Cleaning Up Political Funding or not?

Government is floating interest-free bonds that can be encashed by political parties, in an effort to make transparent the hose of political funding. The move, although, is laudable, but this government has been called out in the past for accepting money from unknown sources. What remains to be seen is, will it walk the talk in the general elections coming up next year.



What is it? The number of days for which electoral bonds, the terms for which were announced by the government on Tuesday, will be open for purchase in January, April, July and October. It will be a 30-day window in the year of general elections.

Why is it important? These bonds, which are interest-free banking instruments such as promissory notes, can be encashed by political parties at select branches of the State Bank of India. The government’s stated objective of introducing these bonds is to make political funding transparent, but they have been critiqued for doing the exact opposite by enabling anonymous donations. According to a report by Association for Democratic Reforms, 30.7% of total income of all Indian political parties for 2015-16 came from unknown sources.

Tell me more: Only those political parties that received at least 1% of votes polled in the last general election or assembly election will be eligible to receive donations through electoral bonds. The bonds would be valid for 15 days, though they will not carry the donor’s name. However, donors would have to comply with the bank’s KYC (know your customer) norms.



What is it? The Nikkei India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index, a measure of manufacturing activity, in December, an increase from 52.6 in November.

Why is it important? A value above 50 in the index indicates expansion, a value below 50 contraction. The December 2017 index reading shows the country’s factory activity expanded at the fastest pace in five years, driven by an increase in output and new orders, which saw their sharpest increases since December 2012 and October 2016, respectively. The December reading is also slightly higher than the average of 54 recorded since the start of the survey in March 2005. Job creation rose at the fastest pace since August 2012.

Tell me more: Firms increased prices at the quickest pace in 10 months in line with rising input costs, which suggests that inflation could be higher than the central bank’s medium-term target of 4%.



What is it? The number of milk samples that will be taken at random across India with immediate effect, according to directions issued by Secretary, Department of Animal Husbandry, to chief secretaries and food commissioners of all states and union territories.

Why is it important? This drive is to detect adulteration in milk, particularly that of edible oil, sucrose and detergents. States have been asked to install equipment at the village level to detect milk adulteration, for which the Centre has allocated Rs 100 crore. Last year, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India said that samples of unbranded milk taken as part of a national survey revealed that a fifth of them were adulterated.

Tell me more: In May 2017, the government had said that a new scanner had been developed that can detect adulteration in milk in 40 seconds. The scanner was said to cost Rs 10,000 and have a per test cost of 5-10 paise.


$268 billion

What is it? Apple’s cash reserves (cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities), as of September 2017.

Why is it important? An analyst report released by Citi this week said there was, now, a 40% chance of Apple buying Netflix, the American entertainment company. The news trigger for the report was the Donald Trump administration announcing sharp cuts in corporate tax rates and untaxed profits of American companies that are stored abroad and repatriated. Most of Apple’s cash reserves are parked overseas, and the report reckons the lower tax rates could entice the company to bring some of it back into the US and use it for impactful acquisitions.

Tell me more: While Apple has cracked online music, it has struggled to crack TV and films, and Netflix can help it do that. Netflix’s subscribers have grown from 23 million in 2011 to 109 million in 2017, and it had a market capitalisation of $87 billion.


130 million pounds

What is it? The amount that English club Liverpool are reportedly seeking from Spanish club Barcelona to sell their prized midfielder Philippe Coutinho.

Why is it important? With the January transfer window opening in European club football, the movement around Coutinho is once again a big story. Liverpool rejected three bids from Barcelona over the summer of 2017, the third worth up to 119 million pounds, saying the Brazilian wasn’t for sale. But since then, Liverpool’s stand has softened. Last weekend, Nike, Barcelona’s kit sponsor, posted online a club shirt with Coutinho’s name on the back, before pulling it down, adding fuel to the transfer fire.

Tell me more: A transfer value of 130 million pounds would be the second-highest ever. The highest-ever is Coutinho’s fellow Brazilian Neymar’s move for 222 million Euros from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain in the summer of 2017.


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News in Numbers, Oct 4, 2016: Firing and shelling from across the border…


What is it? India’s Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) in September, a composite indicator of India’s manufacturing activity based on a survey by Markit, a financial information and services company.

Why is it important? Though it expanded for the ninth straight month due to increase in new orders and purchasing activity, the rate has slowed down from 52.6 in August (which was at a 20-month high). This was due to inflationary pressures, though this is still lower than historical standards and that the central bank may cut interest rates in 2016. The next monetary policy review is today.

Tell me more: Companies saw new export orders expand at the fastest pace in 14 months.



What is it? The number of times Pakistani troops violated ceasefire on Monday, targeting Indian Army posts and civilian areas along the Line of Control (LoC).

Why is it important? Five civilians have been injured leaving several shops ablaze. The Indian Army retaliated and said that a Pakistani post Twiven1 was destroyed. There have been 10 ceasefire violations since the surgical strikes by India on the night of September 28/early morning the next day. As many as 405 cross-border firing incidents by Pakistan have been recorded last year where 17 civilians lost their lives, leaving 71 injured.

Tell me more: On Sunday night, fidayeen (belonging to a suicide squad) militants launched an attack on a 46 Rashtriya Rifles army camp in Baramulla. Though it was foiled, two Border Security Forces troopers were injured, one of whom died later.



What is it? The number of runs by which India defeated New Zealand in the second test match on Monday at Eden Gardens, Kolkata.

Why is it important? With this, India has reclaimed the top position in the ICC Test Rankings from Pakistan. This is irrespective of how India performs at the third and final test match to be held in Indore starting October 8. India was behind Pakistan by a single pointand needed to win the series to get to number one position. This would be the fourth time that India would reclaim the top position since the current rankings system was introduced in 2003.

Tell me more: After India and Pakistan, Australia, England and South Africa round up the top five ranks. India has been ranked number one between November 2009 and August 2011, January-February 2016 and in August 2016.



What is it? The number of Japanese Nobel prize winners in medicine.

Why is it important? The latest to win the Nobel is Tokyo Institute of Technology biologist Yoshinori Ohsumi. He won the 2016 prize for his work on the mechanics behind autophagy, a basic cellular function in which cells break down parts of themselves for reuse. Ohsumi showed this process helps also helps in fighting off infections with bacteria and viruses, and in generating energy under stressful situations.

Tell me more: Ohsumi is the 23rd Nobel Laureate to be born in Japan. This is the third consecutive medicine Nobel win for Japan.



What is it? The rise in Sensex, India’s benchmark equity index, on Monday a day ahead of monetary policy announcement by the new Reserve Bank governor and monetary policy committee.

Why is it important? The 1.35% rise in Monday is seen as a reflection of market expectation that the interest rate will be cut down. Equities tend to go up when interest rates go down. It remains to be seen if Urjit Patel takes a hawkish stance against inflation like his predecessor Raghuram Rajan and keep it steady to tame inflation, or if he (and the committee members) would go with the demand of the industry and politicians and cut the rate.

Tell me more: The easing of tension between India and Pakistan could also have helped in the market move on Monday. Sensex dropped by over 450 points last Thursday on the news that India carried out surgical strikes on terrorist launch pads across the line of control.

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