Current Affairs Dec 2016 - International


News 1 - Thailand officially named crown prince Maha Vajiralongkorn as its new king

Maha Vajiralongkorn

Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn was proclaimed king of Thailand. Vajiralongkorn, 64, is the 10th king in the Chakri Dynasty and became King Rama X. He was the only son and designated heir of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died on October 13 at the age of 88. His official title will be - King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun.

Vajiralongkorn studied in Australia, graduating from the Royal Military College at Duntroon. He is a qualified pilot, flying helicopters, fighter jets and his own Boeing 737.

News 2 - Opposition wins near majority in Kuwait Polls

Kuwait Polls

Kuwait's opposition groups and their allies have won 24 of the 50 contested seats in the country's parliamentary elections. Around half of those who won were from groups linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists.

Safa Al Hashem is the only woman to have won a seat in the new assembly. This was the fourth election since 2012. Kuwait holds free elections but most power remains in the hands of the ruling al Sabah family.

News 3 - Chapecoense air tragedy in Colombia

Chapecoense Air Tragedy

Chartered British aircraft — Flight 2933 carrying 77 people, including players of top Brazilian football team, Chapecoense, crashed near Medellin in Colombia. The reason of the crash is said to be an electrical fault. The team was traveling from Santa Cruz to Medellin to play the first leg of the two-game Copa Sudamericana final against Atletico Nacional.

Among the 77 passengers on board, 22 were Chapecoense players and 21 were journalists. Only six people survived the crash.

News 4 - Donald Trump picked Seema Verma for Centre’s for Medicare and Medicaid Services

Seema Verma

The U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has picked Indiana health policy consultant Seema Verma as his pick for administrator of the Center’s for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Ms. Verma is best known for her work on Medicaid issues. She is the architect of the Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP), the nation's first consumer directed Medicaid program. Ms. Verma currently is the President, CEO and founder of SVC, Inc, a national health policy consulting company. Ms, Verma holds a master's degree in public health from Johns Hopkins University.

News 5 - Heart of Asia conference concluded in Amritsar

Heart of Asia

The 6th Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia was held in Amritsar, Punjab on 3rd and 4th December, 2016. Leaders from 40 countries gathered to attend the annual event. The 7th Ministerial Conference will be held in Azerbaijan in the year 2017.

The key highlights of the declaration were terrorism, particularly, state-sponsored terrorism was identified as a key challenge and members agreed upon a concerted effort to dismantle all kinds of terrorism.

News 6 - Shavkat Mirziyoyev wins the Uzbekistan Presidential Election

Shavkat Mirziyoyev

Shavkat Mirziyoyev won the Presidential elections held in Uzbekistan on the 4th of December 2016 following the death of incumbent President Islam Karimov. Mirziyoyev got 88.6% of the votes.

Mr. Mirziyoyev worked as the Prime Minister under Mr. Karimov since 2003 and took over as the acting President after Karimmov's death. The other nominees in the Presedential Election were: Sarvar Otamuradov, of Uzbekistan National Revival Democratic Party; Narimon Umarov, of the Justice Social Democratic Party and Khatamjon Ketmonov of the People’s Democratic Party of Uzbekistan.

News 7 - Venezuela suspended from South America’s Trade Bloc Mercosur


Venezuela was suspended from the South America’s Trade Bloc Mercosur over its failure to comply with the pact’s democratic principles and trade bylaws.

The other members of the bloc are Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Its associate countries are Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Suriname. While the observer countries are New Zealand and Mexico. The purpose of the bloc is to promote free trade and the fluid movement of goods, people and currency.

News 8 - Alexander Van der Bellen elected as the Austrian President

Alexander Van

Independent candidate and pro-European Alexander Van der Bellen has won the Austria's re-run presidential election with around 53.5% votes.

He is due to take office as the country's 12th President on 26th January 2017. He was a professor of economics at the University of Vienna before he entered national politics. In May 2004, Van der Bellen received the Grand Decoration of Honour in Gold with Star for services to the Austrian republic.

News 9 - Israel advances bill to legalise West Bank settlements


Israeli Parliament has given a preliminary approval to a revised bill that would legalize thousands of homes built in the occupied West Bank. Lawmakers advanced the bill in a 60-49 vote. The bill is a revised version of legislation initially devised to avoid demolishing the Amona outpost, which was built without permission on Palestinian land.

Around 4,000 settler homes, which were built without permission, will be legitimized if it goes ahead. However, the bill must receive more approvals before becoming law.

