Current Affairs in English – August 8 , 2019

RBI cuts rates to boost sagging economy

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Wednesday cut interest rate by a rare 35 basis points — the fourth successive reduction — to a nine-year low, in an attempt to boost an economy growing at its slowest pace in nearly five years. The central bank reduced its growth projection for the Indian economy to 6.9 per cent for the current financial year, from 7 per cent forecast in June, due to a slowdown in demand and investments. The RBI, which has lowered the repo rate by 1.1 percentage points this year, maintained its “accommodative” stance that meant an increase is off the table.

The repo rate is the rate at which the RBI lends to banks. The reverse repo rate was lowered to 5.15 per cent. With four of its six members voting for a 35-basis point reduction, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) reduced repo rate to 5.4 per cent — the lowest since April 2010. The remaining two MPC members voted for a 25-basis point cut.

The previous instance of four successive rate cuts happened between April 2012 and May 2013 when the repo rate was reduced by 1.25 percentage points — 50 basis points (bps) on April 17, 2012, followed by 25 bps reduction each on January 29, 2013, March 19, 2013 and May 3, 2013. The repo rate during this period came down from 8.50 per cent to 7.25 per cent. This was a period prior to the advent of the MPC, when the RBI alone decided on interest rates.

RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das said the MPC was of the view that a 25-basis point cut was “inadequate”, while a 50-basis point reduction would have been “excessive”. So, a 35-basis point easing was deemed “balanced”. The central bank has since 2006 changed interest rates by 25 or 50 bps only.

Pak cuts diplomatic ties with india

Pakistan on Wednesday expelled Indian High Commissioner Ajay Bisaria, minutes after it decided to downgrade diplomatic ties with India over what it called New Delhi’s “unilateral and illegal” move to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.

This was announced after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired a crucial meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC), attended by top civil and military leadership, during which it was also decided to suspend the bilateral trade and review the “bilateral arrangements”.

UN keeps mum on Kashmir issue

A spokesperson for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres declined to comment on claims that scrapping of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status by India is in violation of the Security Council resolutions, reiterating that the UN chief is following the developments in the region with concern. I think we’ve expressed our… we said very clearly that we are following the developments in the region with concern. We…the Secretary General’s position at this point is to urge all parties to exercise restraint,” secretary-general’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters on Tuesday.

NSA Ajit Doval Reviews Security in J & K

National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval on Wednesday undertook a whirlwind visit to the militancy-infested south Kashmir and assured the locals that their security is the government’s responsibility.

Doval arrived in Kashmir on Tuesday, a day after the Centre revoked the provisions of Article 370, which gave special autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir. He is reaching out to the local population in the Valley as a confidence building measure (CMB).

Everything will be alright. Your safety and security is our responsibility,” Doval told people in Shopian district. An unprecedented security cover and several restrictions are in place in Kashmir. All modes of communication have been snapped in the Valley. Doval was seen eating food on a footpath outside closed shops and talking to locals. He exchanged views with them on the security situation and the government’s decision to abrogate provisions of Article 370 and bifurcate Jammu and Kashmir into two Union territories. “Your children and their children will continue to live here. They will make their name in the world,” he said.

TS Govt increases Rythu Bima premium

The State government issued orders on Wednesday increasing the premium for Rythu Bima scheme paid to Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) to Rs 3,013.50 per farmer including Goods and Service Tax (GST). In the first year of the scheme, the premium was Rs 2,271 per farmer. The scheme has been extended for one more year till August 13, 2020. About 31.1 lakh farmers will benefit from the scheme.

All the pattadar passbook holders in the age group of 18 to 59 years as on August 14, 2019 (born between August 14, 1960 and August 14, 2001 – both days inclusive) would be eligible.

The State government increased the premium following a request from the LIC which was implementing the scheme without any profit orientation. LIC observed that the actual expenses and mortality rate was higher than expected. Ryots covered get an insurance cover of Rs 5 lakh each in case of death due to any cause.

Diplomatic outreach in Amaravati on Aug 9

A Diplomatic Outreach Event will be organised here on August 9 in which delegates from over 35 countries including UK, USA, Japan, Korea and Australia are expected to participate for exploring the potential trade relations in mutual interest. The State will showcase industrial policies and investment opportunities in Andhra Pradesh and potential areas of partnerships with the participating countries.

Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy will be the chief guest of the event which will also be attended by the State Finance Minister, Minister for Industries and Commerce along with top officials.

The CM is likely to have a one-on-one meeting with delegates of select countries. The event is being organized in collaboration with the Ministry of External Affairs.

Goa earns Rs 411 cr from casinos

The Goa government has collected Rs 411 crore in revenue from onshore and offshore casinos in the State in the financial year 2018-19, the Legislative Assembly was informed on Wednesday.

