The First Forum is an initiative which focuses on covering the latest happenings going around in the world in a brief format. This is in lieu with the importance of catching up with these events in this fast changing world.
In this Second Edition of The First Forum we would be covering the following:
1. Business
2. Economics
3. Finance
4. Science and Technology

BUSINESS

(By Ankita Punjani, Divyansh Gupta, Mehak Gupta)

Zomato acquires Uber Eats India in an All-Stock Deal
Zomato on Tuesday announced that it has acquired Uber’s food delivery business Uber Eats in India in an all-stock deal. After this, Uber will have a 9.99 per cent stake in Deepinder Goyal-led food delivery platform. Read MoreAccording to sources, the deal is in the range of nearly $350 million or Rs 2,500 crore. Uber Eats in India will discontinue operations and direct restaurants, delivery partners, and users of the Uber Eats apps to the Zomato platform. Uber started its food delivery service in India around mid-2017 but has not been able to scale it up

SC accepts Centre’s proposal to Takeover Management Control of Unitech Limited
The Supreme Court on Monday accepted the proposal of the Centre to take over the management control of embattled realty firm Unitech Limited. Read MoreA bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud gave two months to the new board of Unitech Limited to prepare the resolution framework of the company and to sought its report. The Centre on Saturday had told the apex court that it is agreeable for it to revisit its 2017 proposal to take over the management control of Unitech Ltd and complete its stalled projects for providing relief to around 12,000 hassled Homebuyers.

Wealth of 63 Indian billionaires More than 2019 Union Budget of India
Releasing the study ‘Time to Care’ in Davos ahead of the 50th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF), the NGO Oxfam said that the world’s 2,153 billionaires have more wealth than the 4.6 billion people who make up 60 per cent of the planet’s population. Read MoreRegarding income inequality in India, Oxfam said the combined total wealth of 63 Indian billionaires is higher than the total Union Budget of India for the fiscal year 2018-19 which was at Rs 24,42,200 crores. “The gap between rich and poor can’t be resolved without deliberate inequality-busting policies, and too few governments are committed to these,” said Oxfam India CEO Amitabh Behar, who is here to represent the Oxfam confederation this year. Governments must prioritise care as being as important as all other sectors in order to build more human economies that work for everyone, not just a fortunate few, Behar said.

India plans to mandate Cyber-Security Measures for Power Grids
India’s electricity grid operators will have to install firewalls and other measures to avert any attack on their information technology systems and check rising hacking incidents of power networks across the world. Read MoreGrid operators and regulatory agencies will need to have a continuity plan handy in the case of a cyber-attack, according to draft rules published by the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission. This comes months after Nuclear Power Corporation of India admitted that its system had been breached. The draft report advises central and state transmission utilities and load dispatch centres to ensure protection of sensitive data.

RBI cancels PPI License of Vodafone ‘m-pesa’
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Tuesday cancelled the certificate of Authorisation (CoA) of payment system operator (PSO) Vodafone m-pesa on account of voluntary surrender of authorisation 2019. Read MoreFollowing the cancellation of the CoA, the company cannot transact the business of issuance and operation of prepaid payment instruments, the Central Bank said. “However, customers or merchants having a valid claim on the company as a payment system operator, can approach the company for settlement of their claims within three years from the date of cancellation, by Sept. 30, 2022,” it also said.

NDA Govt. working to Decriminalise PMLA and Income Tax Act
The NDA government is moving to Decriminalise the Income Tax Act and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) as part of steps towards restoring business confidence.Read More In Nirmala Sitharaman’s address on the “roadmap to a $5 trillion economy” the Finance minister said that Decriminalising corporate laws, settling tax disputes and rapid privatisation of state-run firms were among many steps that the government is taking to achieve this target. The Minister’s assurance comes at a time when the government is trying to ensure that businesses are not looked with suspicion.

ECONOMICS

(By Gunika Vij, Somya Yadav, Manraj Uppal)

China’s Economic Woes Worsen
The official figures released by the Chinese Government show that China grew at a rate of 6.1% in 2019. This is China’s worst recorded growth rate in 29 years. It runs contrary to the trends of the past two decades which has seen China transform into a major economic giant in the global economy. Read MoreAnalysts indicate that a major reason for this anomaly is the ongoing trade war between China and the United States of America. Donald Trump’s relentless urge to impose tariffs on Chinese exports have significantly lowered the demands of Chinese goods in US markets. As a result, the investment rate has fallen to record low levels. The Chinese government has taken a flurry of steps to rectify the fall in its economic growth rate. This has included tax cuts and selling of bonds by local governments for funding of their infrastructure ventures. Whether these reforms will lead to a tangible benefit remains to be seen.

