Current Affairs Update : April 10, 2009

1. A suicide bomber attacked a crowded Shiite mosque in Chakwal city in Punjab province, about 80km south of Islamabad on Sunday, killing 22 people and wounding dozens more.Violence in Pakistan has spread well beyond the Afghan border region, including a suicide bombing in Islamabad on Saturday that killed eight paramilitary personnel and a commando-style attack at a police academy last week in Lahore.

2. China, the world’s top greenhouse gas polluter, has passed a milestone in the number of UN-backed clean energy projects, with the world body approving more than 500 such schemes so far. China has the highest number of such projects, which yield tradeable carbon credits for investors in wind farms, solar power, small hydro, biomass or cleaning up planet-warming industrial gases. The scheme, called the clean development mechanism (CDM), is part of the Kyoto Protocol climate pact and aims to help developing countries shift to low-carbon economies and also help rich nations offset their emissions by buying the carbon credits. Each offset, called a certified emission reduction (CER), represents a tonne of greenhouse gas pollution saved from being emitted. s of late Monday, China now has 501 such projects registered, followed by India at 411 and Brazil with 156. Globally, the United Nations has approved 1,539.Many of China’s registered projects are in hydro and wind power, with others designed to capture methane from coal mines, landfills and agricultural waste. Hundreds more Chinese projects are in the pipeline awaiting formal approval by the United Nations. To date, approved Chinese CDM projects have
been issued with 119,400,810 CERs, representing more than 40% of the total issued to date globally by the United Nations, but still a fraction of China’s overall greenhouse gas emissions.

3. Fijian President Ratu Josefa Iloilo has announced that he has taken over the country’s government. It comes a day after a court ruled that the current military leadership was illegally appointed after a 2006 coup.

4. India, the fastest growing tourist economy with well over 14 per cent year-on-year growth rate during 2003-2006 is all set to witness a decline in its international inbound travel in the coming years.

5. The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has predicted minus 7 per cent growth for India for 2009. Growth is expected to slow down further due to global credit crunch and great recession as the council has predicted no growth for 2010, and a modest 5.5 percent compound annual growth rate for the period 2008-2020. International inbound travel to India peaked at a record 5.5 million arrivals in 2008, and these tourists spent nearly US$ 13 billion (Rs 64,000 crores ) according to WTTC . However, growth has slowed down dramatically since 2007, and the situation will get worse unless the country gets its act together. This warning comes from Indian and foreign experts attending the second international conference on tourism at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Lucknow. Proceedings of this conference, jointly organised by IIM Lucknow and IIM Kozhikode, are being brought out in the book ‘Tourism in global village’. India’s national policy on tourism was announced in 2002 to position the country as a global brand and tourism as a major engine of its economic growth. The efforts paid off, and India saw a growth rate of over 14 per cent till 2006. However, growth rate has slowed down to 12 per cent during 2007, and to 5 per cent during 2008.

6. India makes a very positive contribution towards Afghanistan’s development,” Gen Karl Eikenberry, President Barack Obama’s nominee to be ambassador to Afghanistan, said on Thursday. Elaborating India’s contributions in Afghanistan, he said: “It has good agricultural programs. It’s been a generous aid donor. It also has extraordinarily good capabilities of developing civil service and helping to educate Afghan bureaucrats.”

7. Somali pirates seized a Danish-owned, U.S.-operated container ship on Wednesday with 21 American crew on board in the latest of a sharp rise in attacks off the Horn of Africa nation, a maritime group said. Andrew Mwangura of the Kenya-based East African Seafarers’ Assistance Programme said the 17,000 tonne vessel was hijacked in the Indian Ocean 400 miles off the Somali capital Mogadishu.

8. Before the expiry of the three-month-long deadline, the CBI on Tuesday filed a voluminous charge sheet against nine accused in the Satyam Computer scam, including its erstwhile chairman B. Ramalinga Raju, his brother B. Rama Raju and Chief Financial Officer Srinivas Vadlamani. The charge sheet, with statements of 433 witnesses and 1,532 documents, runs into 65,000 pages. The CBI submitted the documents, moved in 22 trunks in a mini-lorry, to the designated court for CBI cases.

