Daily Current Affairs - 21st Mar 2018

23 Countries Take Part in Gulf Shield 1 Military Drills

  • The Gulf Shield 1 Joint drills, organized by the Ministry of Defense of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, started off in the Eastern Region in participation of military forces from 23 countries as well as the Saudi forces. The drill is scheduled to last for one month.
  • The multilateral exercise was aimed to raise military readiness of participating countries, modernise joint mechanisms and enhance coordination and cooperation. It also aimed to exchange expertise in fields of planning, organizing, and implementing different training activities.
  • The drill is considered the largest military drill in the region in terms of diversity of expertise and quality of weapons, aims at raising the military readiness of the participating countries, modernizing the joint mechanisms and enhancing coordination and cooperation.

Bihar governor Satya Pal Malik gets additional charge of Odisha

  • Bihar Governor Satya Pal Malik was given the additional responsibility of Odisha,
  • SC Jamir, 86, completed his tenure as Odisha governor. Bihar governor will have the additional responsibility of Odisha until regular arrangements are made. He has served as Union minister of state for parliamentary affairs and tourism and other important positions in Central and state governments.

Canada proposes to tighten controls on the sale of guns

  • Canada proposes to tighten controls on the sale of guns. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduced a legislation which requires gun retailers in the country to keep records of firearms inventory and sales for at least 20 years.
  • The proposed bill will also expand the scope of background checks of those who want to acquire a gun. Personal history questions on a license application will cover a person's entire lifetime instead of five years.
  • The legislation will also require purchasers of rifles and shotguns to present a valid license. Currently, license verification is voluntary for non-restricted firearms like rifles.

Centre scraps sugar export tax to boost exports, cut inventory

  • India has scrapped a 20 per cent sugar export tax, a government source said on Tuesday, to help boost overseas sales in a year of surplus production. Further it made compulsory for mills to export a combined 2 mt to 3 mt to cut bulging stocks at home.
  • The country is likely to produce a record 29.5 million tonnes of sugar in the 2017/18 season ended on September 30, up 45 per cent from the previous year, pulling down local prices more than 15 per cent over the past six months.
  • The domestic demand is 24-25 million tonnes annually. India's current domestic price for sugar is $460 a tonne, free on board.
  • India is the world's biggest consumer of sugar.

EESL acquires U.K. energy firm Edina for Rs. 493 crore

  • Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) has acquired Edina, a supplier, installer and maintenance provider for combined heat and power (CHP), gas and diesel power generation solutions in the U.K. for £55 million (Rs. 493 crore).
  • EESL intends to bring CHP technology to India, providing an integrated service offering to industries that would enable them to receive equipment maintenance, electricity, heat and power at no upfront costs.
  • The acquisition is a first-of-its-kind by an entity under the Ministry of Power, was made through EESL’s U.K. subsidiary, EnergyPro Assets Limited (EPAL).
  • Edina, with more than 30 years of experience, commands 27% of the gas engine market share and has revenue of £100 million,
  • MD, EESL and chairman, EPAL: Saurabh Kumar

Force Motors, Rolls Royce in engine JV

  • Rolls-Royce Power Systems, a part of BMW’s Rolls-Royce Group, has signed a joint venture (JV) agreement with Pune-based Force Motors for production and supply of its high powered MTU 1600 series diesel engines that will cater to the German major’s global requirements.
  • Series 1600 engines are suitable for power generation and passenger rail applications. Besides manufacturing the Series 1600 units, the JV will also build Series 1600 generator sets.
  • India will now be its global manufacturing hub for this series of engines through the JV.
  • Force Motors will hold 51% in the venture, which will be named Force MTU Power Systems Pvt. Ltd. and will produce MTU’s 10 and 12 cylinder Series 1600 units with power output from 545 to 1050 HP (400 to 800 kWm).
  • The facility, scheduled to start production in the third quarter of 2019, will see investment of Rs. 300 crore in the first phase.

G-20 ministers convene in Argentina

  • Finance ministers and central bankers of G-20 countries are meeting in Argentina at a summit that has been eclipsed by growing concerns over U.S. President Donald Trump's import tariffs on steel and aluminum and the potential of a trade war.
  • Officials are also discussing issues including infrastructure development and the technology behind cryptocurrencies during the two-day meeting.
  • It is the first of five meetings by finance ministers and central bankers scheduled in advance of a main G-20 meeting in Argentina that will be held Nov. 30-Dec 1.
  • Argentina
  • President: Mauricio Macri
  • Capital: Buenos Aires
  • Currency: Argentine peso
  • G-20
  • Founded in 1999, the G20 aims to discuss policy pertaining to the promotion of international financial stability.
  • The G20 (or G-20 or Group of Twenty) is an international forum for the governments and central bank governors from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union, (plus Spain as a permanent guest member).

