Saturday, December 13, 2014

Bhutan became 181st member of MIGA, agency of World Bank

Bhutan on 8 December 2014 became the 181st member of Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA). MIGA is the political risk insurance and credit enhancement arm of the World Bank Group.
Bhutan has fulfilled all of its membership requirements to become the member of MIGA. 
Benefits of becoming a member
•    The move will allow the private sector and corporations of a country to explore external commercial borrowing (ECB).
•    Once a member of MIGA, the private sector and corporations in the country will have the option of directly applying to MIGA for issuance of guarantee to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).
•    MIGA’s guarantee can help investors obtain access to ECB with improved financial terms and conditions.
•    Premium rates are decided on per project basis, and vary by country, sector, transaction and the type of risk insured.
•    Bhutan is now eligible for the Agency’s investment guarantees.
•    Investors from Bhutan going into MIGA’s other developing member countries may also receive coverage for their investments.
Earlier, in October 2012, Bhutan has applied for the membership of MIGA.
To become a member, the country is required to sign the MIGA convention, and deposit its instrument of ratification.
The signed convention will further submitted to Parliament for ratification. The ratified instrument will be deposited with the World Bank. Finally, the country will have to subscribe to shares of MIGA’s capital stock.
Membership in MIGA is available only to countries that are members of the World Bank. Bhutan does not have credit rating but has been a member of the World Bank since 1981.
About Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency
MIGA is a member of the World Bank Group. MIGA aims to promote foreign direct investment (FDI) into developing countries to help support economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve people's lives.
MIGA consists of total of 177 member Governments, out of which 152 are developing and 25 are industrialised countries.

UNEP released the First Adaptation Gap Report

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on 5 December 2014 released the first Adaptation Gap Report. The Report was released during a crucial round of climate talks in Lima, Peru.

The Adaptation Gap Report serves as a preliminary assessment of global adaptation gaps in finance, technology and knowledge. It lays out a framework for future work on bridging these gaps.

The report says that even if global greenhouse gas emissions are cut to the level required to keep global temperature rise below 2°C this century, still the cost of climate change adaptation in developing countries is likely to reach two to three times the previous estimates of 70-100 billion US dollars per year by 2050.

Highlights of the first Adaptation Gap Report
Despite adaptation funding reaching 23 billion-26 billion US dollars in 2012-2013, there will be a significant funding gap after 2020 unless new and additional finance for adaptation is made available.

Without further action on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, the cost of adaptation will rise even further as more-expensive action is needed to protect communities from the intensifying impacts of climate change.

The report provides a reminder that the potential cost of inaction carries a price tag. It finds that the earlier figures are likely to be a significant underestimate.

Extending the analysis to all developing countries indicates a chance that adaptation costs could climb as high as 150 billion US dollars by 2025/2030 and 250 billion-500 billion US dollars per year by 2050. These costs are based on the assumption that wide-ranging action is taken to cut emissions.

The Report also highlights that Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States are likely to have far greater adaptation needs as without early efforts, the existing adaptation gap will widen.

Financial Gap
• There is evidence that financial commitments to adaptation objectives have increased in recent years, but scaling up financial flows to adaptation remains a priority.
• Private-sector funding is not systematically tracked. For this reason, estimates of adaptation finance flows are underestimated.
• The additional revenue can be raised from the international auctioning of emissions allowances and the auctioning of allowances in domestic emissions trading schemes, revenues from international transportation and financial transaction taxes.
• The estimates show that 26 billion-115 billion US dollars can be raised by 2020, while 70 billion-220 billion US dollars can be raised by 2050, depending on the level of climate change mitigation efforts put in place.

Technological gap
• The report highlights that there is a need to accelerate the propagation and international transfer of technologies for adaptation many of which already exist. This requires governments to remove barriers to technology uptake.
• The report looks at scientifically developed seeds which can be used to sustain agriculture within the context of a changing climate critical for most African countries.
• For instance, in Madagascar, rice varieties that mature in four months have been introduced. These rice varieties stand a greater chance of reaching maturity before the height of the cyclone season.

