29.04.2008

  • ISRO achieves a record
    • By launching 10 satellites in one go through the PSLV-C9 launch vehicle.
    • This launch is notable for one more fact: for the first time ever an Indian mini satellite was launched through this vehicle.
    • Some snippets worth our attention in this context:
    • PSLV is good for smaller satellites; while GSLV can carry satellites of the 2 tonne category. What India’s capabilities enable it is to compete with the likes of Russia, China, Ukraine and the European Space Agency which dominate the carrying capacity of satellites of this class.
    • Arianne 5 rocket of France can put a 5 tonne satellite in orbit. But it costs $120 mn to launch a satellite through this. At a time it can carry only two satellites.
    • Atlas V of USA (United Launch Alliance – ULA) can launch 8 tonne satellites; but rarely available for non-US missions. Similarly Delta IV rocket by the same agency is meant for pure military use.
    • Global satellite launch business is a $3 bn business.
    • India’s launch services are about 60 to 70% cheaper than the rest of the world.
    • Most commercial satellites weigh between 3 and 5 tonnes.
  • Is it time for Naxalism to enter the federal domain?
    • What are the issues affecting it now?
    • Law and order being a state subject, the centre is having a limited role in tackling some of the grave crimes like terrorism, espionage and Naxalism. If crimes like these are classified as federal crimes and kept in the concurrent list, then that would make it possible for the centre to have a greater role. But for this, the Constitution has to be amended. This is what precisely the consultative committee on home affairs (of the Parliament) has recommended recently.
    • The big question is whether states would be willing to bring about that change. Let’s wait and see how things will evolve.
  • ICICI seeks NBFC license, drops FoF plan
    • So reads a headline in today’s paper. I am sure you all know about an NBFC – Non Banking Finance Corporation. This is the route through which many MNC banks in India are overcoming their branch limitation problem.
    • But what is an FoF? It stands for Fund of Funds. What is it? An FoF is essentially an investor group that invests in private equity funds in order to provide investors with a low-risk product through exposure to a large number of vehicles across sectors and even geographies.
  • India and vaccine production
    • India is the world’s largest vaccine exporter. UNICEF sources about 60% of its vaccine requirements from India.
    • But in January 2008, the vaccine production in the country took a beating with the government ordering the suspension of manufacturing at four of its manufacturing units viz., Pasteur Institute, BCG Vaccines, Haffkine Bio-Pharmaceuticals and Central Research Institute because they failed to adhere to the good manufacturing practice standards.
  • India opposes labour or environment standards being part of trade accords
    • Why? Because it feels that bringing such issues into investment pacts would be very ambitious.
    • The US is pressing India to bring in labour and environment standards in its currently being negotiated trade agreement. But India is opposed to this idea, as it had never allowed such things in its agreements with other countries or entities like the EU.
  • Dollar slide to make oil touch $200 bn?
    • If the OPEC President is to be believed, this could be so.
    • Chakib Khelil, the Algerian minister for energy and mines and currently the President of OPEC suggests so.
    • Each time the dollar falls 1% the price of oil barrel rises by $4 and vice versa.
  • Some snippets on inflation
    • The best measure of inflation in the country for non-urban India is the CPI-AL (Consumer Price Index for Agriculture Labour). Because this index gives a weight of 65% to food items unlike the more talked about WPI which has only 22% weightage for food products.
    • A state like Bihar has 12% share of overall poverty in the country but lifts only 3% of the PDS food grains. Better off states like AP lift a higher quota than their share of people below the poverty line.
  • On subsidies getting out of hand
    • Today there is a very good debate from three experts on the issue. Though all of you are by now aware of the truthful reproduction of the market-oriented views I have been giving on the issue, today I felt that it is time we also look objectively at the argument being put forth by Nilotpal Basu, Member of the CPI(M) central committee.
    • He says that the major reason for the recent spurt in global food prices is not shortfall in production. He backs up this argument by saying that a record 2.3 bn tonnes of food has been produced in 2007. This is 4% over last year. The cause for the global spurt according to him is the structural meltdown of the global food economy.
    • What exactly is this structural meltdown? The structural adjustment programmes advocated by IMF/World Bank have induced trade liberalization and pulled down tariff barriers and quantitative restrictions and all other instruments available to national economies to insulate food security from global shocks. This has made food from being used for nourishment to being traded for speculation and bargaining.
    • The shrill cacophony for slashing and targeting subsidies loses its relevance in the current context. What is needed is removing wasteful and costly subsidies elsewhere viz., industry. For eg., the revenue foregone on account of tax exemptions for the corporate India top Rs. 2,78,644 crores in 2007-08. Though the projected corporate tax is 33%, the effective rate is only 19%. The tax-GDP ratio is an abysmal 17.8%. It is this that needs to be corrected; not doing away with subsidies and/or targeting them. That has to be preceded by this.
  • What are functional foods?
    • These are also known as ‘neutraceutical products.’ These are fresh or processed food containing health-promoting ingredients, quite apart from the nutritional value.
    • Typical functional foods include probiotic foods, omega fatty acids and even crops containing soya, gluten and whey proteins. Others in the category are energy drinks, juices and breakfast cereals.

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