A Tax Haven Blacklist


European Union has blacklisted certain nations that are considered tax havens and do not comply with its taxation standards. Army has ‘wiped out’ terrorists who had masterminded Amarnath Yatra attack this year. Airlines are expecting a slightly higher profit per passenger next year. Government has provided sops to the small and medium industries to help improve exports. 



What is it? The number of countries that feature on a European Union (EU) blacklist of nations that are non-compliant with EU standards for tax purposes, including Saint Lucia, South Korea and Barbados.

Why is it important? This EU name-and-shame action comes about a month after the publishing of The Paradise Papers, which made public how the world’s rich and famous used tax havens and contentious tax structures to avoid taxes. However, the onus to act against these 17 countries—a list that, tellingly enough, doesn’t include a single EU member—lies on individual member countries, and it remains to be seen if they will follow through.

Tell me more: The EU also placed another 47 jurisdictions on a newly established ‘grey list’—countries that are also deemed to be non-compliant, but have committed to changing their tax rules. This list includes Switzerland and Hong Kong.



What is it? The number of months since a militant group attacked a group of pilgrims on the Amarnath Yatra.

Why is it important? On Tuesday, Jammu and Kashmir’s Director General of Police (DGP) tweeted that the gang that carried out the July attack has been “wiped out”. In the attack near Anantnag on the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway in South Kashmir, seven pilgrims were killed and 15 injured. This year has seen a series of successful encounters by security forces, where top militants such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) commander Abu Dujana, Hizbul Mujahideen’s Sabzar Ahmad Bhat and Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar’s nephew Tallah Rashid have been killed.

Tell me more: LeT chief Abu Ismail, who was the mastermind behind the Amarnath attack, was killed by the security forces in the outskirts of Srinagar in September.



What is it? The expected average net profit per departing passenger in the global airline sector in 2018, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Why is it important? If the prediction is met, it would be a slight increase from $8.45 in 2017. This is even as overall net profit is expected to increase to $38.4 billion in 2018, from the projected $34.5 billion in 2017. IATA says the key drivers of profitability would be a likely 6% increase in passenger traffic, an expected 4.5% rise in cargo volumes and lower debt levels. However, costs, too, are expected to increase: oil prices are expected to average $60 per barrel, and labour costs, which are a larger expense item than fuel, will continue to rise.

Tell me more: IATA expects seat occupancy to reach 81.4% next year whereas yields, which is a measure of fares, would improve by 3%. For the 10 months of 2017 till October, the seat occupancy of IndiGo ranged from 81.6-91.1%.


Rs 8,450 crore

What is it? The cumulative additional incentives announced by the Indian government for labour-intensive MSME (micro, small and medium enterprises) sectors under two schemes, as part of its mid-term policy review released on Tuesday.

Why is it important? This is to boost exports, which fell 1.1% to $23 billion in October, the slowest pace of growth since July 2016 and the first decline after 14 months of positive growth, likely due to the roll-out of the goods and services tax. The President of the Federation of Indian Export Organisations believes these incentives are likely to have a positive impact on export numbers from January, though he expressed disappointment about a number of sectors having been left out.

Tell me more: Some major sectors that would benefit from the incentives include ready-made garments and made-ups in the textile sector, leather and footwear articles, and agriculture and related products. The earlier incentives under the two schemes totaled Rs 25,000 crore.


704 days

What is it?  The number of days after which South African star batsman AB de Villiers will return to play test cricket, if he is selected for the Boxing Day test against Zimbabwe.

Why is it important? AB de Villiers has been one of the pivots of South African batting, but a combination of wanting to play less cricket and injuries have meant him not playing tests. His possible return comes at a crucial time for South Africa, as its next two test assignments are stern examinations: against India, the only side ranked above it in the ICC test rankings, and Australia.

Tell me more: Among current South African batsmen, who are a relatively inexperienced lot, only Hashim Amla leads de Villiers in runs scored and tests played.


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Indians in Qatar for residency


What is it? The estimated number of Indians, the largest community, living in Qatar.

Why is it important? Some of them will benefit from a draft law passed by the Qatar cabinet that would grant permanent residency to foreigners. This is the first such action among Gulf Arab Monarchies, which are strict about guarding their nationals’ privileges and curbing expatriates’ access to public services and property rights, though they have depended on their labour for decades to run their economies.

Tell me more: Foreigners can receive permanent resident status if they get married to a Qatari, have “performed great services to the state” or “have special competencies”. The expatriates would get the same privileges as Qataris in terms of education and healthcare and will have the right to own real estate as per the country’s laws and run certain commercial activities without a local partner.



What is it? The number of international offices Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian law firm and corporate service provider, operates currently.

