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Steady reform progress fueling Indias growth pick up: ADB
Apr 06,2017

Indias fast growth will resume with gross domestic product (GDP) expanding by 7.4% in fiscal year (FY) 2018 and 7.6% in FY2019 supported by reform measures, says a new Asian Development Bank (ADB) report.

In its new Asia Development Outlook (ADO) 2017 report, ADB notes that the deceleration to 7.1% registered last year was due in part to slower investment growth. Also contributing to the moderation was the impact of the governments demonetization of high-value currency notes, though this effect is seen as largely temporary. ADO is ADBs flagship annual economic publication.

An array of important reforms has propelled Indias economic success in recent years, said Yasuyuki Sawada, ADBs Chief Economist. A continued commitment to reform n++ especially in the banking sector - will help India maintain its status as the worlds fastest growing major economy.

Indias growth in FY2017 was fueled by agriculture and government services. Industrial growth, however, slowed to 5.8% over the last 12 months from 8.2% in FY2016. Growth in services moderated to 7.9% due to slowdowns in finance and real estate. Net foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country remained strong at $36.7 billion in FY2017 following the governments efforts to simplify guidelines and allow FDI in key economic sectors.

Moving forward, the ADO expects growth to accelerate through increased consumption, as more new bank notes are put in circulation, and as planned salary and pension hike for state employees are implemented. The public sector will remain the main driver of investment as banks continue to wind down balance sheets constrained by high levels of stressed assets. Exports are forecast to grow by 6% in the coming year.

Inflation, meanwhile, is expected to accelerate to 5.2% in FY2018 and 5.4% in FY2019 as the global economy recovers and commodity prices rebound.

The assessment notes risks from higher oil prices as India imports nearly 80% of its fossil fuel needs. A rapid increase in the price of oil could undermine the countrys fiscal position, stoke inflation, and swell the current account deficit. The report estimates that a $1 increase in oil prices raises the import bill by nearly $2 billion. In FY2016, rising oil prices resulted in a 37.6% increase in Indias import bill. To mitigate Indias vulnerability to oil price swings, the government has proposed reducing dependence on imported oil by 10% over the next 5 years through more efficient domestic production and increased private investment into the sector.

ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, ADB is celebrating 50 years of development partnership in the region. It is owned by 67 members - 48 from the region.

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JVs with PSUs for Nuclear Power Generation
Apr 06,2017

Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), a Public Sector Enterprise (PSE) of the Department of Atomic Energy has entered into Joint Ventures with some of the PSUs for setting up nuclear power projects.

The details of the Joint Ventures are as follows:

JV NameIncorporated
onJV PartnerShareholding  Ratio
(NPCIL : JV Partner)Anushakti Vidhyut Nigam Limited27.01.2011NTPC Limited51 : 49NPCIL - Indian Oil Nuclear
Energy Corporation Limited06.04.2011Indian Oil Corporation Limited74 : 26NPCIL - NALCO Power Company Limited 02.03.2012National Aluminum Company 74 : 26

A well established system of information security is in place in Nuclear Power   Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) in line with the policies and guidelines issued  by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), comprising of both administrative   measures and technical control systems. The systems are periodically reviewed both internally and by external teams comprising of members from other units of DAE for effecting improvements. Detailed procedure for control of confidential information is also in place.

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544 ULBs Signs MoU with EESL For Led Street Lights
Apr 06,2017

544 Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) have entered into an implementation agreement with Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) for replacement of street lights with LED street lights till 03.04.2017.

The target is to replace 3.5 crore conventional street lights by LED street lights, till March 2019. As on 03.04.2017, over 19.67 lakh conventional street lights have been replaced with LED street lights. EESL is playing an important role as a catalyst in replacing the lights, while several other suppliers are also engaged in the same.

Proposal for replacement of conventional street lights with LED street lights has been submitted to remaining States by EESL. In order to encourage States/UTs to join this programme, Ministry of Power has also written to all the States/UTs requesting them to participate in this programme.

