because the government decides to make changes to the tax-saving products' list in every Budget. In fact, the government needs to get out of the business of deciding where we invest. It needs to segregate expenditure and investment and not put them in one basket. We are a nation of savers and are laggards when it comes to investments. So, what would I expect from the finance minister this Budget? Given the rather stressed condition of the finances, it would hardly be prudent to expect any great tax breaks from the finance minister. Instead, what would be easy to do is to simplify the sections under which we get our tax breaks. Put expenditure---school fee, home loan etc---in one basket and put core investment products---ELSS, ULIPs, PPF etc---in one.

National Housing Bank net profit down 3% at Rs 375 crore in H1 FY16

  • National Housing Bank (NHB) today reported a 2.80 per cent decline in net profit at Rs 374.99 crore for the first half of the fiscal ended December 31.
    NHB, which follows July-June financial year, had reported a net profit of Rs 385.82 crore in the corresponding period a year ago.
    The total income of NHB increased by 5.72 per cent to Rs 2,005.29 crore from Rs 1,896.79 crore ported in the corresponding period a year ago.
    Net Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) were at 0.30 per cent of the total advances during the quarter as against 0.27 reported in the half year ended December 31, 2014.
    NHB is the apex regulatory and refinancing institution for housing finance companies.

General Awareness

Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana’s guidelines released at Kisan Mela

    • To underline the Govt’s initiative for the development of the agriculture sector and welfare of farmers, PM Narendra Modi addressed farmers at a Kisan Kalyan Mela at Sehore in Madhya Pradesh.
      • During the occasion, PM also released guidelines for operationalisation of the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, a scheme for crop insurance.
      Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana’s guidelines released at Kisan Mela
      Key features of Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana
      The scheme will come into effect from the upcoming Kharif season.
      • Under this scheme, farmers will have to pay a uniform premium 2% for Kharif crops and1.5% for Rabi crops.
      • The premium for annual commercial and horticultural crops will be 5%.
      • There is no upper limit on the Government’s subsidy for this scheme. The provision of capping the premium rate, which existed in earlier schemes, and resulted in low claims being paid to farmers, has been done away with.
      • Farmers will get claims against the full sum insured, without any reduction.
      The Prime Minister also distributed soil health cards and crop insurance settlement claims to select beneficiaries.
      Other Events at Kisan Kalyan Mela:
      • Prime Minister Modi presented a trophy of Krishi Karman Award to Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
      • On the other hand, Modi was conferred with Kisan Mitra and Kisan Hiteshi Samman on behalf of Madhya Pradesh government for his historic decisions in the interest of farmers’ community.

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