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 Fifth Edition of The First Forum we would be covering the following:
1. Business
2. Economics
3. Finance
4. Society and Culture

Business

(By Ankita Punjani, Divyansh Gupta, Mehak Gupta)

400 infrastructure projects hit by cost overrun of over Rs 4 lakh crore
As many as 400 infrastructure projects, each worth Rs 150 crore or more, have been hit by total cost overruns of over Rs 4 lakh crore owing to delays and other reasons, according to a report. Read MoreThe Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation monitors infrastructure projects worth Rs 150 crore and above.
Of such 1,698 projects, 400 projects reported cost overruns and 578 projects time escalation. Besides, there are other reasons like fund constraints, geological surprises, geo-mining conditions, slow progress in civil works, shortage of labour, inadequate mobilisation by the contractor, Maoist problems, court cases, contractual issues, ROU/ROW (right of use/right of way) problems, law and order situation, among others.

Anil Ambani to pay USD 100 mn in conditional order for Chinese banks
UK court on Friday directed Reliance Group chairman Anil Ambani to pay USD 100 million within six weeks towards a conditional order granted to three Chinese banks pursuing therecovery of over USD 680 million owed to them as part of a loan agreement. Read MoreThe Reliance Group indicated that it plans to appeal against the ruling, which will involve a process of seeking permission to appeal. The banks Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd Mumbai Branch, on behalf of itself, China Development Bank and Exim Bank of China welcomed the order and said they remain confident of their claim succeeding at trial.

Top automakers optimistic about FY21as it expects gradual recovery after first half
Major automobile companies in the country only expect a marginal sales boost in the next fiscal citing decisions in the budget to boost private consumption and better interest rates due to RBI’s repo rate cuts. Read MoreThough sales are expected to remain subdued in the first two quarters of the new fiscal, top automakers expect the industry to limp back to normalcy with low single-digit growth Maruti Suzuki, Hyundai Motor and Mahindra and Mahindra, three major automobile manufacturers, are hopeful about the next fiscal.

NCLAT restores Cyrus Mistry as chairman of Tata Sons
More than three years after the dramatic boardroom sacking of Cyrus Mistry, an appeals court, National Company Law Appellate Tribunal on Wednesday reinstated him as the executive chairman of the Tata group. Read MoreWhile upholding Mistry’s charges that he was ousted without due process, NCLAT said that the action taken by Ratan Tata and others against the former Tata Sons chairman was oppressive and illegal.
NCLAT directed the Tata Group to protect interest of all stakeholders in future by consulting the minority shareholders Shapoorji Pallonji Group for appointment of executive chairman, independent directors and directors.

Government to reduce time taken for starting business
Continuing efforts to further improve ease of doing business, the government will introduce an integrated electronic form for incorporating new companies from February 15Read More, wherein EPFO(Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation) and ESIC(Employees’ State Insurance Corporation) registration numbers will also be allotted at the same time. The corporate affairs ministry would introduce the form SPICe+ replacing SPICe (Simplified Proforma for Incorporating Company Electronically). The 10 services offered through it would help in saving as many procedures, time and cost for starting a business in India The labour ministry, Department of Revenue in the finance ministry and the Maharashtra government would also be offering certain services through it.

200% import duty hike to hit toy business in India: Importers
More than a one lakh retailers across the country will be hit by 200% import duty hike. Read MoreThe Union budget, has proposed raising the import duty on toys from 20% to 60% from the next fiscal, saying it would support the MSMEs(Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) and promote local manufacturing. The toy wholesalers of Kolkata went on a one-day strike, contending that the import duty hike will result in the closure of businesses and a spur in unemployment. West Bengal Exim Association joint secretary Mohit Banthia said that the 200% import duty cannot be absorbed as it will make the goods unaffordable for the masses and sought immediate rollback to the previous rate of 20%.

Apple fined for slowing old phones
Apple has been fined 25 million euros ($27m) for slowing down older iPhone models without giving any clarity to its consumers. Read MoreThe fine came from The Directorate General for Competition, Consumption and the Suppression of Fraud (DGCCRF), a competition and fraud watchdog on the grounds that Apple did not inform users that iOS updates released for older iPhones could slow down their devices.The report comes in the aftermath of an earlier confirmation by Apple admitting the fact that it does slow down older iPhones, but only to “prolong the life” of the devices.

