CURRENT AFFAIRS – 30/11/2023

CURRENT AFFAIRS – 30/11/2023

CURRENT AFFAIRS – 30/11/2023

CURRENT AFFAIRS – 30/11/2023

Journey of a vote — how EVMs, postal ballots make their way to voters and back

(General Studies- Paper I)

Source : The Indian Express

The two key aspects of the electoral process in India are: postal ballots and the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).

Understanding the Process

  • Postal Ballots:
    • Postal ballots are a method of voting in which eligible voters can cast their votes by mail rather than physically visiting a polling station.
    • The categories of individuals entitled to use postal ballots, include service voters, absentee voters (those above 80 years, those with benchmark disabilities, or those affected by Covid-19), voters on election duty, and electors under preventive detention.
    • These voters fill out relevant forms, and the Returning Officer (RO) sends them postal ballots via post or, in the case of voters on election duty, at facilitation centers.
  • EVM Journey:
    • The journey of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) involves several stages.
    • After the first-level checks and randomization exercises, the machines are handed over to the Returning Officers (ROs) under armed police escort.
    • The EVMs are stored in air-conditioned strong rooms in the presence of political party representatives until the day of polling.
    • There are proper security measures in place during this process.
    • In multi-phase or state elections with varying polling and counting dates, the EVMs are stored in strong rooms after each phase of voting.
    • After voting is completed, the EVMs and Voter-Verifiable Paper Audit Trails (VVPATs) are escorted back to collection or reception centers, where they are once again stored in strong rooms.
    • The Election Commission (EC) manual mandates informing all candidates of these procedures, allowing them to send representatives to oversee security arrangements.
  • Procedure for Postal Ballots:
    • According to the Election Commission’s (EC) instructions on October 31, the facilitation centre in-charge is responsible for opening the drop box daily in the presence of party and candidate representatives.
    • The number of postal ballots is recorded on Format 1, and these ballots are then placed in a large envelope or cotton bag designated for each constituency.
    • At the end of each voting day, these bags, along with Format 1, are sent to the Returning Officer (RO).
    • The RO takes custody of these bags, storing them in a specially designated strong room as per EC guidelines.
  • Procedure for Absentee Voters:
    • For absentee voters, Booth Level Officers (BLOs) visit the homes of electors to deliver Form 12D, which serves as their ballot.
    • The BLOs return within five days of the election notification to collect the filled-in forms.
    • These completed forms are submitted to the ROs on a daily basis.
    • Essential services absentee voters have the option of voting at special postal voting centres, where voting occurs for three consecutive days before the polling day in the constituency.
    • At the end of each day, the packets of postal ballots from these centres are sent to the RO.
  • Security Measures for Postal Ballots:
    • The EC mandates that ROs establish a strong room specifically for postal ballots.
    • If the counting of votes is scheduled to take place at a location other than the RO’s headquarters, the postal ballots must be transferred to another strong room at the counting center a day before counting.
    • The RO informs the candidates in writing about the scheduled time for this transfer.
    • In the presence of candidates or their representatives, the strong room for postal ballots is opened, and all postal ballots are placed in a large sealed steel box.
    • This box, guarded by armed Central Police Forces (CPF), is then transported to the strong room for postal ballots at the counting center.

The Election Commission Machinery

  • Election Commission of India (ECI):
    • The ECI is the supreme authority responsible for administering elections in India.
    • It formulates election policies, enforces the Model Code of Conduct, and ensures fair and transparent conduct of elections at all levels.
  • Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners:
    • The CEC heads the Election Commission, and Election Commissioners (if more than one) assist in decision-making.
    • They oversee the overall functioning of the electoral process, policy formulation, and enforcement of election rules.
  • State Election Commission (SEC):
    • The SEC is responsible for conducting local body elections (panchayat and municipal elections) within a state.
    • It operates independently from the ECI.
  • Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) at the State Level:
    • The CEO is responsible for coordinating and supervising election-related activities within a state.
    • They work closely with the ECI and oversee the preparation of electoral rolls, election logistics, and voter education.
  • District Election Officer (DEO) / District Collector:
    • The DEO is responsible for election management at the district level.
    • They coordinate with various departments to ensure a smooth conduct of elections, maintain law and order, and oversee polling arrangements.
  • Returning Officer (RO):
    • Appointed for each constituency, the RO is responsible for the conduct of elections in that constituency.
    • They manage the election process, including candidate nominations, polling, and counting of votes.
  • Assistant Returning Officer (ARO):
    • The ARO assists the RO in various election-related activities, including the scrutiny of nomination papers, organization of polling, and counting of votes.
  • Electoral Registration Officer (ERO):
    • EROs are responsible for the preparation and revision of electoral rolls within a specific jurisdiction.
    • They handle voter registration, deletion, and corrections.
  • Booth Level Officer (BLO):
    • BLOs are responsible for a specific polling booth or a group of booths.
    • They assist in voter verification, distribution of voter slips, and coordination with voters at the grassroots level.
  • Presiding Officer:
    • The Presiding Officer is in charge of a polling station on the day of the election.
    • They oversee the polling process, maintain order, and ensure the integrity of the voting process.

