Politics & the Nation
  • How do we reform the political system?
    • Howsoever much we wrack our brains, we will always come up with only one solution to all our political ills. That is reforming the funding system for political parties. Here are some suggestions aired by today's ET editorial on the subject. Worth our noting:
    • State funding of recognised political parties, in proportion to the votes they secure, is one method. Extensive deployment of information technology to create an audit trail, open to public scrutiny, for every rupee received by parties is another. Scrapping the firstpast-the-post system in favour of proportionate representation would greatly reduce the need for individual politicians to build war chests and also be a more representative system of democracy.
  • Government planning to e-link Indian missions
    • The proposal seeks to network 169 missions, 77 immigration check posts, five Foreigners Regional Registration Offices and over 600 Foreigners Registration Offices (FROs) with the Central Foreigners’ Bureau.
    • What prompted the move?
      • The move comes in the wake of revelations that terror accused David Headley flew in and out of India while paying simultaneous visits to Pakistan and plotting terror attacks.
      • Headley had visited India at least five times over the past few years and each time he had also visited Pakistan.
Finance & Economy
  • Government unhappy with the poor response for NTPC FPO
    • At a hurriedly-called meeting on Thursday, senior officials of DoD, power ministry and NTPC executives voiced their displeasure to the investment bankers on the poor response from the retail and foreign institutional investors.
    • The four bankers — ICICI Securities, Kotak Mahindra Capital Company from India, USbased Citigroup Capital and JPMorgan — had been confident of selling these shares at premium at the time of the appointment. However, given the current situation, it is apparent that they are finding it difficult to sell at this price.
    • It appears that so far only 20,000 applications have been received from retail investors for an aggregate amount of less than Rs 100 crore. Under market regulator Sebi’s guidelines, the company has reserved 14.28 crore shares for the retail investors aggregating to Rs 2,870 crore at the base price of Rs 201 per share.
  • On French auctions
    • The ongoing NTPC follow on public offering is reportedly being offered on French auction basis to investors. What does this method mean?
    • In this method, the firm announces a minimum (reserve) price. Investors place sealed bids for quantity and price. When the bids are in, the firm negotiates a minimum and maximum price with the market regulator. Any bid above the maximum price is eliminated as a virtual market order. The bidders who bid between the minimum and maximum price are awarded shares on a pro rata basis, each paying the minimum price. In the event that demand for the stock is too high, the IPO may be changed to fixed-price offering.
  • Why does the country need a tower policy?
    • In the wake of the reported plan by TRAI to come up with a tower policy by June this year, this question is quite pertinent.
    • TRAI is looking to stop the mushrooming of cellsites in residential areas that has resulted in standoffs between telcos and city administrations.
    • The policy will apply to cellsites or telecom towers in all cities that have a population of over one million and stipulate the distance to maintain from schools, hospitals and tourist attractions. It will also specify the maximum radiation levels for these masts and state methodologies that will be used to measure it.
  • How much does the government spend on its flagship schemes?
  • How many MFIs are there in India?
    • There are close to 250 MFIs (Micro Finance Institutions) servicing about two crore clients in the country. According to estimates by various independent agencies studying this sector the total loan outstanding at the end of last financial year was above Rs 13,000 crores.
  • Steps to check home loan frauds
    • In the past, there have been instances where borrowers have forged the title deed and borrowed money from multiple banks by giving duplicate documents (title deed) as security for home loan.
    • It is estimated that the banking sector has reported over to Rs 400-crore home loan frauds.
    • These issues could be well tackled once a central home loan registry is formed. Under the proposed system, all banks and housing finance companies will provide data on title deed and the home loans borrower to the central registry. Next time, a bank processes a home loan proposal, it will first verify with the central registry if the title deed is clear and not registered in any other entity’s name, or if any other bank has taken it as a security.
    • The coming budget is likely to contain some proposals in this regard.
  • Who is the Director General of UNIDO?
    • Kandeh K Yumkella
  • Is there a bubble in the growing forex reserves of China?
    • Look at this article; it certainly feels so. Worth a read. But some excerpts about why growing reserves are a liability:
    • One, China is trapped in an arrangement of its own making. As China and other Asian nations buy more and more US treasuries, it becomes harder to unload them without causing huge capital losses. If the dollar collapses, panicked selling by central banks looking to limit losses would shake global markets more than the US credit crisis has.
    • Two, reserves are dead money. The wisdom of currency stockpiling came from the chaos of 1997. Speculators sensed authorities in Thailand were sitting on few reserves, and they were right. Their attack on the Thai baht set the stage for an Asian meltdown. Governments spent the 2000s determined not to repeat the mistake.
    • Three, reserves add to overheating risks. When policy makers buy dollars, they need to sell local currency, increasing its availability and boosting the money supply. Next they sell bonds to mop up excess money in economies. It’s an imprecise science that often leads to accelerating inflation. The strategy works out to be an expensive one.
  • Giacometti's work fetches highest ever price in an auction
    • History was made in the global art world at Sotheby’s London auction on February 3.
    • Swiss modern master Alberto Giacometti’s rare work, ‘L’homme qui marche I’ (Walking Man I) walked away with the highest tag ever in the history of world art auctions.
    • Amid tense bidding, an anonymous telephone bidder coughed up £65 million ($104.3 million) for the bronze statue. The price eclipsed Pablo Picasso’s ‘Garcon a la Pipe’ (Boy with a Pipe) that had fetched $104.2 million in 2004.
  • suborn: Verb
    • Incite to commit a crime or an evil deed; Procure (false testimony or perjury), Induce to commit perjury or give false testimony
    • eg: The bureaucracy has to collude in this process of mobilising political funding, suborning this institution of governance as well.
  • dawdling: Noun
    • The deliberate act of delaying and playing instead of working
    • Verb: Take one's time; proceed slowly; Hang (back) or fall (behind) in movement, progress, development, etc.; Waste time
  • depravity: Noun
    • Moral perversion; impairment of virtue and moral principles; A corrupt or depraved or degenerate act or practice
  • bung: Verb
    • Give a tip or gratuity to in return for a service, beyond the compensation agreed on; Close with a cork or stopper; [Brit] (informal) put, throw
    • eg: But the presence of one set of distortions can hardly justify bunging in another.