Global Growth Rate Plummets
The International Monetary Fund announced that the global economy grew at a rate of 4.8% in 2019. The reported figure is lower than the early estimates which suggested that the rate is 5%. IMF has gone on to say that this fall in the rate can be attributed to the economic slowdown in India. Read MoreThe Indian government has come under fire, both domestically and internationally, for failing to rectify an unusual economic slowdown. PwC, the accounting giant, went on to claim that only about 27% CEOs believe that the growth rate will improve in the next 12 months. Another factor contributing to the global economic slowdown is the US-China trade war which has raged on for quite a while now. The recent signing of a ‘phase one’ deal is unlikely to lead to a substantial benefit since it does not address most of the tariffs levied by both China and USA on each other’s exports. The manufacturing units in both countries have taken a hit. Due to this, investment levels have hit a new low in China. Major international economic institutions such as the World Bank have expressed serious concern over the current state of the global economy.

New law in line to Protect the Interest of Foreign Investors
Carrying forward the aim of achieving the $5 trillion economy goal, new legislation is to be brought underplay to boost foreign investments. This bill will protect foreign investors from the changes in policy and provide them with a provision to follow the original policy. Read More.At the same time, it does not overturn the state’s right to tax them. Firms like IBM and Vodafone have been fighting legal battles with the government of India as tax claims have rooted billions of dollars from these firms. In this light, the law will accommodate fast track courts in the country and appoint new adjudicating authorities who will ensure the swift resolving of disputes between firms and the state.

Trade Deficit on the high, plans to reduce Unnecessary Imports
In light of the increasing trade deficit, India plans to reduce unnecessary imports in the form of duty-free alcohol and cigarettes. The commerce department of the country has come up with a plan which seizes the sale of cigarettes and reduces the relaxation on alcohol by 50% Read Moreat the airports against the current limit of up to 2 liters of alcoholic liquor or wines and 100 cigarettes or 25 cigars or 125 gm of tobacco per passenger. Crossing this might get taxed to an extent of 45% over and above the original tax. The impetus driving this move is to increase exports by the manufacturing sector. Some say that changing the current practice might ignite the smuggling of these goods which is not prevalent until now.

Downturn in the economy, growth rate prediction at 4.8% by IMF
In response to the sluggish growth of the Indian Economy, IMF forecasted an even lower level of growth rate for India at 4.8% for 2019, 1.3% lower from the earlier. The organization blamed the downturn in the rural sector as well as the non-banking financial sector for these figures. Read More The demand decline combined with low credit growth has put stress on the economy. Although, the numbers are expected to rise to 5.8% in 2020 and 6.5% in 2021, the current prediction of 4.8% highlights the under performance of the country. Similar estimates have been made by Reserve Bank of India (RBI) at 5% and rating agency Moody’s Investors Service has projected growth at 4.9% for the fiscal. In the upcoming budget, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman is expected to allow a greater share to rural and infrastructure investments, hence, boosting growth. 

FINANCE

(By Aditya Jain, Nikunj Gulati, Mehak Gupta)

Turkey Cuts Interest Rate for the Fourth Successive Time
On 16th January, 2020, Interest rates in Turkey saw yet another cut, this time by 75 basis points. This clearly indicates the country’s economic fragility and its exposure to geopolitical risks. Read MoreThe president of Turkey has hinted that to stimulate growth, there could be more interest cuts followed. However, these low interest rates act as a two-edged sword so while facilitating growth, it also undermines its ability to appeal to both domestic and foreign investors. Furthermore, the co-president of Teneo Intelligence exclaimed that these cuts show that the government’s priority remains growth and not to regain it’s lost credibility.

Chinese Virus leads to a Fall in Stock and Asset Prices
As per the recent reports, the pneumonia like virus which originated in central China has already claimed six lives. When the Chinese health official confirmed the news, a decline was recorded in the global share price. Read MoreFurther, keeping in mind the boom of the Chinese tourism, there could be risk of a global contamination which makes this deadly virus even more dangerous. Also, the upcoming Annual Lunar New Year also brought in fear of spreading of this virus though the tourists. This fall was not just observed in shares but also in the commodity market, the price of copper had an unexpected fall.

Continuation of Operation Twist Imperative 
Operation Twist, refers to selling short term government bonds and buying long term ones. Performance reports show that this has brought down the borrowing costs which makes this whole program a success. Read MoreAlthough opponents to this program state than many 3-year and 5-year plans still have high borrowing cost but one very important element which cannot be ignored is that it is not easy for central banks to influence the corporate credit facility and such decisions have to be taken only after proper understanding. Thus, even after 3 successful auctions of ‘Operation Twist’ there surely are many more needed to reduce the borrowing cost further below.

