|241.||Qatar to become first Arab state to offer permanent residency to some non-citizens|
Qatar’s Cabinet has approved a draft law making permanent residency available to some non-citizens. It marks a partial shift from Qatar’s heavy reliance on its longstanding visa-sponsorship system.
With this the energy-rich Qatar becomes first Gulf Arab state to make permanent residency available to some non-citizens.
Under the new law, residency permits will be granted to children of Qatari women married to foreigners. Moreover it will be also granted to people who offered valuable services to the country and those with special skills. The residency permit will give holders similar rights as Qataris in terms of property ownership and run some businesses without needing a Qatari partner. It will also entitle them free state education and healthcare services. The interior ministry of Qatar will establish committee to review requests of granting permanent residency ID in line with the provisions of the law.
Gulf Arab countries have a high number of expatriate workers but do not allow naturalization of foreigners except in rare cases and under strict conditions. Qatar which is world’s wealthiest country per capita has population of 2.7 million including some 300,000 citizens. Qatar’s native population is far surpassed by foreigners, so the energy-rich Arab state is reluctant to extend residency rights out of concern for the demographic balance.
|242.||Lok Sabha passes NABARD (Amendment) Bill, 2017|
The Lok Sabha has passed the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Amendment) Bill, 2017 by voice vote. The Bill seeks to amend the NABARD Act, 1981.
NABARD is responsible for providing and regulating facilities like credit for agricultural and industrial development in the rural areas.
Key Features of the Bill
Increase in capital of NABARD: The Bill allows Union Government to increase capital of NABARD to Rs 30,000 crore from Rs. 5000 crore. Further, it allows Union Government to increase it to more than Rs 30,000 crore in consultation with the RBI, if necessary.
Transfer of the RBI’s share to Union government: The Bill provides that the Union Government alone must hold at least 51% capital share of NABARD. Further, it transfers share capital held by the RBI valued at Rs 20 crore to the Union Government. Currently RBI holds 0.4% of the paid-up capital of NABARD and the remaining 99.6% is held by the Union government and this causes conflict in the RBI’s role as banking regulator and shareholder in NABARD.
Adds Micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) terms: The Bill replaces the terms ‘small-scale industry’ and ‘industry in the tiny and decentralised sector’ with the terms ‘micro enterprise’, ‘small enterprise’ and ‘medium enterprise’ as defined in MSME Development Act, 2006. Further, it allows NABARD to provide financial assistance to banks if they provide loans to the MSMEs.
Consistency with the Companies Act, 2013: The Bill substitutes references to provisions of the Companies Act, 1956 with references to the Companies Act, 2013. It includes provisions dealing with definition of a government company and qualifications of auditors.
|243.||Lok Sabha passes Banking Regulation (Amendment) Bill, 2017|
The Lok Sabha has passed the Banking Regulation (Amendment) Bill, 2017 by voice vote. It will replace the Banking Regulation (Amendment) Ordinance, 2017.
The bill seeks to amend the Banking Regulation Act, 1949 to insert provisions for handling cases related to stressed assets or non-performing assets (NPAs) of banks. Stressed assets (NPAs) are loans defaulted by borrower in repayment or the loan which has been restructured by changing the repayment schedule.
Key Features of the Bill
Initiating insolvency proceedings: It will enable the Central government to authorize the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to direct banking companies to resolve specific stressed assets by initiating insolvency resolution process. These proceedings will be under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016.
Issuing directions on stressed assets: It empowers RBI to issue directions to banks for resolution of stressed assets from time to time.
Committee to advise banks: It enables RBI to specify committees or authorities to advise banks on resolution of stressed assets. RBI will appoint or approve members on such committees.
Applicability to State Bank of India (SBI): It inserts provision to make above provisions applicable to the SBI and its subsidiaries and also Regional Rural Banks (RRBs).
Need for Amendment
Non-performing assets (NPAs) or bad loans of banks have risen to over Rs. 9 lakh crore resulting in choking the banking system. So it had become necessary for the RBI to intervene in order to take urgent measures for their speedy resolution.
|244.||Israel launches first environmental research satellite Venus|
Israel has launched its first environmental research satellite named as Venus (Vegetation and Environment Monitoring New Micro-Satellite). It is a joint venture between the Israel Space Agency (ISA) and its French counterpart CNES.
