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Three Economists added to MPC

The Appointments Committee of Cabinet (ACC) has appointed three economists as the external appointees on the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC). 
•    They are Pami Dua, Chetan Ghate and Ravindra Dholakia. 
•    Pami Dua is an expert on econometrics and forecasting, has a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics. 
•    Chetan Ghate is a macroeconomist and a professor at the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), Delhi. 
•    Ravindra Dholakia is a faculty member of Economics at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad. 
•    With this, MPC consists of three Reserve Bank of India (RBI) representatives and three external appointees. 
•    They will work to decide interest rates. 
•    MPC under the RBI will decide monetary policy by setting interest rates.
•    It aims to bring significant changes in the power the RBI governor while deciding interest rates. 

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Advancement of Budget presentation approved

The Union Cabinet has approved advancing the date for presenting the Union Budget by a month.
•    The Cabinet has also decided to merge the Railway Budget with the Union Budget, a reform sought by many experts for long. 
•    A decision has also been taken to remove the classifications for expenditure to make the exercise simpler.
•    The proposals were cleared by a meeting of the union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
•    The move is aimed at getting all the legislative approvals for the annual spending and tax proposals before the beginning of the new financial year on April 1. 
•    Accordingly, the beginning of budget preparation will be advanced to early October. 
•    The government is likely to convene the Budget Session of Parliament before 25 January 2017, a month ahead of the current practice. 
•    The pre-Budget Economic Survey will also be advanced.

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$631 million loan for Vizag-Chennai industrial corridor approved by ADB

Multilateral funding agency Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved $631 million loan for building India’s first coastal industrial corridor between Visakhapatnam (Vizag) and Chennai. 
•    The fund will help develop the first key 800-km section of the planned 2,500-km East Coast Economic Corridor. 
•    The coastal industrial corridor is expected to boost development on eastern coast of India and enable seamless trade links with other parts of Southeast and South Asia. 
•    The total cost of the project is 846 million dollars and work on it is expected to be over by 2031. 
•    The remaining 215 million dollars will be funded by Andhra Pradesh government. 
•    The new infrastructure will be built in the four main centres — Visakhapatnam, Amaravati, Kakinada and Yerpedu-Srikalahasti — along the corridor. 
•    It will include 138 km of state highways and roads, 10 power substations, 488 km of drinking water pipeline, 47 km of storm drains, water treatment plants, and 281 km of power transmission and distribution lines.


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HDFC to raise Rs. 1340 crore through Bonds

Mortgage lender HDFC will raise Rs. 1,340 crore through an issue of bonds on private placement basis.
•    The bonds in the nature of secured redeemable non-convertible debentures will bear coupon rate of 7.67 per cent annually.
•    "The object of the issue is to augment the long-term resources of the Corporation. The proceeds of the present issue would be utilised for financing/refinancing the housing finance business requirements of the Corporation," it said in a regulatory filing. 
•    The issue opens on Friday and closes on the same day.
•    Axis Bank is the arranger of the issue.
•    HDFC stock closed 0.10 per cent down at Rs. 1392.20 on BSE.
•    HDFC Bank is an Indian banking and financial services company headquartered in Mumbai, Maharashtra. 
•    It has about 76,286 employees including 12,680 women and has a presence in Bahrain, Hong Kong and Dubai.

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India 112th in World Economic Freedom Index

India has been ranked 112th out of 159 countries in the 2016 World Economic Freedom Index (WEFI). 
•    The index was release as part of the 2016 annual report of the Economic Freedom. 
•    The report measures the economic freedom by analyzing the policies and institutions of all 159 countries and territories and was based on data from the year 2014. 
•    The economic freedom index of a country is directly proportional to the freedom and opportunities available to its citizens. 
•    Top 10 Countries in 2016 WEFI: Hong Kong (1st), Singapore (2nd), New Zealand (3rd), Switzerland (4th), Canada (5th), Georgia (6th), Ireland (7th), Mauritius (8th), UAE (9th) and Australia (10th). 
•    10 lowest-ranked countries: Iran (150th), Algeria (151st), Chad (152nd), Guinea (153rd), Angola (154th), Central African Republic (155th), Argentina (156th), Congo (157th), Libya (158th) and Venezuela (159th).

