Weekly Current Affairs May 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 May 2021 – Week 2


1. Current Affairs – International News & Global Economy

Foreign ministers discuss global threats at London G7 summit – BBC News

Foreign ministers from the world’s leading economies are meeting in London for their first face-to-face talks in more than two years. UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is leading discussions on the crisis in Myanmar, as well as relations with Russia, China, and Iran. The G7 group – the world’s seven largest advanced economies – is made up of the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States. Australia, India, South Korea, and South Africa have also been invited as guests, as the UK tries to deepen ties with the Indo-Pacific region. The UK, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the G7, will host a summit of leaders in Cornwall next month.

US withdraws proposed biometrics rule for immigration

The US government withdrew a Donald Trump-era proposal that sought to collect the biometric details of every applicant under immigration and naturalization benefits. In a statement, the Department of Homeland Security said the withdrawal of the proposed rule was consistent with the Executive Order signed by President Joe Biden, regarding restoring faith in the legal immigration system. The formal announcement revoking the biometrics rule comes days after US Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that beginning May 17, it will suspend biometrics requirements for H-4, L-2, and certain E non-immigrant categories. Such a move was welcomed by a large number of Indian-Americans who were impacted by the biometrics requirement. For details visit.

U.S. trade deficit surges to record; shortfall with China keeps rising

The U.S. trade deficit hit a fresh record high in March as consumers flush with government cash spurred a continuing demand for foreign-made goods. With a new round of $1,400 stimulus checks pouring in and the domestic economy continuing to show substantial improvement, the imbalance in goods and services with the rest of the world swelled to $74.4 billion, the Commerce Department reported. That’s the highest level ever in a data series that goes back to January 1992, and represents a 57.6% increase from the same period a year ago and higher than the $70.5 billion in February. The trade imbalance with China increased more than 22% to $36.9 billion. The deficit with Mexico rose 23.5% to $8.4 billion. For details visit.

Robust domestic demand lifts U.S. trade deficit to record high

Explained: Why Colombia is witnessing a spate of violence

Colombia is witnessing a spate of violence, and days of protests against a now-shelved tax reform proposal have left at least 19 people dead and 846 injured in clashes between the police and demonstrators. The protests began last week against a proposed tax reform by the government of conservative President Ivan Duque. The proposal sought to increase taxes of businesses, remove some exemptions enjoyed by individuals and decrease the threshold of salaries that would be taxed. The measures were meant to remedy that dire situation that Colombia is currently in. The Andean country is facing its worst crisis in 50 years, with the pandemic shrinking its economy by 6.8 percent last year, and unemployment soaring to 16.8 percent in March. Around half of the country lives in poverty, as per official figures. For details visit.

What the Gates divorce means for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

After 27 years of marriage, the mega-billionaire couple Bill Gates and Melinda Gates have called it quits. The power couple who emerged as a philanthropy powerhouse with a foundation named after themselves, are divorcing each other as their marriage has “irretrievably broken”. The message from the headquarters in Seattle is however clear: Bill and Melinda Gates may be splitting up, but the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation isn’t going anywhere. Their roles as co-chairs and trustees are not changing, and they will still set the agenda for the organization that bears their names. In an email, the Gates Foundation’s chief executive, Mark Suzman, reassured the staff that both Mr. and Ms. Gates remained committed to the organization. For details visit.


2. Current Affairs – India

India COVID update

SC’s national task force to look into oxygen allocation to states, UTs amid Covid crisis

 In the wake of the second Covid-19 wave, the Supreme Court set up a 12-member National Task Force to formulate a methodology for the scientific allocation of medical oxygen to the states and Union Territories (UTs) amid an unprecedented shortage in oxygen supply across various hospitals in the country. The National Task Force has been set up following the consent of the Central government. The task force will commence its work immediately, taking up the pressing issue of determining the modalities for oxygen expeditiously within a week, the top court said. The tenure of the task force has been set for six months initially. For details visit.

