- India hosts WTO ministerial meeting of Developing Countries
- India re-elected as an Observer to Arctic Council
- Aarohi Pandit becomes World’s first woman to cross Atlantic Ocean solo in LSA
- Taiwan becomes first Asian country to legalise same sex marriage
- Algeria and Argentina declared Malaria-Free: WHO
- UNGA resolution demands UK withdrawal from Chagos Archipelago
- Harsh Vardhan Committee on Housing Finance Securitisation Market Development
- India moves up to 43rd place on competitiveness
- GS Laxmi becomes 1st ever female ICC match referee
India hosts WTO ministerial meeting of Developing Countries
A WTO Ministerial meeting of developing countries is being hosted by India in New Delhi on 13-14 May 2019. Sixteen developing countries, Six Least Developed Countries (LDC)(Argentina, Bangladesh, Barbados, Benin, Brazil, Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, China, Egypt, Guatemala, Guyana, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Malawi, Malaysia, Nigeria, Oman, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, Uganda)and DG, WTO are participating in the meeting.
Ministers from Bangladesh, CAR and South Africa have confirmed their participation. Vice Ministers, senior officials and ambassadors will be representing other countries.
The two-day meeting will be interactive in order to provide an opportunity to the Ministers to discuss various issues and the way forward. On the first day, there will be a meeting of senior officers of the participating countries followed by a dinner hosted by Union Minister of Commerce & Industry for the heads of delegations. On the 2nd day, the Ministerial Meeting will be held.
This meeting at New Delhi is an effort to bring together the developing countriesand Least Developed Countries on a platform for sharing common concerns on various issues affecting the WTO and work together to address these issues.
The two-day meeting also provides an opportunity to the developing countries and LDCs to build consensus on how to move forward on the WTO reforms, while preserving the fundamentals of the multilateral trading system enshrined in the WTO. The deliberations will aim at getting a direction on how to constructively engage on various issues in the WTO, both institutional and negotiating, in the run up to the Twelfth Ministerial Conference of the WTO to be held in Kazakhstan in June 2020.
India re-elected as an Observer to Arctic Council
India has been re-elected as an observer to intergovernmental forum Arctic Council. The Arctic Council promotes cooperation, coordination and interaction among Arctic states, the region’s indigenous communities and other inhabitants on common issues, particularly on sustainable development and environmental protection.
Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States are members of the Arctic Council.
Indian researchers have been studying whether there is a co-relation between Indian monsoon and the Arctic region.
India’s National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research, an institute under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, has set up a research station, ‘Himadri’, in Svalbard in Norway that works on the mass balance of glaciers, the effect of the warming on the marine system, the formation of clouds and precipitation, and the effect on biodiversity.
Aarohi Pandit becomes World’s first woman to cross Atlantic Ocean solo in LSA
Mumbai girl Aarohi Pandit, created history by becoming the first woman pilot to cross both Atlantic Ocean and Pacific Ocean solo in a Light Sports Aircraft.
Flying from Alaska’s Unalakleet city across the Pacific Ocean’s Bering Sea, she landed safely at the Anadyr Airport in Russia’s Far East region of Chukotka at 01.54 a.m. after a stopover at Nome (Alaska). After landing, Aarohi, appearing a bit weary but cheerful, posed for a photo before her LSA and waved the Indian tricolour.
In mid-May this year, Aarohi, 23, became the first woman in the world to cross the Atlantic Ocean solo in a LSA, thrilling her family, friends and aviation circles. (IANS reported the story on May 14).
In the past nearly 13 months of her circumnavigation flight, she has broken and created several records, including becoming the world’s first woman to complete a solo flight over the treacherous Greenland ice-cap in an LSA, and the first woman to fly all across Canada from the North East to the North West via the South, said her team in Mumbai.
Taiwan becomes first Asian country to legalise same sex marriage
Same-sex marriage in Taiwan became legal on 24 May 2019. This made Taiwan the first nation in Asia to perform same-sex marriage.
On 24 May 2017, the Constitutional Court ruled that the marriage law was unconstitutional and that the constitutional right to equality and freedom of marriage guarantees same-sex couples the right to marry under the Constitution of the Republic of China. The ruling (Judicial Yuan Interpretation No. 748) gave the Legislative Yuan two years to bring the law into compliance, after which registration of such marriages would come into force automatically. Following the ruling, progress on implementing a same-sex marriage law was slow due to strong opposition from conservative groups and government inaction. In November 2018, the Taiwanese electorate passed referendums to prevent recognition of same-sex marriages in the Civil Code and to restrict teaching about LGBT issues. The Government responded by confirming that the Court’s ruling would be implemented and that the referendums could not support laws contrary to the Constitution.
On 20 February 2019, a draft bill entitled the Act for Implementation of J.Y. Interpretation No. 748[a] was released. The draft bill would grant same-sex married couples almost all the rights available to heterosexual married couples under the Civil Code, with the exception that it only allows adoption of a child genetically related to one of them. The Executive Yuan passed it the following day, sending it to the Legislative Yuan for fast-tracked review. The bill was passed on 17 May, signed by President Tsai Ing-wen on 22 May and took effect on 24 May 2019 (the last day possible under the Court’s ruling).
Algeria and Argentina declared Malaria-Free: WHO
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared Argentina and Algeria malaria-free on 22 May, after the two countries reported zero transmission of the disease for more than three years. The success brings the total number of malaria-free countries to 38.