Why is it important? Earlier, the law firm had 45 international offices and it has had to shut down most of its operations in foreign countries due to a slump in its business. This follows the revelation of 11.5 million files from its database that showed records of wealthy people had used offshore companies to stash their assets in April 2016 — the biggest leak in history. In the same year, at least 150 inquiries or investigations were launched in around 70 countries to probe the possibilities of money laundering or tax evasion. After the leak, the firm has denied any wrongdoing.

Tell me more: The Panama Papers included some big names such as former British Prime Minister David Cameron, Hong Kong’s film star Jackie Chan, a $2 billion-trail leading to Russian President Vladimir Putin, former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Shariff and Argentina’s football player Lionel Messi.



What is it? The increase in the share prices of Cognizant in the last seven months or so, since Elliott Management Corp, an activist investment firm, that advised the company to focus on sustainable shareholder returns.

Why is it important? The IT firm, which said in February that it would cooperate with Elliott Management, seems to be showing signs of having benefitted Cognizant’s shareholders. The increase in share prices of Cognizant during the last seven months or so is much higher than the 8% return that its competitors such as Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and Infosys have managed in the same period.

Tell me more: Cognizant’s revenues increased by 8.9% year-on-year in the June quarter compared to 5.2% and 6% growth rates clocked by TCS and Infosys respectively in the same period.



What is it? The percentage of schools with electricity in the country.

Why is it important? Over one-third of India’s schools go without electricity, according to Unified District Information System for Education (2015-16). Populous states such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and most of the northeastern states fare lower than the national average of electrified schools, as revealed by a Rajya Sabha reply.

Tell me more: The Ministry of Human Resource Development claims 187,248 elementary schools and 12,930 secondary schools have internal electrification as of March, 2017, under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan programmes.



What is it? The number of families who would need to be rehabilitated once the gates of the Sardar Sarovar Dam gates are finally closed.

Why is it important? Over two decades have passed and the families are still waiting to be properly resettled after their homes were flooded when the dam was built. The Gujarat government was allowed to shut the gates of the dam in June this year by the Centre.

Tell me more: Activist Medha Patkar of the Narmada Bachao Andolan is on a fast, for eight days now, to demand rehabilitation. Development projects have displaced no less than 21.3 million people in India in over 50 years till 2007, with dams accounting for 16.4 million of them.

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News in Numbers, Nov 15, 2016: In pursuit of black money abroad…


What is it? The number of Indians under scrutiny as part of the Panama Papers investigation. The Panama Papers is a global investigation into alleged flouting of rules (to facilitate tax evasion, arms deals, bribery, financial fraud and drug trafficking) by the setting up of offshore entities.

Why is it important? This investigation, which is probing Indians named in the leaked files, is one of the largest offshore inquiries initiated in the country. The Foreign Tax and Tax Research division of the Finance Ministry has sent 198 references to 13 jurisdictions seeking financial and investment details of Indians who have incorporated offshore entities in their territories. The number of references sent by the division has more than doubled since July (when 91 references had been sent) while the number of Indians under the scanner has also increased from 297 in July to 415 now.

Tell me more: Of the 415 Indians, members of a multi-agency taskforce led by the Central Board of Direct Taxes are probing 71 non-resident Indians, 184 have admitted that they have incorporated the offshore entities provided in the lists and 70 are said to be “untraceable”. The Income Tax (Investigation) wing has carried out searches at the premises of nine people and surveys in the case of 14 individuals.



What is it? The margin by which global temperatures for January to September 2016 were above pre-industrial levels, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

Why is it important? The United Nations’ agency in its provisional statement on the status of the global climate has said that 2016 is “very likely” to be the hottest year on record and also, the third straight year to set a new high. This is because temperatures increased in the first few months of the year due to El Niño (occasional warming of waters in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean) though the biggest factor is the greenhouse gas emissions from human activities.

Tell me more: At least half of the extreme weather events in the recent years have been due to human-induced global warming. Extreme weather and climate-related events impacted farming and food security in 2015/16, which affected 60 million people globally.



What is it? The number of Indian students studying in the US in 2015-16, according to a report.

Why is it important? This is the highest ever number of Indian students in the US, 25% higher than the previous year’s figure. India was the second-leading country of origin among international students after China, which sent almost twice the number of students as India. The number of international students in US colleges and universities surpassed the million-mark for the first time during the academic year of 2015-16. However, there are fears that President-elect Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant stance may result in stricter visa and immigration rules, making it difficult for international students to pursue their higher education and find jobs in the US.