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Investment and private consumption push OECD GDP growth up to 0.7% in Q4 of 2016: OECD
Apr 06,2017

Real GDP in the OECD area increased by 0.7% in the fourth quarter of 2016, compared with 0.5% in the previous quarter, according to provisional estimates. Investment and private consumption made the largest contributions to OECD growth of 0.3 and 0.5 percentage point, respectively (up from 0.0 and 0.3, respectively in the third quarter of 2016.)

For 2016 as a whole, OECD annual GDP grew by 1.8%, mainly driven by private consumption (which contributed 1.4 percentage point) and to a lesser extent by government consumption and investment (each contributing 0.3 percentage point). Net exports and destocking dragged annual OECD growth down by minus 0.1 percentage point each.

Drivers of GDP growth varied across the Major Seven economies

In the United Kingdom, GDP increased by 0.7% (up from 0.5%). Significant destocking in the fourth quarter (which contributed minus 1.6 percentage point, compared with 1.2 percentage point in the previous quarter) was more than offset by a strong rebound in foreign trade (1.7 percentage point, up from minus 1.4).Private consumption added another 0.4 percentage point.

In Canada, GDP growth slowed to 0.6% (down from 0.9% in the previous quarter), mainly reflecting destocking (which contributed minus 0.7 percentage point, compared with 0.4 in the previous quarter). The contribution from investment also decreased significantly (minus 0.3 percentage point, down from 0.0). These negative contributions were partially offset by a strong improvement in net exports and increased government consumption (1.3 and 0.1 percentage point respectively, up from 0.3 and minus 0.1).

In the United States, GDP growth slowed to 0.5%, compared with 0.9% in the previous quarter, mainly reflecting a reduced contribution from net exports (minus 0.5 percentage point, down from 0.2 in the previous quarter) and also, albeit more moderately, from government consumption. These effects were partially offset by positive contributions from private consumption, stockbuilding and investment.

In Germany, GDP growth picked-up to 0.4% (up from 0.1% in the previous quarter), driven by higher private consumption, government consumption and investment (0.2 percentage point each, from 0.1, 0.0 and 0.0 respectively). These positive contributions were slightly offset by net exports (minus 0.4 percentage point, from minus 0.3).

GDP increased by 0.4 % in France (up from 0.2% in the previous quarter), mainly reflecting a rebound in the foreign trade balance (0.1 percentage point from minus 0.6) and increased contributions from private consumption and investment (0.3 and 0.1 percentage point respectively, from 0.0 each). These positive contributions were partially offset by destocking (minus 0.2, from 0.7).

In Japan, GDP growth was stable (at 0.3%). Lower contributions from net exports (0.2 percentage point, compared with 0.4 in the previous quarter) and private consumption (0.0 percentage point compared with 0.2) were offset by increased contributions from investment and government consumption.

In Italy, the slight deceleration of GDP growth (0.2%, compared with 0.3% in the previous quarter) reflected destocking and slowing private consumption while government consumption and net exports made positive contributions (0.1 and 0.0 percentage point respectively, from 0.0 and minus 0.2).

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Strong Passenger Demand, Record Load Factor in February 2017: IATA
Apr 06,2017

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced global passenger traffic results for February showing a second month of strong demand growth to begin 2017. Total revenue passenger kilometers (RPKs) rose 4.8%, compared to the same month last year. Although this was below growth achieved in January, year-to-year comparisons are distorted because February 2016 was a leap month. Adjusting for the one fewer day this year, the underlying growth rate was estimated at 8.6%, just under January 2017 increase of 8.9%. Monthly capacity (available seat kilometers or ASKs) increased by 2.7%, and load factor rose 1.6 percentage points to 79.5%, which was the highest ever recorded for February.

The strong demand momentum from January has continued, supported by lower fares and a healthier economic backdrop. Although we remain concerned over the impact of any travel restrictions or closing of borders, we have not seen the attempted US ban on travel from six countries translate into an identifiable traffic trend. Overall travel demand continues to grow at a robust rate, said Alexandre de Juniac, IATAs Director General and CEO.

IATA estimates that allowing for inflation, the price of air travel has fallen by more than 10% in real terms over the past year, accounting for more than half the growth in RPKs in early 2017.

