Weekly Current Affairs April 2021

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 April 2021 – Week 4


1. Current Affairs – International News & Global Economy

Global shortage in computer chips ‘reaches crisis point’

Consumers are facing price rises and shortages of products from TVs and mobile phones to cars and game consoles as a global shortage in semiconductors grows. The shortage in chips, the “brain” within every electronic device in the world, has been steadily worsening since last year. There is a new surge in demand driven by changing habits fuelled by the pandemic. The most telling example of the semiconductor crisis has come from Samsung, the world’s second-largest buyer of chips for its products after Apple. The company said it might have to postpone the launch of its high-end smartphone due to the shortage, despite also being the world’s second-largest producer of chips.  For details visit.

How the global computer chip shortage happened

Chips are likely to remain in short supply in the coming months as demand remains higher than ever. Semiconductors are in short supply because of strong demand for electronics, shifting business models in the semiconductor world that created a bottleneck among outsourced chip factories, and effects from the U.S. trade war with China that started under former President Trump.

Biden will seek Tax increase on rich to fund Child Care and Education

President Biden will seek new taxes on the rich, including a near doubling of the capital gains tax for people earning more than $1 million a year, to pay for the next phase in his $4 trillion plan to reshape the American economy. Mr. Biden will also propose raising the top marginal income tax rate to 39.6 percent from 37 percent, the level it was cut to by President Donald J. Trump’s tax overhaul in 2017. The proposals are in line with Mr. Biden’s campaign promises to raise taxes on the wealthy but not on households earning less than $400,000. The president will lay out the full proposal, which he calls the American Family Plan, next week. For details visit.

Here’s what Biden’s higher capital gains taxes could mean for markets and the economy

Biden’s economic plans will help the U.S. compete with China, says former Treasury secretary

Former Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said President Biden’s plans to bolster the U.S. economy could help the country to compete with China’s massive Belt and Road Initiative. Biden has held meetings with Democratic and Republican members of Congress to discuss his proposed $2 trillion infrastructure and economic recovery. Despite their differences, Lew said the U.S. and China could work together on areas such as climate change, health care, and challenges with Iran and North Korea. The Belt and Road Initiative is China’s ambitious program to build a physical and digital infrastructure that connects hundreds of countries from Asia to the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. Many critics consider it Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature foreign policy to expand his country’s global influence. For details visit.

What is the Belt and Road initiative? | CNBC Explains

Explained: The significance of the Crew-2 mission

Four astronauts were launched to the International Space Station (ISS) from Florida as part of a collaboration between NASA and SpaceX under the Commercial Crew Program. The mission is called Crew-2 and is the second crew rotation of the SpaceX Crew Dragon and the first with international partners. Crew-2 astronauts will stay aboard the ISS for six months during which time they will conduct science experiments in low-Earth orbit. Their central focus during this time will be to continue a series of Tissue Chips in Space studies. Tissue Chips are small models of human organs that contain multiple cell types that behave similarly to the human body. According to NASA, these chips can potentially speed up the process of identifying safe and effective drugs and vaccines. For details visit.

The International Space Station: A Laboratory in Space

The International Space Station is a state-of-the-art microgravity laboratory that is unlocking discoveries not possible on Earth and helping us push farther into deep space.  Station research has contributed to medical and social benefits on our home planet, allowing us to find new ways to combat disease back on Earth and develop technologies to deliver clean water to remote communities in need.

New Honda CEO aims for 100% electric vehicles by 2040

Honda Motor Co’s new chief executive said the company was aiming to increase its ratio of electric vehicles (EVs) and fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) to 100% of all sales by 2040.

Speaking at his first news conference since taking the chief executive position at the beginning of April, Toshihiro Mibe said the company expects EVs and FCVs to account for 40% of sales by 2030 and 80% by 2035 in all major markets. Traditionally known for its fuel-efficient internal combustion engines, Honda launched its first mass-produced all-battery vehicle last August. For details visit.

Special Report: EVs: On the Brink of Change

Electric Vehicles are expected to explode as a more dominant means of mobility in the not-so-distant future. Bloomberg NEF predicts by 2040, 57% of all passenger vehicle sales will be electric.

