Current Affairs February 2020 – International

1 – US President Donald Trump acquitted of all impeachment charges

Donald Trump

The United States President Donald Trump has been acquitted of all impeachment charges. The US Senate had acquitted President Trump on two articles of impeachment that are- abuse of power and obstruction to Congress.

The Republican-majority Senate voted 52-48 to acquit him of abuse of power and 53-47 to acquit him of obstruction of Congress. The ruling Republican party has 53 seats while the Democrats have 47. Republican Senator Mitt Romney, who was the party’s presidential nominee in 2012, voted against the president on the first charge.

2 – China’s central bank lowers interest rates to boost economic activities

Central Bank

China’s central bank has lowered the interest rates on reverse repurchase agreements by 10 basis points to boost economic activities. The People’s Bank of China has also injected a total of 173 billion US dollars (1.2 trillion yuan) into money markets through reverse bond repurchase agreements.

PBOC lowered the seven-day reverse repo rate to 2.40% from 2.50%, and cutting the 14-day tenor to 2.55% from 2.65%. The move of the central bank is aimed at offsetting the impact of reverse repos maturing and concentrated maturing of financial market funds.

3 – New natural gas field discovered in UAE

Natural Gas Field

The United Arab Emirates announced the discovery of a new natural gas field containing 80 trillion standard cubic feet of gas in the cross-border area of the Emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. This new gas field, spanning an area of 5,000 square kilometres, represents one of the largest natural gas discoveries in the UAE.

The discovery of the Jebel Ali gas field will contribute to achieving gas self-sufficiency for the nation and support the next phase of its major development projects in line with the nation’s strategic development plan for the coming 50 years.

4 – Hong Kong economy plunged into recession, shrank 1.2% in 2019

Hong Kong Economy

The Hong Kong economy plunged into recession in 2019, suffering its first annual contraction in a decade as the city buckled under the twin pressures of the US-China trade war and months of furious pro-democracy protests.

Official figures showed Hong Kong’s gross domestic product shrank 1.2% on-year for 2019. The fourth quarter — which witnessed the worst violence between police and protesters — clocked a 2.9% contraction, the third straight quarter of declines. 2019 was the worst for Hong Kong’s growth since 2009, when the financial hub was hit hard by the global financial crash.

5 – Maldives rejoins Commonwealth

Maldives

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih of Maldives announced that the island nation has once again become a member of the Commonwealth of nations. Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, confirmed Maldives’ reinstatement into the organization as its 54th member state.

The Maldives first became a member of the Commonwealth in 1982 but former President Abdulla Yameen decided to leave it in October 2016, amid mounting pressure from the group over corruption and deteriorating human rights.

6 – 13th edition of International Children’s Film Festival of Bangladesh

Children’s Film Festival

The 13th edition of the International Children’s Film Festival of Bangladesh concluded in Dhaka. The Best Feature Film award in the international section was given to the Dutch film Romy’s Salon, directed by Mischa Kamp. The Finnish director Merja Maijanen bagged the best director award for her film Good Girl.

German film Day X, directed by Katharina Rivilis won the Best Short Film Award. The Bangladeshi director Ragib Mahmud Shafayet Shah got the Young Talent Award for his film The Smoker while Sudipto Shah won the Social Film Award for his film Khoka Jokhon Chhotto Chhilen.

7 – Global health Emergency declared over Coronavirus by WHO

World Health Organization

World Health Organization declared an international emergency over the novel coronavirus from China, as the disease has spread to 18 other countries apart from China where it originated.

The second meeting of the Emergency Committee convened by the WHO Director-General under the International Health Regulations (IHR) (2005) regarding the outbreak of novel coronavirus 2019 in the People’s Republic of China provided public health advice or formal Temporary Recommendations as appropriate. The WHO Secretariat provided an overview of the situation in other countries. 83 cases were reported in 18 countries.

8 – Pakistan declared national emergency over locust swarms

National Emergency

The Pakistan government declared a national emergency to eliminate the attacking swarms of desert locusts which are destroying crops on a large scale in Punjab province, country’s main region for agricultural production. Locusts are insects have a swarming phase.

