Less cashless?

449

What is it? The number of times Pakistan violated ceasefire across the Line of Control in 2016, according to India’s Home Ministry.

Why is it important? It’s up from 405 violations in 2015, indicating that on average Pakistan has been violating ceasefire at least once everyday in the last two years. Last week, Pakistani forces crossed the LoC in Poonch district in Jammu and Kashmir to kill two Indian soldiers and mutilate their bodies.

Tell me more: 236 security personnel were killed between 2012 and 2016, 23 of them in the last two years, according to a response by Home Ministry to a Right to information query.

 

4%

What is it? The target inflation rate – within a tolerated band of 2-6% – for Reserve Bank of India, according to RBI Act.

Why is it important? RBI governor Urjit Patel is reportedly taking a hawkish stand and keep the inflation below 4%, rather than be flexible with the band. It’s in conflict with the expectations of market players, who believe targeting a rate within the band (closer to 6% rather than 4%) could help push growth.

Tell me more: Retail inflation stood at 3.81% in March, but water shortages in many parts of the country could push inflation rate higher in the coming months.

 

Rs 2259 billion

What is it? The amount of cash withdrawn from ATMs in March.

Why is it important? This is marginally higher than the cash withdrawn in March last year, and raises questions about one of the stated goals of demonetisation – reduce India’s reliance on cash – announced in November last year. However, some part of cash withdrawals could be because of the pent-up demand (the limits on cash withdrawals were removed only on March 13th), and not be an indicator of a long term trend.

Tell me more: Demonetisation, which sucked out 86% of cash in circulation, has impacted GDP growth adversely, especially informal sector which is more dependent on cash.

 

66%

What is it? The percentage of votes won by Emmanuel Macron in the French presidential elections

Why is it important? The French elections were keenly watched from across the world because it is seen as a bigger ideological fight between the far right and centrists. Brexit (the referendum that voted for UK to leave European Union) and election of Donald Trump were seen as a victory for the far-right, raising concerns that the world is getting too nationalistic. However, with the electoral loss of the far-right right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, the fears appear to be abating.

Tell me more: At 39, Macron is the youngest ever French president. An ex-banker, he is pro-business and pro-European Union, and his victory has strengthened Euro against the dollar.

 

2 hours 25 seconds

What is it? The time Kenyan runner Eliud Kipchoge took to complete Breaking2 marathon at the Monza Formula One racetrack in Italy on Saturday.

Why is it important? Kipchoge was aiming for a two-hour marathon, which in the running world, occupies the same place that four minute mile did once upon a time. (It was broken by Roger Bannister on May 6, 1954.) While Kipchoge failed to make it by just 26 seconds, he still set a new standard for marathon, running faster than the present record holder Dennis Kimetto who ran 26.2 miles in2:02:57.

Tell me more: However, the attempt, sponsored by shoemaker Nike, will not go down as official world record because of the use of pacers and mopeds to give drinks to runners. Kipchoge and his fellow runners ran in Nike’s new, controversial Vaporfly Elite shoes.

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Bezos, Amazon and Blue Origin

6%

What is it? The new, increased reverse repo rate fixed by Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Thursday.

Why is it important? This was a surprise move as the RBI was expected to keep rates unchanged at the review. Even though the key rate of repo (the rate at which the central bank lends to banks against government securities) was not changed, the tinkering of the reverse repo by 25 basis points would still affect liquidity. This would incentivise banks to deposit more with the RBI as they would earn higher interest income from such deposits.

Tell me more: This points to the RBI’ concern of an increase in inflation.

 

$1 billion

What is it? The worth of Amazon.com’s stock that founder Jeff Bezos sells annually to fund his other project — the private space rocket company, Blue Origin.

Why is it important? The funding comes from Bezos’ personal stock-holding in Amazon, which made him the second-richest person in the world late last month. Bezos has a networth of $77.3 billion, largely due to his stock-holding. While in 2015, he held 83.43 million shares of the company, it has reduced through stake sale through the years to 81.91 million in 2016 and at 80.89 million shares in 2017. With the funding, Blue Origin is inching closer to the goal of launching passenger space trips, lasting 11 minutes from 2018.

