GS Paper I- History and Geography of the World and Society.
Singapore To Impose Carbon Tax From 2019.
- Singapore said on 19th February, 2018 that it would impose a carbon tax from next year to cut its greenhouse gas emissions and make companies more competitive as global agreements on climate change take effect.
- Finance minister Heng Swee Keat said the tax would be levied on all facilities producing 25,000 tonnes or more of greenhouse gas emissions a year.
- The tax, to be applied to all sectors, will be Sg$5.0 ($3.8) per tonne of greenhouse gas emissions from 2019 to 2023, after which the levy will be reviewed and possibly raised to between Sg$10 and Sg$15 per tonne by 2030.
Highlights Of The Development-
- Major economies have been scrambling to cut greenhouse gas emissions amid warnings from scientists about the potentially devastating impacts of climate change. The most notable step has been the 197-nation Paris Agreement, inked in 2015, which calls for limiting global warming to “well under” 2 degrees Celsius, and “pursuing efforts” to cap warming at 1.5 degrees C.
- The levy will affect about 30-40 companies, mainly from the petroleum refining, chemicals and semiconductor sectors.
- Singapore ranks 26th out of 142 countries in terms of emissions per capita based on the latest International Energy Agency data largely due to its small size and dense population, according to the government.
- Heng said the new carbon tax would encourage businesses to take measures to reduce emissions, making them more competitive as tighter limits are imposed by more countries when international deals come into force. The government would provide support to companies to help them become energy-efficient, he added.
- Singapore expects to collect carbon tax revenues of nearly Sg$1.0 billion in the first five years, but the government is willing to spend more than that to help companies.
GS Paper III- Economic Development.
Cabinet Approves Amendments To Chit Funds Act.
- The cabinet on 20th February, 2018 approved amendments to the Chit Funds Act to facilitate orderly growth of the sector and provide more financial products to investors.
- The cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has given approval to introduce the Chit Funds (Amendment) Bill, 2018 in Parliament.
- This is being done to facilitate orderly growth of the chit funds sector and remove bottlenecks being faced by the industry, thereby enabling greater financial access of people to other financial products. For the purpose, amendments would be made to the Chit Funds Act, 1982.
Highlights Of The Development-
- One of the amendments is use of the words “Fraternity Fund” for chit business in the Act to signify its inherent nature, and distinguish its working from ‘Prize Chits’ which are banned under a separate legislation.
- The bill also proposes to allow two minimum required subscribers to join through video conferencing duly recorded by the foreman, as physical presence of the subscribers towards the final stages of a chit may not be forthcoming easily, the release said.
- Moreover, the bill proposes to increase the ceiling of foreman’s commission from a maximum of 5% to 7%, as the rate has remained static since the commencement of the Act while overheads and other costs have increased manifold.
- The bill also proposes to amend a Section of the Act to remove the ceiling of Rs100 set in 1982 at the time of framing the Chit Funds Act, which has lost its relevance, the release said.
- State governments are proposed to be allowed to prescribe the ceiling and to increase it from time to time.
GS Paper II- International Relations.
India, Iran Sign 9 Agreements During Hassan Rouhani’s Visit: MoUs On Medicine, Trade And Connectivity Key Highlights.
- Iran president Hassan Rouhani visited India between 15 and 17 February, 2018. In his first-ever visit after taking over as President of Iran, Rouhani met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and held substantive and productive talks to boost cooperation in areas of defence and security, trade and investment, and energy.
- At the end of the meeting, the countries exchanged nine major MoUs, which covered the areas of connectivity, trade, agriculture and taxation. Perhaps, two of the most important MoUs that were signed were the MoU on Chabahar Port and the agreement for Avoidance of Double Taxation and Prevention of Fiscal Evasion.
Highlights Of The Development-
- The MoU on Chabahar Port gave India an 18-month lease of Phase I of the jointly built port, while the taxation agreement will be helping taxpayers to avoid paying double taxes on their income earned from the source country as well as the residence country.
- The MoU on Chabahar Port, in the words of the joint declaration, is the commitment of India and Iran to develop multi-nodal connectivity. The joint declaration also expressed the need for early and full operationalisation of the Shahid Beheshti Port at Chabahar. The MoU came at a time when China had already operationalised the Gwadar Port in Pakistan’s Balochistan province.
- The Central Board of Direct Taxes believed that the agreement on double tax avoidance will stimulate flow of investment, technology and personnel from India to Iran and vice versa. The joint statement also stressed on developing trade and said that the two sides agreed to undertake text based negotiations on Preferential Trade Agreement as well as conclusion of Bilateral Investment Treaty in a fixed time frame.
- On the development of bilateral trade, the two countries also signed an MoU on the establishment of an Expert Group on Trade Remedy Measures, which will establish a framework of cooperation on several issues like dumping — a major issue that unites several developing countries.
- Another major development during the exchange of agreements and MoUs was the ratification of the 2008 extradition treaty between the two countries. With the ratification of the treaty by the parliaments of the two countries, the extradition treaty has come into effect.
- With the MoU exempting visas for holders of diplomatic passports, an Iran travel will be smoother for Indian diplomats and anyone who holds such passports.
- An MoU on strengthening postal co-operation was signed between the two countries, which will allow exchanges of expertise and technology in e-commerce and logistical services and encouragement to philately.