Knowledge gap
• The report also points to considerable opportunities for using existing knowledge on climate change and adaptation more effectively.
• For many regions and countries, there is a lack of systematic identification and analysis of adaptation knowledge gaps. 
• Integrating and interpreting scientific evidence from different sources and making it available to decision makers at all levels is one of the most important knowledge needs today.
• The report recommends that consideration of knowledge gaps be integrated more explicitly in project to ensure that the knowledge produced responds better to user needs.
• The report also suggests that a repository of adaptation options can play a pivotal role in informing development decisions.

Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed appointed as the new head of the UNMEER

Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed of Mauritania was on 11 December 2014 appointed as the new head of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER). His appointment was confirmed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Ahmed will succeed American Anthony Banbury in January 2015.

Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed

• Ahmed is currently deputy special representative of the UN chief and deputy head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).
• He served as United Nations resident coordinator, humanitarian coordinator and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) resident representative in Syria (2008-2012) and Yemen (2012- 2014). 
• Ahmed has also held several positions with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). 

UNMEER was established in September 2015 to coordinate efforts to combat the world's worst outbreak of the Ebola virus.

Ebola outbreak has till now killed 6533 people in the three West African countries- Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. It has infected around 18118 people.

Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz awarded the Confucius Peace Prize 2014

Former Cuban Leader Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz was on 9 December 2014 awarded the Confucius Peace Prize 2014 for his important contributions in eliminating nuclear war after his retirement.
He was selected from more than 20 nominees including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and two organizations. 

Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz

• Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz is a Cuban politician and revolutionary who served as Prime Minister of Cuba from 1959 to 1976.
• He became President of Cuba in 1976. However, he formally relinquished the presidency in February 2008 because of health problems.
• After his retirement, he has been actively meeting with leaders and groups from all over the world and has made important contributions to emphasizing the need to eliminate nuclear war.

Confucius Peace prize
• The Confucius Peace prize was established in 2009 as an eastern alternative to the Nobel Peace Prize following the proposal of Chinese businessman Lui Zhiqin. 
• The award is in the form of a gold statuette and includes a cash prize of 15000 US dollars.
• It was created following the Norwegian Nobel committee’s decision to honor imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. 
• Confucius Peace Prize of China is equivalent to Nobel Peace Prize and was first awarded in 2010.
• Previous recipients of award are former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and then Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
• In 2013, Yi Cheng, who is the honorary head of the Buddhist Association of China, was awarded the Confucius Peace prize.

Asha Bhosle awarded DIFF Lifetime Achievement Award 2014

Playback singer Asha Bhosle on 10 December 2014 was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 11th Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) held in Dubai. She received the award for her decades of dedication to Indian Film Industry.
Along with her, another Egyptian actor Nour El-Sherif was also received the DIFF Lifetime Achievement Award for his work on over 100 films, in a career spanning nearly five decades.
The DIFF Lifetime Achievement Award is dedicated to honour the world's greatest film actors, writers, directors and producers. Previous winners of the awards includes Martin Sheen, Omar Sharif, Faten Hamamah, Adel Imam, Jameel Rateb, Sabah, Morgan Freeman, Sean Penn, Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Daoud Abdel Sayed, Youssef Chahine, Rachid Bouchareb, Yash Chopra, Subhash Ghai among others.
About Asha Bhosle
• Asha Bhosle was born in 1933 and started her career as playback singer in 1943. 
• She has recorded more than 12000 songs and she is known for her versatility as a singer is it folk songs, Indian classical music, pop songs, ghazals and bhajans.
• She is noted as the most recorded artist in music history by the Guinness Book of World Records.
• She was also awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 2000 and the Padma Vibhushan 2008.
• In 2013, she made acting debut in the Mai movie at the age of 79 and played role of 65 years old-mother who suffers from Alzheimer's disease and is abandoned by her children.
About Dubai International Film Festival
The Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) is the leading film festival started in 2004. The festival serves as an influential platform for Arab filmmakers and talent at an international level, by leading the cinema movement in Gulf region.

