Politics & the Nation
  • Take a look at what went good for India in the past one year here.
    • Just for our recap: Sensex touching the 21 K mark, Nano unveiled, Jaguar & Land Rover acquisitions by Tatas, India tastes first blood in Olympics gold, Indo US nuclear deal, Tendulkar becoming the top most scorer in Test cricket,  and India's Moon mission - Chandrayaan I.
  • Can the world stand up for itself?
    • Even as India and the US present more irrefutable evidence, Pakistan tries its best to wriggle out of the corner that it is increasingly getting painted into.  You might have noticed an excellent interview given by Chidambaram wherein he says that presenting more evidence to Pakistan is of no consequence.  The reality is that Pakistan knows that it is culpable.  But the world at large appears to be at a loss as to how to deal with such rogue states.  I have a feeling of deja vu.  Remember some of the Bond flicks which portrayed terrorist villains?  When I watched them, I believed that they cannot happen in reality.  But today, I am experiencing something opposite.  Look at Somalia,  Afghanistan, Lebanon, Congo etc., the picture is frightening.  The world doesn't know where will the next trigger pull come from.  And it doesn't have a mechanism in place to effectively counter such threats.  I wonder whether a series of disasters across the globe are to happen before the world acts!  
    • One comment from PR Ramesh in this context describing Pakistan as being increasingly identified as an "army in search of a state" is very apt.  The civilian government that is in place there appears to be not able to call the shots.  It looks as though it is the mere mouth-piece of its army.
  • An excellent analysis on the political deficit in Bangladesh
    • ... the agenda of Islamist conservativeness chimed with the deprived sections of Bangladeshi society — leading to the rise of the BNP-Jamaat coalition — because pro-Liberation parties such as the Awami League had failed to fulfil the promise of social transformation embedded in the cultural-linguistic nationalism of the Liberation project. It is this gap the victorious secular-democratic forces would now have to fill. And the only course before New Delhi is to aid this political process.
Finance & Economy
  • India to go for a cautious opening of skies?
    • Foreign airlines may be allowed to own 20-25% in local carriers 
    • But influence will be limited on boards and in management 
    • Foreign cos other than airlines are currently allowed to hold up to 49% in domestic carriers
  • OVL completes Imperial deal
    • ONGC Videsh has formally announced its acquisition of Imperial Energy after an overwhelming 96.82% of the UK-based company’s shareholders accepted its open offer. The transaction value is expected to be less than $2 billion, including 6% of convertible bonds. 
  • Who is a TPA?  Third Party Administrator?
    • This is term we come across in medical insurance parlance, quite frequently.
    • Why should we care about this now?  Because IRDA has appointed a 12 member panel headed by former LIC Chairman SB Mathur to look into the working of these TPAs.
    • TPAs were introduced about a decade ago when cashless mediclaim was introduced.  The present TPA guidelines date back to 2001.
    • They are appointed by insurance companies to provide cashless service to health insurance policyholders. TPA facilitates cashless service by entering into an agreement with a network of hospitals across the country. As of March 2008, there were 28 TPAs in operation with the top three — Family Health Plan, Paramount Health Services and TTK Healthcare, having over 50% market share. 
    • But the working of the TPAs left much to be desired and people are not happy with their working as there is a feeling that they are shortchanging both the insurers and the insured.  
    • Let us hope the Mathur panel will be able to come up with adequate measures to improve the system.
  • A look at life insurance penetration figures
    • It is estimated that penetration of life insurance in India is about 4% of GDP compared with 8-10% of GDP in some developed economies and the Asian markets. Around 24% of Indian households own life insurance policies and the average sum assured per household is Rs 1,14,450. 
  • India's external debt
    • The country’s total external debt stood at $222.61 billion at the end of September this year.  
    • The ratio of foreign exchange reserves to total external debt stood at a comfortable level of 128.6%. Besides, India has the lowest level of external debt to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio. 
  • What are Kondratieff cycles?
    • These are the foundations on which Marxian understanding of present globalisation rests.  According to Marxism the cyclic nature of the capitalist world-economy is best described in terms of Kondratieff cycles. The present Kondratieff cycle began in 1945 and, like all Kondratieff cycles, has two components: the A-phase or the period of economic expansion that went from 1945 to 1967-73, and the B-phase or the downward swing that is happening since 1967. 
Language lesson
  • humdinger
    • Noun: someone or something of remarkable excellence
    • eg. humdingers of 2008
  • gourmand
    • Noun: A person who is devoted to eating and drinking to excess

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