It was launched on board of Arianespace Vega launcher from the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
The Venus satellite is an earth-observation micro-satellite. It is considered the smallest satellite of its kind in the world. It weighs only 265 kilogram. It will be placed in sun-synchronized orbit at an altitude of 720 kilometers.
It will circle the earth 29 times in each 48-hour period and will stay in commission for 4.5 years. The mini-satellite is equipped with a special camera that can visualize details on Earth that are not visible to the naked eye.
Venus Satellite has a dual mission-scientific and technological. The scientific mission will monitor Earth’s vegetation using a camera capable of recording 12 narrow spectral bands. The technological mission will test the operation of an innovative electric propulsion system based on the Israeli-designed Hall Effect Thrusters (HET). HET is a relatively low power device used to propel a spacecraft after entering orbit or farther out into space.
Applications: Venus satellite will be used to survey and monitor large areas to study soil, vegetation, forests, agriculture, water and air quality and other aspects of the environment. It will help to obtain high-resolution photographs of specific sites to track environmental issues such as erosion, desertification, pollution, natural disasters, and other phenomena linked to climate change.
|245.||BRICS nations vow to fight protectionism|
India and other four other members of the BRICS grouping members (Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa) have pledged to fight protectionism.
Decision in this regard was taken at the two-day meeting of the trade ministers from BRICS nations held at Shanghai, China. They released joint statement highlighting various issues and need to address them collectively.
Highlights of Joint statement
BRICS countries should jointly tackle the challenges of economic globalisation, promote open and equitable world economy. They should uphold the common interests of the emerging markets and developing countries with a view to promoting strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth.
BRICS agreed to firmly oppose protectionism and pledged to annul any protective measures, calling on other countries to follow the same suit. They also encouraged more countries to participate in the World Trade Organisation (WTO), urging the institution to show more commitment to receiving the least developed countries (LDCs). They also agreed to play a major part in global economic governance.
BRICS is the acronym for an association of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. It was established in 2009 as BRIC. In 2011, South Africa joined this informal group and BRIC became BRICS. The first formal BRICS summit was held in Yekaterinburg, Russia in 2009. So far, eight such summits have taken place.
The BRICS members are distinguished by their large, fast-growing economies and significant influence on regional and global affairs. The BRICS countries are home to 42% of the world’s population. Their total share in the global economy has risen from 12% to 23% in the past decade and collectively contribute they more than half of global growth. They all developing or newly industrialised countries and all five are G-20 members. They are
|246.||Union Cabinet clears proxy voting for NRIs|
The Union Cabinet has cleared a proposal to extend proxy voting to Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) and overseas Indians. Currently, only service personnel are permitted to vote through proxy.
To make proxy voting for NRIs a reality, government is going to introduce bill to amend the Representation of People Act.
This decision will enable nearly 16 million NRIs to cast vote their in Indian elections (assembly and Lok Sabha elections) by appointing proxies residing in their constituencies. Overseas electors will have to appoint a nominee afresh for each election — one person can act as proxy for only one overseas voter. Government (Election Commission) will frame suitable rules and guidelines to make this move effective soon.
Need for Proxy Voting
Currently, Indian voters residing abroad can only cast their votes in their respective constituencies where they are registered. This regulation is seen as restrictive as only a few thousand Indians living overseas have registered themselves as voters (maximum from Kerala). Of these, barely anyone has travelled to the country to exercise his or her franchise during the elections.
Expert committee Recommendation
An expert committee in the Election Commission of India (ECI) working on the issue in 2015 had forwarded the legal framework to the Union Law ministry to amend electoral laws to allow overseas Indians use proxy voting.
According to rough estimates, there are about 1 crore Indians settled abroad, of which 60 lakh may be within eligible voting age. By granting them proxy voting rights, NRIs will be able to exercise franchise during elections and also need not to spend foreign currency to come to India during elections. Moreover, this decision will also enable NRIS and overseas Indian to considerably sway in election results, especially in states such as Punjab, Kerala and Gujarat where a number of expats hail from.
|247.||SEBI constitutes TK Viswanathan committee on fair market conduct|
Market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has set up a committee on ‘fair market conduct’. It will be headed former law secretary T K Viswanathan.
