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

Russia launches strikes in Ukraine in violation of a self-declared ceasefire

Russia has launched attacks across Ukraine, killing at least two civilians, in violation of a unilateral, self-declared ceasefire for the Orthodox celebration of Christmas on Saturday. The attacks came as the US announced it would send Ukraine another $3.75bn of weapons and other aid, including a first shipment of Bradley armored vehicles known as “tank killers.” Washington has also urged Italy to provide air defence systems to Ukraine during a conversation between two top advisers, the newspaper La Repubblica reported. Ukraine has said it needs air defence to protect civilian infrastructure targeted by Russia and more military aid to push through Russia’s fortified frontline positions. Senior officials have said they need 600 to 700 infantry fighting vehicles and 300 tanks.

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China ends quarantine for overseas travelers amid Covid surge

China lifts quarantine requirements for inbound travelers on Sunday, ending almost three years of self-imposed isolation even as the country battles a surge in Covid cases. Last month, Beijing began a dramatic dismantling of a hardline virus strategy that enforced mandatory quarantines and grueling lockdowns. The containment policy has tanked China’s economy and sparked nationwide protests. In the final unraveling of those rules, Sunday will see inbound travelers to China no longer required to quarantine. The outbreak is forecast to worsen as China enters the Lunar New Year holiday this month, during which millions are expected to travel from hard-hit megacities to the countryside to visit vulnerable older relatives. Beijing has called travel curbs imposed by other countries “unacceptable” despite it continuing to largely block foreign tourists and international students from traveling to China.

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Record-breaking winter temperatures warm Europe: What it means

Europe has seen “extreme” warm winter weather in recent days, experts have said, with 2023 already posting record temperatures for January across the region. As temperatures rise globally because of human-caused climate change, scientists say heatwaves and spells of warmer-than-average weather are becoming more common throughout the year. After experiencing searing summer heat and a drought unprecedented in centuries, a wave of warm weather across Europe this winter has melted the snow from ski slopes in the Alps and Pyrenees and seen temperatures above 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit) even in normally-freezing central regions. Several European countries saw record-breaking heat on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

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Pakistan seeks help with $16 bln flood rebuilding at UN conference

Pakistan and the United Nations are holding a major conference in Geneva on Monday aimed at marshaling support to rebuild the country after devastating floods in what is expected to be a major test case for who pays for climate disasters. Record monsoon rains and melting glaciers last September displaced some 8 million people and killed at least 1,700 in a catastrophe blamed on climate change. Most of the waters have now receded, but the reconstruction work, estimated at around $16.3 billion, to rebuild millions of homes and thousands of kilometers of roads and railways is just beginning and millions more people may slide into poverty. Islamabad, whose delegation is led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, will present a recovery “framework” at the conference where United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and French President Emmanuel Macron are also due to speak.

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Thousands of Israelis protest against Netanyahu’s new government policies

Thousands of Israelis protested on Saturday against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government, regarded as the most right-wing in Israeli history, an AFP correspondent said. The new government has announced intentions to pursue a policy of settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank and carry out social reforms that have worried members and supporters of the LGBTQ community. Israel’s new justice minister this week announced a reform programme including a “derogation clause” allowing parliament to override decisions of the Supreme Court. Opposition leader Yair Lapid denounced the reforms, saying on Twitter that it “endangers the entire legal system of the State of Israel.”

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2) India

Uttarakhand’s Joshimath officially declared a “Sinking” zone, and over 60 families evacuated

Joshimath has been declared a landslide-subsidence zone and over 60 families living in damaged houses in the sinking town have been evacuated to temporary relief centres, a senior official said on Sunday. At least 90 more families have to be evacuated. The local administration has set up relief centres at four-five places in the Himalayan town, Garhwal Commissioner Sushil Kumar said. Meanwhile, Chamoli District Magistrate (DM) Himanshu Khurana went from door to door in the affected area to assess the extent of damage and appealed to people living in houses that have developed cracks to move to the relief centres. There are a total of 4,500 buildings in Joshimath, and 610 of these have developed huge cracks, making them unfit for habitation, he said. A survey is underway, and the number of affected buildings could go up, he added.