The swarms of locust have been destroying crops of Pakistan-India border along Cholistan. Pakistan’s Prime Minister formed a committee to be headed by Bakhtiar to take decisions at the federal level for the elimination of insects.

9 – Iraqi president appointed Mohammad Tawfiq Allawi as prime minister

Mohammad Tawfiq Allawi

Iraqi President Barham Saleh appointed Mohammad Tawfiq Allawi as Prime Minister of Iraq. Mohammad Tawfiq Allawi replaced Adil Abdul-Mahdi who resigned in November 2019 due to anti-government protests.

Prior to this appointment, Mohammad Tawfiq Allawi has served as a communications minister under the government of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in 2006 and 2010. He joined Interfaith International, a Swiss based NGO, that supported the human rights of Muslim minorities during the Yugoslav Wars.

10 – Prince Charles unveiled children’s protection fund for India

Prince Charles

Britain’s Prince Charles has unveiled a new children’s protection fund for India as part of British Asian Trust. The charity was founded by him in 2007 to fight poverty in South Asia.

The trust has appointed popular American singer Katy Perry as the ambassador of the new fund. It will be focussed on reducing the exploitation of children by 50% in India over 10 years. The main areas of focus for the British Asian Trust’s Children’s Protection Fund will cover child sexual abuse, child labour and trafficking.

11 – 5th Dhaka Art Summit held at Bangladesh

5th Dhaka Art Summit

The fifth edition of Dhaka Art Summit was held in Bangladesh. Varied art-forms including live performance, photography and painting were performed during the festival. More than 500 artists, sculptors, architects and art professionals from various countries participated in the Summit. The Summit featured live events, panel discussions and puppet shows among other things.

A special exhibition on the life of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was organized to pay tribute to Bangabandhu on the occasion of his birth centenary. Dhaka Art Summit is the premier art festival of Bangladesh.

12 – WHO called for USD 675 million to fight the novel corona virus

Corona Virus

World Health Organization called for 675 million US dollar in donations for a plan to fight the novel corona virus, mainly through investment in countries considered particularly “at risk”. WHO announced to launch a strategic preparedness and response plan thereby requesting 675 million dollar to fund the plan for the next three months.

60 million US dollar of the funds would be for WHO operations while the remainder would go to countries requiring assistance to guard against the deadly virus. With these funds, WHO sent 500,000 masks and 40,000 respirators to 24 countries from its warehouses in Dubai and Accra.

13 – ADB approved the funding of $2 million to combat Novel Coronavirus

Asian Development Bank

The Asian Development Bank approved the funding of USD 2 million to support efforts to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus. The funds will be used to stop the outspread of novel coronavirus by supplementing ongoing regional technical assistance, improved outbreak investigation and surveillance in rural areas, procurement of medicines and medical equipment and strengthening health systems’ resilience and response capacity in China, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Myanmar.

Coronaviruses (CoV) causes illness ranging from the common cold to more severe respiratory diseases. A novel coronavirus is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.

14 – Africa Union Summit held at Addis Ababa

Africa Union Summit

The annual African Union Summit has kicked off in Addis Ababa. The AU summit was held under the theme of the year 2020, “Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development.” It comprised of 55-member pan-African bloc.

Key discussions are:

  • Implementation of Africa’s peace and security agenda.
  • Sustainable funding of Africa’s development agenda.
  • Operationalization of the Africa continental free trade area (AFCFTA).
  • Promote awareness about the status of treaties of the African union.
  • Best Performing Smart Cities paired up with least performing to work as SISTER CITIES.

15 – Rishi Sunak appointed as UK’s new Finance Minister

Rishi Sunak

Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy’s son-in-law, Rishi Sunak has been appointed as UK’s Finance Minister. He replaced Pakistani Chancellor Sajid Javid. Three Indian origin Members of Parliament are now a part of Britain’s most diverse cabinet led by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Priti Patel has been appointed as the Home Minister and Alok Sharma has been appointed as the Business Secretary in the British Cabinet. Along with these three, 15 Indian-origin MPs are among 65 non-whites elected to the new 650-member House of Commons.

