Current Affairs, Weekly Current Affairs

Welcome to the Endeavor Editors Current Affairs Choicest Blog series. Get a  weekly roundup -on 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.

Current Affairs March 2021 – Week 3

1. Current Affairs – International News & Global Economy

US and China trade angry words at high-level Alaska talks

The Biden administration has said it will be tough on issues of concern, but willing to work with Beijing on matters of interest. However, it has described the relationship as a geopolitical competition between democracy and autocracy. And the Chinese have refused to compromise on what they say are matters of national sovereignty and security. Whether or not they can find pragmatic points of co-operation will be the measure of how the relationship moves forward. For details visit.

Oxford’s George Magnus on U.S., China Talks

(Oxford University China Centre Research Associate George Magnus discusses the U.S., China trade talks in Alaska)

European nations signal united opposition against China’s intimidation in South China Sea

In a united opposition against China’s intimidation in the South China Sea, the UK, France, and Germany are sending warships to the South China Sea to pushback Beijing’s assertiveness in the region. The move to deploy warships in the South China Sea came after Beijing’s motives for building the world’s largest navy. “Already commanding the world’s largest naval force, the People’s Republic of China is building modern surface combatants, submarines, aircraft carriers, fighter jets, amphibious assault ships, ballistic nuclear missile submarines, large coast guard cutters, and polar icebreakers at an alarming speed,” warns the US Pentagon’s recent Advantage at Sea report. In December last year, NATO for the first time issued a report putting China on an equal threat footing as Russia. For details visit.

The Militarization of the South China Sea

(How did this body of water become a major flashpoint in U.S.-China relations?)

U.S. intelligence says Putin approved operations to help Trump against Biden

Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized influence operations to help Donald Trump in last November’s presidential election, according to a declassified intelligence assessment that found broad efforts by the Kremlin and Iran to shape the outcome of the race but ultimately no evidence that any foreign actor changed votes or otherwise disrupted the voting process. The report released on March 16 from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence represents the most detailed assessment of the array of foreign threats to the 2020 election. For details visit.

Turkey pulls out of landmark treaty protecting women from violence

Turkey has pulled out of the world’s first binding treaty to prevent and combat violence against women, a presidential decree said on March 19, in the latest victory for conservatives in President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party. The 2011 Istanbul Convention requires governments to adopt legislation prosecuting domestic violence and similar abuse as well as marital rape and female genital mutilation. Conservatives had claimed the charter damages family unity, encourages divorce, and that its references to equality were being used by the LGBT community to gain broader acceptance in society. For details visit.

Finland ranked happiest country in the world – again

Finland has been named the happiest place in the world for the fourth year running, in an annual UN-sponsored report. The World Happiness Report saw Denmark in second place, then Switzerland, Iceland, and the Netherlands. New Zealand was again the only non-European nation in the top 10. The UK fell from 13th to 17th place. For details visit.

2. Current Affairs – Indian Economy

Rajnath-Austin meet: India, US resolve to expand strategic cooperation

India and the US on Saturday resolved to further expand their global defense and security cooperation including military-to-military engagement, information sharing, logistics support as both sides vowed to work for a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific.

After talks with visiting US Secretary of State Lloyd Austin, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said the two sides agreed to pursue enhanced cooperation between the Indian military and the US Indo-Pacific Command, Central Command, and Africa. For details visit.

India needs to return to a more liberal trade regime: Arvind Panagariya

While addressing the 36th Commencement Day Annual Lecture organized by Exim Bank of India, Arvind Panagariya, former Niti Aayog Vice-Chairman said, “With a low corporate profit tax rate, labor law reforms, GST, and bankruptcy law, a massive privatization program on the anvil, and measures to de-stress the financial sector underway, the country is poised to take on to global markets in a major way. But this requires one additional key ingredient: a more liberal trade regime.” Panagariya, who is currently a Professor of Economics at Columbia University, said a more liberal trade regime carries the promise of pushing this growth rate into the double-digit range. For details visit.

Both Moody’s as well as United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) have revised their 2021 growth projections upwards for India. While Moody’s pegs it at an ambitious 12%, UNCTAD’s prediction is a bit tepid at 5%.

India’s economy may grow at 12% in 2021: Moody’s

India’s gross domestic product (GDP) is projected to grow by 12% in 2021, according to Moody’s Analytics. A stronger than expected December quarter GDP growth of 0.4 percent following a 7.5 percent contraction in the previous three months has turned India’s near-term prospects more favorable. In an earlier estimate last November, it had said India’s GDP will grow at 9% in the calendar year. Moody’s expects private consumption and non-residential investment to materially pick up over the next few quarters and strengthen the domestic demand revival in 2021. However, a strengthening second wave of COVID-19 remains the key risk to recovery in 2021. For details visit.

UNCTAD sees India growth at 5% in 2021

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said for the global economy, the overall cost of the crisis has been exorbitant with the brunt of the hit to the global economy being felt in developing countries with limited fiscal space, tightening balance of payments constraints and inadequate international support.