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Joshimath is sinking because of these reasons | Uttarakhand Tragedy

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Leh apex body, Kargil Democratic Alliance, warns of intensifying stir against Union’s high-powered committee

Days after a high-powered committee was constituted by the Union home ministry for Ladakh, two representative organizations from Leh and Kargil, which have steered protests in the past over demands of statehood and protection of land and jobs, on Saturday rejected the formation of the committee and decided to intensify their protests. The Leh apex body and the Kargil Democratic Alliance (KDA), after their meeting on Saturday, said they will not participate in any meeting headed by a committee that is empowered to discuss the four issues of statehood for — union territory (UT) Ladakh, safeguard under the sixth schedule of the Constitution of India in order to protect the interest of the tribal people of Ladakh, formation of Public Service Commission and Reservation of jobs for the youth of Ladakh and creation of two separate parliamentary constituencies for Leh and Kargil.

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India to hold first Y20 Summit during its G20 presidency; focus on peacebuilding, climate change

The first ever Y20 (Youth 20) Summit to be held in India on the sidelines of the G20 Summit will focus on themes of future work; climate change and disaster risk reduction; peacebuilding and reconciliation; and youth in democracy. On Friday, Union Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports Anurag Thakur launched the themes of the Y20 summit, along with its logo and website in New Delhi. Secretary of Youth Affairs, Meeta R Lochan, said that Y20 will focus on global youth leadership and partnership. “For the next eight months, there will be pre-summits on the Y20 themes along with discussions and seminars at universities, in the run-up to the final Youth 20 Summit.”

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India surpasses Japan to become world’s third-largest auto market: Report

According to the most recent industry figures, India overtook Japan in auto sales in 2022, moving to third place for the first time. In a recent report by Nikkei Asia, India’s sales of new vehicles came in at least 4.25 million units, based on preliminary results, topping the 4.2 million sold in Japan. Between January and November 2022, 4.13 million new cars were delivered in India, according to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM). The number rises to almost 4.25 million units when the sales figure for December, which Maruti Suzuki, the largest automaker in India, reported on January 1, is added. Comparatively, in Japan, 4.20 million vehicles were sold last year, down 5.6 percent from 2021, according to data from the Japan Automobile Dealers Association and the Japan Light Motor Vehicle and Motorcycle Association.

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Revealing data on Indian states’ profligacy, deficits approaching bankruptcy & a GST-linked problem

Indian states have whopping debts with high fiscal deficits. From 31.7% to 21.7% and back to 31.2%, most of the Indian states are back to square one. Shekhar Gupta decodes the data on Indian states’ profligacy, deficits approaching bankruptcy & a GST-linked problem.

Sweden says Turkey is asking too much over NATO application

Sweden is confident that Turkey will approve its application to join the NATO military alliance but will not meet all the conditions Ankara has set for its support, Sweden’s prime minister said on Sunday. Finland and Sweden signed a three-way agreement with Turkey in 2022 aimed at overcoming Ankara’s objections to their membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. They applied in May to join NATO in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but Turkey objected and accused the countries of harboring militants, including the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party. At a news conference later on Sunday, Kristersson said the demands that Sweden could not or did not want to fulfill were outside the scope of the three-way memorandum.

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3) Economy

India’s GDP likely to grow 7% in FY23: First advance estimates

The Indian economy is seen growing at a rate of 7% in the current financial year, according to the first advanced estimates of the National Statistical Office (NSO). The expected growth rate is lower than the 8.7% estimate pegged for the previous fiscal FY22. Last month, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) lowered its forecast for the FY23 GDP growth rate to 6.8% from its previous projection of 7% amid global headwinds, including geopolitical tensions and the slowdown in global demand. Several international agencies and investment banks have lowered their estimate for India’s GDP growth rate in the ongoing financial year. Further, the nominal GDP growth in the ongoing fiscal is estimated at 15.4% as compared to 19.5% in 2021-22.

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India’s central bank governor warns of South Asian debt distress

India’s central bank governor has expressed concern over growing debt distress among regional trade partners and said he is alert to possible risks to his country’s economy from a global slowdown. Shaktikanta Das said in an interview with the Financial Times that he was optimistic about India’s growth and financial stability despite the deteriorating global economic outlook. The IMF expects the recession to affect one-third of the global economy this year, it said recently. Analysts forecast that India will be a bright spot but the Reserve Bank of India governor said there was “no room for complacency”. “Net-net, India is far better placed than almost all other countries,” he said. However, “the global challenges are building up,” he added, saying they “will have their spillovers and will have their impact on India.”