U.S. ex-cop Derek Chauvin convicted of George Floyd’s murder

A racially diverse jury of seven women and five men in the Midwestern city of Minneapolis took less than two days at the end of a three-week trial to find the white officer guilty in unanimous decisions. Former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin, 45, was found guilty of murder and manslaughter by a jury, nearly a year after he used his knee to pin the neck of an African American man, George Floyd, to the ground, killing him. Mr. Chauvin, who is white, faces a potential 40-year jail sentence. Mr. Floyd’s death sparked ‘Black Lives Matter protests for racial justice across America, the likes of which the country had not seen since the civil rights movement of the 1960s. For details visit.

Black Lives Matter explained: The history of a movement

The Black Lives Matter group has been fighting to be heard since 2013 – and the phrase itself is now being seen on streets and screens all around the world after the killing of George Floyd. But how did the movement get here? And how did it begin?

Debris believed to be from a submarine that went missing in Bali, found

Indonesian searchers have recovered debris believed to be from the missing submarine lost in the Bali Sea on 21st, the country’s military chief said. Hopes for the 53 crew are dwindling, with officials saying that their supply of oxygen was expected to have run out early on 25th. For details visit.


2. Current Affairs – India & World

India’s Covid-19 peak likely between May 11-15 with 33-35 lakh active cases: Experts

The rapid spread of Covid-19 cases during the second wave might have knocked recent predictions off the mark, but scientists working on a mathematical model to work out the course of the pandemic say there is a possibility of a peak between May 11-15 with 33-35 lakh total ‘active’ infections. This means the number of ‘active’ cases in India will keep increasing roughly for another three weeks before a decline. If the current model shows the trend correctly, the mid-May peak would be three-time higher than the first peak of over 10 lakh ‘active’ cases witnessed on September 17 last year. For details visit.

As COVID-19 devastates India, deaths go undercounted

India’s coronavirus second wave is rapidly sliding into a devastating crisis, with hospitals unbearably full, oxygen supplies running low, desperate people dying in line waiting to see doctors — and mounting evidence that the actual death toll is far higher than officially reported. Each day, the government reports more than 300,000 new infections, a world record, and India is now seeing more new infections than any other country by far, almost half of all new cases in a global surge. For details visit.

Oxygen Crisis: Covid hospitals & patients cry for help as India’s oxygen demand outstrips supply

The shortage of oxygen supply in hospitals is threatening the collapse of the healthcare system in the country. This has not led to state governments holding the supply for states like Delhi which doesn’t have their own oxygen plants.

Opinion | Dear PM, COVID surge is worse than 2020, end policy paralysis, save precious lives

In the second COVID surge, thousands have been killed – not by the virus, but by oxygen shortage. Lives that could have been saved. Why? Policy paralysis – the failure to act, or the refusal to act, or acting far too late. 

Russia offers oxygen, Remdesivir, shipments likely in 15 days

Russia has offered to provide India medical-grade oxygen as well as anti-viral drug Remdesivir and imports are likely to begin in the next 15 days, as the country struggles with a shortage of these products with a record-breaking surge in coronavirus cases. Russia has offered to supply 300,000-400,000 Remdesivir injections per week and the numbers can go up. Also, the oxygen supply will start via ship soon. For details visit.

Virafin, Zydus’s new Covid drug which cuts the need for Oxygen & recovery time, gets emergency approval

To save the Indian health system from collapsing, DGCI approved the emergency use of Zydus’s ‘Virafin’. The antiviral drug will be used for the treatment of moderate COVID-19 infections. The company claimed that 91.15% of patients treated with PegIFN were RT PCR negative by day 7.

Avalanche in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli, alert issued

An avalanche occurred in an area close to the Niti valley near the Indo-China border in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district on April 23. Information was received about a part of a glacier collapsing beyond Sumna Chawki near Malari in the Niti Valley, Border Roads Organisation (BRO) officials, who were on their way to the spot, said. No contact has so far been established with the area due to heavy snowfall. For details visit.

India closer to building world’s biggest nuclear plant: EDF

French energy group EDF took a key step towards helping to build the world’s biggest nuclear power plant in India, a project blocked for years by nuclear events and local opposition. The company said it had filed a binding offer to supply engineering studies and equipment to build six, third-generation EPR reactors in Jaitapur, western India. Once finished, the facility would provide 10 gigawatts (GW) of electricity, roughly enough for 70 million households. Construction is expected to take 15 years, but the site should be able to start generating electricity before its completion. For details visit.