15th Indio-Russian Bilateral Annual Summit held in New Delhi

15th Indio-Russian Bilateral Annual Summit was held in Delhi 11 December 2014. President Vladimir Putin of Russia visited India to hold the summit on the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin released a joint statement in which both the countries agreed on a vision for strengthening the India-Russia partnership over the next decade.
Highlights of the summit
• During the summit, both the countries signed 20 agreements in the fields such as nuclear energy, oil and gas, health, investment, mining, media and wind power. 
• Both the countries agreed on the construction of at least 12 new nuclear power units within the next 20 years, including two new units at the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant. Both also countries agreed to find a new site to construct a new nuclear plant.
• Both the countries agreed to promote bilateral economic, trade and investment cooperation, including the idea of exploring the use of national currencies in settlements. 
• Both the countries agreed to consult and coordinate in multilateral forums such as G20, East Asia Summit (EAS), BRICS and RIC.  The bilateral program on enhanced cooperation in oil and gas sphere underlines the serious commitments of the two counties to develop cooperation in energy area of great promise.
• Both the countries envisage broader collaboration between hydrocarbon companies of the two countries in oil and gas exploration and production as well as in LNG projects and supplies.
• India reassured Russia that Russia will remain primary defence partner of India, though both the countries did not reach a concrete agreement on the fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) and a multirole transport aircraft (MTA) projects.
• Russia expressed that it would look at participating in the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor project and will speed up the negotiations for a free trade agreement between India and the Eurasian Union.
• Russia looks forward to India to become a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
• India and Russia supports the evolution of open, balanced and inclusive security architecture in the Asia Pacific region based on collective efforts, considering legitimate interests of all states of the region and guided by respect for norms and principles of international law.
About Indo-Russian Annual Summit 
• President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Vajpayee launched the annual Summit process in 2000. The first summit Prime Minister Vajpayee visited Moscow and held the summit.
• This is President Vladimir Putin's eleventh Annual Summit and first summit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Maharashtra government declared Dahi Handi as adventurous sport

The Maharashtra Government on 12 December 2014 declared Dahi Handi as adventurous sport to make it a safe sport. Dahi Handi involves making a human pyramid and breaking an earthen pot filled with buttermilk tied at a height on the occasion of Krishan Janmashtami. It is a traditional sport in Maharashtra.
The state government took decision to make Dahi Handi as a safe activity and will formulate new rules and safety guidelines prescribed by the state commission. It will also ensure proper training for the participants and the use of all safety instruments.
In August 2014, Bombay High Court had banned the participation of children below 18 years of age in Dahi Handi citing fatal accidents at the events. However, Supreme Court had reduced the age limit to 12 years and had asked the organizers to use proper safety measure at events.

Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices banned sale of 80 generic drugs

German drug regulator Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) on 10 December 2014 banned the sale of 80 generic drugs with immediate effect on the grounds that their clinical trials were insufficient.
It also suspended the marketing authorisation given to the drugs concerned based on the data of clinical trials conducted by the India's pharmaceutical research company GVK Biosciences between 2008 and 2014. 

As per the data, the generic versions of these drugs have the same effect on the human body as the original branded versions, which cannot be accepted as a basis for marketing approval. 

The regulator itself investigated the marketing authorisation of 176 medicines by 28 pharmaceutical companies.

The ban comes after regulators in Germany, France and Belgium suspended marketing approval of 25 generic drugs in the first week of December 2014. 

Highlights of the ban
• All the drug manufacturers, wholesale dealers, medical stores and other outlets were ordered not to sell or use these 80 drugs any longer. 
• With the ban of 80 drugs, the medicines for treating high blood pressure, depression, migraine, epilepsy and Parkinson's disease will be affected. 
• These medicines involved the products of 16 pharmaceutical companies including Stada and Dr Reddy's, Lupin, Micro Labs and Torrent. MNC companies facing the ban include Mylan and Abbott.
• The banned drugs include Escitalopram, Clopidogrel, Irbesartan, Levetiracetam and Valsartan, Cefpodoxim and Tacpan. Patients using these medicines were advised to consult their doctors.

