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World Bank cancels $100 million loan for Pakistan

The international financial institution, World Bank has cancelled a $100 million loan to Pakistan that was meant to be for a natural gas efficiency project.
●    The loan was cancelled, as the gas distribution company that was responsible for the project, failed to make any progress in achieving its developmental objectives and showed very less interest in the project overall.
●    According to a report by the World Bank, failure of the project resulted in its closure. With it, the levels of unaccounted-for gas increased in the country. 
●    UFG mostly arises from broken or leaking pipelines and gas theft, which happens through tampered metres and illegal connections.
●    Apart from this, the international institution also stated that the company should have been more cautious and the country should not have initiated such a project in the first place when the company-in-charge itself showed such less interest.

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Union and Railway Budget to be merge; non-plan, plan distinction to end

The Union Cabinet on 21 September 2016 approved merger of Rail budget with Union Budget. 
•    It also decided to advance the date of presentation of the annual budget from the last day of February to start of February.
•    It also decided to merge the Plan and the Non-Plan classification in the Budget and Accounts. 
•    All these changes will be put into effect simultaneously from the Budget 2017-18.
•    The Railways will continue to maintain its distinct entity -as a departmentally run commercial undertaking as at present
•    Railways will retain their functional autonomy and delegation of financial powers etc. as per the existing guidelines
•    The existing financial arrangements will continue wherein Railways will meet all their revenue expenditure, including ordinary working expenses, pay and allowances and pensions etc. from their revenue receipts;
•    The Capital at charge of the Railways estimated at 2.27 lakh crore rupees on which annual dividend is paid by the Railways will be wiped off. 

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President gives assent to the Constitution (122nd Amendment) (GST) Bill, 2014

President Pranab Mukherjee on 8 September 2016 gave his assent to the Constitution 122nd Amendment) (GST) Bill, 2014 as per Article 111 of Constitution of India. 
•    With this assent, the bill becomes law and allows rolling out a new indirect tax regime.
•    After the Presidential assent, the bill will be notified to the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council that will decide the tax rate, cess and surcharges. 
•    The council to be headed by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will comprise of state Finance Ministers.
•    The GST is a single indirect tax, which will subsume most of the Central and State taxes such as the Value Added Tax (VAT), excise duty, service tax, central sales tax, additional customs duty and special additional duty of customs.
•    The bill passed by both houses of Parliament in August 2016 and ratified by 19 states was sent to the President’s secretariat. 
•    The states that ratified the bill include Assam (first to ratify), Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Nagaland, Maharashtra, Haryana, Sikkim, Mizoram, Telangana, Goa, Odisha, Rajasthan, Arunachal Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh.

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CIL& ICFRE Signs MoU for Environment Related Issues in Coal Mining Projects 

Coal India Limited (CIL) and Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) today signed an MoU for effectively monitoring of environment related issues in the coal mining projects. 
•    The MoU will also help in improving the rehabilitation and reclamation of the mined out areas. 
•    This arrangement would help CIL in proper compliance and monitoring of the conditions that are laid down by the MoEF & CC while according environment and forest clearances. 
•    The MoU covers assessment and monitoring of plantation and eco restoration activities, preparation of wild life management plans, preparation of environmental impact assessment and environmental management plans, capacity building for the executives of CIL on environment and forestry issues etc.

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Union Government Constitutes Committee to Suggest Steps to Promote Card Payments

The Union Finance Ministry has constituted an 11 members high-level committee to suggest steps to promote card payments with an aim to discourage cash transactions. 
•    The 11-member committee will be headed by former Finance Secretary Ratan P Watal. 
•    They will recommend various measures to incentivise transactions through cards and digital means, e.g., through tax incentives/rebates, introduction of cash back/lottery. 
•    Review the payments system in the country and recommend measures for encouraging digital payments. 
•    Study feasibility of creating a payments history of all card and digital payments and ensure that merchants and consumers can leverage the data to access. 
•    Study and recommend ways for leveraging Unique Identification Number (UID) or any other proof of identity for authentication of card and digital transactions. 
•    Study introduction of single window system of payment gateway to accept all types of cards and digital payments of government receipts.
•    Look into the scope of integration of all government systems like Public Finance Management System, Bharatkosh, PayGov and eKuber. 