NASA to train an Indian astronaut for ISS mission

(General Studies- Paper III)

Source : The Indian Express

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, during his visit to Delhi, announced that NASA would train an Indian astronaut for a mission to the International Space Station (ISS) by the end of 2024.

  • The collaboration is part of India being recognized as a “great future partner” by the United States, and the offer extends to potential collaboration on an Indian Space Station.

Key Highlights

  • Indian Space Station and Lunar Mission Goals:
    • The Prime Minister urged Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) scientists to establish an Indian Space Station by 2035 and send an Indian astronaut to the moon by 2040.
    • NASA expressed openness to collaborate on India’s space endeavors, including a potential Indian Space Station.
  • NASA’s Plan:
    • NASA plans to de-orbit its space station in 2031 and expects the existence of commercial space stations by that time.
  • If India desires collaboration or counsel in this regard, the United States is open to working with India on space station-related initiatives.
  • Another major outcome of the India-US collaboration is the NISAR satellite, set to be launched in the first quarter of 2024.
  • The collaboration agreement includes NASA assisting in training an Indian astronaut for an ISS mission by the end of 2024.
  • Space Research Objectives and Joint Working Group:
    • The specific science objectives for the Indian astronaut’s two-week mission to the ISS will be determined by India, focusing on areas important to Indian scientific research.
    • A joint working group of both space agencies is exploring collaboration on various aspects, including radiation impact studies, micro meteorite and orbital debris shield studies, and space health and medicine aspects.

About NISAR satellite

  • The NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) satellite is a collaborative mission between the United States’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
  • Purpose and Objectives:
    • NISAR is primarily an Earth observation satellite designed to study and monitor the Earth’s surface using advanced radar imaging.
    • The satellite aims to contribute to scientific understanding in areas such as climate change, ecosystem disturbances, and geological processes.
    • NISAR is equipped with a state-of-the-art synthetic aperture radar that allows for high-resolution imaging of the Earth’s surface.
    • NISAR operates at dual frequencies—L-band and S-band—allowing for a wide range of applications and versatility in observing various Earth features.
  • Launch Window: The NISAR satellite is scheduled to be launched in the first quarter of 2024.
  • Application Areas:
    • Climate Monitoring: NISAR is expected to provide valuable data for monitoring climate-related changes and phenomena on Earth.
    • Geological Studies: The satellite’s advanced radar imaging capabilities are crucial for geological studies, including mapping terrain and monitoring geological hazards.

What is International Space Station (ISS)?

  • The International Space Station (ISS) is a large spacecraft that orbits Earth at an average altitude of approximately 420 kilometers (about 261 miles).
  • It serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory where scientific research is conducted in astrobiology, astronomy, meteorology, physics, and other fields.
  • The ISS is a multinational collaborative project involving space agencies from multiple countries.
  • The ISS was constructed in multiple phases and modules, with its assembly beginning in 1998.
  • It involved numerous spaceflights and the collaborative efforts of NASA (United States), Roscosmos (Russia), ESA (European Space Agency), JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), and CSA (Canadian Space Agency).
  • The ISS orbits the Earth approximately every 90 minutes, traveling at a speed of about 28,000 kilometers per hour (about 17,500 miles per hour).
    • This high orbital velocity allows it to experience microgravity conditions.

In Image: International Space Station

UPI and managing the surge in digital fraud

(General Studies- Paper II)

Source : The Indian Express

Since its launch in 2016, UPI has dramatically transformed India’s payments landscape, with 11.4 billion transactions worth Rs 17.15 lakh crore in October 2023.

  • Adoption driven by increased smartphone usage and access to affordable mobile internet services.