International Passenger Markets

February international passenger demand rose 5.8% compared to February 2016, which was down compared to the 9.1% yearly increase recorded in January. Adjusting for the leap year, however, growth actually accelerated slightly compared to January. Total capacity climbed 3.4%, and load factor rose 1.8 percentage points to 78.4%.

European carriers saw February demand increase by 6.5% compared to a year ago. Traffic has resumed its growth after the terrorist disruptions in 2016, supported in part by momentum in the regional economy. Capacity climbed 3.4% and load factor surged 2.4 percentage points to 81.1%.

Asia-Pacific airlines February traffic rose 5.2% compared to the year-ago period, maintaining the strong momentum of the past few months. Intra-Asia traffic remains robust and conditions on the Asia-Europe route have continued to recover from last years terrorism-related slowdown. Capacity increased 2.9% and load factor climbed 1.7 percentage points to 79.8%.

Middle East carriers had the strongest growth, with a 9.5% demand increase in February compared to a year ago. Capacity rose 7% and load factor climbed for a fourth consecutive month to 74.3%, up 1.8 percentage points over last year.

North American airlines traffic climbed 0.3%, which was the slowest among the regions. However, adjusting for the leap year, growth was estimated at 3.4%. Traffic to/ from Asia continues to move upward but transatlantic demand has trended sideways since mid-2016. Capacity inched up 0.1% and load factor edged up 0.1 percentage point to 75.9%.

Latin American airlines saw February traffic rise 5.9% compared to February 2016. Capacity increased by 2.8%, boosting load factor 2.3 percentage points to 81.4%, highest among the regions. Robust international demand within South America is offsetting weaker traffic to North America, which has trended downward since mid-2015 and fell by 3.4% in January, the most recent month for which route-specific results are available.

African airlines continued their recovery, with February traffic up 7.1% compared to a year ago. This mainly reflects the upturn on the key route to/from Europe, offsetting struggles in the regions biggest economies of Nigeria and South Africa. Capacity rose 2.3%, and load factor jumped 2.9 percentage points to 66.0%.

Domestic Passenger Markets

Domestic travel demand rose 3.3% in February compared to February 2016, reduced from 8.7% in January, but again, the leap year effect greatly exaggerated the slowdown. Results varied widely as Australia, Brazil and the US all registered non-adjusted declines. Domestic capacity climbed 1.6%, and load factor increased 1.3 percentage points to 81.4%.

Russia has joined India and China among the fastest growing markets. Traffic is now back on its trend line prior to the collapse of Transaero in late 2015, supported by steady recovery in the economy and ruble over the past year as oil prices have firmed.

US airlines upward momentum in the domestic market has stalled over the past six months, notwithstanding strong readings from consumer confidence surveys.

The year has opened with some shocksn++the attempted ban on travel to the US by citizens of six countries and the restrictions on the carry-on of large electronic items from certain airports in the Middle East and North Africa on direct flights to the US and the UK. The potential implications of the Brexit talks on the air transport industry are significant and the political rhetoric of protectionism and closing of borders is adding to the ambiguity.

Its intolerable that governments continue to add to the uncertainties facing the air transport industry by failing to engage airline operational know-how on issues that can damage public confidence. The introduction of restrictions on the carry-on of large electronic devices was a missed opportunity and the result was a measure that cannot stand-up to the scrutiny of public confidence in the long term. Although Australias measures were also implemented without consulting the industry, they at least demonstrate the potential to mitigate the threat with less disruptive means. We all want to keep flying secure. And we can do that most effectively by working together, said de Juniac.

In tandem, states need to support the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) as it develops a Global Aviation Security Plan. Additionally, next month, ICAO member states will consider amendments to Annex 17 of the Chicago Convention that would require information sharing. The security experience of recent years should compel states to support this, said de Juniac.