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RBI asks banks to extend loans to women SHGs at 7% rate

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on 25 August 2016 asked all commercial and Co-operative banks to provide loans to women self-
help groups (SHGs) in rural areas at 7 percent per annum.
•    The loans will be provided for the financial year 2016-17 under the Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana - National Rural
Livelihoods Mission (NRLM) in 250 districts.
•    All women self-help groups (SHGs) will be eligible for interest subvention on credit up to three lakh rupees at 7
percent per annum.
•    SHGs availing capital subsidy under the Swarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY) in their existing credit
outstanding will not be eligible for benefit under this scheme.
•    All banks will be subvented to the extent of difference between the weighted average interest charged and 7%,
subject to the maximum limit of 5.5% for 2016-17.
•    NRLM (Aajeevika) was launched by the Union Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) in June 2011. 
•    In 2015, the mission was replaced by the Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana.

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NCS signs MoUs to enhance quality & reach of employment services

National Career Service (NCS) signed a Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) with strategic partners for enhancing quality and reach of employment services through the NCS network. 
•    These MoUs were signed with job portals companies Indeed, First Job, Freshersworld, Merajob and HT Shine etc. to enhance quality and reach of its employment generation services. 
•    Earlier, the NSC had partnered with leading organisations like Uber,, Saral Rozgar, Quikrjobs, Indian Staffing Federation etc for  the same purpose. 
•    NCS project is being implemented by the Union Ministry of Labour and Employment. 
•    It was launched in 2015. 
•    It is an ICT based portal developed to provide a wide variety of employment related services to job seekers and youth through technology. 
•    NCS portal facilitates registration of job seekers, job providers, skill providers, career counsellors, etc. free of cost. 
•    Since its launch, the NCS has grown significantly with over 3.6 crore job seekers, 9 lakh employers. It had mobilised over 1 lakh jobs in the last few months.

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JNPT signs ECB Agreement worth $400 Million with SBI and Development Bank of Singapore

India’s premier container port, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) in Navi Mumbai has signed 400 Million US Dollar agreement with State Bank of India (SBI) and Development Bank of Singapore (DBS) for External Commercial Borrowing (ECB). 
•    The agreement was signed by JNPT officials in the presence of the Union Minister for Shipping, Road Transport & Highways Nitin Gadkari in Mumbai, Maharashtra.
•    With this ECB Agreement, JNPT becomes the first major port in the country to take loans in dollars to improve the infrastructure. 
•    The ECB of 400 Million dollars will be primarily utilised for expansion of JNPT’s existing road network connecting to its port project. 
•    It will help JNPT to double its existing capacity. JNPT was able to take loans in dollars as it has US dollar denominated foreign currency earnings which can be leveraged for a low cost foreign currency borrowing. 

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India Post Payments Bank Limited incorporated

The India Post Payments Bank Limited (IPPB) on 17 August 2016 was incorporated. In this regard, it has received the Certificate of Incorporation (CI) from the Registrar of Companies, Ministry of Corporate Affairs under the Companies Act, 2013.
•    With this incorporation, the bank has become the first Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) under the Department of Posts (DoP).
•    The incorporation also paves the way for the constitution of the Board of the India Post Payments Bank Limited.
•    It will allow all citizens of India, especially the 40 percent of the country's population that is outside the ambit of formal banking in the country will benefit from this project.
•    It will generate new employment opportunities for skilled banking professionals and will generate opportunities for propagating financial literacy across the country.
•    It will create the largest bank in the world in terms of accessibility and in time, will encourage the move towards a less cash economy.

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SBI’s board of directors has approved merger of its five associate banks and Bharatiya Mahila Bank

The State Bank of India (SBI) board on 18 August 2016 approved merger of its five associate banks and Bharatiya Mahila Bank (BMB) with itself.
Apart from the BMB, the 5 associate banks that will be merged with the SBI are -
i.    State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur
ii.    State Bank of Hyderabad
iii.    State Bank of Mysore
iv.    State Bank of Patiala
v.    State Bank of Travancore
•    Further, the board also finalised the share swap ratio for three of the listed subsidiaries and Bharatiya Mahila Bank.
•    The listed subsidiaries of the SBI are - State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur, State Bank of Mysore, State Bank of Travancore.
•    The merger will create a behemoth with an asset base of 37 lakh crore rupees or over 555 billion US dollar.
•    The merged entity will have 22500 branches and 58000 ATMs serving a customer base of over 50 crore.
•    SBI has close to 16500 branches, including 191 foreign offices across 36 countries while the five subsidiaries have nearly 6000 branches. 

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