Goldman Sachs cuts India’s FY19 GDP forecast to 7.6%

  • Investment bank Goldman Sachs lowered its real gross domestic product (GDP) forecast on India for the year to March 2019 to 7.6 per cent from 8 per cent earlier in the wake of a more than $2 billion fraud at Punjab National Bank, warning it could spark tighter regulation of the banking sector that would constrain credit growth.
  • It forecasts the Indian economy to grow 6.6 percent in the current fiscal year which ends in March and it retained its 2019/20 growth forecast at 8.3 percent.
  • The case, along with a flurry of smaller loan frauds since reported by other banks, has sparked new concerns that credit growth is unlikely to pick up quickly in an economy where state-run lenders account for two-thirds of banking assets are already filled with a mountain of bad debt.
  • State-run lenders account for the bulk of the close to $150 billion of soured debt in India.
  • India regained its status as the world's fastest growing major economy in the October-December quarter, as it grew 7.2 percent, its fastest in five quarters.

India signs double taxation avoidance pact with Hong Kong

  • India and Hong Kong signed a bilateral agreement for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion that will stimulate flow of investment, technology and personnel from India to Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) and vice versa.
  • The treaty would reduce the withholding tax rates that can be applied to interest or royalties. This will allow Hong Kong investors to make investment decisions with greater certainty and will reduce compliance costs for businesses,
  • Under Section 90 of the Income-tax Act, 1961, India can enter into an agreement with a foreign country or specified territory for avoidance of double taxation of income, for exchange of information for the prevention of evasion.
  • Hong Kong officially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, is an autonomous territory of China.
  • Currency: Hong Kong dollar

India to take up U.S. tariffs bilaterally

  • India will take up the issue of the U.S. imposing tariffs on steel and aluminium imports on a bilateral level, Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu said at a press conference following the conclusion of an informal mini-ministerial meeting of the WTO, which was attended by 53 countries.
  • WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo also expressed his concerns about the actions taken by the US, warning that this could lead to escalation and retaliatory tariffs being imposed by other countries.
  • U.S. President Donald Trump recently announced a 25% import tariff on steel and a 10% tariff on aluminium.

IRCTC ties up with Ola for booking cab on its website, app

  • Railway PSU IRCTC has announced a partnership with cab aggregator Ola, giving commuters an option book taxi on its app. The tie-up, a six month pilot project, will give customers access to Ola booking services when they visit the IRCTC Rail Connect App and on its website.
  • The Ola cab facility will provide all the services offered such as Ola Micro, Ola Mini, Ola Auto, Ola Share etc.
  • Customers can choose to book cabs up to seven days in advance or upon reaching the railway station.

Katrina Kaif becomes brand ambassador for international non-profit Educate Girls

  • Actress Katrina Kaif has joined the international award-winning non-profit organisation, Educate Girls as their ambassador. Through her association with Educate Girls, she attempts to bring renewed focus to girl child education and gender equality.
  • For over a decade now, Educate Girls has been partnering with the government in bringing out-of-school girls back to school.
  • In partnership with the government, Educate Girls has been bridging the gender gap in education across 12,000 villages, working with over 21,000 schools in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh over the last ten years.
  • Founder of Educate Girls: Safeena Husain

Starbucks eyes tier-II towns in India

  • Tata Starbucks Private Ltd., the equal joint venture of Starbucks Coffee Company and Tata Global Beverages Ltd., is eyeing an entry into tier-II towns. Starbucks entered the Indian market in October 2012 and currently operates 113 stores. These are in Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bengaluru, Delhi NCR and now Kolkata.

UK teacher wins global best teacher prize

  • A British school teacher has won a $1-million Global Teacher Prize instituted by an Indian-origin entrepreneur’s foundation in the United Arab Emirates to honour an exceptional teacher who has made a significant contribution to the profession. Andria Zafirakou teaches art and textiles in a Brent secondary school.
  • Mrs Zafirakou becomes the first UK winner of the Global Teacher Prize, beating teachers nominated from more than 170 countries.
  • The prize, launched in 2015 by an education charity, the Varkey Foundation, was created to give more status to the teaching profession

US bans use of Venezuela's new petro currency

  • US President Donald Trump signed an executive order making it illegal for Americans to purchase any cryptocurrency issued by Venezuela. The order prohibits US entities from engaging in any financial transactions involving the Venezuelan state digital currency, the Petro, on or after January 9, 2018.
  • This executive order prohibits transactions and dealings in the Petro and Petro gold, as well as any similar future efforts by the Venezuelan government regime to issue a digital currency, digital coin, or digital token by US persons or within the US.
  • Venezuela
  • President: Nicolás Maduro
  • Capital: Caracas
  • Currency: Venezuelan bolívar

World Sparrow Day 2018 observed on March 20

  • World Sparrow Day is observed every year on March 20. The day is an initiative by the Nature Forever Society of India, and was started in collaboration with the Eco-Sys Action Foundation (France) and numerous other national and international organisations across the world.
  • The day is designated not only to conserve house sparrows but also discuss methods that would help other common from increasingly becoming endangered.
  • Considered one of the earliest birds, a sparrow's nest was seen almost in every household. However, a lot has changed over the years. The ubiquitous bird is no longer a common sight.

Yuki advances in Miami qualifiers, Ramkumar ousted

  • Yuki Bhambri crushed Argentina's Renzo Olivo in straight sets 6-4 6-1 in the opening round of the 7,972,535 US Dollar hard court event to move into the final round of the ATP Miami Masters qualifiers. Ramkumar Ramanathan was ousted from the high-profile tournament.
  • Yuki next faces Sweden's Elias Ymer, ranked 133.