News 10 - China launched a new cargo service connecting Tibet and Nepal

Cargo Service

China launched a new cargo service connecting Guangdong, Tibet and Nepal with an aim to boost trade with the Himalayan nation. Dozens of trucks carried the first consignment of goods worth $2.8 million from the Tibetan border port of Gyirong to Kathmandu.

Nepal had signed the transit trade deal with Beijing in March 2016 in a bid to reduce its dependence on India. Guangzhou port was also used recently to launch China-Pakistan Freight service connecting Karachi's Port Qasim.

News 11 - Canada reached carbon agreement with provinces

Carbon Agreement

The Canadian Government and most of Canada's provinces had come to an agreement on a national carbon pricing plan. However, 10 provinces have not agreed to the plan.

The Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hopes to impose a national carbon tax that would rise to C$50 (US$38) a ton by 2022. An independent expert panel will review the plan when the carbon price would pause at British Columbia's existing $30 Canadian ($US23) level in 2020.

News 12 - World Bank cancelled $100 million loan for Pakistan

World Bank

The World Bank cancelled a $100 million loan for Pakistan approved for a natural gas efficiency project to be carried out by Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC). The loan was cancelled for lack of interest on the part of SSGC.

The loan was aimed at enhancing the supply of natural gas by reducing physical and commercial losses of gas in the pipeline system. The bank had disbursed only $0.25 million against the original commitment of $200 million.

News 13 - European Union approved $26 billion Microsoft-LinkedIn deal


The European Union approved Microsoft’s $26 billion acquisition of LinkedIn Corp. after the software giant agreed to concessions that would keep Microsoft products open to LinkedIn rivals.

The deal has already been given the green light in the United States, Canada, Brazil and South Africa. Microsoft had announced its deal with LinkedIn on 13 June 2016. LinkedIn is the world’s largest and most valuable professional network. LinkedIn will retain its distinct brand, culture and independence.

News 14 - Nana Akufo-Addo won the presidential election in Ghana

Nana Akufo-Addo

Ghana's main opposition leader Nana AkufoAddo won the country's Presidential election, defeating President John Mahama by 53.8 percent to 44.4 percent. It was his third bid for the top job.

Nana Akufo-Addo is the leader of New Patriotic Party (NPP). Akufo-Addo had promised to boost growth and deliver jobs during his campaigns.

Ghana is the world’s second biggest producer of cocoa after Ivory Coast and Africa’s second biggest gold producer after South Africa.

News 15 - Two Banks of Abu Dhabi to Merge as the Biggest Bank in the Gulf Nation

Abu Dhabi Two Banks

National Bank of Abu Dhabi and First Gulf Bank will merge into the biggest bank of all Gulf Countries with an asset of $ 178 billion. Under terms of the deal, the combined company will be known as NBAD.

The FGB shareholders will receive 1.254 NBAD shares for each FGB share they hold. Postmerger, FGB stockholders will own 52 percent of the new bank. The Chairman of this new firm is slated to be Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

News 16 - Paolo Gentiloni named as Italy's new Prime Minister

Paolo Gentiloni

Paolo Gentiloni has been named as Italy's new Prime Minister following reformist leader Matteo Renzi's resignation in the wake of a crushing referendum defeat. Renzi took the decision to resign on 4 December 2016 after voters rejected the constitutional reforms proposed by him.

Mr. Gentiloni, who served as the Foreign Minister under Renzi, was asked by the President Sergio Mattarella to form a new centre-left government that will guide Italy to elections due by February 2018.

News 17 - World’s longest tunnel in Switzerland begins commercial service

Longest Tunnel

The world's longest and deepest rail tunnel began its commercial operations in Switzerland. The tunnel has been constructed at the cost of 12 billion dollars and completed after almost two decades of construction work.

The 57–kilometer (35–mile) twin-bore Gotthard base tunnel will provide a high-speed rail link under the Swiss Alps between Northern and Southern Europe. The tunnel has overtaken Japan's 53.9-kilometer Seikan rail tunnel as the longest in the world and pushed the 50.5kilometre Channel Tunnel linking the UK and France into third place.

News 18 - Bill English sworn in as the New Zealand PM

Bill English

New Zealand's socially conservative Finance Chief Bill English has been sworn in as the country's new prime minister following the resignation of his predecessor John Key. Mr. Key had resigned for family reasons after eight years as Prime Minister. State Services Minister Paula Bennett was named as the deputy leader.

