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Indians Are ‘Partly Free’ On The Internet

 

Indians are only partly free on the internet, and so are the 28% of the world’s internet users. A recent report pointed that share of non communicable diseases among all diseases has gone up. India’s trade deficit has shot up. Amazon is shoring up its war chest, Flipkart watch out!

 

55.4%

What is it? The share of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in India’s total disease burden in 2016, up from 30.5% in 1990, according to a report released by the government.

Why is it important? There has been a reversal in trend. In 1990, communicable, maternal, neonatal and nutritional diseases (CMNNDs) accounted for 60.9% of the disease burden; this is down to 32.7% in 2016. The transition from CMNNDs responsible for a majority of disability-adjusted life years (disease burden expressed as the number of years of life lost due to ill-health, disability or death) in 1990 to NCDs dominating in 2016 varies from state to state, highlighting the need for different policy approaches in each state.

Tell me more: Last year, three of the five leading individual causes of disease burden were NCDs-ischaemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and stroke. The main types of NCDs are cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases, cancers and diabetes and they kill 40 million people globally, or 70% of all deaths.

 

$14 billion

What is it? India’s trade deficit—the difference between imports and exports—in October, compared to $9 billion in September and $11.1 billion a year ago.

Why is it important? This is the highest in 35 months as India’s merchandise exports declined for the first time in 13 months in October to $23.1 billion and imports expanded at the slowest pace in nine months to $37.1 billion last month. Exporters put up a poor show as their money was stuck in refunds under the goods and services tax regime. A nearly 28% increase in petroleum imports and higher crude oil prices also widened the trade deficit.

Tell me more: For the April-October period, exports increased 9.6% on a year-on-year basis to $170 billion and imports 22.2% to $256.4 billion.

 

41

What is it? India’s Internet Freedom Score out of a 100 with, according to a report by human rights group Freedom House. A score of 0 means most free and that of a 100 represents least free.

Why is it important? India falls under the category of ‘partly free’ in terms of Internet Freedom in 2017, and has showed no change since 2016. Between June 2016 and May 2017, India employed key Internet controls—that reflect restrictions in social, political and religious content—in five of the nine parameters studied. This included social media or communications apps blocked, political/social/religious content blocked, localised or nationwide ICT shutdown, blogger or ICT user arrested, imprisoned or in prolonged detention for political or social content, and blogger or ICT user physically attacked or killed (including custody).

Tell me more: Of the 65 countries assessed covering 87% of the world’s Internet users, only 23% come under the category of ‘free’, 28% ‘partly free’ and 36% ‘not free’. Nearly half the countries posted declines in the coverage period and only 13 made gains, that too minor.

 

$4.74 billion

What is it? The latest authorised capital—the limit for equity capital declared by a company—of Amazon India, up from $2.4 billion previously.

Why is it important? This gives Amazon more room to channel capital into its Indian operations, as and when it likes. In its fight against Flipkart for e-commerce supremacy in India, far from stepping back, Amazon is willing to raise the stakes even more in a market it has identified to be pivotal for it.

Tell me more: The Amazon move comes about three months after Flipkart added $1.4 billion to its own capital chest from new investor SoftBank.

 

141

What is it? The number of initial route proposals received by the government yesterday in the second round of the Udan regional connectivity scheme, which aims to make air travel affordable in less-serviced or unserviced routes, partly via a government subsidy.

Why is it important? In the first round of this scheme, the government cleared 128 routes in March, but only about 20 have become operational for a variety of reasons at both the airline and the airport end. How the second round, the routes for which will be allotted next month, plays out remains to be seen.

Tell me more: Airlines have been moving on their plans to add smaller aircraft to their fleet. IndiGo has placed an order for 50 ATRs and expects to launch its first regional flight in December.

 

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The ‘Tower’ing Burden Of Telecom

 

Vodafone and Idea are trying to save costs by shedding their tower businesses. Retail inflation has hit a 7-month-high, dimming hopes of a rate cut. The government may be scrambling to meet the fiscal deficit target. Italy, the football nation, failed to qualify for the FIFA world cup, the second time since 1958 edition. And, in tech world, chipmaker Qualcomm rejected Broadcom’s takeover bid.

 

3.58%

What is it? The rate at which retail inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index, rose in October from the same period a year ago.

Why is it important? This is the fastest pace in seven months, dimming hopes of an interest rate cut on December 6, when the central bank’s next monetary policy review is scheduled. This was driven by an increase in food prices—combined food inflation was 1.9% in October, against 1.25% in September, while vegetable prices increased from 3.92% to 7.47%–and fuel inflation of 6.36% last month as against 5.56% in September.

Tell me more: Retail inflation in June was the lowest (at 1.46%) since India started publishing these datasets in January 2012 and has been steadily climbing since then. Last month, it was higher in the urban areas (3.81%) than the rural ones (3.36%).

