News 1: OECD flags global recession risk on energy, inflation crisis
Global economic growth is slowing in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as energy and inflation crisis risk snowballing into recession in major economies.
While global growth this year was still expected at 3%, it is now projected to slow to 2.2% in 2023, according to Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Members: 38 countries (India is not a member of OECD)
The majority of OECD members are high-income economies with a very high Human Development Index (HDI) and are regarded as developed countries.
OECD is an official UN Observer
Base Erosion Profit Shifting (BEPS)
Base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) refers to tax planning strategies used by multinational enterprises that exploit gaps and mismatches in tax rules to avoid paying tax.
Developing countries rely highly on corporate income tax and hence suffer more due to BEPS.
Recession is a slowdown or a massive contraction in economic activities. A significant fall in spending generally leads to a recession.
“a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real GDP, real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales.”
Main drivers of recession
A sudden economic shock: In the 1970s, OPEC doubled the oil prices without warning in India, causing an economic crisis. The coronavirus outbreak, which shut down economies worldwide, is a more recent example of a sudden economic shock.
Excessive debt: When individuals or businesses take on too much debt, the cost of servicing the debt can grow to the point where they can’t pay their bills. Growing debt defaults and bankruptcies then capsize the economy. The housing bubble that led to the Great Recession is a prime example of excessive debt causing a recession.
Asset bubbles: Investors can become too optimistic during a strong economy. Former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan famously referred to this tendency as “irrational exuberance,” in describing the outsized gains in the stock market in the late 1990s. Irrational exuberance inflates stock market or real estate bubbles—and when the bubbles burst, panic selling can crash the market, causing a recession.
Too much inflation: Inflation is the steady, upward trend in prices over time. Inflation isn’t a bad thing per se, but excessive inflation is a dangerous phenomenon. Central banks control inflation by raising interest rates, and higher interest rates depress economic activity. Out-of-control inflation was an ongoing problem in the U.S. in the 1970s. To break the cycle, the Federal Reserve rapidly raised interest rates, which caused a recession.
Too much deflation: Deflation is when prices decline over time, which causes wages to contract, which further depresses prices. When a deflationary feedback loop gets out of hand, people and business stop spending, which undermines the economy. Central banks and economists have few tools to fix the underlying problems that cause deflation. Japan’s struggles with deflation throughout most of the 1990s caused a severe recession.
Technological change: In the 19th century, there were waves of labor-saving technological improvements. The Industrial Revolution made entire professions obsolete, sparking recessions and hard times. Today, some economists worry that AI and robots could cause recessions by eliminating whole categories of jobs.
Recession vs Depression
Recessions and depressions have similar causes, but the overall impact of a depression is worse. There are greater job losses, higher unemployment and steeper declines in GDP.
Most of all, a depression lasts longer—years, not months—and it takes more time for the economy to recover. Routine recessions can cause the GDP to decline 2%, while severe ones might set an economy back 5%, according to the IMF.
News 2: A push for the semiconductor industry
In a bid to make India’s $10 billion chip-making initiative more attractive to investors, the Centre on September 21, approved changes to the scheme for the development of a semiconductor and display manufacturing ecosystem.
What are semiconductors?
A semiconductor has an electric conductivity of more than insulator but less than of conductor. The ability to conduct electricity goes up as the temperature rises.
The basic component of a semiconductor chip is a sliver of silicon, which is etched with billions of microscopic transistors, forming patterns to control the flow of current while following different computational instructions.
How big is the industry?
Semiconductors are the thumbnail-sized building blocks of almost every modern electronic device from smartphones to connected devices on the Internet of Things (IoT). They help give computational power to devices. The global semiconductor industry is currently valued at $500-$600 billion.
The chip-making industry is a highly concentrated one, with the big players being Taiwan, South Korea and the U.S. among others. In fact, 90% of 5nm (nanometre) chips are mass-produced in Taiwan, by the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC).
