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UPSC Daily Current Affairs : 29-June-2020

Topic Covered :

  1. World Bank clears $500 million to improve quality of school education

  2. What lies behind the hike in petrol and diesel prices

  3. IMF advocates contingency reserves for Indian states

  4. Russia agrees to speed up defence deals


Why in news?

  • The World Bank on Sunday said its Board of Executive Directors has approved $500 million (about Rs 3,700 crore) loan to improve quality and governance of school education in six Indian states.


  • The board approved a loan for Strengthening Teaching-Learning and Results for States Program (STARS) on June 24, 2020, the World Bank said in a statement.

  • Some 250 million students (between the age of 6 and 17) in 1.5 million schools, and over 10 million teachers will benefit from the program.

  • The STARS program builds on the long partnership between India and the World Bank (since 1994), for strengthening public school education and to support the country's goal of providing Education for All

  • Prior to STARS, the bank had provided a total assistance of more than $3 billion towards this goal.

  • STARS will help improve learning assessment systems, strengthen classroom instruction and remediation, facilitate school-to-work transition, and strengthen governance and decentralised management.

Source : Tribune India ( https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/schools/world-bank-clears-500-million-to-improve-quality-of-school-education-105735 )


Why in news?

  • Petrol and diesel prices went up every day since 7 June. In Delhi, the price of petrol was hiked by  ₹9.12 per litre between 7 June and 26 June, while that of diesel has gone up by  ₹11.01 per litre. Other cities have seen a price rise as well.


Increased Oil prices in International Market :

  • On 28 April, the price of the Indian basket of crude oil had fallen to as low as $16.19 per barrel. The average price of crude oil in April stood at $19.9 per barrel. Since then, the price of oil has risen.

  • It averaged at $30.60 per barrel in May.

  • On 25 June, the price was at $40.66 per barrel. Basically, the price of crude oil has doubled in a period of around two months, as international demand for crude has picked up pace, with the easing of lockdown curbs

  • For a little over one month up to 6 June, petrol and diesel prices were not increased. They have been going up since then, reflecting the higher price of oil.

Excise Duty :

  • With the economic activity crashing on the back of the covid-induced lockdown, central government tax revenues took a big beating. Hence, the excise duty on petrol and diesel since then has been increased by  ₹10 per litre and  ₹13 per litre, respectively. 

Source : Livemint ( https://www.livemint.com/news/india/what-lies-behind-the-hike-in-petrol-and-diesel-prices-11593359399856.html )


Why in news?

  • The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has advocated states such as Tamil Nadu should build contingency reserves to meet unforeseen expenditure demands.


  • A contingency reserve or planning margin could be established for new initiatives to provide flexibility.

  • A Tamil Nadu Contingency Fund of Rs1.5 billion, or less than 0.1% of total expenditure, already exists in the budget.

  • Although this fund may handle some limited unforeseen expenditure, it is not appropriate for substantial policy priorities that emerge during the fiscal year.

  • The IMF said an adequate contingency reserve would amount to 2% or 3% of total expenditure.

  • Its rules of engagement should be carefully designed so that allocating the contingency reserves does not turn into an alternative budget preparation exercise.

  • A contingency reserve is a mechanism to address uncertainties, linked with fiscal risks, during execution of the prepared budget for the year. 

  • IMF said it can take several forms.

  • In many countries, it is an unallocated appropriation in the annual budget law.

  • In other countries, it is a fund with an appropriate amount of financing authorized under the legal framework and replenished at the beginning of each fiscal year, depending on the drawdown during the previous year.

  • The benefit of such an appropriation is that urgent but unforeseen needs can be met without seeking additional appropriations or having to cut spending elsewhere, which may lead to the accumulation of arrears.

  • While the UK and Turkey have contingency reserves of less than 1% of their total expenditure, Canada (close to 2%), Russia (3%), and Philippines (8%) have much higher reserves.

  • The size of the contingency reserve should not be so large as to undermine budget discipline or so small as to be consistently exhausted part way through the year. 

Source : Livemint ( https://www.livemint.com/news/india/imf-advocates-contingency-reserves-for-indian-states-11593334962027.html )


Why in news?

  • Russia has agreed to quickly address some urgent defence requirements sought by India and this was discussed during the recent trip of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, defence and diplomatic sources said.