Tell me more: Blue Origin, like Elon Musk’s SpaceX, is working on reusable rockets for affordable space flights.

 

5.7%

What is it? The growth forecast rate for 2017 of ‘developing Asia’, comprising 45 countries who are members of the Asian Development Bank.

Why is it important? This year and the next would see the slowest growth at 5.7% since 5% growth in 2001. The Asian Development Bank kept its forecast muted as China’s economic indicators  could get revised downwards and uncertainty in global policies take root.

Tell me more: The region had grown at 5.8% in 2016. While China is forecast to clock 6.5% in 2017, less than 6.7% in 2016, India is expected to grow at 7.4% in 2017, higher than 7.1% in 2016.

 

$2 billion

What is it? The value of defence deals signed between India and Israel on Thursday.

Why is it important? This is for the supply of advanced medium range surface-to-air missile systems. The technology was developed by by Israel Aerospace Industries and India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation, along with a few other players, signalling the strengthening relationship between India and Israel..

Tell me more: This comes three months ahead of Modi’s visit to Israel. Modi will be the first Indian prime minister to visit the country, and marks a change in India’s diplomatic relationship with the state.

 

$8.4 million

What is it? Grants to four Indian non-profits from Google.org, Google’s philanthropic arm.

Why is it important? The grants will help these organisations – Learning Equality, Million Sparks Foundation, Pratham Books StoryWeaver and Pratham Education Foundation – develop technology-based learning solutions. As India struggles to raise the standards of its school education, tech-based solutions could help in the process. Annual Status of Education Reports have painted a dismal picture of education outcomes.

Tell me more: The projects include a technology platform for translating books, hybrid learning programmes, digital content platforms and offline digital content for students.

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News in Numbers, Feb 09, 2017: Indian Unicorns: Softbank sends a message

$475 million

What is it? The amount written off by Softbank in value of its shareholding in Snapdeal and Ola, two Indian unicorns in e-commerce and cab hailing industries respectively.

Why is it important? It’s a sign that investors are adjusting their expectations from home grown tech startups, given the competition from global players such as Amazon and Uber. Besides, as the customer acquisition costs continue to go up, startups and investors are rethinking about the size of addressable market for business models that are imported from abroad.

Tell me more: Softbank, especially under former Softbank president Nikesh Arora, was one of the most active players in Indian startup space a few years ago, and led an investment of $210 million in Ola and $627 million in Snapdeal in 2014.

 

6.25%

What is it? The repo rate, or the key policy rate for banks, which the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) held for the second time in a row in its bi-monthly policy reviews.

Why is it important? Amidst popular expectation of a rate cut now that banks are flush with liquidity following nationwide deposits, the RBI left it untouched. It indicates the central bank wants to take its time to assess the impact of demonetisation on macroeconomics. Be it inflation or wages, it is now being said RBI will take a call after April.

Tell me more: RBI reiterated its commitment to bring down headline inflation to 4%, and noted Q4 FY17 it will remain below 5%. It alsorevised its GDP growth forecast from 7.1% to 6.9% in FY17.

 

140

What is it? The cases of rape registered with the Delhi police in January, 2017.

Why is it important? Crime against women continue unabated in the capital, despite concrete measures by the Delhi police, including sensitising the force, help desks at police stations and increased patrolling. While 14% of rape complaints remained unsolved in 2016, it was 30% in January.

Tell me more: There were 238 cases of molestation and 51 eve-teasing cases registered in January.

 

500,000

What is it? The proposed annual number legal immigrants allowed into the US, cutting the present quota by half in the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act (RAISE Act).

Why is it important? The latest proposal adds another angle to the immigration debate taking the US by storm after Donald Trump’s election. It seeks to limit entry of foreigners without a skills-based visa by cutting the number of green card or legal permanent residency issued annually.

Tell me more: The bill also seeks to cap the refugee programme to 50,000 a year, coming in the wake of a year (fiscal ended September, 2016) that allowed 84,995 refugees in, the highest under the Obama administration.