Therefore, the global chip shortage, U.S.-China tensions over Taiwan, and the supply chain blockages owing to the Russia-Ukraine conflict have led major economies to enter the chip-making sector with a renewed push.
For example, the U.S. announcement of $52.7 billion in government funding for the CHIPS and Science Act and the EU’s Chips Act that will mobilise €43 billion for public and private investments.
What are the changes to India’s chip-making scheme?
In December 2021, India announced its’ roughly $10 billion dollar production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme to encourage semiconductor and display manufacturing in the country.
It also announced fiscal support for a design-linked initiative (DLI) scheme to drive global and domestic investment related to design software, IP rights etc.
According to the Electronics and IT Ministry, semiconductor demand in India would increase to $70-$80 billion by 2026 with the growing demand for digital devices and electronic products.
So far, Vedanta and Taiwanese chipmaker Foxconn have signed an MoU to set up a ₹1,54,000 crore semiconductor plant in Gujarat.
Two other projects have also been announced — a $3 billion plant in Karnataka by the International consortium ISMC and a $3.5 billion plant in Tamil Nadu by Singapore’s IGSS Ventures.
The modified scheme also emphasized the production of the 45nm chip, which is fairly less time-consuming and economical in terms of production.
While the scheme is an encouraging move, chip production is a resource-intensive and expensive process.
While the new scheme provides equal funding for all steps of the process, the outlay of the scheme remains $10 billion. Notably, just the setting up of one semiconductor fab requires an investment of anywhere between $3 and $7 billion.
Analysts are concerned that not much of the current scheme outlay would be left to support other elements including display fabs, packaging and testing facilities, and chip design centers.
They also argue that the initial funding should focus on areas like design and R&D, for which India already has an established talent pool.
Chip-making also requires gallons of ultrapure water in a single day, which experts say, could be a task for the government to provide to factories, compounded also by the drought conditions which often prevail in large parts of the country.
News 3: NavIC System (Navigation with Indian Constellation)
The Union government is pushing tech giants to make smartphones compatible with its home-grown navigation system within months, worrying the likes of Samsung, Xiaomi and Apple who fear elevated costs and disruptions as the move requires hardware changes.
NavIC (Navigation with Indian Constellation)
The govt. wants to reduce dependence on foreign navigation systems, such as U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS), and use ingrown NavIC system which provides more accurate domestic navigation, and its use would benefit the economy.
Operational since 2018, NavIC’s uptake is minimal; it is mandated in public vehicle location trackers.
IRNSS is an independent regional navigation satellite system being developed by India. It is designed to provide accurate position information service to users in India as well as the region extending up to 1500 km from its boundary, which is its primary service area.
The system currently consists of a constellation of seven satellites, with two additional satellites on ground as stand-by.
IRNSS will provide two types of services, namely, Standard Positioning Service (SPS) which is provided to all the users and Restricted Service (RS), which is an encrypted service provided only to the authorized users.
The IRNSS System is expected to provide a position accuracy of better than 20m in the primary service area.
Some applications of IRNSS are
Terrestrial, Aerial and Marine Navigation
Vehicle tracking and fleet management
Integration with mobile phones
Mapping and Geodetic data capture
Terrestrial navigation aid for hikers and travelers
Visual and voice navigation for drivers
News 4: NASA is about to crash into asteroid
NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test Spacecraft (DART) is set to collide with Dimorphos, a small asteroid that is the moon of a larger space rock, Didymos. These two near earth objects do not pose an immediate threat to our world.
Why is NASA crashing into an asteroid?
Blowing up an asteroid generally would not be a good thing to do. Rather, the mission is a proof-of-principle demonstration that hitting an oncoming asteroid with a projectile can nudge it into a different orbit. For a dangerous incoming asteroid, the nudge could be enough to change the trajectory from a direct hit to a near miss.
Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART)
The objective of the mission is to test a planetary defense to near earth objects.
DART will be the first demonstration of the kinetic impactor technique to change the motion of an asteroid in space. It is a suicide mission, and the spacecraft will be completely destroyed.
