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The Hindu Editorial Analysis | PDF Download

Date: 08 October 2019

India gets first tranche of Swiss account details under automatic exchange framework

  • India has received first tranche of details about financial accounts of its residents in Swiss banks under a new automatic exchange of information framework between the two countries, marking a significant milestone in the fight against black money suspected to be stashed abroad.
  • India figures among 75 countries with which Switzerland’s Federal Tax Administration (FTA) has exchanged information on financial accounts within the framework of global standards on AEOI, an FTA spokesperson told PTI.
  • This is the first time that India has received details from Switzerland under the AEOI framework, which provides for exchange of information on financial accounts that currently active as well as those accounts that were closed during 2018.

 Overview

  • Governments across the world are increasingly putting tax transparency at the top of their agenda. The OECD developed the Common Reporting Standard (CRS) as a global reporting standard to achieve a comprehensive and multilateral automatic exchange of information (AEoI) framework. This will impact a wide variety of financial and non financial institutions.

CRS imposes obligations on Financial Institutions to:

  1. collect information to establish their customers’ country of tax residence
  2. report account holder information to their local tax authorities who will then exchange this information with the tax authorities of countries where the account holder is resident.
  • The Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI) portal provides a comprehensive overview of the work the OECD and the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes in the area of the automatic exchange of information, in particular with respect to the Common Reporting Standard.
  • As the world becomes increasingly globalized and cross-border activities become the norm, tax administrations need to work together to ensure that taxpayers pay the right amount of tax to the right jurisdiction. A key aspect for making tax administrations ready for the challenges of the 21st century is equipping them with the necessary legal, administrative and IT tools for verifying compliance of their taxpayers. Against that background, the enhanced co-operation between tax authorities through AEOI is crucial in bringing national tax administration in line with the globalized economy.

 Common Reporting Standard or CRS

  • The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) developed the Common Reporting Standard (CRS) for Automatic Exchange of Information (AEoI). CRS mandates financial institutions across countries to provide respective tax authorities information about their citizens and their wealth overseas. This can help governments obtain information about the financial assets held by its citizens internationally – for tax reasons. So far, more than 90 countries have agreed to follow this global standard.
  • India too signed a multilateral agreement to transfer personal and account information of another country’s citizen to their respective tax authority. Article 6 of the Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters under the CRS rules refers to this.

 What is the CRS?

  • The Common Reporting Standard (CRS), developed in response to the G20 request and approved by the OECD Council on 15 July 2014, calls on jurisdictions to obtain information from their financial institutions and automatically exchange that information with other jurisdictions on an annual basis. It sets out the financial account information to be exchanged, the financial institutions required to report, the different types of accounts and taxpayers covered, as well as common due diligence procedures to be followed by financial institutions.

The Standard consists of the following four key parts:

  1. A model Competent Authority Agreement (CAA), providing the international legal framework for the automatic exchange of CRS information;
  2. The Common Reporting Standard;
  3. The Commentaries on the CAA and the CRS; and
  4. The CRS XML Schema User Guide

Difference between FATCA & CRS at a glance

  •  The need for a system to validate and improve tax compliance globally led to the formation of FATCA and CRS. Before talking about FATCA-CRS compliance, let us understand the difference between the two.
  1. FATCA The US Tax Department launched FATCA in 2010 to promote tax compliance and discourage tax evasion. It stands for Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act.
  2. CRS On the other hand, CRS is roughly a more international version of FATCA. While the former is only for US persons, the latter is applicable for citizens of every registered country.