Sunder Pichai, Punit Renjen, and Shantanu Narayen join the steering committee of Global Task Force on pandemic response

Three Indian-American CEOs Sunder Pichai from Google, Punit Renjen from Deloitte, and Shantanu Narayen from Adobe have joined the steering committee of the Global Task Force on pandemic response, which is overseeing an unprecedented corporate sector initiative to help India successfully fight COVID19. The task force is a newly formed public-private partnership organized by the US Chamber of Commerce and supported by Business Roundtable. It is working with the Chamber’s US-India Business Council and the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum to take immediate actions to help address the COVID-19 surge in India. To date, over 45 US businesses and associations have contributed to the Global Task Force’s activities. For details visit.

Global Task Force against Covid: Corporate America rallies to help India

Single shot Sputnik Light vaccine will be made & available In India

Developers of the Russian Covid vaccine, Sputnik V have launched a single-shot version known as ‘Sputnik Light’ which is priced at less than $10. The makers have announced that the vaccine will be produced in India, South Korea, and China among many other countries.

Explained: Intellectual property waiver for Covid-19 vaccines

The United States announced support for waiving intellectual property protection for Covid-19 vaccines, saying extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary measures. All 164 WTO members must agree on the draft for the same, and any one member can veto it. The European Union, which had earlier opposed the waiver, has now stated its intent to discuss the US-backed proposal. The IP waiver might open up space for the production of Covid vaccines with emergency use authorizations (EUA) — such as those developed by Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Novavax, Johnson & Johnson, and Bharat Biotech — on a larger scale in middle-income countries. The US support for an IP waiver stems from a proposal by India and South Africa in the WTO last year. That proposal had, however, called for a waiver on all Covid interventions, including testing diagnostics and novel therapeutics. For details visit.

Can a patent waiver speed up the global COVID vaccination drive? | DW News

India – Other News

Explained: Reading Supreme Court’s Maratha quota verdict

A five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court struck down the Maharashtra law granting reservation to the Maratha community in admissions and government jobs in the state. The court had framed six questions of law on the issue; it unanimously agreed on three of those issues, while the verdict was split 3:2 on the other three.
For details visit.

Decoding the Supreme Court’s Maratha quota verdict and its implications

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How India & UK finally clinched a deal on sending illegal Indian immigrants home

India is ready to take back illegal immigrants from the UK if their nationality is adequately proven by the British government with proper documents and evidence. According to sources, India believes that the Memorandum of Understanding on the India-UK ‘Migration and Mobility Partnership Agreement’, signed between the two countries, is a “step in the right direction” as it brings in a system that will require the British government to properly ascertain that those being sent back are bonafide Indian nationals and not “non-Indians”. For details visit.


3. Current Affairs – Economy 

IMF to revisit growth forecast for India due to surge in COVID-19 cases

The International Monetary Fund said the recent jump in COVID-19 cases in India posed downside risks to the Fund’s April forecast for 12.5% growth in India’s economic output in fiscal years 2021 and 2022. The IMF will revisit that forecast when it issued a fresh World Economic Outlook in July, IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said. For details visit.


4. Current Affairs – Politics

DMK president MK Stalin sworn in as the chief minister of Tamil Nadu

DMK president MK Stalin was sworn in as the chief minister of Tamil Nadu at Raj Bhavan in Chennai. The newly appointed CM will head a cabinet of 34 ministers. Stalin will hold several portfolios including home, general administration, special initiatives, special programme implementation, and welfare of differently-abled persons. The DMK won 133 seats on its own in the 234-member assembly and fought the polls in alliance with parties including Congress. For details visit.

Why BJP picked Himanta Biswa Sarma as Assam CM and what happens to Sarbananda Sonowal now

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) defeat in the West Bengal polls seems to have prompted it to pick Himanta Biswa Sarma as Assam’s next chief minister. The party is now weighing various options to “suitably accommodate” the outgoing CM Sarbananda Sonowal. Sarma, BJP’s trouble-shooter and the go-to man in the Northeast, was instrumental in the party’s two consecutive victories in Assam. And after its humiliating defeat in West Bengal, the party brass may have felt that he should be given a free hand to further consolidate BJP’s position in the region ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. For details visit.

