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

Putin declares victory in Mariupol as 2,439 Ukrainians surrender | What it means for Russia

The 3-month long battle to capture Ukraine’s port city of Mariupol has now come to an end. Russia has taken full control of the city by declaring victory at the embattled Azovstal steel plant. Major General Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for the Russian Ministry of Defence announced that the last group of 531 Ukrainian troops have surrendered. The statement comes after Lieutenant Colonel Denys Prokopenko, the Ukrainian commander of the Azov Regiment, had earlier given the order to cease defending Mariupol city. He had also released a short video message from inside the Azovstal steel plant, asserting that the top military leadership of the war-torn nation had issued an order to preserve the garrison soldiers’ life and health and stop defending the city.

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Ukraine rules out ceasefire as Russia intensifies offensive in Donbas

Ukraine ruled out a ceasefire or concessions to Moscow while Russia intensified an offensive in the eastern Donbas region and stopped sending gas to Finland in its latest salvo in response to Western sanctions and its deepening international isolation. After ending weeks of resistance by the last Ukrainian fighters in the strategic southeastern port of Mariupol, Russia is waging a major offensive in Luhansk, one of two provinces in Donbas. Russian-backed separatists already controlled swathes of Luhansk and the neighboring Donetsk provinces before Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, but Moscow wants to seize the last remaining Ukrainian-held territory in the region. The end of fighting in Mariupol, the biggest city Russia has captured, gives Russian President Vladimir Putin a rare victory after a series of setbacks in nearly three months of combat.

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Russia claims full control of Mariupol. Putin accused of weaponizing food & gas | Ukraine latest

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Biden signs $40 billion aid bill for Ukraine’s war effort: White House

President Biden on Saturday signed legislation to support Ukraine with another $ 40 billion in US assistance as the Russian invasion approaches its fourth month. The legislation, which was passed by Congress with bipartisan support, deepens the US commitment to Ukraine at a time of uncertainty about the war’s future. Ukraine has successfully defended Kyiv, and Russia has refocused its offensive on the country’s east, but American officials warn of the potential for a prolonged conflict. The funding is intended to support Ukraine through September, and it dwarfs an earlier emergency measure that provided $ 13.6 billion.

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Australia ousts Conservatives after nine years, Anthony Albanese to take over as PM

Australia‘s Labor Party was set to end almost a decade of conservative rule as the government was swept away in Saturday’s election by a wave of support for candidates who campaigned for more action on climate change and may hold the balance of power. Partial results showed that while Labor had made small gains, Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Liberal-National coalition had been punished by voters in Western Australia and affluent urban seats in particular. Anthony Albanese, the incoming PM, speaking as he headed to his party celebrations, said he wanted to unite the country and “end the climate wars”. He said he aimed to be sworn in swiftly so he could attend a meeting of the Quad security grouping in Tokyo on Tuesday. He promised constitutional recognition and parliamentary representation for Indigenous Aboriginals, as well as the establishment of an anti-corruption commission.

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Who is Anthony Albanese, Australia’s next Prime Minister?

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Sri Lanka defaults on debt for the first time in its history

Sri Lanka has defaulted on its debt for the first time in its history as the country struggles with its worst financial crisis in more than 70 years. A 30-day grace period to come up with $78m (£63m) of unpaid debt interest payments expired on Wednesday. The governor of the South Asian nation’s central bank said the country was now in a “pre-emptive default”. Later on Thursday, two of the world’s biggest credit rating agencies also said Sri Lanka had defaulted. Sri Lanka is seeking to restructure debts of more than $50bn it owes to foreign creditors, to make it more manageable to repay.

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Sri Lankan Economic crisis worsens as country defaults on its debt payments

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Lanka crisis: India, and Japan to provide relief supplies as the threat of severe food shortage looms

India and Japan will provide food relief supplies worth millions of dollars to Sri Lanka which is grappling with its worst economic crisis, leading to nationwide protests over the government’s mismanagement. The Indian High Commission said that an Indian ship laden with urgent relief supplies like rice, medicines, and milk powder for the people of crisis-hit Sri Lanka is scheduled to reach Colombo on Sunday. Japan has also announced to provide USD 1.5 million through a World Food Programme (WFP) program for essential food rations and school meal programs. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe announced this week that Sri Lanka would be facing a severe food shortage. He advocated the use of unused state land for cultivation as a mitigation measure.

