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Indian Central Bank Chief latest official to get coronavirus

Banking|: Reserve Bank of India Governor Shaktikanta Das said he has tested positive for COVID-19 but is asymptomatic and will continue to work in isolation. "Work in RBI will go on normally," Das said on Twitter late Sunday. "I am in touch with all Deputy Governors and other officers through VC and telephone." Das is the latest high-ranking executive among Prime Minister Narendra Modi's policy makers to test positive for the coronavirus. India is the second worst-affected country after the US, and while official data show fresh infections slowing, both Das and Modi have recently warned that a potential second wave is a risk to the economy, which has already shrunk the most among peers. The Reserve Bank has been doing the heavylifting to revive growth after strict shelter-at-home rules slammed businesses and eroded public finances. The monetary authority has cut rates by 115 basis points this year and pumped in billions of dollars to lower borrowing costs. Its rate-setting panel earlier this month pledged to stay accommodative for as long as it takes, beyond the end of the financial year on March 31. The monetary policy committee is next due to meet December 2-4. Amit Shah, India's home minister and Modi's top lieutenant, was admitted three times to hospital after he tested positive for COVID-19 on August 3. Shah, who has been Modi's right-hand man for more than three decades, has since resumed duties. Former President Pranab Mukherjee died in hospital in August while being treated for a lung infection. He had tested positive. Other Indian ministers who were also diagnosed with the coronavirus include Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari and Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan. The virus has sickened more than 7.8 million people in India and killed about 118,000, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. It has been roughly 38 weeks since the first case was reported in India. Asia's third-largest economy shrank about 24% April-June, the steepest fall among major markets. "COVID-19 has tested and severely stretched our resources and our endurance," Das said in his latest public address on Oct. 9. "Our travails are not over yet and a renewed rise in infections remains a serious risk."

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Swiss watch exports to UAE slide, China leads recovery

Lifestyle|Business|: Swiss watch exports to the UAE were down 27.2 percent after the first three quarters of 2020 when compared to the same period last year. Cumulative results for the Swiss watch industry after the first nine months of 2020 saw a decline of 28.3 percent, with the total value of exports equivalent to 11.4 billion Swiss Francs (approx. AED46.3 billion). According to the most recent figures released by the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH), the UAE stands eight among the list of top Swiss watch export destinations. The country accounted for 501.3 million Swiss Francs (AED2.03 billion) worth of watch exports in the period between January and September 2020. China topped the list with a total value of 1.5 billion Swiss Francs (AED6.09 billion), up 10.6 percent from last year. China hosted the Watches & Wonders event in Shanghai this September Image Credit: Image courtesy: Watches & Wonders China continues to be the lone hope for a beleaguered Swiss watch industry that has struggled to cope with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. The domestic market in China has benefited from the fact that wealthy Chinese have not travelled to Europe during the summer holiday season this year. The United States came in second on the charts registering 1.3 billion Swiss Francs (AED5.2 billion) worth of exports, down 22 percent from last year. Hong Kong came in third with exports worth 1.1 billion Swiss Francs (AED4.4 billion), down 44 percent from 2019. The report also sheds light on the categories that have performed well. Watches in the mid-range “affordable luxury” category (between 500-3,000 Swiss Francs, AED2000-12,000) saw a marginal increase in value (+2.7 percent) in September. Watches priced at less than 500 Swiss Francs (AED2,000) recorded the sharpest declines in September, falling by 23.9 percent by value. Those priced over 3,000 Swiss Francs (AED12,000+) were down 13.5 percent in value compared to last September. The popularity of two-tone (gold and steel) watches seems to be dwindling too; exports fell sharply at 27.8 percent in September compared to the same period last year.

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Pandemic likely to delay penetration of EVs in India

The coronavirus pandemic is expected to delay the penetration of electric vehicles in India, as low affordability and the government's priority on reviving existing conventional automobile industry shift the focus away from EVs in the interim, according to rating firm Ind-Ra. The passenger vehicles segment of e-mobility will face a double whammy, as consumers would be wary to buy a costlier EV than an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle, while original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) would refrain from incurring high Capex, India Ratings and Research (Ind-Ra) said in a statement. "Low affordability and the government's priorities on reviving the otherwise suffering auto industry could shift the focus away from EVs in the interim," it added. Reduced affordability and lower economic activities due to the pandemic could result in the automobile industry recording a decline in sales of over 20 per cent year-on-year for the second consecutive year in FY21, the agency said. This is likely to impact the sales of EVs, which are costlier than an ICE vehicle. Two-wheelers have benefitted from rural demand and shift to personal mobility, and the segment could be the least impacted with regard to electrification due to better pricing and model choices, it noted. "However, three-wheelers and buses, which have seen higher electrification in 2019, are among the most affected segments in FY21 and hence could see a delay in electrification," Ind-Ra said. Growth in buses may take a back seat as orders for city buses are largely from state transport undertakings, and state governments are already grappling with a falling GDP, it added. On the other hand, two-wheelers, especially scooters, could see an upside due to the lower pricing delta between an EV and ICE and several models available to consumers. Though the EV penetration is likely to be faster in scooters, buses and three-wheelers in the medium term (defined as three to five years), PVs may take longer, the agency said. "Ind-Ra also believes that underlying challenges in the adoption of EVs such as higher battery cost and reliance on imports would prevail in the medium term, and robust government policies would remain key for the development of EVs in the country," it added. In terms of investments by automotive firms on EVs, Ind-Ra said, "Amid the current slowdown, OEMs are unlikely to incur aggressive Capex over the electric platform. Segment-wise, PVs and CVs have seen e-vehicle launches by conventional OEMs; and hence are unlikely to see material progress in FY21-FY22". Stating that government measures remain key, it said that while the government has laid out Rs, 10,000 crore outlay over FY20-22 for faster EV adoption under the FAME-II policy, capping of subsidies at a specific vehicle price, which is Rs 15 lakh for an e-PV, limits the scope of EVs in the premium car segment. In case of e-two-wheelers, the FAME-II scheme has a stricter requirement for speed, range and energy, which excludes the majority of the models present in the Indian markets, Ind-Ra said. "Moreover, the majority of e-2W and 2-3W run on the lead-acid battery while the subsidies are limited to EVs using lithium-ion battery. Though e-2Ws are gradually transitioning to lithium-ion batteries, e-3Ws may take longer due to cost viability," it added. Ind-Ra believes that robust government support is imperative, as could be seen globally, for achieving the target of 30 per cent electrification by 2030. "For example, China (over 50 per cent of the global electric fleet) witnessed a subsidy programme of over USD 60 billion during 2009-2019. The Indian subsidy programme of Rs 100 billion (equivalent to USD 1.4 billion) is much smaller than China's," it said. Moreover, the incentives are capped at 20 per cent of the vehicle cost in India compared to 30-50 per cent in the initial years in China, and 35 per cent in the United Kingdom. Thus, it becomes essential for the government to lay down more comprehensive policies, enhance incentives and ensure robust implementation of existing policies to increase EV adoption, it said.