IMRAN KHAN TO FACE NO-TRUST VOTE TODAY - Business Guardian
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IMRAN KHAN TO FACE NO-TRUST VOTE TODAY

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I n a setback for Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, the country’s Supreme Court has ruled that the rejection of the no-confidence motion by the Deputy Speaker in the National Assembly was unconstitutional. A five-judge bench of the Pakistan Supreme Court delivered the unanimous verdict yesterday. The court also ordered the reinstatement of the National Assembly in contravention of President Arif Alvi’s decision to dissolve the lower house of Pakistan’s Parliament and declared the order of fresh elections null and void. In addition, the top court ruled that the National Assembly session on the noconfidence motion must be held tomorrow, April 9, and must not be adjourned until a vote on the motion. The court reinstated the National Assembly, as well as declared that the Prime Minister and Federal Ministers, Ministers of State, Advisers, etc, stand restored to their respective offices as of April 3. The Apex Court said that if Imran Khan is removed as a result of the noconfidence motion, the new leader of the house should be elected in the same session. The Pakistan government has set up a commission led by a retired Army officer to investigate the alleged “foreign conspiracy” behind the no-confidence motion against embattled Prime Minister Imran Khan, a senior minister said on Friday

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Economy

G-20 concerned about world economy amid rising geopolitical risks

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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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Politics

BJP vows to double loan amount under MUDRA scheme

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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

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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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Tech

Microsoft warns of AI misuse in Global polls by China

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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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Policy&Politics

FM defends Atal Pension Scheme, highlights guaranteed returns

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Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman defended the Atal Pension Yojana (APY) against Congress criticism, asserting its design based on choice architecture and a guaranteed minimum 8% return. She emphasized the scheme’s opt-out feature, facilitating automatic premium continuation unless subscribers choose otherwise, promoting retirement savings. Sitharaman countered Congress allegations of coercion, stating the APY’s guaranteed returns irrespective of market conditions, supplemented by government subsidies.

Responding to Congress’s claim of scheme misuse, Sitharaman highlighted its intended beneficiaries – the lower-income groups. She criticized Congress for its alleged elitist mindset and emphasized the scheme’s success in targeting the needy. Sitharaman accused Congress of exploiting vote bank politics and coercive tactics, contrasting it with the APY’s transparent framework. The exchange underscores the political debate surrounding social welfare schemes, with the government defending its approach while opposition parties raise concerns about implementation and efficacy.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s robust defense of the Atal Pension Yojana (APY) against Congress criticism highlights the ongoing debate over social welfare schemes in India. Sitharaman’s assertion of the APY’s design principles, including its opt-out feature and guaranteed minimum return, underscores the government’s commitment to promoting retirement savings among lower-income groups. The Atal Pension Yojana, named after former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, was launched in 2015 to provide pension benefits to workers in the unorganized sector. It aims to address the significant gap in pension coverage among India’s workforce, particularly those employed in informal and low-income sectors. The scheme offers subscribers fixed pension amounts ranging from Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 5,000 per month, depending on their contribution and age at entry, after attaining the age of 60. Sitharaman’s response comes after Congress criticism alleging the APY’s inefficacy and coercive tactics in enrolment.

Congress General Secretary Jairam Ramesh described the scheme as poorly designed, citing instances of subscribers dropping out due to unauthorized account openings. However, Sitharaman refuted these claims, emphasizing the APY’s transparent and beneficiary-oriented approach. The finance minister’s defense focuses on three key aspects of the APY: Choice Architecture: Sitharaman highlights the opt-out feature of the APY, which automatically continues premium payments unless subscribers choose to discontinue.

This design element aims to encourage long-term participation and ensure consistent retirement savings among subscribers. By simplifying the decision-making process, the scheme seeks to overcome inertia and promote financial discipline among participants. Guaranteed Minimum Return: Sitharaman underscores the APY’s guarantee of a minimum 8% return, irrespective of prevailing interest rates. This assurance provides subscribers with confidence in the scheme’s financial viability and incentivizes long-term savings.

