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August 19, 2018

U.N. Security Council agrees lower troop cap for Congo mission | Reuters

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By Michelle Nichols | UNITED NATIONS UNITED NATIONS The U.N. Security Council has agreed a compromise on a reduced troop cap of 16,215 for its peacekeeping mission in Democratic Republic of Congo, the United Nations’ largest and most expensive, after the United States asked for it to be cut by a quarter, diplomats said on Thursday.The 15-member body is due to vote on Friday to renew the mandate for the $1.2 billion operation, known as MONUSCO, amid U.N. warnings that violence is spreading across the central African state ahead of planned elections before the end of 2017.”We have an agreement,” French U.N

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Putin says Western criticism of Russia’s handling of protests political | Reuters

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ARKHANGELSK, Russia President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Western criticism of how Russia had handled anti-government protesters at the weekend was a politically-motivated attempt to interfere in his country’s domestic affairs.Speaking at an Arctic forum in northern Russia, Putin, who is expected to seek a fourth presidential term next year, also said his political opponents were trying to channel public discontent about corruption for their own “mercenary” needs.”We know well that this tool was used at the start of the so-called Arab Spring, what this led to, and what bloodshed happened in the region,” Putin said, in his first comments on the weekend street protests. Thousands of people took part in anti-corruption rallies across Russia on Sunday and dozens of them were arrested or fined.The United States and the European Union called on the Russian authorities to free detainees. Putin condemned their calls on Thursday.”Such appeals to Russia are purely political aimed at applying pressure on the country’s domestic political life,” he said

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Turkey set for close vote on boosting Erdogan’s powers, polls suggest | Reuters

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By Ercan Gurses and Humeyra Pamuk | ANKARA/ISTANBUL ANKARA/ISTANBUL Less than three weeks before Turkey votes on sweeping new powers sought by President Tayyip Erdogan, opinion polls suggest a tight race in a referendum that could bring the biggest change to the system of governance in the country’s modern history.Two senior officials from the ruling AK Party told Reuters that research it commissioned had put support for “yes” at 52 percent in early March, down from 55-56 percent a month earlier, though they expected a row with Europe in recent weeks to have fired up nationalists and bolstered their camp.Turks will vote on April 16 on constitutional changes which would replace their parliamentary system with an executive presidency, a change Erdogan says is needed to avoid the fragile coalition governments of the past and to give Turkey stability as it faces numerous security challenges.Publicly-available polls paint a mixed picture in a race that has sharply divided the country, with Erdogan’s faithful seeing a chance to cement his place as modern Turkey’s most important leader, and his opponents fearing one-man rule.A survey on Wednesday by pollster ORC, seen as close to the government, put “yes” on 55.4 percent in research carried out between March 24-27 across almost half of Turkey’s 81 provinces.By contrast, Murat Gezici, whose Gezici polling company tends to show stronger support for the opposition, told Reuters none of the 16 polls his firm had carried out over the past eight months had put the “yes” vote ahead. He expected a “no” victory of between 51-53 percent, based on his latest numbers.None of the polls suggest the 60 percent level of support which officials in Ankara say Erdogan wants.”Right now we have not seen a result in our polls that did not show the ‘yes’ vote ahead

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India to consider extension of tax benefits to big power projects

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India will put forward a proposal in its cabinet on Friday to give 25 large power projects extra time to take advantage of tax incentives, two government officials said, as a part of efforts to cut power tariffs and help to reduce stress on banks saddled with bad loans.

The proposal will give power producers more time to sign long-term deals and access up to 100 billion rupees ($1.54 billion) in incentives such as a waiver on import duty, income tax as well as export benefits, one of the officials said.

If approved by the cabinet, the move will benefit power projects with a capacity of over 30 gigawatts (GW) and will be worth about 1.5 trillion rupees ($23.12 billion), one of the officials said. Only 11 GW of this capacity has been commissioned so far.

Adding the 20 GW of new capacity could also help India cut bad loans at banks that have been saddled with $133 billion of stressed loans, mainly from the power sector.

Long-term power purchase agreements between power producing companies and distribution companies in India mandate sale of the bulk of the capacity to the distribution companies.

But the high price of imported coal, debt-laden balance sheets of distribution companies and local coal shortages has prevented power producers across the country from signing long-term power purchase agreements in the past.

Heavy debt-fueled investments in power projects and a massive surge in the local supply of raw materials like coal in the past two years have helped power companies to boost output, as India went from being a power deficit country to a net exporter of electricity for the first time.

Having addressed the issue of supply to power projects, the government is now trying to make long-term power purchase agreements attractive, one of the officials said.

Incentives provided to such projects will be proportionate to the capacity of the projects signed, the official said.

($1 = 64.8900 Indian rupees)

(Reporting by Sudarshan Varadhan in New Delhi. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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