Politics & the Nation
  • Why is that the government has ordered an audit of major telecom companies?
    • Telecom companies have to pay 6 to 10% of their annual revenues as licence fee and 2 to 6% as spectrum usage charges.  Reporting a lower revenue will enable these companies to pay less towards the licence fee and spectrum charges.  
    • Amidst reports / complaints that the telecom companies are not reporting their full revenues, the government decided to order a special audit of their books of accounts.
  • About the G20
    • Does it have really 20 countries?  A very good backgrounder about the G20.  Here it goes.
Finance & Economy
  • Motown sees bright spots
    • Total car sales in March are estimated to be 1.40-1.45 lakh units, an increase of 2% compared to the year ago period when there was a sharp sales bump because of the excise duty cuts announced in the budget the previous month. 
    • Auto financiers say the combined effect of discounts, aggressive dealer push as well as increased buying to benefit from higher depreciation during the last month of the fiscal helped sales this March. Furthermore, the reduction in excise duty as part of the economic stimulus package and the excitement over the launch of Tata Motors’ small car Nano helped turn sentiment around. 
  • Export performance nosedives
    • The country’s exports slid for the fifth straight month in February, registering its sharpest monthly fall yet in fiscal 2008-09, raising doubts whether the country can meet its pared down annual target. 
    • India needs to export merchandise worth $14 billion in March to achieve its revised export target of $170-175 billion. The government had initially set an export target of $200 billion for the fiscal, up from $162 billion achieved in 2007-08. 
    • Lukewarm demand from key global markets pulled down exports by 21.7% to $11.9 billion in February while imports fell by 23.3% during the month to $16.8 billion, largely on account of the cut in the oil bill. 
  • We are all now free from BCTT!
    • Banking Cash Transaction Tax that is.  Look at this report.
    • Introduced in the 2005-06 budget, with the aim for setting an audit trail and to prevent money laundering using the banking channels it was applicable in whole of India except Jammu & Kashmir.
    • It was withdrawn in the 2008-09 budget proposals.
    • A total of Rs. 600 crores was collected in 2008-09 under this head.
    • Cash withdrawals over Rs 50,000 in a single day by individuals and Hindu undivided families from current accounts attracted BCTT at the rate of 0.1%. The limit for others was Rs 1,00,000. Cash withdrawals from savings bank account did not attract the levy. 
  • What is it that India can expect at the current G20 summit and what could be its stance vis a vis the major issues confronting the world today?
    • Take a look at this excerpt from today's ET.  It succinctly puts it all at one place:
      • Global regulatory reforms: Europe, led by France and Germany, is pushing for ambitious statements on a system for globally accepted principles for financial sector regulations and regulating hedge funds. The US and UK, given their financial sectors, want less. India is most likely to go along with the consensus, leaning towards the Anglo American stance, since it’s not top of the mind. Most analysts expect a midway statement, unless French premier Nicholas Sarkozy actually stomps out of the Summit as some quarters expect. 
      • As governments struggle with rising domestic recession and unemployment, protectionist tendencies are rising across the world. Most leaders are aware that it is counterproductive, but political pressures to ‘help those at home’ is rising. 
      • Markets expect another bout of posturing, and will be keenly looking for any indicators that action is being taken. In addition, trade finance has evaporated, and initiatives are under way to ease the shortage, a matter of key interest for India. 
      • The World Bank has called for an increased trade finance fund. Another item on the agenda is a swift conclusion of the Doha round, but from all indicators no specific landmarks will be achieved at this time. India has decided to accept a ‘strong declaration’ on intent against financial protectionism as a successful outcome, instead of pushing for specific actions. 
      • Again, a western imperative to pry open tax havens like Switzerland and Monaco, and get the rich to contribute to staggering economies. This has support from the US, Europe, and most countries like India will go along. Unconfirmed but persistent reports estimate that Indian wealth stashed in tax havens is over $1 trillion. A strong statement on this one is expected. 
      • Everyone agrees the IMF needs more money, the discussion is how much and who will contribute and for what. China, a potential contributor, wants a say in how the rich country-dominated institutions are run in return. India will go along, and according to foreign secretary Shiv Shankar Menon, will agree to increase its contribution in proportion and aligned to the changes in voting rights. Compared to China, though, it will remain a marginal player. 
      • The US wants economies to spend more, up to 2% of their GDPs; France and Germany have squared off against the US, saying they already do, given its welfare structure. The debate continues, globally and nationally. Countries are unlikely to commit to a target on this yet, and the US has already begun softening its stance. Other agenda items include a consensus on climate change initiatives, a direction for the reform of the Bretton Woods institutions and a coordinated response by the G20. 
Language lessons
  • plenary: adjective
    • Full in all respects
    • eg: "a plenary session of the legislature"; "a diplomat with plenary powers"'; "a plenary session"