News in Numbers, Feb 10, 2017: How safe are your debit cards?

3.2 million

 

What is it? Bank customers whose debit card data was stolen in 2016 due to the hacking of Hitachi Payment Services that manages ATMs of certain banks.

 

Why is it important? While millions of users were stricken between May and July of 2016 and had their money stolen, Hitachi Payments only now admitted on Thursday it still does not know the amount of user data compromised. The hacking, detected in September, led to an audit of Hitachi Payments, whose ATMs for banks like ICICI Bank, Yes Bank, Axis Bank, HDFC Bank, SBI were affected the most.

 

Tell me more: The audit results, now out, by SISA Information Security and commissioned by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), tells of a sophisticated malware that concealed its tracks and was able to delete them. Hitachi in its admission says containment measures have been deployed.

 

 

113%

 

What is it? The productivity of the Lok Sabha in the first phase of the Budget session for 2017.

 

Why is it important? The phase which saw the Specified Bank Notes (Cessation of Liabilities) Bill or the bill on demonetisation, along with others such as the Finance Bill, Payment of Wages (Amendment) Bill, passed, saw the Lok Sabha accomplish 13% more work than scheduled. This was less than the first phase productivity of 2016’s Budget session (123%). While the data was shared by the Parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar, it reiterates a study by think-tank PRS Legislative Research which showed having a majority in the lower house helped keep up Budget session productivity levels for this government. While productivity hovered between 49-89% in 2010-2013 Budget sessions, 2014 onwards, it was at 103-121%.

 

Tell me more: Rajya Sabha productivity in the first phase of the ongoing session was 97%.

 

 

>3 million

 

What is it? The number of people forced from their homes by the civil war going on in South Sudan, the world’s youngest country.

 

Why is it important? The United Nations now says the fighting between the government and rebel forces is reaching “worrying proportions”. Aid workers have had to be evacuated and military supplies and reinforcements find their way to the country.

 

Tell me more: South Sudan’s brief history has been fraught with the ongoing civil war leading to a humanitarian crisis, rife with displacement and food insecurity. A tentative peace agreement struck in 2015 is still to be acted upon.

 

 

$ 250 billion

 

What is it? The amount analysts expect India to spend on defense modernisation over the next 10 years

 

Why is it important? With this large budget, it hopes to get manufacturers shift their production facilities to India, boosting its Make in India campaign. Its deal with Lockheed Martin to make its F-16 combat jets in India was in this direction. However, the defense firm has now said US government under Trump might take a fresh look at the deal, which could be a setback for Make in India efforts.
Tell me more: One of the key campaign promises of Donald Trump was to bring back jobs to America, and the indications are that he will try protectionist measures to achieve that.

 

 

2 million

 

What is it? The number of users Twitter added in the last quarter of 2016. It now has 319 million monthly active users.

 

Why is it important? In contrast, Facebook, its rival in the social media space, added 72 million users. It came during the height of American presidential campaign, with Donald Trump making his most impactful statements on Twitter. The user growth, as well as the merely 1% increase in quarterly revenues hammered the stock price down by 11%.

 

Tell me more: Despite this, Twitter suggested its users are getting more addicted to the platform pointed to the growth (11% quarter on quarter) in daily active user numbers.

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What’s holding back card usage in India?

This piece originally appeared on Livemint.com

 

Among the debates that demonetisation has kicked off is whether India is ready to go cashless. Some argue that Indians’ preference for cash has to do with their mindset, and that it will take time to change, irrespective of the options one may have. Others say that it has more to do with the infrastructure and that the country simply doesn’t have the capacity to significantly increase the share of digital payments. The data on point of sale (PoS) terminal transactions from the pre-demonetisation years suggests that the problem is the latter.

While the number of transactions on PoS terminals has been going up over the years (chart 1), the number of number of devices has not gone up in tandem(chart 2).

 

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It’s not that India already has enough. There is a shortfall of PoS terminals compared to other countries, measured against the number of people and the number of debit cards in the country (chart 3). These suggest that more terminals would mean more transactions.

 

card3

 

Also, while big banks have been active in pushing PoS terminals, the smaller banks can step on the gas. The top five banks’ share in the ATM network is less than 50%. However, they control 80% of PoS terminals (chart 4).

 

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The cash withdrawal, currency exchange challenge at rural bank branches

This piece originally appeared on Livemint.com

 

So far, the bank branch has been the nerve centre of the government’s demonetization drive. Branches in metro areas are struggling to cope with demand. For customers banking on branches in rural areas, it could be worse. About 93% of the 595,000-odd rural areas remain ‘unbanked’—they have no physical branch (see chart 1). And there are 629 million Indians, or about 81% of population in rural areas, residing in these 554,000-odd unbanked centres (see chart 2).