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The U.S., and S. Korea open to expanded military drills to deter North

U.S. President Joe Biden and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said after meeting Saturday that they will consider expanded joint military exercises to deter the nuclear threat from North Korea at a time when there’s little hope of real diplomacy on the matter. The announcement reflects a shift in direction by both leaders from their predecessors: Former U.S. President Donald Trump had considered scrapping the exercises and expressed affection for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. And the last South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, remained committed to dialogue with Kim to the end of his term despite being repeatedly rebuffed by the North.

Biden to lay the groundwork for a new Indo-Pacific economic framework

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Explained: What is the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework?

United States President Joe Biden, who embarked Friday on an East Asia trip that will see him touch down first in Seoul and in Tokyo on Sunday ahead of the May 24 Quad summit, is expected to launch his Administration’s much-discussed Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) in the Japanese capital along with Prime Minister Kishida Fumio. According to an “insight” paper on IPEF put out by the US Congressional Research Service in February, the IPEF is not a traditional trade agreement. Rather, it would include different modules covering “fair and resilient trade, supply chain resilience, infrastructure and decarbonization, and tax and anti-corruption”. Countries would have to sign up for all of the components within a module, but do not have to participate in all modules. The “fair and resilient trade” module will be led by the US Trade Representative and include digital, labor, and environment issues, with some binding commitments. The IPEF will not include market access commitments such as lowering tariff barriers, as the agreement is “more of an Administrative arrangement”, and Congressional approval, which is a must for trade agreements, is not mandatory for this.

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Indonesia to lift the ban on palm oil exports from May 23

The ban on palm oil exports, which was imposed three weeks ago in a bid to improve the cooking oil supply in the domestic market, will be lifted on Monday, May 23, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said during a virtual address to the nation. The supply of bulk cooking oil has reached a “level greater than needed”, although bulk prices had not yet receded to the targeted 14,000 rupiahs per liter, the president said. The announcement came shortly after Indonesian lawmakers urged the government, on May 19, to review the ban on the export of palm oil due to its adverse impact on the farmers and laborers involved in the production.

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2) India

Assam flood situation remains grim; over 7 lakh affected

The flood situation in Assam continued to remain grim on Friday as waters entered fresh areas affecting a total of 29 districts, though the number of people hit by the deluge decreased marginally to 7,11,905, a government bulletin said. As four more deaths were reported due to the calamity, the toll has gone up to 14 including five in landslides. On Thursday, the number of the affected population was 7,17,500 and that of the district was 27, according to the Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA). A team of specialists from ISRO is already doing rapid damage assessment in Dima Hasao using drones and satellite data for post-disaster need assessment.

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Floods wreak havoc in Assam, over 4 Lakh people in 26 Districts affected, IMD predicts heavy rains

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Centre imposes an export duty on 11 iron, and steel inputs; lowers duty on six items

The finance ministry on Saturday notified export duty on 11 iron and steel intermediates and lowered import duty on three key raw materials for steel production and three inputs for making plastic items, showing an official order. To reduce the cost of domestic production of steel products, import duty on coking coal and anthracite (high energy coal) has been reduced from 2.5% to zero while the same on coke and semi-coke has been brought down from 5% to zero. The import duty on ferronickel, an alloy containing iron and nickel, has been lowered from 2.5% to zero. To increase the local availability of iron ore and a few steel intermediates, export duty has been raised on one item and imposed on 10 other items afresh.

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Govt cuts excise duty on Petrol by ?8/l, Diesel by ?6

The government on Saturday announced several measures to cool inflation, including a sharp cut in central excise duty on petrol by ?8 per liter and on diesel by ?6 per liter. The cut in excise duty on petrol and diesel will cost it ?1 lakh crore per year in revenue, while the cooking gas subsidy bill will be ?6,100 crores a year. The latest duty cut alone will make petrol cheaper by ?9.5 per liter and diesel by ?7 per liter, the government said. It will reduce fuel costs to almost the levels before the Russia-Ukraine conflict, which sent crude oil prices soaring.

