India’s fiscal position to remain weak, says Moodys

Agencies
February 25, 2021

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Moody's Investors Service says that India's (Baa3 negative) weak fiscal position will remain a key credit challenge in 2021.

According to Moody's, the prospects for fiscal consolidation remain weak particularly given the government's mixed track record of implementing revenue-raising measures.

Although the government has not provided an explicit medium-term fiscal consolidation road map, according to its Budget speech it targets a fiscal deficit of 4.5 per cent of GDP by fiscal 2026, which amounts to an average annual deficit reduction of about 0.5 per cent of GDP over four years.

Given India's very high debt burden, this gradual pace of consolidation will prevent any material strengthening in the government's fiscal position over the medium term, unless nominal GDP growth picks up sustainably to reach much higher rates than historically recorded, Moody's said.

According to Moody's, the central government's fiscal deficit for fiscal 2021 and fiscal 2022 should be lower than projected, supported by stronger revenue generation in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2021 and higher nominal GDP growth in fiscal 2022.

"Still, wide fiscal deficits combined with lower real and nominal GDP growth over the medium term will constrain the government's ability to reduce its debt burden," says Gene Fang, a Moody's Associate Managing Director.

Moody's Indian affiliate, ICRA Limited, meanwhile, says it expects a considerable rebound in India's economic growth in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2022 (fiscal 2022) on the back of higher central government spending, and a pickup, albeit uneven, in consumption.

Overall, ICRA projects that real and nominal GDP will rise 10.5 per cent and 14.5 per cent, respectively, for fiscal 2022 as the pandemic recedes.

According to ICRA, recent economic data signal a broadening of the economic rebound in the third quarter of fiscal 2021, with most tracked indicators recording improvements from the year-ago period. Data for the current quarter also suggest a stable economic momentum.

Meanwhile, near-term prospects for the agricultural sector are bright, in ICRA's assessment, with many regions recording healthy precipitation and reservoir levels, increasing acreage of Rabi crops and healthy procurement trends.

ICRA expects that the consumption recovery will be differentiated across age and income groups in fiscal 2022. Pent-up demand for discretionary activities like travel could lead higher income groups to spend more on recreation after Q2 FY2022 once vaccines are more widely distributed. This would provide a back-ended boost to economic activity in the second half of fiscal 2022 and fiscal 2023.

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News Network
March 31,2021

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Washington, Mar 31: President Biden on Tuesday nominated Judge Zahid N. Quraishi to be a federal judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, a move that would make the Army veteran the first-ever lifetime-appointed Muslim federal judge if confirmed. 

"This trailblazing slate of nominees draws from the very best and brightest minds of the American legal profession," the White House said in a statement Tuesday about a list that also included 10 other nominees. "Each is deeply qualified and prepared to deliver justice faithfully under our Constitution and impartially to the American people — and together they represent the broad diversity of background, experience, and perspective that makes our nation strong."

Quraishi was appointed in 2019 to be a magistrate judge in the District of New Jersey by the judges he now seeks to join on the bench. A magistrate judge is not technically considered a member of the federal bench the same way a district court or circuit judge is because the position is not outlined in the Constitution's Article III and magistrate judges are not appointed by the president. 

Magistrate judges are assigned by statute to oversee some matters and may also be delegated tasks by bona fide district judges.

Quraishi, who is of Pakistani descent, got his law degree from Rutgers Law School, where he currently serves as an adjunct professor.

Quraishi was a military prosecutor with the JAG Corps during his time in the Army and did deployments in Iraq in 2004 and 2006, according to his Rutgers bio page. He later worked with the Department of Homeland Security then served as a federal prosecutor in the District of New Jersey.

The Biden nominee has also received several honors for his work, according to his Rutgers bio, including the 2019 New Jersey Muslim Lawyers Association Trailblazer of the Year Award.

Just before his magistrate judge appointment, Quraishi worked in white collar private practice at the law firm Riker Danzig, according to Rutgers, where he was also the chief diversity officer.

"The first Muslim-American who was nominated to serve on the federal bench was denied that opportunity to serve and that was Abid Qureshi," said Lena Zwarensteyn, the fair courts campaign senior director at the liberal Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights. Qureshi was nominated in late 2016, just months before former President Barack Obama left office. 

"It is certainly time that there is much more representation in terms of various faiths or even no faith on the bench," Zwarensteyn said. 

There are no hearings or votes scheduled for Quarishi or any of Biden's other nominees in the Senate, and it is not clear how fast the Senate Judiciary Committee will move forward with the nominations. 

"The Senate will work quickly to confirm President Biden’s superb and accomplished judicial picks," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement Tuesday. "America is so much better when our rich diversity is reflected in every aspect of society, especially our justice system. We will have hearings and confirm judges to fill the growing number of vacancies on the federal bench and significantly mitigate the influence of Donald Trump’s unqualified, right-wing judges."

But Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, aimed to pump the brakes on speeding the nominees through committee -- while also leaving open the possibility that Republicans could back some Biden's judiciary picks. 

"The Judiciary Committee must evaluate each nominee on his or her merits and qualifications. The committee should give them a hard look to see if they have the experience, the temperament, and the commitment to the Constitution necessary to be a federal judge," Grassley said. "We should neither be a rubber stamp, nor should we oppose nominees as a matter of course, as many Democrats did during the Trump administration."