UNCTAD expects India’s GDP to have contracted 6.9% in 2020 and grow 5% in 2021, attributing the stronger recovery projected for 2021 to the deeper-than-expected downturn in 2020. In its Trade and Development 2020 update, it said the relief measures adopted by India were not only much smaller in scale, but also centered on easing supply-side constraints and providing liquidity support rather than aggregate demand support. For details visit.

3. Current Affairs – Climate

Six charts show how hard it is for India to hit net zero by 2050

Top Indian government officials are debating whether to set a target for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Doing so would mean an overhaul of a coal-reliant energy sector, transport, heavy industry, and even the nation’s sluggish bureaucracy. Committing to a legally binding net-zero target would help India attract some of the trillions of dollars in investment that’ll be required for a green transformation, lawmaker Jayant Sinha, a member of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party and an advocate of a 2050 goal, said in an interview.  For details visit.

4. Current Affairs – Markets, Banking, and Finance

Government to introduce DFI Bill in Lok Sabha next week

The government will next week introduce the National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development (NaBFID) Bill 2021 in Lok Sabha to pave way for setting up of a government-owned DFI to fund infra projects. The union cabinet earlier this week had approved a budget proposal of setting up a Development Finance Institution (DFI), which will have tax benefits to enable fundraising from investors. The government expects the DFI to leverage this fund to raise up to Rs 3 lakh crore in the next few years.  For details visit.

As Cabinet clears Bill for creation of DFI, a look at what this institution does

Non-govt PFs investing in AIFs will add to MSMEs’ fundraising options, mobilise domestic capital: Experts

The Finance Ministry in a notification allowed private retirement funds to invest up to 5 percent in the units of Category I and Category II alternative investment funds (AIFs) regulated by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), but with certain conditions. Category 1 AIFs included infrastructure funds, venture capital funds, angel funds, and social venture funds. Category II AIFs covered funds where at least 51 percent of their size can be invested in either of the infrastructure entities or SMEs or venture capital or social welfare entities. Enabling non-government provident funds, superannuation, and gratuity funds to invest up to 5 percent of their size in AIFs will help widen the fundraising options for MSMEs and expand the domestic pool of capital. For details visit.

Edelweiss Financial Services shares locked in lower circuit on a whistleblower complaint

Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) has ordered an inspection of the books of EARC after a whistleblower wrote to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) alleging fraud at the firm. The whistleblower—Paras Kuhad, a former additional solicitor general of India—has alleged that Edelweiss Group, the controlling shareholder of the asset reconstruction company along with its partner Canadian pension fund Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ), diverted at least Rs 1,800 crore from EARC. Kuhad and his family own about 14 percent of EARC, which manages Rs 45,000 crore in assets. For details visit.

Perpetual bonds may be valued as 10-yr debt now

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) is likely to ease valuation norms for perpetual bonds that were proposed by the regulator and were to come into effect from 1 April. The market regulator is planning to allow mutual funds to adopt a new accounting method for valuing perpetual bonds or Additional Tier 1 (AT1) bonds in their exposure books under various schemes, according to two people directly familiar with SEBI’s plans. However, SEBI will change the valuation metrics for AT1 bonds in a phased manner in the coming years and, eventually, all perpetual bonds will be valued as 100-year bonds. For details visit.

AT-1 Bonds: What’s all the fuss about?

5. Current Affairs – Business

NSIL to pitch GSLV Mk-3 to compete against SpaceX’s Falcon 9

State-owned NewSpace India Ltd (NSIL) will offer India’s heaviest rocket – Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle – GSLV Mk-3 against SpaceX’s Falcon 9 as it taps global customers to launch their communication satellites from Indian soil. NSIL is also looking at opportunities from global customers to build and launch satellites from Indian soil as well as operate them on behalf of clients. Several Indian startups such as Skyroot Aerospace, Agnikul Cosmos, Bellatrix, and Ahmedabad-based Omspace Rocket are building small rockets to launch small and medium-sized satellites into low-earth orbit. For details visit.

Experts Discuss Future of India’s Space Startups

In the middle of last year, India opened its doors to private participation under the IN-SPACe program. The reform hailed as revolutionary has opened up new avenues for private players in not just space exploration but in building satellites, sub-assemblies, electronic components, communication technology, materials, and much more.

Kishore Biyani vs Amazon – Delhi High Court brings up ‘civil prison’ for violation by Future Group, asks for recall of approvals granted to Future Retail-Reliance deal

In a big win for Amazon, the court upheld the emergency arbitrator’s award in favor of the Jeff Bezos-led company. The judgment given by Justice JR Midha said that Future Retail, Future Coupons, Kishore Biyani, and others violated the Emergency Award, and also questioned ‘why should they not be detained in prison. For details visit.

Amazon-Future Retail deal: Everything you need to know

Our digital transactions have gone as high as 67% now: SBI Chairman

The country’s largest lender State Bank of India has seen a perceptible increase in the number of transactions happening at its multiple digital channels, with the percentage moving from 60 percent in the pre-pandemic period to 67 percent currently, Chairman Dinesh Khara said. The rise in the number of digital transactions at the bank was largely driven by a pick-up in e-commerce during the pandemic-induced lockdown, which restricted movement, he said. For details visit.

