The First Forum is an initiative that focuses on covering the latest happenings in a brief format. This is in lieu of the importance of knowledge about current happenings in this fast-changing world.
In the Eightieth – Edition of The First Forum we would be covering the following topics:
1. Politics
2. Science and Technology
3. Business
4. Economics
5. Finance

(By Ashika Deb, Shitij Goyal and Gunika Vij)

Politics

Italy opposition right calls for elections to solve political crisis

Italy’s rightist opposition parties called for early elections on 29th January as the way to solve the country’s political crisis, following the resignation of Prime Minister who is now acting as caretaker, after being unseated when former premier withdrew his Italia Viva party from the coalition, depriving it of a parliamentary majority and throwing Italy into political limbo during the coronavirus crisis. Read MoreThe Prime Minister, still backed by the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and the centre-left Democratic Party, is hoping to get a fresh mandate, but the prospect is far from certain. Salvini, representing a right-wing alliance of parties, hinted at a risk of a future split in the bloc, saying if the head of state should try to install a government without elections each party would take its own decision on how to respond.

AIMIM MLAs Dismiss Political Alignment Speculations

All five MLAs of Asaduddin Owaisis’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) met chief minister Nitish Kumar in Bihar on 28th January and dismissed speculations of political alignment. After Akhtarul Imam’s meeting with the chief minister, he answered a query about Bihar’s ruling JD(U)-BJP alliance by likening it to a family in which the members lack compatibility but are unwilling to part ways.  The chief minister’s party has been making overtures to smaller parties to increase its strength. Read MoreZama Khan, the lone Bahujan Samaj Party MLA in Bihar, merged his party with the JD(U) last week, while independent legislator Sumit Singh pledged full support to Kumar’s government. These developments have fuelled speculation that Singh will support the JD(U).When asked about these recent political changes favouring the JD(U), Iman said he would not comment on others’ behaviour.

Malaysia’s pandemic and political emergency

Following months of political uncertainty, Malaysian Prime Minister with the consent of King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, declared a state of national emergency in the country. The national emergency reveals huge challenges to the current government. Even as the palace has stated that the emergency is likely to continue till August, it has given undue executive powers to the prime minister and his cabinet to pass laws and ordinances bypassing the normative parliamentary legislative processes; this announcement was made almost immediately after travel restrictions were declared. Read MoreWhile the pandemic is still a matter of concern, the political instability brewing over the last year in Malaysia was forcing the move towards an earlier call for elections, which has now been temporarily suspended. The ongoing crisis has its roots in what has been popularly called the Sheraton Move – after having been in leadership for a second time as prime minister since May 2018, Mahathir Mohamad in February 2020 suddenly stepped down to deny passing on the leadership to Anwar Ibrahim

Political Tensions Flare in Myanmar

Myanmar is facing a deepening political crisis amid rising tensions between the country’s powerful military and Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government. Ever since Suu Kyi’s ruling National League for Democracy won in the Nov. 8 poll, the military and its political factions have demanded authorities investigate its allegations of mass voting fraud. While the military’s commander-in-chief earlier this week floated the idea of revoking the constitution and a spokesman had further stoked fears of a coup, the military released a statement saying it would act in accordance with the law, on Saturday. Read MoreMyanmar’s election commission on Thursday labeled the vote transparent and fair. The U.S., United Nations and the European Union on Friday urged the military to respect the widely accepted results. Among the military’s chief complaints are accusations of 8.6 million instances of voter fraud in the country of nearly 55 million people and they have observed more than one million duplicate votes.

Biden govt supports dialogue to find political solution to Afghanistan

The Biden administration is looking at the extent to which the Taliban are complying with the conditions of the peace agreement and supports the negotiations between stakeholders. Trump administration signed the peace deal with Taliban in February, 2020 which drew up plans for withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in exchange for security guarantees. Read MoreThe Taliban committed to prevent other groups including al Qaeda from using Afghan soil to recruit, train or raise funds towards activities that threaten US or its allies. Although they stopped attacks on international forces as part of the deal, it continued to fight Afghan government. It demanded the release of thousands of its members in order to start talks.

Science and Technology

Asus Wants Gamers in India to Join ROG Academy Programme, Company Executive Shares Insight

Asus ROG Academy is a new virtual initiative by the Taiwanese PC, component, and peripherals maker, aimed at enabling gamers in India to showcase their skills and get a chance to become professional e-sports players. Asus will organise this programme and pick six contestants to be part of the ROG Academy. Read MoreHere, they will be put under the tutelage of professionals who will mentor, train, and guide them towards the goal of representing Asus ROG locally, as well as globally. With the significant growth of gaming in India especially in the last year owing to the pandemic, people can now have a virtual platform to not only compete with others, but assess e-sports as a legitimate profession for themselves.

