Current Affairs 23rd February

Xi may visit India for BRICS summit #GS2 #IR

China’s President Xi Jinping may visit India in the second half of this year to attend the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) leaders’ meeting, if a physical summit is held as is increasingly expected.

Expectations are that by the second half of the year, the summit will not have to be held virtually. While the COVID-19 situation will determine whether that is the case, other major summits in Europe and the U.K. are likely to take place this summer, before the BRICS meet.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to make his first overseas trip after the pandemic to Bangladesh in March and is also likely to attend the India-E.U. meet in Portugal in May and the G7 summit in the U.K., where India has been invited as a guest country, the following month. 

In recent years, BRICS has seen greater solidarity, deeper practical cooperation, and greater influence,” he said. It is now a positive, stable and constructive force in international affairs. China attaches importance to this mechanism and we are committed to deepening strategic partnership within it to consolidate solidarity and cooperation.

China also was in favour of working with the grouping to “expand BRICS-plus cooperation and work for greater progress and help the world to defeat COVID-19, resume economic growth and improve global governance.

While disengagement is under way along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, having been completed last week at Pangong Lake and now in progress in other areas, de-escalation is yet to take place, with thousands of troops on both sides still present in depth areas beyond the LAC and yet to return to their peacetime positions.

Benefit of the NewsIndia- China relations

5 States account for 86.3% of new COVID-19 cases: Ministry #GS3 #SnT

Seven States and Union Territories (UTs), including Uttarakhand, Ladakh, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh, have not reported any new COVID-19 cases in 24 hours. Meanwhile, 86.3% of the new cases are from five States, with Maharashtra reporting the highest of 6,971, followed by Kerala with 4,070 cases and Tamil Nadu with 452.

It said that 19 States/UTs had not reported any COVID-19 deaths in the last 24 hours. These include Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Odisha, Goa, Chandigarh, Assam, Manipur, Sikkim and Lakshadweep.

The country reported 83 deaths in the last 24 hours and five States accounted for 78.31% of them. Maharashtra saw the highest of 35, while Kerala reported 15 deaths. India has on Monday morning registered a record in the number of COVID-19 cumulative tests. It has crossed the 21.15 crore [21,15,51,746] tests, with 6,20,216 tests being conducted in the last 24 hours.

‘Involve private sector’

The private sector is providing health services to nearly 70% of the population. For the vaccination programme to be effective and successful in a vast country like India, the involvement of the private sector is essential.

Benefit of the NewsCovid effect rising again

Covaxin uptake below 1% in 12 States, UTs #GS3 #SnT

As on February 21, the uptake of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin for COVID-19 across India was about 10%, Health Ministry data show. The reception to the vaccine stands in contrast to Covishield, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, which accounts for 90%. Of the 10.6 million doses administered, 10,37,565 are Covaxin.

No dose

Not a single dose of Covaxin had been administered in Chhattisgarh, while three Union Territories — Puducherry, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Daman & Diu — did not report any uptake as on February 21.

Many States and UTs reported low uptake compared to Covishield. Punjab administered the vaccine only to 91 people, while Goa immunised just one person with it. The other States with low uptake were Nagaland (4 people), Mizoram (4), Lakshadweep (4), Chandigarh (9), Manipur (29), Tripura (30), Ladakh (31), Himachal Pradesh (38), Meghalaya (49), Arunachal Pradesh (54), Uttarakhand (69), and Sikkim (128). Except Sikkim, where the uptake was 1%, it was less than 1% in 12 States and Union Territories.

The difference in coverage is a function of differential allocation of Covaxin doses to different States. This is further confounded by delayed communication of the information and lack of data on efficacy.

In response to a Parliamentary question, the Health Ministry said on February 5 that as on February 1, nearly 2.6 million Covaxin doses were distributed to 19 States and UTs. At 1,89,920, Tamil Nadu got the most (Covishield was a little over one million). 

Other States with large Covaxin supplies included Telangana and Rajasthan (1,72,960), Maharashtra and Delhi (1,70,400), Odisha (1,69,760), Assam (1,68,160), Karnataka (1,66,240), Uttar Pradesh (1,65,280), Andhra Pradesh (1,64,320), Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh (1,50,400). Chhattisgarh, Jharkand, Punjab, and Kerala each got the lowest number (37,760).

India in trade, defence pacts with Mauritius #GS2 #IR

India and Mauritius signed a $100 million Defence Line of Credit agreement on Monday. It was a part of several understandings, including the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement (CECPA) that was signed between the two countries.

Privileged to witness along with Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth the signing of Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement, India’s first such agreement with an African country. [This] will help focus on post pandemic economic recovery. Enable business expansion and greater investments.

Using the new framework under the CECPA, India and Mauritius would provide preferential access to a number of items like surgical equipment, medicine, and textile products that would cater to market requirements on both sides. “Just to illustrate some of the benefits, Mauritius will get preferential access for export of 40,000 tonnes of sugar into India at an early time frame.

Benefit of the NewsIndia- Mauritius relations

‘Growth momentum needs to be strengthened’ #GS3 #Economy

The growth momentum needs to be strengthened for a sustained revival of the economy and a quick return to the pre-COVID trajectory, RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das said, pitching for a status quo on rates, at the last meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC).

All the six members of the MPC had voted for keeping the policy repo rate unchanged at 4% at the three-day meeting which began on February 3, citing similar reasons.

The growth momentum, however, needs to strengthen further for a sustained revival of the economy and for a quick return of the level of output to the pre-COVID trajectory. Given the sharp moderation in inflation along with a stable near-term outlook, he said, the monetary policy needed to continue with the accommodative stance to ensure that the recovery gained greater traction and became broad-based.

The RBI kept the policy rate unchanged for the third time in a row in its last monetary policy review for 2020-21 on February 5. The MPC also decided to continue with the accommodative stance as long as necessary.

Deputy Governor Michael Patra said overall, the near-term outlook for inflation appeared less risky than the near-term challenges for growth which warrant continuing policy support.

India Ratings raises banking sector outlook to ‘stable’ #GS3 #Economy

India Ratings and Research on Monday revised its outlook on the overall banking sector to ‘stable’ for the FY22 from ‘negative’ even as it saw higher stress emerging in the retail loan segment, going ahead.

For public sector banks (PSBs), the outlook has been revised to ‘stable’ from ‘negative’ and for private banks, the agency continues to have ‘stable’ outlook.

It estimated that overall stressed assets (gross non-performing assets + restructured assets) could rise 30% for the banking system; the increase is almost 1.7 times in the retail segment in the second half of FY22.

We expect that by the end of FY21, the provisions will go up to almost 75-80% on those NPAs. This will give banks space to absorb COVID stress. The agency also revised credit growth estimates to 6.9% for FY21 from the earlier 1.8%, and forecast 8.9% for FY22. Mr. Haria said a lot of the retail stress was coming from unsecured advances and that it would be seen more in private banks because of their higher exposure to unsecured loans.

The stock of stressed retail assets for PSBs could rise to 2.9% in FY22 from 2.1% in FY21, while it could climb from 1.2% to 4.3% for private banks, it said. The agency also expected deposit rates to rise as credit growth revives and capital market flows are enhanced.