The government’s commitment to subsidizing any shortfall in actual returns further strengthens the attractiveness of the APY as a retirement planning tool. Targeting the Needy: Sitharaman defends the predominance of pension accounts in lower income slabs, arguing that it reflects the scheme’s successful targeting of its intended beneficiaries – the poor and lower-middle class. She criticizes Congress for its alleged elitist mindset and suggests that the party’s opposition to welfare schemes like the APY stems from a disconnect with the needs of marginalized communities. Sitharaman’s rebuttal also addresses broader political narratives surrounding social welfare policies in India.

She accuses Congress of exploiting vote bank politics and coercive tactics, contrasting it with the transparent and inclusive framework of the APY. The exchange underscores the ideological differences between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition Congress, with each side advocating for their vision of social welfare and economic development. In addition to defending the APY, Sitharaman’s remarks shed light on the broader challenges and opportunities facing India’s pension sector.

Despite significant progress in expanding pension coverage through schemes like the APY, the country still grapples with issues such as financial literacy, informal employment, and pension portability. Addressing these challenges requires a multifaceted approach involving government intervention, private sector participation, and civil society engagement.

As India strives to achieve its vision of inclusive and sustainable development, initiatives like the APY play a crucial role in promoting economic security and social equity. Sitharaman’s defense of the scheme underscores the government’s commitment to addressing the needs of vulnerable populations and ensuring their financial well-being in the long run.

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Politics

Kiren Rijiju assumes supplementary responsibilities in the Ministry of Food Processing Industries

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Kiren Rijiju, the Minister of Earth Sciences, has assumed additional responsibilities as the Union Minister of Food Processing Industries following the acceptance of the resignation of Union Food Processing Industries Minister Pashupati Kumar Paras by President Droupadi Murmu on Wednesday.

Expressing gratitude on the social media platform ‘X’, Rijiju thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for entrusting him with the supplementary responsibility of the Ministry of Food Processing Industries. He emphasized the government’s commitment to advancing India’s economic growth and achieving the goal of making India the world’s third-largest economy by the third term of Prime Minister Modi and transforming it into a fully developed nation by 2047 under the banner of #ViksitBharat.

Additionally, Rijiju shared on ‘X’ that he has officially assumed office as the Minister of Food Processing Industries. He held meetings with the Ministry’s Secretary and other senior officials to discuss plans for the first 100 days of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s term.

Pashupati Kumar Paras tendered his resignation on Tuesday, citing “injustice” by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) towards his party, the Rashtriya Lok Janshakti Party (RLJP), in the seat-sharing arrangement for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in Bihar.

His resignation came following the announcement of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) seat-sharing agreement, which allocated five seats to the Chirag Paswan-led Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas faction), disregarding his faction’s claims. The transition in ministerial responsibilities comes amid the backdrop of political developments in Bihar, with Pashupati Kumar Paras stepping down from his ministerial position due to grievances regarding seat-sharing arrangements within the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Paras, in a press conference, voiced his discontent over the allocation of seats to the Chirag Paswan-led faction of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), asserting that his Rashtriya Lok Janshakti Party (RLJP) had been unjustly side-lined.

As Kiren Rijiju assumes the additional charge of the Ministry of Food Processing Industries, he steps into a pivotal role in overseeing a sector critical to India’s agricultural and economic landscape. The food processing industry holds immense potential for value addition, employment generation, and boosting agricultural income.

Rijiju’s leadership will be instrumental in advancing the government’s vision of promoting food processing as a means to enhance farm-to-fork infrastructure, reduce food wastage, and increase farmers’ income. Moreover, Rijiju’s proactive approach, as evidenced by his swift engagement with ministry officials and formulation of plans for the initial 100 days, signals a commitment to swift action and agenda-driven governance. By laying out a blueprint for the ministry’s immediate priorities, Rijiju aims to hit the ground running and ensure efficient implementation of policies and initiatives to catalyse growth in the food processing sector.

In his communication on social media, Rijiju’s dedication to realizing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision for a developed and prosperous India resonates strongly. With a focus on economic resurgence and nation-building, Rijiju aligns himself with the government’s ambitious targets of propelling India to the forefront of the global economy and fostering inclusive growth.

As the political landscape evolves and ministerial responsibilities shift, all eyes remain on Rijiju and his stewardship of the Ministry of Food Processing Industries. With his vision, determination, and commitment to transformative governance, Rijiju is poised to lead the sector towards greater heights, contributing significantly to India’s journey towards socio-economic prosperity and self-reliance.

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