Key Highlights

  • Rise in Digital/Fraudulent Transactions:
    • Sharp rise in digital/financial frauds accompanies the surge in digital transactions.
    • RBI’s annual report for 2022-23 reveals 6,659 digital frauds (card/internet) amounting to Rs 276 crore, up from 3,596 transactions worth Rs 155 crore in the previous year.
  • Government’s Response to Combat Fraud:
    • Government planning measures to curb online frauds, considering introducing a minimum time threshold for transactions occurring for the first time between two individuals beyond a prescribed amount.
    • Contemplating a four-hour window for transactions above Rs 2,000 to address cybersecurity concerns.
  • Fraud Techniques and Innovation:
    • Fraudsters employ sophisticated techniques such as phishing, malware, fake identity frauds, and SIM cloning to cheat individuals.
    • Reports suggest technologically innovative methods, including tricking individuals into providing account details or downloading fraudulent apps.
  • TransUnion indicates that 4.6% of all customers’ digital transactions globally are “suspected to be fraudulent.”
    • The total volume of suspected digital fraud attempts has seen a significant increase.
  • Tackling Digital Fraud at Multiple Levels:
    • Payment ecosystem players must regularly upgrade IT infrastructure and protocols to minimize vulnerabilities.
    • Improving consumer awareness is crucial as fraudsters exploit individuals’ lack of awareness. Education about newer fraud methods is essential.
    • Finance ministry officials discussed growing digital payment frauds and financial crimes, exploring steps needed to counter them.
    • Striking a balance between minimizing digital fraud risks and ensuring minimal frictions in the payments system is essential.

About Unified Payments Interface (UPI)

  • The Unified Payments Interface (UPI) is a real-time payment system developed by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI).
  • It was launched in April 2016 with the aim of facilitating easy and instant fund transfers between bank accounts through mobile devices.
  • Key Features:
    • Interoperability: UPI allows users to link multiple bank accounts to a single mobile application, providing interoperability between different banks.
    • Real-Time Transactions: UPI enables immediate money transfers 24/7, including weekends and holidays, allowing users to make instant payments.
    • Multiple Channels: Users can initiate UPI transactions through various channels such as mobile apps, websites, or USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data).
  • How UPI Works:
    • Users register on a UPI-enabled app linked to their bank account.
    • They create a unique Virtual Payment Address (VPA) that acts as an identifier, eliminating the need to share bank details.
    • To make a payment, users enter the recipient’s VPA, select the account to debit, and authorize the transaction with a UPI PIN.

Centre and Manipur signs peace agreement with UNLF

(General Studies- Paper III, Page 1, the Hindu)

Source : TH

The Union and Manipur governments have successfully negotiated a peace agreement with the United National Liberation Front (UNLF), the oldest armed group based in the Manipur valley.

  • UNLF, a Meitei extremist organization, was formed in 1964 and has been operating within and outside Indian territory.

Key Highlights

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has designated UNLF as one of the eight Meitei extremist organizations as unlawful associations under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
  • Recently, the ban against these groups, advocating Manipur’s secession from India, was extended for another five years.
  • Union Home Minister Amit Shah announced the peace agreement, emphasizing that the UNLF has agreed to renounce violence and join the mainstream.
  • Surrender Details and Factional Differences:
    • While the Ministry of Home Affairs did not disclose specific details about the surrendered militants, it is reported that 65 cadres of one faction of UNLF, led by K. Pambei, have joined the peace pact.
    • These 65 cadres are believed to have entered Manipur during ongoing ethnic violence.
    • Another faction of UNLF, led by R.K. Achou Singh alias Koireng, remains outside the peace agreement and is reportedly operating from Myanmar, with an estimated 300 cadres.
  • The peace agreement follows the destruction of a UNLF camp at Thanan in Myanmar, close to the Manipur border, on November 22.
  • The camp was destroyed by rebel forces, including the Peoples Defence Force, an ethnic armed group in Myanmar.
  • New Era of Peace:
    • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued a statement asserting that the agreement with UNLF is poised to usher in a new era of peace in the North East, especially in Manipur.
    • The MHA highlighted the historic nature of the agreement, noting that it is the first time a valley-based Manipuri armed group has agreed to return to the mainstream by renouncing violence and pledging allegiance to the Constitution of India and the laws of the land.
    • There is optimism that the return of UNLF to the mainstream will inspire other valley-based armed groups to engage in the peace process in the future.
    • The Ministry announced the formation of a peace monitoring committee to oversee the enforcement of agreed-upon ground rules.