Central team arrives in West Bengal to take stock of post-poll violence

A four-member team of the Home Ministry arrived in West Bengal to take stock of post-election violence. The members of the team held a meeting with senior officials of the State government at the State Secretariat ‘Nabanna Buildings’. They are likely to visit violence-affected areas. Almost four days after the results of the West Bengal Assembly poll that gave a major victory to the TMC, violence has rocked the State. There were reports of TMC leader Udayan Guha being attacked at Dinhata in Cooch Behar district. The BJP has claimed that over a dozen of its party workers have been killed in the post-election violence. There are reports of four TMC workers also being killed. For details visit.

Explained: West Bengal after Mamata win, the violence and BJP’s future

An expert from Indian Express explains why post-poll violence in Bengal is not surprising
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5. Current Affairs – Markets, Banking, and Finance

Copper just smashed past a record. Here’s what you need to know

Copper soared this week to an all-time high, continuing a sizzling rally that’s seen prices double in the past year. The previous copper record was set in 2011, around the peak of the commodities supercycle sparked by China’s rise to economic heavyweight status — fueled by massive amounts of raw materials. This time, investors are betting that copper’s vital role in the world’s shift to green energy will mean surging demand and even higher prices. For details visit.

Copper: Global supply falling behind demand

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Explained: Why RBI wants moderate bond yields, and what it means for investors

The Reserve Bank of India’s decision to step up purchase of government securities under the government securities acquisition programme (G-SAP) led to the yield on the benchmark 10-year bond falling below 6%. In April, the RBI launched G-SAP under which it said it would buy Rs 1 lakh crore worth of bonds in the April-June quarter. It has so far bought Rs 25,000 crore worth of government securities (G-secs). The 10-year bond has declined 15 basis points from 6.15% in the last one month. The RBI has been aiming to keep yields lower as that reduces borrowing costs for the government while preventing any upward movement in lending rates in the market. A rise in bond yields will put pressure on interest rates in the banking system which will lead to a hike in lending rates. The RBI wants to keep interest rates steady to kick-start investments. For details visit.


6. Current Affairs – Business

Govt gives green light to 5G Trials in India; No Chinese OEMs allowed

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT), allowed mobile operators such as Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, VI (formerly known as Vodafone Idea) and MTNL to conduct 5G trials in India. The telecom service providers (TSPs) will be allowed to conduct trials with their partner original equipment manufacturers (OEM) and technology providers, provided they are not based out of China. While Reliance Jio will be conducting trials using its own indigenous technology, rest of the players have partnered with companies like Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung and C-DOT. “The objectives of conducting 5G trials include testing 5G spectrum propagation characteristics especially in the Indian context; model tuning and evaluation of chosen equipment and vendors; testing of indigenous technology; testing of applications (such as tele-medicine, tele-education, augmented/ virtual reality, drone-based agricultural monitoring, etc.);and to test 5G phones and devices,” DoT said, in a press note. For details visit. 

Explained: What is 5G trial, and why is it important for Indian telcos?

5G or fifth generation is the latest upgrade in the long-term evolution mobile broadband networks. 5G mainly works in 3 bands, namely low, mid and high-frequency spectrum — all of which have their uses and limitations. In order to increase their average revenue per user, it is pertinent for telcos to start offering the new 5G technology as soon as possible. For that, however, they will have to conduct trials in a variety of circumstances, including in semi-urban and rural areas, which remains an untapped market for them. For details visit. 

Ola, Uber Lose 30,000 Cabs as drivers struggle with EMI payments

According to one large second-hand car retailer, 30,000-35,000 cabs belonging to both Ola and Uber have been impounded by banks and NBFCs after drivers defaulted on the vehicle loans. The defaults grew in number after the RBI-imposed loan moratorium was lifted in September 2020. The ongoing health crisis in India has taken a severe toll on the economy, particularly on the gig workers who work with Ola and Uber. While most gig workers in other sectors such as ecommerce delivery, food delivery, hyperlocal delivery have found work during the lockdown, the same cannot be said about ride-hailing. Drivers working with Uber and Ola are arguably the worst affected. For details visit. 