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Karnataka: 33% quota for women in outsourced govt jobs

In a significant move, the Karnataka government has reserved 33 percent for outsourced women employees in all the departments. At present, out of 7.2 lakh sanctioned posts in Karnataka with 4.6 lakh employees, there is 1.5 lakh outsourced staff. So now, 50,000 posts will be reserved for women employees. The 33 percent reservation is applicable for all autonomous bodies, universities, urban local bodies, and other government offices.

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3) Economy

India is the fastest-growing major economy but there are worrying factors, shows a UN report

India is still the fastest-growing major economy even as the Ukraine conflict impacts the global gross domestic product (GDP), according to a UN report. India is projected to grow by 6.4 percent in 2022, slower than last year’s 8.8 percent, due to higher inflationary pressures and uneven recovery of the labor market curbing private consumption and investment, the UN report shows. The report added that higher prices and shortages of farming inputs including fertilizers are likely to persist in the region, negatively impacting the agricultural sector in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. “This will probably result in weaker harvests and exert further upward pressures on food prices in the near term,” the report said. It said along with higher energy prices, elevated prices of food will likely increase food insecurity across the region. Consumer price inflation in the region is expected to accelerate to 9.5 percent in 2022, from 8.9 percent in 2021.

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IMF, which predicted India cannot become a $5 trillion economy before 2028-2029, changes its forecast: Reports

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), which predicted in April this year that India can not become a $5 trillion economy until 2028-2029, has reworked its forecast in the World Economic Outlook database. As per the latest revision by IMF, India will reach its $5 trillion economy target by 2026-2027 i.e. two years earlier than they initially predicted. The new forecast also claims that India will become a $5.5 trillion economy in 2027-2028. The International Monetary Fund did not consider the growth of the Indian economy in nominal or real terms and focused primarily on the dollar-rupee exchange rate.

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4) Markets, Banking, and Finance

BSE appoints SS Mundra as Chairman

BSE Limited on May 17 announced that it has approved the appointment of SS Mundra, Public Interest Director as the Chairman of the board of directors of the company. Mundra will replace Justice Vikramajit Sen who is the current chairman. Mundra was appointed as Public Interest Director at BSE in January 2018. He retired as Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of India on 30th July 2017 after completing a stint of three years. Prior to that, the last position held by him was as Chairman and Managing Director of Bank of Baroda from where he superannuated in July 2014.

For details visit here.

5) Business

Apple eyes India output bump as China virus curbs force iPhone maker to look elsewhere

Apple Inc has begun searching for new production hubs outside China including India in the wake of virus curbs snarling supply chains in the Middle Kingdom. The move will likely inspire others to shift hubs too. Moreover, China’s indirect support of Russia for its Ukraine invasion might also wean firms off the Middle Kingdom for manufacturing and key materials. The Apple move comes as China’s Covid policy has barred its executives and engineers from entering the country and as power outages last year affected the nation as a production hub. Apple is in talks with some suppliers about expanding in India, seen as the closest to China in terms of population and low operating costs, The Wall Street Journal reported. The proportion of iPhones manufactured in India is likely to go up to 6 to 7 percent from 3.1 percent this year, research firm Counterpoint suggested.

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After 19 years, Metro plans to cash out of India business for $1.5-1.75 billion

World’s largest retailer Amazon, Thailand’s largest conglomerate Charoen Pokphand (CP) Group, Reliance Retail, Avenue Supermarts NSE 0.43 % – which runs the DMart chain, Tata Group, Lulu Group, and PE fund Samara Capital are among those that have approached to buy the Indian cash-and-carry operations of German retailer Metro AG for around $1.5-1.75 billion. Metro has been operating its nationwide chain of 31 cash-and-carry stores since 2003 but intense market competition and large investments to sustain operations forced the Dusseldorf-headquartered multinational to first undergo a detailed business review and then choose to give the sell mandate.

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6) Technology

Walmart buys way into India wealth management to take on Amazon

Walmart Inc.’s Indian payments unit PhonePe will acquire two wealth management firms for a total enterprise value of $75 million bringing the retail giant head-to-head with Amazon.com Inc. in the country’s rapidly-expanding money management segment. PhonePe will buy WealthDesk for about $50 million and OpenQ for nearly $25 million. “The founder of WealthDesk and the entire team will be working as a part of the PhonePe group and both the platforms will remain independent,” PhonePe said in a statement. “Post-acquisition, OpenQ will be instrumental in creating the wealth ecosystem for the PhonePe group.”

