October 2019

Daily Current Affairs (25-10-19)

WORLD BANK’S DOING BUSINESS REPORT 2020

Why in News?

  • World Bank has released its latest Doing Business Report (DBR, 2020).
  • India has recorded a jump of 14 positions against its rank of 77 in 2018 Ease of Doing Business ranking to be placed at 63rd in the 2019 ranking.

DOING BUSINESS REPORT (DBR) 2020

  • It measures regulations across 190 economies in 12 business regulatory areas to assess the business environment in each economy.
  • Ten of these indicators were used to estimate an ease of doing business score this year.
  • The DBR ranks countries on the basis of Distance to Frontier (DTF), a score that shows the gap of an economy to the global best practice.
  • However, the indicator is not necessarily representative of each country.
  • For 11 countries, two cities were selected to construct the indicator — Delhi and Mumbai in the Indian case.

What is measured in Doing Business?

  • The indicator measures the performance of countries across 10 different dimensions in the 12-month period ending May 1, 2019.
  • The ten areas of study are defined as: starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting minority investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts, and resolving insolvency.
  • 11th area — employing workers, was measured but not factored into the score.

Global Ranking

  • The 0-100 score measures any given country’s performance with respect to the best practice across the entire set of countries.
  • A score of zero signifies worst regulatory performance and 100, the best.
  • The ten top ranking countries with respect to the indicator were: New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong SAR China, Denmark, Republic of Korea, United States, Georgia, United Kingdom, Norway, and Sweden.

Most improved places to do business

  • India featured for the third consecutive year in the list of ten economies where business climates had improved the most.
  • This list is comprised of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Togo, Bahrain, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Kuwait, China, India, and Nigeria.

Performance of India

  • India was ranked 63rd out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s ease of doing business ranking 2019— an improvement of 14 places from its 77th position in 2018.
  • India’s ranking has improved 79 places – to 63 in 2019 from 142 in 2014 – a record for a major economy.
  • The country’s score improved from 67.3 in 2018 to 71.0 in 2019.
  • India, along with other top improvers, implemented a total of 59 regulatory reforms in 2018-19, accounting for a fifth of all reforms recorded worldwide.
  • The country’s improved ranking was on the back of four reforms: starting a business, dealing with construction permits, trading across borders and resolving insolvency.
  • India saw the biggest jump in ranking in “resolving insolvency” category, to 52nd rank from 108th, on the back of implementation of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code.
  • India’s ranking improved substantially in Dealing with Construction Permits (to 27th from 52nd) and “Trading across Borders” (to 68th from 80th).
  • India’s ranking improved in “Registering Property” to 154th rank from 166th despite a drop in score.
  • Recovery rate under resolving insolvency has improved significantly from 26.5% to 71.6%.
  • The time taken for resolving insolvency has also come down significantly from 4.3 years to 1.6 years.
  • The Report called India’s reform efforts “particularly commendable”, given the country’s size.

Concerns for India

  • While there has been substantial progress, India still lags in areas such as enforcing contracts (163rd) and registering property (154th).
  • It takes 58 days and costs on average 7.8% of a property’s value to register it, longer and at greater cost than among OECD high-income economies.
  • It takes 1,445 days for a company to resolve a commercial dispute through a local first-instance court, almost three times the average time in OECD high-income economies.
  • India is still below its competitors for global capital, particularly China, which at rank 31 is one level above France.

Way Forward

  • India’s impressive progression in the Doing Business rankings over the past few years is a tremendous achievement, especially for an economy that is as large and complex as India’s.
  • The rankings are based on samples and audits done in Mumbai and Delhi only (the World Bank has said that it would be covering Bengaluru and Kolkata too from next year).
  • Starting, running or shutting down a business may be easier in Delhi and Mumbai compared to other parts of the country, where it is probably more difficult.
  • It is not easy to streamline processes across the country given India’s federal set up where States have a big say in several parameters that go into the ranking such as securing building permits, land approvals, electricity connections, registering assets etc.
  • The further rise in rankings will depend on how much the Centre is able to convince the States to reform their systems.
[Source: PIB, The Hindu, Economic Times, Livemint]

 

2019 OZONE HOLE, THE SMALLEST ON RECORD SINCE ITS DISCOVERY

News

  • NASA and US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists have reported that during September and October 2019, the ozone hole over the Antarctic has been the smallest on record, since they first began observing it in 1982.
  • The annual ozone hole reached its peak extent of 4 million sq km on September 8, 2019 and then shrank to less than 10 million sq km for the remainder of September and October, 2019.

What is Ozone Hole?

  • Ozone is made up of three oxygen atoms and occurs naturally in small amounts.
  • The ozone layer acts as a filter for the shorter wavelength and highly hazardous ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from the sun, protecting life on Earth from its potentially harmful effects.
  • On the other hand, close to the surface, ozone created as a byproduct of pollution can trigger health problems such as asthma and bronchitis.
  • Manufactured chemicals deplete the ozone layer.
  • The ozone hole is not technically a “hole” where no ozone is present, but is actually a region of exceptionally depleted ozone in the stratosphere over the Antarctic that happens at the beginning of Southern Hemisphere spring (August–October).
  • The ozone hole occurs because of special meteorological and chemical conditions that exist in that region.

