Politics & the Nation
  • Nirmal Gram Puraskar
    • The Panchayati Raj Institutions that have attained full sanitation are awarded the prestigious Nirmal Gram Puraskar every year.
    • President Pratibha Patil gave away the Nirmal Gram Puraskar 2009 to districts and Block Panchayats from Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra and West Bengal for achieving total sanitation in their respective areas at a function in New Delhi.
  • White House celebrates Guruparb for the first time
    • Guru Nanak's birth anniversary was celebrated on Monday for the first time in the White House, with musicians from the Golden Temple holding a celestial performance attended by Sikh leaders from across the country.
    • Organised by the White House Office of Public Engagement, the event comes months after the first Diwali was celebrated in the White House with President Barack Obama presiding over the festival of lights.
Finance & Economy
  • FII investments may scale new peaks this year
    • Global investors are reportedly borrowing cheap in developed nations and invest in high-yielding assets of emerging markets such as India.
    • Overseas funds have so far bought Indian stocks worth about $15 billion. They were lured by the economic growth opportunities here, even as the US and Europe struggle to come out of the worst recession since the Great Depression. The previous high of overseas investment in local stocks was $17.7 billion in 2007. Given the current run-rate, the inflow of foreign money should certainly be within kissing distance of the 2007 peak, unless there is a sudden selloff.
    • It is in this context that the government may be forced to emulate Brazil which has imposed a tax on capital inflows. You might have heard of a tax called the "Tobin Tax."
    • A Tobin tax is the suggested tax on all trade of currency across borders. Named after the economist James Tobin, the tax is intended to put a penalty on short-term speculation in currencies. The original tax rate he proposed was 1%, which was subsequently lowered to between 0.1% and 0.25%.
    • On August 15, 1971, when Richard Nixon announced that the US dollar would no longer convert to gold, effectively ending the Bretton Woods system, Tobin suggested a new system for international currency stability, and proposed that such a system include an international charge on foreign-exchange transactions.
  • Ads on mobiles prove cost effective for car majors
    • Car makers like Maruti, Hyundai, Tata Motors and others have begun advertising heavily through cell phones, which is generating higher buying decisions among Indians this year compared to global buyers. The mobile phone advertisements constitute 31% of buying decisions among Indians — globally this is only 8%. Car sales have picked up significantly in the past few months in India, especially in the small, fuel-efficient car segment.
    • In India, around 30% of car buyers are influenced by TV and print ads, while globally this figure is just around 19%. While 22% of buyers are influenced by website banner advertising in India, globally it is just around 10%.
  • Launch of new CPI getting delayed
    • The country's efforts at launching a new Consumer Price Index is going to be delayed as the data collection process for the rural component is reportedly not yet in place.
    • Read this news story. It describes the present method of measuring CPI.
  • How do small savings impose extra burden on the economy?
    • Small savings means the PPF and Post Office Savings deposits and certificates. It is not just the interest outgo on them that is a burden on the economy. There is more to it.
    • The Centre mandates that 80% of the small savings collected in the state's territory should be taken as loan by the concerned state government at a cost of 9.5%.
    • What this effectively results is this: Diverting funds from banks to small savings. This means diverting savings from the commercial sector to the government, at high rates of interest.
    • This is the real cost to the economy.
  • More bang for carbon bucks
    • Bjorn Lomborg is a champion arguing for spending money smartly on solutions that give immediate results for the majority rather than on spending huge sums for emission cuts. Take for instance the case of malaria spread. The threat of more malaria has been used to argue for drastic carbon cuts.
    • The most efficient, global carbon cuts — designed to keep temperature increases under two degrees Celsius — would cost $40 trillion a year by 2100. In the best-case scenario, this expenditure would reduce the at-risk population by only 3%. In comparison, spending $3 billion annually on mosquito nets, environmentally-safe indoor DDT sprays and subsidies for effective new combination therapies could halve the total number of those infected within a decade. For the money it takes to save one life with carbon cuts, smarter policies could save 78,000 lives.
    • Similary the emission cut enthusiasts use the threat of starvation to argue for drastic carbon cuts. But providing Vitamin A and zinc to 80% of the 140 million or so undernourished children in the world would require a commitment of just $60 million annually. For $286 million, we could get iron and iodine to more than 2.5 billion.
    • Some argue that the choice between spending money on carbon cuts and on direct policies is unfair. But it is a basic fact that no dollar can be spent twice. Indeed, for every dollar spent on strong climate policies, we will likely do about $0.02 of good for the future. If we spent the same dollar on simple policies to help malnutrition or malaria now, we could do $20 or more good — 1,000 times better, when all impacts are taken into account.
Language lessons
  • tepid: Adjective
    • Moderately warm; Feeling or showing little interest or enthusiasm
    • eg: Monday's conference with likely bidders drew a tepid response from phone firms, in contrast to the frenzy last year before the auction was postponed.
  • genial: Adjective
    • Diffusing warmth and friendliness
    • eg: The US president struck a genial note after days of swipes between the two sides over trade imbalances and China's yuan currency, which many in Washington say is so under-valued that it is warping the global economy.
  • immiserate: Verb
    • To impoverish or sink into misery.
    • eg: They see globalisation as irredeemable evil and instrument of immiserisation.
  • skulking: Noun
    • Evading duty or work by pretending to be incapacitated