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Public Debt Management Cell Set Up

Union Finance Ministry on 4 October constituted a Public Debt Management Cell (PDMC). The cell was created to streamline government borrowings and better cash management with the overall objective of deepening bond markets.
●    The Joint Secretary (Budget), Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance would be the overall in-charge of the ODMC.
●    As an interim arrangement, the PDMC will be housed at the RBI's Delhi office. In about two years, the PDMC will be upgraded to a statutory Public Debt Management Agency (PDMA).
●    The interim arrangement will allow separation of debt management functions from RBI to PDMA in a gradual and seamless manner, without causing market disruptions.
●    It will have only advisory functions to avoid any conflict with the statutory functions of RBI.
●    It has been tasked to plan government borrowings, including market borrowings and other borrowings, like Sovereign Gold Bond issuance.


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India's Forex Reserves reach USD 372 Billion - A Record-high

India’s foreign exchange reserves scaled a new high of USD 371.99 billion, up USD 1.223 billion for the week to September 30, as per the Reserve Bank data.
●    The central bank said the increase was primarily on account of a USD 1.468-billion surge in the foreign currency assets.
●    In the previous week, the reserves had risen by USD 1.166 billion to USD 370.766 billion. Previously, they had touched a high of USD 371.279 billion in the week to September 9.
●    After remaining steady for multiple weeks, gold reserves declined USD 236.4 million to USD 21.406 billion.
●    The reserves as on September 23 comprised of foreign currency assets at $345.24 billion, gold at $21.64 billion, special drawing rights at $1.49 billion and the reserve position in IMF at $2.39 billion.

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OVL to buy 11% stake in JSC Vankorneft

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has given its approval to an acquisition by ONGC Videsh Limited (OVL) for 11% stake in JSC Vankorneft from M/s Rosneft Oil Company (Rosneft), the National Oil Company (NOC) of Russian Federation (Russia). Rosneft operates Vankor fields, with Vankorneft, its wholly owned subsidiary.
●    OVL will be paying an amount of US $ 930 million for acquiring 11% stake in Vankorneft.
●    The acquisition of stake in Vankorneft will provide 3.2 Million Metric Ton of Oil Equivalent (MMTOE) to OVL by 2017. It will also provide an opportunity to Indian public sector Oil and Gas companies to acquire new technologies from Rosneft. 
●    The acquisition is in line the ONGC’s stated objective of adding high quality international assets to India's Exploration and Production (E&P) portfolio and thereby augmenting India's energy security.
●    Recently, an Indian Consortium comprising of Oil India Limited (OIL), Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) and Bharat PetroResources Limited (BPRL) acquired 23.9% stake in Vankorneft at a cost of US $ 2020.35 million which will give them 6.56 MMTOE. 
●    Earlier in May 2016, ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) completed the formalities on acquisition of 15% stake in Vankorneft at a cost of US $ 1.284 billion which gave OVL 4.11 MMTOE.

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Mastercard Rolls Out Biometric Payments in Europe

The financial services firm  is rolling out biometric technologies that will allow European consumers to authenticate their identity without a password, but with a selfie, in order to provide customers with a more convenient method to sign in and a faster checkout process. 
●    Security firms view the development as another sign of the mainstream availability of biometric authentication, comparing it to the introduction of TouchID fingerprint authentication technology in the iPhone.
●    Javvad Malik, security advocate at enterprise security tools firm AlienVault, said that “selfie pay” is seemingly an attempt to bridge the gap between a fully authenticated method, such as chip and PIN – and unauthenticated payments methods such as contactless.
●    Robert Page, lead penetration tester at Redscan struck a more cautious note.

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RBI's Fourth bi-monthly monetary policy - MPC's first decision - Rate cut by 25 bps

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on 4 October 2016 released the fourth Bi-Monthly Monetary Policy Statement 2016-17. 
●    The key announcement under the policy was the interest cut of 25 basis points. This move may lead to banks in lowering EMIs for housing, car loan and corporate borrowers.
●    This policy decision was not only RBI Governor Urjit Patel’s maiden policy announcement but was also the first to be announced by the newly constituted Monetary Policy Committee (MPC). 
●    All the six members of MPC unanimously decided to cut repo rate by 0.25 per cent; bring in to a nearly six-year low of 6.25 per cent. 
●    According to the monetary policy statement, the decision to cut interest rates is consistent with the aim of achieving a mid-term inflation target of 4 percent within a band of plus or minus 2 percent.
●    Based on the assessment of the current and evolving macroeconomic situation, the Monetary 
●    The policy repo rate under the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) was reduced by 25 basis points from 6.5 per cent to 6.25 per cent with immediate effect.
●    The reverse repo rate under the LAF stands adjusted to 5.75 per cent.
●    Marginal standing facility (MSF) rate was fixed at 6.75 per cent.
●    The Bank Rate also stands at 6.75 per cent.