Tell me more: China, India and Saudi Arabia together accounted for over half (53%) of the international students in the US last year. Nearly three-fourths of the international students received a majority of their funding support from outside of the US, mainly from family and personal sources as well as their home country governments or universities.


1 hectare

What is it? The maximum forest land that can be diverted for community toilets (in each case) under the Swachh Bharat Mission, as per a general approval by the central government.

Why is it important? This has been in response to Maharashtra government’s request to allow them to construct community toilets on forest land under the programme, which has set a target of India achieving the open defecation free status by 2019 and building toilets is an important component in this. Under the approval, government agencies need not wait for permission for the use of forest land for building toilets though this is subject to approval from gram panchayats in rural areas and local bodies in urban areas. Construction of community toilets would not alter the current legal status of the land.

Tell me more: The Divisional Forest Officer would check the requirements of the forest land for this project and will also certify it. The general approval is conditional, which includes not cutting more than 50 trees per hectare, user agency has to plant and maintain twice the number of trees felled and only indigenous tree species should be planted.


Rs 21,870 crore

What is it? The amount sought from the government by the directors of the seven older Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) to improve the institutes’ global rankings.

Why is it important? The estimated amount to be invested over five years is to improve their research output and international outlook besides strengthening faculty and infrastructure. About three months ago, the IIT Council approved Project Vishwajeet, which is aimed at improving the seven IITs positions in global rankings by a number of measures including boosting international faculty strength, have a better faculty-student ratio, increasing share of international students and allowing off-campus PhD students.

Tell me more: Despite having one of the world’s toughest entrance examinations and having churned out some of the best minds across various industries globally, IITs have lagged behind in global rankings. For instance, in the recently introduced QS World University Rankings 2016-17, none of the IITs figure in the top 150 and the highest slot occupied by any IIT was at 185.

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News in Numbers – January 27

Rs 13,000 crore

What is it:
Black money unearthed by Indian income tax (IT) officials in banks abroad.

Why is it important:  Any progress in identifying and retrieving black money is important for the government which came to power on the promise that it would bring back thousands of crores of money stashed abroad. The leaked Panama Papers, legal and financial records detailing the transactions which featured several Indian names, has increased the public pressure on the government to act fast.

Tell me more: More than Rs 8000 crore of unaccounted income linked to Indian were in HSBC, Geneva, (followed up based on information IT department got from French government back in 2011) and Rs 5000 crore in other foreign accounts (based on documents published by Washington based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists)

$1.98 billion

What is it:
Education-related overseas expenditure by Indians in 2015-16


Why is it important: It’s down 20% from $2.47 billion in 2014-15, according to Reserve Bank of India data. The fall is attributed to smaller number of Indian students who went abroad, possibly because of tighter visa rules and better education option here. It could also be that 2014-15 saw an exceptional spike. The expenditure was $1.93 billion two years ago, and $1.63 billion three years ago.


Tell me more: The top destinations for Indian students are United States (103,968), United Kingdom (38,205),  Australia (20,429), New Zealand (6,650) and Canada, according to UNESCO data.


What is it?
Growth in loan portfolio of microfinance institutions during the year ending March 2016


Why is it important:  This came during a year when the client base grew only by 44%, indicating higher ticket size of loans. A reason could be the aggressive expansion of their loan books by the larger players such as Janalakshmi and Bharat Financial Inclusion (formerly SKS) on the back of the change in lending rules by Reserve Bank in 2015. The relaxed rules expanded the customer base by opening doors for customers with higher annual household income and by letting MFIs lend more.
Tell me more: Some experts say such an aggressive growth could be a cause for concern. A few years back, MFIs expanded rapidly in Andhra Pradesh, only to be clamped down by the government worried about people getting into debt trap.

$750 million

What is it:
The amount India would reportedly spend to buy 145 artillery guns from BAE systems

Why is it important: It’s yet another sign that India is stepping up on gas in the defence sector.  The deal could also help boost local industry, as 120 of these 145 M777 Ultra Lightweight Howitzer artillery guns  would be assembled in India

Tell me more:  In the past some high profile defence deals have kicked up controversies, which in turn led to delays in ordering new equipment.  AK Antony, who was the defence minister under UPA government has often been criticised for sitting on his hands to avoid bad press.


What is it: The number of resignations at UK Labour party’s shadow cabinet

Why is it important? An immediate fallout of Brexit. Highlights the growing opposition to the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn over the EU referendum, who has been leading the party since last year. Two labour party MPs have called for a no confidence motion against Corbyn. The crisis in UK’s opposition party follows the criticism that Corbyn was not clear about his message on remaining with EU.

Tell me more: Following the referendum which resulted in favour of those who wanted UK to exit European Union, David Cameron announced his resignation.


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