16 – UN Security Council adopted resolution for “lasting ceasefire” in Libya

UN Security Council

UN Security Council has adopted a resolution calling for a “lasting ceasefire” in war-torn Libya. The text, drafted by Britain, was approved by 14 votes out of 15. Libya, Africa’s most oil-rich nation, has been mired in chaos since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime leader Moamer Kadhafi.

Since April 2019, the UN-recognized Government of National Accord has fought back against an offensive by military commander Khalifa Haftar, who is supported by Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

17 – Sudan to hand over Ex-Prez Omar al-Bashir to International Criminal Court

Sudan

Sudan’s rulers have agreed to hand over ex-President Omar al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to face genocide and war crimes charges. Bashir is accused of serious crimes in a conflict that broke out in Darfur in 2003 which led to the deaths of three lakh persons.

Former President and others charged by the ICC, should appear at The Hague to face a tribunal. The commitment came at peace talks between Sudan’s Government and rebel groups from the Darfur region.

18 – EIU lowered global growth forecast for 2020

Global Growth Forecast

The Economist Intelligence Unit lowered its global growth forecast for 2020 to from 2.3% to 2.2% owing to novel coronavirus outbreak in China. Prior to origin of Corona virus, global growth was sluggish throughout 2019 due to trade tensions and slow real GDP growth in the US, China and India. EIU has lowered real GDP forecast for China in 2020 to 5.4% from 5.9%.

EIU predicted that there is a risk that the coronavirus will spread to other countries that do not have the resources to implement robust quarantine policies.

19 – 3rd Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety

Global Ministerial Conference

The 3rd Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety “Achieving Global Goals 2030” took place on 19–20 February 2020 in Stockholm, Sweden. The conference was co-hosted by WHO. Union Minister Nitin Gadkari represented India in the conference.

The objective of the two-day conference was to bring road safety on the global agenda and renew the world community’s commitment to safer roads. Road safety is an urgent health and development matter. The number of deaths on the world’s roads remains unacceptably high, with an estimated 1.35 million people killed each year.

20 – S Jaishankar inaugurated Indian pavilion at Berlin International Film Festival

S Jaishankar

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar inaugurated the Indian pavilion at the Berlin International Film Festival. Three feature films and one documentary from the country were selected for the festival. Information and Broadcasting ministry in collaboration with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) participated in the 70th edition of the festival.

The Indian Delegation at Berlinale 2020 aims to promote Indian films across linguistic cultural and regional diversity and also promote the 51st edition of International Film Festival of India (IFFI).

21 – Indian-origin UK Minister Alok Sharma to lead UN climate summit

Alok Sharma

Indian-origin Alok Sharma was named the new UK Minister in charge of the crunch UN climate talks to be hosted by Britain in November 2020. He has been promoted to the post of Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Cabinet reshuffle.

Mr Sharma will take charge of the crucial summit ‘COP26′ as its former president, Claire Perry O’Neill, was removed amid controversy.

22 – Japan economy suffered worst drop in over five years

Japan Economy

Japan’s economy suffered its worst quarterly contraction in more than five years at the end of 2019 after a tax hike and typhoons. Its gross domestic product in the three months to December shrank 1.6% from the previous quarter.

The disappointing data snapped four quarters of expansion and was the biggest contraction since the second quarter of 2014 when the economy shrank 1.9% after the first sales tax hike in 17 years was introduced.

23 – Australia appointed Barry O’Farrell as next high commissioner to India

Barry O'Farrell

Australia has appointed former New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell as the next high commissioner to India. Mr O’Farrell will succeed Harinder Sidhu who has been in the office since 2016. He will also have non-resident accreditation to Bhutan.

Mr. O’Farrell served in the New South Wales Parliament from 1995-2015 and the 43rd Premier of the province. He has served as New South Wales’ Special Envoy for India and made a significant contribution as the Deputy Chair of the Australia- India Council Board.

24 – Bangladesh to sign Free Trade Agreement with Nepal

Agreement with Nepal

Bangladesh and Nepal have agreed to sign a Free Trade Agreement to enhance trade between the two countries. A committee will be formed to work out the modalities of the agreement. Bangladesh has also agreed to allow Nepal to use it Saidpur airport located in its northernmost district of Nilphamari close to Nepal.