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4) Markets, Banking, and Finance

Govt gets multiple bids for disinvestment of stake in IDBI Bank

The Union Government said on January 7 that it had received multiple Expressions of Interest (EOI) for the strategic disinvestment of the stake held by it and Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) in IDBI Bank. The transaction is expected to now move to the second stage, according to a tweet from the Secretary, Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM), Ministry of Finance. The government and LIC together are looking to sell 60.72 percent of IDBI Bank and had invited bids from potential buyers in October. The last date for submitting an Expression of Interest (EoI) or preliminary bids was set at December 16, which was later extended to January 7.

For details, visit here.

5) Business

Jack Ma to give up control of fintech giant Ant Group

The billionaire founder of Ant Group, Jack Ma, is to give up control of the Chinese fintech giant after a regulatory crackdown. Ant Group runs Alipay, the main online payment system in China, which has eclipsed cash, cheques, and credit cards. Mr. Ma, a former English teacher who founded e-commerce giant Alibaba, directly and indirectly, controls more than 50% of Ant Group. However, after the changes in governance structure, he will control just over 6%, according to an Ant Group statement. In November 2020, Ant’s £26bn stock market flotation, which would have been the world’s largest, was canceled at the last minute. At the eleventh-hour Chinese authorities cited “major issues” over regulating the firm.

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Paytm bank gets RBI nod for Surinder Chawla as new CEO

Paytm Payments Bank has secured the Reserve Bank of India’s approval for the appointment of Surinder Chawla as its new chief executive, two people aware of the development said. Chawla is currently serving as head of branch banking at RBL Bank. Chawla spent nearly a decade at RBL Bank after working for over 11 years at HDFC Bank, where he held positions such as head of retail liabilities product group and senior executive vice-president. In October, Paytm said that the bank would announce the “new full-time CEO after receiving regulatory approvals.” The payments bank, in which Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma owns a 51% stake, and the remaining is owned by One97 Communications Ltd, has been under regulatory scrutiny for many months. In May, RBI asked Paytm Payments Bank to stop accepting new customers with immediate effect. “The bank has also been directed to appoint an IT audit firm to conduct a comprehensive audit of its IT system,” the RBI then said in its statement, adding that the action is based on certain material supervisory concerns observed in the bank.

For details, visit here.

6) Technology

Online gaming rules bring regulatory certainty but need refinement

The amendment of the Business Allocation Rules to assign the responsibility of regulating online gaming to the ministry of electronics and information technology (MEITY) and the ministry’s proposed amendments to the Information Technology Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, to introduce a co-regulatory mechanism for online gaming (Draft Rules), have acted as a ray of hope for stability and certainty in this industry. The draft rules regulate games that are offered over the internet and involve a deposit in cash or kind with the expectation of winnings. Entities offering these games are termed online gaming intermediaries (OGIs) and have been made subject to several direct obligations, including know-your-customer (KYC) procedures, the appointment of specific personnel, including a chief compliance officer, and third-party certification on random number generators and the absence of bots. They are also subject to enhanced requirements around grievance redressal and responding to law enforcement requests.

For details, visit here.

Tech industry reversal intensifies with new rounds of layoffs

Companies that grew rapidly during the pandemic are now reducing spending and staffing, sometimes repeatedly. Tech’s reassessment is intensifying as a new wave of layoffs signals how executives are pivoting from a growth-above-all mindset to protecting their bottom line. After a bruising 2022 in which companies from small startups to tech giants slammed the brakes on expansion, some of the biggest names in the sector are demonstrating that an era of austerity is only beginning, with expenses closely scrutinized and moonshot projects abandoned. Amazon.com Inc. and Salesforce Inc. both announced plans for layoffs in the past week.

For details, visit here.