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RBI keeps repo rate unchanged at 6.25%, hikes reverse repo rate to 6%
Apr 06,2017

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in its first monetary policy review has kept its key policy interest rate, repo rate, unchanged at 6.25%. however, consequent upon the narrowing of the LAF corridor to 25 basis points from 50 basis points earlier, as elaborated in the accompanying Statement on Developmental and Regulatory Policies, the reverse repo rate under the LAF is at 6.0% (5.75% earlier), and the marginal standing facility (MSF) rate and the Bank Rate are at 6.50% (6.75% earlier).

The decision of the MPC is consistent with a neutral stance of monetary policy in consonance with the objective of achieving the medium-term target for consumer price index (CPI) inflation of 4% within a band of +/- 2%, while supporting growth. The main considerations underlying the decision are set out in the statement below.

Since the February bi-monthly monetary policy statement, inflation has been quiescent. Headline CPI inflation is set to undershoot the target of 5.0% for Q4 of 2016-17 in view of the sub-4% readings for January and February. For 2017-18, inflation is projected to average 4.5% in the first half of the year and 5% in the second half.

GVA growth is projected to strengthen to 7.4% in 2017-18 from 6.7% in 2016-17, with risks evenly balanced.

Overall, the MPCs considered judgement call to wait out the unravelling of the transitory effects of demonetisation has been broadly borne out. While these effects are still playing out, they are distinctly on the wane and should fade away by the Q4 of 2016-17.

While inflation has ticked up in its latest reading, its path through 2017-18 appears uneven and challenged by upside risks and unfavourable base effects towards the second half of the year. Moreover, underlying inflation pressures persist, especially in prices of services. Input cost pressures are gradually bringing back pricing power to enterprises as demand conditions improve.

The MPC remains committed to bringing headline inflation closer to 4.0% on a durable basis and in a calibrated manner. Accordingly, inflation developments have to be closely and continuously monitored, with food price pressures kept in check so that inflation expectations can be re-anchored. At the same time, the output gap is gradually closing. Consequently, aggregate demand pressures could build up, with implications for the inflation trajectory.

Against this backdrop, the MPC decided to keep the policy rate unchanged in this review while persevering with a neutral stance. Six members voted in favour of the monetary policy decision. The future course of monetary policy will largely depend on incoming data on how macroeconomic conditions are evolving. Banks have reduced lending rates, although further scope for a more complete transmission of policy impulses remains, including for small savings/administered rates. Along with rebalancing liquidity conditions, it will be the Reserve Banks endeavour to put the resolution of banks stressed assets on a firm footing and create congenial conditions for bank credit to revive and flow to productive sectors of the economy.

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Mandatory Quoting of Aadhaar for PAN Applications & Filing Return of Income
Apr 06,2017

Section 139AA of the Income-tax Act, 1961 as introduced by the Finance Act, 2017 provides for mandatory quoting of Aadhaar / Enrolment ID of Aadhaar application form, for filing of return of income and for making an application for allotment of Permanent Account Number with effect from 1st July, 2017.

It is clarified that such mandatory quoting of Aadhaar or Enrolment ID shall apply only to a person who is eligible to obtain Aadhaar number. As per the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016, only a resident individual is entitled to obtain Aadhaar. Resident as per the said Act means an individual who has resided in India for a period or periods amounting in all to one hundred and eighty-two days or more in the twelve months immediately preceding the date of application for enrolment. Accordingly, the requirement to quote Aadhaar as per section 139AA of the Income-tax Act shall not apply to an individual who is not a resident as per the Aadhaar Act, 2016.

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MoU signed for a joint India-UK collaborative centre in crop-science
Apr 06,2017

A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed for establishing a joint India-UK collaborative centre in crop-science. Aims and objectives of the centre are:-

n++ Establishment of a Research Centre located in India.

n++ Establishment of a joint fellowship programme in plant sciences to facilitate the exchange of PhD students and Postdoctoral researchers between the partnering UK and Indian institutions.

n++ Integration with continuing DBT-UK activities, such as the DBT-Cambridge Lectureships and the UK-India Virtual Joint Centres in Agricultural Nitrogen.

n++ Capacity building, leadership development and developing robust farmer outreach components.

