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9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – 10 February 2017


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Front Page / NATIONAL

[1]. IEDs kill more commoners than VIPs: NSG

Editorial/OPINION

[1]. Prudence amid uncertainty

[2]. TPP is dead, but its legacy lives on

ECONOMY

[1]. Centre to raise EPFO’s equity investments to 15%

[2]. SEBI to form panel to facilitate crowdfunding

[3]. Centre to send experts to expedite talks at WTO

Indian Express

[1]. Unprepared for Paris

Live Mint

[1]. Charting the near-term policy road map


Front Page / NATIONAL


[1]. IEDs kill more commoners than VIPs: NSG

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Data show 55% of these devices are set off in public places; in 2016, only 7% of the attacks were targeted at VIPs

 

Who are the primary targets of terrorists? VIPs? Security forces? Or ordinary people?

A detailed data analysis carried out by the National Security Guard, a counter-terror and

counter-hijack force, show it is the unarmed civilians who often fall victim to IED (improvised explosive device) blasts set off by terrorists across India. The VIPs are the least targeted.

  • Between 2012 and 2016, anywhere between 49% and 72% of the attacks annually have been targeted at ordinary civilians. In contrast, attacks targeting VIPs were in the range of 1% to 7%

 

Target distribution

In 2016, only 7% of the IED attacks were targeted at the VIPs. In comparison, 55% of all IED explosions across India in 2016 were targeted at public places. The remaining 37% were against security forces

 

Left-wing Extremism: A major contributor

The States affected by Left-wing extremism contributed the most number of IED blasts at 159, followed by the north-eastern States at 59 and Jammu and Kashmir at 31.

 

Justification of VIP security

The Centre justifies VIP security in the name of “security threats”, which are assessments made primarily through the Intelligence Bureau

 


Editorial/OPINION


[1]. Prudence amid uncertainty

 

The Hindu

 

Context

The central bank’s Monetary Policy Committee has opted to sit pat on rates and choose to give itself time to “assess how the transitory effects of demonetisation on inflation and the output gap play out”

 

Issue: Policy change by RBI’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) from “accommodative” to “neutral”

 

What has happened?

In the recent bimonthly policy review, MPC decided to keep the policy rates unchanged i.e. a change of stance from accommodative (rate cut) to neutral (no change)

 

What do the RBI’s decision reflect?

A cautionary stance indicates that the economy has not only suffered short-run disruptions but the long-term effect may be far more enduring and hard to predict than anticipated by the government

 

Downward revision of growth

The policy review has also projected the second successive downward revision in economic growth as measured by the Gross Value Added for the current year ending in March, with the pace of increase in GVA now forecast at 6.9%, from 7.1% in December and 7.6% prior to the November demonetisation

 

[2]. TPP is dead, but its legacy lives on

 

The Hindu

 

Context
The Trans-Pacific Partnership was dead long before Donald Trump signed his executive order. But its damaging aspects, like stringent IP provisions, have just migrated to other agreements.

 

Issue: TPP’s damaging provisions wrt access to medicines

 

What is TPP?

Twelve countries that border the Pacific Ocean signed up to the TPP in February 2016, representing roughly 40% of the world’s economic output.

  • Aim: The pact aimed to deepen economic ties between these nations, slashing tariffs and fostering trade to boost growth. Members had also hoped to foster a closer relationship on economic policies and regulation
  • The agreement was designed so that it could eventually create a new single market, something like that of the EU
  • But all 12 nations needed to ratify it, before it could come into effect
  • Member states: Japan – the only country to have already ratified the pact – Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Chile and Peru.
  • Abandoning TPP was a key element of the election campaign of the new US president elect Donald Trump & as soon as he entered office, US pulled out of TPP

 

How big a deal was TPP?

Pretty big. The 12 countries involved have a collective population of about 800 million – almost double that of the European Union’s single market. The 12-nation would-be bloc is already responsible for 40% of world trade.

  • The deal was seen as a remarkable achievement given the very different approaches and standards within the member countries, including environmental protection, workers’ rights and regulatory coherence – not to mention the special protections that some countries have for certain industries

 

Without the US does TPP definitely fail?

To take effect, the deal would have had to be ratified by February 2018 by at least six countries that account for 85% of the group’s economic output. The US would need to be on board to meet that last condition.

