Weekly Current Affairs

Welcome to the Endeavor Editors’ Weekly Current Affairs Choicest Blog series. Get a weekly roundup – of news from business, economy, markets, policy, and more. A quick capsule format news summary and update to keep you abreast with all the latest current affairs.

1) International News and Global Economy

Ukraine war: Drone attack targets Russian Black Sea fleet in Crimea

The Russian-appointed regional leader said a Ukrainian drone targeting Russia’s Black Sea fleet in the city of Sevastopol was shot down on Saturday. It follows a string of attacks on Russian forces and installations in the annexed peninsula this month. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s president has welcomed a deal allowing UN inspectors to visit the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, further north. Several drone attacks have been reported in Crimea in recent days, including one on an airbase near Sevastopol on Thursday and another on the harbor on Friday. Earlier in the month, nine Russian jets were destroyed in an attack on the Russian military base at Saky, on Crimea’s western coast. Crimea was invaded and annexed by Russia in 2014, and Ukraine has vowed to retake it. However, the Kyiv government has not confirmed or denied involvement in the recent attacks.

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Inside the war in Ukraine, 6 months since Russia invaded

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21 Warplanes, 5 Naval Ships from China tracked around Taiwan: Report

Taiwan has tracked 21 warplanes and five naval ships from China around the country with eight jets that crossed the Taiwan Strait median line. Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defence said it had tracked 17 aircraft and five ships from China’s military around the country by 5 pm on Friday, reported Taiwan News. The ministry said it tasked Combat Air Patrols (CAP), Navy ships, and air defense missile systems to monitor and respond to the Chinese activities reported by Taiwan News. China has increased its antics in Taiwan Strait post the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the self-governed island. Over the previous day, the military tracked 51 Chinese warplanes over the Taiwan Strait and a Chinese guided-missile destroyer near a zone where Taiwan was testing missiles.

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China’s growth stalls, Europe slips towards recession

Central bankers in China and Turkey bucked a global trend of raising interest rates, with officials easing policy amid signs of an economic slowdown in those countries. China is battling a worsening property downturn as well as sluggish retail sales and rising youth unemployment. In Turkey, where inflation is running at the fastest pace in 24 years, policymakers said they’re only responding to a possible slowdown in manufacturing. Elsewhere, growth is diverging. The euro area and Chile are under heightened recession risk, while strong consumer spending in Japan propelled the country to its pre-pandemic size in the second quarter. Still, Japan’s economy has been slower to recover than other nations, economists said.

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Analyzing the impact Of China’s Economic slowdown on India and the World & more | The Global Eye

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The U.S. and Taiwan to start formal trade talks under a new initiative

The United States and Taiwan on Wednesday agreed to start trade talks under a new initiative, saying they wanted to reach agreements with “economically meaningful outcomes”, in another sign of stepped-up U.S. support for the island. Washington and Taipei unveiled the U.S.-Taiwan Initiative on 21st-Century Trade in June, just days after the Biden administration excluded the Chinese-claimed island from its Asia-focused economic plan designed to counter China’s growing influence. The office of the U.S. Trade Representative said the two sides had “reached consensus on the negotiating mandate” and it was expected that the first round of talks would take place early this autumn. The negotiating mandate and announcement said the United States and Taiwan have set a robust agenda for talks on trade facilitation, good regulatory practices, and removing discriminatory barriers to trade.

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IMF fees on loans to war-torn nations closer to the elimination

The International Monetary Fund is facing pressure to reevaluate how it imposes fees on loans it disperses to needy countries like war-torn Ukraine – which is one of the fund’s biggest borrowers. The move comes as more countries will need to turn to the IMF, as food prices and inflation internationally continues to rise. Surcharges are added fees on loans imposed on countries that are heavily indebted to the IMF. However, the IMF fee system could change through U.S legislation. An amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, otherwise known as the defense spending bill, would suspend IMF surcharges while their effectiveness and burden on indebted countries are studied. That was passed by the US House in July. The Senate is expected to vote on its defense bill in September. A representative of the Senate Armed Services Committee said an amendment may be offered in the next few weeks or even on the Senate floor.