 

12

What is it? The number of state-run companies from which the government is reportedly seeking dividend amounts of 30% to 100% of their 2016-17 and 2017-18 net profit.

Why is it important? This indicates the government is scrambling to make up for the shortfall in tax revenue to meet its fiscal deficit target of 3.2% of GDP (gross domestic product) for 2017-18. It raises questions on how these public-sector firms would be able to shoulder the twin responsibility of handing out dividend payouts to the government as well as stepping up investments in an economic environment where the private sector remains hesitant.

Tell me more: India’s fiscal deficit stood at Rs 499,000 crore at the end of September, which translates to 91% of its full-year target.

 

Rs 7,850 crore

What is it? The total amount for which Vodafone India (Rs 3,850 crore) and Idea Cellular (Rs 4,000 crore) are looking to sell their standalone towers businesses to ATC Telecom Infrastructure.

Why is it important? This would help these telecom firms reduce their debt levels, which are currently straining under a five-year borrowing spree to acquire spectrum and a fierce price war introduced by Reliance Jio in a highly competitive market since 2016. Idea and Vodafone have a cumulative debt of Rs 108,000 crore. This sale is likely to generate property revenue of Rs 2,100 crore and around Rs 800 crore in gross margin for ATC in the first year.

Tell me more: Idea and Vodafone had announced a $23 billion-merger (excluding the latter’s 42% stake in Indus Towers) in March to create the world’s second largest and India’s largest telecom firm by subscribers, which the competition regulator approved about four months ago.

 

0

What is it?  The number of goals scored by Italy in the two legs of its elimination tie against Sweden to decide who will go to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

Why is it important? Italy’s 1-0 loss on aggregate to Sweden means this high-profile footballing nation failed to qualify for the football World Cup for the first time since it missed the 1958 edition. Italy, along with Germany has the second-highest number of World Cup tournament participations (18), after Brazil (20).

Tell me more: Italy also has won four World Cup titles, the last one coming in 2006. Here, too, it is at par with Germany and ranked second only to Brazil, which has five titles.

 

78%

What is it?  The percentage of shares of chipmaker Qualcomm that are held by institutions, as of June 2017, according to Nasdaq.

Why is it important? Yesterday, Qualcomm formally rejected an unsolicited $103 billion acquisition bid from Broadcom, in what would have been the largest merger in the technology space. This shifts the attention to institutional shareholders as Broadcom CEO Hock Tan, while announcing the bid last week, said he was open to exploring more aggressive options to acquire Qualcomm.

Tell me more: The 78% institutional shareholding in Qualcomm is fragmented and spread across 1,512 shareholders. Blackrock and Vanguard have the largest holdings, of 7.2% and 7%, respectively.

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Alibaba’s Singles’ Day Brings In Moolah

 

Alibaba raked in billions with its Singles’ day shopping festival, outdoing Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. SoftBank is padding Uber with more money. Air India is borrowing yet again while it sits on a mountain of debt. Industrial output bounced a little but is still lower than August’s. 

 

$10 billion

What is it? The amount that SoftBank Group could end up committing to ride-hailing service Uber, both in fresh funding and in buying out existing investors.

Why is it important? Uber yesterday announced it had entered into an agreement with a consortium led by SoftBank and Dragoneer on a potential investment. For Uber, which is in a state of flux on several fronts, it marks its association with the weightiest investor in the Internet economy. For SoftBank, it gives it a piece of the leader of the unicorn club and a pivotal seat in the ride-hailing sector.

Tell me more: SoftBank is also an investor in other ride-hailing companies, notably Didi in China, GrabTaxi in Singapore and Ola in India.

 

$25.3 billion

What is it? The sales generated by Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce firm, from its 11.11 Global Shopping Festival in 24 hours, which celebrates single people.

Why is it important? The ninth edition of the annual sale is its highest ever, up 42% from 2016, cementing its position as the world’s largest shopping event. It is almost twice the combined sales from Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the US in 2016. Seen another way, it is higher than the GDP of Cameroon. Some experts say the massive growth is due to retailers competing with each other to grab a pie of consumer spending in the growing Chinese economy.

Tell me more: The online extravaganza broke other records too. Alibaba surpassed last year’s sales figure in 13 hours. Chinese postal and courier companies handled at least 331 million packages, over 30% higher than those in the same day a year ago.

 

Rs 1,500 crore

What is it? The value of loan reportedly received by Air India from Bank of India to meet its working capital needs.

Why is it important? It highlights the financial situation of Air India, which has a total debt of Rs 52,000 crore and recently received an in-principle nod for disinvestment. However, according to a report, the new owners are likely to take over only the aircraft debt and not working capital loans, which would be transferred to a special purpose vehicle (to be managed by it) before the sale. Of the total debt, Rs 33,000 crore is on account of working capital loans.

Tell me more: The recent working capital loan comes nearly a month after the national carrier floated a tender seeking government-backed short-term loans for the mentioned amount.