The aim of the MoU is to develop a long term partnership between India and UK in Plant Sciences. Steps have been initiated and joint activities have commenced which are detailed below:-

n++ Joint Faculty Programme: The Department of Biotechnology in partnership with University of Cambridge, UK have initiated research-oriented lectureship programme at Cambridge University and a partner institute in India. The duration of lectureship is for a fixed term of five year of which three year of this will be in India and two year will be in University of Cambridge. Five applicants have been selected and are working under the joint unestablished post of Lectureship.

n++ Four India-UK Virtual Joint Centres in Agricultural Nitrogen have been established which will eventually integrate into the activities of Joint Plant Science Research Centre.

n++ Workshop Women Agriculture Scientists in Cambridge: This workshop was a direct result of the joint UK-India collaboration programme in crop science. Twenty five scientists in Agriculture were sent to Cambridge for a five day leadership training programme during 4th-10th September 2016.

The Department of Biotechnology is looking to expand global partnership and will be open to signing of such MoU with other countries. Crop science is top priority of the country and negotiations are continuing with countries such as Australia, EU for establishing programmes in Agriculture and Plant Science.

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Government allows import of only 5 lakh MT of raw sugar at zero duty through open general license: Shri Ram Vilas Paswan
Apr 06,2017

Shri Ram Vilas Paswan, Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution said that in order to address regional production gaps and also to maintain domestic prices at reasonable levels, it has been decided by the Government to allow import of a restricted quantity of only 5 lakh MT of raw sugar at zero duty through open general license. The import shall be done with zonal quantity restrictions and will be open for only millers/refiners having their own refining capacity.

Shri Paswan further said that considering the quantity of sugar available as opening stocks and the production in the current sugar season, it is estimated that there is adequate quantity of sugar available in the country for domestic consumption.

The scheme shall be operated by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade as per their rules and regulations.

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Department of Commerce achieves 99.45% of final plan expenditure and 100% implementation of PFMS and DBT
Apr 06,2017

During the Financial Year 2016-17, Department of Commerce has expended Rs. 2454.58 Crore under Plan Schemes which works out of 99.45% of the final plan allocation. This achievement is the highest in last 5 Financial Years. In the year 2012-13 DoC has made 98.02% of expenditure under Plan Schemes, and expenditure was 96.86% in 2013-14, 96.50% in 2014-15 and 98.54% in 2015-16.

1. Public Finance Management System(PFMS)

As per the direction of Ministry of Finance & O/o CGA, PFMS which is Public Finance Management System was to be extended to all offices under control of Department of Commerce all over India. PFMS was also to be implemented in all autonomous Bodies, PSUs and other Trade Promotion offices under Department of Commerce.

In the Year 2016-17 Department of Commerce has achieved 100% implementation of PFMS in all its autonomous bodies, PSUs and Trade Promotion bodies all over India by 31st March,2017. This enables Just-in-Time release of funds to these organizations thereby preventing unnecessary parking of funds.

2. Direct Benefit Transfer(DBT)

Cabinet Secretariat has instructed that all Grants-in-Aids (GIA) and Subsides being given to beneficiaries, should be disbursed electronically through the Direct Benefit Transfer mode. As approved by Secretary, Commerce in August,2016. Seven Organizations namely: - Tea Board, Coffee Board, Spices Board, Rubber Board, Tobacco Board, APEDA and MPEDA were selected for DBT implementation in DoC by 31st March,2017.

DBT was successfully implemented in all these organizations by 31st March,2017. All the beneficiaries under these schemes, have been linked with AADHAR in most cases. Department of Commerce has thus achieved the target of 100% in DBT implementation by the stipulated timeline of 31st March,2017.

These achievements were possible due to constant monitoring and appraisal by the Department at the highest level throughout the year.

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Cabinet approves extension of implementation of Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems Project by one year
Apr 06,2017

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the proposal of the Ministry of Home Affairs for extension of the implementation phase of the Crime and Criminals Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS) Project for another year beyond 31st March 2017.