It also carries about 10 kg of xenon which will be used to demonstrate the agency’s new thrusters called NASA Evolutionary Xenon Thruster–Commercial (NEXT-C) in space.
NEXT-C gridded ion thruster system provides a combination of performance and spacecraft integration capabilities that make it uniquely suited for deep space robotic missions.
The spacecraft carries a high-resolution imager called Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for Optical Navigation (DRACO). Images from DRACO will be sent to Earth in real-time and will help study the impact site and surface of Dimorphos (the target asteroid).
DART will also carry a small satellite or CubeSat named LICIACube (Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroids). LICIACube is expected to capture images of the impact and the impact crater formed as a result of the collision.
Other important news
World Tourism Day
September 27 was chosen to celebrate World Tourism Day
Theme: Rethinking Tourism
Host country: Indonesia
Port of Odesa:
The Port of Odesa or Odesa Sea Port, located near Odesa, is the largest Ukrainian seaport and one of the largest ports in the Black Sea basin.
The Port of Odesa is a major freight and passenger transportation hub of Ukraine
Darknet, also known as dark web or darknet market, refers to the part of the internet that is not indexed or accessible through traditional search engines. It is a network of private and encrypted websites that cannot be accessed through regular web browsers and requires special software and configuration to access.
The darknet is often associated with illegal activities such as drug trafficking, weapon sales, and hacking services, although not all sites on the darknet are illegal.
Examples of darknet markets include Silk Road, AlphaBay, and Dream Market, which were all shut down by law enforcement agencies in recent years.
These marketplaces operate similarly to e-commerce websites, with vendors selling various illegal goods and services, such as drugs, counterfeit documents, and hacking tools, and buyers paying with cryptocurrency for their purchases.
Anonymity: Darknet allows users to communicate and transact with each other anonymously. Users can maintain their privacy and avoid being tracked by law enforcement agencies or other entities.
Access to Information: The darknet provides access to information and resources that may be otherwise unavailable or censored on the regular internet. This can include political or sensitive information that is not allowed to be disseminated through other channels.
Freedom of Speech: The darknet can be a platform for free speech, as users are able to express their opinions and ideas without fear of censorship or retribution.
Secure Communication: Darknet sites are encrypted, which means that communication between users is secure and cannot be intercepted by third parties.
Illegal Activities: Many darknet sites are associated with illegal activities, such as drug trafficking, weapon sales, and hacking services. Such activities can attract criminals and expose users to serious legal risks.
Scams: The darknet is a hotbed for scams, with many fake vendors and websites that aim to steal users’ personal information and cryptocurrency. The lack of regulation and oversight on the darknet means that users must be cautious when conducting transactions.
Security Risks: The use of the darknet can expose users to malware and other security risks, as many sites are not properly secured or monitored. Users may also be vulnerable to hacking or phishing attacks.
Stigma: The association of the darknet with illegal activities has created a stigma that may deter some users from using it for legitimate purposes.
AI, or artificial intelligence, refers to the development of computer systems that can perform tasks that would normally require human intelligence, such as recognizing speech, making decisions, and understanding natural language.
Virtual assistants: Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant are examples of virtual assistants that use natural language processing to understand and respond to users’ queries.
Recommendation systems: Companies like Netflix and Amazon use AI to recommend movies and products to their users based on their browsing and purchase history.
Efficiency: AI systems can work continuously without getting tired or making errors, which can save time and resources.
Personalization: AI can help provide personalized recommendations and experiences for users.
Automation: AI can automate repetitive and tedious tasks, freeing up time for humans to focus on more complex tasks.
Job loss: AI has the potential to automate jobs previously performed by humans, leading to job loss and economic disruption.
Bias: AI systems can be biased due to the data they are trained on, leading to unfair or discriminatory outcomes.
Safety and privacy concerns: AI systems can pose safety risks if they malfunction or are used maliciously, and can also raise privacy concerns if they collect and use personal data without consent.