ECONOMY, PROJECT AND SCHEMES:-
1) Govt approves abolition of Foreign Investment Promotion Board:-
- The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval to the phasing out of Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB).
- The proposal entails abolishing the FIPB and allowing administrative Ministries/Departments to process applications for FDI requiring government approval.
- Henceforth, the work relating to processing of applications for FDI and approval of the Government thereon under the extant FDI Policy and FEMA, shall now be handled by the concerned Ministries/Departments in consultation with the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion(DIPP), Ministry of Commerce, which will also issue the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for processing of applications and decision of the Government under the extant FDI policy.
- In addition, Foreign Investors will find India more attractive destination and this will result in more inflow of FDI. The move will provide ease of doing business and will help in promoting the principle of Maximum Governance and Minimum Government.
- Currently around 91-95% of FDI inflow happens through the automatic route, adding that there are only 11 sectors (including defence and retail) needing government approval.
- The FIPB was initially set up under the Prime Minister’s Office following the economic liberalisation in the early 1990s.
- It shifted under the DIPP in 1996, and then in 2003 to the department of economic affairs in the finance ministry.
2) CAG report slams Vizhinjam pact:-
- Unfavourable conditions in the concession agreement of the Vizhinjam seaport project have gone against the interests of the Kerala government and to the advantage of Adani Ports and SEZ Private Limited, the Comptroller and Auditor General.
- According to the latest report on public sector undertakings tabled in the Assembly on 23 May 2017, the CAG has listed a number of conditions unfavourable to the State.
- The standard concession period for PPP (public-private participation) projects was 30 years. But it had been fixed as 40 years. This would help the company collect an additional revenue of Rs. 29,217 crore.
- As per the agreement, the concession period of 40 years can be extended by 20 years on the condition of capacity augmentation.
- The draft agreement had limited it by 10 years. Had the government stuck to the 10-year norm, the State would have got Rs. 61,095 crore.
- Owing to the modification of the concession agreement on the premise of improving clarity without any demand from the prospective bidders on December 31, 2014, the government had to pay an excess equity support of Rs. 283.08 crore in advance, incurring an interest loss of Rs. 123.71 crore.
- By affording the concessionaire, the right to mortgage all assets, the government had provided undue benefit to the company.
- The CAG has also taken note of deviations from the Central Vigilance Commission’s guidelines on pre-qualification criteria.
INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS AND RELATIONS:-
1) Africa our top priority: Modi:-
- Africa has been the NDA government’s top priority in foreign as well as economic policy matters, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said inaugurating the annual meeting of the African Development Bank in Gandhinagar, Gujarat.
- “India’s partnership with Africa is based on a model of cooperation, which is responsive to the needs of African countries. It is demand-driven and free of conditions,” the PM said, alluding to the prescriptive and conditional approach adopted by some countries in their engagements with African nations.
- “Africa-India trade has multiplied in the last 15 years,” he pointed out.
- “India’s commodity trade with Africa in 2015-16 was higher than our commodity trade with the United States of America,” the PM said.
- India’s private sector is also providing an impetus to stronger India-Africa ties with Africa accounting for nearly one-fifth of Indian overseas direct investments between 1996 and 2016, the PM pointed out.
- “India is the fifth largest country investing in the continent, with investments over the past twenty years amounting to $54 billion, creating jobs for Africans,” said Mr. Modi, who has visited six countries in Africa since 2015.
- “I am proud to say that there is no country in Africa that has not been visited by an Indian Minister in the last three years…Thirteen current or former Presidents, Prime Ministers and Vice-Presidents in Africa have attended educational or training institutions in India.
- Six current or former chiefs of armed forces in Africa trained in India’s military institutions,” the PM said to drive home the point about forging closer ties on all fronts.
- Mr. Modi, he was encouraged by the response of African countries to the International Solar Alliance initiative, which was launched at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in November 2015.
- Nauru ratified the framework and shared it with India, while five other African countries signed the pact on 22 May 2017.
2) FTA will be high on Modi-Merkel agenda:-
- Shared concerns over China’s Belt and Road initiative should push India and the European Union closer to resume stalled talks over a Free Trade Agreement, German Envoy to India Martin Ney, indicating the issue of the FTA will be high on the agenda when Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin next week.
- Referring to the Belt and Road Forum that India boycotted earlier this month in Beijing, Mr. Ney said that while Germany and other European countries had joined the China’s infrastructure and connectivity project, they had refused to sign a trade document at the summit due to a lack of transparency in the negotiations.
- Germany is making a strong pitch to India over completing the EU-BTIA (called the Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement) that has been deadlocked since 2013, despite 16 rounds of negotiations.
- Mr. Modi’s visit to the European Commission in April 2016 failed to bring about any agreement to even resume the talks that essentially broke down over high taxes, market access and India’s concerns over visas for skilled workers.