Mr. English has held several ministerial posts across education, health and finance since he joined Parliament in 1990.

News 19 - Venezuela President orders 100 unit banknotes out of circulation


Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro signed an emergency decree ordering the country's largest banknote, the 100-bolivar bill, taken out of circulation to thwart mafias he accused of hoarding cash in Colombia.

Venezuela is amid an economic crisis and crippled with the world's highest inflation. The government wants to issue new banknotes and coins in values up to 200 times the highest denomination currently available.

News 20 - Antonio Guterres sworn in as the UN Secretary General

Antonio Guterres

Former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres was sworn in as the ninth UN Secretary-General, succeeding Ban Ki-moon as the Chief of the world body.

The President of the UN General Assembly Peter Thomson administered the Oath of Office to Guterres at a special plenary meeting of the 193-member General Assembly at the United Nations. Guterres, 67, was unanimously appointed by the General Assembly as the successor to Ban. The former UN refugee chief takes over from Ban on January 1.

News 21 - EU, Cuba signed the first agreement on PDCA

EU Cuba

The European Commission adopted a proposal to the Council on the signing of the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement (PDCA) with Cuba to enhance sustainable development, democracy and human rights. Both proposals will now be under consideration by the Council, before their final adoption and the signature of the PDCA.

The agreement includes three main fields on political dialogue, cooperation and sector policy dialogue as well as trade and trade cooperation. The PDCA will contribute to build EU-Cuba relations and "updating" the Cuban economy.

News 22 - Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar to take charge as the new ISI chief

Gen Naveed Mukhtar

Lt. Gen. Naveed Mukhtar to take duties as the new Director-General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), succeeding Lt. Gen. Rizwan Akhtar who has been further appointed as the President of the National Defence University (NDU) in Islamabad. Prior to this appointment, he had been the Commander of V Corps of Karachi from September 2014 to December 2016.

Lt. Gen. Mukhtar has a vast working knowledge in the field of intelligence and had also led the counterterrorism wing of the ISI in Islamabad.

News 23 - Rex Tillerson selected as USA’s new Secretary of State

Rex Tillerson

Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil has been appointed by Donald Trump, as the new Secretary of State. He has no experience in public office. The 64 year old Tillerson has 41 years of experience in exploring oil deals and gas deposit deals of Russia. In 2014, US imposed sanctions on Russia on involvement in oil deals of the Arctic project.

Other major designations include candidates that included former Republic presidential candidate Mitt Romney and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani.

News 24 - Malaysia installed its 15th king, Sultan Muhammad V

Sultan Muhammad V

The 47-year-old Sultan Muhammad V took oath as Malaysia’s 15th king in Kuala Lumpur. Previously, Sultan Muhammad V was the ruler of the conservative Islamic northern state of Kelantan. Since 1957 there is a rule of ‘rotating monarchy’ in Malaysia and country changes its king in every five years between the rulers of the nine Malaysian states.

Sultan Muhammad V replaces Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah from the northern state of Kedah. The king is also the symbolic head of Islam in the nation, as well as the nominal chief of the military.

News 25 - India to contribute $500,000 to UN Central Emergency Response Fund


India will contribute $500,000 to the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). India’s cumulative contribution, including this contribution for the year 2016-17, since the fund was launched in 2006 stood at $6 million.

29 countries promised contributions totaling $273 million to the CERF. CERF provides early funding when humanitarian crises break out and supports essential relief operations that are poorly funded.

News 26 - Qatar abolishes the controversial 'Kafala' labour system


Qatar announced the end of its controversial “Kafala” system, a system that forces foreign workers to seek their employer's permission to change jobs or leave the country.

Qatar will make a new contract-based law to ensure greater flexibility and protection. The “Kafala” rules were abolished from December 13th. Qatar is the host nation for the 2022 World Cup Football. The international community has condemned the labour laws, predominantly "Kafala".

News 27 - World Bank declared a pause to protect Indus Waters Treaty

Indus Waters Treaty

The World Bank Group announced a pause in the separate processes initiated by India and Pakistan under the Indus Waters Treaty to allow the two countries to consider alternative ways to resolve their disagreements.

The announcement temporarily halts the appointment of a Neutral Expert, as requested by India, and the Chairman of the Court of Arbitration, as requested by Pakistan, to resolve issues regarding two hydroelectric power plants under construction by India along the Indus rivers system.

News 28 - Pakistan successfully test-fired improved version of Babur cruise missile

Babur Cruise Missile

Pakistan successfully tested an improved version of the medium-range and subsonic Babur cruise missile. It can hit targets both at land and sea with pinpoint accuracy.