UN World Economic Situation and Prospects 2015 (WESP) report released

The UN World Economic Situation and Prospects 2015 (WESP) report was released on 10 December 2014.
According to report, global economic growth is forecasted to continue increasing over the next two years, despite legacies from the financial crisis continuing to weigh on growth, and the emergence of new challenges, including geopolitical conflicts such as in Ukraine, and the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
Highlights of the WESP 2015 report
  • The global economy is expected to grow at 3.1 percent in 2015 and 3.3 percent in 2016. These figures are higher than the 2.6 percent growth recorded in 2014, where the pace of expansion has been moderate and uneven.
  • Among the developed countries, the United States fared well and has maintained economic growth above 2 percent in 2014, and expected to continue growth of 2.8 percent in 2015 and 3.1 percent in 2016.
  • Economic growth in South Asia is also set to gradually pick up from an estimated 4.9 percent in 2014 to 5.4 percent in 2015 and 5.7 percent in 2016.
  • In 2014, Economic growth of East Asia, including China managed to register relatively robust growth, while India led South Asia to a moderate strengthening.
  • The developing countries as a group are expected to grow at 4.8 percent in 2015 and 5.1 percent in 2016, up from the 4.3 percent estimated for 2014.
  • Average inflation for developing economies will also fall slowly over the outlook period.
  • The inflation for East Asia will stay around the recent levels of 23 percent over the outlook period.
  • A pronounced decrease is forecast for South Asia due to falling inflation in almost all countries, especially in India and Iran.
  • Regional average inflation for South Asia is projected to decrease gradually from 14.7 percent in 2013 to 7.2 percent in 2016.
  • Apart from India, the baseline forecast projects a moderate growth recovery in 2015 and 2016 for almost all emerging economies, including Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia, South Africa and Turkey.
  • A slight improvement of economic growth is expected in Western Europe from 1.7 percent in 2015 to two percent in 2016.
  • The Western Europe is held back by the travails of the euro area, where the level of GDP has yet to regain its pre-recession peak.
  • It is imperative to strengthen international policy coordination to reduce risks and meet challenges of global economy.
  • The forthcoming further normalization of the US Federal Reserves monetary policy posed significant risks and uncertainties for the global economic outlook, depending on the timing and strategy of the monetary tightening, as well as the response by financial markets.
  • Along with robust external demand, global economic growth is expected to be underpinned by a moderate strengthening of domestic consumption and investment as countries benefit from improved macroeconomic conditions.
  • Some economic indicators are positive and moving in the right direction which points to the potential for a gradual return to consistent economic growth, many risks and uncertainties could dash efforts to get the global economy on track and moving forward.
  • There is a significant downside risks for the South Asian region due to the continuing fragility of the global economy and considerable country-specific weaknesses, including political instability and the agricultural dependency on the monsoon.
  • The worldwide macroeconomic policies should be aligned toward supporting robust and balanced growth, creating productive jobs, and maintaining long-term economic and financial stability.
WESP on India
  • The recovery in South Asia will be led by India, which accounts for about 70 percent of regional output and other economies such as Bangladesh and Iran are also projected to see stronger growth in the forecast period.
  • Economic growth of India, which is estimated to record a 5.4 percent economic growth in 2014, will improve to 5.9 percent in 2015 and 6.3 percent in 2016. 
    India is likely to make progress in implementing economic policy reforms and help provide support to business and consumer confidence.
  • The forecasted growth of India about six percent growth in 2016 will be the highest since the 2008-2011 period when it had grown at about 7.3 percent. It has slowed to 4.7 percent in 2012.

