i. Marking a new chapter in centuries-old ties between India and Japan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe will visit this ancient temple town tomorrow.
ii. The visit assumes significance as it comes against the backdrop of Partner City Agreement between Kyoto and Varanasi, Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency, signed by the two leaders during the Prime Minister’s visit to Japan in August last year.
iii. Abe, who is on a three-day visit to India from today, along with Modi will attend the ‘Ganga Arti’, a beautifully choreographed ritual worship of the holy river performed daily at the fabled Dashashwamedh Ghat.
iv. A gigantic make-shift stage has been erected on the river bed with the help of pontoons and a music system is being installed with special permission from the Allahabad High Court.
v. The ancient temple town, situated less than 15 kms from Sarnath where Buddha delivered his first sermon upon attaining enlightenment, boasts of a special place in the religious and cultural consciousness of Japan as well as most of the South East Asian countries with sizeable Buddhist populations.
2. Kapil Chopra to head world tourism council
i. Kapil Chopra, President, The Oberoi Group, has been appointed as the Chairman of World Travel & Tourism Council, India Initiative (WTTCII) for 2016, a statement from the hotel group said on Thursday.
ii. The Annual General Meeting of the WTTCII was held on December 9. Chopra, who served as the council’s Vice-Chairman for 2015, takes over from Manav Thadani, Chairman, HVS, South Asia. iii. Ashwani Lohani, Chairman & Managing Director, Air India, has been appointed as the Vice-Chairman of WTTCII for 2016.
3. A portal to help SMEs get bank loans
i. While the SMEs that have managed to get timely finance from banks prefer not to comment on the difficulties in getting the support, there are many that are not even aware of the support system. According to an IFC survey, there are about 55 million registered SMEs, of which just about 35 per cent are in the banking system.
ii. Jyotsna and HD Sheriff, founders of the Chennai-based start-up said they specifically decided to address this gap when they mooted the venture. The portal, which went live in August has till date registered 5,000 visitors.
iii. Interestingly, the applicants are from tier-II and III towns, including Coimbatore, Hyderabad, Erode and Ahmedabad among others.
iv. Quickrupee has tied up with 16 bankers (mostly private banks and NBFCs) and another seven are in the pipeline, Jyotsna said.
4. India and South Korea ink MoU on taxation treaty
i. India and South Korea have inked a new memorandum of understanding (MoU) on suspension of collection of taxes during pendency of mutual agreement procedure.
ii. This MoU will relieve the burden of double taxation for taxpayers in both the countries during the pendency of Mutual Agreement Procedure (MAP) proceedings. Besides, both countries also have agreed that transfer pricing dispute cases will be taken up for MAP under the revised Double Tax Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) between India and Korea.
iii. MAP is an alternate dispute resolution mechanism that allows competent authorities of particular nation and its treaty partner to negotiate a mutually acceptable settlement. Under it, two signatory sides can negotiate settlement on a case that can subsequently be taken off from the formal legal process.
iv. As a resolution process, MAP draws up parameters for taxation in one country for which credit would be available in another. Eliminates of double taxation arising out of transfer pricing tax disputes, characterisation of income and attribution of profits and existence of Permanent Establishment.
5. World’s first dengue vaccine, Dengvaxia, approved for use in Mexico
i. The Mexican authorities on 9 December 2015 approved the use of the first-ever vaccine against dengue fever, which will be publicly available for the first time. French manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur declared that the Mexican authorities have granted marketing authorization to Dengvaxia, the vaccine against dengue fever.
ii. Sanofi has requested regulatory approval of Dengvaxia vaccine in 20 countries across Asia and Latin America, but Mexico was the first to green flag it. The Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risks (COFEPRIS) approved Dengvaxia for the prevention of disease caused by all four dengue virus serotypes in preadolescents, adolescents and adults, 9 to 45 years of age living in endemicareas.
iii. The COFEPRIS approval of Dengvaxia is based on results from an extensive clinical development program involving over 40000 people of different ages, geographic and epidemiological settings, and ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds living in 15 countries.
iv. According to a World Health Organization (WHO) report published in late 2014, the vaccine had an average rate of effectiveness of about 60.8 percent in protecting against the four strains of dengue now circulating.
v. Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne tropical disease caused by the dengue virus. Overall, the disease is a potential threat to almost half of the world’s population.