 

3.8%

What is it? The rate at which India’s industrial output grew in September on a year-on-year basis.

Why is it important? While this was lower than the 4.3% recorded in August, it was significantly higher than the depths of June and July, two months that also contained the overhang of the transition to a new goods and services tax (GST).

Tell me more: Of the 23 industries, 11 registered growth, indicating that stability was gradually returning to the industrial sector after the disruptions caused by demonetization and GST.

 

Rs 25,000-30,000

What is it? The amount Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) reportedly spends on a cricketer for DNA testing.

Why is it important? This is to understand each player’s body needs to maintain a particular fat percentage, whose limit for a senior Indian player is 23%. This test is believed to help cricketers improve their speed in fat burning, endurance, recovery and muscle building by developing a customised and comprehensive fitness programme. However, researchers are divided on the usefulness of such tests to improve athletes’ performance: one study claims these are ‘virtually meaningless‘, while another says DNA-matched training programmes improve their performance by three times than the mismatched ones.

Tell me more: Earlier, Indian cricketers took Skinfold tests and DEXA (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) scans to measure body fat percentage.

 

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Is Demand For Gold Fading Away?

 

World’s demand for gold is the lowest since third-quarter of 2009.  Voters in Himachal Pradesh turned out in large numbers in the latest assembly elections. A larger chunk of proceeds of crime have been laundered through banks ‘using a maze of shell companies’. Indian doctors are not spending enough time for primary care consultations, says a study.

 

650 tonnes

What is it? India’s expected gold demand in 2017, according to World Gold Council (WGC) India.

Why is it important? This would be the lowest in eight years. In comparison, the demand was 666.1 tonnes last year while the 10-year average was 845 tonnes. The WGC has attributed this to the government’s initiatives to make bullion trading more transparent in addition to weak demand in some rural areas. Under the new goods and services tax regime rolled out recently, the tax on gold more than doubled to 3% from 1.2% earlier.

Tell me more: Weaker demand in India, which is the second biggest gold consumer after China, could result in the reduction of global gold prices, which recently were at a near three-week high. It remains to be seen if the wedding season in the current quarter is able to help revive the demand in the country.

 

74%

What is it? The polling percentage for the Himachal Pradesh assembly elections held on Wednesday.

Why is it important? This is the highest voting percentage for the hill state, which has not returned a government in the last 30 years. A high voter turnout was traditionally considered as an anti-incumbency vote, but recent data doesn’t suggest so. In three state elections – Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh – with high voter turnover, two incumbents were re-elected.

Tell me more: Himachal Pradesh became the first state to use paper trail (voter-verifiable paper audit trail) for all polling stations (7,525). 297 out of 11,283 paper trail machines developed snag and were replaced.

 

48%

What is it? The percentage of cases registered under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) where financial institutions were responsible post-demonetisation.

Why is it important? Higher incidence of people using financial institutions to launder money could indicate corrupt practices within the highly regulated banks, but it could also mean suspicious transactions are better tracked. Enforcement Directorate (ED) says proceeds of crime are laundered through banks ‘using a maze of shell companies’. Real estate (35%) and gold/ precious metal (7%) came second and third in terms of number of cases registered by the ED.

Tell me more: Between November 2016 and September 2017, the ED conducted 620 searches and issued 597 showcause notices. ED has attached assets worth Rs5,335 crore under FEMA.

 

2 minutes

What is it? The mean duration of India’s primary care consultation time in 2015, according to a global study published in British medical journal BMJ Open.

Why is it important? Shorter consultation times means poorer health outcomes for patients, which also indicates a heightened sense of burnout for the doctors. According to a recent Global Burden of Disease Study, the country ranked a poor 154 of 195 countries on the healthcare index. In India, the doctor-population ratio of 0.62 per 1,000 is way lesser than the prescribed ratio of 1:100 by the World Health Organization.

Tell me more: The report, which collated data from 178 studies, covered 67 countries and over 28.5 million consultations. Overall, primary care consultations last less than five minutes for half of the global population but range from 48 seconds in Bangladesh to 22.5 minutes in Sweden.

 

180 million

What is it? The number of smartphone owners who are at the risk of having their text messages and calls intercepted by hackers, according to cyber-security firm Appthority.

Why is it important? This is due to a simple coding error in some mobile apps that use functions provided by Twilio, a third-party service provider. Such studies point to the necessity to download apps from trusted stores, a careful inspection of app permissions and not go for something called ‘rooting’ (for Android users) that allows third-party services to break software locks for users to make software changes that cannot be made otherwise.

Tell me more: Appthority found 685 problematic mobile apps linked to 85 Twilio accounts of a survey of 1,100 apps. Here’s how it works: The apps use the services of providers such as Twilio to send text messages and make phone calls and if developers leave those credentials (tools for authentication) in apps, their accounts could be exposed to the hackers. They, in turn, can access related data if they log into the accounts of the developers on Twilio.

 

 

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