The extension would help in achieving the remaining objectives of the project comprehensively. The maintenance phase of the Project will continue till 2022 as approved earlier. With a total outlay of Rs. 2000 crore, a sum of Rs. 1550 crore, which was the total allocation to the project so far, has been spent till 2016-17.

The Inter-operable Criminal Justice System (ICJS) aims to integrate the CCTNS project with the e-courts and e-prisons databases in the first instance and with the other pillars of the criminal justice system - Forensics, Prosecution, Juvenile homes and a nationwide Fingerprint data base of criminals in a phased manner. The integration will be achieved by providing access to the Judiciary, Police and Prisons through a desktop dashboard to facilitate expeditious and informed decisions and aid investigations.

Impact of the CCTNS Project will lead to:

i. Citizen portals in all states and Centre that will facilitate transparency and speed in police service delivery, online registration of complaints and reporting and search of missing persons and stolen goods in self-service mode.

ii. Pan-India search on complete National Crime and Criminal database that is accessible to the Investigating Officers throughout the country.

iii. Search facility will be available to Police in regional languages for improved inter-state tracking of criminal movement.

iv. Reliable network connectivity to all Police Stations in the country.

v. National level crime analytics that will be published at, increased frequency to help policy and law makers in taking data backed timely actions and in making appropriate policy interventions.

vi. Integration with various e-Governance projects such as Aadhaar, National Population Register, Vaahan Project of the Ministry of Surface Transport, Passport Seva and National Emergency Response System Project thus increasing the synergies and benefit accrued from these individual systems. It will expedite various kinds of police verification requests and investigation.

vii. Advanced features such as biometric based identification, trend and pattern analytics etc. that will be incorporated to enhance hi-tech investigation capability.

viii. ICJS that will be available to all pillars of the criminal justice system helping improve its service delivery.

Achievements under CCTNS Project:

In the last one year following significant outcomes have been achieved by the Project:

n++ More than 83% Police Stations in the country are entering 100% FIRs through CCTNS software.

n++ 120 lakhs FIR have been entered in CCTNS system till date. Legacy Crime records since 2004 have also been migrated to the CCTNS database. In all around seven crore records are now available in the national crime database.

n++ 31 States/UTs have launched their portals which provide various services like registration of complaints, verification of criminal antecedents/litigation of individuals/property, obtaining NOC from police for events for law and order clearance, search of missing person search, matching unidentified dead bodies, Vehicle related enquiries, antecedent verification for issue of passport etc.

n++ The ICJS dashboard has been implemented by integrating CCTNS with e-Courts and e-prisons and has been launched on a trial basis with select central investigation agencies. v n++ Software for Prosecutions and Forensics has been developed and is currently being rolled out in Bihar, Telangana and Puducherry.

Background:

Originally approved in 2009, the Project aims to:

a) deliver various web based police related services to citizens.

b) facilitate a pan-India search of crime and criminal records of individuals through a national database.

c) generate crime and criminal reports at the state and central level to inform policy interventions and

d) computerise police processes.

In 2015, an additional objective of establishing a basic platform for an Inter-operable Criminal Justice System (ICJS) was added to the Project.

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Cabinet approves Air Services Agreement between India and Georgia
Apr 06,2017

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the signing of the Air Services Agreement (ASA) between India and Georgia.

The Agreement between the two countries is based on latest International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) template keeping in view of developments in Civil Aviation sector and with an objective to improve the air connectivity between the two countries. Presently there is no Air Services Agreement between these two countries. ASA is the basic legal framework for any air operation between the two countries.

The agreement will help establish air connectivity between the two countries.

The features of the Air Services Agreement are as follows:

i. Both countries shall be entitled to designate one or more airline.

ii. Now the Indian carriers can operate to any points in Georgia from any points in India. Whereas the carriers of Georgia can establish direct operation to six points namely New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai and Goa. Apart from this through routing flexibility any intermediate and beyond point can also be served by the designated carriers of both sides.

iii. The designated airlines of either country shall have the right to establish offices in the territory of the other country for the promotion and sale of air services.

iv. The designated Airline of each party can enter into cooperative marketing arrangements with the designated carriers of same party, other party and that of a Third party. In view of this, it will not only facilitate the direct connectivity but also connectivity through 3rd country carriers. It will provide viable options for the carriers of both countries.