7) Politics

Himachal Cabinet expansion: Seven ministers take oath

The four-week-old Himachal Pradesh cabinet headed by Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu was expanded on Sunday with the induction of seven ministers, including Vikramaditya Singh, the son of former chief minister Virbhadra Singh. With the induction of seven members, the strength of the cabinet rose to nine. Governor Rajendra Vishwanath Arlekar administered oath to the newly inducted ministers in a simple ceremony at the Raj Bhawan. Shimla district, with seven MLAs, has been given the lion’s share in the cabinet with three ministers and one Chief Parliamentary Secretary (CPS), while Bilaspur, Mandi and Lahaul, and Spiti failed to get any representation. Besides the post of deputy speaker, three berths are still vacant as the maximum number of ministers, including the chief minister, cannot exceed 12.

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8) Sports

Djokovic shrugs off injury scare, wins Adelaide title

Novak Djokovic showed no signs of an injury that might derail his Australian Open campaign when he beat unseeded American Sebastian Korda 6-7 (8), 7-6 (3), 6-4 Sunday to win the Adelaide International. Djokovic worried Open organizers when he said after his semifinal in Adelaide against Daniil Medvedev that he had been troubled by a tight hamstring. He said the injury eased as the match progressed. He also took his second Adelaide title 16 years after his first; he won the tournament in 2007, aged 19.

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9) Opinion

The Oil war between Russia vs USA and Europe Explained | How will it change India?: Geopolitics

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Why is Uttarakhand’s Joshimath “Sinking”? Here’s what experts say

A variety of factors, both anthropogenic and natural, have led to the subsidence of Joshimath, director of the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology Kalachand Sain, said on Friday. The factors are not recent; they have built up over a long period of time, he said. “The three principal factors are Joshimath’s vulnerable foundations as it was developed on the debris of a landslide triggered by an earthquake more than a century ago, its location in seismic zone V which is more prone to earthquakes besides gradual weathering and water percolation, which reduce the cohesive strength of the rocks over time,” Mr. Sain told PTI. The going down of the Himalayan rivers and heavy rainfall, which is characteristic of the area beside the flashfloods in the Rishiganga and Dhauliganga rivers last year, may also have worsened the situation, he said. As Joshimath is the gateway to Badrinath, Hemkund Sahib, and skiing destination Auli, haphazard construction activities have been going on in the area for a long time without thinking about the pressure the town is capable of coping with, he said, adding this may also have led to cracks appearing in the houses there.

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Japan’s new security strategy to counter China is a lesson for India

The security competition in Asia continues to intensify. Japan has recently announced a dramatic turnaround in its traditional security policy with a new security and defence strategy document and promises to junk its old policy of keeping its military budget below one percent of GDP. Tokyo plans to develop a plethora of military capabilities to deter and, if necessary, defeat threats from China and North Korea. While some argue that Asian countries are not threatened by China and are not seeking to counter it, Japan’s dramatic turnaround would appear to strongly suggest the converse, especially since Tokyo’s traditionally limited defence spending has been touted as evidence of the lack of China balancing in the region.

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How Nykaa’s Genius Financial Strategy Backfired?: Nykaa Business case study

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10) Weekly special

We will have seven new products by the end of next year, including FDs, ETFs, and mutual funds: CoinSwitch’s Ashish Singhal

CoinSwitch, a cryptocurrency startup, is transforming into a wealth tech platform with the introduction of a new logo and app design. It intends to launch at least seven new products by the end of next year, including fixed deposits, bonds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), stocks, and mutual funds. The company recently raised $260 million in a funding round led by Coinbase Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) at a valuation of $1.9 billion. In an interview with Moneycontrol, Ashish Singhal, the co-founder and CEO of CoinSwitch discussed the company’s recent overhaul, its fintech strategy, and its eventual goal of listing on the stock exchanges.

For details, visit here.

11) Did You Know?

What is ChatGPT, and what makes it worth a possible $30 billion?

ChatGPT, a chatbot launched by OpenAI in November 2022, is the tech windows 10 industry’s latest step in generative artificial intelligence. The AI bot has been trending on Twitter and amassed over a million users within five days of its launch. OpenAI, the developer behind ChatGPT, is now trying to raise capital at a valuation of almost $30 billion, Financial Times reports. The company is looking for investors to purchase shares from current holders and carry out a tender offer of existing shares.

For details, visit here.

With that, we come to the end of our Weekly Current Affairs January 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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