Morning Brief: Infrastructure Output Grows; Excise Duty On Fuel Slashed; US Scientists Win Physics Nobel
Good morning, dear reader! Here’s your morning news and views brief for today.
Infrastructure Output Shows Impressive Growth: In a sign that could be seen as economic revival, India’s annual infrastructure output grew at its fastest pace in five months in August, driven by higher coal and electricity production, government data showed on Tuesday. The output grew 4.9 per cent in August compared with a revised 2.6 per cent year-on-year growth in July. During April-August, the annual output growth was 3 per cent, data showed. Eight infrastructure sectors include coal, crude oil, natural gas, refinery products, electricity, steel, cement, and fertiliser, accounting for about 40 per cent weight in index of industrial production. Electricity production grew 10.3 per cent in August from a year ago, while coal output grew 15.3 per cent.
Excise Duty On Petrol And Diesel Slashed: The government on Tuesday slashed the excise duty on petrol and diesel by Rs 2 per litre, effective from 4 October, in a bid to boost slowing economy and dispel the Reserve Bank of India’s worries about inflationary pressures that are holding back interest rate cuts. "This decision has been taken by the government in order to cushion the impact of rising international prices of crude petroleum oil and petrol and diesel on retail sale prices of petrol and diesel as well as to protect the interest of common man," the Finance Ministry said, while announcing the duty cut. The move came as the diesel price hit a record high of Rs 59.14 a litre in Delhi and petrol was at a two-year high of Rs 70.88. Since the start of daily price changes from 16 June, retail prices of petrol and diesel have climbed 8.5 per cent, or by Rs 5.56 a litre and Rs 4.65 a litre respectively.
No Service Charge On Train E-Ticket Until March: Until March 2018 India’s rail passengers will continue to enjoy service charge exemption on tickets booked online. Service charges on booking train tickets online through Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) ranges from Rs 20 to 40 per ticket. The government had waived service charges after demonetisation in November last year to encourage digital modes of booking. The facility had been extended to 30 June and then 30 September. In a missive to IRCTC, the Railway Board directed that the benefits be extended till March next year. Senior railway officials say that almost 33 per cent of the IRCTC revenue comes from the service charge collected on online bookings. As per the revenue collection of the last financial year, about Rs 540 crore of IRCTC’s revenue of over Rs 1,500 crore came from ticket bookings.
Dr Soumya Swaminathan Named WHO Deputy Director-General: Indian Council of Medical Research director general Dr Soumya Swaminathan was appointed deputy director-general for programmes at World Health Organization (WHO). This is the second-highest position at the UN’s health agency. The new WHO leadership team was announced on Tuesday by the director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who was recently elected to the post. Dr Swaminathan, 58, is a paediatrician and clinical scientist. She is known for her work on tuberculosis. She did her MBBS and MD from the Armed Forces Medical College and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences respectively. She is one of the three daughters of Dr M S Swaminathan, who is known as the father of green revolution in India.
Urjit Patel May Keep Interest Rate Unchanged: The Monetary Policy Committee headed by Reserve Bank of India Governor Urjit Patel will announce its interest rate decision today. The industry and the government are hoping for interest rate cut to spur growth which fell to three-year low of 5.7 per cent in the June quarter. Analysts largely expect the central bank to maintain the status quo, but add there could be a rate cut later in the financial year. There are also some who see the rate-cut cycle, which started on 15 January 2015, by bringing down the repo rate to 7.75 per cent from 8 per cent, to have reached its end. Currently, the repo rate stands at 6 per cent. Inflation, which the central bank targets to keep under check, surprised analysts with its sharp rise in the past two readings.
American Astrophysicists Win Nobel Prize In Physics: American astrophysicists Barry Barish, Kip Thorne and Rainer Weiss have won the Nobel prize in physics for their contribution to detecting gravitational waves, ripples in the fabric of spacetime which were predicted by Albert Einstein. They were awarded the Nobel prize "for decisive contributions to the Ligo detector and the observation of gravitational waves", the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced on Tuesday. While Rainer Weiss has been awarded one half of the prize, Kip Thorne and Barry Barish will share the other half of the prize. The winners are members of the Ligo-Virgo observatories, which were responsible for the breakthrough.
Hyderabad Airport To Get Second Runway: Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao has given the go-ahead to build a second runway at Hyderabad’s Rajiv Gandhi International Airport. It will be developed in three years, officials said on Tuesday. The Chief Minister, who held a review meeting on the airport's expansion as well as construction of the airport city, directed officials to extend the required cooperation to the airport operator, GMR Hyderabad International Airport Limited. He said the Hyderabad Metro Rail should be extended to the airport and decided to hold a meeting with officials from GMR, Hyderabad Metro Rail and Larsen & Toubro in this regard.
US Sees India As Leading Global Power: The Donald Trump Administration sees India as a leading global power, the President’s nominee to be America’s envoy to India said. In his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Kenneth I Juster said India’s international influence was important and has been growing. “India’s role in the Indo-Pacific region and globally will be critical to international security and economic growth over the course of this century,” he said and added that the US will build on the excellent meeting Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had in June seeking to deepen the partnership in the interest of shaping a freer, more secure and more prosperous world.
MUST READ OPINIONS AND COLUMNS
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We hope you enjoyed reading our morning brief. Have a great day ahead!
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