Algeria — where scientists discovered the disease-causing parasite in 1880 — reported its last native malaria case in 2013, and is the third African country to banish the disease; Argentina’s last case was in 2010.
Both nations had maintained low malaria transmission rates for decades, and universal health coverage and rigorous surveillance were crucial in their fight against the disease. Argentina also worked closely with neighbouring countries to spray homes with insecticides and test people for the disease to prevent cross-border transmission.
The WHO’s Global Malaria Eradication Programme (GMEP) and local efforts relied on the insecticide DDT and medication to help 27 countries become malaria-free from the 1960s to the 1980s (see ‘Malaria-free nations’). But the agency abandoned the GMEP in 1969 after scientists realized that global eradication was not feasible in the short term.
Efforts restarted in the 2000s. In 2016, the WHO targeted 21countries with the goal of eliminating malaria in them by 2020. Two of those are now malaria-free: Paraguay and Algeria.
Around 200 million malaria cases occur each year in more than 80 countries. In 2017, an estimated 435,000 people died from the disease.
UNGA resolution demands UK withdrawal from Chagos Archipelago
India was among 116 nations to vote in favour of a UN General Assembly resolution demanding the UK to withdraw its “colonial administration” from the Chagos Archipelago unconditionally within six months. This aimed at supporting Mauritius in its quest for the restoration of sovereignty over the island chain in the Indian Ocean.
Colonization of Chagos
The UK retained sovereignty over the islands after Mauritius gained its independence from Britain in 1968. It has been under continuous British sovereignty since 1814.
The islands have since been used for defence purposes by the UK and the US, which established a military base on the island of Diego Garcia. The entire Chagossian population was forcibly removed from the territory between 1967 and 1973, and prevented from returning.
An ICJ obligation for UK
The ICJ had said in its opinion that the UK Government is “under an obligation” to end its administration of the Chagos Archipelago as rapidly as possible. It demanded that the UK withdraw its colonial administration from the Chagos Archipelago unconditionally within six months, enabling Mauritius to complete the decolonization of its territory as rapidly as possible.
Why India voted in favor of Mauritius?
As a part of India’s longstanding support to all peoples striving for decolonization, India has consistently supported Mauritius in its quest for the restoration of sovereignty. India has age-old people-to-people bonds with Mauritius.
Harsh Vardhan Committee on Housing Finance Securitisation Market Development
The Reserve Bank of India had constituted a Committee on the Development of Housing Finance Securitisation Market, on May 29, 2019, with Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Senior Advisor, Bain & Co. as the Chairperson. The Committee was set up in recognition of the role of well-functioning securitisation markets for better management of credit and liquidity risks in the balance-sheets of banks as well as non-bank mortgage originators. The Terms of Reference of the Committee were to review the existing state of mortgage securitisation market in India and make recommendations to address various issues relating to originators/investors as well as market microstructure.
The Committee has since submitted its report to the Governor. The key recommendations of the Committee, guided by the broad perspective of enhancing efficiency and transparency of securitisation transactions, are as follows:
- setting up of a government sponsored intermediary, through the National Housing Bank, to enable market making and standard setting;
- developing standards for loan origination, loan servicing, loan documentation, and loans to be eligible for securitisation, including standardised formats for data collection and aggregation;
- separation of regulatory guidelines for direct assignment transactions and transactions involving pass through certificates as well as for mortgage backed securities (MBS) and asset backed securities (ABS);
- relaxation of regulatory norms for minimum holding period (MHP) and minimum retention requirement (MRR) for MBS;
- amendments and/or clarifications for registration and stamp duty requirements and tax guidelines to reduce the transaction costs for securitisation as also to encourage investments in pass-through-securities;
- treating the assets underlying a securitisation transaction as well as any exposures in the form of credit enhancement as bankruptcy remote under the insolvency laws for financial firms; and,
- changes to regulations issued by financial sector regulators to incentivise participation of their respective regulated entities as investors.
India moves up to 43rd place on competitiveness
India has moved up one place to rank as the world’s 43rd most competitive economy on the back of its robust economic growth, a large labour force and its huge market size, while Singapore has toppled the US to grab the top position, a global study showed Tuesday.
Singapore has moved up to the top, from the third position last year, while the US has slipped to the third place in the 2019 edition of the IMD World Competitiveness Rankings. Hong Kong SAR has held onto its second place, helped by a benign tax and business policy environment and access to business finance.
Economists regard competitiveness as vital for the long-term health of a country’s economy as it empowers businesses to achieve sustainable growth, generates jobs and, ultimately, enhance the welfare of citizens.
The IMD World Competitiveness Rankings, established in 1989, incorporate 235 indicators from each of the 63 ranked economies to evaluate their ability to foster an environment where enterprises can achieve sustainable growth, generate jobs and increase welfare for its citizens.
India was ranked 45th in 2017, but higher at 41st in 2016.
GS Laxmi becomes 1st ever female ICC match referee
Gandikota Sarva Lakshmi is an Indian cricket match referee and a former domestic cricket player and coach. She was a right handed batswoman and right-arm fast-medium outswing bowler.
Lakshmi became the first woman to be appointed to the International Cricket Council’s International Panel of Match Referees on 14 May 2019.
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