Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 13 March 2023

Bhutan graduated from the LDC status

GS Paper - 3 (Economy)

Bhutan, the mountainouslandlocked country that is consistently ranked one of the happiest in the world, will on 13th December of this year, become the seventh nation to graduate from the United Nations’ (UN) list of Least Developed Countries (LDC.) While this promotion is a cause for celebration, it also raises some concerns, notably how Bhutan will compensate for the loss of certain trade privileges associated with being an LDC.

What is a Least Developed Country (LDC)?

  1. The LDCs are developing countries listed by the UN that exhibit the lowest indicators of socioeconomic development.
  2. The concept first originated in the late 1960s and was codified under UN resolution 2768 passed in November 1971.
  3. According to the UN, an LDC is defined as “a country that exhibits the lowest indicators of socioeconomic development, with low levels of incomehuman capital and economic diversification, high levels of economic vulnerability, and a population that is disproportionately reliant on agriculturenatural resources, and primary commodities.”

The UN identifies three criteria for a country to be classified as an LDC:

  1. First, it must have a gross national income (GNI) per capita below the threshold of USD 1,230 over a three-year average.
  2. Second, it must perform poorly on a composite human assets index based on indicators including nutritionhealth and education.
  3. Lastly, the country must demonstrate economic vulnerability such as being prone to natural disasters and possessing structural economic constraints.
  4. Countries must meet a selection from all three criteria simultaneously and are reviewed on a three-year basis by the UN.
  5. Currently, the UN lists 46 countries that qualify as LDCs. Of those, 33 are from Africanine from Asiathree from the Pacific and one from the Caribbean.

How did Bhutan get off the LDC list?

  1. Bhutan was included in the first group of LDCs in 1971. However, over the last few decades, it has made remarkable progress on a variety of socio-economic metrics.
  2. Bhutan first fulfilled the requirements for graduation in 2015, and then again in 2018. Bhutan was therefore scheduled to graduate in 2021.
  3. However, the UN viewed Bhutan’s request to match the effective graduation date with the conclusion of the nation’s 12th national development plan in 2023 as a legitimate request and thus postponed the delisting.
  4. Bhutan has mostly accomplished this by increasing exports of hydropower to India, which now accounts for 20 per cent of its economy.
  5. The nation also established Brand Bhutan in an effort to diversify exports while acknowledging the modest size of its local market.
  6. The idea was to target high-end markets with specialised exports of high-value, low-volume Bhutanese goods. Their goods come from sectors of the economy including textilestourismhandicraftsculture, and natural resources.

Centre amends anti-money laundering rules

GS Paper - 3 (Economy)

The government has amended rules under the anti-money law, making it mandatory for banks and financial institutions to record financial transactions of politically exposed persons (PEP). Also, financial institutions or reporting agencies will be required to collect information about the financial transactions of non-profit organisations or NGOs under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

What the amendment said?

  1. Under the modified PML Rules, the Finance Ministry defined PEPs as "individuals who have been entrusted with prominent public functions by a foreign country, including the heads of States or Governments, senior politicians, senior government or judicial or military officers, senior executives of state-owned corporations and important political party officials".
  2. The financial institutions will also have to register details of their NGO clients on the Darpan portal of the Niti Aayog and maintain the record for five years after the business relationship between a client and a reporting entity has ended or the account has been closed, whichever is later.
  3. Following this amendment, banks and financial institutions will now have to not only maintain records of financial transactions of PEPs and NGOs but also share them with the Enforcement Directorate, as and when sought.
  4. The amendments to PMLA rules also include tightening the definition of beneficial owners under the anti-money laundering law and mandating reporting entities like banks and crypto platforms to collect information from their clients.
  5. As per the amendments, any individual or group holding 10 per cent ownership in the client of a 'reporting entity' will now be considered a beneficial owner against the ownership threshold of 25 per cent applicable earlier.
  6. Under the anti-money laundering law, 'reporting entities' are banks and financial institutions, firms engaged in real estate and jewellery sectors. They also include intermediaries in casinos and crypto or virtual digital assets.
  7. So far, these entities were required to maintain KYC details or records of documents evidencing the identity of their clients as well as account files and business correspondence relating to clients. They are required to maintain a record of all transactions, including the record of all cash transactions of more than Rs 10 lakh.
  8. They will now have to also collect the details of the registered office address and principal place of business of their clients.

Three years since Covid-19 as a pandemic

GS Paper - 3 (Health and Diseases)

On 11 March 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) officially declared the Covid-19 outbreak to be a ‘pandemic’A pandemic is a disease outbreak that spreads across countries or continents. It affects more people and takes more lives than an epidemic. The Covid-19 pandemic would go on to fundamentally alter the lives of many Indians, from the thousands who suffered from the disease to those who were impacted by its economic fallout.

First pandemic to affect the country

  1. Arguably, the first major pandemic to affect India was the Third Plague Pandemic.
  2. Beginning in Yunan, China, in 1855, according to the WHO, the pandemic was considered active until 1959, when worldwide casualties dropped to under 200 per year.
  3. In this period, it killed anywhere between 12-25 million people across the world, with 75 per cent of recorded deaths occurring in British India alone (1896 onwards).
  4. It was a truly global pandemic, affecting cities like Hong Kong and Bombay in the same breath as San Francisco, Glasgow and Porto.

What is plague?

  1. Bubonic plague is caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis. It is transported by flea-bites — they transfer the disease from infected rodents to human beings.
  2. It first presents flu-like symptoms — fever, chills, and a headache — followed by an inflamed, dry, extremely painful region developing around the bitten area.
  3. As the infection spreads in the body, it causes fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, excruciating pain and generally kills the infected person due to multiple organ failure within a week after infection.
  4. The modern understanding of the disease developed only after 1896, when the Third Plague Pandemic was causing havoc in India.
  5. By January 1897, scientists identified that plague first affected rats, serving as a warning sign for an approaching human epidemic. In 1898, the role of fleas would be ascertained.