Economics

(By Gunika Vij)

Anti Crisis Measures for Ukraine’s Economy
The Economic Development, Trade and Agriculture Ministry of Ukraine has proposed a package of anti-crisis measures for the country’s economy.Read MoreThe key challenges for industrial development in Ukraine are outmoded equipment, reorientation of markets and the introduction of the carbon tax in the EU. The ministry is working on the creation of a coordination center for industrial issues which will bring together representatives of trade associations, big enterprises and think tanks. The key proposal is to consider a possibility of extending the financing for programs and projects to Hr 20 billion in order to stimulate transport infrastructure projects, financial aid programs, production programs in various sectors and defense industry development.

The US election year economy
The big headline out of the latest numbers was that employers added 225,000 jobs in January, comfortably more than analysts had expected. Read MoreIt was about as good a jobs report as an incumbent president could hope for nine months before Election Day — and not just in obvious ways. That alone suggests that economic growth is steady at a minimum, and maybe accelerating as the year begins. Average hourly earnings are up only 3.1 percent over the past 12 months, below the rates being recorded for most of last year. Moreover, overall inflation has been low enough that even the soft 3.1 percent growth in average hourly earnings means pay is rising faster than prices for consumer goods — so it’s not as if workers are ending up worse off, on average.

U.S. Labour market on it’s rise: 225000 jobs added
The U.S. labor market got a massive boost with the addition of 225000 jobs in January. Alongside, according to a report from the labor department, the unemployment rate inched up to 3.6% from 3.5%, a 50 year low. Read MoreThis is mainly because companies are preferring employees from a large pool of job seekers to occupy the positions in their company. In January, the share of Americans aged 25 to 54 working or looking for work ticked up to 83.1% from 82.9% in December, the highest rate since 2008. The major shift has been seen in the construction industry with 44,000 new jobs added because of considerably warm weather conditions. Other industries which have shown an increase in the job market are leisure,  hospitality, health and education education.  Subsequently, the monthly payroll growth for the past three months have risen up to an average of 211,000 jobs, compared with an average of 175,000 for all of last year.

CORONAVIRUS EFFECT: Global Buyers replacing China with India
With the deadly coronavirus originating from China, the global buyers are looking to replace the supplies from China and source them from India in products like ceramic, fashion and lifestyle, homeware, textile, engineering goods and furniture. Read MoreThere is an increasing number of enquiries from the US and the European Union with more than 50 new accounts wanting to change the source of their imports.  Similarly, at the ongoing Cevisama 2020 ceramics fair in Spain, more than 55 Indian Firms have experienced greater recognition with the fall in competition from the Chinese companies. “We expect to get a head start in ceramics, especially in vitrified tiles, where we compete with China,” said a Delhi-based exporter. Ajay Sahni, director general at the Federation of Indian Export Organisations said that Indian exporters of chemicals, engineering goods and marine products will benefit the most. On the flip side, India’s leather sector still depends on China for soles and ornaments and that supply chain will get hit. Moreover, the brands do not get out of their trading relations immediately. It is also likely that they will replace China with Cambodia or Vietnam.

Finance

(By Aditya Jain, Jotpreet Singh)

Rupee to Fall Further
The Reuters Report stated that the already Battered Rupee is expected to weaken further amidst fears that a significant growth in Economy is unlikely.Read More This comes after the Annual Budget did not provide much short-term support to the Slowing Economy. Adding to the crises, the Coronavirus in China has shifted investors from emerging economies to safe havens of the US Dollar, Japanese Yen and the Swiss Franc.

Time to Change your Portfolio?
Prominent Finance Professors at University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School feel that the traditional 60:40 portfolio (i.e. 60% debt and 40% equity) needs to be changed in the environment of declining interest rates. Read More They feel that the Investors in particularly the US should move towards a portfolio of 75:25. The reason cited is that the interest rate offered on the US Treasury Bills is lesser than the dividend on S&P 500. Further, they stated that demographic factors such as an ageing population, a broader inclination to avoid risk, longer life expectancy will all add to the depressing interest rates.

New Laws to Strengthen Cooperative Banks
The cabinet has approved to make amendments to the Banking Regulation Act to strengthen Cooperative Banks and avoid a PMC like crises.  Read MoreThe proposed law seeks to enforce banking regulation guidelines of RBI in cooperative banks. This comes at an important time when RBI has put restrictions on withdrawal at PMC Bank. The changes will help strengthen financial stability and are expected to increase professionalism. The Audit would be done as per the RBI Guidelines and the Central Bank would supersede the board in case it is in any financial trouble.