The 700 kms range based Babur cruise missile is equipped with the Terrain Contour Matching (TERCOM) and Digital Scene Matching and Area Co-relation (DSMAC) technologies. It can hit targets at 700 kms with all kinds of warheads. It is a low flying, terrain hugging missile, which carries certain stealth features.

News 29 - The 5th India-Arab partnership conference held in Muscat, Oman


The fifth edition of the India-Arab Partnership Conference was held in Muscat, Oman from December 14 to 15, 2016 organized by the Oman Foreign Ministry, Arab League Secretariat in association with the Union Ministry of External Affairs of India.

The theme of the summit was 'Partnership towards innovation and cooperation in Information Technology’. About 500 Arab and Indian government officials, academicians, businessmen and investors participated in the conference.

News 30 - Nigeria's Amina Mohammed named UN's Deputy Secretary-General

Amina Mohammed

Incoming UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has announced the appointment of Nigeria's Environment Minister Amina Mohammed to be the UN's Deputy SecretaryGeneral.

Senior Brazilian foreign ministry official, Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, will serve as Guterres' chief of staff while Kyung-Wha Kang of South Korea was appointed to the new position of the special advisor on policy. Guterres has made gender parity a priority of his tenure which begins from the 1st of January 2017.

News 31 - Indian-American woman elected as the Mayor of the Californian City


For the first time, an Indian-American woman, Savita Vaidhyanathan, has been elected as the new Mayor of the key Californian city of Cupertino, globally known for its Apple headquarters. Savita is an MBA who worked as a high school Math teacher and an officer in a commercial bank as well as in non-profit management.

Savita is the first Indian-American Mayor of Cupertino, which as per Forbes is one of the most educated small towns in the country with local public schools ranking highly.

News 32 - Asia Pacific countries resolved to adopt “Urban Plus” approach in the ‘New Delhi Declaration’

Urban Plus

Asia Pacific countries have resolved to adopt “Urban Plus” approach taking urban planning and development beyond city limits to prevent unmanageable and unsustainable urban expansion in the ‘New Delhi Declaration’ adopted on the conclusion of three day deliberations of the Asia Pacific Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Development (APMCHUD).

The theme of the conference was ‘Emerging Urban Forms-Policy Reforms and Governance Structures in the Context of New Urban Agenda’.

News 33 - India-Nepal Folk Crafts Festival kicks off in Kathmandu


The India-Nepal Folk Crafts Festival, INCF was held in Kathmandu. The festival is an initiative of South Asia Foundation, SAF to promote cultural exchanges between the two neighbors. The festival aims to promote crafts based bilateral relations and enhance cultural exchanges between the artisans of India and Nepal.

The festival highlights more than 70 theme based pavilion with focus on folk crafts of India and Nepal, cultural events, live demonstration by crafts-persons, design workshops to be conducted by qualified designers, trade facilitation and exclusive buyer-seller meet among others.

News 34 - African Nations developing lifestyle diseases: WHO


A World Health Organization survey of 33 countries has shown that most adults in Africa have at least one risk factor increasing their chance of developing deadly lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

These include smoking, harmful use of alcohol, a poor diet and low levels of physical activity. Most people were not eating enough fruits and vegetables, and a rise of junk food and unhealthy diets mean that paradoxically, sub-Saharan Africa suffers from the double burden of under nutrition and obesity.

News 35 - Ukraine nationalises its largest bank, PrivatBank


The Ukrainian government nationalized PrivatBank, the country's biggest lender. The bank has nearly $6 billion in private deposits - 36.5 percent of Ukraine's total - and hence is considered too big to fail.

Risky lending practices had left a capital shortfall of around $5.65 billion on PrivatBank's balance sheet as of December 1st. The government requires a minimum of $4.5 billion from the budget to rescue it.

News 36 - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani revealed landmark Bill of Right

Hassan Rouhani

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani unveiled a landmark bill of rights which ensures that the people of Iran get freedom of speech, freedom to protest, fair trials and privacy. With the aim to protect the revolution against dissenters and outside interference, the bill is implemented to all.

Although many of the rights are already enshrined in Iran’s Constitution written after the 1979 Islamic revolution, it is the first clear list of principles that could be used to check the performance of State institutions.

