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

Pakistan, IMF at odds over Rs 900 billion fiscal gap

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Government of Pakistan are at a stalemate over the Rs 900 billion fiscal gap, a major stumbling block in striking a staff-level agreement reported Geo News. IMF has worked out a larger gap of approximately Rs 900 billion, equivalent to 1 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). IMF is asking to jack up the GST rate by 1 percent from 17 to 18 percent or impose 17 percent GST on Petroleum, Oil, and Lubricants (POL) products, reported Geo News. Meanwhile, Pakistan is contesting the fiscal gap in achieving the primary deficit. Pakistani authorities have asked the IMF to incorporate a flow of reduction under the revised Circular Debt Management Plan (CDMP) and reduce the amount of required additional subsidy of Rs 605 billion against the earlier target of Rs 687 billion. Therefore, the fiscal gap stood in the range of Rs 400 to Rs 450 billion.

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Pakistan fails to seal IMF deal

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BOE brings peak UK interest rate into view with a hike to 4%

The Bank of England signaled the fastest pace of interest-rate hikes in three decades might be drawing to a close after it raised its benchmark lending rate a half point. Policymakers led by Governor Andrew Bailey voted 7-2 to raise the benchmark lending rate to 4%, the highest since 2008. The majority said strong pay growth and an ongoing shortage of workers were driving price pressures in the economy. But the BOE’s latest forecasts showed that inflation is likely to fall sharply this year to around 4% from a four-decade high of 11.1% last October, and it could be below the 2% target in 2024. Those findings suggest that policymakers may not need to raise rates much more, although Bailey maintained the risks are tilted toward the upside.

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Russia announces cut in oil production in response to western price cap

Russia has announced that it will reduce its oil production by 500,000 barrels per day starting next month in response to the price cap imposed by Western countries. The Group of Seven major democracies has imposed a $60-per-barrel price cap on Russian oil shipped to non-Western countries, which is enforced by barring Western companies that control shipping and insurance services from moving oil priced above the limit. The move by the G7 countries is aimed at keeping oil flowing to the world to prevent price spikes and limit Russia’s financial gains, which can be used to fund its military campaign against Ukraine. The cap has had a significant impact on Russian oil exports, with countries such as India, Turkey, and China pushing for substantial discounts on Russian oil due to the lower demand for crude and the EU embargo on most Russian oil.

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Oil prices jump as Russia announces production cuts

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2) India

India finds 5.9 million tonnes of lithium deposits in Jammu and Kashmir

The Union Government on Thursday said that 5.9 million tonnes of lithium reserves had been found for the first time in the country in Jammu and Kashmir. The Union Government on Thursday said that 5.9 million tonnes of lithium reserves had been found for the first time in the country in Jammu and Kashmir. Lithium is a non-ferrous metal and is one of the key components in EV batteries. “Geological Survey of India, for the first time, established Lithium inferred resources (G3) of 5.9 million tonnes in the Salal-Haimana area of the Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir,” the Ministry of Mines said on Thursday. It further that 51 mineral blocks including Lithium and Gold were handed over to respective state governments.

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India finds Lithium reserves in Jammu & Kashmir

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India ramps up aid to Turkey & Syria; Army sends a 30-bed field hospital

With the death toll from the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria crossing over 5000 people, India has ramped up its aid to the two tremor-hit countries. The Army Tuesday dispatched an army field hospital – which is a mobile medical unit – along with 99 soldiers and equipment, including oxygen generating plants, to Turkey’s capital Ankara. This is after a C-17 of the Indian Air Force picked up 100 members of the National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) and excavation equipment, besides food and medical supplies, and flew off to Turkey early Tuesday morning. Also included in the NDRF contingent are specialized search-and-rescue canines – a labrador and a cocker spaniel. India is also sending a C-130J aircraft full of medical supplies to the Syrian capital, Damascus, sources said.

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India and IEA to work together to enhance global energy security, stability, sustainability

The government of India and the International Energy Agency (IEA) will work together to strengthen cooperation in the field of data and research and enhance global energy security, stability, and sustainability. The Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell (PPAC), under the ministry of petroleum and natural gas (MoPNG), has signed a statement of intent (SoI) with IEA. This partnership will lead to an extensive exchange of knowledge. The SoI was signed on Wednesday by P Manoj Kumar, Director-General, PPAC, and Fatih Birol, Executive Director, IEA, during the ongoing India Energy Week at the Bangalore International Exhibition Centre.

