Current Affairs 5th October 2018
Government e-Payments Adoption Ranking (GEAR)The 2018 Government E-Payments Adoption Ranking (GEAR) study has been released by Visa, a global leader in payments technology. This is the third edition of the study after those in 2007 and 2011.
The 2018 GEAR, an Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) global Index and benchmarking study commissioned by Visa, ranks governments by quantifying their e-payment capabilities based on various indicators.
The ranking is based on seven parameters viz. Government-to-Citizen (G2C), Citizen-to-Government (C2G), Business-to-Government (B2G), Government-to-Business (G2B) transactions, infrastructure, socio-economic and policy environment.
Performance of India across various categories:
In the latest study, India is ranked 28th among 73 countries. This is up from 36th rank in 2011.
B2C category: India leads the Business to Government category, along with Australia, Singapore and South Korea. The category refers to the ease with which businesses can calculate and make their tax payments, register and renew their registrations online and digitally calculate their pension fund contributions, thereby making those payments on a periodic basis.
G2B category: At the same time, by simplifying refund and loan application processes, wherein businesses can track status digitally, coupled with dedicated digital portals to submit proposals for government procurement services, India leads the Government to Business category as well.
The C2G category evaluates the extent to which citizens can complete various transactions electronically by assessing six indicators, including online one-stop shops, income tax payments, and obtaining an ID card. India ranks third in this category, along with four other countries, while France and the UAE top the list.
The G2C category captures the extent to which various government transfers like tax refunds, pension and welfare benefits and unemployment benefits can be accessed electronically. In India, while everything pertaining to tax filing and pension and welfare benefits has smoothly migrated to digital, the unemployment benefits system continues to be driven by paper processes, as a result of which the country still lags behind, in 25th place.
The infrastructure and socio-economic categories examine the supportive infrastructure for e-payments and their acceptance in society at large. With respect to infrastructure, while India has witnessed an increase in Internet penetration over recent years, substantial pockets of communities continue to lack reliable access, leaving country ranked 58th.
In the socio-economic category, India is ranked 60th out of 73 countries, highlighting an urgent need to focus efforts on enhancing educational levels, as well as improving citizens’ and businesses’ engagement with Internet-enabled services.
The policy category assesses the policy environment and examines how it spurs e-payments adoption. Though India ranks at a low 40th owing to a few inhibiting policy decisions, the government’s efforts to strengthen Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) with an objective to foster innovation and protect country’s traditional knowledge could motivate innovation and act as a catalyst businesses to grow. Incentives to consumers and merchants to adopt digital payments are also restricted to selected e-payment methods, potentially limiting the effectiveness of these measures.
What to study?
For Prelims: About GEAR, performance of India.
For Mains: e- Payments- significance, challenge, concerns and potential.
IORA- Delhi declaration21 countries in the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) recently adopted the Delhi Declaration on Renewable Energy in the Indian Ocean Region. The declaration was the outcome of the 2nd IORA Renewable Energy Ministerial Meeting.
The Delhi declaration on Renewable Energy in the Indian Ocean Region:
It calls for collaboration among IORA member states in meeting the growing demand for renewable energy in the Indian Ocean littorals, development of a common renewable energy agenda for the Indian Ocean region and promote regional capacity building.
The declaration also calls for promotion of technology development and transfer, strengthening of public private partnerships in renewable energy and collaboration among IORA member states and the member nations of the International Solar Alliance (ISA).
IORA member countries resolved to collaborate with the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). As per the declaration adopted, IORA member nations will also collaborate with the ISA member nations to exchange knowledge and share views and potential interests in the renewable energy sector.
Additionally, IORA member nations and IRENA will undertake the expansion of the Global Renewable Energy Atlas, the world’s largest-ever joint renewable resource data project, coordinated by IRENA, thereby creating the Indian Ocean region’s first and most comprehensive map and database which can then be used to tap the sizable renewable energy potential of the region.
The Indian Ocean Rim Association was set up with the objective of strengthening regional cooperation and sustainable development within the Indian Ocean Region with 21 Member States and 7 Dialogue Partners.
The IORA is a regional forum, tripartite in nature, bringing together representatives of Government, Business and Academia, for promoting co-operation and closer interaction among them.
It is based on the principles of Open Regionalism for strengthening Economic Cooperation particularly on Trade Facilitation and Investment, Promotion as well as Social Development of the region.
India, Australia, Iran IR, Indonesia Thailand, Malaysia, South Africa, Mozambique, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Bangladesh, Singapore, Mauritius, Madagascar, UAE, Yemen, Seychelles, Somalia, Comoros and Oman are members of IORA.
