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Nepal PM pitches for Indian investments(The Hindu)
What has happened?
Nepal’s economy at present depends heavily on global remittances, which make up about 30% of its GDP. More than four million Nepalese live and work outside the Indian subcontinent, with about five to seven million estimated to be living and working in India, crossing an open border between the two countries.
Focus of the visit
- Rebuilding the Nepali economy, still scarred from the 2015 earthquake as well as systemic issues
- He made a pitch for more businesses to invest in Nepal, while telling the Nepalese diaspora in Delhi that he would “build an environment” that would help attract them back home as well
Nepalese PM’s first visit abroad after getting elected
U.S. sanctions target Putin’s allies(The Hindu)
What has happened?
The U.S. struck at the heart of President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle on Friday, imposing sanctions on seven of Russia’s most influential oligarchs and stoking a diplomatic crisis that some have dubbed a new Cold War.
In all, seven oligarchs, 12 companies they own or control, 17 senior Russian officials and a state-owned arms export company
Why US is taking this action?
- In response to the totality of the Russian government’s ongoing and increasingly brazen pattern of malign activity across the world
- This included their occupation of Crimea, instigation of violence in eastern Ukraine, support for the Assad regime in Syria and ongoing malicious cyber-activity
- Russia’s continued attacks to subvert western democracies
- Russia’s alleged interference in the U.S. election
Moscow on Saturday promised a “tough response” to new United States’ sanctions imposed on seven of Russia’s most influential oligarchs following the diplomatic crisis sparked by the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal
WTO is unfair to us, says Trump(The Hindu)
What has happened?
U.S. President Donald Trump teed up a fight with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on Friday, claiming the 164-country body was biased against the United States.
China gets perks and advantages
- China, which is a great economic power, is considered a Developing Nation within the World Trade Organization, they therefore get tremendous perks and advantages, especially over the U.S.— According to Trump
- Trump has repeatedly expressed skepticism about multilateral bodies from the WTO to the UN to NATO believing they constrain U.S. power
What has happened?
China on Friday warned that it was digging in for a long campaign to counter Washington’s attempts to undermine its economy, following President Donald Trump’s threat to impose new tariffs
China not afraid of trade war
Beijing would take “comprehensive countermeasures” and fight “at any cost”, if the U.S. continues its unilateral, protectionist practices
Disruptive Mr. Trump(The Hindu Opinion)
The consistent undermining of multilateralism by the U.S. must be countered
The larger point
- Trump continues to undermine the World Trade Organisation and the international world trade order, now that it has served the West well and developing countries are in a significantly stronger position than when the WTO came into existence in 1995
- Trump has pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, is pushing changes to NAFTA and has withdrawn from the Paris Agreement to combat climate change
- While large-scale protectionism and unilateralism may please some of Mr. Trump’s constituents in the short run, undermining existing rules arbitrarily serves no nation, including the U.S., in the long run
In the current climate, it is therefore especially important for India to be a good steward for responsible globalisation.
Forging a culture of innovation(The Hindu Opinion)
India’s innovation policy has to shift beyond a mere focus on R&D spending to transforming the ecosystem
- India should be in a good position in terms of research and development (R&D) spending on paper
- Our pipeline of researchers seems undiminished; we are ranked third in the world in number of science and technology PhDs awarded and have improved our ranking in the Global Innovation Index, from 66 to 60
There is no Indian university in the top hundred (QS World University Rankings, 2018) and only 46,904 patents were filed in India in 2016 (China filed over a million patents)
India’s R&D spending
- Not market focussed: The government’s R&D spending is equivalent to an Amazon or Alphabet’s R&D spend, while only 26 Indian companies figure in the list of top 2,500 companies globally by R&D spend
- It’s Low and not accessible:
- India’s R&D spending, as a percentage of GDP, still lags significantly, at 0.69% in 2015 this share has been stagnating for the last decade
- Over 90% of Indian start-ups face a risk of failure in their initial failure, partially due to a lack of access to financing
Translation of R&D spend into patents affected by institutional constraints
Only 28% of patents registered for applications are eventually filed
- High patent pendency times
- Patent pendency times in India are among the highest in the major economies, with a patent taking about 6-7 years between a request for examination and a final office action
- In comparison, South Korea and China have pendency timings of 16 and 22 months, respectively.