Slashing of steel export rebate by China augurs well for India

China’s withdrawal of export rebates of 13 per cent on 146 steel products and scrapping import duty cut on crude steel, pig iron and scrap augurs well for Indian steel companies. The withdrawal of incentives by India’s eastern neighbour would push up steel prices globally and provide enough room for Indian steel companies to raise prices even as the fall in demand remains a concern. Indian steel mills would be able to offload large steel volumes to export markets and still remain highly profitable, said ICRA. For details visit. 

Indian airlines risk consolidation, plane repossessions amid COVID-19 surge

India’s airlines are under renewed pressure to raise cash or face the risk of having to downsize, consolidate or have their planes repossessed by lessors as a surge of COVID-19 infections roils travel. Smaller carriers, such as SpiceJet Ltd and privately owned GoAir, could come under pressure to reduce capacity, find partners or consolidate, analysts say, particularly as aircraft lessors take a harder line. IndiGo’s parent, Interglobe Aviation is considering an equity raising, just months after it abandoned plans to raise up to 40 billion rupees ($543 million) in January in response to a speedy recovery in travel. The cash call comes as Indian carriers are expected to report total losses of $4-$4.5 billion in the fiscal year that ended on March 31 and will lose a similar amount this year, aviation consultancy CAPA India said in a note this week. For details visit. 


7. Current Affairs – Technology

The digital Tax threshold for Tech Giants set at Rs 2 Cr Revenue, 3 Lakh Users

The government of India, announced that non-resident technology companies like Google, Facebook, Netflix and other big tech companies that have more than Rs 2 Cr of revenue and 300K users in India will have to pay digital tax under new or revised bilateral tax pacts. The rules will come into effect from April 1, 2022. The step is a part of significant economic presence (SEP) principle, which was introduced in the finance bill of 2018-19. This will widen the scope of taxation for those companies that provide download of data or software in India but as registered in international markets. The tax is applicable if aggregate payments from such transactions exceed the prescribed amount or the number of users. For details visit. 

The Fineprint: India notifies rules for Digital Tax

Why didn’t the government wait for the OECD consensus? Whom will this tax impact? Are the thresholds too low?
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Zomato may invest $100 million in Grofers as e-grocer shelves US IPO plan

Food delivery app Zomato is in talks to invest around $100 million in e-grocer Grofers, after discussions of a possible merger between the two fell through last year at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Zomato’s investment is likely part of a larger financing round and may value the Gurugram-based online grocery firm at around $1 billion, sources said. This time the talks have centred around a capital infusion, unlike last year when Zomato would have likely acquired Grofers in an all-stock deal. “Zomato has ambitions in the grocery segment and wants to partner with a specialty grocery company rather than build something of its own. They want to stay focussed on the food business,” a person privy to the deal details said. For details visit. 

Dogecoin mania reaches Indian crypto exchanges

Indian cryptocurrency exchanges are now witnessing record-breaking trading volumes of Dogecoin, causing a massive surge in traffic on these platforms. Binance-owned WazirX’s Doge/INR trading slowed its system as the platform saw record traffic that it did not have the capacity to support. Soon, #WazirXScam trended on microblogging Twitter, as users complained of unexecuted Doge trades. CoinSwitch Kuber, backed by Sequoia Capital and Tiger Global, registered 200% growth in Dogecoin volumes month on month, with a jump of 1300% for Dogecoin in the last two weeks alone. Nithin Kamath, chief executive of online brokerage firm Zerodha, said “I can’t really make any sense of what is happening with Dogecoin, With no checks in place, the risks of some of the currencies like Dogecoin being a pump and dump scheme is quite high. I think the best way to play it is by not allocating more than 1%-5% of your liquid net worth to assets where the speculative activity is quite high” For details visit. 

Crypto exchanges say payment gateways blocking their transactions

Cryptocurrency exchanges have alleged that payment gateways are blocking their crypto transactions. According to crypto executives who pleaded anonymity, ICICI Bank was among the last few big lenders providing services to crypto exchanges. However, it had discontinued the current accounts of these businesses two weeks ago, they said. Other large banks are expected to follow suit, they added. It is unclear why banks have started placing the latest round of restrictions. One possible reason could be to protect investors amid heightened investment activity by retail investors in penny tokens and increased advertising activity by the crypto industry, which could lead more users to the unregulated sector. Suspending partnerships is a possible mechanism by a bank’s risk and compliance team to minimise transactions. For details visit. 

