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♦ U.K. Sinha to head RBI panel on MSME revival
- The RBI has appointed an eight-member expert committee headed by former SEBI chairman U.K. Sinha to comprehensively review and propose long-term solutions for revival of the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) sector.
- Other members of the panel are Ram Mohan Mishra, Additional Secretary, Development Commissioner MSME; Pankaj Jain, Joint Secretary, Department of Financial Services, Ministry of Finance; P. K. Gupta, Managing Director, SBI; Abhiman Das, Professor, IIM-Ahmedabad; Sharad Sharma, co-founder, iSPIRT Foundation; and Bindu Ananth, Chair, Dvara Trust. The committee will submit its report by the end of June 2019.
- Among the terms of references, the RBI said the panel would review the current institutional framework in place to support the MSME sector, and examine the factors affecting the timely and adequate availability of finance to the sector.
♦ Two years after its launch, India stops printing new Rs 2,000 notes: Report
- The government of India has stopped printing Rs 2,000 currency notes in order to gradually stop their circulation, ThePrint reported.
- According to The Print, the decision has been taken on the back of suspicion in the government that the currency note was being used for hoarding, tax evasion and money laundering. The Rs 2,000 note was introduced in November 2016 after demonetisation. To counter the massive cash shortage, the government introduced new Rs 2,000 notes.
- As of March 2018, the total value of the currency in circulation was Rs 18.03 trillion, of which Rs 6.73 trillion, or 37 per cent, was in Rs 2,000 notes, and Rs 7.73 trillion, approximately 43 per cent, in Rs 500 notes. The remaining was in the lower denominations.
- When the Rs 2,000 note was introduced, the Narendra Modi government was criticised for bringing out a note of such a high denomination considering it had cancelled the Rs 1,000 note. Its introduction was criticised as it went against one of the stated objectives of demonetisation, which was to prevent hoarding of black money through high denomination notes.
♦ Brazil’s Bolsonaro takes oath as President
- Addressing a joint session of Congress minutes after taking the oath of office, Bolsonaro, a former Army captain and admirer of the country’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship, vowed to adhere to democratic norms.
- He said his government would be guided by the promises he made to Brazilian voters fed up with graft, high levels of violent crime and a still-sputtering economy.
- Bolsonaro, 63, was a seven-term fringe congressman who rode a wave of anti-establishment anger to became Brazil’s first far-right president since a military dictatorship gave way to civilian rule three decades ago.
- Bolsonaro plans to realign Brazil internationally, moving away from developing nation allies and closer to the policies of Western leaders, particularly U.S. President Donald Trump, who sent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to his inauguration.
- As a clear sign of that diplomatic shift, Bolsonaro plans to move the Brazilian embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, breaking with Brazil’s traditional support for a two-state solution to the Palestinian issue.
♦ Federer wins historic clash against Serena in Perth
- Defending champions Switzerland sealed a 2-1 victory over six-times winners United States that left them bottom of Group B but the result mattered little to over 14,000 fans in Perth and millions around the world who had eagerly awaited the contest.
- Federer and Williams, holders of a combined 43 singles Grand Slam crowns, won their singles matches to keep the mixed doubles clash alive and the deciding match lived up to the hype it had generated as both players left the court with big smiles.
- The contest had been described by local media as the most anticipated clash involving men and women since 1973’s “Battle of the Sexes” where Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs in an exhibition match.
- While that meeting between 39-times major winner King and former men’s world number one Riggs was a grudge match, there was only mutual respect between Federer and Williams, who posed for selfies before indulging autograph hunters.
- Serena said the match, which was full of laughter and had an exhibition feel to it, was a “great experience” and one she hoped would not end as quickly as it did.
♦ ISRO launches ‘Samwad’ with students to engage them on space science
- The Indian Space agency will engage youngsters across the country in activities concerning space science under this programme. The new conversation mission will inspire students cutting across schools and colleges.
- During the inauguration in Bengaluru, 40 students and 10 teachers from select schools interacted with ISRO Chairman Dr. K Sivan about the Indian Space Programme and their benefits to the common man.
- In his opening remarks Sivan said, “All of you with your boundless energy and endless curiosity are going to be my biggest source of inspiration and motivation. With so many challenging on hands this year, I thought it is important to seek the well wishes of students who are the future of this country.”
- The Chairman asked students to study science and mathematics with absolute seriousness which would enable them to take up challenging careers.
- During the three-hour stay at ISRO Head office, the students and teachers also interacted with scientists and engineers.
