The End Of An Alliance




What is it? The number of Lok Sabha seats Shiv Sena is confident of winning in Maharashtra in the 2019 general elections, following a political resolution passed by it on Tuesday that says it would contest all future elections on its own.

Why is it important? With this, the regional party has ended its 29-year-old alliance with BJP, which makes it the first political outfit to do so since Narendra Modi became prime minister in 2014. It is unclear if Shiv Sena would withdraw its support to the state government in Maharashtra, where it has 63 seats and BJP 122 in the 288-member assembly. Shiv Sena’s parting of ways comes at a time when the BJP has been on the rise in the state.

Tell me more: The national executive of Shiv Sena unanimously re-elected Uddhav Thackeray as party president and his son, Aaditya Thackeray, who is head of the party’s youth wing, to a group of top Sena leaders.


$2 trillion

What is it? The total investment India is seeking in the infrastructure sector over the next two years, according to railways minister Piyush Goyal, who spoke to the media on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum at Davos on Tuesday.

Why is it important? This is nearly thrice the unmet infrastructure needs outlined last year by finance minister Arun Jaitley, who said that India would require about $646 billion over a five-year period until 2022. According to S&P Global Ratings, India and Indonesia would lead infrastructure investments among the South and South-East Asian countries over the next two years. The sector, which is beset with time and cost overruns in project implementation and has a high exposure to banks’ stressed assets, is a major driver of Indian economic growth.

Tell me more: Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the opening session of the World Economic Forum in Davos on Tuesday, becoming the first Indian PM to do so in over two decades, where he projected India as a favourable investment destination.



What is it? The number of companies—GlaxoSmithKline, Shionogi, Pfizer and Novartis—that have taken steps to separate bonus payments to sales representatives from the volume of antibiotics sold, according to an analysis by Access to Medicine Foundation, a non-profit organisation.

Why is it important? This is in recognition of a part of the industry’s efforts to tackle the growing antibiotic resistance crisis globally, though drug manufacturers’ response to this still remains inconsistent. Antibiotic resistance has been described as one of the biggest threats to global health by the World Health Organization, where bacteria change in response to the use of antibiotics in the prevention and treatment of bacterial infections. According to some experts, drug-resistant infections kill 700,000 people per year globally and this could increase to 10 million by 2050.

Tell me more: In 2010, India was the world’s biggest consumer of antibiotics for human health, according to a 2016 study.



$100 billion

What is it? The market capitalisation that video streaming service Netflix crossed for the first time on Monday.

Why is it important? It is a vote of confidence in its business model. Netflix achieved this feat on the back of a solid fourth quarter, in which its revenues increased 32% to $3.2 billion and it added 8.33 million subscribers, surpassing its own prediction of 6.3 million subscribers. Analysts feel the company is still on the high-growth curve—for Q1 of 2018, the company has projected 6.35 million new subscribers, of which 4.9 million are projected to come from markets outside the US.

Tell me more: In Q4 of 2017, Netflix recorded a net profit of $186 million, against $67 million in Q4 of 2016.



What is it? The year-on-year increase in air traffic recorded by domestic airlines in December, according to latest numbers released by the aviation regulator.

Why is it important? It continues Indian aviation’s strong run of double-digit growth over the past three years. This period has coincided with a slump in fuel prices, giving airlines considerable room in managing growth along with improving profitability. But with fuel prices surging 20% in the past six months, this state of doing business could be challenged, and could also have a bearing on industry growth.

Tell me more: India remains one of the top growth markets in domestic aviation: in November, it grew the fastest among the seven largest world markets.


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Realty starved of pvt equity


What is it? The rate of growth of core sectors in March, 2017, which contribute 37.9% to the Index of Industrial Production.

Why is it important? This is faster growth than seen in February, at 1% year-on-year. Output of steel, coal, and natural gas prices spurred the increase.

Tell me more: However, the growth was slower than last year’s March, when the eight core sectors together grew at 9.3%.



What is it? The number of local hires by Infosys in the US over the next two years.

Why is it important? This is part of its plans to work around the visa restrictions the US is levying after the new administration came into power. North America (includes Canada) accounts for over 60% of Infosys’ revenues. It joins Wipro in having announced plans for local hires in the US.

Tell me more: Infosys will also set up four technology and innovation hubs in the US. The first hub will be operational from 2021.