  • Some countries, including New Zealand, have suggested some sort of alternative deal may be possible without the US.
  • But Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said a TPP without the US – and its market of 250 million consumers – would be “meaningless”

 

Is this the same thing as TTIP?

No. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, now generally known as TTIP, is a deal to cut tariffs and regulatory barriers to trade between the US and member states of the EU. Negotiations here are at an earlier stage. But given President Trump’s hostility towards trade deals in general it’s unlikely to be plain sailing for that one either.

 

 

TPP’s damaging provisions: IPR

The agreement’s damaging ambitions were most evident in the proposed provisions concerning intellectual property

  • Explicit provision for Biologics: The TPP provided explicit protections for ‘biologics’ (drugs manufactured in a living organism, rather than through chemical synthesis), the first trade agreement to do so
  • Extended data exclusivity: The agreement mandated the protection of clinical test data submitted for marketing approvals, with pharmaceutical data obtaining five to eight years of protection. This provision, called ‘data exclusivity’ or ‘marketing exclusivity’, prevents a generic company from relying on the clinical test results of the originator in order to prove the efficacy of its drug
    • Argument given:It was justified using the argument that clinical trials are the most expensive part of drug development and hence there is a necessity to provide drug developers the ability to limit access to that data so as to incentivise research
  • Weaker patent standards: Such standards would allow a greater number of secondary or ever-greening patents on pharmaceuticals
  • Harsher intellectual property enforcement

 

Note: Many leading public health organisations termed the TPP the worst trade agreement on access to medicines

 

Why Data Exclusivity is hurtful?

Though, on the surface, the provision looks reasonable, data exclusivity is a deeply uncompetitive policy that serves to undermine generic competition.

  • Stronger restriction than patent protection: In fact, it is possibly a stronger restriction than patent protection itself. Patent protection, unlike data exclusivity, can be challenged if the product is not sufficiently novel (new), or violates existing national standards for obtaining patent protection, thereby clearing the way for generic competition. (This is, in fact, what happened to Novartis in India over Glivec, an anti-cancer drug)
  • Unfeasible clinical trials: For the generic version of medicines to be able to come to the market, it is essential that the generic version be able to use the proof of efficacy and safety that is generated by the clinical trial. The restriction on the use of test data would therefore require a generic company to undertake clinical trials by itself, which is both unfeasible (in terms of expense) and unethical (since it would expose patients to trial protocols, during which some patients would have to receive a placebo when a proven cure is available)
    • No generics for the period of data exclusivity:As a result, in a country like India, even in a situation where there is no patent barrier, data exclusivity would allow for a period of five to eight years during which there is no plausible way that market access could be allowed for generics, thereby reducing access to cheaper medicines for the population

 

 

 

The Legacy of TPP

Author states that although US has pulled out of TPP, but the lines along which it was being negotiated reflects poorly on the US trade policy vis-à-vis public health and Intellectual property (IP). TPP can have further damaging impacts,

  • Impact on other agreements: The potentially damaging provisions of TPP can migrate to other global agreements like RCEP. Countries involved in RCEP are now trying to conclude the talks as soon as possible. RCEP includes several of IP provisions included in TPP. This should be of great concern for access to medicines globally, as countries involved in the RCEP negotiations include key generic drug-producing countries, including India
  • Pressure on India’s patent regime likely to continue: U.S. withdrawal from the TPP may change the U.S.’s approach to trade and intellectual property more in form than in substance, by switching from trade agreements that include several countries to bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs). In this process, the U.S. is more than likely to continue its vigorous campaign against perceived “violators” of U.S. intellectual property. The pressure exerted by the Obama administration on the public health safeguards in Indian patent law over the past eight years are likely to continue, if not worsen.
  • Subversive US Trade Policy to continue: Despite the public health impact of the TPP’s provisions, it is unlikely that these concerns will guide U.S. trade or foreign policy. President Trump’s remarks in early January emphasized his desire to end “global freeloading” stating that “foreign price controls reduce the resources of American drug companies to finance drug and R&D innovation… our trade policy will prioritize that foreign countries pay their fair share for U.S.-manufactured drugs, so our drug companies have greater financial resources to accelerate development of new cures.”

 

Conclusion

Author concludes by stating that in the light of ever increasing efforts of the developed world to limit the access to medicines, India needs a far greater government commitment to the use of the public health safeguards in the indigenous patent law to survive this era and ensure the health of the country’s citizens


ECONOMY


[1]. Centre to raise EPFO’s equity investments to 15%

The Hindu

 

Context

The Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) will increase its equity investments to 15% of its incremental corpus next fiscal year from 10% at present

 

What has happened?

The Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) will increase its equity investments to 15% of its incremental corpus next fiscal year from 10% at present. It had earlier increased the investments in exchange traded funds (ETF) from 5% to 10% of its corpus

  • Although the EPFO is permitted to invest up to 15% of its incremental corpus in equity and related instruments, it began by investing 5% in ETFs in August 2015 and increased it further to 10% last year.

 

[2]. SEBI to form panel to facilitate crowdfunding

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Constitution of an advisory committee by SEBI on financial technology or fintech-related issues

 

What has happened?

The Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI) is forming an advisory committee on financial technology or fintech-related issues, which would look at safeguards that can be put in place to facilitate crowdfunding of ‘genuine’ ventures and mobilise more household savings into the financial markets

 

Membership of the committee

The committee shall have representatives and experts from different sections of fintech industry

 

SEBI Chairman’s views

  • Enabling access in small towns: To harness technology to enable persons in small towns with small amounts to invest in a retirement fund, we are going to form an advisory committee on fintech that will be led by some very strong business leaders from the industry
  • “If you want to raise money in the bond market, one has to file a draft red herring prospectus, make lots of disclosures, get a credit rating and appoint a debenture trustee,” he said, adding that even England and New Zealand that have allowed crowdfunding of ventures have imposed ‘restrictions.’

 

Holding discussions

SEBI is holding fresh discussions with representatives of start-ups and venture capital funds to assess why a single start-up hasn’t been listed yet on the special platform created by the regulator for mature ventures looking to go public

 

[3]. Centre to send experts to expedite talks at WTO

 

The Hindu

 

Context

Article mentions the latest development vis-à-vis India’s efforts to expedite talks at WTO

 

What has happened?

The Centre will send an expert team to the World Trade Organisation headquarters in Geneva next month to ensure that negotiations on food security issues and the proposed global services pact are expedited

 

Backdrop

The latest development follows WTO DG Robert Azevedo’s two-day visit to India

 

Note: India’s concerns with respect to introduction of new issues into the formal agenda of WTO-level negotiations has already been discussed in previous briefs.


Indian Express


[1]. Unprepared for Paris

 

Indian Express

 

Context

Failure of thermal power plants to meet emission standards does not speak well of India’s climate commitments

 

Backdrop

In the run-up to the Paris climate change meet in 2015, the government stressed on reducing the share of this fossil fuel in the country’s energy mix and using it in a climate friendly manner

  • The latter meant reducing the emissions from thermal power stations. Over 140 such stations were assigned targets for improving energy — and thus, emissions — efficiency. That the government now finds these standards too stringent could raise questions about India’s commitment to its Paris targets

 

Point to be noted: Coal, a major culprit for climate change, powers more than 80 per cent of the electricity consumed in the country

 

Why reducing emissions from thermal plants is critical for India?

  • Although India’s energy targets reflected in INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Commitments) submitted under Paris accord stress on renewable sector, the country will still require thermal power plants to generate 60 per cent of its energy requirements in 2030. That makes reducing emissions from these coal-fired plants crucial to the country’s Paris commitments. That makes reducing emissions from these coal-fired plants crucial to the country’s Paris commitments
  • India shown in poor light on a global scale: There are still 3 years before India has to comply with its Paris climate targets. The failure of thermal power plants to comply with the emission norms does not show the country’s preparedness in good light. Most thermal power plants in the country work at efficiencies below 33 per cent.

 

Roadblocks

Author states that the following factors are presenting a roadblock in the effort to reduce climate footprint of thermal power plants in India,

  • Lack of coordination amongst government agencies: n June 2015, when new emission norms for thermal plants were being discussed, the National Thermal Power Corporation reasoned that these norms were too strict. The government set aside the objections of the biggest player in the sector when it submitted its INDC document to the United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change. The environment ministry is also not without blame. It gave clearances to new plants without specifying the new standards, well after it had the norms in place

Live Mint


[1]. Charting the near-term policy road map

 

Live Mint

 

Context

Since the macro fundamentals are a lot more stable than they were a few years ago, the government can now concentrate on structural reforms

 

Yet another article which relates to the recent decision of Monetary Policy Committee to not change the policy rates

 

It gives an idea about impending challenges

 

Give it a go-through once