The Case For A Bigger Health Budget

India’s spend on health is abysmally low. This year government is planning to spend more but it is still lower than what was sought last year and low in comparison with its global peers and other developed nations. The lower spending reflects on the poor access to healthcare for people who needs it the most.



What is it? The percentage amount by which the Indian government is reportedly planning to increase its public health spending to $8.2 billion in the upcoming annual budget for 2018-19.

Why is it important? This is lower than the $10 billion health budget sought by health minister JP Nadda in a November letter to the finance minister, which would have amounted to a 33% increase in allocation over 2017-18. This raises questions if India would be able to meet its target of increasing its annual health spending to 2.5% of its GDP (gross domestic product) from the current 1.15%. Among 15 countries, India is the second last in terms of expenditure as a share of total government spending (5%) compared to China’s 10.4%.

Tell me more: According to the Global Burden of Disease report, 2015, India ranked a poor 154 out of 195 countries in terms of access of healthcare.


5,000 km

What is it? The range of Agni-V, an intercontinental surface-to-surface ballistic missile that India successfully tested on Thursday.

Why is it important? The latest test of this missile, which has been tested five times since 2012, may have been incremental from a technological perspective but it comes amidst India’s strained geopolitical relations with both China and Pakistan. India’s age-old dispute over the Himalayan region of Doklam with Beijing has flared up recently while Pakistan, whose relations with India seems to be worsening with increasing ceasefire violations across the Line of Control and the International Border in Jammu and Kashmir, is building up its nuclear capabilities.

Tell me more: Agni-V was test-fired on Thursday morning from Abdul Kalam Island, off the coast of Odisha, and covered a distance of 4,900 km in 19 minutes.



What is it? The number of items for which the GST (goods and services tax) Council, headed by finance minister Arun Jaitley, reduced the tax rate on Thursday, in addition to 53 categories of services, effective January 25.

Why is it important? Besides these rate changes, the GST Council also recommended a few policy changes, including modifications to e-way bill rules and late fee payable by registered people to furnish forms GSTR-1, GSTR-5, GSTR-5A and GSTR-6. Transporters will be required to carry an e-way bill when moving goods worth over Rs 50,000 between states, to check tax evasion, from February 1. Armed with details of goods over Rs 50,000, the government would be able to spot a mismatch if either the supplier or buyer does not file returns.

Tell me more: In its next meeting, the Council would consider bringing items such as crude oil, natural gas, petrol, diesel and real estate under GST.



What is it? The number of A380 ‘superjumbo’ aircraft that Emirates has placed an order for with Airbus, with an option to buy 16 more.

Why is it important? The latest order will bump up the A380 order book, which stood at 222 on December 31, 2017. Post this order, Emirates has ordered 178 A380s, which illustrates the importance of the Dubai-based carrier to the struggling A380 programme. Earlier this week, in an unusual statement, Airbus chief operating officer John Leahy said the France-based aircraft manufacturer would have to terminate the A380 programme unless Emirates ordered more aircraft.

Tell me more: The A380 aircraft is the most expensive plane in the Airbus portfolio, with a list price of $445.6 million. When Airbus introduced it in 2005, it expected to sell about 1,200 planes; it has so far delivered 222.



What is it? The number of awards that Indian batsman and skipper Virat Kohli won at the ICC awards for 2017.

Why is it important? Kohli was the men’s cricketer of the year and the ODI (one-day international) cricketer of the year. This haul underscores the phenomenal year that Kohli had: between September 21, 2016 and December 31, 2017, the qualification period for the awards, Kohli amassed 4,320 runs across the three formats.

Tell me more: Steve Smith was named the test cricketer of the year. Kohli was named the captain of both the test and ODI teams of the year, both of which featured three Indians each.


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Minister For Loneliness

Britain now has a minister for loneliness. UK government’s decision reflects the growing concern of loneliness among its citizens, over 9 million of them, according to a survey. The new minister with the help of Office of National Statistics will identify how to measure loneliness and also methods to deal with it. May be its time that we look close to home as well.



What is it? The percentage amount by which the Indian government has cut its additional borrowing requirement, from Rs 50,000 crore to Rs 20,000 crore, for the current fiscal, the finance ministry said on Wednesday.

Why is it important? Markets cheered the news that the government may be able to contain fiscal slippage in 2017-18. The government’s December announcement that it plans to borrow an additional Rs 50,000 crore prompted analysts to expect the fiscal deficit to breach its target of 3.2% of GDP (gross domestic product) and reach 3.5%. Fiscal slippage concerns arose after revenue collections from GST (goods and services tax) was lower than expected, one of the main reasons for the government’s additional borrowing.

Tell me more: After the additional borrowing decision last month, the total government borrowings for the current year were pegged at Rs 6.3 lakh crore and yesterday’s announcement brought it down to Rs 6 lakh crore.



What is it? The ratio of people who feel lonely in the United Kingdom.

Why is it important? In an interesting development, Britain has appointed Sports Minister Tracey Crouch to also take on the role of tackling loneliness among its citizens, in a bid to take forward the work started by murdered lawmaker Jo Cox. Loneliness is increasingly becoming a growing concern across the world, so much so that it is also seen having a huge impact on people’s health. According to the Campaign to End Loneliness, over half the people in the UK over 75 live alone and two-fifths of all older people say television is their main company.