Rs 3,326 crore

What is it? The private equity investment in residential realty projects in the first quarter of 2017

Why is it important? It is a 42% decline from the previous quarter of Oct-Dec, 2016, at Rs 5,725 crore. PE investors stayed away as sales were slow and new launches were far and in between. Sales had slowed down as buyers waited for the imminent launch of the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2017. The act also calls for stricter measures against builders who do not complete projects or divert buyer’s money to other projects. Cushman & Wakefield who published the PE numbers, says builders were also seeking less funds to focus on completing existing projects.

Tell me more: Lower security of new investments in builders who were over-leveraged also made PE investors stay away.


Rs 235 crore

What is it? Cost of South Asia satellite to be launched on Friday.

Why is it important? Indian Space Research Organisation’s communication satellite is billed as India’s gift to neighbours, including Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Afghanistan. It would help in access to education, healthcare and disaster relief infrastructure.

Tell me more: The 2230 kg satellite will be launched by ISRO’s GSLV Mk-3 from Sriharikota on May 5th.



What is it? The number of robots being deployed by Credit Suisse within the bank.

Why is it important? Robots, usually associated with with large factories, are making inroads into services sector, raising fears about job losses among some sections, even as banks look to automation to maintain growth and profits. These robots will help Credit Suisse employees with regulations and compliance queries, much like Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa (except that Siri and Alexa are generalist).

Tell me more: It’s not clear if these robots are hardware or only software. “Non-industrial robot revenues are likely to grow 10-fold within [next five years], and with the development of AI, Big Data Analytics and the Internet of Things we will start to perceive robots not only in hardware, but also in software terms,” an article published in Credit Suisse site last year said.

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$1 billion

What is it? The size of the deal India has signed with US defence and aerospace major Boeing for buying four additional ‘Poseidon-8l’ long-range maritime patrol aircraft.

Why is it important? This would strengthen India’s naval surveillance capabilities at a time when Chinese nuclear and conventional submarines have been making frequent trips in the Indian Ocean region. The Asian giant has been keen on developing a number of ports around India and developing a military logistics base in Djibouti, a tiny African nation.

Tell me more: It would also have the capabilities of dropping and monitoring sonobuoys (to detect underwater sounds and transmit them by radio), which is currently being used to look for the missing AN-32 plane of the Indian Air Force. The first of the four will be delivered in 50 months.



What is it? The number of infrastructure projects worth Rs 150 crore or more that have reported cost overruns, as per a May report by the government.

Why is it important? These projects have resulted in cost overruns of Rs 1.59 lakh crore, which is 12.5% of the original cumulative cost of the 1,076 projects monitored in May. Highlights the need for speedy implementation of projects even as the government tries to strengthen the economy, which is likely to touch 8% next year (according to estimates by Nomura). Private spending has not yet picked up, putting the burden on the government to do the job.

Tell me more: Of the 1,076 projects, less than a third (30.7%) of the projects reported time overruns. The percentage of projects that have reported cost and time overruns have marginally decreased to 22.4% (from 22.7% in April) and 30.67% (from 30.73% in April) respectively, in May.



What is it? The additional tax on inter-state sales as proposed in the earlier version of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Constitution Amendment Bill, which has now been done away with.

Why is it important? This is one among the few other changes approved by the Union Cabinet on Wednesday, which is likely to better the bill’s chances of being passed in the Rajya Sabha this monsoon session. With this, the government has met one of the three key demands of the Congress, which has 60 seats in the Upper House. The NDA has 72 seats in the Rajya Sabha and has managed to get the support for the bill from various regional parties that have a cumulative 63 seats – it requires the support of 163 members to pass the legislation in this House.

Tell me more: If the government is able to get the bill (which already received the Lok Sabha’s approval last year) passed in the Rajya Sabha this monsoon session, it can meet its deadline of rolling out the unified tax by April 1, 2017. Other changes approved by the Cabinet include compensating the states for any revenue loss in the first five years of rolling out GST and that the Bill will mention that any dispute would be settled by the GST Council (with representation both from the central and state governments).


Rs 27 crore

What is it? The fine imposed by the Reserve Bank of India on 13 banks for violating Foreign Exchange Exchange Management Act (FEMA), Know Your Customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering provisions and norms.

