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1. Amitabh Kant appointed CEO of NITI Aayog
1. Senior IAS officer Amitabh Kant has been given additional charge as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog. Decision in this regard was taken by Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi.
2. Mr. Kant’s appointment comes after incumbent NITI Aayog CEO Sindhushree Khullar’s extended tenure is coming on 31st December 2015. Amitabh Kant is IAS officer of 1980 Batch of Kerala Cadre. Presently, he is serving as Secretary, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) and is expected to retire in March 2016.
2. China launched Gaofen-4 dual-use geostationary satellite
1. China successfully launched Gaofen-4 Earth observation satellite toward a geostationary orbit from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in the south-western province of Sichuan.
2. The Satellite was launched aboard a Long March-3B carrier rocket.Launched as a part of the China High-resolution Earth Observation System (CHEOS), Gaofen-4 is located at the orbit 36000 kilometres away from the earth and moves synchronously with the earth.
3. Report of Vijay Kelkar Committee on Revisiting & Revitalizing PPP Model released
1. The Union Ministry of Finance released the report of the Committee on Revisiting and Revitalising Public Private Partnership (PPP) Model. The 9-member committee was headed by former Finance Secretary Vijay Kelkar and submitted its report on 19 November 2015.
2. The committee was constituted on 26 May 2015 to review the experience of PPP Policy and suggest measures to improve capacity building in Government for their effective implementation.
More importantly, the committee recognized the PPP Model in infrastructure as a valuable instrument to speed up infrastructure development in India. Hence, it called for PPP contracts need to focus more on service delivery instead of fiscal benefits alone.
3. The recommendations of the committee are of relevance to the overall growth of the economy as PPP projects have become the preferred mode to develop large scale infrastructure projects.
At present, over 12007 PPP projects are under implementation across the country, involving about 7.2 lakh crore rupees worth of investment.
4. Key recommendations of the committee
• Significance: Speeding up of the PPP model is urgently required for India to grow rapidly and generate a demographic dividend for itself and also to tap into the large pool of pension and institutional funds from aging populations in the developed countries.
• India’s success in deploying PPPs as an important instrument for creating infrastructure will depend on a change in attitude of all authorities dealing with PPPs-public agencies, government departments supervising and auditing and legislative institutions.
• The Government may take early action to amend the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 which does not distinguish between genuine errors in decision-making and acts. This is necessary to make only malafide action by public servants punishable and not errors.
• Experience has also underlined the need to further strengthen the three key pillars of PPP frameworks namely Governance, Institutions and Capacity, to build on the established foundation for the next wave of implementation.
• The Committee strongly endorsed setting up of the “3PI” which can, in addition to functioning as a centre of excellence in PPPs, enable research, review and roll out activities to build capacity, etc.
• Independent regulators should be set up with a unified mandate that encompasses activities in different infrastructure sub sectors to ensure harmonized performance by the regulators.
• Model concession agreements be issued only when 80 per cent of the land for a project has been acquired.
• The committee advised against adopting PPP structures for very small projects, since the benefits of delivering small PPP projects may not be commensurate with the resulting costs and the complexity of managing such partnerships over a long period.
• Unsolicited Proposals (“Swiss Challenge”) may be actively discouraged as they bring information asymmetries into the procurement process and result in lack of transparency and fair and equal treatment of potential bidders in the procurement process.
• Since state owned entities SoEs/PSUs are essentially Government entities and work within the government framework, they should not be allowed to bid for PPP projects.
• The Committee recommended the government to notify comprehensive guidelines on the applicability and scope of access to, under RTI and Art 12 of the Constitution, and auditing of financial related matters in order to avoid any delays in public asset provision.
• Banks and financial institution should be encouraged to issue Deep Discount Bonds or Zero Coupon Bonds (ZCB) to mobilise long term capital at low cost.
• Ministry of Finance may develop and publish a national PPP Policy document and it should be endorsed by the Parliament to impart an authoritative framework to implementing executive agencies as well as to legislative and regulatory agencies charged with oversight responsibilities.
4. RBI released report of Deepak Mohanty Committee on Medium-term Path on Financial Inclusion
1. The Reserve Bank of India released the Report of the Committee on Medium-term Path on Financial Inclusion. The committee was constituted on 15 July 2015 by the RBI with the objective of working out a medium-term (five year) measurable action plan for financial inclusion.
2. The 14-member committee was headed by RBI Executive Director Deepak Mohanty.
3. Salient recommendations of the committee
• Banks have to make special efforts to step up account opening for females, and the Government may consider a deposit scheme for the girl child – Sukanya Shiksha - as a welfare measure.
• Given the predominance of individual account holdings (94 per cent of total credit accounts), a unique biometric identifier such as Aadhaar should be linked to each individual credit account.
• Account lined Aadhaar and the credit information should be shared with companies to enhance the stability of the credit system and improve access.
• To improve ‘last mile’ service delivery and to translate financial access into enhanced convenience and usage, a low-cost solution should be developed by utilisation of the mobile banking facility for maximum possible G2P payments.
• In order to increase formal credit supply to all agrarian segments, digitisation of land records is the way forward. This should be backed by an Aadhaar-linked mechanism for Credit Eligibility Certificates to facilitate credit flow to actual cultivators.
• A scheme of ‘Gold KCC’ (kisan credit card) with higher flexibility for borrowers with prompt repayment records, which could be dovetailed with a government-sponsored personal insurance, and digitisation of KCC to track expenditure pattern.
• Encourage multiple guarantee agencies to provide credit guarantees in niche areas for micro and small enterprises (MSEs), and explore possibilities for counter guarantee and re-insurance.
• Introduction of a system of online registration of BCs, their training and monitoring their activity including delinquency, and entrusting more complex financial products such as credit to trained BCs with good track record.
• Corporates should be encouraged to nurture SHGs as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives.
• National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) is advised to develop a multi-lingual mobile application for customers who use non-smart phones, especially for users of national unified USSD platform (NUUP).
5. Gujarat clinched maiden Vijay Hazare Trophy
1. Gujarat clinched the Vijay Hazare Cricket Trophy. It is the first time that Gujarat won the trophy.
2. In the final of the limited overs tournament, Gujarat defeated Delhi by 139 runs at M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru.
The 2015–16 Vijay Hazare Trophy was the 14th season of the Vijay Hazare Trophy.
6. Oscar-winning cinematographer Haskell Wexler passed away
1. Oscar-winning cinematographer Haskell Wexler died peacefully in his sleep in California, US. He was 93. He was one of the America’s most influential cinematographers.
2. He was best known for his work in films like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and American Graffiti.
7. India asks Iran to expedite procedures of Farzad-B gas field
1. India has emphasised to Iran for early completion of all necessary procedures for its participation in the Farzad-B gas field worth 5 billion US dollars. India’s request was forwarded by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to Iranian Minister for Economic Affairs and Finance Ali Taiebnia in the Joint Commission Meeting.