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News Network
April 3,2021

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Cairo, Apr 3: The mummified remains of 22 Egyptian pharaohs, including the most powerful ancient queen, are to be paraded through the streets of Cairo Saturday, in a procession to a new resting place.

Under the watchful eyes of security forces, the mummies will be moved seven kilometres (four miles) across the capital from the iconic Egyptian Museum, where most have resided undisturbed for over a century, to the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation.

Dubbed the Pharaohs' Golden Parade, the 18 kings and four queens will travel in order, oldest first, each aboard a separate float decorated in ancient Egyptian style.

The interior ministry said both pedestrians and vehicles would be barred from Tahrir Square, site of the current museum, and other sections of the parade route, ahead of the 6:00 pm (1600 GMT) start.

"The whole world will be watching," said Egyptian archaeologist and former antiquities minister Zahi Hawass, who will commentate as the event unfolds live on state television.

"This is an important 40 minutes in the life of the city of Cairo."

Seqenenre Tao II, "the Brave", who reigned over southern Egypt some 1,600 years before Christ, will be on the first chariot, while Ramses IX, who reigned in the 12th century BC, will be at the rear.

Ramses II and Queen Hatshepsut, the most powerful female pharaoh, will also make the journey.

Emblazoned with the name of their allotted sovereign, the gold-coloured carriages will be fitted with shock absorbers for the trip, to ensure none of the precious cargos are accidentally disturbed.

Discovered near Luxor from 1881 onwards, most of the mummies have lain in the Egyptian Museum since the early 1900s.

Fascinating new details of the pharaohs' lives are still emerging.

A recent high-tech study of Seqenenre Tao II, involving CT scans and 3D images of his hands and long-studied skull fractures, indicated that he was likely killed in a post-battle execution ceremony.

For their procession through Cairo's streets, the mummies will be in special containers filled with nitrogen, under conditions similar to their regular display cases.

The mummies will be showcased individually at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation, in an environment redolent of underground tombs.

They will be signposted by a brief biography and, in some cases, copies of CT scans.

Upon arrival, they will occupy "slightly upgraded cases," said Salima Ikram, professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo.

"The temperature and humidity control will be even better than it was in the old museum," added Ikram, a mummification specialist.

The mummies' re-housing "marks the end of much work to improve their conservation and exhibition," said UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay.

"This raises emotions that go much further than the mere relocation of a collection -- we will see the history of Egyptian civilisation unfold before our eyes," she added.

The National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation was completed in 2010, and Hawass said he had planned to open it in 2012. But the process was delayed by the Arab Spring revolution of 2011 and subsequent turmoil.

The new museum opened its doors to limited exhibits from 2017 and will open fully on Sunday, before the mummies go on display to the general public from April 18.

In the coming months, the country is due to inaugurate another new showcase, the Grand Egyptian Museum, near the Giza pyramids.

It too will house pharaonic collections, including the celebrated treasure of Tutankhamun.

Discovered in 1922, the tomb of the young ruler, who took the throne briefly in the 14th century BC, contained treasures including gold and ivory.

A so-called "curse of the pharaoh" emerged in the wake of Tutankhamun's unearthing in 1922-23.

A key funder of the dig, Lord Carnarvon, died of blood poisoning months after the tomb was opened, while an early visitor likewise died abruptly in 1923.

With the planned parade coming only days after several disasters struck Egypt, some have inevitably speculated on social media about a new curse provoked by the latest move.

Recent days have seen a deadly rail collision and a building collapse in Cairo, while global headlines were dominated by the struggle to refloat the giant container ship MV Ever Given which blocked the Suez Canal for almost a week.

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Agencies
March 31,2021

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Washington, Mar 31: US President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced his intent to nominate Indian-American Rupa Ranga Puttagunta as a federal judge, among 10 other diverse picks for top judicial positions which include African-American and Muslim American candidates.

Among the presidential nominations, 10 are for Federal Circuit and District Court judge posts, and one is for Superior Court Judge for the District of Columbia.

These highly-qualified candidates reflect the president's deeply-held conviction that the federal bench should reflect the full diversity of the American people - both in background and in professional experience, the White House said.

If confirmed by the US Senate, Judge Puttagunta would be the first Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) woman to serve on the US District Court for the District of DC, the White House said.

Judge Puttagunta currently serves as an Administrative Judge for the D.C. Rental Housing Commission. Prior to joining the Commission in 2019, Judge Puttagunta was a solo practitioner from 2013 to 2019, representing indigent criminal defendants in trial and on appeal.

Before opening her own practice, Judge Puttagunta practised family and appellate law at Delaney McKinney, LLP from 2012 to 2013.

While working on domestic relations matters in private practice, Judge Puttagunta also provided hundreds of hours of pro bono legal services by volunteering at D.C. Superior Court''s Family Court Self-Help Center and Attorney Negotiator Program and representing victims of domestic violence in D.C. Superior Court.

Judge Puttagunta began her legal career as a law clerk for Judge William M. Jackson of the D.C. Superior Court from 2008 to 2010, as well as the Senior Judges of the D.C. Court of Appeals from 2010 to 2011.

Judge Puttagunta received her Juris Doctor degree from Ohio State Moritz College of Law in 2007.

The nominations announced on Tuesday also include three African American women and a Muslim American.

If confirmed by the Senate, Judge Zahid N Quraishi would be the first Muslim American federal judge in US history.

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