 US troops start pullout from along Turkey's border in Syria

  • Syria’s Kurds accused the U.S. of turning its back on its allies and risking gains made in the fight against the Islamic State group as American troops began pulling back on Monday from positions in northeastern Syria ahead of an expected Turkish assault.
  • Syrian Kurdish fighters warned that Washington’s abrupt decision to stand aside, announced by the White House late on Sunday, will overturn years of achievements in the battle against IS militants. In a stronglyworded statement, they accused Washington of failing to abide by its commitments to its key allies.
  • There was no immediate confirmation from the White House of U.S. troops clearing positions in areas in northern Syria.
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, however, also said American troops have started pulling back, and a video posted by a Kurdish news agency showed a convoy of American armored vehicles apparently heading away from the border area of Tal Abyad.
  • Mr. Erdogan spoke hours after the White House said U.S. forces in northeastern Syria will move aside and clear the way for an expected Turkish assault raising concerns about the fate of Kurdish fighters who fought alongside American forces in the yearslong battle to defeat the Islamic State group.
  • “Following our conversation last night (with Trump), the withdrawal has started as expressed by the President,” the Turkish leader said.
  • Mr. Erdogan did not elaborate on the planned Turkish incursion but said Turkey was determined to halt what it perceives as threats from the Syrian Kurdish fighters.
  • The White House, in a statement that was silent on the fate of Kurds, said U.S. troops “will not support or be involved in the operation” and “will no longer be in the immediate area,” in northern Syria.
  • There are about 1,000 U.S. troops in northern Syria, and a senior U.S. official said they will pull back from the area and potentially depart the country entirely, should widespread fighting break out between Turkish and Kurdish forces.
  • The White House statement on Sunday also said Turkey will take custody of foreign fighters captured in the U.S.- led campaign against IS who have been held by the Kurdish forces.
  • IS prisoners
  • The Kurds have custody of thousands of captured Islamic State militants. They include about 2,500 highly dangerous foreign fighters from Europe and elsewhere their native countries have been reluctant to take them back and about 10,000 captured fighters from Syria and Iraq.
  • Kurdish officials have expressed concerns of a possible breakout by IS prisoners in case of fighting in the area.
  • Asked about the White House comments, Mr. Erdogan said that both Turkey and the U.S. were working separately to see “what steps can be taken” so that foreign fighters in prison can be repatriated. “This is being worked on,” he said.
  • Mr. Erdogan has threatened for months to launch the military operation across the border. He views the Syria Kurdish forces as terrorists and a threat to his country as Ankara has struggled with a Kurdish insurgency within Turkey.
  • In the U.S., Republicans and Democrats have warned that allowing the Turkish attack could lead to a massacre of the Kurds and send a troubling message to American allies across the globe.
  • The Syrian Democratic Forces, as the Kurdish-led force is known, said the American pullout began first from areas along the Syria-Turkey border. The Syrian Kurdish Hawar news agency and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also say American troops were evacuating positions near the towns of Ras alAyn and Tal Abyad on Monday.
  • “The American forces did not abide by their commitments and withdrew their forces along the border with Turkey,” the SDF said in its statement. “The Turkish military operation in northern and eastern Syria will have a huge negative effect on our war against IS,” it added.
  • Mustafa Bali, the SDF spokesman, tweeted that his group is not expecting the U.S. to protect northeastern Syria. “But people here are owed an explanation regarding the security mechanism deal and destruction of fortifications,” he said.

Security zone

  • In an agreement between Ankara and Washington, joint U.S and Turkish aerial and ground patrols had started in a security zone that covers over 125 kilometers (78 miles) along the Turkey-Syria border between the towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn. The SDF had removed fortification from the areas, considered a threat by Turkey, and withdrawn with heavy weapons.
  • But Turkey and the U.S. have disagreed over the depth of the zone, with Ankara seeking to also have its troops monitor a stretch of territory between 30 and 40 kilometers deep (19 to 25 miles). Mr. Erdogan has continued to threaten an attack.
  • The Kurdish-led fighters have been the main U.S.-backed force in Syria in the fight against IS and in March, the group captured the last sliver of land held by the extremists, marking the end of the so-called caliphate that was declared by IS’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2014.
  • “We will not hesitate for a moment in defending our people” against Turkish troops, the Syrian Kurdish force said, adding that it has lost 11,000 fighters in the war against IS in Syria.
  • It said IS sleeper cells are already plotting to break free some 12,000 militants detained by Syrian Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria.
  • The Kurdish fighters also control the al-Hol camp, home to more than 70,000 people, including at least 9,000 foreigners, mostly wives and children of IS fighters.
  • Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tweeted that Ankara is determined to ensure the survival and security of Turkey “by clearing the region from terrorists. We will contribute to peace, peace and stability in Syria.”