6. Sharad Pawar’s autobiography On My Terms released
i. Sharad Pawar’s On My Terms: From the Grassroots to the Corridors of Power, an autobiography of Sharad Pawar was released by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 10 December 2015. The book was released on the 75th birthday of Pawar, the Maratha strongman and the leader of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
ii. In this book, Pawar has detailed his experiences of political and social issues spanning 50 years. He, in his book, has provided a detailed account of the reason which helped in creation of rough patches in his relation with Rajiv Gandhi. He tells that his proximity with Chandra Shekhar brought rough patches to his ties with Rajiv.
iii. Born on 12 December, 1940 in Katewadi village of Baramati tehsil of Maharashtra, he is the only leader of the state, who became Chief Minister 4 times. He also held cabinet minister portfolio in several Congress led Government’s at the centre.
iv. A heavyweight in national politics and NCP President Sharad Pawar has completed 75 years of his life and a political innings of 55 years.
7. Myanmar inaugurated Yangon Stock Exchange
i. Myanmar on 9 December 2015 inaugurated a new stock exchange, named Yangon Stock Exchange (YSX), with plans for six companies to start trading in March 2016.
ii. Initially, the Yangon Stock Exchange will be open only to Myanmar companies and investors and will eventually allow foreigners to invest in Myanmar shares.
iii. The exchange was set up by local companies in a joint venture with Daiwa Institute of Research Japan and Japan Exchange Group, which operates the Tokyo Stock Exchange.
iv. It is hoped that the opening of stock market will help companies raise capital and fuel economic development in Myanmar, which is one of Asia’s poorest countries. Myanmar’s economy was stunted by decades of international sanctions until military rulers yielded to a civilian government in 2010.
8. Udai Kumar to take over as MD & CEO of Metropolitan SE
i. The Metropolitan Stock Exchange (formerly MCX Stock Exchange) is set to appoint its interim Managing Director and CEO Udai Kumar as MD & CEO. The equities and commodities market regulator SEBI is expected to clear the appointment soon. Kumar was the lead runner among the two other candidates shortlisted from foreign and public sector banks, said sources.
ii. The appointment will create a vacancy for the MD’s post at the exchange’s clearing corporation as Kumar was playing the dual role of heading both the organisations. In October, Kumar was asked to lead the exchange as a stop-gap arrangement after the incumbent Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Saurabh Sarkar resigned.
iii. Kumar, who has experience of over two decades, is expected to play a key role in the turnaround strategy of the exchange, which posted a loss of Rs. 15 crore during the September quarter against Rs. 12 crore in the same period last year.
iv. He has worked in senior capacity with large institutions, such as JM Financial Consultants, JM Morgan Stanley, Centrum Capital and Fortune Financial. He joined Metropolitan Clearing Corporation from Inter-connected Stock Exchange where he was Managing Director.
9. ABB India appoints Sanjeev Sharma as MD
i. ABB India Ltd has appointed Sanjeev Sharma as Managing Director with effect from January 1, 2016, to continue the path of next level of growth across utilities, industries and infrastructure in the country.
ii. Sanjeev Sharma first had joined ABB in 1990 and since then has held a number of global senior management roles. He brings extensive experience in industrial automation and electrification across market segments and geographies and has led several successful change management initiatives across global operations.
iii. Prior to this appointment, Sanjeev was the global Managing Director for ABB’s Low Voltage Systems business unit, where he was based in Malaysia. He started his career working for ABB in India and has also worked in Germany and Switzerland.
iv. “Sanjeev brings over 25 years of experience in ABB in diverse roles across various locations and functions, where he has most notably been responsible for running successful global business units,” said Frank Duggan, Chairman of the Board, ABB India Ltd.
v. “ABB in India has been steadily growing despite a challenging market environment, therefore we look forward to welcoming Sanjeev to the team where he will be responsible for driving the next level of growth for ABB in India, which is a key market and an important resource base for ABB.”
10. Naseeruddin Shah receives lifetime achievement award at DIFF
i. Veteran Bollywood actor Naseeruddin Shah was honoured with the lifetime achievement award at the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF). French actress Catherine Deneuve also received the award. The stars shared the podium with the likes of Egyptian actor Ezzat Al Alayli, award-winning French-Tunisian actor Sami Bouajila at the gala Wednesday night opening.
ii. The 12th edition of the festival opened with the screening of Lenny Abrahamson’s suspenseful and heartrending drama ‘Room’ based on Emma Donoghue’s 2010 best-selling novel of the same name.
iii. Actor Michael B. Jordan, Deepa Mehta and Anu Menon, Jacob Tremblay, the young star of ‘Room’ walked the red carpet.
iv. ‘Room’ starring Brie Larson, tells the extraordinary tale of a young mother and her five year-old son living out their lives in the confines of a tiny windowless room. Hollywood actor Jake Gyllenhaal is also expected to attend the festival.
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