Tell me more: According to a 2017 study by the Agewell Foundation, 43 out of 100 elderly people in India are victims of psychological problems that arise out of loneliness and other relationship issues.


Rs 10,000 crore

What is it? The total cost of a project that aims to interlink the major dams in Marathwada region, as per a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Maharashtra government with Israeli firm Mekorot Development and Enterprise, ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Mumbai today.

Why is it important? Marathwada, one of the regions worst affected by drought in the state, is battling another episode of water scarcity, where 41% of its villages have reported ‘paisewari’ (meaning: the value of the actual yield after harvest in relation to the value of crops grown) below 50 paise. Different factors of agrarian crisis led to 970 farmers ending their lives in 2017.

Tell me more: Mekorot will offer its expertise in development of technologies that plug the loss of water due to evaporation and lopsided distribution of water due to inconsistent rainfall or irregular distribution of rainfall in the catchment areas of dams.



What is it? Indian batsman Cheteshwar Pujara became only the 23rd batsman in the history of test cricket, and the first Indian, to be run out in both innings of a test match.

Why is it important? Pujara’s dubious distinction was part of a fragile Indian batting performance that yesterday wilted to South African debutant Lungi Ngidi, and lost the second test match to South Africa by 135 runs. With this win, South Africa holds an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match test series against India. And India’s quest for its first series win in South Africa is now at 26 years and seven test series, and counting.

Tell me more: In the list of 23 batsmen who have been run out in both innings, two Australians have suffered this ignominy twice: Mark Taylor and Ian Healy.



What is it? The number of engineers at ride-hailing firm Grab’s research centre in Bengaluru, which opened in March 2017. Most of them were working on GrabPay, the company’s payments platform.

Why is it important? On Wednesday, Grab announced it had acquired iKaaz, a Bengaluru-based digital payments startup, though it did not disclose the deal value. The iKaaz team will join Grab’s research centre. iKaaz, founded in 2012, has several products, including a cloud-based platform for online sellers, point-of-sale hardware for retail merchants and a mobile wallet solution.

Tell me more: While Grab does not offer ride-hailing services in India, it operates in several Southeast Asian markets, including Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. It was last valued at $6 billion.


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The Steep Learning Curve


Children between the age group 14-18 in rural India are having a hard time doing the basic maths or reading text, according to a survey that spanned 26 rural districts. According to several estimates, India is projected to become a manufacturing powerhouse due to its huge demographic dividend. But, to really reap the benefits from our upcoming millennial generation, government would need to focus on their foundational education, without which this dividend could become a massive deterrent in the future.



What is it? The number of Indian children in the age group 14-18 years who could not do a division problem (3 digit by 1 digit) correctly.

Why is it important? This shortcoming in a key foundational skill is one of the many findings of the Annual Status of Education (ASER) Report 2017, released yesterday, and illustrates the deficiencies that plague the Indian educational system. According to the report, “even among youth in this age group who have completed eight years of schooling, a significant proportion still lack foundational skills like reading and arithmetic.”

Tell me more: This year’s survey focused on 14-18 year olds, and interviewed 28,323 youth in that age group in 26 rural districts across 24 states. Information was collected for four domains: activity, ability, awareness and aspirations.



What is it? The price drop in top cryptocurrencies—Bitcoin, Ethereum and Ripple—during trading on Tuesday.

Why is it important? The latest fall came in the backdrop of news trickling in that more countries, led by South Korea and China, were looking to step in to regulate trading in cryptocurrencies, including taking drastic action like banning trading. Elsewhere, a research paper laid bare instances of, what it said were, price manipulation in Bitcoin on the Mt Gox Bitcoin currency exchange.

Tell me more: According to this paper, a single actor likely drove the USD/BTC exchange rate from $150 to $1,000 in 2 months in late-2013, volumes on all exchanges increased greatly on days with suspicious activity and unregulated cryptocurrency markets remain vulnerable to manipulation.



What is it? The number of e-commerce portals that Patanjali Ayurved tied up with yesterday to sell its wide range of products.

Why is it important? Offline, the Baba Ramdev company has made its presence felt in several FMCG spaces that were the strongholds of multinationals, and a presence on some of the most popular e-commerce portals could help it open another distribution flank against them. In the first year, the company is targeting Rs 1,000 crore sales from these online channels.

Tell me more: Patanjali’s revenues have rocketed from Rs 2,006 crore in 2014-15 to Rs

Rs 10,561 crore in 2016-17, which made it about one-third the size of Hindustan Unilever. On the sidelines of yesterday’s announcement, Baba Ramdev said he was looking to convert Patanjali, currently a company, to a “non-profit organisation”, which some experts saw as an objective to save tax.


$690 million

What is it? The value of a 10-year outsourcing contract that technology major TCS yesterday said it had bagged from M&G Prudential, the European savings and investments business of Prudential.