 

$ 1 trillion

What is it? Reduction in China’s foreign exchange reserves in the last three years.

Why is it important? At $2.998 trillion, the reserves are the lowest in nearly six years. While nearly $3 trillion is not small by any measure, it comes when China’s economic growth is moderating. Some analysts believe that it could lead China to devalue its currency, if the trend persists.

Tell me more: Chinese government is concerned about the outflow of capital and has tightened rules on forex purchases and cross-border renminbi remittance in the recent past.

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News in Numbers, Jan 31, 2017: Merger on the airwaves

Rs 78,000 crore

What is it? The estimated combined revenue of a proposed merger of Vodafone India and Idea Cellular.

Why is it important? The all-share merger will create India’s largest telecom company, larger than the Rs-50,008-crore-earning Bharti Airtel. Debt on both the companies’ books and likely losses incurred from the tariff-reduction race started by Reliance Jio are being seen as triggers for the move. It looks like a much needed consolidation boost in the 22-circle Indian telecom market, as seen from the stock gains of Indian telecom operators yesterday ranging 8-10% with Idea gaining a record 26%.

Tell me more: The merged entry would still have to address, in many markets, the telecom regulator’s anti-monopoly restrictions of owning no more than 50% of spectrum in a band and 25% of available spectrum in a circle (or geographic market).

 

1 day

What is it? Number of days to go before the RBI-mandated daily ATM withdrawal limit of Rs 10,000 is removed, from February 1.

Why is it important? The first sign of reverting to pre-demonetisation days of cash management was made with RBI’s circular removing the ATM limit. Two weeks ago, RBI signalled its ease in handling cash by expanding the limit to Rs 10,000 from Rs 4,500. The Rs 24,000-weekly limit on savings-bank withdrawal, however, stays put, but restrictions on  current account, cash credit and overdraft accounts will be removed.

Tell me more: RBI mentions the savings-bank limit is under consideration for withdrawal in the “near future”. Banks can use their discretion to set their own operating limits at ATMs as was the practice before old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes were withdrawn.

 

42

What is it? The number of cases the Income Tax (IT) departmentregistered nationwide under the recently-enforced Benami Transactions Act.

Why is it important? Warnings in public advertisements by the IT department against depositing unaccounted old currency in someone else’s bank account anonymously are materialising now. The BenamiAct’s section 24 has been invoked for 87 notices, for attaching bank accounts with crores of rupees of such dubious deposits and an immovable property.

Tell me more: These cases, if proven true, would attract a heavy penalty and a rigorous jail-term of a maximum of seven years.

 

4

What is it? The number of new administrators appointed by the Supreme Court to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

Why is it important? The neutral committee headed by former Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), and the current Chairman of Banks Board Bureau, Vinod Rai, will pave the path to reform the embattled BCCI, richest sporting body in India and the most profitable cricket board in the world. The team, with a mix of financial acumen, social perspective and cricketing enthusiasm, is tasked with bringing in accounting rigour and good governance to a body mired in controversies, the latest being its earlier president and secretary sacked on January 3. It would also finalise the Indian Premier League’s 10th edition besides reporting on the Lodha panel recommendations to the court.

Tell me more: The other members are Vikram Limaye, managing director and CEO of IDBI Bank; former Indian women’s cricket captain Diana Edulji; and historian and writer Ramchandra Guha. Limaye will represent BCCI in an ICC meeting in February. The committee has no term limit.

 

650

What is it? The number of branches of the India Post Payments Bank(IPPB) to be set up by September, 2017.

Why is it important? The IPPB will locate these branches in postal district headquarters which would enable all the post office branches under those head offices to be served by the payments bank. With India Post’s envious branch network of no less than 155,000 post offices, expanding its reach should be one of IPPB’s easiest tasks.  It would let enabled post offices accept limited deposits at a maximum interest of 5.5% and offer payment services but not offer loans, unlike commercial banks.

Tell me more: The IPPB joins Airtel Payments Bank, offering 7.25% on savings, in a new financial services category, with more players to come.

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