The committee will suggest measures for improving surveillance of the markets and strengthen rules for algorithm trades, among other norms.
Its members include representatives from law firms, mutual funds, retail and institutional brokers, forensic auditing firms, foreign portfolio investors, stock exchanges, chambers of commerce, data analytics companies and the markets regulator.
The securities market environment is dynamic, so there is need for periodic review of regulations and surveillance mechanisms in order to effectively discharge the objectives of SEBI.
Terms and Reference of Committee
The committee will suggest measures for improvement in PFTUP (Prohibition of Fraudulent and Unfair Trade Practices) regulations, PIT (Prohibition of Insider Trading) norms and norms mainly related to ‘trading plans’ and handling of ‘unpublished price sensitive information’ during takeovers.
It will suggest short term and medium term measures for improved surveillance of the markets as well as issues of high frequency trades, harnessing of technology and analytics in surveillance. It will suggest evidentiary issues in anti-fraud enforcement. It will be also responsible for recommending steps to align insider trading regulations with Companies Act provisions.
About Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI)
SEBI is the statutory regulator for the securities market in India established in 1988. It was given statutory powers through the SEBI Act, 1992. Its mandate is to protect the interests of investors in securities, promote the development of securities market and to regulate the securities market.
SEBI is responsive to needs of three groups, which constitute the market, issuers of securities, investors and market intermediaries. It has three functions quasi-legislative (drafts regulations in its legislative capacity), quasi-judicial (passes rulings and orders in its judicial capacity) and quasi-executive (conducts investigation and enforcement action in its executive function).
|248.||Cabinet approves MoU to set up BRICS Agriculture Research Platform|
The Union Cabinet has approved for a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed among India and various BRICs countries for establishment of the BRICS Agriculture Research Platform (BRICS-ARP).
The BRICS-ARP will promote sustainable agricultural development and poverty alleviation through strategic cooperation in agriculture to provide food security in the BRICS member countries.
BRICS Agriculture Research Platform (BRICS-ARP)
BRICS-ARP will serve as a global platform for science-led agriculture-based sustainable development for addressing the issues of world hunger, under-nutrition, poverty and inequality (between farmers’ and non-farmers’ income) and enhancing agricultural trade, climate resilient agriculture and bio-security. It will further intensify cooperation among BRICS countries in agricultural research policy, science and technology, innovation and capacity building, including technologies for small-holder farming in the BRICS countries
The establishment of BRICS-ARP was proposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the 7th BRICS Summit held in July 2015 at Ufa, Russia. MoU on establishment of this platform was signed by the foreign Ministers of BRICS countries in the 8th BRICS Summit held in October, 2016 at Goa, India.
|249.||Lok Sabha passes two key bills for implementation of GST in J&K|
The Lok Sabha has passed the Central Goods and Services Tax (Extension to Jammu and Kashmir) Bill, 2017 and the Integrated Goods and Services Tax (Extension to Jammu and Kashmir) Bill, 2017.
The two bills will replace the ordinances promulgated earlier in this regard to complete rolling out GST regime the Himalayan State.
The first bill provides for the extension of the Central Goods and Services Tax (CGST) Act, 2017 to J&K and the other also provides for the extension of the Integrated Goods and Services Tax (IGST) Act, 2017 to J&K.
The Central government earlier had promulgated ordinances to make the Central GST and Integrated GST (IGST), which deals with inter-state commerce, applicable to all states. However, provisions of these Central laws were not applicable to J&K unlike the rest of India, as the state is having a special constitutional status. Under this different constitution procedure, President Pranab Mukherjee had promulgated two ordinances regarding the introduction of the GST in J&K.
|250.||Union Cabinet approves MoU between India and Spain on cooperation in renewable energy|
The Union Cabinet has approved Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Spain on India-Spain Cooperation in renewable energy. The MoU was signed in May 2017 at Spain.
The MoU aims at strengthening bilateral cooperation between both countries with the exchange of expertise and networking of information in field of in renewable energy.
Under the MoU, both sides will establish the basis for a cooperative institutional relationship to encourage and promote bilateral cooperation on new and renewable energy issues on the basis of mutual benefit equality and reciprocity. The MoU also envisages establishing a Joint Working Committee (JWG) to review, monitor and discuss matters relation to areas of cooperation.