Justice N.V. Ramana sworn in as 48th Chief Justice of India

Justice N.V. Ramana was sworn in as the 48th Chief Justice of India (CJI) by President Ram Nath Kovind at Rashtrapati Bhavan. Justice Ramana will have a tenure of one year and four months as CJI and will demit office on August 26, 2022. After Justice K. Subba Rao, Justice Ramana is the second CJI from Andhra Pradesh. For details visit.

 


3. Current Affairs – Economy 

Finance Ministry relaxes spending norms to boost capital expenditure

In a bid to boost the economy grappling with the fresh COVID-19 wave, the Finance Ministry has relaxed the spending guidelines to enable ministries and departments to undertake capital expenditure totaling Rs 44,000 crore envisaged in the budget for 2021-22. According to an office memorandum (OM) issued by the Finance Ministry, the monthly/quarterly expenditure plan (MEP/QEP) ceilings and restrictions will not apply for expenditure under the capital heads under the budget. To enable ministries/departments to expedite capital expenditure, it said, the cash management guidelines issued by the Ministry of Finance under the OM of 2017 have been relaxedFor details visit.

Global brokerages cut India’s GDP growth forecasts for FY22

Global brokerages have downgraded India’s growth forecasts for FY22 following the increasing cases of COVID-19 which has stoked a sense of doubt regarding India’s economic recovery. Nomura has cut India’s GDP growth projection to 12.6 percent from 13.5 percent for the financial year ending in March 2022. Similarly, JP Morgan now forecasts India’s GDP growth rate to be 11 percent as against 13 percent earlier. UBS has also reduced its growth projections from 11.5 percent to 10 percent. Meanwhile, Citibank now predicts India’s GDP growth figure to be 12 percent. India’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has projected FY22 GDP growth at 10.5 percent, the World Bank at 10.1 percent, and the IMF at 12.5 percent. For details visit.

India committed to decarbonising its economy as responsible global citizen: Dharmendra Pradhan

India is committed to decarbonizing its economy as a responsible global citizen, though the country’s priorities are different from the developed world, Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan has said. Observing that India’s energy demand is all set to increase in the coming years, he told a US think-tank that the future of the growth of energy demand will come from India. The incremental requirement of India’s energy will come from renewable energy, he said and referred to the recent announcement of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that by 2030, India’s energy basket would have 40 percent of its needs from the renewable sector. For details visit.

India as electronics repairs hub can create annual USD 20 bn revenue, 5 mn jobs

The development of India as an electronics hardware repair hub can generate annual revenue of USD 20 billion from 2025 onwards and create 5 million jobs, IT hardware industry body MAIT said in a report. According to the report, the initiative to make India an electronics repairs outsourcing hub can be proved to be one of the driving factors for promoting the economic growth of our country. According to the projection made in the report, grabbing this opportunity will lead to a spike in employment generation, investment from all over the globe, rise in income, and tax revenue that will ultimately contribute to USD 15-billion GDP addition per annum in the next four years from now. For details visit.


4. Current Affairs – Markets, Banking, and Finance

RBI plans and an upcoming Bill: Where are digital currencies headed?

Uncertainty over the legal status of cryptocurrencies is unnerving Indian investors who, according to unofficial estimates, hold around $1.5 billion (Rs 10,000 crore) in digital currencies. The government, which plans a law to ban private digital currencies, favors a digital currency backed by the Reserve Bank of India. While existing investors could get breathing space to exit their holdings in the event of a ban on trading, mining, and holding cryptos, the proposed legal structure may seek declarations of holdings and transactions retrospectively from investors and traders. RBI had said central banks are exploring DLT (Distributed Ledger Technology) for application in improving financial market infrastructure and considering it as a potential technological solution in implementing central bank digital currency (CBDC). Sources indicated the government is open to supporting a central bank-backed digital currency. For details visit.

Why central banks want to launch digital currencies | CNBC Reports

Interest in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies may be surging, but central banks don’t want to be left behind by financial innovation. In fact, more than 80% are examining how to launch digital versions of their own currencies.