Why ozone hole is small this year?

  • There have been abnormal weather patterns in the atmosphere over Antarctica.
  • In warmer temperatures like this year, fewer polar stratospheric clouds form and they don’t persist as long, limiting the ozone-depletion process.
  • While it is good news, NASA has cautioned that it is important to recognise that what we are seeing this year is not a sign that atmospheric ozone is suddenly on a fast track to recovery.

[Source: NASA, Indian Express]

 

QUANTUM SUPREMACY

Why in News?

  • Google has announced that it has achieved a breakthrough called quantum supremacy in computing.
  • Google has claimed “quantum supremacy” over the most powerful supercomputers in the world by solving a problem considered virtually impossible for normal machines, using the company’s state-of-the-art quantum computer, called Sycamore.

What is quantum computing?

  • It is the area of study focused on developing computer technology based on the principles of quantum theory, which explains the nature and behavior of energy and matter on the quantum (atomic and subatomic) level.
  • At that tiny scale, many rules of classical physics cease to apply, and the unique rules of quantum physics come into play.
  • A quantum computer will seek to operate on the same principles of quantum mechanics.
  • Developing such a computer has been the goal of scientists since the 1980s.
  • By simulating the behaviour of atoms and particles, a quantum computer would perform extremely complicated tasks that are beyond the scope of classical computers, or would take an incredibly short time to perform tasks that would have taken years of work from a classical computer.

Achievement of Google

  • The work came from Google’s research lab in the University of Santa Barbara, California.
  • In their research paper published in the journal Nature, scientists have announced that their Sycamore computer has solved a problem that is considered intractable for classical computers.
  • This was achieved by developing an architecture of “qubits”.
  • “Qubits” is short for “quantum bits”, which are to quantum computers what bits are to traditional computers.
  • The more the number of qubits, the higher the amount of information, which increases exponentially compared to the information stored in the same number of bits.
  • From the development of a single superconducting qubit, the researchers proceeded to systems including an architecture of 54 qubits with Sycamore. One of these did not perform.
  • This architecture led to the 53 qubits being entangled into a superposition state.
  • Preparing this superposition state was accomplished in a matter of microseconds.
  • The researchers then sampled from this distribution by measuring the qubits a million times in 200 seconds.
  • According to the researchers, the equivalent task for a state-of-the-art classical supercomputer would take approximately 10,000 years.

Significance

  • Scientists are still a long way from developing a quantum computer.
  • What they have achieved is the development of an architecture of qubits, and the demonstration of its computing capabilities.
  • If and when created, a quantum computer could revolutionise science research and technological advances.
  • It could boost areas like artificial intelligence, lead to new energy sources and even to new drug therapies.

Concerns

  • There may also be issues of national security related to quantum computing.
  • They could also override the encryption that protects the computers and the data we use online.
  • Because of that, the governments of the United States and China consider quantum computing a national priority.
  • As some scientists work on quantum computers, others are devising security techniques that could thwart their code-breaking abilities.

[Source: Indian Express]

 

FACTS OF THE DAY

SAKHAROV PRIZE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
  • European Union has awarded the Sakharov Prize for human rights to imprisoned Uighur intellectual Ilham Tohti.
  • Tohti, an economist who advocated greater autonomy for the Uighurs of Xinjiang in western China, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2014 on separatism charges.
  • He had spent years criticizing Chinese government restrictions and crackdowns on Uighur culture and calling for dialogue between his people and the Han ethnic majority in China
  • European Parliament head David Sassoli urged China to immediately release Ilham Tohti as he announced the award.
BHIM 2.0
  • Union IT Ministry unveiled a slew of new initiatives and programmes, including BHIM 2.0 that packs-in new functionalities, supports additional languages and has increased transaction limits.
  • BHIM app, a UPI based payment interface developed by National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) that allows real time fund transfer, was launched in December, 2016.
  • Some of the striking features marking BHIM 2.0 include a ‘Donation’ gateway, increased transaction limits for high value transactions, linking multiple bank accounts, offers from merchants, option of applying in IPO, gifting money, etc.
  • The new version of BHIM also supports three additional languages — Konkani, Bhojpuri and Haryanvi — over and above the existing 13.
WORLD POLIO DAY 2019
  • World Polio Day is celebrated on 24th October every year to raise awareness about the polio disease and efforts for eradication.
  • It was established by Rotary International to commemorate the birth of Jonas Salk, who led the first team to develop a vaccine against poliomyelitis (polio).
  • Every year, Rotary International, WHO and other partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative utilize World Polio Day to celebrate the individuals and organizations that have brought the world ever closer to polio eradication and to highlight the remaining challenges.
  • The theme for World Polio Day 2019 is “Stories of Progress: Past and Present for World Polio Day”.

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