Presenting the Performance Budget for Home department, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said an expense of Rs 22 lakh was incurred towards Haj pilgrims in the last fiscal. Goa Home department implements the Goa, Daman and Diu Public Gambling Act, 1976.

Under the said Act, there are six offshore and eight onshore casinos operating in Goa. The government collected Rs 411.44 crore revenues in 2018-19 from these casinos,” said the Chief Minister. Operation of the casinos is a political hot potato in the coastal State.

Saeed funded terror: Pak CTD

Mumbai terror attack mastermind and Jammat-ud Dawah chief Hafiz Saeed was declared guilty of “terror financing” by the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) in a Pakistani court on Wednesday.

Saeed, a UN designated terrorist whom the US has placed a $10 million bounty on, was presented before the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) Gujranwala, some 80 km from Lahore, in high security where he was charge-sheeted of terror financing by the CTD of Punjab police. A CTD official said it submitted challan in the ATC declaring Saeed guilty of terror financing. “Since the case is related to Mandi Bhauddin district of Punjab; the prosecution requested the court to shift it to Gujrat ATC court (some 200-km from Lahore),” he said.

The Pakistani government had also arrested the JuD’s second-in-command Abdul Rehman Makki, who is brother-in-law of Saeed, on the charges of making a public speech and terror financing charges.

Missile launches warning to US, S Korea, says Kim

North Korea on Wednesday said its leader Kim Jong Un supervised a live-fire demonstration of newly developed, short-range ballistic missiles intended to send a warning to the United States and South Korea over their joint military exercises.

The official Korean Central News Agency said two missiles launched from a western airfield flew across the country and over the area surrounding the capital, Pyongyang, before accurately hitting an island target off its eastern coast. Its four rounds of weapons demonstrations in two weeks come during a stalemate in nuclear negotiations and after President Donald Trump repeatedly dismissed the significance of the tests, even though the weapons show North Korea’s ability to strike at US allies South Korea and Japan and its military bases there. Experts say Trump’s downplaying of the North’s weapons displays allowed the country more room to advance its capabilities and build leverage ahead of negotiations, which could possibly resume sometime after the end of the allies’ drills later this month.

Katerra setting up Rs 700 cr unit in TS

US-based Katerra, a design and technology driven global construction company, broke ground on its first fully integrated off-site manufacturing plant at Shabad (Hyderabad) on Wednesday. Projected to get completed by March 2020, the factory will deliver 8 million square feet of building components every year through robotic assembly line production. The company will invest $100 million (about Rs 700 crore) into the Hyderabad facility.

Katerra is poised to create over 1,000 jobs and over 7,000 additional jobs across various jobsite and auxiliary services. In addition to that, Katerra will also set up vocational training centre to upskill the workforce and will focus on providing them technical training with an aim to help them build long-term careers.

After setting up $70 million (about Rs 490 crore) factory campus at Krishnagiri, Tamil Nadu and a movable onsite factory in Lucknow, this will be Katerra’s second automated factory in India.

Pak dump Arthur after WC flop

Pakistan’s cricket board axed coach Mickey Arthur on Wednesday after the team failed to get out of their group in a disappointing World Cup.

Arthur’s contract expired after World Cup, won by hosts England, and the South African had asked for a two-year extension.

But Pakistan Cricket Board chief Ehsan Mani said Arthur and his assistant coaches Grant Flower and Azhar Mahmood had all been shown the door.

Arthur has been shortlisted as the next England coach after Trevor Bayliss departs following the ongoing Ashes Test series.

PV Sindhu only athlete from India among Forbes list of world’s highest-paid female athletes

India’s badminton star P V Sindhu is the only athlete from the country to be named among the world’s highest-paid female athletes by Forbes, a list topped by tennis great Serena Willams. With total earnings of 5.5 million dollars, Sindhu is tied for the 13th place in The Highest-Paid Female Athletes 2019 list released by Forbes on Tuesday.

Sindhu remains India’s most marketable female athlete….She became the first Indian to win the season-ending BWF World Tour finals in 2018,” Forbes said. The list of the world’s top 15 female athletes is topped by Williams, with total earnings of USD 29.2 million.

On the second spot is Naomi Osaka, who won the 2018 US Open, defeating 23-time Grand Slam champ Williams. She has total earnings of USD 24.3 million. Forbes said its earnings tally looks at prize money, salaries, bonuses, endorsements and appearance fees between June 2018 and 2019. There are 15 female athletes who made at least USD 5 million during that time period; for comparison roughly 1,300 male athletes will hit that mark this year.

The top 15 earned a cumulative USD 146 million, compared with USD 130 million last year.

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