India’s e-commerce market to be worth $99 billion by 2024: Report

The e-commerce sector in India is predicted to grow at a 27% CAGR over 2019-24 and is expected to reach $99 billion by 2024, according to a report released by EY-IVCA Trend Book 2021. Grocery and fashion/apparel are said to be the key drivers of this growth. The report revealed that India will have 220 million online shoppers in India by 2025. The penetration of retail is expected to be 10.7% by 2024, compared to 4.7% in 2019. It stated that the government is aiming to build a trillion. For details visit.

Greenko to set up Rs 30,000-crore hybrid project in Rajasthan

Renewable energy firm Greenko Energy is set to develop a Rs 30,000-crore hybrid project in Rajasthan of which one will be a pumped hydro storage project of 2,520 megawatt (MW) capacity estimated at Rs 11,882 crore. The project when completed by 2023-24 will be the world’s largest renewable energy asset and would contribute to the state’s efforts as a model in the adoption of solutions for a sustainable future,” said Anil Chalamalasetty, founder, managing director, and chief executive officer, Greenko Group. For details visit.

6. Current Affairs – Policy

India’s draft e-commerce policy calls for equal treatment of sellers

India has been deliberating a new e-commerce policy for months amid complaints from brick-and-mortar retailers who allege online giants like Amazon and Walmart’s Flipkart flout federal regulations. The companies have denied the allegations. A Reuters special report last month revealed that Amazon has for years given preferential treatment to a small group of sellers on its India platform and used them to circumvent the country’s foreign investment rules. According to the latest draft of the policy, E-commerce operators must ensure equal treatment of all sellers/vendors registered on their platforms and not adopt algorithms that result in prioritizing select vendors/sellers. For details visit.

The Fineprint of India’s draft e-commerce policy

A new draft of the e-comm policy was circulated in an inter-ministerial meeting, with a focus on equal treatment to sellers to prevent market monopolies.

Government announces voluntary scrappage scheme for vehicles, Gadkari seeks GST rebate

The government has announced details of a voluntary scrappage scheme for vehicles older than 15 years in the country with a mix of incentives for consumers who opt to do away with their old cars and disincentives for those who choose to stay on with them. The scheme would effectively come into force only from June 1, 2024. For details visit.

7. Current Affairs – Sports

Tokyo 2020 Olympics will go ahead but foreign visitors will be banned

The Japanese government had hoped to welcome around 1 million spectators to the games, which are scheduled to begin on July 23 this year. However, with the Covid-19 pandemic still continuing to spread around the world, sluggish vaccination campaigns, and the emergence of dangerous new variants, officials decided to close the event to international guests. For details visit.

8. Current Affairs – Opinion

India coronavirus: Can its vaccine producers meet demand?

India, one of the world’s largest producers of coronavirus vaccines, is struggling to meet its export commitments. Its largest manufacturer says doses intended for the UK could be held up, and a big order to supply Nepal has also been put on hold. The Indian government has also donated vaccines to a number of countries, with a particular emphasis on its neighbors in South Asia. It’s so far made more vaccine donations than China with over eight million doses given away, compared with 7.3 million, according to UN data.  For details visit.

No in through the outdoor with IBC

The Supreme Court’s ruling to bar defaulting promoters from hanging on by hook or by crook reaffirms the spirit of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC). The law is meant to ensure quick creditor seizure of defaulting companies followed by a resolution, or a conclusive auction of assets. The verdict has held that a person ineligible under IBC to submit a resolution plan can’t take recourse to the companies law to file a plan. For details visit.

Let SPACs in, with stringent riders

Should SEBI allow special purpose acquisition companies (Spacs) to be set up in India, in addition to the Innovators’ Growth Platform it already has in place and proposes to refine, to help startups go public with minimal fuss? There is perhaps merit in giving companies and investors one more option to marry capital in search of returns with ideas for creating new value and growth, with the rider that SEBI could attach the requirement of a decent track record for the sponsor of a new SPAC. For details visit.

9. Current Affairs – Other Topics

Coronavirus in India Lockdown 2021 Updates

The daily increase in the number of fresh Covid-19 infections is the continuing upward trend for the last 11 days. The daily increase also shows that India is in grip of the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. The state-wise tally shows that Maharashtra has once again become the epicenter of the second wave of Covid-19 infections. Madhya Pradesh has decided to resume the total lockdowns on weekends. Tamil Nadu has ordered the shutting down of all educational institutions till March 31st. Ghaziabad and Noida have enforced Section 144 due to a sudden rise in the caseload. For details visit.

How Covid is striking back with second wave & why Maharashtra is dragging India story down

With that, we come to an end for our Weekly Current Affairs March 2021 -week 3. Hope you have liked it. Write in your feedback in the comments below and let us know if anything else you would like us to cover.

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