Why is it important? Highlights the extent of violations across private and public sector banks, some of them serious in nature. This is a result of raids across branches (including those of Bank of Baroda and HDFC Bank) that were conducted as part of the investigations into a Rs 6,100-crore foreign exchange scam unearthed at Bank of Baroda last year. In this case, bank employees had allegedly collaborated with some people to transfer funds to accounts in Hong Kong and the UAE for import transactions that never took place.

Tell me more: The banks that have attracted penalty include Allahabad Bank, Canara Bank, Bank of Baroda, HDFC Bank, Bank of India and Punjab National Bank. Eight others including Axis Bank, ICICI Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank, Standard Chartered Bank and the State Bank of India have been asked to take appropriate measures to ensure strict compliance of KYC norms and FEMA provisions, and review them periodically.


40 degree Celsius

What is it? The temperature above which a 5-star rated air conditioner (AC) starts performing like a 2-star rated AC, according to a study.

Why is it important? This could be one main reason for the inappropriately high electricity bills during summer months in many households. A 5-star AC is supposed to save 20-22% of the energy costs when compared to a 1-star appliance (according to the Bureau of Energy Efficiency) but this study says that when temperatures shoot up to 40-45 degree Celsius, a 5-star AC can start consuming 10-28% more power than the declared capacity. Some of the metros such as Delhi, Chennai and Hyderabad had crossed 40 degree Celsius this summer.  At above 45 degree Celsius, it becomes worse than a 1-star rated AC.

Tell me more: The study by the Centre for Science and Environment says energy efficiency of ACs decrease when the room temperature is lowered below 27 degree Celsius. It also points out that the cooling capacity of a room decreases by around 30% during peak summers when a 1.5-tonne AC starts behaving like a 1-tonne AC.

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What is it? The percentage of shares state-owned National Aluminium Co Ltd (Nalco) has agreed to buy back from the government.

Why is it important? This is to partly help the government raise funds to meet its fiscal deficit target of 3.5% of GDP for 2016-17 after having contained it at 3.9% of GDP in 2015-16. The price at which Nalco will buyback the shares is yet to be fixed and if it is done at market prices, it would cost the firm $450 million (less than Rs 3,000 crore).

Tell me more: It remains to be seen if this would affect Nalco’s expansion plans, which includes setting up of a $2-billion smelter facility in Iran. The company’s chairman has claimed otherwise.

< 40 crore

What is it? The number of unorganised workers who would be benefitted by government schemes including insurance and pension using Aadhaar and Jan Dhan accounts.

Why is it important? The near-universal coverage of Aadhaar (93% of adults have Aadhaar cards and 25 crore bank accounts linked) would enable the government to do away with its earlier plans of issuing social security smart cards to unorganised workers. This would help save the government an estimated Rs 15,000-Rs 20,000 crore on the smart cards’ project, besides cutting down on implementation time.

Tell me more: Unorganised workers, who account for nearly 90% of the total workforce in the country, face problems including inadequate legal protection in terms of job security, wage-related issues and poor access to formal credit.


What is it? The growth of the combined output of eight infrastructure sectors in March 2016 compared with a year-ago period.

Why is it important? This was the fastest growth in 16 months, mainly due to a sharp increase in fertiliser, cement, electricity and refinery products, indicating that the economy may be on the recovery path. However, the higher numbers could be because of the base effect as factory output contracted by 0.7% in March 2015.

Tell me more: Interestingly, Nikkei’s Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index, a composite indicator of India’s manufacturing activity based on a survey, declined to a four-month low – indicating trends in contrast to the factory output numbers.


What is it? The percentage of water left in 11 major dams in Marathwada region covering eight of the 36 districts in Maharashtra, compared to 10% a year ago.

Why is it important? The region is facing its fourth drought year in the last five years. With a month and a half for the monsoons to set in, only three dams have live water storage (water that can be used) while the rest are on dead storage levels (water that cannot be drained out by gravity but needs to be pumped out). Officials say they would manage with the available water.

Tell me more: Reduction in crop production by 70% over the last one year is not helping the situation. 370 farmers have reportedly committed suicide in the region in the last four months.


What is it? The number of earth-like planets an international team of scientists have discovered.

Why is it important? This is the best possible chance to find traces of life outside the solar system, scientists say, taking research one step further in finding potentially habitable planets. All the three planets may have regions with temperatures apt for sustaining liquid water and life, and the availability of technology and proximity of these planets makes the research all the more promising.

Tell me more: The three planets, which orbit a small star, are 39 light years away.

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