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Current Affairs

Current Affairs

India, China plan FTA breakthrough

Union Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu and his Chinese counterpart, Zhong Shan, met in New Delhi on Monday for the first high-level contact between both sides, which have decided to “reset” their ties this year in the run-up to a Xi-Modi summit meeting in China.

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Saudi Arabia allows women to open business without male consent

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia today announced a major policy change by allowing women to open their own businesses without the need of showing consent from a husband or male relative.

The announcement was made by the country’s Ministry of Commerce and investment, which stated on its website that women can now launch their own businesses and benefit from governmental e-services without having to prove consent from a guardian.

Significance

• The move marks a major step away from the strict guardianship system that has ruled the country for decades.

• Under Saudi Arabia's guardianship system, women are required to present proof of permission from a male guardian, a husband, father or brother, to do any government paperwork, travel or enrol in classes.

• It is also a significant move on the part of the Saudi government to create a gender-neutral society.

• The development is also in line with Saudi Arabia’s effort to expand its fast-growing private sector.

• The oil-rich nation, which has been long dependent on crude oil production for economic revenue, is pushing to expand its private sector, including an expansion of female employment under its new reform plan for a post-oil era. 

Other Firsts

• Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor’s office announced earlier this month that it would begin recruiting women investigators for the first time.

• The nation has also opened 140 positions for women at airports and border crossings, which drew over 107,000 female applicants- again a historic first for the nation.

• Saudi King Salman in September 2017, issued a decree that allowed women to drive cars, bringing an end to the decades-old ban on female drivers.

• In October 2017, the nation’s sports authority Chairman Turki Al-Asheikh announced that the Saudi women will now be able to attend sports events in stadiums starting from 2018.

• In December 2017, the Gulf kingdom announced the passing of the resolution that lifted the decades-old ban on providing licenses to commercial movie theatres.

Background

• The Arab nation has been a witness to a series of new progressive reforms ever since Mohammed Bin Salman was appointed as the Crown Prince on 21 June 2017.

• The 32-year-old prince pledged a ‘moderate and open’ Saudi Arabia in October 2017, breaking with ultra-conservative clerics in favour of an image catering to foreign investors and Saudi youth.

• The Prince is widely seen as the chief architect behind Saudi Arabia’s ‘Vision 2030’ reform programme, which seeks to elevate the percentage of women in the workforce from 22 % to nearly one-third.

• The oil-rich kingdom is also undergoing an economic reform to reduce its dependency on oil and to project the country as a more liberal and modern economy, which is also tourist friendly.

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US firms approach USTR against India’s medical price control measures

Image result for US firms approach USTR against India’s medical price control measures

Context:

  • Recent reports indicate that the lowering of prices on medical devices which are only one component of overall procedure costs are not being passed along to patients.

Contentions of American Companies:

  • American companies producing medical devices and health information systems have approached the US Trade Representative against India’s move to implement price controls on coronary stents and knee replacement implants that they say denying them equitable market access.
  • In a petition, the Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed) requested the US Trade Representative (USTR) to suspend or withdraw India’s benefits under Generalised System of Preferences (GSP).
  • They are deeply concerned about recently implemented price controls on coronary stents and knee replacement implants in India that have slashed prices by as much as 85 per cent and 70 per cent, respectively, followed by signals that price caps for additional life-saving and life-improving medical devices may be forthcoming.
  • The intention of the American companies was not for India to lose the benefits of GSP, but rather to advance engagement and meaningful discussions on restoring market access for medtech in India while keeping patients’ interests at the center of all discussions.

Impact of price control by India on various medical devices

  • Recent reports indicate that the lowering of prices on medical devices which are only one component of overall procedure costs are not being passed along to patients, which needs to be corrected.
  • Price controls may also block innovations and limit patient access to the best available care.
  • The failure to implement a mutually acceptable alternative could deter global organisations from making their latest products available to India’s health care providers and patients, make Indian innovators less competitive in global markets, negatively impact future investment in India, and ultimately harm patients.

What India needed?

  • India’s focus on controlling prices of high-quality medical devices, without any attempt to address the larger picture and correct inefficiencies
  • A stable and predictable market environment is key to driving investments in R&D, manufacturing, and other services to grow the medical technology industry in India, and meet the current and future needs of all of India’s people.
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International Atomic Energy Agency opens atomic fuel reserve in Kazakhstan to ensure supply

IN NEWS:

          On August 29, 2017 International Atomic Energy Agency(IAEA) decided to open a low enriched Uranium bank in Kazakhstan. The objective is to ensure the supply of nuclear fuel in the event of disruption due to political or market problems.
The atomic fuel reserve:
           The bank has been established at the Ulba metallurgical plant in northern Kazakhstan. The reserve, will store 90 tons oflow-enriched uranium (LEU), the essential ingredient needed to make the fuel for light-water nuclear reactors, which generate electricity.
           Usually low enriched uranium is purchased on the open market or by bilateral agreement between countries, it is a system in which this new bank does not want to disrupt.
           The IAEA insists that the reserve is a “mechanism of last resort” for situations in which a UN member nation cannot access fuel by the usual means. The IAEA, which manages the reserve, has established a series of strict criteria for a member state to request and purchase uranium from the bank.

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world’s toughest plastic bag law

IN NEWS:

          Those who are producing, selling or even using the non-degradable bags now face four years in jail or a $40,000 (USD) /(£31,000) fine in Kenya.

key points:
       Kenya has passed the world’s toughest law against plastic bags on pollution.
       Judy Wakhungu , Kenya’s environment minister insisted the non-degradable bag manufacturers would be predominantly targeted first.
       Many bags drift into the ocean, strangling turtles, suffocating seabirds and filling the stomachs of dolphins and whales with waste until they die of starvation.
       Pastic bags can take between 500 and 1,000 years to break down.
       Kenya is a major exporter of plastic bags in Africa. The East African nation joins more than 40 other countries that have banned, partly banned or taxed single-use plastic bags, including China, France, Rwanda, and Italy.

 

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