Deal replacing NAFTA signedCanada has agreed to sign a trade deal with the United States and Mexico, revamping the North American Free Trade Agreement after almost a year of negotiations. The new deal has been named the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
The trilateral pact is expected to be signed by the three North American countries before the end of November, after which it would be submitted to Congress.
About United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA):
It’s basically NAFTA 2.0, with major changes on cars and new policies on labor and environmental standards, intellectual property protections, and some digital trade provisions. The changes include:
Country of origin rules: Automobiles must have 75% of their components manufactured in Mexico, the US, or Canada to qualify for zero tariffs (up from 62.5 percent under NAFTA).
Labor provisions: 40 to 45 percent of automobile parts have to be made by workers who earn at least $16 an hour by 2023. Mexico has also agreed to pass laws giving workers the right to union representation, extend labor protections to migrant workers, and protect women from discrimination. The countries can also sanction one another for labor violations.
US farmers get more access to the Canadian dairy market: The US got Canada to open up its dairy market to US farmers, which was a big issue for Trump.
Intellectual property and digital trade: The deal extends the terms of copyright to 70 years beyond the life of the author (up from 50). It also extends the period that a pharmaceutical drug can be protected from generic competition.
It also includes new provisions to deal with the digital economy, including prohibiting duties on things like music and e-books, and protections for internet companies so they’re not liable for content their users produce.
Sunset clause: The agreement puts in a 16-year “sunset” clause — meaning the terms of the agreement expire, or “sunset,” after a set period of time. The deal is also subject to a review every six years, at which point the US, Mexico, and Canada can decide to extend USMCA.
What is NAFTA?
NAFTA is the initialism for the North American Free Trade Agreement, an agreement signed by Canada, Mexico, and the United States that reduced or eliminated trade barriers in North America. (Since the U.S. and Canada already had a free trade agreement (signed in 1988), NAFTA merely brought Mexico into the trade bloc.)
Negotiations for the trade agreement began in 1990 under the administration of George H.W. Bush and were finalized under Bill Clinton’s presidency in 1993. The agreement went into effect on January 1, 1994.
What was the purpose of NAFTA?
In 1993 the European Union (EU) created a “single market”—one territory without any internal borders or other regulatory obstacles to the free movement of goods and services. This allowed every country and business in the EU to have access to more than 500 million consumers.
NAFTA, which was approved that same year, was designed to have a similar effect, providing a way to allow the exchange of goods and services to flow more freely across national borders without the artificial restrictions.
NAFTA provided for progressive elimination of all tariffs on any goods qualifying as North American. The deal also sought to protect intellectual property, establish dispute-resolution mechanisms, and, through corollary agreements, implement labor and environmental safeguards.
Why is NAFTA controversial?
NAFTA was controversial when first proposed, mostly because it was the first [free trade agreement] involving two wealthy, developed countries and a developing country. Some people felt that allowing free trade with a developing country provides an incentive for U.S-based business to move their operations to that country.
Since its implementation NAFTA has remained a prime target of trade protectionists (those who advocate taking measures such as taxing imports to “protect” domestic industries from foreign competition).
What to study?
For Prelims: Key features of NAFTA and United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
For Mains: Controversies surrounding NAFTA.
Assam wage compensation schemeAssam Government has become the first Indian state to offer a Wage Compensation Scheme for pregnant women working in the tea gardens of the state.
Aim: The scheme is aimed at providing better health and nutrition supplements to the pregnant women. It stresses on providing proper healthcare facilities to the pregnant women working in the tea gardens of the state.
Highlights of the scheme:
Under the scheme, an amount of Rs 12,000 will be given to the pregnant women so that they can take care of themselves and the unborn baby without compromising the livelihood of their family.
The compensation of wages to pregnant women will be given in 4 instalments – Rs 2,000 in the first trimester, Rs 4,000 in the second trimester, Rs 3,000 for institutional delivery and Rs 3,000 for registration of the child’s birth.
The women would also be given a maternity leave. They will not be engaged in work from the third trimester of pregnancy to three months after delivery.
In addition, they will get assistance for ante-natal care and the first cycle of immunization of the child.
Significance of the scheme:
The bulk of the workforce in Assam’s tea gardens is women. The maternal mortality rate of women working in the tea plantations of Assam is unusually high. The scheme is likely to benefit over 60,000 women in the state. It is expected to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality in the tea areas.
In the Annual Health Survey of 2012-13, Assam recorded one of the highest maternal mortality rates in India, with over 300 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. The MMR in the state’s tea gardens was even higher, as it was recorded to be 404. The national average during 2014-16 was 130. Further, almost 50% of the pregnant women aged between 15 and 49 years in the state were recorded to be anaemic, which is a leading contributor to maternal mortality.
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Key features and significance of the scheme.