PSU banks adequately capitalised, says CEA Subramanian
Chief Economic Advisor Krishnamurthy Subramanian says PSU Banks are adequately capitalised and they must now tap the capital market themselves instead of looking towards the government for support. Read MoreFinance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in the budget that the government has infused Rs. 3.5 lakh crore into PSU banks so far. This statement comes on account of increased Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) efficiency. The Essar steel case helped State Bank of India improve its profits as it had been earlier written down but now was realised. Going further, the government expects the IBC proceedings to help increase PSU banks’ profitability.

Realty players hail RBI inspite of no rate cut
The RBI, on Thursday, announced no change in lending rates in its latest monetary policy meet, mainly on account of uncertain inflation outlook. Read More Still, there were two measures which are set to help the real estate sector which has been in a tight situation for quite some time. To increase lending to MSME as well as to auto and home segment, the RBI tweaked maintenance of CRR norms by providing relaxation in calculation of total deposits. Banks are set to get exemption in CRR over incremental lending till July 2020.

Society and Culture

(By Shruti Jha, Nikunj Gulati, Kanika)

Government proposes a ban on Fairness Creams Ads
The Health and Family Welfare Ministry has proposed a draft amendment to the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954. Read More This amendment will ban advertisements that promote false claims. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare proposing the amendment in order to keep up with the changing time and technology. The Amendment has increased the number of diseases, conditions and disorders from 54 to 78 with a stringent punishment of a jail term of upto 5 years and a fine of upto Rs. 50 Lakh for ads promoting treatment for fair skin, improvement in height, enhancing sexual performance, infertility in women etc. The draft amendments are open to suggestions, comments and objections from the public as well as stakeholders for a period of 45 days, the ministry said.

Wuhan hospital announces death of whistleblower doctor Li Wenliang
The Chinese doctor who issued the early first warning about the coronavirus outbreak has died on Friday after becoming infected with it.  Read MoreLi Wenliang, an ophthalmologist on 30 December warned his fellow doctors on social media group about the deadly SARS-like virus spreading in Wuhan- the epicentre of the epidemic. Day after his warning, he was reprimanded by police for rumour-mongering online according to his social media account. The Chinese Supreme Court later said the police were wrong in taking actions against him. Dr. Li had become a hero to many Chinese. His death quickly became the most talked topic on Wechat and Weibo, China’s two biggest platforms attracting millions of people and searches.

SC seeks inventory of Sabarimala ornaments
After the controversy over the age restrictions for entry of women, the Sabarimala temple in Kerala is now in dispute of ornaments of Lord Ayyappa. Read More The Supreme Court has ordered for the preparation of an inventory of ornaments that adorns Lord Ayyappa at the temple and appointed retired Kerala High Court judge CN Ramachandran Nair to supervise the work. The Court had noted a dispute between two branches of the Pandalam royal family, which is the custodian of the sacred ornaments. The Attorney General KK Venugopal responded, “This what precisely happened in Padmanabhaswamy Temple case wherein there was a dispute over the ownership of jewellery”. Venugopal urged the court to direct the royal family to submit the full list of the inventory and allow a jeweller to assess the ornaments for its valuation.

CPCB issues show-cause notice to 14 thermal power plants
The Central Pollution Control Board has issued show-cause notices to 14 thermal power plants for violating environment norms and causing air pollution. Read More The notices have been issued by the CPCB to four thermal power plants in Haryana, three in Punjab, two each in Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Telangana and one in Tamil Nadu. The notices were issued as the thermal plants failed to comply with the regulations of the Environment (Protection) Act for compliance of emission limit of sulphur dioxide and impacting ambient air quality in and around thermal power plants. Plants now have to prove why they should not be shut down and how they will compensate for this non-compliance of the guidelines.

10 year jail term for hacking GSTN
As per the new guidelines, hacking into the GST database and associated infrastructure dependencies installed at GST Network (GSTN) can now lead to 10-year imprisonment, as the assets have been declared as ‘protected systems’ by the finance ministry, under the IT Act. Read More Protected systems are part of critical information infrastructure and their destruction can have a debilitating impact on national security, economy, public health or safety thus receiving extra security for their protection. Access to the system and its facilities has been limited to authorised GSTN employees, designated tax officers of the Central Government, State Government, Union territories, auditing agencies and accounting authorities.

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