El Niño – Bringing up baby

IT IS a long way from the western Pacific Ocean to the flooded streets of Buenos Aires where, this month, the city’s Good Samaritans have been distributing food and candles by kayak after some unseasonably heavy rain. But there is a link. Its name is El Niño.

El Niño (Spanish for “The Boy”) is a Pacific-wide phenomenon that has global consequences. A Niño happens when warm water that has accumulated on the west side of the Pacific floods eastward with the abatement of the westerly trade winds which penned it up. (The long, dark equatorial streak on the map above, which shows sea-surface temperatures for August 10th-16th, indicates this.) The trade winds, and their decrease or reversal, are part of a cycle called ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation).

The consequences of this phase of ENSO include heavy rain in south-eastern South America, western North America and eastern Africa, and drought in Australia, India and Indonesia. Another consequence, around Christmastide, is the sudden disappearance of the food supply of the Pacific.

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via The Economist.


What yuan devaluation means for China, other countries

The devaluation of Chinese currency, yuan, has rattled the global financial markets, boosting the dollar and stirring concerns about a delay in the Federal Reserve’s plan to raise interest rates.

The yuan’s value had declined 1.9% on 11 August 2015, its biggest one-day drop in a decade, and dropped a further 1.6 percent on 12 August. The move could help Chinese companies by making their products less expensive in global markets. US stocks sank, partly on fears about a worsening economic slowdown in China.

CLICK HERE to know the how and why of yuan devaluation.

via The Hindustan Times

Disasters cost India $10bn per year: UN report

A new United Nations global assessment report on disaster risk, released last week, says India’s average annual economic loss due to disasters is estimated to be $9.8 billion. This includes more than $7 billion loss on account of floods.

The global assessment report (GAR) 2015, produced by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), has urged countries, particularly in Asia, to treat this as a wake-up call and make adequate investment in disaster risk reduction (DRR) or it will hinder their development.

“The report is a wake-up call for countries to increase their commitment to invest in smart solutions to strengthen resilience to disasters,” head of UNISDR Margareta Wahlstrom said.

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Via – The Times of India

Coal block auction: Companies see benefits in long term

The bigger pluses for metal companies which have won leases for coal blocks in the ongoing auction are long-term in nature, say analysts. Compared to the cost of import, the current bid prices are still lower. The price in international markets is in any case much lower from the peak of a few years earlier and, hence, companies would benefit when prices revive. This is apart from raw material security.

So far, Hindalco Industries, flagship company of Aditya Birla Group, has won two small mines, Kathautia in Jharkhand and Gare Palma IV-5 in Chhattisgarh. Vedanta Group company Bharat Aluminium (Balco) has won the Chotia mine in Korba, the area from where it had also earlier sourced coal, from the Gevra & Kusmunda mines of South Eastern Coalfields.

Though Hindalco is paying a high price for captive coal in the auctions, almost close to landed cost via the e-auction route, the landed cost from the mine allotted will still be at a 30-35 per cent discount from imported coal.

For Balco, the Chotia mine in the Korba region has not changed much for the company in terms of coal pricing.

NITI Aayog: States demand greater financial devolution, flexibility

Demands for greater devolution of funds to States from non-NDA Chief Ministers dominated the first meeting of the Governing Council of NITI (National Institution for Transforming India) Aayog.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired the meeting on 7 February 2015, at his 7 Race Course Road residence.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam pitched for higher flow of funds from the Centre to the States and demanded that States’ share of funding of flagship programmes be limited to 25 per cent only.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav sought 90 per cent grants for central schemes saying Prime Minister Modi’s new mantra of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’ was not possible without provision of adequate resources to economically weaker States.

Kerela Chief Minister Oommen Chandy demanded that the Aayog continue with the functions the erstwhile Planning Commission performed — of determining, in consultation with the Union Finance Ministry and State Governments, the amount of resources to be made available to the States for Plan and Budget preparation.

Noting that India cannot advance without all its States advancing in tandem, the Prime Minister said that he envisioned different States competing with each other in promoting governance initiatives, in a spirit of cooperative, competitive federalism. Mr. Modi said that though the world had started looking at India differently, the biggest challenge for the country still was how to eliminate poverty. He said jobs cannot be created, and poverty cannot be removed without growth. “First and foremost we should aim at a high rate of growth,” he said.

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Via The Hindu


Govt can save over ₹30,000 crore food subsidy with FCI rejig

Government’s food subsidy bill can come down by over ₹30,000 crore a year by reducing coverage of beneficiaries to 40 per cent under the food law and outsourcing major work of FCI to State governments and private players, according to an eight-member panel headed by Mr Shanta Kumar. Prime Minister Modi has termed the recommendations as “pro-farmer and “pro-poor” and said that their “implementation would have miraculous results”.

Among the key recommendations, the panel has suggested direct cash transfer of ₹3,000 per person a year as food subsidy and ₹7,000 per hectare as farm input subsidy besides revisit of minimum support price (MSP) policy with more focus on pulses and oilseeds.

The key role of Food Corporation of India (FCI) is to buy foodgrains to ensure MSP to farmers, and distribute it to the poor under the public distribution system (PDS).

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Via Business Standard

WHO Global status report on non-communicable diseases 2014

This global status report on prevention and control of NCDs (2014), is framed around the nine voluntary global targets. The report provides data on the current situation, identifying bottlenecks as well as opportunities and priority actions for attaining the targets. The 2010 baseline estimates on NCD mortality and risk factors are provided so that countries can report on progress, starting in 2015.

In addition, the report also provides the latest available estimates on NCD mortality (2012) and risk factors, 2010-2012.

All ministries of health need to set national NCD targets and lead the development and implementation of policies and interventions to attain them. There is no single pathway to attain NCD targets that fits all countries, as they are at different points in their progress in the prevention and control of NCDs and at different levels of socioeconomic development. However all countries can benefit from the comprehensive response to attaining the voluntary global targets presented in this report.

CLICK Here to Download the Report.