9. Raja J Chelliah, 86, a renowned economist who worked out a roadmap for reducing import duties in the early 1990s, passed away on Tuesday in his Chennai home. Chelliah is best known for his work as chairman of the Tax Reforms Committee between 1991 and 1993 under the then finance minister Manmohan Singh, which set out a roadmap for reducing import duties. This paved the way for liberalisation. A specialist in public finance and an institutional builder, Chelliah founded the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy in 1976 and built it up into a full-fledged research institution in fiscal matters between 1976 and 1985. He was also instrumental in setting up the Madras School of Economics, with the support of leading industrial groups and state government. Chelliah also served as chairman of the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP) for six years. The Report of the Tax Reforms Committee was
the basis for shift in the country’s policy towards lower import protection and globalisation. Born in 1922, Chelliah did his masters in economics from the University of Madras, before going to the US for his doctorate as Fulbright scholar in 1956. After obtaining his PhD in economics from Pittsburgh University, he returned to India to work as a senior economist at the National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER). After stints in the University of Rajasthan and Osmania University between 1961 and 1969, Chelliah went to Washington to serve as chief of the Fiscal Analysis Division in the Fiscal Affairs Department of the International Monetary Fund (1969-75). He was honoured with a Padma Vibhushan in 2007. Chelliah also authored a number of books, including ‘Fiscal Policy in Underdeveloped Countries’, ‘Economic-Functional Classification of Central and State Government Budget’ and ‘Aspects of the Black Economy in India’. Chelliah also served as a Planning Commission member (1987-89) and on the Ninth Finance Commission. He also held the post of Fiscal Advisor in the Union Ministry of Finance (1993-95) and was Chairman Emeritus at the Madras School of Economics.

10. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) may secure at least $100 million (Rs505 crore) in financing for a fund to buy carbon credits after the expiry of the Kyoto Protocol in 2012, an official said. The Future Carbon Fund, which started operations in January with commitments from countries including Finland, Belgium and Sweden, may raise at least $100 million in the first half, Philip Wood, a spokesman for the Manila-based bank, said. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol, an agreement among nations to curb global warming, assigned emission-reduction targets to developed countries for the five years through 2012. Private funds are not investing in projects that issue credits after 2012 because of uncertainty over climate protection plans when the Kyoto Protocol expires.

11. The Ahmedabad Metropolitan Court on Thursday rejected the remand application of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) and sent BJP leader Dr Maya Kodnani to judicial custody in the Sabarmati Central Jail. Kodnani, a former minister in the Narendra Modi government, is an accused in the 2002 Naroda Patiya massacre case.

12. Industrial recovery remained elusive under the impact of global financial meltdown with factory production contracting again in February to record a 15-year low growth of negative 1.2 per cent, clearly showing that stimulus packages are yet to yield results. With barely one months to go for this fiscal to end, industrial growth stood at just 2.8 per cent, against a whopping 8.8 per cent a year ago. All major categories–manufacturing, mining, consumer non-durables, basic goods and intermediate items–registered a negative growth in February, prompting demand for rate cuts by RBI in its annual monetary policy later this month.

13. The Congress, under intense pressure and with Sikh anger snowballing over the prolonged failure to act against those responsible for the anti-Sikh riots of 1984, withdrew Mr Tytler and Mr Kumar from the Northeast Delhi and South Delhi constituencies. Both leaders are facing charges for alleged involvement in these riots. While a Delhi court on Thursday adjourned till April 28 further consideration of the CBI’s closure report giving Mr Tytler a clean chit, the Congress refused to take any electoral risk and its high command decided to drop both candidates.

14. India started its largest auction of oil and gas fields, offering 70 areas for exploration when energy producers are cutting investments because of falling prices and the global recession. The nation is offering 24 deep-water blocks and 28 shallow- water blocks for exploration, Oil Secretary R.S. Pandey said in New Delhi . The fields on offer include 18 on-land blocks,he said. Asia’s third-largest energy consumer, seeking to cut oil imports, attracted bids for 45 of the 57 areas offered in the previous auction last year, when crude climbed to a record. Worldwide spending on oil and gas exploration may drop 12 percent in 2009 to $400 billion, Barclays Capital Research said

15. The Maharashtra government is planning to set up a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to raise funds for the upcoming metro railway project worth Rs 9,534 crore in Pune city. According to a detailed project report (DPR) prepared by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), the city needs two metro rail routes of 31.5 km length, which would be operational by year 2014.

16. Arcelor-Mittal, the largest steelmaker of the world, plans to set up a captive port at Barunei Muhan, located to the north of Mahanadi river near Paradip in Orissa. The port will be used to import raw materials like coking coal and limestone, and export finished products of the company’s proposed integrated mega steel plants in Orissa and Jharkhand. The steel projects will have capacities of 12 million tonnes each.

17. Falling commodity prices and weak demand for foreign goods have resulted in a record drop in imports during March 2009. Quick estimates available with the commerce ministry suggest imports contracted 32 per cent and stood at $16.05 billion, compared with $23.57 billion in the year ago month. Economists expect imports to shrink in the coming months as domestic industries adjust their purchases to falling demand for their products. Imports have been contracting since January 2009 due to a waning demand in the domestic economy as well as falling crude oil prices. The last time one saw a fall in imports for three consecutive months was in the September-November, 2001, period. In value terms, the quick estimates on imports for the month under consideration are the lowest since January 2007. Updated data on imports will be released on May 1.

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