Trump threatens to ‘destroy and obliterate’ Turkey’s economy over Syria

  • President Donald Trump on Monday launched a harsh attack on NATO ally Turkey, threatening to destroy its economy if Ankara takes a planned military strike in Syria too far even though the U.S. leader himself has opened the door for a Turkish incursion.
  • Mr. Trump said he would “totally destroy and obliterate” Turkey's economy if it took action in Syria that he considered “off-limits” following his decision on Sunday to pull out U.S. forces from northeastern Syria.
  • The U.S. withdrawal will leave Kurdish-led forces in Syria that have long allied with Washington vulnerable to a planned incursion by the Turkish military which brands them terrorists.
  • Mr. Trump's stern words seemed to be aimed at placating critics who accused him of abandoning the Syrian Kurds by pulling out U.S. forces. Leaders from both parties and both houses of Congress joined in the criticism, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Mr. Trump's fellow Republican.
  • “As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I've done before!)” Trump tweeted.
  • Speaking later at the White House, Mr. Trump said he had told President Tayyip Erdogan in a phone call that Turkey could suffer the “wrath of an extremely decimated economy” if it acted in Syria in a way that was not “humane.”
  • In Ankara, Mr. Erdogan told reporters he planned to visit Washington to meet with Trump in the first half of November. He said the two leaders would discuss plans for a “safe zone” in Syria, and added that he hoped to resolve a dispute over F-35 fighter jets during his visit.
  • Turkey's lira slid more than 2% to its lowest level in more than a month against the dollar on Monday over concerns about the planned incursion into northern Syria and Trump's warning.
  • Investors have been closely watching tense ties between Ankara and Washington in recent months, with the countries at odds over a range of issues, including Syria and Turkey's purchase of Russian missile defence systems.
  • Turkey has repeatedly threatened to carry out an incursion against U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria who have links to Kurdish guerrillas operating next door in Turkey.
  • It is a major policy shift that was denounced as a “stab in the back” by Kurdish-led forces who have been Washington's most capable partners in fighting Islamic State in Syria, also known by its acronym ISIS.
  • France warned that the U.S. decision to withdraw from northeastern Syria could open the door to a revival of Islamic State, which has suffered significant battlefield losses to a U.S.-led coalition in the area.
  • The United States expects Turkey to take responsibility for captive Islamic State fighters in northeastern Syria if Ankara's planned incursion seizes areas where the detained militants are held, a senior State Department official said.
  • The captives are held in SDF facilities south of a safe zone initially proposed by Turkey.
  • U.S. relations with Turkey under Mr. Trump have been rocky.
  • Last year, he imposed tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum products over Ankara's detention of a U.S. pastor whose case was supported by members of his Christian conservative base.