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Portugal wildfires: State of alert begins amid the third heatwave

Portugal has entered a state of alert, with temperatures expected to reach 38C (100.4F) and strong winds predicted in the coming days. The messages warned those in rural areas now to start any form of fire. The government has also restricted access to forests and banned the use of machinery to avoid sparks. The state of alert came into force at midnight on Sunday and will last until Tuesday. Some 92,000 hectares of land have already burned this year, according to government estimates, with heatwaves and drought producing tinder-like conditions. In neighboring Spain, a wildfire in the eastern province of Valencia is burning out of control and has become one of the country’s biggest fires of the year. On Friday, as it entered its fifth day, 35 planes were sent to try and bring it under control. Spain has been hit harder than any other European country by forest fires this year, according to the European Commission’s Copernicus Earth observation program. This year, wildfires in Spain have burned four times more land than they did during the last decade.

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2) India

Nepal clears India to develop $2.4 billion hydropower projects left by China

Nepal has formally awarded the much-touted West Seti Hydropower Project and Seti River Project in western Nepal to India through a negotiation window, nearly four years after China withdrew from it. Investment Board Nepal on Thursday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with India’s state-owned NHPC Limited to develop the two projects—West Seti and Seti River (SR6)—joint storage projects totaling 1200MW. Thursday’s development may be seen as an attempt to mend soured relations with India by Sher Bahadur Deuba after his election as prime minister in July last year. On the occasion, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba said the agreement would serve as an important instrument in enhancing Nepal-India energy cooperation.

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Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina gives green signal for CEPA with India

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has given the green signal to begin formal negotiations for signing a comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA) with India which can also boost trade and investments in eastern and north-eastern India in a big way. This will be Dhaka’s first trade pact with any country, and it has given preference to India despite requests from China and Japan to have free-trade agreements, ET has learned. Pacts with Japan and China are still at an assessment stage. The CEPA will figure high on the agenda during Hasina’s proposed visit here on September 6-7.

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Shipping ministry proposes an amendment to 110-year-old Indian Ports Act

The Shipping Ministry has proposed establishing a national council for structured growth and development of the port sector in the draft Indian Ports Bill. The proposed bill seeks to amend The Indian Ports Act, 1908 with the intent of empowering and establishing State Maritime Boards. The changes are targeted toward effective administration, control, and management of non-major ports in India. These boards will also provide adjudicatory mechanisms for redressal of port-related disputes. An official statement said the focus is on the prevention and containment of pollution at ports, ensuring compliance with the country’s obligation under the maritime treaties and international instruments. The bill also proposes to promote integrated planning between States inter-se and Centre-States through a consultative and recommendatory framework.

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Centre bars Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka among 13 states from buying, and selling electricity on power exchanges

The Union government banned dozens of state governments from buying or selling electricity on power exchanges until they pay their current bills from power plants, giving a strong message that they will have to pay the accumulated dues and clear regular bills on time. More importantly, these 13 states, including some big ones such as Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Rajasthan, could see large-scale power outages if they do not quickly clear the outstanding dues. It is important to mention in this context that these states jointly owe around Rs 5,100 crore in current dues to power generators. Further, the power distribution utilities have accumulated dues of more than Rs 1 lakh crore, which is being settled as per a plan formulated by the Centre. Worth mentioning here is that this is the first time the Centre has taken such a stringent measure on a broad scale to ensure payment to power producers. Earlier, the Centre put such limitations on one or two defaulting states and withdrew it quickly.

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Power Exchange trading ban: 6 out of 13 states clear their dues, now allowed to participate

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3) Economy

Inflation peaked in India in April 2022, RBI says

The Reserve Bank of India in its August bulletin noted that inflation in July 2022 eased by 30 basis points from June 2022 and 60 basis points from the average of 7.3% for Q1 FY23, thereby validating its hypothesis that the retail inflation peaked in April in India. However, the central bank said that imported inflation pressure points remain the overarching risk, followed by pending pass-through of input costs if producers regain pricing power and wages. June was the sixth consecutive month when the headline CPI inflation remained at or above the upper tolerance level of 6%. The bulletin also highlights the fact that India is becoming a preferred destination for portfolio flows. Equity and debt segments have recorded a net inflow of US$ 4.4 billion and 0.3 billion respectively until August 12. The market value of portfolio investments in India stood at US$ 623.8 billion on August 12.

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India’s economic engine losing steam, and most activity indicators show weak sequential performance

High-frequency indicators for the month of July suggest that India’s economic activity is losing steam, with most showing a decline on-month basis, Bank of America (BofA) said. “High-frequency indicators faltered in July vs June. For most activity indicators sequential performance was below median,” the report said. Economists at BofA have also highlighted that the covid-19 cases in the country have been hovering at 15,000 levels while daily deaths are below 50. On-year growth continued to do well in July, but sequential growth for most indicators fell short of the median month-on-month typical of July.

