- European Free Trade Association (EFTA)
- Atal Pension Yojana
Focus: GS II: International Relations
Why in News?
India and the four-nation bloc EFTA recently discussed ways to resume negotiations for a free trade agreement with a view to strengthening economic ties between the two regions.
European Free Trade Association (EFTA)
Establishment and Objectives:
- EFTA is an intergovernmental organization created by the Stockholm Convention in 1960.
- The main objective of EFTA is to promote free trade and economic integration among its member countries within Europe and globally.
Membership and Free Trade Agreements:
- EFTA currently has four member countries: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.
- The EFTA member states have developed one of the largest networks of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) that covers over 60 countries and territories, including the European Union (EU).
Customs Union and Governance Structure:
- Unlike the EU, EFTA is not a customs union, which means that each EFTA member state can set its own customs tariffs and negotiate foreign trade policies independently.
- The highest governing body of EFTA is the EFTA Council, which meets eight times a year at the ambassadorial level and twice a year at the ministerial level.
- The EFTA Secretariat is based in Geneva and assists the EFTA Council in managing the relationships between member states and negotiating and operating FTAs.
- The EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) monitors compliance with European Economic Area (EEA) rules in Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway.
- The EFTA Court, located in Luxembourg, has the authority to settle internal and external disputes related to the implementation, application, or interpretation of the EEA agreement.
European Economic Area (EEA)
- The EEA includes the Member States of the European Union (EU) and three countries of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA): Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway. Switzerland is not a member of the EEA.
- The Agreement on the EEA became effective on 1 January 1994.
- The primary objective of the EEA is to strengthen trade and economic relations among its member countries.
Pillars of the Internal Market:
- The EEA focuses on four fundamental pillars of the internal market: the free movement of goods, people, services, and capital.
Focus: GS-II Social Justice
Why in News?
As per information received from Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA), 4,31,86,423 subscribers have been enrolled under Atal Pension Yojana (APY)
About Atal Pension Yojana (APY)
- APY was launched on 9th May 2015 with an objective of delivering old age income security, particularly to the workers in the unorganised sector.
- APY envisages Government providing guarantee of minimum pension after 60 years of age.
- The scheme even after garnering 2.23 crores workers under the ambit of pension, still remains unequivocally relevant for addressing the challenges of rapidly increasing aging population of India.
- The scheme has been implemented comprehensively across the country covering all states and Union Territories with male to female subscription ratio of 57:43.
- APY can be subscribed by Any Indian citizen in the age group of 18-40 years having a bank account and its uniqueness is attributable to three distinctive benefits.
- It provides a minimum guaranteed pension ranging from Rs 1000 to Rs 5000 on attaining 60 years of age.
- The amount of pension is guaranteed for lifetime to spouse on death of the subscriber and lastly, in the event of death of both the subscriber and the spouse, entire pension corpus is paid to the nominee.
Future of APY
Going forward there is still the humongous task of increasing the pension coverage, as only five per cent of the eligible population has been covered under APY till date.
About PFRDA and NPS
- Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) is the Statutory Body established by the PFRDA Act, 2014.
- PFRDA was established to regulate, promote and ensure orderly growth of the National Pension System (NPS) and pension schemes to which this Act applies.
- National Pension System is a defined contributory pension introduced by Government of India.
- NPS was extended to all Indian citizens (resident/non-resident/overseas) on a voluntary basis and to corporates for its employees on 29 October 2015 with the Reserve Bank of India allowing Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) to subscribe to NPS.