Gotabaya refuses to resign despite stir - Business Guardian
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Gotabaya refuses to resign despite stir



Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa will not resign and instead will face the country’s political and economic crisis, a key government minister said Wednesday despite the continuing huge protests that are demanding his resignation. Despite public anger against the Rajapaksa family, President Gotabaya will not resign, Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando asserted Wednesday. “May I remind you that 6.9 million people voted for the President. As a government, we are clearly saying the president will not resign under any circumstances. We will face this,” he said.

Late Thursday, Rajapaksa had revoked the state of Emergency with immediate effect on his island nation. In a gazette notification number 2274/10, the President said he has withdrawn the Emergency rule ordinance which gave security forces sweeping powers to curb any disturbance in the country. Rajapaksa has resisted the calls for him to resign even after members of his own coalition made them this week, with governing party lawmakers saying an interim government should replace his and failing to do so would make them responsible for violence. Rajapaksa “will not resign. We will face this. We have the strength to face this.

We are not afraid,” Minister of Highways Johnston Fernando told parliament Wednesday. The declaration defies calls from the public and political opponents for Gotabaya Rajapaksa to step down amid the country’s economic crisis. Crowds have protested for weeks over lengthy power cuts and shortages of gas, food and other basic goods. The public anger has prompted nearly all Cabinet ministers to quit, and scores of MPs to leave his government. 

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US govt agrees to provide USD 6.4B to Samsung for making computer chips



The Biden administration has solidified a groundbreaking agreement, earmarking up to $6.4 billion in direct funding to catalyze Samsung Electronics’ establishment of a cutting-edge computer chip manufacturing and research hub in Texas. This financial injection, revealed by the Commerce Department on Monday, forms a pivotal component of an overarching investment in the cluster, projected to soar beyond $40 billion when supplemented by private capital.

This government backing emanates from the CHIPS and Science Act, a legislative cornerstone inked by President Joe Biden in 2022, aimed at reinvigorating the domestic production of sophisticated computer chips. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo hailed the proposed endeavor as a catalyst poised to elevate Texas into a preeminent semiconductor ecosystem. Speaking during a briefing with journalists, Raimondo underscored its pivotal role in aligning with the administration’s ambitious objective of domestically manufacturing 20% of the world’s foremost chips by the decade’s end. Anticipated job creation also looms large, with Raimondo forecasting a surge of at least 17,000 construction positions and over 4,500 manufacturing roles in the wake of the project’s realization.

Samsung’s envisaged cluster, nestled in Taylor, Texas, comprises two pivotal factories slated to churn out four- and two-nanometer chips, alongside a dedicated research and development facility and a component packaging plant. According to government timelines, the inaugural factory is slated to commence operations in 2026, with its successor following suit in 2027. The funding package also encompasses an expansion initiative targeting an extant Samsung establishment in Austin, Texas.

Lael Brainard, helming the White House National Economic Council, underscored a crucial strategic dividend stemming from Samsung’s foray into Austin: the ability to directly furnish chips to the Defense Department. In an era marked by escalating geopolitical tensions and a burgeoning rivalry between the United States and China, securing access to advanced chip technology assumes paramount significance, attested by Brainard.

In tandem with the $6.4 billion allocation, Samsung is poised to leverage an investment tax credit from the U.S. Treasury Department, further cementing the partnership’s financial underpinnings. Notably, this collaboration represents a broader trend, with the government previously delineating terms to buttress other chip behemoths such as Intel and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. across multifarious projects dispersed across the nation.

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Experts see minimal impact on Indian pump prices, stalemate over IMEC



The impact of Iran-Israel conflict on India does not cover a rise in petrol prices in India even as experts see a likely continuation of shipping disruptions at Red Sea and the India Middle East Corridor project remaining on paper. With Iran finally striking Israel with drones and missiles over the weekend, tensions continued to mount in the global landscape. However, Asian markets were trading on Monday morning as market participants looked confident of a truce in the Middle East after the Biden administration urged Israel not to take retaliatory action against Iran, according to Avdhut Bagkar Technical and Derivatives Analyst, StoxBox, an investment advisory firm.

A report by the Global Trade Research Initiative suggests a deeper unrest as India’s trade problems due to shipping disruption in the Red Sea may aggravate because of the fresh conflict between Iran and Israel. The instability in West Asia could force projects like the IMEC Trade corridor to remain on paper for long time. The tensions might not affect petrol prices in India, says GTRI. Bagkar points out that the oil and gas sector index was up 0.5 per cent amidst several Indian equity indices opening lower and remaining weak throughout Monday, tracking weak cues from global markets. Investors also fretted about escalating tensions between Iran and Israel and its potential impact on crude oil prices, inflation, and the likelihood of rate cuts.

On a positive note, the ongoing conflict is unlikely to disrupt crude oil and gas production significantly, according to GTRI insights, since major producers like the USA, Russia and North Sea operators are not in the conflict zone and Saudi Arabia has not been directly involved. However, shipping disruptions in the Red Sea, which have forced longer routes around Cape of Good Hope for trade with Europe and North America’s east coast, might lead to higher oil and gas prices. In India, the impact on consumers may be minimal as the Government could offset price increases by reducing taxes, suggests the GTRI report.