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4) Markets, Banking, and Finance

Uni suspends card services after RBI’s digital lending norms hint at tighter scrutiny against PPI lending

Accel-backed credit and payments fintech startup Uni Cards has temporarily suspended its active cards as the RBI (Reserve Bank of India) is tightening scrutiny over digital lending. “With the recent RBI notification around digital lending, we have decided to proactively suspend card services on our products – the Uni Pay 1/3rd Card and the Uni Pay 1/2 Card. This process will begin in phases for our customers starting today and will be concluded by Monday, 22nd August 2022,” Uni said in a statement on August 19. Uni said that its customers will continue to have access to their credit line through Uni Cash. Uni Cash is a product that transfers users’ credit lines directly to their bank accounts. The company said that it is extending a zero-charge partial limit on Uni Cash till September 21 this year as many of its customers rely on its credit lines.

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Explained: What are RBI’s new norms for digital lending in India?

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has instituted a framework to regulate digital lending. Its new regulations are based on recommendations from a working group set up in January 2021 on ‘Digital lending including lending through online platforms and mobile apps’ (WGDL). All loan disbursals and repayments are to be executed between the bank accounts of the borrower and the entity. This eliminates the presence of a nodal pass-through or pool account of the LSP. Lenders must inform the borrower about all the fees, charges, and the annual percentage rate (APR) in a standardized format. Charges payable to LSPs in the credit intermediation process will be paid directly by the bank and not the borrower. No automatic increase in credit limit can be made without the explicit consent of the borrower. The RBI has mandated these regulations in order to check mis-selling to customers, unethical business conduct, exorbitant interest rates, and excessive engagement of third parties in digital lending transactions.

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PharmEasy Withdraws DRHP, Mulls Fundraise Via ‘Rights Issue’

Online pharmacy giant PharmEasy has shelved plans for its initial public offering (IPO) for the time being and has withdrawn the draft red herring prospectus (DRHP) it filed with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) last year, sources told Inc42. They cited valuation mismatch and market volatility as the reason behind the deferment of IPO. In a notice to its shareholders, the e-pharmacy unicorn also said that it is mulling fundraising via ‘rights issue’ to fuel its ‘immediate expansion and growth plans. “The rights issue will be open for a period of 30 days, starting from on or around the first week of September,” PharmEasy said. The startup plans to raise the funds through the issuance of compulsorily convertible preference shares (CCPS) which would be priced at around INR 100 per share.

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5) Business

Adani Power to acquire DB Power for Rs 7,017 crore

Adani Power announced on August 19 that it will acquire DB Power Limited, which owns and operates a running 2×600 MW thermal power plant at District Janjgir Champa in Chhattisgarh, for Rs 7,017 crore. The acquisition is expected to help the company expand its offerings and operations in the thermal power sector in Chhattisgarh. Adani Power has informed the stock exchanges that the acquisition does not fall within related party transactions and the promoter/ promoter group has no interest in DB Power. Notably, the proposed transaction is subject to receipt of approval from the Competition Commission of India and any other approvals as may be identified following the due diligence exercise to be conducted with respect to DPPL and DB Power.

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KKR exits Max Healthcare with near-5x gains

Global private equity major Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co LP (KKR) sold its entire investments in the hospital chain Max Healthcare for a near five-fold payback in two-and-a-half years. On Tuesday, KKR’s affiliate Kayak Investments sold the remaining 27.5% stake, or 260 million shares in Max Healthcare, to raise about ?9,186 crores, according to BSE bulk deal data. This is the largest single-block deal ever done by any private equity firm in India. KKR, which had bought shares in December 2018 at ?80 apiece, sold the stock at an average price of ?353 a share on Tuesday. The government of Singapore and the Monetary Authority of Singapore, which owned a 1.13% stake in the company, bought 62.5 million shares worth ?2,206 crores. US-based Capital Group acquired 91.9 million shares worth ?3,245 crores. Capital Group currently owns a 3.72% stake in Max Healthcare.

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6) Technology

IRCTC to drop the plan to monetize user data following criticism: Report

The Indian Railways Catering & Tourism Corporation Limited (IRCTC) is likely to reverse its decision and scrap its earlier plan to monetize users’ data to earn additional revenue, news agency PTI reported quoting sources. The development comes amid criticism and data privacy concerns raised around IRCTC taking such a step. Earlier this week, IRCTC floated a tender to hire a consultant for monetizing its passenger, freight, and parcel business data as it envisaged generating a potential revenue of INR 1,000 Cr. However, in the absence of a data protection law in the country, the company’s move faced a lot of criticism and raised concerns. Earlier, this month, the government withdrew the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2021, which was in the making for years. The Bill covered data protection, along with other areas like cybersecurity, national data governance policy, data management, and safety. While the government is planning to introduce a new Bill in the next Parliament session, experts believe that like the earlier Bill, it would have to go through a long process which would further increase the wait for a robust data protection law in the country.

