Politics & the Nation
  • Government efforts to nail black money
    • We may soon need to mention our permanent account number (PAN) to invest more than Rs 50,000 in national savings certificates (NSC), or to buy a unit-linked insurance policy where premium payment exceeds Rs 1 lakh. The government is reportedly giving finishing touches to a proposal to make the taxpayer identification number mandatory to invest in several small savings schemes.
  • The great Indian middle class and its involvement in politics
    • Much is being written about this topic of late.  There is for sure an upsurge in middle class activism in politics.  
    • This piece that appeared in today's ET is an excellent read on the subject.  You can't afford to miss this.  
    • We are not excerpting anything from this because we feel you must read it in entirety.
  • What ails our wheat procurement and food production management system?
    • Current estimates of wheat production this season are pegged at 76 million tonnes compared to earlier projections of 78.5-80 million tonnes. 
    • Despite that, trade projections are that central buys will be higher than the targetted 24 million tonnes by almost two million tonnes, thanks to few buyers and the clear possibility of distress sales by farmers at the crucial election time. 
    • Last year, wheat output was 78.5 million tonnes and procurement by the government was 22.6 million tonnes. 
    • Ironically, for two years running, in both 2006 and 2007, the government’s miscalculation on wheat output and procurement from UP led to high priced imports. 
Finance & Economy
  • Inflation at 33 year low!
    • Inflation cooled to 0.26% for the week ended March 28.
  • Novartis and Sandoz run into trouble with retailers
    • These two Swiss drug manufacturers have run into trouble with drug retailers because of their practice of selling drugs directly to consumers.  The retailers allege that by doing so, they are not only violating the DPCO (Drug Price Control Order) but also that they are depriving the retailers of their margins.
    • As per Indian laws and trade practice, stockists and retailers get 8% and 16%, respectively, for drugs whose prices are controlled by the government. For drugs outside price control, it is 10% and 20%, respectively. 
    • But Novartis refutes this and says that the company’s direct marketing policy is in the interest of patients.  It clarifies that like other pharma companies it too has some super speciality products that are sold directly to the consumers for ‘critical’ reasons. Such products are required to be stored under special conditions, including air-conditioning for 24 hours, refrigeration at specific temperatures and continuous maintenance of automated temperature logs. The abuse of these conditions, the company says, could reduce the efficacy of the life-saving drugs.
  • Wockhardt to foray into biosimilar market
    • So reads a story's heading.  What is a 'biosimilar' market?
    • Biosimilar products are basically second versions of biologic medicines that depend on the same mechanism of action and used for the same therapeutic indication as the innovator product.
    • It is reportedly a $33 bn market.  It focuses on products that lose patent protection soon.
  • What's a straddle in futures and options market?
    • The option to buy or sell a given stock (or stock index or commodity future) at a given price before a given date; consists of an equal number of put and call options.
  • NELP VIII bids invited
    • The government invited bids for 70 exploration blocks under the eighth round of New Exploration Licensing Policy (Nelp-VIII). Domestic and global oil & gas exploration firms can submit their bids by August 10, 2009.  Government has offered 24 deepwater blocks, 28 shallow water blocks and 18 onland blocks under Nelp-VIII.
    • Oil ministry also announced the launch of 10 blocks under the fourth round of coal bed methane (CBM-IV) for extraction of gas from below coal fields. 
    • India had offered 57 blocks in Nelp-VII last year and awarded 44 to companies, such as BHP Billiton and Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC). In the first six rounds, 162 blocks were awarded with an investment commitment of over $8 billion.
  • SWFs exposure to India
    • Sovereign Wealth Funds have made substantial investments in India during the last eight years; market research shows.  Though they have invested more in China when compared with India, market analysts are predicting that India has attracted their interest and it is a matter of time before they enter in a big way in India.
    • From a couple of SWF investments till 2004 to more than nine funds with direct investments in Indian asset classes by end-March this year, the trend is growing. Some of the major SWF investments in Indian asset classes include Kuwait Investment Authority’s investments in Chryscapital and ICICI Venture Funds, Malaysia’s Khazanah Nasional’s 9.9% shareholding in IDFC, Government of Singapore’s 6.3% holding in Anant Raj Industries, the Palestinian Investment Funds’ 50% stake in the India-Oman Special Investment Fund and Temasek’s 8.3% and 5% equity shareholding in ICICI Bank and Bharti Airtel, respectively.
    • SWF investments into India in the eight years through 2008 stood at $3.3 billion. On the other hand, Indonesia pocketed $4.2 billion (Rs 18,900 crore), Thailand bagged $4.3 billion (Rs 19,350 crore) and China recorded a whopping $12 billion (Rs 54,000 crore). 
    • Global crossborder SWF investments increased from $429 million in 2000 to $53 billion in 2007. 
  • What is pixel advertising?
    • "The emergence of pixel advertising sites (of which Blogertize is a recent Indian example) have also opened up new avenues of earning for bloggers." So reads a sentence in an article on blogging.  What is pixel advertising?  
    • Pixel advertising is a form of display advertising on the web, in which the cost of each advertisement is calculated dependent on the number of pixels it occupies.
    • Know more about this from wikipedia, if you are interested.
  • What an ad!!
    • What a creative advertisement!!  Take a look at it.  It may win something in the Abbys next year.
Language lessons
  • cockerel: Noun
    • A young domestic cock; not older than one year
    • eg: For the Indian middle class to impact politics, it must step out of the mould of the cockerel that believes its crowing makes the sun rise and truly embrace democracy.
  • pillory: verb
    • Expose to ridicule or public scorn; Punish by putting in a pillory; Criticize harshly or violently
    • eg: The fact that banks have been parking large sums of money with the Reserve Bank of India is seen as reason to pillory them for not lending, not as a signal of the dearth of credit-worthy avenues for lending.
  • mirthful: adjective
    • Full of or showing high-spirited merriment; Arousing or provoking laughter
    • eg: ...it must be noted that the relative silence of Navjyot Singh Sidhu in Parliament may have been balanced, at least in the BJP’s books, by his spirited campaigns during various elections and mirthful interventions in other forums.