Netflix Starts Testing Timer Feature to Stop Streaming Content After a Certain Period

Netflix has started testing a new feature that will allow viewers to set a timer for their favourite show or movie. The latest addition, currently live for select Netflix subscribers on Android devices globally, is another move by the US streaming platform to enhance its viewing experience. Read MoreNetflix is testing the timer feature for adult profiles, though it could be expanded to its Kids viewers over time — depending on the feedback it receives during the initial testing period.

Nasa’s latest Mars craft nears landing for unprecedented seismic mission

Nasa’s first spacecraft built to explore the deep interior of another world streaked toward a landing scheduled for Monday on a vast, barren plain on Mars, Read Morecarrying instruments to detect planetary heat and seismic rumblings never measured anywhere but Earth.

Isro satellite launch: Geo Eye over Indian Ocean, internet connectivity in J&K, NE

Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro)  launched high throughput communication satellite GSAT-29 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. The exercise was called GSLV MkIII-D2 mission. Read MoreThe Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mk-III) carried GSAT-29 off the ground on its second developmental flight at 5.08 in the evening. The load carried by GSLV Mk-III included what is being called as Geo Eye to monitor sensitive regions along the borders.

NASA successfully tests shape-changing wing for next generation aviation

NASA has announced the successful completion of initial flight tests of a new morphing wing technology. The shape-changing wings are not only designed to significantly reduce an aircraft’s weight as well as the noise it generates during flight, these flaps could save the industry millions of dollars annually in fuel savings. Read MoreIn tests, the wing’s curve remained set anywhere from -2 to 30 degrees but it can be adjusted as needed even in mid-flight. Eventually, flexible wings can make for lighter, more fuel-efficient planes as well as quieter take-offs and landings, the US space agency said in a statement.

Business

GST revenue collection for January almost touched 1.20 lakh crore: Govt

Recording the highest monthly tax collection, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) revenue collection for January 2021 has touched nearly ₹1.20 lakh crore, the government said. Read MoreThe tax collection is higher than the December 2020 record set in the last round, which witnessed an unexpected rise of 11.6 per cent.

GameStop short nightmare shows few signs of becoming a contagion

GameStop Corp.’s surge has struck fear into anyone caught on the wrong side of its ascent. But those bearish positions probably aren’t big enough to lay low the larger universe of investment funds. Read MoreFor now, while Reddit-fueled stock jocks may have drowned out every other narrative, they’re unlikely to completely subsume the bull market.

Nine of 10 most valued firms lose over ₹3.96 lakh crore in market valuation; RIL most hit

The combined market valuation of nine of the top 10 valued domestic companies eroded by a whopping ₹3,96,629.40 crore last week in tandem with a weak broader market, where Reliance Industries Limited took the biggest hit. Read MoreIn the last week, the 30-share BSE benchmark tumbled 2,592.77 points or 5.30 per cent due to profit-booking ahead of the Union Budget.

Myntra revising its logo after complaint says it’s ‘insulting to women’

E-commerce platform Myntra is revising its logo after a complaint was filed with the Mumbai cyber police against the logo, terming it as ‘offensive’ and ‘insulting to women’. Taking up the matter in various forums and on social media, Naaz Patel alleged that the logo resembled a naked woman and demanded its removal by Myntra, besides asking for appropriate action against the firm. Read MoreAs of now, the new logo can be seen on the company’s website. Flipkart-owned Myntra is one of the largest online retailers for apparel and accessories in India. The company recently grabbed headlines for its ‘End of Reason Sale’.

World Bank’s IFC to invest $45 million equity in upGrad Education

Online tutor upGrad will raise around $45 million from International Finance Corporation (IFC) to expand its services, said the two sides. upGrad, the short name for upGrad Education Private Limited, has almost doubled its users in six months and aims to touch 10 lakh by the end of 2021. The company generated Rs 230 crore last fiscal, and aims to close this with an annual revenue run rate of Rs 1200 crore. IFC, an investment arm of the World Bank, said it will make an equity investment of $45 million in the company, which was founded in early 2015. Read MoreThe company has got 21,500 paid learners and helped more than 370,000 individuals globally in five years, making it India’s largest online higher-education company based on gross revenue generated in 2018-19.

Economics

China’s economic recovery continued in January at slower pace

China’s economy recovery continued in January but at a slower pace, as the resurgence of coronavirus in parts of the country took a toll on business sentiment, led by a sharp drop in service sector morale. The official manufacturing purchasing managers’ index fell to 51.3 last month from 51.9 in December. China’s non-manufacturing PMI fell to 52.4 in January, down from December’s reading of 55.7. Within the non-manufacturing PMI, the subindex for the construction sector fell to 60.0 in January from 60.7 in December, while the service sector business activities index fell to 51.1 from 54.8. Read MoreA reading above 50.0 indicates growth in sector activity, while a reading below represents contraction. The official composite PMI – a combination of the manufacturing and non-manufacturing indices – fell to 52.8 in January from 55.1 in December.