Ministry of Textiles

  • India announces TAP for 5 African Countries on World Cotton Day
  •  Textiles Minister Addresses WTO on World Cotton Day in Geneva
  •  World Cotton Day an opportunity to recognize significance of Cotton as A Global Commodity: Smriti Zubin Irani
  • Union Minister of Textiles, Smriti Zubin Irani, said that India remains committed to building on its longstanding development partnership with Africa, especially in the field of cotton. For this, Textiles Minister said that India will be announcing the launch of the second phase of the Cotton Technical Assistance Programme (TAP) for Africa at the Partners Conference in Geneva today. In the five year long second phase, the programme will be scaled up in size and coverage and will be introduced in five additional countries, namely Mali, Ghana, Togo, Zambia and Tanzania. The Cotton TAP programme will now cover 11 African countries including the C4 (Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali).
  • India implemented a Technical Assistance Programme (TAP) for cotton in 6 African countries, namely – Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Malawi, Nigeria and Uganda from 2012 to 2018.
  • Smriti Zubin Irani further said that India is also engaging meaningfully in providing assistance to strengthen both the agriculture and textile part of the cotton value chain in Africa through training and capacity-building of farmers, scientists, government officials and industry representatives and through the creation of cotton-related infrastructure.
  • As one of the world’s largest producers and consumers of cotton, India supports the World Cotton Day as an opportunity to recognize the significance of cotton as a global commodity, and, more importantly, as a source of livelihood for millions of small and marginal farmers in developing countries said Smriti Zubin Irani, at the opening session of World Cotton Day in Geneva today.
  • Smriti Zubin Irani said that it is fitting that Mahatma Gandhi has been chosen as the icon for the World Cotton Day and to mark the celebration of the first World Cotton Day, India will gift a replica of Mahatma Gandhi’s Charkha to the WTO. She also informed that a live demonstration of the Charkha has been arranged a by Pitta Ramulu, National Award winning weaver from India.
  • The Textiles Minister also informed that cotton farming and the domestic cotton textile industry continue to be important pillars of India’s economy. As a country of 8 million small and marginal cotton farmers, India is sensitive to the challenges faced by the cotton sector in developing countries and India has been a proponent for the elimination of asymmetries and imbalances in the WTO agreements that lead to a distortion of global cotton markets, the Minister added.
  • Smriti Zubin Irani expressed hope that the World Cotton Day will help showcase innovative initiatives in the cotton eco-system and channel more development assistance for cotton.

Ministry of Shipping

  • Shri Mansukh Mandavia says conclusion of SOP with Bangladesh on Chattogram and Mongla ports a win win situation for both countries
  • The SOP will open 8 routes to North Eastern states through Bangladesh
  • Shri Mansukh Mandavia, MoS(I/C) Shipping has said that Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi's foreign policy initiative regarding use of Chattogram and Mongla Ports in Bangladesh for movement of goods to and from India will bring revolutionary cost-cutting in shipments to and from the North Eastern States.
  • During the official visit of H.E Sheikh Hasina ,Prime Minister of People`s Republic of Bangladesh to India , a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) wherein Bangladesh allowed the use of its Chattogram and Mongla Ports for movement of goods to and from India through its territory was signed and exchanged by India and Bangladesh before the Prime Ministers of India and Bangladesh on 5.10.2019 . The SOP on use of Chattogram and Mongla ports has been finalized after the two countries signed an MOU on 6.6.2015 and an Agreement on 25.10.18.
  • The agreement and SOP permit the movement of goods in Bangladesh through waterways, rail, road or multimodal transport. Eight routes are provided under the Agreement which would enable access of North East Region (NER) via Bangladesh. The routes are:
  • Chattogram/Mongla Port to Agartala (Tripura) via Akhura
  • Chattogram/Mongla Port to Dawki (Meghalaya) via Tamabil
  • Chattogram/Mongla Port to Sutarkandi (Assam) via Sheola
  • Chattogram/Mongla Port to Srimantpur (Tripura) via Bibirbazar