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PMO approves closure of sick Govt. companies

NITI Aayog’s proposal for shutting down 17 sick or loss-making government companies has received the go-ahead from Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). 
•    A second set of proposals from the Aayog for strategic sales aimed at reducing government ownership to below 51 per cent in about 22 public sector companies has also got the green signal from the PMO.
•    This second list includes the Miniratna helicopter services operator Pawan Hans Limited, Scooters India Limited, Cement Corporation of India Limited and three plants of the Maharatna Steel Authority of India (SAIL) located at Salem, Durgapur and Bhadravati. 
•    The Finance Ministry is approaching the Cabinet for its approval separately for each of the strategic sales the PMO has approved. 
•    The list of loss-making companies to be closed includes Indian Oil-CREDA Biofuels Ltd and CREDA HPCL Biofuel Ltd, both Jatropha oil-focussed subsidiaries of state-owned petroleum giants.

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Union Cabinet approves formation of GST Council

The Union Cabinet on 12 September 2016 approved the process, formation and functioning of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council.
The GST Council and its Secretariat will be set up as per the following details:
•    Creation of the GST Council as per Article 279A of the amended Constitution
•    Creation of the GST Council Secretariat, with its office at New Delhi
•    Appointment of the Secretary (Revenue) as the Ex-officio Secretary to the GST Council
•    On 8 September 2016, President Pranab Mukherjee had given his assent to the 122nd Constitutional Amendment Bill. The Bill will pave the way for rollout of GST.
•    The new tax regime will do away with the indirect taxes. It will usher in one tax for the entire country.
•    Over 18 States have ratified the bill.
•    The GST is a single indirect tax, which will subsume most of the central and state taxes such as VAT, excise duty, service tax and central sales tax.

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Union Government issues fresh guidelines for flexi-fund for CSS

Union Government on 9 September 2016 issued fresh flexi-fund guidelines for Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS). 
•    The guidelines would give more freedom to states in spending money under the CSS to meet local developmental requirements.
•    Under the new norms, flexi-funds in each CSS have been increased from the current 10 percent to 25 percent for states and 30 percent for Union Territories.
•    Now, the states can use the fund to undertake mitigation or restoration activities in case of natural calamities, or to satisfy local requirements in areas affected by internal security disturbances.
•    The guidelines said that state governments will have to constitute a state-level sanctioning committee to avail of the flexi-fund facility. 
•    The flexi-fund facility is not for CSS which emanate from legislation, like MNREGA. 
•    Based on the recommendations of the sub-group of chief ministers and consultations with stakeholders, Niti Aayog had issued instructions for rationalisation of Centrally Sponsored Schemes.

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CBDT launches e-nivaran to resolve I-T grievances

Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) on 8 September 2016 launched e-nivaran (electronic resolution) facility for online redressal of taxpayers’ grievances. 
The grievances can be related to refunds, Income Tax Returns (ITRs), Tax Deducted at Source (TDS), and Permanent Account Number (PAN) among others.
•    It will help taxpayers in registering their complaints through their computer and receive a special PIN number on their registered mobile number and email, which will help to keep track on the issues.
•    It will also allow the complainant to track the progress of the complaint.
•    People can lodge their complains and upload the documents related to the same in form od a PDF file and clubbed as a ZIP file.
•    People who don’t have a PAN can also access the e-nivaran facility and lodge their complaints in connection with their I-T case.
•    The ‘e-nivaran’ form will be available in a physical form at the Aaykar Sampark Kendras (ASK) (tax facilitation centre), located in over 300 cities. 
•    Later, the form will be fed into the system by tax officials.

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Canada’s British Columbia Becomes First Foreign Government to Issue Masala Bonds

Canada’s British Columbia has become the first foreign government issuer of masala bonds, with the province successfully raising Rs.5 billion through a rupee-denominated bond on the London Stock Exchange, Canadian Finance Minister Michael de Jong said.
•    India is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world and is one of B.C.’s (British Columbia) priority export market partners,” Mr. de Jong said. 
•    The masala bond issuance offers British Columbia a means to become well-positioned to profile our confidence in the outlook for India, and to participate in the internationalization of the rupee and India’s economy.
•    British Columbia’s bond with a three year tenor was priced to yield 6.62 per cent semi-annually, according to the Canadian government.
•    “B.C. is also working on a reciprocal arrangement where representatives from the Province of B.C. would work in India” the government said in a statement

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