On a larger canvas, the conflict may imperil the IMEC project. The ongoing conflict has put the IMEC — a major strategic initiative intended to enhance connectivity between India, the Gulf and Europe – on uncertain footing. Stability required for such projects is currently undermined by the volatile situation, especially with key players like Saudi Arabia, pivotal to the corridor, caught in the regional tensions. What is at stake is India’s trade with Iran and Israel — both at modest levels – which would continue to be vulnerable. Merchandise exports and imports from Israel for FY2023 were USD 8.4 billion and USD 2.3 billion respectively, leading to a merchandise trade surplus of USD 6.1 billion. India’s key exports to Israel are diesel which accounts for USD 5.5 billion and cut and polished diamonds worth USD 1.2 billion.

India’s key imports from Israel are rough diamonds to the tune of USD 519 million and cut and polished diamonds worth USD 220 million as well as electronics and telecom components like ICs, parts of photovoltaic cells of USD 411 million, potassium chloride of USD 105 million and herbicide (USD 6 million.

In 2023, India’s trade with Iran included merchandise exports worth USD 1.7 billion and imports of USD 672 million. Key exports from India to Iran were rice to the order of USD 1.03 billion, organic chemicals of USD 113 million and key imports from Iran were methenol at USD 176 million and petroleum coke of USD 85 million. Trade with Iran and Israel are at higher risk due to potential escalations and disruptions in maritime security affecting red sea shipping routes.

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G-20 concerned about world economy amid rising geopolitical risks



If the global economy is heading for a soft landing, there’s likely to be plenty of anxiety along the way. As the world’s financial elite gather in Washington for meetings of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and Group of 20, they’ll confront a mixture of slowing growth, stubborn inflation, high interest rates and debt levels, and market-rattling geopolitical risks.

Bloomberg Economics now sees global activity slowing this year to 2.9 percent — a 0.2 percentage point upgrade from December in what it terms a “great escape” — but still “way below” the pre-pandemic pace.

IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva has signaled that the fund will also slightly raise its forecast, to be released Tuesday, from the current 3.1 percent while warning that the world is heading for “a sluggish and disappointing decade.”

Against that backdrop, investors will closely watch key attendees at the meetings. Scheduled speakers include Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt, and the heads of the European Central Bank, Bank of Japan, and Bank of England.

The politics of the moment have hamstrung the G-20 at recent gatherings, and it will likely again be unable to address risks that split its members.

“We have to buckle up for more to come, because it is a more diverse world,” Georgieva said when asked about geopolitical volatility. “And it is a world in which we have seen divergence, not just in economic fortunes but also divergence in objectives.”

Also in focus in the coming week will be the deep debt distress among several emerging market nations, which gorged for nearly two decades on cheap money, mostly from China. Now poor countries are struggling to regain access to capital as creditors fight for their share of the action, a competition with profound implications for Beijing’s influence over global finance.

“Relative to expectations that the price for taming runaway inflation would be a rash of recessions, a year of modestly slower global growth looks like a great escape.

The next big question – with growth surprisingly robust will central bank pivots be delayed? We’ve pushed back our call for a first Fed move to July — still earlier than many in the market expect.” —Tom Orlik, chief economist. For full analysis, click here

Elsewhere, Chinese economic data, UK inflation and wage numbers, and Canada’s budget will be among the key highlights.

US and Canada

The US data calendar kicks off Monday with retail sales, and economists project a moderate advance as the first quarter drew to a close, underscoring a resilient yet cautious consumer. The figures don’t take into account the impact of inflation and mostly reflect spending on merchandise. March data on inflation-adjusted purchases, including outlays for services, due later in the month will provide a more comprehensive view of household demand.

Among housing data in the coming week, a government report on Tuesday is seen showing that beginning home construction settled back in March after a solid February advance. Homebuilders have taken advantage of scant inventory in the resale market over the past year.

Existing-home sales figures on Thursday are projected to show a decline in March as elevated mortgage rates and prices continue to limit demand. After briefly falling below 7 percent, the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate has moved higher on expectations the Federal Reserve won’t be quick to lower borrowing costs.

The Fed’s public events calendar is chock full. Along with Powell on Tuesday, New York Fed President John Williams appears Monday on Bloomberg Television, and other appearances include Vice Chair Philip Jefferson as well as regional Fed presidents Mary Daly, Thomas Barkin, Loretta Mester, Austan Goolsbee, and Raphael Bostic.

Canadian inflation data for March, released on Tuesday, may show a slight uptick on higher gasoline prices. Core metrics will draw scrutiny, with Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem looking for sustained downward momentum in underlying pressures before cutting rates.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland will release her budget the same day. She’s already announced multiple big-ticket items while pledging to keep the deficit at C$40 billion ($29.2 billion).