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Corporate VPNs will reportedly not be affected by the new VPN guidelines in India

The Indian government recently released guidelines for companies offering virtual private network (VPN) services in the country, directing them to record and store the details of their users. The directive was issued by the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), the country’s cyber watchdog. In a major relief to corporates and employees in the country, the new directive will reportedly not be applicable to enterprise and corporate VPNs. According to the report, the document will reveal that the new guidelines are applicable only to those VPN service providers that offer their VPN services to the general public. Anonymity is one of the most important parts of VPNs and the new guidelines completely remove anonymity from this as CERT-In can at any time ask these service providers to furnish user data such as name, address, phone number, email, and more. NordVPN has already expressed its reservations against the new bill, saying it is committed to protecting customer privacy and is willing to remove its servers from the country if there are no other options.

For details visit here.

Govt to bring foreign crypto platforms under GST

Center is planning to introduce a “reverse charge” tax for transactions in virtual assets on overseas platforms as part of the latest round of crypto regulations designed to levy taxes on foreign companies such as Coinbase, Binance, and Bitfinex, which are doing business in India. This would be applicable to all “virtual digital assets” right from Bitcoin, Ethereum, and all other coins to NFT and related earnings. Currently, foreign crypto exchanges (not registered in India) that are catering to Indian investors are not obliged to pay taxes in the country, while homegrown platforms have been paying 18% goods and services tax (GST) on the commission that they charge from traders. Under the reverse charge mechanism, the recipient of goods or services is liable to pay taxes instead of the supplier.

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Indian IT industry battling all-time high attrition rate

The Indian IT industry in the recent past has been dealing with an all-time high attrition rate that is averaging around 25 percent as per a few market experts. Companies are dealing with this situation differently and are bringing in measures to retain staff and the high-potentials in particular. “The sharp rise in attrition rates has been fueled by the rising demand for automation and digitalization across all industry sectors and the world at large. As a result, all IT services players have strong order books looking for talent to work on those projects. Secondly, due to the superfast adoption of cloud technologies, IT products and tools for cyber security, automation, storage, networking, analytics, e-commerce, communication and the like have been on the rise.” pointed out Aditya Narayan Mishra, director, and CEO of CIEL HR Services.

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DAI is the king of Decentralized Stablecoins after Terra Collapse

A so-called governance token named MKR, which is used to help run the decentralized DAI stablecoin has surged about 40% in value over the past week in the wake of the collapse of the algorithmic stablecoin TerraUSD that shook cryptocurrency markets. DAI is part of the ecosystem of the MakerDAO, one of the first decentralized autonomous organizations in crypto, which in theory acts as a community of pooled interests with no central control. Created in 2017, DAI is the oldest decentralized stablecoin. It has survived the crypto winter of 2018 and the tribulations of the Covid lockdown of 2020.

For details visit here.

7) Politics

Hardik Patel quits Congress, blames top leaders

Patidar leader Hardik Patel, who joined the Congress a little over three years ago, resigned from the party on Wednesday. Patel’s one-page resignation letter — he put out copies in English and Hindi on his Twitter handle — was scathing in its criticism of the Congress and its leaders who, he said, did not have a road map for the people, were non-serious, and behaved as if they hated Gujarat and Gujaratis. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Gujarat convener Gopal Italia said, “We have maintained that the Congress party has ceased to be politically relevant for a long time now. Hardik Patel’s resignation from Congress has proved that the political trajectory of the party has come to an end in Gujarat. That is why this assembly election will be a fight only between the BJP and the AAP.”

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BJP MP Arjun Singh returns to Trinamool Congress; huge loss, says saffron party

Days after criticizing the Centre over its jute policy and upset over not being able to work freely in Bengal, BJP MP from Barrackpore Arjun Singh returned to the Trinamool Congress. Singh has been targeting the Centre, alleging that it was neglecting the jute industry of West Bengal. He had softened his attacks against Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, keeping the speculation rife about him returning to the TMC high about him joining the party. He had even threatened to hit the streets if the issue of jute price capping was not resolved.