New MD and CEO appointed for BOB, Canara Bank and BOI
Sanjiv Chadha has been appointed as Managing Director (MD) and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Bank of Baroda for a three year term, a Personnel Ministry order issued on Monday said.Read More He is presently Deputy Managing Director in State Bank of India. Atanu Kumar Das has been appointed as the MD and CEO in Bank of India for three years. He is at present working as the Executive Director in the same bank. Lingam Venkata Prabhakar, Executive Director in Punjab National Bank, will be MD and CEO in Canara Bank, the order said.

Hongkong Stocks lose due to Downgrading by Moody’s
Stocks in Hong Kong led losses regionally among major Asian markets on Tuesday after ratings agency Moody’s cut its rating for the city to AA from AAA on Monday owning to risk aversion selloff trigger across the board Read Moreon deepening fears over the outbreak of a new pneumonia coronavirus in mainland China. After the country confirmed the first person-to-person spread of a new virus in central city of Wuhan, which has killed four people so far the process gained momentum. At closing bell, the benchmark Hang Seng Index tumbled 2.81% while The China Hang Seng China Enterprises Index was down 3.2%.

27 stocks hit 52-week low on NSE on Tuesday
In Tuesday’s session on NSE around 27 stocks fell to touch their 52-week lows. Havells, Ujjivan Small Finance Bank, Siscal Logistics and Security and Intelligence Services were a few among them. Read MoreCox &Kings, CG Power, Suven Life Sciences and Agro Phos also featured among the stocks that touched 52 week lows. NSE Nifty was trading 27.75 points down at 12,196.8, while the BSE Sensex was trading 128.21 points down at 41,400.70. Bharti Infratel, Zee Entertainment, Coal India, GAIL and NTPC were among the top gainers in the Nifty 50 Index. While the top losers were M&M, Asian Paints, UPL, Tata Steel and Indian Oil Corp.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

(By Shruti Jha, Nikunj Gulati, Kanika)

Nasa Artemis program
In 2017, NASA selected 13 candidates out of the pool of 18000 applicants for its Artemis program. The Artemis program aims to send a woman and a man to the south pole of the moon by 2024 where no man has ever been. Read MoreOn the 10th of January this year, the new class of astronauts who are the first ones to graduate under the Artemis program appeared on the stage for the first time during their graduation ceremony where they received their silver pins. This mission is also unique as it is the first crewed moon mission to include a gender diverse crew.

Mosquitoes to halt transmission of Dengue Virus
With the recent developments in the field of biology, a human antibody has been developed for dengue suppression. The working of this project begins when the female mosquito sucks in the blood, these antibodies get activated which then hinders the replication of the virus thus preventing any further spreading of dengue through mosquito. Read MoreThis system can be used to prevent all those diseases that spread through mosquitoes who even are sometimes considered as one of the deadliest killers. After successfully checking the dengue virus, labs now work towards using this for stopping the spread of other viruses like Zika, yellow fever and Chikungunya.

Outbreak of Virus in China
China Health Ministry has confirmed Human to Human transmission of a mysterious SARS-like virus that spread across the country including the cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. Read MoreThe virus is known as 2019-nCoV and is understood to be a new strain of coronavirus that has previously not been identified in humans. Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the Coronavirus was first detected, announced a series of new measures including cancellation of upcoming Lunar New Year celebrations which had been expected to attract hundreds of thousands of people. The World Health Organization said an animal source was “the most likely primary source” of the outbreak, with “some limited human to human transmission occurring between close contacts”. Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry said China was providing “timely information about the disease” and would “work with all parties to deal with the virus”.

NASA Intern Discovers a Planet
NASA scientists announced that 17 years old high school senior named Wolf Cukier discovered a new planet orbiting two stars on the third day of his internship with NASA TESS – the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite which aims to find planets outside the Earth Solar System. Read MoreIt was the first discovery of circumbinary planet i.e. planet orbiting two stars made through the TESS program. The planet which has been named TIO 1338b is almost 6.9 times bigger than the Earth and is located 1300 light-years away according to NASA. “The finding is a positive sign for the TESS capabilities”, Mr.Kostov said adding that he believes there will be more planets to be found. TIO 1338b was also featured in a panel discussion at 235th American Astronomical Society meeting in Honolulu according to NASA.

The Sensoria 1 Mission
A history-making all-female crew of analog astronauts have “returned to Earth”, completing a two-week mission in a mock Mars habitat on the big island of Hawaii. This mission is known as Sensoria I is the first all-female mission at HI-SEAS (Hawaii – Space Exploration Analog and Simulation). Read MoreThe main aim of the mission is to connect and uplift women in the space sector to support their professional development. Sensoria has partnered with the Sally Ride Science, an education non-profit organisation that works to support young women in science. Immediately after the Sensoria I crew exit from the habitat, a new crew of researchers from the European Space Agency entered the habitat for a new analog mission.

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