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BJP vows to double loan amount under MUDRA scheme



The BJP aims to double the maximum loan amount under its flagship MUDRA scheme once the party returns to power after the Lok Sabha elections. The election manifesto released by the BJP today at the party headquarters in Delhi promises to double the Mudra loan amount to Rs 20 lakh. The manifesto outlines several proposals aimed at enhancing the MUDRA Scheme to foster entrepreneurship and create livelihood opportunities for all sections of society, including OBC, SC, and ST communities.

The manifesto says, “BJP will expand livelihood opportunities for all families, including OBC, SC, and ST, by measures like doubling the MUDRA loan limit to Rs 20 lakh.” It further added, “Our policies have been successful in creating a substantial number of employment opportunities. Our strategic focus on sectors like manufacturing, services, rural industry, infrastructure, tourism, and skill development, coupled with support through credit facilities via Svanidhi and Mudra, has greatly expanded livelihood prospects.”

The objective of the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana (PMMY) is to provide access to institutional finance to new or existing micro-units or enterprises up to Rs 10 lakh, which the BJP in its manifesto promises to double to Rs 20 lakh.

A key highlight of the manifesto is the promise by the party to double the MUDRA loan limit to Rs 20 lakh, providing aspiring entrepreneurs with greater financial support to start and sustain their ventures. Under this initiative, entrepreneurs who have availed of and successfully repaid previous loans under the Tarun category will be eligible for the enhanced loan limit.

The manifesto highlights the success of the MUDRA loan scheme in generating employment opportunities in manufacturing, services, rural industry, infrastructure, tourism, and skill development. Moving forward, the BJP vows to further expand credit programs like MUDRA to support aspiring entrepreneurs in realizing their business goals. By doubling the MUDRA loan limit and extending financial assistance to individuals with a proven track record of loan repayment, the party aims to stimulate economic growth and a culture of entrepreneurship in the country.

So far, more than 46 crore loans worth Rs 27 lakh crore have been given under the PM Mudra Yojana.

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Legally Speaking

Former AAP Minister Moves Delhi High Court, Seeks Removal Of Kejriwal From CM’s Post



In the case Sandeep Kumar v. Arvind Kejriwal and Others, the Delhi High Court observed a petition filed by Aam Aadmi Party MLA Sandeep Kumar seeking the removal of Arvind Kejriwal from the post of Chief Minister of Delhi. Arvind Kejriwal is presently in judicial custody related to an Enforcement Directorate (ED) case concerning the excise policy. This is the third petition seeking such a prayer, with the previous two pleas being rejected by the Division bench headed by Acting Chief Justice Manmohan.

Sandeep Kumar approached the court as a Court of first instance in writ jurisdiction, not as a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), in his individual capacity. He, being a lawyer by profession, claims to be a founding member of the Aam Aadmi Party and a social worker.

The plea filed seeks the issuance of a writ of quo warranto against Kejriwal, calling upon him to show by what authority, qualification, and title he is holding the office of the Chief Minister of Delhi. Additionally, the plea prays for an inquiry to dislodge Kejriwal from the office of the Chief Minister, with or without retrospective effect.

Kumar claims that as a voter of the Delhi Assembly Election, he is personally aggrieved for having a Chief Minister for his Union Territory who has incurred an ‘incapacity to hold the post’ and ‘who can never function as the Chief Minister from custody or prison’ as envisaged by the Constitution of India.

The petitioner argues that Kejriwal has incurred an incapacity to carry out his functions as the Chief Minister of Delhi under the Constitution and therefore, he cannot hold the post. The plea emphasizes that the right to have a government in accordance with the Constitution is a Constitutional Right of every citizen and voter.

Arvind Kejriwal was arrested on the night of March 21 and subsequently remanded to judicial custody until April 15. However, the court refused to entertain a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking Kejriwal’s removal from the post of Chief Minister, observing that there is no scope for judicial interference in the matter, and it is for other organs of the State to examine the issue.

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Microsoft warns of AI misuse in Global polls by China



Countries like India, South Korea and the US, tech giant Microsoft has warned. Voting for 543 Lok Sabha seats in India will take place.

Microsoft has cautioned that China may utilize AI-generated content on social media platforms to influence public opinion and advance its geopolitical agenda during elections in nations such as India, South Korea, and the US. The Lok Sabha elections in India are scheduled to be conducted in seven phases between April 19 and June 4, involving the voting for 543 parliamentary seats. South Korea is set to hold its general election on April 10, while the US is gearing up for its Presidential election on November 5.

“With major elections taking place around the world this year, particularly in India, South Korea, and the United States, we assess that China will, at a minimum, create and amplify AI-generated content to benefit its interests,” Clint Watts, General Manager of Microsoft Threat Analysis Center, stated in a blog post.

Despite the chances of such content affecting election results remaining low, China’s increasing experimentation in augmenting memes, videos, and audio will likely continue and may prove more effective down the line, he said.

China will do it along with North Korea, he wrote.

These are among the Microsoft Threat Intelligence insights in the latest East Asia report published on Wednesday by the Microsoft Threat Analysis Center (MTAC).

China is using fake social media accounts to poll voters on what divides them most to sow division and possibly influence the outcome of the US presidential election in its favour.

China has also increased its use of AI-generated content to further its goals around the world.

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