Mamallapuram’s Chinese links set to give a fillip to Modi-Xi summit

  • While expectation is in the air in view of the India-China meet in Mamallapuram next week, the coatal town’s ties with the dragon land is ancient and it is set to give a historic fillip to the summit.
  • The mighty Pallavas, whose flourishing sea port was Mamallapuram for a long time, had a relationship with China and had even sent envoys there during their rule.
  • As preparations are on the upswing for the meet between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping, a peep into archeological evidences shows links had existed about 2000 years ago between Mamallapuram, the venue of the summit, and China. Mamallapuram’s Chinese links set to give a fillip to Modi-Xi summit
  • Celadon ware (pottery) of the first, second Century (Common Era, about 2000 years ago) recovered on the eastern coast of Tamil Nadu gives us a clue to Chinese maritime activities,” noted archealogist S Rajavelu told PTI.
  • Such finds and other archaeological evidences can be used to infer that regions, including coastal areas of present day Mamallapuram and Kancheepuram district had links with China, he said.
  • Chinese coins dating to the same period were also found in Tamil Nadu, he said, adding they showed the ancient trade links to the dragon country.
  • The ancient Tamil work “Pattinapalai,” a post Sangam period work, cites the anchorage of a Chinese ship on the eastern coast of ancient Tamil Nadu.
  • Authored by Urutthiran Kannanar, the work refers to a ship “tungu naavay,” in Tamil, which is nothing but a big Chinese vessel “Zunk,” the archaeologist, who was formerly with the Archaeological Survey of India, said.
  • Also the Chinese text the “Han annals” has a reference to contacts with the Tamil country.
  • Emperor Wei (circa 185-149 BCE) encouraged traders and the Chinese text Ch’ien Han Shu of the first century refers to Kancheepuram as “Huang-Che” and Chinese kings had sent presents to the then ruler of Kancheepuram, he pointed out.
  • “If you look at the Vayalur inscriptions (near Mamallapuram), they say that Pallavas had sent envoys (6-7th Century AD) to China. Similarly Tamil inscriptions have been found in the dragon country as well,” Rajavelu, also a former Professor of Archaeology with the Tamil University at Thanjavur, said.
  • Chinese monk Hiuen Tsang visited Kancheepuram in the seventh Century AD and he no doubt reached the ancient port town of Mamallapuram and then continued his journey to the temple town, he said.
  • Keen on understanding more about Buddhism and to get original texts of his religion, Hiuen Tsang visited Kancheepuram, which was then a flourishing Buddhist centre, as well as a hub of learning, he said.
  • Ancient Indian sources indicate that Kancheepuram was referred to as a “kadiga,” which meant a “university,” and Tsang was attracted to Kancheepuram, the professor of archaeology, now working with Alagappa University, said.
  • The 2004 Saluvankuppam excavations in Kancheepuram district also make it clear that Mamallapuram was a port town even during the Sangam era about 2000 years ago, he pointed out. • The second informal summit between the two leaders will be held this week at Mamallapuram.

Top 100 firms spent only 4% of CSR funds on women's economic empowerment, says UNDP report

  • Top 100 firms in the country spent a mere 4% of their total expenditure on corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities on women’s economic empowerment, according to a new report by United Nations Development Programme India prepared.
  • The study titled ‘Corporate Engagement in Women’s Economic Empowerment’ maps the efforts and initiatives of BSE 100 companies towards economic empowerment of women, identifies gaps and makes recommendations on how companies can work towards a more gender equitable India. The report has been prepared in partnership with a CSR consulting firm, Samhita.
  • It shows that the top 100 companies reported a total expenditure of ₹423.84 crore on women’s empowerment and ₹250.62 crore on their economic empowerment out of the total ₹6,314.30 crore spent on CSR activities in financial year 2017-2018 . The average median per company was ₹1.97 crore.
  • The top five companies where expenditure data was available were Hindustan Unilever, TATA Steel, Ambuja Cement, Larsen & Toubro, and Bharti Infratel.
  • The study notes that there is a scope for enhancing the focus on women’s economic empowerment as 72% of the BSE top 100 companies reported intervention in this area, implying there is an opportunity to tap into this widespread interest on the issue.
  • But States such as Bihar, Jharkhand and Assam that need interventions on this issue the most due to a low female labour participation rate saw a huge dearth of CSR programming.
  • Among other gaps, is a lack of focus throughout the entire life-cycle of women’s employment. Most programmes are focussed on “prepare and enter” stage such as through career counselling and vocational training. But a lack of support during the later stages through financial and digital literacy were missing, therefore, which may lead to many dropping out of their jobs.
  • The study argues for more comprehensive measures for gender inclusivity, beyond the realm of CSR, through efforts to ensure a larger number of women employees as well as an increased participation of women in board-level leadership.
  • Data shows that women comprised less than 10% of the permanent workforce of the majority of BSE 100 companies as manufacturing and automobile sectors, which are male dominated, are highly represented in this category.
  • It recommends the need for various stakeholders to join hands so that different CSR programmes can focus on the entire life cycle of women’s economic empowerment as well as working to address attitudes of a woman’s spouse, father, community members and collaborate with schools, colleges and workplace to provide a conducive ecosystem for women.