♦ 100% houses in 25 states electrified under Saubhagya Yojana
- Now, only about 10.48 lakh households are left to be electrified in 4 states – Assam, Rajasthan, Meghalaya and Chhattisgarh.
- These states are also taking all concerted efforts to achieve, at the earliest, saturation of household electrification.
- Since the launch of Saubhagya, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, 74.4 Lakh willing households have been electrified and state government has declared saturation of all 75 districts.
- Government of UP launched a special campaign in all parts of the state to identify any left out un-electrified households and to provide electricity connections to such households. Under the campaign, a special vehicle ‘Saubhagya Rath’, is moving around in villages/towns and any left out households may approach them to avail electricity connection under the scheme. Also, any left out household requiring electricity connection may dial 1912 to avail the facility.
- The central government launched ‘Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana’ (Saubhagya) in September 2017 to achieve the goal of universal household electrification in the country by 31 March, 2019.
♠Vocabulary (The Hindu)♣
- ARTIFACT (NOUN): lie (असत्य)
Synonyms: untruth, fiction
Antonyms: reality, truth
Example: He made a statement full of artifacts.
- ARTLESS (ADJECTIVE): simple (सीधा)
Synonyms: guileless, honest
Antonyms: contrived, artful
Example: He is such an artless man.
- ABSTINENT (ADJECTIVE): ascetic (संयमी)
Synonyms: austere, moderate
Antonyms: hungry, greedy
Example: The patients are best advised to be totally abstinent from alcohol.
- SATE (VERB): satisfy (पूरा करना)
Synonyms: cloy, gorge
Antonyms: abstain, deprive
Example: Ate your appetite at the resort’s restaurant.
- PERVERION (NOUN): spoof (दोष)
Synonyms: burlesque, distortion
Antonyms: seriousness, solemnity
Example: The absurdly lenient sentence is a perversion of justice.
- BURGESS (NOUN): civilian
Synonyms: inhabitant, resident
Antonyms: alien, foreigner
Example: He is a nice burgess.
- ARRAIGN (VERB): accuse (दोष लगाना)
Synonyms: incriminate, indict
Antonyms: exculpate, exonerate
Example: She was arraigned on charges of attempted murder.
- APPOSITE (ADJECTIVE): pertinent (योग्य)
Synonyms: germane, relevant
Antonyms: inappropriate, improper
Example: There was an apposite quotation written in the side of the wall.
Revenue collections from the Goods and Services Tax (GST) are going too far off the mark for comfort. Inflows declined for the second consecutive month in December to ₹94,726 crore from ₹97,637 crore in November and ₹1,00,710 crore in the month before. Between April and December, GST collections have averaged about ₹96,800 crore, and have not even once met the monthly target of ₹1,06,300 crore, going by the Union Budget math for 2018-19. Now in order to achieve the year-end target, GST collections over the next three months will have to reach an average of ₹1,34,900 crore. But given the spate of tax rate cuts announced by the GST Council in December that kick in this month and Prime Minister Narendra Modi hinting at further rationalisation of rates for construction materials soon, the pressure on revenues is likely to persist. Separately, as the government looks to woo traders and small businesses back to its electoral fold, the Council is considering a relaxation in the GST norms for micro, small and medium enterprises by raising the annual sales threshold for compulsory GST registration from ₹20 lakh to over ₹50 lakh. Such a relaxation, along with regulatory steps like greater forbearance for small business loans, will boost sentiment among such firms, but it will further dent the tax kitty. Other revenue heads, including direct tax or disinvestment receipts (even via innovatively structured intra-public-sector deals), are unlikely to be adequate to plug the GST shortfall.
This poses a challenge for the Centre at a time when it would have been hoping to announce some populist measures ahead of elections, while retaining its macro-economic management credentials. States’ revenue collections under the GST regime have been uneven and a GST Council panel is examining inter-State variations. But the Centre is bound to compensate States for revenue shortfalls for the first five years of the GST regime. Unless the Centre decides to drop its fiscal deficit goals, a squeeze on spending, including planned capital expenditure, may be the only option. There is a more problematic aspect to the dip in GST collections, based on economic activity and compliance trends in November. The total number of returns filed that month hit a high of 72 lakh from 55 lakh at the beginning of the fiscal, yet revenues fell. November also marked the onset of India’s festive season, with a late Deepavali. Yet, the higher compliance and the festive fervour translated into collections lower than the average monthly receipts for the year till date. Though India’s growth fell to 7.1% in the second quarter of this fiscal, an uptick in private investment over the same period was considered a sign of revival. But if consumers are not confident enough to spend, a consumption-led investment revival to take the economy to an 8% growth path seems elusive again.
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