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Vijay Shekhar Sharma to stay on as Paytm MD & CEO; 99.67% of Shareholders vote in favor

Vijay Shekhar Sharma won the approval of the shareholders to take the reins of the listed fintech giant Paytm after his reappointment as the company’s MD and CEO for the next five years back in May this year. According to Paytm’s filings with the Bombay Stock Exchange, which showed the results of the resolutions tabled at the AGM concluded on Friday (August 19), shareholders voted favorably for both Sharma’s reappointment and his remuneration. In the run-up to the AGM, multiple proxy advisory firms opposed Sharma’s reappointment at the helm of Paytm and his remuneration.

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7) Politics

BJP rejigs Parliamentary board: B S Yediyurappa is in, Nitin Gadkari is out

BJP on Wednesday announced a new Central Parliamentary Board. The board with 11 members includes J P Nadda, Narendra Modi, Rajnath Singh, Amit Shah, and B L Santhosh. Union Minister Nitin Gadkari and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Chouhan have been dropped from the board. Sarbananda Sonowal, B S Yediyurappa, K Laxman, Iqbal Singh Lalpura, Satyanarayan Jatiya, Sudha Yadav are the new additions. The move is an attempt by the party to make the parliamentary board more socially and regionally representative.

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BJP recasts apex parliamentary board, surprises as Shivraj, Gadkari ousted & Yogi, Himanta excluded

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Anand Sharma quits as chairman of the Steering Committee of Himachal Congress

In a jolt to the Congress ahead of assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh, its senior leader Anand Sharma on Sunday resigned from the chairmanship of the party’s steering committee for the state. Sharma, in a letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, is learned to have said that his self-respect is “non-negotiable” and he has resigned from the post, sources said. His resignation comes soon after another leader of the G23 grouping Ghulam Nabi Azad resigned as chairman of the campaign committee in Jammu and Kashmir a few days ago. Sharma has told the Congress chief that he has been ignored in the consultation process. However, he told Gandhi that he will continue to campaign for the party candidates in the state.

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Over 6,000 Signatories urge SC to revoke an early release of convicts in Bilkis Bano case

Around 6,000 signatories, including activists, eminent writers, historians, filmmakers, journalists, and former bureaucrats, on Thursday, August 18 urged the Supreme Court to revoke the early release of 11 rapists in the Bilkis Bano case. As per the guidelines, special remission was to be granted to prisoners on August 15, 2022, January 26, 2023 (Republic Day), and August 15, 2023. However, the guidelines made it clear that persons sentenced to life imprisonment and rape convicts were not entitled to be prematurely released. Therefore, several experts have questioned whether the Gujarat government violated the central guideline by releasing the convicts in the Bilkis Bano case.

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8) Sports

Jhulan Goswami to retire from International Cricket after ODI Series against England

India’s veteran fast bowler Jhulan Goswami has stamped her decision to retire from international cricket at Lord’s, after the third and final ODI of the England tour on September 24. She will bid adieu to the game as the highest wicket-taker in women’s internationals, with 352 wickets across formats. Goswami, 39, was named in India’s squad for the three ODIs in England on Friday. Although she was not a part of the team in the preceding 50-over series in Sri Lanka in July. It is quite evident that the team management had spoken to Goswami about looking to the future and welcoming younger bowlers who can represent the team across formats.

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Zimbabwe vs India, 3rd ODI: Chance for India to get morale-boosting clean sweep before Asia Cup

India and Zimbabwe are set to lock horns in the third match of the three-match ODI series on Monday, August 22 at Harare Sports Club. India, captained by KL Rahul, has already taken an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series. On Saturday, August 20, the Men in Blue defeated Regis Chakabva’s men by five wickets to seal the fate of the series. India has won 14 ODIs against Zimbabwe in a row and it won’t be surprising if they go ahead with a 3-0 series victory. Moreover, the win will also keep them in good stead ahead of the Asia Cup in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

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9) Opinion

Explained: What is GMP and why has its absence in the new Drugs, Medical Devices, and Cosmetic bill sparked a debate?

