Norway became the first country in the world where electric cars accounted for more than 50% of new registrations in 2020, according to figures published Tuesday by an industry group. So-called battery electric vehicles (BEV) made up 54.3% of all new cars sold in the Nordic country in 2020, a global record, up from 42.4% in 2019 and from a mere 1% of the overall market a decade ago, the Norwegian Road Federation (OFV) said. The country aims to become the first nation to end the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2025.
Rift easing between Qatar and UAE
The Middle-East is in the news thanks to a probable mellowing of a diplomatic rift between neighbouring countries. The Gulf Cooperation Council’s annual meeting in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday is raising hopes for a thaw between Qatar on one side, and Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt on the other. Saudi Arabia said it will open its land, air and sea borders with Qatar on Monday evening ahead of the meeting, dramatically easing the year long diplomatic rift. However, investors are focusing on bigger concerns, including U.S. President-Elect Joe Biden’s stance on key allies in the region, and escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran. Kuwait and the United States had been trying unsuccessfully to bring an end to the crisis that erupted more than three years ago but it wasn’t until late Monday that a breakthrough was announced.
EU firms stop delivering to UK
Some EU specialist online retailers have said they will no longer deliver to the UK because of tax changes which came into force on 1 January. Bicycle part firm Dutch Bike Bits said from now on, it would ship to every country in the world except the UK. “We are forced by British policy to stop dealing with British customers,” it said on its website. Another firm, Belgium-based Beer On Web, said it was now shunning the UK “due to the new Brexit measures”. The companies are angry because they now face higher costs and increased bureaucracy in order to comply with UK tax authorities. However, it is unclear how many have taken the drastic step of refusing all UK orders. At the same time, international shipping companies including Federal Express and TNT have said they are levying additional charges on shipments between the UK and the EU.
Duty refund on the way
A committee set up under the chairmanship of former union secretary G K Pillai to fix ceiling rates under a duty refund scheme – RoDTEP – for exporters is expected to submit the complete report in the next few weeks, a top government official told PTI. Finance Secretary Ajay Bhushan Pandey said that immediately after getting the report, the RoDTEP (Remission of Duties and Taxes on Exported Products) rates would be notified. The scheme would refund to exporters the embedded central, state and local duties and taxes that were so far not being rebated or refunded and were, therefore, placing India’s exports at a disadvantage. The refund would be credited in an exporter’s ledger account with customs and used to pay basic customs duty on imported goods. The credits can also be transferred to other importers.
Singapore witnesses housing boom
Singapore home prices rose to the highest in more than two years last quarter as the city-state forecasts a recovery from its worst recession since independence as Covid vaccinations are rolled out and restrictions eased, reports Bloomberg. Property values increased 2.1% in the three months ended Dec. 31, according to a preliminary estimate by the Urban Redevelopment Authority released Monday. That’s the biggest increase since the second quarter of 2018, when prices increased by 3.4%. The gain marks the third consecutive quarter of growth, defying concerns home prices would decline amid lockdowns and border closures in the tourism and trade-dependent island. Instead, Singapore joins countries from Australia and New Zealand to the U.K. and the U.S. where property markets have surged during the pandemic, as record low interest rates fuel demand. Real estate values could rise further this year, as the government expects the economy to expand by 4% to 6%.
Rise of pandemic cobots
Technological advances made during the pandemic are an “opportunity as well as a threat” to workers, an expert told the BBC. The use of automation, robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) has grown by 30% since March 2020, according to industry body Technology Connected. A report found this could harm the work prospects of lower paid staff, women, young people and minority groups. But Cardiff University professor Phillip Brown said technology must be used to help shape a better future. “We need to really get a better understanding of how technologies can be used in a way which is positive for the workforce, in a way which is positive for Wales,” said Prof Brown. He chaired an independent review into digital innovation, the economy and work for the Welsh Government. X-STK is an automation company with offices in Cardiff that offers products and training in the use of “cobots”, or collaborative robots.
Curated by Sohini Sen. Have something to share with us? Write to us at feedback@livemint or tweet to @shohinisen