Why is it important? This is the third big, multi-year contract that TCS has secured in the past month or so, following a $2.25 billion renewal—its largest ever by an Indian IT firm, spread over 10 years—from Nielsen and a $2 billion win from Transamerica. The Tata Group IT major needs these wins to lift up growth, which was underwhelming in the latest results announced earlier this week.

Tell me more: Earlier this week, TCS COO N Ganapathy Subramaniam said TCS would record double-digit growth in 2018-19, aided by the kicker provided by the new contracts. In the third quarter, it reported net addition of 1,667 employees.



What is it? The stake that Bajaj Finance is acquiring in MobiKwik, a mobile wallet firm, which is more than the 10.8% it had said it would when it invested Rs 225 crore in August.

Why is it important? Bajaj Finance told the Bombay Stock Exchange yesterday that the higher stake was the result of a change in price of the compulsory convertible cumulative preference shares. The lower conversion price suggests the valuation of MobiKwik has fallen in the intervening period, from $327 million to $279 million.

Tell me more: MobiKwik competes against the likes of Paytm and Freecharge. For 2016-17, it reported declining revenues and increasing losses. Its revenues stood at Rs 37.3 crore (against Rs 38 crore in 2015-16) and loss at Rs 131 crore (Rs 109 crore).


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Disorder, Disorder!


Last week, Indians saw something that will go down in the pages of judicial history. Four Supreme Court judges addressed a press conference about their rift with the Chief Justice of India, while breaking the judicial protocol. Though, the act undermined the veracity of India’s apex court, it also left several questions unanswered than it answered.


What is it? The size of the delegation from the Bar Council of India, led by its chairman Manan Kumar Mishra, meeting Supreme Court judges.

Why is it important? In an unprecedented move, four senior-most Supreme Court judges alleged that Chief Justice Dipak Misra was not following established rules to allocate cases among judges. They added this was adversely affecting the judicial delivery system. After meeting with one of the four aggrieved judges, Mishra said it was an internal matter and that a solution would be found in 2-3 days.

Tell me more: At an emergency meeting convened on Saturday, the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) passed a resolution to “express grave concern” over the differences the four senior-most judges have with the Chief Justice. The SCBA President handed a copy of the resolution to Misra, who said he will look into it. Separately, four retired judges have written an open letter to Misra saying they agree with the issues raised by the four working judges and that the issue needs to be resolved within the judiciary.



What is it? The number of days for which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in India, beginning Sunday.

Why is it important? This is his first visit to the country and also the first trip by an Israeli leader to India in 15 years. Netanyahu is accompanied by the largest-ever business delegation (130) to travel with an Israeli leader where executives from companies in defence, cyber and agriculture sectors seek to pursue deals with India. The visit is also seen as a means to deepen diplomatic ties. Though India has been known to vote against Israel in the United Nations, the former has increasingly abstained in issues relating to the Middle Eastern nation in the last two years.

Tell me more: Bilateral trade between the two countries has increased to $4.16 billion in 2016, from $200 million in 1992 when they established diplomatic ties.



What is it? The minimum number of years for which the World Bank would correct and recalculate national rankings of business competitiveness in the annual report titled ‘Doing Business’, according to its chief economist Paul Romer.

Why is it important? This raises questions about the authenticity of the rankings. Romer made a personal apology to Chile, whose rankings have dipped from 34 to 57 in the last three years. This review could impact India, whose rankings have jumped to 100 in 2018 from 140 in the previous year, the biggest improvement among all countries. After assuming power in 2014, the Narendra Modi-government had set a target of breaking into the top 50 in these rankings.

Tell me more: Romer said the World Bank had changed the methodology of calculating the ranks of countries repeatedly in ways that were unfair and misleading.



What is it? The number of players who have set their base price in the Indian Premier League (IPL) auctions, to be held on January 27 and 28, at the maximum of Rs 2 crore.

Why is it important? As the eight IPL franchises look to rebuild, with the IPL completing 10 years and all players barring 18 going into the selection pool, the Rs 2 crore set is where the top players and the team mainstays reside. It comprises 13 Indian and 23 overseas players, and franchises are expected to vie for their services, stretching their budgets. After completing their permissible player retentions, the eight teams have anywhere between Rs 47 crore and Rs 67.5 crore to complete their squads from 1,122 players who have registered for the auction.

Tell me more: So far, 18 players have been retained by the eight teams. Royal Challengers Bangalore spent the most on one player: Rs 17 crore to retain Virat Kohli, making him the most expensive player in IPL history.



What is it? The swap ratio set for the merger between Capital First and IDFC Bank, announced on Saturday. Shareholders of Capital First, a non-banking finance company, will receive 139 shares of IDFC Bank for every 10 shares held by them.

Why is it important? IDFC Bank is paying top money—on Friday, the market capitalisation of Capital First stood at Rs 8,266 crore and that of IDFC Bank at Rs 23,019 crore—to buy itself growth and scale, especially on the retail side. It had tried to do the same with the Shriram Group, but that deal fell through in October 2017.

Tell me more: Post merger, V Vaidyanathan, currently chairman and managing director of Capital First, will take over from Rajiv Lall as managing director and CEO of the combined entity. And Lall will step into the role of non-executive chairman of IDFC Bank.


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