India to emerge as most resilient economy in 2021

India will emerge as the most resilient economy after Germany in 2021. Germany ranks first in the PHDCCI International Economic Resilience (IER) Rank followed by India and South Korea at second and third positions, respectively. It’s based on analysis of five lead macroeconomic indicators reflecting a country’s economic performance including real GDP growth rate, merchandise export growth rate, current account balance, general government net lending/borrowing and gross debt-to-GDP ratio. Read MoreIndia’s IER Rank indicates strong resilience of the Indian economy to the daunting pandemic of COVID-19. India’s real GDP growth rate is projected to be the highest at 11.5% in the year 2021 among the top-10 leading economies in the world. The merchandise export volume growth is estimated to be the strongest at 14% in the year 2021.

Chief Economic Adviser made a case for strong counter-cyclical measures to encourage private investment

Chief Economic Adviser K.V. Subramanian on January 30 said the country would witness revival of ‘animal spirits’ of private enterprises with the economy staging a ‘V-shaped’ 11% growth in the next fiscal year. The Economic Survey 2020-21 presented in Parliament on January 29 expects the growth rate to rebound sharply from an estimated record contraction of 7.7% in the current financial year. Most of the domestic companies have been shying away from making and as a result, the responsibility of capital formation has largely fallen on the government’s and state-owned firms’ shoulders. TRead Morehe government is focussing on the National Infrastructure Pipeline which envisages an investment of ₹111 lakh crore over five years.

Economic Survey 2021 blames India’s bad loan woes on Raghuram Rajan’s policies as RBI governor

The Economic Survey 2020-21 pins the blame of India’s bad loan problem on “accounting sleight of hand” that the Reserve Bank of India allowed around 2013-16, broadly coinciding with the time Raghuram Rajan was the central bank governor. According to the survey, “Early resolutions of banking crises limit the damage from the same to the economy. Yet, the RBI dragged its feet in biting the bullet while attempting to persuade banks to recognise that the distinction between NPAs and restructured assets is nothing but accounting sleight of hand.” Read MoreGetting a loan restructured involved negotiations with the bankers who had discretion in selecting cases for restructuring.  The decision on forbearance or allowing temporary suspension on loan repayments resulted in an increase in lending to unproductive firms.

Finance

New ATM Withdrawal Rules

Punjab National Bank (PNB) customers will not be able to withdraw money from non-EMV automated teller machines (ATMs) from today. “To protect our esteemed customers from fraudulent ATM activities, PNB will be restricting transactions (financial and non-financial) from Non-EMV ATM machines from February 1, 2021, Go Digital, Stay Safe!” Read Morethe bank had informed its customers via a tweet on 14 January. Non-EMV ATMs are those which reads data through magnetic strips and do not hold the ATM card during the transaction.

Loss of Farmer Agtitation

The ongoing agitations by farmers in the national capital region (NCR), Haryana and Punjab will cause a Rs 600-crore loss to toll collections, a report said on Friday. Apart from the impact on toll collection due to restrictions in vehicular movement, there is also a debt of over Rs 9,300 crore taken by the stakeholders which is at “risk”, ratings agency Icra said in the report. Read MoreAssuming that protests would subside by February, the agitations are likely to result in a steep decline of around 30-35 per cent in toll collections in the affected states in 2020-21, it said. It is compared with a 5-7 per cent decline for the rest of India, which is attributable to the pandemic, the report added.

Non-Food Bank Credit Grows at 5.9%

Non-food credit growth of banks stood at 5.9 per cent in December 2020 as compared to 7 per cent in the same month of the previous year, RBI data showed. During the reporting month, growth in credit to agriculture and allied activities accelerated to 9.4 per cent from 5.3 per cent in December 2019, Read Morethe data on sectoral deployment of bank credit for December 2020, released by Reserve Bank of India (RBI), showed.

Central Assistance to five states

A high level committee headed by Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Friday approved an additional central assistance of Rs 1,751 crore to five states for the damage caused by floods and landslides due to the southwest monsoon in 2020. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh were the beneficiary states. Read MoreThe committee has approved additional central assistance of Rs 1,751.05 crore to the five states from the National Disaster Re.

Centre Issues Rural Local Body Grants

The Ministry of Finance released grants worth Rs 12,351 crore to 18 states towards the development of rural local bodies (RLBs) on Wednesday, according to an official statement. This took the total grants released so far towards RLBs to Rs 45,738 crore in the ongoing fiscal. It also marked the second installment of the basic grants towards RLBs in FY21 as per the recommendations of the 15th Finance Commission (FC). Read MoreThe 18 states received the second installment after receiving certification of utilisation of the first installment from the ministry of panchayati raj. From the RLB grants, Uttar Pradesh received the highest amount of Rs 7,314 crore followed by Maharashtra with Rs 4,370 crore and Bihar at Rs 3,763 crore.

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