Bangladesh exports commodities worth $38 million to Nepal and imports goods worth around $18 million.

25 – Ashraf Ghani secured 2nd term as President of Afganistan

Ashraf Ghani

Ashraf Ghani has secured a second term as President of Afghanistan. However, his closest opponent Abdullah Abdullah has refused to recognize the results and declared himself winner potentially endangering peace negotiations with the Taliban. Abdullah has announced to establish an inclusive government.

The Election Commission announced that Ghani garnered 50.64% of votes while Abdullah received 39.52%. Ghani and Abdullah head a fragile national unity government that was put together under the US pressure after both leaders claimed victory in Afghanistan’s 2014 elections.

26 – FATF decided to retain Pakistan in ‘Grey List

FATF

The global terror financing watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF) decided continuation of Pakistan in the ‘Grey List’. The plenary has noted that Pakistan addressed only a few of the 27 tasks given to it in controlling funding to terror groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and the Hizbul Mujahideen.

FATF has instructed Pakistan to swiftly complete its full action plan by June 2020. Pakistan was placed on the ‘Grey List’ by the FATF in June 2018 ‘.

27 – BIMSTEC to connect Myanmar-Thailand to India through 3,000 km long power grid

Sectoral Technical

Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is working on connecting about 3,000-kilometre long power grid from Myanmar-Thailand to India. Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) are interested in investing in BIMSTEC regional power grid.

BIMSTEC countries had signed a Memorandum of Understanding for establishing a regional power grid in 2018. BIMSTEC is a regional grouping with seven countries from South and Southeast Asia including Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal and Bhutan.

28 – IFAD Governing Council 2020 held in Rome, Italy

IFAD

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) 43rd Governing Council meeting was held in Rome, Italy. It was based on theme “Investing in sustainable food systems to end hunger by 2030″. The importance of theme lied in IFAD’s role and experience in supporting sustainable, inclusive, nutritious and efficient food systems uniquely place it in a position to contribute to Sustainable Development Goals (SDG2).

The Council discussed the sequences of climate change and its impacts on agriculture will push around 100 million people to poverty by 2030.

29 – South Sudan leader Riek Machar sworned in as Vice President

South Sudan

South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar was sworned in as Vice President of Republic of South Sudan. South Sudan was brought back to peace after ravaged by six years of war. Salva Kiir is the President of South Sudan. He dissolved his old government and formed the new government. The newly formed government will serve for 36 months.

Riek Machar served as the inaugural Vice President of South Sudan from its independence in 2011 until his dismissal in 2013. He was re-sworn as Vice President following a peace agreement with Salva Kiir.

30 – SCO’s Defence Experts Working Group meeting was held in Pakistan

Group Meeting

The 9th Defence and Security Expert Working Group (EWG) meeting of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) was held in Islamabad, Pakistan. The meeting was the part of the ‘Shanghai Cooperation Organization Defense & Security Cooperation Plan 2020’. The forum discussed different aspects of cooperation between the SCO member states’ and regional security and efforts to preserve peace and stability.

China, Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and India including Pakistan participated in the event. Pakistan and India participated in Tsentr-2019 military exercises in Russia.

31 – Pakistan conducted a successful flight test of the cruise missile Ra’ad-II

Flight Test

Pakistan conducted a successful flight test of the air launched cruise missile Ra’ad-II with a range of 600 km. Ra’ad-II missile is aimed to be attached with Mirage aircraft or F-16 fighter jets of the Pakistan Air Force and is aimed at enhancing the air delivered strategic standoff capability of the military on land and at sea.

Ra’ad-II weapon system is fully equipped with state of the art guidance and navigation systems ensuring engagement of targets with high precision.

32 – China’s CPI rose at their highest rate in more than 8 years

China's CPI

China’s consumer price index (CPI) rose at their highest rate in more than eight years with inflation more than expected on the back of Lunar New Year demand and a deadly virus outbreak.

The consumer price index stood at 5.4% in January 2020 with food prices spiked 20.6%. The rise in January was the highest since October 2011 when CPI inflation was 5.5%. Beijing had already been battling a slowing domestic economy before the Novel Coronavirus emerged, disrupting businesses, travel and supply chains.