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SBI first Indian Bank to open branch in Yangon, Myanmar

The State Bank of India (SBI) on 3 October 2016 became the first domestic bank of India to open a branch in the capital city of Yangon, Myanmar. 
●    Ghanshyam Srivastava will be the Chief Executive Officer of the SBI Yangon branch.
●    This was made possible with the permission of the Myanmarese central bank, which allowed SBI to open a branch with the primary objective of extending wholesale banking services to foreign corporates.
●    The Yangon branch is the 54th foreign branch of the SBI, nation's largest lender. This branch extends the global presence of SBI in 37 countries through 198 offices.
●    India has been a major trading partner of Myanmar for centuries. 
●    Since the signing of India and Myanmar trade agreement in 1970, bilateral trade between both the countries has been growing steadily.

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Automation to threaten 69% jobs in India : World Bank

Automation threatens 69 per cent of the jobs in India, while 77 per cent in China, according to a World Bank research which has said that technology could fundamentally disrupt the pattern of traditional economic path in developing countries.
●    “As we continue to encourage more investment in infrastructure to promote growth, we also have to think about the kinds of infrastructure that countries will need in the economy of the future. We all know that technology has and will continue to fundamentally reshape the world,” World Bank president Jim Kim said.
●    World Bank data has predicted that the proportion of jobs threatened in India by automation is 69 per cent, in China it is 77 per cent and in Ethiopia, the percentage of jobs threatened by automation is 85 per cent.
●    The World Bank is an international financial institution that provides loan to developing countries for capital programs. 
●    It comprises two institutions: the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), and the International Development Association (IDA). 
●    The World Bank is a component of the World Bank Group, which is part of the United Nations system.

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World Bank Predicts Strong GDP Growth for India

The World Bank on Wednesday projected that India will grow by a robust 7.8 per cent in 2016 and 7.9 per cent in the next two years. 
●    World Bank also predicted that India will be the fastest growing economy in the world in the next three years and would outpace China.
●    With the recent fall in oil prices, India remains the bright spot of the global economy as Chinese growth is predicted to slow further.
●    According to its latest Global Economic Prospect report which is released bi-annually, the World Bank reduced India's growth rate by a slight 0.2 per cent in 2015 and 0.1 per cent in both 2016 and 2017.
●    The World Bank estimates that China grew at an estimated 6.9 per cent in 2015. 
●    The same report also said that China is estimated to grow at 6.7 per cent in 2016 and 6.5 per cent each in 2017 and 2018.

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GST Council agrees on five areas, differs on one

The Centre and states today disagreed on decisions reached at the first meeting of the GST Council on service tax assessment although they reached a consensus on area based exemption in the new tax regime. 
●    The second meeting of the all-powerful GST Council, headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, agreed on five subordinate legislations dealing with issues ranging from registration to invoicing under the new Goods and Service Tax (GST) regime. 
●    It also agreed on the treatment of exemption from GST. 
●    Currently, the Centre gives exemption to 11 states mostly in North East and hilly regions from excise duty as also many states give the same as incentive for setting up industry. 
●    The council decided that under GST, which will subsume excise duty and VAT among other levies, taxes will have to be collected and it can be reimbursed from the annual budgets to the exempted categories. 
●    The second meeting of the GST Council finalised rules for registration, rules for payments, returns, refunds and invoices. 
●    With this as many as 6 issues have been settled by the Council, that has representatives of all the states, in two meetings in a span of one week.

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India's Biggest Ever Spectrum Sale

India’s biggest auction of telecom spectrum kicked off on Saturday morning with seven operators in fray for a total of 2,354.55 MHz across seven bands, towards which a reserve price of Rs 5.66 lakh crore ($85 billion) has been fixed by the government. 
●    The companies that are participating in the auction are Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, Reliance Jio Infocomm, Reliance Communications, Idea Cellular, Aircel and Tata Tele — who have together furnished a total earnest money of Rs 14,653 crore.
●    The 2,300-plus MHz of airwaves on the block for telecom operators are in seven bands — 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1,800 MHz, 2,100 MHz, 2,300 MHz and 2,500 MHz. 
●    This spectrum auction comes right after the ongoing battle between COAI and Reliance Jio for interconnection points. 
●    Trai has intervened to resolve the matter but the war of words and failed calls continues without any immediate solution.

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