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ISRO confirms second SSLV launch for Feb 10

The second demonstrator launch mission of the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro)’s Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) has been confirmed for February 10. The second launch comes after the first attempt to launch India’s central space agency’s first ‘small’ rocket launcher ended in partial failure on August 9, with the SSLV rocket failing to inject its satellite payload into its intended orbits. In its second attempt, SSLV will carry three satellites to a circular orbit 450km above Earth, Isro confirmed in a statement. The three satellites in SSLV’s payload include Earth Observation Satellite (EOS)-07, which is an imaging, observation, and reconnaissance satellite built and operated by Isro itself; Janus-1, a private satellite belonging to US-based satellite software developer Antaris; and AzaadiSAT — a student satellite built by 750 girl students, and supported by Space Kidz India.

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Nitin Gadkari says India will get 32 new Green Express Highways at BT Budget Roundtable

The India Today Group successfully organized the India Today Budget Round Table 2023 on Monday, 6th February, in the national capital. The event, wherein the Union Budget 2023 was critically analyzed, kicked off at 12 PM with the first session, ‘The Road to Prosperity,’ with the speaker being Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister of Road, Transport, and Highways. On asked as to how will the additional allocation to his ministry be used, Gadkari said that while the Bharatmala 1 project is under process, the approval for Bharatmala 2 is pending with the cabinet. He mentioned that the aim is to make green express highways.

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3) Economy

RBI MPC meet highlights: Das & Co’s tweaks in repo rate, GDP and inflation forecasts, and more

The Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) rate-setting panel, with a 4:2 majority, has opted to increase the repo rate by 25 bps, Governor Shaktikanta Das announced on Wednesday. The retail inflation outlook for the ongoing fiscal is at 6.5%, while GDP growth for FY24 is seen at 6.4%. The key benchmark rate has now been hiked for the sixth consecutive time. Wednesday’s MPC meeting is the last one for this fiscal. The repo rate is the rate at which the RBI lends to the banks. Announcing the hike, RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das said the MPC decided to hike the policy rate by 25 bps to 6.5 percent. Since May last year, the RBI has increased the short-term lending rate by 225 basis points to contain inflation, mostly driven by external factors, especially global supply chain disruption following the Russia-Ukraine war outbreak.

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4) Markets, Banking, and Finance

MSCI to announce changes to free float status of some Adani stocks

Index provider MSCI said on Thursday it had determined that some Adani securities should no longer be designated as free float after market participants raised concerns about the eligibility of the Indian conglomerate’s companies for some of its indexes. Changes for Adani securities associated with its MSCI Global Investable Market Indexes are due to be announced later on Thursday as part of its regular review for February, it added. “MSCI has determined that the characteristics of certain investors have sufficient uncertainty that they should no longer be designated as free float pursuant to our methodology,” it said in a statement.

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5) Business

Global turnover in competition amendment bill will have implications: Former CCI chairman

The government has introduced the Competition Amendment bill with changes that could have massive implications for big tech companies. The bill was introduced in Lok Sabha after factoring in recommendations of the parliament committee on finance. The bill proposes to levy a penalty on global turnover instead of domestic turnover in case of violations. The government plans to move the bill for discussion and passage in this session. Speaking to CNBC-TV18, Dhanendra Kumar former CCI Chairman highlighted that the consideration of global turnover will have implications on digital enterprises, especially big tech companies. In a digital economy that is interconnected globally, transactions often go beyond domestic frontiers, making it important to take global turnovers into account.

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Zomato rebrands 10-minute food delivery service; says Gold programme has 9 lakh+ signups

Zomato said it will rebrand its 10-minute food-delivery service, Instant, to Zomato Everyday, to be launched in a few weeks. The service will focus on delivering “home-style cooked meals at affordable prices,” Founder and CEO Deepinder Goyal said in the company’s third-quarter earnings statement. Through select finishing stations, Zomato said it would maintain bestseller items of various restaurants based on demand predictability and hyperlocal preferences. Zomato believes the Gold programme will be a significant growth lever in the upcoming quarters. The feature comes with an ‘on-time guarantee’ which assures customers a cashback of Rs 100 if the order isn’t delivered in time.

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6) Technology

Microsoft to invest 10 billion in OpenAI as tech race heats up

Microsoft said Monday that it is making a “multiyear, multimillion-dollar” investment in OpenAI, the San Francisco artificial intelligence lab behind experimental online chatbot ChatGPT. The companies did not disclose the specific financial terms of the deal, but a person familiar with the matter said Microsoft will invest $10 billion in OpenAI. Microsoft had already invested more than $3 billion in OpenAI, and the new deal is a clear indication of the importance of OpenAI’s technology to the future of Microsoft and its competition with other big tech companies like Google, Meta, and Apple. The fruit of more than a decade of research inside companies like OpenAI, Google, and Meta, these technologies are poised to remake everything from online search engines like Google Search and Microsoft Bing to photo and graphics editors like Photoshop.