The Union Health Ministry recently published a new draft bill to replace the antiquated Drugs and Cosmetics Act of 1940. This draft has sparked a debate as critics say that the government has not just failed to address the issues related to the good manufacturing practices (GMP) in the pharma industry but also not mentioned anything about it in the bill. In the earlier Act, the Indian GMP system did not mention several points like considering products adulterated if the GMP was not followed, separate GMP for biological products, the definition of investigational drugs, and the inclusion of experimented drugs in GMP, etc. It also left terms such as ‘component’, ‘non-fiber’, ‘fiber’, ‘Quality Control Unit’, ‘in process material’, ‘acceptance criteria’, ‘medical feed’, ‘medical premix’, ‘representative sample’ and many others undefined. According to FDA documents, non-compliance with GMP norms could attract stringent regulatory actions, whereas, in India, similar action would not have been classified as ‘adulterated’. In the worst-case scenario, the license of the company could be canceled.

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New digital lending norms to ring in changes in operating model of NBFCs say experts

The new digital lending norms rolled out by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) will streamline the functioning of the microfinance industry and bring in changes in the operating model, experts told Moneycontrol. But it has failed to address the issue that has been created by the apps which don’t have a regulated entity backing them, say the experts. On August 10, RBI published a list of guidelines to regulate digital lending with a view to protect borrowers and mitigate the concerns arising from the growing number of frauds and unlawful activities within the sector. The new norms will definitely benefit customers as they will be protected from cheating, overleveraging, usurious interest rates leading to debt traps, etc, say experts. The fact sheet is provided to the borrowers will give them a clear understanding of the nature of the loan. “With these new rules, customers will receive the annual percentage rate, which will help them recognize all the charges. It will also guarantee the safety of their data and protect them from being blindsided by the increase in interest rates. The cooling-off period will also be beneficial to the borrowers as it will stop the levy of any penalty,” said HP Singh, Chairman, and Managing Director, Satin Creditcare Network Limited, an NBFC. As per the experts, digital lending players are bought at par with MFIs via a vis the code of conduct and customer protection practices.

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Chinese slowdown brightens prospects for Indian manufacturing: Experts

With China facing an economic slowdown on account of domestic and geo-political reasons, India needs to spruce its manufacturing sector to attract investment and emerge as an alternative global sourcing hub, said experts. The Chinese economic growth is expected to moderate to 3.5 percent this year due to various reasons, including disturbances in the property sector and frequent Covid-induced lockdowns. Besides, the growing tension between the US and China over Taiwan may escalate into geopolitical instability adversely impacting the sourcing of inputs and equipment from the world’s second-largest economy. The slowdown in China provides opportunities for India to increase its share in the global value chain, Aditya Sood, Portfolio Manager – InCred PMS, said. Various initiatives, including the Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme taken by the government, would help in increasing exports of goods, he said.

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Quick Commerce’s 10-Minute Delivery hits a dead end

Even when the craze for 10-minute deliveries and quick commerce one-upmanship was at its peak in late 2021 and early 2022, startups in this space could not answer one fundamental question: was it really needed? And as predicted many months ago, including us, the hype has died down. Swiggy, Zepto, Dunzo, Blinkit & Co are actually embracing the idea that delivery time is not the only way to win the battle. Now the tune has changed towards inventory, private labels, and delivery efficiency. Zepto was the first startup to promise 10-minute delivery which then prompted the likes of Blinkit, Swiggy, and Dunzo to join the race. New startups such as Warpli, founded by Grofers (Blinkit) cofounder Saurabh Kumar, have had to take a breather from this race, while Ola has pulled out quickly after joining the bandwagon. Quick commerce shutdowns have made headlines across the US, Europe, and Asia, and soon this bitter reality might hit Indian startups too. Ten-minute deliveries were never the reality. Even in the initial days, only a fraction of orders would actually be delivered in that promised time, with most other orders taking twice as long.

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As Modi Govt lets non-natives vote in Kashmir, the significance of the move, fears & reality

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10) Weekly special

Blockchain data analytics startup Covalent wants to be ‘the Google of blockchain’

Built by a team of blockchain and database engineers, financial analysts, and data scientists, Canada-based startup Covalent brings transparency and visibility to billions of data points on assets across blockchain networks. Co-founder and CEO Ganesh Swamy explains how in this interaction with YourStory Founder and CEO Shradha Sharma.

Watch video here.

With that, we come to the end of our Weekly Current Affairs August 2022 -Week 3. We hope you have liked it. Write your feedback in the comments below and let us know if there is anything else you would like us to cover.

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