The Air Services Agreement between India and the Georgia has the potential to spur greater trade, investment, tourism and cultural exchange between the two countries bringing it in tune with the developments in the civil aviation sector. It will provide enabling environment for enhanced and seamless connectivity while providing commercial opportunities to the carriers of both the sides ensuring greater safety and security.

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Stronger rise in new work boosts growth of services activity: Nikkei India Services PMI
Apr 06,2017

The Indian service sector moved further away from the demonetisation-related contractions seen towards the end of 2016 and beginning of 2017. New business and output rose for the second straight month in March, with rates of expansion accelerating in both cases. The improvement in business conditions promoted job creation, while confidence towards the year-ahead outlook for activity was at a four-month high.

The Nikkei India Services Business Activity Index posted above the critical 50.0 level for the second-month running in March, highlighting ongoing growth of output in the sector. Moreover, rising from 50.3 in February to 51.5, the latest figure pointed to a stronger rate of expansion. The average reading over the final quarter of the fiscal year was above that seen in the prior period (from 49.3 to 50.2).

The upturn in manufacturing production also accelerated in March, reaching a five-month high. Subsequently, the seasonally adjusted Nikkei India Composite PMI Output Index increased to 52.3, from 50.7 in February, signalling a quicker rise in private sector activity across the country.

Underpinning the expansion in services activity was a back-to-back rise in new business inflows. As was the case for output, growth of new work also gathered pace in March. Anecdotal evidence highlighted improving demand conditions. At the same time, factory new orders increased at the strongest rate since last October.

In order to cope with higher workloads, service providers hired additional staff. Employment increased only slightly overall, but to the greatest extent since July 2015. Manufacturing jobs also rose in March as firms sought to expand operating capacity.

Services companies indicated that activity is expected to rise over the coming 12 months, with the overall degree of optimism at a four-month high. Almost 24% of panellists signalled positive sentiment, with better marketing campaigns, strengthening demand conditions, plus hopes that the Goods & Services Tax bill will be favourable to businesses, the key factors supporting confidence. Likewise, goods producers were more upbeat towards growth prospects than in February.

Input costs facing services firms rose again in March, thereby stretching the current sequence of inflation to seven months. Despite accelerating to the fastest over this period, the rate of increase was moderate in the context of historical data. The main items reported to be up in price over the month were fuel and food. In contrast to the trend seen in services, purchase cost inflation in the manufacturing industry softened to a four-month low.

Amid reports of the passing on of higher cost burdens to clients, some services companies raised their own selling prices in March. Overall, the rate of charge inflation was slight, having softened since the preceding month. Firms that kept output prices unchanged mentioned efforts to stimulate demand. Similarly, factory gate charges increased at a slower pace and one that was below the long-run series average.

As has been observed on a monthly basis since mid-2016, outstanding business volumes at services firms increased during March. In many cases, panel members blamed the latest rise in unfinished work on delayed payments from clients. That said, the rate of backlog accumulation was only modest and the slowest in nine months. By comparison, work-in-hand at goods producers rose at the weakest pace in three months.

Commenting on the Indian Services PMI survey data, Pollyanna De Lima, economist at IHS Markit, and author of the report, said: Indias private sector economy stayed on an upward trajectory during March, benefiting from an upswing in demand and output. The countrys rapid recovery from the demonetisation-related downturn was accompanied by job creation and softer inflationary pressures.

PMI data indicate faster growth of new business and output across the two monitored sectors, manufacturing and services. The former outperformed the latter with regards to expansion rates again during March.

By historical standards, the increases in new work and activity remain relatively mild, though growth is likely to gather speed as we head into the new financial year. This is shown by firms willingness to hire additional employees and reinforced by stronger confidence towards the 12-month outlook for output.

