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World has only 3,200 tigers left: WWF report

In a sharp contrast to the 100,000 tigers that once lived in the wild a century ago, the number now has reduced to just 3,200. This was revealed by a latest report released by the World Wide Fund (WWF).

WWF has also expressed their willingness to assist the conservation efforts being made by the 13 tiger-range countries – India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand, and Vietnam – which in 2010 set the target of doubling of wild tiger population by 2022.

The report which coincided with the International Tiger Day on July 29 warns that the largest of all the Asian big cats could go extinct in the wild mainly due to poaching and habitat destruction.

WWF considers ‘poaching’ as the biggest threat to wild tigers since their parts are used for traditional medicine, folk remedies, and increasingly as a status symbol among some Asian cultures.

India-US Malabar naval drill not aimed at containing China: US

The US has clarified that the annual India-US bilateral “Malabar” naval exercise which started in the Asia Pacific region is not aimed at containing China and that the exercise would strengthen the US naval presence in the Pacific Ocean region and maritime partnership with its allies.

The exercise this year has Japan as a special invitee. China had in the past raised objections over Japan’s taking part in the war-games held mainly between US and India. The last drill involving Japan was held in 2009. As per the US, the participating nations are working with specific training drills such as communication, search and rescue, helicopter cross deck evolutions and anti-submarine welfare.

Over 7,000 American defence personnel are participating in the exercise. The US battleships participating in the drill includes nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington, Ticonderoga-class destroyer USS Shiloh, Arleigh Burke-class destroyer John S McCain and nuclear submarine USS Columbus. P-3 Orion aircraft and MH-60R helicopters will also be part of this exercise.

India is participating with its three warships—INS Ranvijay and Shivalik along with fleet support tanker ship INS Shakti.

OECD introduces ‘single global standard’ for automatic exchange of financial info

Taking a significant step towards combating the black money menace, the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) unveiled ‘single global standard’ for automatic exchange of financial account information between jurisdictions.

To enable automatic exchange of financial account information pertaining to tax issues, the new standard makes it mandatory for the financial institutions, including banks, brokers and fund houses to collect necessary details from their clients and submit the same to their respective regulators on an annual basis.

The new Standard provides for annual automatic exchange between governments in the field of financial account information. The financial account information includes balances, interest, dividends, and sales proceeds from financial assets which are reported to governments by financial institutions. It also includes accounts held by individuals and entities, including trusts and foundations.

The new framework also provides confidentiality clause and safeguards in the exchange of information. For this the countries will need to approve domestic laws according to their respective legal jurisdictions to facilitate such cooperation.

As per this framework, each competent authority needs to notify the other competent authority immediately regarding any violation of confidentiality or failure of safeguards and any sanctions and remedial actions consequently imposed.

The framework will be formally presented by the OECD the G20 Finance Ministers at their meeting in Cairns, Australia, in September 2014.

More than 65 nations and jurisdictions have already publicly committed to implementation of the new framework, while more than 40 have committed to a specific and ambitious timetable leading to the first automatic information exchanges in 2017. Those having already committed to follow this global protocol include the US, the UK, Germany, European Union, Japan, Singapore, China, Luxembourg, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Gibraltar, Cyprus, Bermuda, Isle of Man, Greece and Liechtenstein.

Importance in India’s context

The development assumes significance in case of India, as it has been facing difficulties in fetching information on cases of suspected tax evasion from other countries, especially Switzerland, which has been maintaining that such details cannot be provided without specific proof of financial irregularities by the concerned Indian client of Swiss banks.

An initial framework was released by OECD in this regard earlier this year and India became one of the first adopters of this global convention. Later, Switzerland also agreed to conform to this Standard, while a few more nations have now expressed their willingness to adopt the same and these include Mauritius — another country with which India has been working on a revised bilateral treaty due to concerns of money laundering.

BRICS to establish $100 billion development bank and contingency reserve fund

BRICS group of nations inked a pact to set up a new $100 billion development bank and emergency reserve fund. The agreement to create the bank was signed during the 6th BRICS Summit being held in Fortaleza, Brazil. BRICS group includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

To begin with, the bank will start operating with $50 billion in initial capital with the five BRICS contributing $10 billion each.

According to the pact, the capital of the bank will be divided equally among the five participating nations and the headquarters of the same will be in Shanghai, China. The chairmanship of the bank will be rotational and its first President will come from India for the first 6 years. The Bank will also have a regional office in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The governing body of the bank will be formed by BRICS Finance ministers or central banks’ governors to manage the CRA. The BRICS CRA will not be open to outsiders. Initially, the bank will focus on infrastructure projects in the BRICS countries.

Capital contribution from BRICS nations

  • China: $41 billion
  • Brazil, Russia and India: $18 billion each
  • South Africa: $5 billion

Future benefits of BRICS Development Bank:  
The creation of the $100 billion development bank will help the developing countries to:

  • Effectively deal with short term liquidity pressures
  • Encourage further BRICS cooperation
  • Complement existing international arrangements
  • Consolidate the global financial safety net

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