Ebola fighters named TIME's Person of the Year 2014

Ebola fighters collectively were named as the TIME’s Person of the Year 2014 on 10 December 2014 by the TIME’s magazine.  The announcement was made by Nancy Gibbs, the Managing Editor of TIME.
They were selected from an initial list of 50 world leaders, business heads and record-breaking artists for their tireless acts of courage and mercy, for buying the world time to boost its defences, for risking, for persisting, for sacrificing and saving the thousands of lives from Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).
In their honour, the magazine has come out with five cover pages featuring five of them. 
These are:
  • Dr Kent Brantly: the U.S. doctor who contracted Ebola while treating patients in Liberia
  • Dr Jerry Brown: A Liberian surgeon who turned his hospital's chapel into the country's first Ebola treatment center
  • Foday Gallah: An ambulance driver who survived the infection
  • Salome Karwah: Medecins Sans Frontieres nurse
EVD since its outbreak in early 2014 turned into an epidemic killing more than 7000 people across Liberia, Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone before traveling to Europe and the U.S.
The Top Four Runners Up of the TIME’s Person of the Year 2014
In the TIME’s Person of the Year 2014, Ferguson Protesters came at the second place. They started their protest in August 2014 and built a movement that revived national conversation about race and justice. The protesters took to the streets following the shooting down of 18-year-old unarmed black man Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson.
At third place came the Russian President Vladimir Putin who invaded Crimea in February 2014 and in doing so, restored Russia's honour and saw his approval ratings soar.
The fourth place was bagged by Masoud Barzani, the acting president of the Iraqi Kurdish Region.
At fifth place came Chinese entrepreneur Jack Ma, who founded Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant that debuted with 25 billion US dollars IPO in September 2014 making it one of the world's most valuable tech companies.
Other than this, in the readers’ poll of TIMES magazine that was conducted online Prime Minister Narendra Modi won the poll with a whopping 16 percent margin.
TIME's Person of the Year since 2000
This is an annual honour bestowed by Time magazine since 1927. It goes to the person who most influenced the news during the year for better or worse.
  • 2000: George W. Bush
  • 2001: Rudolph Giuliani, who was New York City's mayor on 9/11
  • 2002: The Enron Whistleblowers
  • 2003: The American soldier
  • 2004: George W. Bush
  • 2005: The Good Samaritans - Bono and Bill Gates
  • 2006: You - represented by the Internet
  • 2007: Vladimir Putin
  • 2008: Barack Obama
  • 2009: Ben Bernanke
  • 2010: Mark Zuckerberg
  • 2011: The Protester
  • 2012: Barack Obama
  • 2013: Pope Francis

Anurag Jain appointed as the Joint Secretary in Prime Minister's Office

Senior IAS officer Anurag Jain was on 10 December 2014 appointed as the Joint Secretary in Prime Minister's Office (PMO) of India.
Jain will serve the PMO till 28 June 2016, the balance period of his central deputation. He is presently working as Joint Secretary in Department of Financial Services under the Union Finance Ministry.

Anurag Jain
• Anurag Jain is a 1989 batch IAS officer of Madhya Pradesh cadre.
• He was appointed as a Director at National Housing Bank in October 2011.
• He became the Interim Chief Executive Officer and Interim Managing Director of IFCI Limited from May 2013 to July 2013.
• He has also served as an Acting Chairman and Acting Managing Director of Export-Import Bank of India from December 2013 to February 2014.

CCEA approved implementation of Tea Development and Promotion Scheme

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) on 10 December 2014 approved the implementation of the Tea Development and Promotion Scheme of the Tea Board for the 12th Five Year Plan.
The Cabinet approved the Scheme with a project outlay of 1425 crore rupees. The Tea Development and Promotion Scheme was proposed by the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

The Scheme is aimed at supporting development of improved varieties and technologies for increasing production, productivity and quality of tea. It seeks to promote Indian tea in the overseas and domestic markets.

Component-wise break-up of 1425 crore rupees project outlay
• As per the scheme, 400 crore rupees will be spent on plantation development.
• 350 crore rupees are allocated for quality up-gradation and product diversification.
• The cabinet earmarked 200 crore rupees for market promotion and 150 crore rupees for research and development.
• Human Resource Development was allocated with 100 crore rupees.
• The Cabinet allotted 200 crore rupees for the Development of Small holding and 25 crore rupees for the National Programme of Tea Regulation.

Ruhi Singh won Miss Universal Peace & Humanity 2014

Ruhi Singh of India was in news because she won Miss Universal Peace & Humanity 2014 at Beirut, Lebanon on 10 December 2014.She is the first person to win this pageant from India and she won the pageant among the 145 other countries. She was Femina Miss India East first runner-up in 2011.
Rebecca Boggiano from Australia finished as first runner-up and Sofia Alkhadra from Palestine was the second runner-up.
Miss Universal Peace & Humanity 2014 Pageant promotes, inspires, and empowers all women to develop and utilize their strengths and inner qualities to positively impact all people throughout the world.
About Miss Universal Peace & Humanity
• The Miss Universal Peace & Humanity 2014 was conceptualized by the World Peace Mission Organization under the patronage of the International Human Rights Commission. 
• The purpose of international grand beauty pageant with the theme Beauty Speaks for Peace is to call out for peace, to embrace peace, to preserve peace.
• The main aim is to identify and showcase the world's best tourism cause and ambassadors for peace. It also aims at promoting peace around the world and beauties from around the world compete in this event.