About Meitei Cultural Group

  • The Meiteis are an ethnic group with a distinct identity and cultural heritage.
  • They constitute a significant portion of the population in Manipur and are recognized as the indigenous people of the Manipur valley.
    • According to the 2011 Census of India, Manipur’s population was over 2.8 million, with Meiteis forming a significant portion.
  • The Meiteis speak Meiteilon (Manipuri), which is a Tibeto-Burman language and has its own script.
  • The traditional religion of the Meitei people is Sanamahism or Meitei SanamahiLaining, which involves the worship of various deities and ancestral spirits.
    • However, over time, there has been an influence of Hinduism and, to some extent, Vaishnavism.
  • The Lai Haraoba festival is a significant cultural event that involves rituals, dances, and performances depicting Meitei mythology.
  • The traditional attire for Meitei men is called Pheijom, which is a dhoti, and Innaphi, a shawl, is draped around the upper body.
    • Women traditionally wear a Phanek, a wraparound skirt, and an Innaphi.

About Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967

  • The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) is a significant law aimed at preventing unlawful activities and associations within the country.
  • Enacted in 1967, its primary objective is to equip authorities with the necessary powers to address activities directed against the integrity and sovereignty of India.
  • The most recent amendment, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2019 (UAPA 2019), introduced substantial changes, allowing the Union Government to designate individuals as terrorists without formal judicial proceedings.
  • Key Objectives of UAPA:
    • The UAPA, often referred to as the “Anti-terror law,” serves as a legal framework to combat activities that pose a threat to the sovereignty and integrity of India.
    • It provides authorities with tools to address and prevent such activities, with a focus on counterterrorism efforts.
  • Background:
    • In response to the imperative of maintaining national unity and safeguarding the sovereignty and integrity of India, the National Integration Council established a Committee on National Integration and Regionalisation.
    • This committee played a crucial role in examining the necessity of imposing reasonable restrictions.
    • Constitution (Sixteenth Amendment) Act, 1963:
      • As a result of the recommendations put forth by the Committee on National Integration and Regionalisation, the Constitution (Sixteenth Amendment) Act, 1963 was enacted.
      • This legislative measure aimed to impose, through law, reasonable restrictions in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India.

Major oil and gas firms have pledged to go carbon neutral by 2050

(General Studies- Paper III)

Source : TH

The President-Designate of the 28th Conference of Parties (COP28), Sultan Al Jaber, announced that several oil and gas companies have pledged to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

  • This commitment was disclosed at a press briefing ahead of the United Nations Climate Summit, signaling a significant shift within the industry.

Key Highlights

  • While the specific names of the companies were not revealed, Al Jaber, who is also the CEO of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), highlighted that more information would be made public in the coming days.
  • This marks a historic development as a substantial number of oil and gas firms are aligning towards net-zero targets by 2050 and net-zero methane targets by 2030, showcasing a previously unprecedented level of responsibility within the industry.
  • International Energy Agency’s Estimate:
  • The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that oil and gas operations contribute to approximately 15% of total energy-related emissions globally, accounting for about 5.1 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Loss and Damage (L&D) Fund:
    • COP28 President-Designate Sultan Al Jaber also announced “critical progress” in making the Loss and Damage (L&D) fund operational.
    • The L&D fund, a key outcome from the previous COP commits developed countries to compensate nations most vulnerable and impacted by climate change.
    • An agreement is in place to host the Loss and Damage fund at the World Bank, although specific details regarding the fund’s corpus and contributors remain undisclosed.
    • The fund aims to address historical responsibilities, with developed countries providing compensation to those facing severe climate impacts.
  • Renewable Energy Targets:
    • 85% of the world’s economies support the COP28 target of tripling global renewable energy capacity.
    • The target involves increasing installed renewable energy capacity from the current 500 gigawatts (GW) to 1,500 GW by 2030.
    • This commitment was formally signed at the G20 summit in New Delhi in September.
  • Climate Finance Framework:
    • The need for a new finance framework is also emphasized addressing the critical issue of climate finance.
    • Climate finance involves the ongoing dispute between developed and developing nations regarding the transfer of substantial funds to support the latter in transitioning away from fossil fuels.

What ‘net-zero targets by 2050’ mean?