Peer-to-peer lending platform LenDenClub turns profitable; eyes Rs 1,200 cr disbursal this fiscal

Peer-to-peer lending platform LenDenClub said it has turned profitable and aims to cross Rs 1,200 crore disbursal in the current fiscal year. The company crossed Rs 500 crore mark in loan disbursements in 2020-21 and turned “profitable” during the financial year, it said in a release. “LenDenClub registered loan disbursements close to Rs 600 crore in FY20-21 as against Rs 60 crore in FY19-20 and Rs 13 crore in FY18-19. “The company aims to scale up substantially, eyeing a five-fold growth in the next two years and aims to disburse Rs 1,200 crore worth loan in FY21-22,” it said. The company said it is bullish on strong demand, especially in a post-Covid scenario. It has recently integrated with Google Pay, allowing customers to borrow and lend seamlessly, as well as making payments. Additionally, the fintech lender has expanded its flagship digital lending platform InstaMoney to pan-India. For details visit. 

Is P2P lending a good investment option? | The Money Show

How safe in investing in P2P lending and how does it work? ET Now in conversation with Vinay Matthews, Founder & COO, Faircent.com
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Online pharmacy firms see massive order surge in second wave

Driven by the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, India’s online pharmacy sector is once again witnessing a surge in orders for medical devices, personal protective equipment (PPE), health supplements and commonly available drugs. High caseloads in cities coupled with regional lockdowns, especially in large metros, has pushed consumers to order online than visit offline pharmacies and diagnostic centres. This is driving up sales by 25-65% for online pharmacies, according to company executives and industry experts. For details visit. 

Opportunities for E-Pharmacy segment in post COVID World | 1mg to ET NOW

What is the E-Pharmacy growth picture in the post Covid world? Is the E-pharmacy player like 1mg seeing lower discounting now vs pre-covid? Does the company expect bigger investments like RIL & Amazon in the entire Online Pharmacy sector? How big is this opportunity – to go beyond?
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8. Current Affairs – Sports

India squad for WTC final, England Tests: Jadeja returns; Bhuvneshwar, Hardik miss out

The All-India Senior Selection Committee has named a 20-man Indian squad for the inaugural ICC World Test Championship (WTC) final against New Zealand and the five-match Test series against England. India will play against New Zealand to decide the first winner of the World Test Championship from June 18, before playing a 5-Test series against England. For details visit. 

 


9. Current Affairs – Opinion

What draft National Geospatial Policy offers to the Indian Startup Ecosystem

TThe Department of Science and Technology recently released draft National Geospatial Policy inviting comments from stakeholders latest by May 22. In line with geospatial guidelines notified in Feb, this year, the draft NGP seeks to embolden geospatial data, workforce, and ecosystem through PPP. Real-time geospatial data plays a key role for today’s marketplaces and other tech startups. For details visit. 

Ending monopoly of google maps? | StartUpCentral

Rakesh Verma, CMD MapmyIndia in conversation with ET on impact of National Geospatial Policy guidelines.
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Will Google’s new android privacy disclosure rules derail Indian Fintech Apps?

Google has announced the timeline for implementation of new privacy and data security measures for all Android apps. Starting Q2 2022, new app submissions and app updates must include information around data collection, encryption and other safety features. The policy is expected to impact several Indian apps, particularly those in the lending tech category, where data collection is rampant and often unchecked. These lending apps have so far been heavily reliant on data collection to furnish loans and other financial services. Google’s announcement comes on the heels of Apple’s update with iOS 14.5 called App Tracking Transparency (ATT) that lets you block apps from tracking your online activities. For details visit. 

Why demand is surging beyond the U.S. in the multibillion-dollar armed drone market

Armed drones are growing in military importance as conflicts around the world have proven the utility of these effective tools of war. Companies in China, Turkey, and Russia, among others, have developed advanced remotely piloted aircraft that can use guided weapons on and off the battlefield. The widespread use of drones in Iraq and Afghanistan by the United States to target and kill insurgents jump started a new chapter in the history of conflict. For more details –
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With that, we come to an end for our Weekly Current Affairs May 2021 -week 2. 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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