1 . Trade deficit hits 3-year high , widens to $14.88 billion in December
Exports climbed at a healthy pace in December but imports rose faster, sending the trade deficit to a three-year high . Exports increased 12.3% to $27 billion last month, while higher gold and crude buys lifted imports by 21.1% to $41.9 billion . The trade deficit widened to $14.88 billion in December from $11.5 billion a year ago. The gap had touched $16.2 billion in November 2014.
Exports have been on a positive trajectory since August 2016 to December 2017 with a dip of 1.1% in October 2017. Major commodity groups of export showing positive growth over the corresponding month of last year are engineering goods (25.32%), petroleum products (25.15%), gems and jewellery (2.38%), organic and inorganic chemicals (31.36%), and drugs and pharmaceuticals (6.95%). Appreciation of the rupee has dented export competitiveness. Gold imports increased 71% to $3.3 billion while import of pearls, precious and semi-precious stones rose 93% to $3.4 billion in December.
Overall, current account deficit is likely to widen nearly threefold to $42-44 billion in FY18 from $15 billion in FY17.
2 . India reclaiming place at growth leader , says IMF
After a short period of slowdown in the economy, India is reclaiming its place as a growth leader, says the International Monetary Fund (IMF) . With strong consumption and investment, rising exports, and steady capital inflows, the outlook for Asian region remains bright.
View of World Bank
Recently, World Bank had also projected India’s growth rate in 2018 at 7.3 per cent and 7.5 per cent in the next two years . India is estimated to have grown at 6.7 per cent in 2017 despite initial setbacks from demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax (GST), according to the 2018 Global Economics Prospect released by the World Bank recently.
View of CSO
According to Central Statistics Office (CSO), India’s economic growth is expected to slow to a four-year low of 6.5 per cent in the 2017-18 fiscal , mainly due to poor performance of agriculture and manufacturing sectors
Comparison with China
According to World Bank, China grew at 6.8 per cent in 2017, 0.1 per cent more than that of India, while in 2018, its growth rate is projected at 6.4 per cent. And in the next two years, the country’s growth rate will drop marginally to 6.3 and 6.2 per cent, respectively.
3 . BBIN Motor Vehicles Agreement Regains Momentum
Bangladesh, India and Nepal have agreed on the text of the operating procedures for passenger vehicle movement in the sub-region under the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicles Agreement (MVA) signed in June 2015, and will soon complete the internal approval processes for signing of the passenger protocol.
What is BBIN MVA?
The landmark MVA was signed by Transport Ministers of the BBIN countries in Thimphu, Bhutan on 15 June 2015 . The agreement will permit the member states to ply their vehicles in each other’s territory for transportation of cargo and passengers, including third country transport and personal vehicles .
Cargo vehicles will be able enter any of the four nations without the need for trans-shipment of goods from one country’s truck to another’s at the border. Under the system, cargo vehicles are tracked electronically, permits are issued online and sent electronically to all land ports.
Bangladesh, India, and Nepal have already ratified the MVA and have agreed to start implementation of the MVA among the three signatory countries, with Bhutan joining after it ratifies the Agreement.
Role of ADB
The Asian Development Bank(ADB) has been providing technical, advisory, and financial support to the BBIN MVA initiative as part of its assistance to the South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) program, a projects-based economic cooperation initiative that brings together the BBIN countries, Maldives, Sri Lanka and more recently, Myanmar. ADB is the secretariat of SASEC.
What is BBIN?
The Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal (BBIN) Initiative is a sub regional architecture of countries in Eastern South Asia, a subregion of South Asia. It meets through official representation of member states to formulate, implement and review quadrilateral agreements across areas such as water resources management, connectivity of power, transport, and infrastructure.
4 . CJI sets up 5-judge constitution bench to hear major issues
Amid a virtual rift between the Chief Justice Dipak Misra and four senior-most judges over assignment of important cases, the Supreme Court today announced the composition of a 5-judge constitution bench headed by the CJI, which does not include them.
As per official information, the 5-judge bench, comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A K Sikri, Justice A M Khanwilkar, Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice Ashok Bhushan, will commence the hearing on a range of crucial matters from January 17.
What is a Constitution bench?
Constitution bench is the name given to the benches of the Supreme Court of India which consist of at least five judges of the court which sit to decide any case “involving a substantial question of law as to the interpretation” of the Constitution of India.
This provision has been mandated by Article 145 (3) of the Constitution of India. The Chief Justice of India has the power to constitute a Constitution Bench and refer cases to it.
Constitution benches have decided many of India’s best-known and most important Supreme Court cases, such as A.K. Gopalan v. State of Madras, Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala (basic structure doctrine) and Ashoka Kumar Thakur v. Union of India (OBC reservations) etc.
5 . IWDRI 2018
The International Workshop on Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (IWDRI) was inaugurated recently at Delhi . The two-day workshop is being organised by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) in collaboration with United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).This workshop is a unique opportunity to exchange ideas and explore collaborative initiatives.
What is UNISDR?
The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) was created in December 1999. The successor to the secretariat of the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction, it was established to ensure the implementation of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (General Assembly (GA) resolution 54/219. Its Headquarters is at Geneva , Switzerland.
UNISDR is part of the United Nations Secretariat and its functions span the social, economic, environmental as well as humanitarian fields. UNISDR supports the implementation, follow-up and review of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction adopted by the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction on 18 March 2015 in Sendai, Japan.
The Sendai Framework is a 15-year voluntary, non-binding agreement that maps out a broad, people-centred approach to disaster risk reduction, succeeding the 2005-2015 Hyogo Framework for Action