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8) Sports

Nikhat Zareen Wins Women’s World Boxing Championships Gold

Nikhat Zareen on Thursday became only the fifth Indian boxer to win a gold medal at the Women’s World Boxing Championships, joining Mary Kom, Sarita Devi, Jenny RL, and Lekha KC in the elite list. She defeated Thailand’s Jitpong Jutamas in the 52kg final in Istanbul, Turkey. India’s previous gold medal had come during the 2018 Women’s Boxing World Championship when Mary Kom had defeated Ukraine’s Hanna Okhota in the light flyweight category (45-48 kg).

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SC brings the Praful Patel era in Indian football to an end

The Supreme Court on Wednesday stripped All India Football Federation President Praful Patel and his executive committee of their administrative responsibilities. Patel, a FIFA council member, had not called for the AIFF elections, despite having completed three four-year terms and not being eligible for standing as president again, as per the National Sports Code. A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Surya Kant, and PS Narasimha appointed a three-member Committee of Administrators (CoA) in place of Patel and his committee. The CoA comprises former top court judge AR Dave, former Chief Election Commissioner SY Qureshi, and Bhaskar Ganguly, former captain of the Indian football team.

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9) Opinion

The jobs scheme will not offer a long-term solution to urban unemployment. Safety nets need to be better conceived

The proposal to introduce an urban employment guarantee scheme comes in the backdrop of the pandemic exposing the precarious position of workers, especially those employed in the informal sector in urban areas. Proponents of this idea have argued that not only would this provide employment during times of distress, but this would also serve as a channel to push funds through quickly in periods of stress. Several states have in fact been experimenting with this concept. Recently, the Rajasthan government announced a scheme for urban areas — the Indira Gandhi Shahri Rozgar Guarantee Yojana — on the lines of MGNREGA. However, there are several problems with replicating the rural employment guarantee program in urban areas.

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On sedition, the Supreme Court has aligned itself with the collective conscience of India

The Supreme Court’s seminal intervention in a batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of section 124A of the Indian Penal Code is a watershed moment in the progressive expansion of human rights jurisprudence. Rampant abuse of the archaic colonial law in recent times has infracted the citizens’ right to liberty and legal due process, compromising in the process, their right to reputation and dignity. Cartoonists, journalists, activists, intellectuals, students, and politicians have suffered prolonged incarceration and oppressive criminal trials for their convictions and beliefs. More recently, the slapping of sedition charges against political opponents and others in Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh have confirmed that the abuse of the sedition law is no longer an aberration. It has become a norm that has hollowed out the constitutional guarantee of fundamental rights and exposed individuals to the rigor of draconian laws unjustly invoked, outraging national sensitivities as never before.

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Can India’s EV Ecosystem become truly self-reliant without being a Li-ion cell manufacturer?

Li-ion cells are core components that go into making the Li-ion batteries for EVs. The cells, coupled with the battery packs that hold them, and the Battery Management System (BMS), which ensures the safety of the battery packs, make Li-ion batteries fully functional. Though there are a few manufacturers of Li-ion batteries in India, like Amara Raja and Exide, most of the components that go into these batteries, including the cells, are largely imported, and only assembling takes place in India. India largely lacks the domestic manufacturing capacity at a commercial scale, and imports Li-ion batteries primarily from the US and China. In 2021, the Indian government introduced an INR 18,100 Cr Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme for Advanced Chemistry Cell (ACC) battery storage, with a total manufacturing capacity of 50 GigaWatt Hour (GWh). In March this year, Reliance New Energy Solar, Ola Electric, Hyundai Global Motors, and Rajesh Exports were selected under the scheme. However, a considerable amount of capital and time will be needed to establish a 50GWh facility. A plant of this scale is estimated to cost around INR 30,000 Cr ($4.6 Bn) and take about 3 years to build, as per a 2018 research report published by the Center for Study of Science Technology and Policy (CSTEP).

For details visit here.

10) Weekly special

Playing out the growth record with VideoVerse

VideoVerse has recently bagged $46.8 million in the latest round of funding. In this episode of Vinayak Shrivastav, CEO and Co-founder, VideoVerse talks about the company’s journey through the pandemic and discusses roadmaps for the upcoming future.

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With that, we come to an end of our Weekly Current Affairs May 2022 -Week 4. 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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