  • Net-zero targets by 2050″ refers to a goal set by governments, organizations, or entities to achieve a balance between the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere and the amount removed or offset, effectively resulting in no net increase in emissions by the year 2050.
  • The concept of “net-zero” is a critical component of global efforts to mitigate climate change.
  • Greenhouse gases (GHGs), such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O), trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere and contribute to global warming.
    • Achieving net-zero emissions means that the total amount of greenhouse gases emitted is balanced by an equivalent amount removed or offset, resulting in a net emissions level of zero.

Understanding rat-hole mining

(General Studies- Paper II)

Source : TH

The rescue operation took place in the Silkyara tunnel in Uttarakhand, where 41 workers were trapped for 17 days after a partial collapse.

Key Highlights

  • Two primary scientific methods were employed in the rescue operation: vertical drilling and auger or horizontal drilling.
  • These methods played a crucial role in reaching the trapped workers and facilitating their rescue.
  • Rat-Hole Mining in the Rescue Operation:
    • In an ironic twist, the rescue operation’s last leg involved rat-hole mining, a method once extensively used in Meghalaya for coal mining.
    • Rat-hole mining, banned by the National Green Tribunal in April 2014, involves digging tunnels 3-4 feet deep, making it challenging for workers to crawl in and out.
  • Historical Context of Rat-Hole Mining:
    • Rat-hole mining, named for its small, narrow tunnels, involves two types: side-cutting and box-cutting.
    • Side-cutting is performed on hill slopes, following a coal seam visible from the outside, while box-cutting involves digging a pit and then creating tunnels in various directions.
    • This method had been banned in Meghalaya due to safety and environmental concerns.
  • Description of Rat-Hole Mining Techniques:
    • In rat-hole mining, miners squat and use pickaxes to extract coal from narrow tunnels.
    • Side-cutting involves following coal seams on hill slopes, while box-cutting entails digging a pit and creating horizontal tunnels in various directions, resembling the tentacles of an octopus.
  • Background of Meghalaya’s Mining Landscape:
    • Meghalaya, a Sixth Schedule State with limited government control, operates under the Coal Mines Nationalisation Act of 1973.
    • Landowners in Meghalaya also own the minerals beneath, leading to challenges in regulating mining activities.
    • Coal mining in Meghalaya surged after the state attained statehood in January 1972.
    • Limited advanced drilling machines due to terrain and costs prompted the use of rat-hole mining, with labourers, mainly from Assam, Nepal, and Bangladesh, taking on the associated risks.
  • Hazards of Rat-Hole Mining:
    • Rat-hole mining involves hazards such as poor ventilation causing asphyxiation, mine collapses due to lack of structural support, and flooding.
    • The labourers faced these risks to earn higher wages compared to other available employment opportunities.
    • Unregulated mining led to severe environmental consequences, including land degradation, deforestation, and water pollution with high concentrations of sulphates, iron, and toxic heavy metals.
    • Rivers like Lukha and Myntdu became too acidic to sustain aquatic life.
  • National Green Tribunal (NGT) Ban in 2014:
    • The NGT banned rat-hole mining in Meghalaya in 2014 due to safety concerns, environmental degradation, and the loss of lives.
    • The ban aimed to address cases of flooding during the rainy season leading to fatalities in mining areas.
    • Despite the ban, illegal mining and coal transportation continued in Meghalaya, as noted in interim reports from a one-man committee appointed by the High Court of Meghalaya.
  • Way Forward for Mining in Meghalaya
    • In Meghalaya, coal seams are thin compared to regions like Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, making rat-hole mining economically more viable than opencast mining.
    • Meghalaya possesses an estimated reserve of 576.48 million tonnes of low-ash, high-sulphur coal dating back to the Eocene age (33-56 million years ago).
    • The economic significance of coal mining puts pressure on the state government to find a balance between economic interests and environmental concerns.
    • In May 2023, Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma announced that the Coal Ministry had approved mining leases for four out of 17 prospective license applicants.
    • The approved mining leases are expected to pave the way for the commencement of ‘scientific’ mining, focusing on minimal environmental impact through sustainable and legally compliant extraction procedures.
  • The way forward involves finding a delicate balance between economic interests, the livelihoods of local communities, and environmental sustainability.

About Coal Mines Nationalisation Act of 1973

  • The Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act of 1973 aimed to bring about the nationalization of coal mines and take over the management and control of such mines by the Central Government.
  • The primary objective was to vest ownership and control of coal mines in the government to ensure the orderly development of the coal industry and its efficient operation for the public interest.

Unemployment rate in urban areas has come down: survey

(General Studies- Paper II)

Source : TH

According to the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), the urban unemployment rate in India decreased from 7.2% in July-September 2022 to 6.6% in the same period of 2023.