How Franklin fiasco happened and what we learnt from it

Last year in April, Franklin Templeton announced that it shut down six of its credit strategy-oriented debt mutual fund schemes. The sudden redemption pressure due to several factors forced them to take the decision. So it was more of a liquidity issue rather than a credit risk problem. Post-March 2020, RBI announced aggressive rate cuts and liquidity announcement measures. Due to a lack of risk appetite, the transmission of rate cuts had not materialized. Nevertheless, the FT continued to get redemption pressures in all their Credit space schemes. Fund House had to resort to borrowing to meet redemptions or sell liquid assets due to mispricing of securities and illiquidity attached to the same due to Debt market situations. Hence, FT had two choices going forward: 1) sell securities at any price and erode value for the Investors or 2) bide time by winding up these schemes and safeguard value at the cost of liquidity to the Investors. It chose the latter. For details visit.

RBI approves appointment of Atanu Chakraborty as part-time chairman of HDFC Bank

Private sector lender HDFC Bank said the Reserve Bank has approved the appointment of former Economic Affairs Secretary Atanu Chakraborty as the part-time chairman of the bank. Chakraborty, a 1985 batch IAS officer of Gujarat cadre, retired as Secretary of the Department of Economic Affairs in April 2020. Prior to that, he was Secretary of the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM). Both departments come under the finance ministry. Once he is appointed as chairperson, HDFC Bank will be the second private sector lender to have a former bureaucrat at the post. ICICI Bank is chaired by the former Petroleum Secretary and Additional Secretary in the finance ministry G C Chaturvedi. For details visit.

 


5. Current Affairs – Technology

Europe attempts to take leading role in regulating uses of AI

In two years’ time, if everything goes to plan, EU residents will be protected by law from some of the most controversial uses of AI, such as street cameras that identify and track people, or government computers that score an individual’s behavior. This week, Brussels laid out its plans to become the first global bloc with rules for how artificial intelligence can be used, in an attempt to put European values at the heart of the fast-developing technology. Over the past decade, AI has become a strategic priority for countries around the world, and the two global leaders — the US and China — have taken very different approaches. For details visit. 

Artificial Intelligence: The Ethical and Legal debate

Artificial intelligence and algorithms: pros and cons

Developments in artificial intelligence (AI) are leading to fundamental changes in the way we live. Algorithms can already detect Parkinson’s disease and cancer, and control both cars and aircraft. How will AI change our society in the future?

Dream11 Parent plans $1.5 Bn US listing next year

Dream Sports, the parent company of fantasy sports platform Dream11, is reportedly considering a US listing by early next year. According to an ET report, the Mumbai-based fantasy sports startup will be looking to raise $1.5 Bn through the listing, valuing it at over $6 Bn. The company is said to be in talks with investment banks for finalizing the terms of its public listing. Dream Sports may choose to list through a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), also called a blank cheque firm. The SPAC route has recently been explored by several Indian startups such as Grofers and Flipkart. For details visit. 


6. Current Affairs – Climate 

Here’s what countries pledged on climate change at Biden’s global summit

The US president convened the global climate summit in an effort to urge global cooperation on climate change. “We’re really beginning to make some real progress,” Biden told leaders during the summit. Leaders of countries like Brazil, Japan, and Canada made commitments to curb greenhouse gas emissions during President Joe Biden’s climate summit. The pledges by U.S. allies and adversaries come shortly after Biden vowed to reduce U.S. emissions by at least 50% by 2030. For details visit. 

Explained: The US has a new climate goal. How does it stack up globally?

President Joe Biden announced that America would aim to cut its greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent to 52 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. That’s one of the more aggressive near-term targets among wealthy industrialized nations, although the cuts are arguably not quite as large as what the European Union and Britain have already promised. Comparing national pledges to cut emissions can be surprisingly tricky — a lot depends on the year you start counting from. The United States has decided to measure its reductions from 2005, which is roughly when the nation’s fossil fuel emissions reached a peak. But European countries tend to measure their reductions from 1990 when emissions began falling across the continent as a result of early climate policies and the collapse of polluting communist economies in the East. The later baseline makes the United States target look a bit better because it omits a period when emissions were rising. An earlier baseline makes Europe look more ambitious since it has been cutting for longer. For details visit. 


7. Current Affairs – Sports

European Super League dead as besieged owners brace for sanctions

Nine teams pulled out of the proposed Super League, including all six from the Premier League. The two Milan giants and Atletico Madrid followed all six English Premier League clubs in pulling out of the European Super League, dealing a fatal blow to the project as besieged owners launched damage-limitation exercises, desperate to head off sanctions. The withdrawals by Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Tottenham came just 48 hours after the league’s unveiling following a furious response from fans and officials. The three Italian clubs involved – Juventus, AC Milan, and Inter Milan – admitted defeat and La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid also pulled out. For details visit. 

