Daily Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Preparation: 15 October 2017

Rail Board okays container services to Dhaka

The Rail Board has approved a proposal allowing Container Corporation (CONCOR) to run container trains to the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka. This is part of a bilateral initiative to reduce logistics cost which is hindering trade growth. Bangladesh is ninth-largest importer of Indian goods. However, exports have been falling over the last three years.

According to trade statistics published by the Indian High Commission in Dhaka, Indian exports to its eastern neighbour touched $6 billion in 2013-14 (July to June), up from $4.77 billion in the previous year. Exports declined to $5.8 billion and $5.4 billion respectively in 2014-15 and 2015-16 and; stood at $4.3 billion during July 2016 and March 2017. Bangladeshi exports to India steadily grew from $456 million to $689 million between 2013-14 and 2015-16.

The current trade logistics between India and Bangladesh is largely road-based and non-containerised. This, coupled with restrictions on vehicle movement between the two nations and axel-load restrictions in Bangladesh, leads to manual loading and unloading in the border, increasing both congestion and trade cost. Rail movement is the ideal solution to reducing trade costs. The two countries have three operational rail links.


IMF favours three structural reforms in India

The IMF has suggested a three pronged approach for structural reform in India that includes addressing the corporate and banking sector weaknesses, continued fiscal consolidation through revenue measure, and improving the efficiency of labour and product markets.

Addressing the corporate and banking sector weaknesses: To address the corporate and banking sector weaknesses, by accelerating the resolution of non performing loans, rebuilding the capital buffers for the public sector banks, and enhancing banks’ debt recovery mechanisms.

Continued fiscal consolidation through revenue measure: India should continue with the fiscal consolidation through revenue measures, as well as further reductions in subsidies.

Improving the efficiency of labour and product markets: To maintain the strong momentum for structural reforms in addressing the infrastructure gaps, improving the efficiency of labour and product markets as well as furthering agricultural reforms.


Audrey Azoulay to be next UNESCO chief

Audrey Azoulay has been elected to become the next chief of UNESCO – the UN’s education, science and culture agency.

Azoulay, 45, a former French culture minister, defeated Qatar’s Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari in the final 30-28 vote after she won a runoff with a third finalist from Egypt.

If confirmed by UNESCO’s 195 member-general assembly next month, Azoulay will succeed outgoing Director-General Irina Bokova of Bulgaria, whose eight-year term was marred by financial woes and criticism over Palestine’s inclusion as a member.

Azoulay was born in Paris to a Moroccan Jewish family from Essaouira, and is the daughter of Andre Azoulay, an adviser to king Mohammed VI of Morocco.


One of world’s most remote islands gets commercial flights

One of the world’s most remote places became a little less isolated, when the first commercial flight departed for St Helena, a South-Atlantic island that until recently was only accessible by boat. The island claims pride over Napoleon Bonaparte spending his last years in exile here.

The SA Airlink plane left Johannesburg on a six-hour journey to the British-ruled territory, which hopes to draw more tourists to its rugged landscapes, marine life and the novelty of visiting a spot far off the beaten track.

Discovered by Portuguese mariners in 1502, St Helena was a way station for ships for centuries and was a key port for Britain’s East India Company. It was also an ideal spot for the British to keep prisoners, including a Zulu prince and his retinue, thousands of Boer prisoners from South Africa’s conflict near the beginning of the 20th century and, of course, Napoleon.