Key Highlights

  • Unemployment Rates by Gender:
    • The overall unemployment rate for persons aged 15 and above was 6.6%, with a specific breakdown for genders:
    • Male unemployment rate: 6%
    • Female unemployment rate: Decreased from 9.4% (July-September 2022) to 8.6% (July-September 2023).
  • Worker Population Ratio:
    • The worker population ratio, representing the percentage of employed persons in the population, saw an increase in urban areas:
    • Overall ratio increased from 44.5% (July-September 2022) to 46% (July-September 2023).
    • Male category ratio increased from 68.6% to 69.4%.
    • Female category ratio increased from 19.7% to 21.9%.
  • Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) Trends:
    • LFPR is the percentage of persons in the labour force.
    • The report highlights changes in LFPR for persons aged 15 and above:
    • Overall LFPR increased from 47.9% (July-September 2022) to 49.3% (July-September 2023).
    • Male LFPR increased from 73.4% to 73.8%.
    • Female LFPR increased from 21.7% to 24.0%.

About National Sample Survey Office (NSSO)

  • The National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) was set up in 1950 for conducting large-scale sample surveys to collect socio-economic data and statistical information.
  • The National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) and the Central Statistics Office (CSO) were merged to form the National Statistical Office (NSO) in May 2019.
  • The NSO operates under the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MOSPI) of the Indian government.

Sri Lanka reaches agreement with India, Paris Club on debt treatment

(General Studies- Paper II and III)

Source : TH

Sri Lanka has reached an “agreement in principle” with India and the Paris Club group of creditors, including Japan, on a debt treatment plan.

  • This plan is crucial for Sri Lanka to access the next tranche of the International Monetary Fund’s nearly-$3 billion recovery package.

Key Highlights

  • Debt Default and Restructuring:
    • At the height of the economic crisis in the previous year, Sri Lanka chose to default on its nearly $51 billion foreign debt, necessitating comprehensive restructuring for an economic recovery program supported by the IMF.
    • The Official Creditor Committee (OCC) was formed in May 2023 by major lenders in response to Sri Lanka’s request for debt treatment.
    • It is co-chaired by India, Japan, and France, representing the Paris Club.
    • The OCC and Sri Lanka have agreed on the main parameters of a debt treatment consistent with the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) arrangement between Sri Lanka and the IMF.
    • The OCC expressed readiness to formalize the agreement in the coming weeks through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Sri Lanka.
  • Creditor Parity and Transparency:
    • Japan and India, major lenders to Sri Lanka, emphasized the need for creditor parity and transparency.
    • The OCC expects other bilateral creditors, likely referring to China, to share necessary information for evaluating comparability in debt treatment.
    • Sri Lanka is urged to continue engaging with its private creditors, who hold the largest portion of the foreign debt, to swiftly reach an agreement on terms at least as favorable as those offered by the OCC.
  • IMF Package and China’s Role:
    • The IMF had reached a staff-level agreement with Sri Lanka on October 19, 2023, and securing an agreement with official creditors is considered a critical step for the next installment of the IMF package.
    • China, Sri Lanka’s largest bilateral creditor, has assured cooperation in the debt restructuring process, with specifics of China’s participation awaited.

About International Monetary Fund

  • The International Monetary Fund (IMF) was established on December 27, 1945, following the Bretton Woods Conference held in July 1944.
  • The conference aimed to create a framework for economic cooperation and stability after World War II.
  • The headquarters of the IMF is located in Washington, D.C., United States.
  • The IMF is governed by its member countries, each of which is represented by a governor.
    • The Board of Governors, the highest decision-making body, meets annually.
  • Functions and Role:
    • The primary purpose of the IMF is to promote international monetary cooperation and exchange rate stability, facilitating the expansion of international trade and economic growth.
    • The IMF provides financial assistance to member countries facing balance of payments problems, helping them stabilize their economies and restore confidence.
    • The IMF offers technical assistance and training to member countries in areas such as economic policy, fiscal management, monetary policy, and financial regulation to strengthen their capacity for sound economic governance.

About Extended Fund Facility (EFF)

  • The Extended Fund Facility (EFF) is one of the financial assistance programs offered by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to its member countries.
  • The EFF is designed to provide medium-term financial assistance to countries facing protracted balance of payments problems.
  • It is a part of the IMF’s broader framework to support countries in implementing strong and comprehensive economic reforms.