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Cabinet approves Collaboration Agreement to support the Belmont Forum Secretariat
Apr 06,2017

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval for signing of the Collaborative Agreement with French National Research Agency (ANR), France for supporting the Belmont Forum Secretariat from January, 2015 to December, 2017 at a total estimated expenditure of Euro 40,000. The Cabinet also approved continued financial support to Belmont Forum Secretariat beyond 2017.

The Belmont Forum, created in 2009, is a high level group of the worlds major and emerging funders of global environmental change research and international science councils. It provides an opportunity to identify study and deliver international environmental research priorities, for the society, in an accelerated way through transn++national research collaboration between natural and social scientists and alignment of international resources.

India is a member of Belmont Forum, besides Australia, Brazil, Canada, European Commission, France, Germany, Japan, Netherland, South Africa, UK and USA etc. Ministry of Earth Science (MoES), represents India in the Belmont Forum since 2012.

In order to coordinate the activities of the Belmont, a Secretariat is hosted by one of the Belmont forum member on rotational basis. ANR, France is hosting the Secretariat from January, 2015 to December, 2017. Expenditure for hosting the Secretariat will be borne by Belmont Forum member countries in kind or cash contribution.

Impact:

The Agreement will help to maintain a certain degree of continuity in the operations of the Forum and also help in smooth coordination of the activities of Belmont Forum. As India is already participating in 4 Collaborative Research Actions (CRAs) and Secretariat will be coordinating the activities of Belmont Forum, Indian scientific community will ultimately benefit from this agreement.

Background:

Since the inception of Belmont Forum in 2009, its operations were being handled by a part-time secretariat associated with the respective Chairs of the Belmont Forum. As the Co-chairs are rotational, the Secretariat also rotates and some time co-chairs are from different Continents with different time zone. In order to maintain a certain degree of continuity in the operations of the Forum, establishment of a Full-time Secretariat was agreed upon by Belmont Forum members, on rotational basis. ANR, France has agreed to host the Secretariat from January, 2015 to December, 2017.

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Cabinet apprised of the MoU with Ferrovie Dello Stato Italiane S.P.A. of Italy on Technical Cooperation in the Rail Sector
Apr 06,2017

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has been apprised of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed with Ferrovie Dello Stato Italiane S.P.A. of the Republic of Italy on 31st January, 2017 on technical cooperation in railway sector.

The MoU will provide a platform to Indian Railways to interact and share the latest developments and knowledge in the railway sector to promote safety, efficiency and sustainability. The MoU will also facilitate exchange of information, experts meetings, seminars, technical visits and implementation of jointly agreed cooperation, projects.

The objective of this MoU is to develop technical cooperation activities in the railway sector to promote safety, efficiency and sustainability, to their mutual benefit. It will enable technical cooperation in the following areas:-

a. Safety audit of Indian Railways and measures required for enhancing safety in train operation;

b. Assessment and certification of advanced technology based safety products and systems to Safety Integrity Level 4 (SIL4);

c. Training and competency development with focus on safety including in areas of advanced signaling and train control systems;

d. Modern trends in Maintenance and diagnostic;

e. Any other area jointly identified by the participants.

Background:

The Ferrovie Dello Stato Italiane Group (FS Group) is an industrial holding managing the Italian Railways sector through its companies focused on railway related businesses, the main ones are: Trenitalia - rail transport Rete Ferroviaria Italiana - railway infrastructure manager, Italferr - engineering company, Italcerifer - notified body certifying railway systems and components. The FS group is fully owned by Government and is under Ministry of Treasury, Italy.

Ministry of Railways have signed MQUs for technical cooperation with the Rail sector with various foreign Governments and National Railways. The identified areas of cooperation include high speed corridors, speed raising of existing routes, development of world class stations, heavy haul operations and modernization of rail infrastructure, etc. The cooperation is achieved through exchange of Information on developments in areas of railways, technology & operations, knowledge sharing, technical visits, training & seminars and workshops in areas of mutual interest.

The MoUs provide a platform for Indian Railways to interact and share the latest developments and knowledge in the railway sector. The MoUs facilitate exchange of technical experts, reports and technical documents, training and seminars/workshops focusing on specific technology areas and other interactions for knowledge sharing.

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