What is it? The Nikkei India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index in August, a composite indicator of the country’s manufacturing activity based on a survey.
Why is it important? This comes a day after the GDP (gross domestic product) numbers were released, which showed that India grew at 7.1% in the first quarter of 2016-17, the slowest in six quarters. This is the highest in 13 months and the eighth month in which it rose above the 50-level, which marks the separation between contraction and growth. One of the main reasons for the upturn is the increase in new business orders—both domestic and external—which was the highest since December 2014. With the prediction of an above normal monsoon and the pay hike for government employees, the trend is likely to continue.
Tell me more: It remains to be seen if these numbers prompt Urjit Patel, the new governor of the central bank, to go for interest rate cuts to support economic growth.
What is it? The range of post-paid mobile plans offered by Reliance Jio from January 2017, prior to which services are free for users.
Why is it important? These rates are being touted as the lowest in absolute terms in the world and are likely to force other telecom players to reduce their tariffs or offer more at current rates. With Jio offering “free” voice calls (though data usage for making the calls will be charged), the voice revenues of the industry may get impacted—nearly 70% of the sector’s revenue are from voice calls. Some analysts say this could affect the profitability of the existing telecom operators.
Tell me more: With the telecom firms already reeling under debts of Rs.4 trillion (as of 31 March) and with more investment to beef up infrastructure (including the upcoming spectrum auctions), Jio’s aggressive pricing plans are likely to worsen the situation and, maybe, prompt consolidation. It remains to be seen how the incumbents respond to Jio’s official entry on 5 September.
> 190 mm
What is it? The rainfall India needs in September to push the annual average monsoon levels to normal. (That would be 10% surplus for September).
Why is it important? After two back-to-back years of drought, the weather department had predicted above normal monsoon this year. A shortfall in the current month would mean the prediction was off the mark and emphasizes the importance of a better forecasting system. India receives 80% of its annual rainfall between July and September, which is the main source of irrigation for over half of its farmlands. However, kharif sowing is unlikely to be impacted—it has been done in 96% of the seasonal area and the total sown area is 4.7% higher than the area sown during the same period last year.
Tell me more: The India Meteorological Department, which is finally planning to move away from a statistical method introduced during the British rule in the 1920s, is investing $60 million on a supercomputer to improve the accuracy of weather forecasting from next year. This is likely to help increase agricultural output by 15%, according to experts.
What is it? The number of states that have ratified the Constitutional amendment bill on goods and services tax (GST), 2016. Odisha was the latest to do so.
Why is it important? This brings GST one step closer to implementation—more than half of the 29 states were required to ratify the bill. The government has completed this step in 23 days instead of the 30 slotted. India has set a deadline of 1 April 2017 for the roll-out of the single tax rate, which is set to replace all the indirect taxes levied on goods and services in the country.
Tell me more: The bill will now be presented to President Pranab Mukherjee for his assent. After that, the Central and state governments have to devise laws to administer GST (whether they have ratified it or not) and then the final GST rate has to be decided.
What is it? The number of Indians who tested positive for the deadly Zika virus in Singapore.
Why is it important? This means the threat of the virus, which is known to cause microcephaly (a condition in which babies are born with abnormally small heads and incomplete brain development), now is closer to India than before. According to a new study, this virus is now also linked to loss of hearing in babies. Some researchers have included India as one of the countries at risk of infection , based on an analysis of travel, climate and mosquito patterns.
Tell me more: There are chances that the number of those infected with Zika virus can be underestimated as it could be misreported as dengue, as per Brazilian researchers. It is transmitted by Aedes mosquito though it can be transmitted sexually and through blood.
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