This unbanked number should be tempered by two new supply channels. The first is the 125,000 ‘bank mitras’—bank agents assigned to a fixed unbanked area under the Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana. The second is the 531,000 roving banking correspondents in rural areas, whose coverage details are unavailable. Both these sets, and the post office, need to come into play in rural areas. If they don’t, the yawning gap in branch coverage between rural areas and other areas (see chart 4) can greatly inconvenience rural Indians in this period of transition.

 

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News in Numbers, Nov 14, 2016: What’s the limit?

Rs 2,500

What is it? The cash withdrawal limit at ATMs per day, up from Rs 2,000, as per a government notification.

Why is it important? One of the consequences of the shock announcement of withdrawal of old currency notes in Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denominations by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday has been the long queues outside bank branches and ATMs where people have been standing for hours to exchange their old notes for new ones. The government’s apparent lack of preparedness at dealing with the move’s aftermath has been criticised and there have been instances of daily wage labourers losing out on their livelihoods, low-income workers struggling to get their hands on cash due to not having bank accounts or means/awareness to transact digitally.

Tell me more: After a review by the Finance Ministry, the limit of old notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 that can be exchanged with new notes of Rs 2,000 and Rs 500 has been increased from Rs 4,000 to Rs 4,500 per day. The weekly limit of withdrawal from bank accounts has been hiked to Rs 24,000 from Rs 20,000 and the limit of Rs 10,000 has been removed.

2,000

What is it? The approximate number of companies that had contended the right of states to impose entry tax (levy on movement of goods from one state to another).

Why is it important? The Supreme Court on Friday ruled against these companies and upheld states’ rights to levy entry tax and said that this did not violate the principles of free trade. According to estimates, companies would have to reportedly pay Rs 30,000-Rs 35,000 crore in entry tax to states. The government is trying to roll out the Goods and Services Tax, which is to subsume all indirect taxes(including the entry tax) in the country, by April 1, 2017 but this could be delayed by another six months.

Tell me more: Companies including the Jindal Group, Vedanta, Tata Steel and Steel Authority of India had argued that the imposition of the entry tax by states on the movement of goods into their respective territories was against the right to freedom of trade and commerce in India, which is guaranteed under Article 301 of the constitution.

 

6

What is it? The number of years of negotiations to arrive at a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement between India and Japan signed during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Japan.

Why is it important? This would help India buy nuclear technology from Japan and for Japan, it is its first civilian nuclear pact cooperation with a country (India) that has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. However, this exception has been made by Japan reportedly due to a separate note that says that it would suspend nuclear cooperation with India if it conducts a nuclear test though unnamed Indian officials have insisted that this is not legally bindingbut only included keeping in mind “Japanese sensitivities”. This has raised apprehensions that this may lead to re-negotiations with other countries with whom India has signed nuclear pacts to insert similar clauses.

Tell me more: Another clause in the note reportedly says that if Japan scraps the deal in the event of India conducting a nuclear test, the latter cannot ask for compensation for disruption of electricity from a nuclear plant or for the resultant economic losses. Japan is the only country to have suffered the impact of nuclear weapons being dropped on it and therefore, has been uncomfortable signing such a pact with India, which is outside the nuclear non-proliferation regime.

 

0.2%

What is it? The expected increase in global carbon emissions above the 2015 levels from fossil fuels and industry in 2016, according to a study.

Why is it important? This is the third straight year with an almost flat growth rate and a significant decline from the 3% recorded in the 2000s. One of the main reasons for this could be attributed to a decline in emissions by China and the US, the two largest emitters. Emissions by China and the US are expected to decrease by 0.5% (from 0.7% in 2015) and 17% (2.5% in 2015) this year respectively. However, researchers said it is too early to say whether this is a temporary blip or the making of a long-term trend.

Tell me more: India’s emissions, which were growing by 6% per annum over the last decade, slowed down to 5% in 2015 and such levels are expected to continue as it expects to double its coal production by 2020.

 

$40.85 billion

What is it? Asset sales by Indian companies pending or completed in 2016.

Why is it important? This is the highest-ever asset sales by companies since liberalisation in 1991 and around 46% higher than the previous high of $27.96 billion recorded in 2007. This could be one of the main reasons for why private investment has been muted in the recent past. While the 2007 asset sales were due to investors wanting a bigger pie of India’s growth story (its economy grew by 9% or more between 2005-06 and 2007-08), 2016’s is due to the high debt levels of corporates.

Tell me more: Some of the deals in 2016 include: sale of controlling stake in Essar Oil to Russia’s Rosneft and its partners for nearly $13 billion and sale of Jaypee Group’s cement assets to Aditya Birla-controlled UltraTech Cement for around $2.4 billion.

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