- IPR amendments needed: India’s intellectual property rights (IPR) policy is ripe for transformation requiring an amendment encouraging start-ups to utilise filed patents on an initial no-royalty basis, with revenue sharing occurring once significant commercialisation is achieved
No transformative innovation across Indian industry
Over 77% of Indian venture capitalists believe that India lacks unique business models or new technologies
- R&D fails to attract top talent: R&D, as a professional function, fails to attract top talent our 216 researchers per million compare with China’s 1,177, Russia’s 3,131 and the U.S.’s 4,232
- Rise in bogus publications: With India’s share of global research publications rising from 2.2% in 2000 to 3.7% in 2013, over 35% of publications in “bogus journals” comes from India
- Quantity over quality: The hoarding of patents has a significant cost; acquiring a higher number of patents, without due regard for quality, has become an institutional mark of success, to up our index of innovation.
What needs to be done?
- A focus on building an innovation culture is necessary
- Our innovation policy has to shift beyond a focus on increasing R&D spending to inculcating a mindset of “out-of-the-box” thinking in our universities, start-ups and corporates.
Reforming educational policies:
- Elimination of rote learning: India’s educational policies need to be redesigned, with a focus on building cognitive abilities, beyond rote learning and focus on quantitative subjects
- Need to use Data analytics boom: Need to focus on taking advantage of the data analytics boom, improving educational qualities beyond our existing islands of excellence to the whole university system
- Greater access to public data to build innovative applications: A supporting ecosystem for this will require providing greater access to public data, through the Right to Information Act and a push to providing public data (for example, on train punctuality, water scarcity, air pollution metrics) for building innovative applications on a real-time basis.
For a nation whose public debate is often given to recalling innovations in our historical and mythological past, the future state of India’s R&D activities demands significant attention.
RBI raises limits on FPIs’ debt investment(The Hindu)
What has happened?
The Reserve Bank on Friday upped debt investment limits for foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) across all segments, which will cumulatively result in an increase of more than Rs. 1 lakh crore in fiscal year 2018-19
The total debt limit will rise to Rs. 5,94,600 crore by September 2018 and go up further to Rs. 6,49,900 crore by the end of the fiscal year from the present Rs. 5,45,823 crore
Limits on FPI investment in Central government securities
RBI has decided to increase the FPI investment limits in central government securities by 0.5% to 5.5% of outstanding stock of securities in 2018-19 and 6% of outstanding stock of securities in 2019-20
Limits on FPI investment in SDLs unchanged
The limits on FPI investment in state development loans (SDLs) would remain unchanged at 2% of outstanding stock of securities
On corporate bonds, the FPI investment will be fixed at 9% of outstanding stock of corporate bonds and all the sub categories within the segment will be discontinued.
All the rhinoceroses(The Hindu Opinion)
Counting one-horned rhinos in Kaziranga National Park, home to nearly two-thirds of the world’s population of the ‘vulnerable’ species, is no easy task
Problems faced in the process
- Shortage of guards: require at least 3,000 men to be deployed in 8 hour shifts. The park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985, only has a staff strength of about 1,300, of which 200 are casual workers.
- Difficult for elephants: The elephant-back estimation is tough on the elephant as it is carrying weight (enumerator, guard, etc.), it sweats more as the day gets hotter
- Inflated headcount: The headcount approach based on sighting by humans could lead to inflated figures
- Death of Rhinos after counting process: Some Rhinos die after the counting so difficult to arrive at the final number
- Poor burning of tall grasses: The total count method relies heavily on the visibility of animals. Officials say that poor burning of tall grasses and reeds due to high moisture content have led to fewer rhinos being sighted this time
Facts about Kaziranga National Park
- Ranges of KNP: Kohora (or Central) is one of the five ranges of KNP, the others are Agratoli (or Eastern), Bagori (or Western), Burapahar, and the Northern Range
- Shrinking area: The KNP used to be 1,030 sq km, with a core area of 482 sq km, when it was notified as a tiger reserve in 2007. But erosion by the Brahmaputra has shrunk it to 884 sq km now
Not above the law(The Hindu Opinion)
The Wildlife (Protection) Act, the landmark law from 1972 that shields the diversity of India’s endangered animals mainly in 4% of its land area designated as protected, struggles to be effective and conviction rates are low.
What has happened?
The stiff sentence of five years in jail awarded to actor Salman Khan for hunting blackbuck in Rajasthan’s Kankani village in 1998 should send out the message that stardom does not confer impunity
Sending a powerful message
- If the verdict of the Jodhpur court in the blackbuck case survives the appeals process, it would send out the powerful message that the judicial system feels no constraint in exerting the full weight of the law to protect threatened wildlife
- Feeling of empowerment to wildlife officials: Equally, it should bring a feeling of empowerment to forest department personnel, and help them resist the intimidation that they routinely face from influential sections in the discharge of their duties.
The court makes the important observation that personalities who are capable of influencing the behaviour of others must naturally be conscious of what they do
It is to be hoped that this will convince the high and mighty that bloodsports are grotesquely incongruous in the present day when environmental concerns rule supreme and engaging in them invites deterrent action