Understanding European Super League

For details visit. 

The Rise & Fall of the European Super League


8. Current Affairs – Opinion

Why are we running out of medical oxygen?

As a report from the Times of India notes, “The national demand before COVID-19 outbreak last year was about 700 MT/day. This jumped to 2,800 MT/day in the first spike of COVID-19 last year and currently, the demand is estimated at about 5500 MT/day in the second wave. As per government sources and EG II, India’s daily production capacity of medical oxygen is 7,287 MT and there is an availability of a buffer stock of approximately 50,000 MT.” So it seems then that the problem isn’t necessarily stemming from a mismatch in demand and supply. Instead, it looks as if we are no longer able to map demand and supply accurately. We don’t know where to send what. And even if we do know how to allocate this precious resource, it seems every state has its own priorities. For details visit. 

Is there a future for Natural Gas?

Many developed countries have invested massively in gas plants only to see a dip in demand thanks to cheaper renewables making ground each year. So the story goes that there is a sudden rush to exit the business in a bid to mitigate losses. Both oil companies and investment firms backing them are seemingly looking to offload these assets as quickly as possible. However, this is only part of the story. People use natural gas for multiple reasons. In some parts of the world, they’re used as a replacement for coal. In other parts of the world, they’re used because they’re cheap. So it’s imperative to understand the motivations here before making broad generalizations. For details visit. 

Saving Private Pryin’

Apple launched a new range of gadgets at its Spring Loaded event earlier this week. But buried underneath the candy-colored iMacs and speedy new iPad Pros was a seemingly minor change to iOS that could impede the income of the world’s two biggest ad firms — Facebook and Google — and the advertising strategies of countless businesses that use their services. The change is part of iOS 14.5, which Apple said would be released on April 26. Called App Tracking Transparency (ATT), it represents the biggest threat so far to mobile advertising as we know it. For details visit. 

The SPAC bubble is about to burst

It’s not yet two months old, but 2021 already looks poised to outdo 2020 in one area: SPACs, or special purpose acquisition companies, raised around $26 billion in January this year in the United States, nearly a third of the record $83 billion collected by 248 SPACs over the whole of 2020.  These so-called “blank check” shell companies have no operations or business plan other than to acquire a private company using the money raised through an IPO, thereby enabling the latter to go public quickly. It seems almost everyone who is anyone is “sponsoring” or setting up a SPAC, from ex-Trump adviser Gary Cohn to basketball star Shaquille O’Neal to Hong Kong tycoon Richard Li. But, signs beyond the headline figures suggest that SPACs are a bubble about to burst. For details visit. 


9. Current Affairs – Other Topics

Bengaluru entrepreneur makes it to Forbes Asia’s 30 ‘Under-30’ list

Vibha Harish, a 25-year old entrepreneur from Bengaluru, has made it to Forbes Asia’s 30 Under- 30 in just one year of her venture. Her firm Cosmix, herbal nutrition, and plant-based supplement brand offering are now one of the fastest-growing ventures. In just one year of its coming into being, it has a turnover of around Rs two crore, all credit goes to the products, it’s manufacturing, and marketing techniques. For details visit. 

Here are the 10 biggest economies in the world — before the pandemic vs. now

The Covid-19 pandemic has shaken up the ranking of the world’s largest economies after sending many countries into their worst economic recessions in recent history.

The United States, China, Japan, and Germany still take the top four spots like the world’s largest economies. Some rankings have shifted as a result of the pandemic while one country fell off the top 10 list, according to CNBC analysis of the International Monetary Fund’s economic forecasts. India, which became the world’s fifth-largest economy in 2019, slipped to sixth place behind the U.K. last year. India was hit by strict lockdowns last year as the country struggled to contain the coronavirus. While the fund expects India to grow 12.5% in the current fiscal year which ends March 2022, some economists have warned that the latest surge in Covid cases could dampen the country’s prospects. India last week overtook Brazil to become the second worst-infected country globally, behind only the U.S. For details visit. 


With that, we come to an end for our Weekly Current Affairs April 2021 -week 4. 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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