News 37 - Japan gave nod to the country’s highest annual defence budget for 2017-18

Annual Defence Budget

Japan cabinet gave nod to 5.13 trillion yen ($43.6 billion) for defence expenditure of year 2017-18 under the leadership of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. It is Japan’s highest annual defence budget announced so far in the face of North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats and a territorial row with China.

It marks the fifth straight annual increase, by 1.4% from the initial budget. Japanese Coast Guard will increase security around the islands by allocating a record 210 billion yen, which includes two new patrol ships and the hiring of 200 more personnel.

News 38 - Hong Kong withdraws visa-free entry to Indians

Visa-Free Entry

Since Indians have been overstaying in Hong Kong violating visa norms, Hong Kong decided to withdraw visa-free facility for Indians from January 23, 2017, by making amendments to its visa agreement with India.

Under the previous visa agreement, Indian visitors could visit the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region for 14 days but now Indians must pre-register themselves. The said decision was taken to prevent illegal immigration and because the number of Indian asylum seekers was on the rise.

News 39 - Japan and UK inked MoU on Nuclear power cooperation

Japan and UK

Japanese and British Ministers in charge of energy policy signed a Memorandum of Understanding on nuclear power cooperation. They agreed that their governments will seek to conduct technological research on scrapping the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and decontamination near the facility.

They also agreed to discuss planned construction of a nuclear power station in the UK. Japan's Hitachi and Toshiba are involved in the project. Based on the memorandum, Japan plans to coordinate financing for the project by government-affiliated institutions.

News 40 - World's first solar road inaugurated in France’s Normandy region

Solar Road

World's first solar road unveiled in Normandy region of France covering 1-kilometre-long route with the help of 2,880 photovoltaic panels. Solar route is expected to be used by at least 2,000 motorists daily, to check power generating capacity.

Route ‘Wattway’ is built by engineering firm Colas and is estimated to produce to produce 280 megawatt hours (MWh) of energy annually with an estimated electrical output of 767 kilowatt hours (kWh) per day.

News 41 - Italy's cabinet approved state-bailout for Monte dei Paschi bank

Monte dei Paschi bank

Italy's cabinet approved a state-bailout for the country's third-largest bank, Monte dei Paschi di Siena. Prime Minister has authorized 21 billion dollars fund to support Italy's embattled banking sector. The announcement came after Monte dei Paschi had failed to raise 5 billion euros from private investors.

The Government will need to stick to new European Union rules designed to stop tax payers bearing the brunt of supporting weak banks. The Italian parliament had already authorized the Government to create a fund to prop up the bank sector.

News 42 - Saudi Arabia projected $53bn deficit in 2017

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia cabinet projected a 2017 Budget deficit of about 53 billion US Dollars and that 2016 deficit will be 79 billion US Dollars, down 8.9 percent from 2016's budget forecast. Expenses for 2017 are projected to reach 237 billion US Dollars against revenues of 184 billion US Dollars.

The world's biggest oil exporter froze major building projects, cut Cabinet ministers' salaries and imposed a wage freeze on civil servants in the wake of last year's record deficit.

News 43 - World's tallest artificial Christmas tree in Sri Lanka

Christmas Tree

In Sri Lanka, a 73-meter Christmas tree, claimed to have broken previous records, was unveiled in Colombo on Christmas evening. The tree located on a sea facing beach has become an attraction for locals and tourists.

The tree is 18 meters taller than the current record holder in a Chinese city. The tree’s steel-and-wire frame is covered with a plastic net decorated with more than 10 lakh natural pine cones, 6 lakh LED bulbs and topped by a 6-metre-tall shining star.

News 44 - China to levy environment tax

Environment Tax

China has passed a new law to levy environment protection tax on industry for the first time from 2018 to fight the country's pollution woes.

The tax rate will be 1.2 yuan ($0.17) per unit of atmospheric pollution, 1.4 yuan per unit of water pollution, 5 yuan per tonne of coal waste and 1,000 yuan per tonne of "hazardous waste". Companies will also pay taxes ranging from 350 yuan ($60) to 11,200 yuan ($1870) per month for noise, as per their decibel level. However, carbon dioxide, is not included in the levying list.

News 45 - China and Nepal to conduct first ever joint military drill

China and Nepal

Nepal and China will hold their first ever joint military exercise in the northern region of Nepal in February 2017. The proposed drill named 'Pratikar-I' would focus on counter terrorism operations and disaster management.

The exercise will become the first between the two neighbors. Nepal also holds military drills with some other countries including India and the USA. This move may raise eyebrows in India over the intent of such an exercise.