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Google CEO Sundar Pichai introduces Chat-GPT rival Bard; here’s what it can do

ChatGPT was introduced in the month of November last year. Since then, OpenAI has revealed the extraordinary capabilities of ChatGPT and its impact on daily lives. Google has been working on AI for the past six years and it has finally revealed Bard. In a blog post, Google CEO Sundar Pichai explained who is Bard and some of its basic functionality. Bard is an experimental conversational AI service. Powered by the company’s Language Model for Dialogue Applications (LaMDA). What separates Bard from ChatGPT is that it will be able to derive information from the web. Pichai explained that Bard is designed to provide high-quality responses by drawing information from the web. It can help people explain complex topics, such as discoveries from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, to a 9-year-old, or learn about the best football players and get training drills to build skills. Google is releasing Bard initially with a lightweight model version of LaMDA, which requires less computing power, making it easier to scale to more users and get more feedback. The company plans to combine external feedback with its internal testing to enhance Bard’s responses and to ensure higher ‘quality, safety and groundedness in real-world information’.

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7) Politics

No news

8) Sports

Russia stripped of hosting swim worlds, moved to Singapore

Russia was stripped of hosting the 2025 swimming world championships on Thursday and Singapore was awarded the event by the governing body of the sport. Russia had originally been chosen in 2019 to host the event in Kazan, which also held the championships in 2015. The International Olympic Committee has asked the governing bodies of sports not to stage events in Russia following the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

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9) Opinion

Pakistan at beginning of worst economic crisis since country’s formation: Report

Pakistan is currently at the beginning of the worst economic crisis since the country’s formation in 1947, Geo-politik reported. According to Geo-politik, Pakistan has taken fourteen loans from the IMF thus far, but ironically none of them has ever been completed. This, therefore, raises serious questions about the capacity and capability of the Pakistani state to get out of this dead-end. Pakistan may face a disaster like never before unless China or Saudi Arabia bail out the country. The Pakistani rupee has plummeted to PKR 250 against the dollar, and the currency had to forego 12 percent of its value. The country’s government has raised the price of petrol and diesel by Pak Rs 35 per liter.

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Is a Nuclear War Imminent? An Analysis of Tensions Between the Koreas and Russia

The world is facing a growing nuclear threat from North Korea, South Korea, and Russia. With tensions rising between these countries and the rest of the international community, the prospect of a catastrophic nuclear conflict looms on the horizon. The weapons of mass destruction possessed by these nations have the potential to destroy entire cities, threaten the stability of the region, and even trigger a global war. Is the risk of a nuclear conflict no longer just a theoretical concern, but a very real possibility?

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How has Budget 2023 proved India to be the global leader in millet?

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman commented on India’s goal to promote millets both domestically and abroad while presenting the first Amrut Kaal budget. The year 2023 has been designated as the International Year of Millets, and FM noted that India cultivates a variety of Shree Anna grains, including Jowar, Raagi, Bajra, Ramdana, Cheena, and Saama. India is the world’s largest producer and second-largest exporter of millets, and it to keep a serious consideration to our diet, FM announced that the Indian Institute of Millet Research in Hyderabad will be transformed into a center of excellence.

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Why OpenAI’s ChatGPT Is Such A Big Deal

OpenAI, which Elon Musk helped to co-found back in 2015, is the San Francisco-based startup that created ChatGPT. The company opened ChatGPT up for public testing in November 2022. In under a week, the artificial intelligence model amassed over a million users, according to OpenAI’s CEO, Sam Altman. By the end of January, ChatGPT was averaging about 13 million visitors per day. Users have had ChatGPT write everything from essays to lyrics and even correct computer code. ChatGPT is part of a growing field of AI known as generative AI, which allows users to create brand-new content including videos, music, and text. But generative AI still faces a number of challenges, such as developing content that is inaccurate, biased, or inappropriate. Now enterprises and the public are wondering what wide access to AI will mean for businesses and society.

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Is it time for RBI to pause rate hikes?

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10) Weekly special

ET India Rising: Roadmap for making India a developed nation by 2047

At ET India Rising, NITI Aayog CEO Parameswaran Iyer sketches the roadmap to Amrit Kaal, or India@100, outlining the action agenda for fuelling India’s growth story and catapulting it into a developed nation by 2047.

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11) Did you know?

What is OpenAI’s chatbot, and what is it used for?

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) in emerging technologies continues to advance rapidly. San Francisco-based OpenAI made its latest creation, the ChatGPT chatbot, available for free public testing on November 30. A chatbot is a software application designed to mimic human-like conversations based on user prompts. The ChatGPT webpage is simple and includes an area for the results to populate and a text box at the bottom of the page for users to type inquiries. We started with questions; however, OpenAI recommends inputting a statement for the best possible result.

For details, visit here.

With that, we come to the end of our Weekly Current Affairs February 2023 -Week 2. 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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