- In the meanwhile, the India-Germany Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT), one of 23 BITs with EU countries, lapsed in March this year.
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY:-
1) A Hyperloop pod to zip between cities:-
- Over the next two months, 25 students from premier colleges will put their heads together to build their idea of the pod, a vehicle that would meet high speed norms of the futuristic transport system Hyperloop.
- The Pod Design Competition, to be held in August at Hawthorne, California by the company SpaceX, is the second in the current year.
- The idea is to have a scaled-down pod prototype that can traverse a one mile long evacuated tube in a vacuum and seat only one passenger.
- Hyperloop India, the only team in the country to reach the final design stage, will build the OrcaPod, a prototype for speeds of up to 460 km per hour.
- The Hyperloop system is proposed by inventor-businessman Elon Musk of SpaceX.
- The concept envisages a pod-like vehicle being propelled through an evacuated tube, under reduced pressure in vacuum-like conditions.
2) ‘India has moved from brain drain to brain gain’:-
- Over 1,000 Indian scientists working abroad have returned to India in the last two-three years, said Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Minister for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences.
- “They feel that India is changing and they can fulfil their ambitions here. They are finding that opportunities in India are better. From brain drain, we now have a scenario of brain gain,”.
- Dr. Vardhan said that the scientists were being attracted back to India through several scholarships and fellowships, such as the Ramanujan fellowship.
- Meanwhile, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) is all set to roll out a scheme to attract scientists from abroad on a longer term basis.
- The programme, called Visiting Advanced Joint Research (VAJRA) Faculty Scheme, will offer accomplished NRI scientists the opportunity to undertake research in India for a maximum period of three months every year, while granting them the status of adjunct faculty in an Indian institution round the year.
- On the subject of developing advanced technologies locally, Dr. Harsh Vardhan said that the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) had played an important role in the development of India’s Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas, which was recently inducted into the Air Force.
3) BSNL launches satellite phone service:-
- State-owned BSNL has started satellite phone service through INMARSAT which will be initially offered to government agencies and later opened for others citizen in phased manner.
- The service will cover areas where no networks are present and will be provided by INMARSAT which has 14 satellites.
1) Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports to Initiate “Adopt A Slum” Campaign in Delhi:-
- Minister of (Independent Charge), Youth Affairs & Sports, Shri Vijay Goel announced “Adopt a Slum” – a new campaign to mark completion of three years of the Government.
- Minister said that the idea is to initiate developmental work in these slums and help the slum-dwellers in resolving various issues.
- A slum Yuva Daud/Marathon will mark the beginning of this campaign on May 26.
- Shri Goel further said that Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports, along with Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan, under the aegis of the Ministry, will initiate “Adopt a Slum” campaign and groups like NSS, public schools, rotary clubs, will pool in with efforts and manpower.
- Shri Goel also stated that he has adopted Indira slum of Timarpur area under the campaign.
1) 22 die in Manchester attack, IS claims responsibility:-
- At least 22 people, including children – one as young as eight-years-old – were killed and 59 injured in a “callous” suicide attack in the northern English city of Manchester on 22 May 2017 night at the close of a pop concert.
- One person has been arrested in connection with the attack.
- A 22-year-old British man whose parents had emigrated from Libya was identified on 23 May 2017 as the bomber.
- The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack via social media.
- The Indian High Commission confirmed that no Indian citizens are among the dead, though details of the injured are yet to be confirmed.
2) Nepal PM Prachanda resigned:-
- Nepal Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ has resigned paving way for Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba to become the next Prime Minister.
- The resignation is to honour an accord signed in August last year when Prachanda was elected the Prime Minister with Deuba’s support.
- Both Prachanda and Deuba had agreed to run the government on a rotational basis until elections to Parliament were held in February 2018, as per constitutional obligations.
1) Mann ki Baat, now a book:-
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s radio broadcast programme Mann ki Baat will be available in the form of a book now.
- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has written the preface for Mann Ki Baat – A Social Revolution on Radio, which will be presented to the President.
- The book is authored by NetCore founder and part time member of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) Rajesh Jain.
- It is being released on May 26 at Rashtrapati Bhawan with the first copy to be presented to President Pranab Mukherjee.
2) Kiren Rijiju unveils world’s first philosophical novel on God:-
- Young Indian IAS officer, Haulianlal Guite, who hails from country’s most remote areas of Manipur state has recently published a book titled “Confessions of a dying mind: the blind faith of atheism” in New Delhi.
- The book was unveiled by Union Minister Kiren Rijiju in presence of David Syiemlieth, Chairman, UPSC.
- The book billed as “the world’s first philosophical novel for God”, whose author is arguably the first Indian civil servant to write on philosophy since John Stuart Mill published On Liberty way back in 1858.