News in Numbers, Nov 23, 2016: The unregulated coin…

Rs 64,000

What is it? The price at which Bitcoin, the world’s largest and oldest of cryptocurrencies, was trading on some of the leading Indian Bitcoin trading exchanges yesterday.

Why is it important? This was about 25% higher than the international price of around $740 (around Rs 51,000). This is likely an effect of the government’s demonetisation announcement that caused currency notes in Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denominations to be illegal tender since November 9 when people are looking for alternate payment and investment options. On November 8, Bitcoin was trading at around Rs 52,000 on leading Bitcoin exchanges (Unocoin and Zebpay), which was at a difference of 10% than the international prices. The increased demand for bitcoins and the shortage of supply are pushing the prices of bitcoin in India compared to global prices, according to experts.

Tell me more: Bitcoin, which was created in 2009 by an unknown person using the alias Satoshi Nakamoto, can be used to make transactions without the need for any bankers or other intermediaries. Increasingly, merchants are beginning to accept this form of payment and it can also be used to send money to others.

12

What is it? The number of countries that signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal in 2015, which covers 40% of the global economy.

Why is it important? President-elect Donald Trump has said in a video message that US would quit this deal, which is yet to be ratified, on his first day in the White House. Instead, he would focus on “fair bilateral trade deals” to revive industry and bring back jobs. If this happens, the deal is likely to cease to exist as it requires ratification by at least six countries that account for 85% of the total gross domestic product of the member nations. It remains to be seen if India gains or loses out due to this decision; currently, the opinion seems to be divided.

Tell me more: TPP aims to cut down tariffs, remove trade barriers and deepen economic ties among signatory countries; it includes measures to cover labour and environmental standards, patents, copyrights and other legal protections. Critics of this deal have said that it is secretive in nature and is designed to favour the big corporations.

 

Rs 13,192 crore

What is it? The total tax collection by 47 municipal bodies this month as of November 22.

Why is it important? This is over 3.5 times the amount collected last November by these civic bodies and seems to be an additional point on the ‘pros’ column of the government’s demonetisation move. However, this is more likely to be a one-off increase as many of them turned up to pay their dues with old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. What it shows is the potential revenue collection by municipal bodies, which can help authorities devise a mechanism to track down those do not pay their taxes.

Tell me more: Mumbai received the lion’s share of the total tax collected (90%) this month, which is thrice the amount it collected in November a year ago. Hyderabad was distinct in terms of showing the maximum increase in tax collections – about 26 times the amount it received last year.

 

14,000

What is it? The number of jobs Larsen and Toubro Group (L&T) has cut in the July-September period of this year.

Why is it important? This is one of the biggest layoffs by an Indian corporate group in recent times, which seems to be a result of an economic slowdown and its efforts to increase productivity by way of digitisation. India’s largest engineering and construction group said the layoffs is a one-time exercise and has been applicable across sectors though it did not provide a break-up.

Tell me more: Earlier this year, L&T Finance Holding (non-banking finance arm of L&T) had reportedly asked 550 employees to leave due to high costs and slow business. The $16-billion conglomerate had 84,027 employees as of March 2014.

 

400

What is it? The number of compositions credited to Carnatic musician Dr M Balamuralikrishna who passed away in Chennai on Tuesday. He was 86 years old.

Why is it important? A child prodigy, Balamuralikrishna is known for having revived old ragas (Narthak, Sunadavinodini) and creating new ones including Mahathi, Lavangi, Omkari, Murali, Manorama, Sushma and Ganapathi, some of them with just 3-4 notes. He was adept at playing different instruments such as violin, flute, veena, mridangam and kanjira, which is rare for a vocalist. He is said to have composed songs in all the 72 Melakartha ragas, which are considered to be the backbone of Carnatic Music.

Tell me more: Born in East Godavari district in Andhra Pradesh, he is the fifth generation disciple in the Guru-Sishya parampara (hierarchy of disciples) of saint-composer Thyagaraja.

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Four charts that explain the advances and retreats on the direct tax front

This piece originally appeared on Livemint.com

 

Tax collections in nine states grew faster than Delhi.

In an indication of the broadening of economic activity beyond Mumbai and Delhi, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan posted perceptible gains in direct tax collections—and overall share—between 2008-09 and 2014-15. Among the top 10 states by share, Delhi recorded the slowest increase. Interestingly, two key states that saw a regime change during this period, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh, have both registered a drop in share.

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The government’s growing reliance on special levies for revenue

This piece originally appeared on Livemint.com

 

Industry protests notwithstanding, the government, beginning 15 November, implemented the 0.5% Swachh Bharat cess on all taxable services to fund Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet cleanliness project.

It is the latest addition to the growing number of special levies, such as surcharges and additional or special duties, that have steadily accounted for an increasing share of tax collections in the last 20 years—from 7.5% in 1998-99 to a projected 18.6% in 2015-16.

THE COLLECTION

The government has been resorting to three kinds of special levies: cess (collected for a specific purpose), surcharge (without necessarily an earmarked end use) and other additional/special duties. Be it count, collections or contribution, the signifiance of this basket of levies is increasing.

 

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THE BREAK-UP

In terms of purpose, the basket of special levies can be classified into five categories: cause-based (for example, road cess), education cess, corrective (surcharge on pan masala/tobacco products), miscellaneous (cess on exports) and additional/special duties. In the last decade, collections have shot up in the cause-based, miscellaneous and education categories.

 

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New GDP numbers versus Indicators of economic growth

This piece originally appeared on Livemint.com

 

Is the Indian economy doing better than previously understood and in the midst of a distinctive upturn, as indicated by the new basis of calculating gross domestic product (GDP)?

A comparison with other indicators used to gauge the state of the economy shows a fair amount of divergence.

 

 

 

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