Author: Don Obrien

FirstFT: Power crunch looms in India

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India is the latest country to face a severe power crisis that threatens to undermine its recovery from the pandemic, with authorities warning that power plants have run perilously low on coal.

According to India’s power ministry, the 135 thermal-power plants of Asia’s third-largest economy had an average of just four days of coal stocks as of Friday, down from 13 days of supplies in early August. Of the plants monitored daily, more than half have less than three days of stocks.

Power supply shortages have already started to hit the economy in neighbouring China, where the manufacturing sector last month suffered its first contraction since the start of the pandemic. Beijing has ordered state-owned energy companies to secure fossil fuel supplies at all costs to stave off winter shortages, helping to drive up prices for other large importers, including India.

India’s power generators have cut down on coal imports in recent months, as international prices have surged on the back of robust global demand, from Europe as well as China. Prime minister Narendra Modi’s government has also promoted a policy of Indian economic self-reliance as a guiding principle for its recovery from the pandemic.

  • More energy news: Even as fears of a global energy crunch deepen, US oil producers are not able to increase supply to tame soaring crude prices that remain “under Opec control”, according to the shale patch’s biggest operator.

Thanks for reading FirstFT Asia. We’ll continue to cover the latest on power shortages and rising fuel prices, but for an in-depth look at what’s happening in the energy sector sign up for Energy Source, written by my colleagues Derek Brower, Myles McCormick, Justin Jacobs and Amanda Chu. — Emily

Five more stories in the news

1. Pandora Papers: hidden wealth of world leaders exposed The financial transactions of dozens of world leaders, from King Abdullah of Jordan to former UK prime minister Tony Blair, are detailed in the leak — dubbed the “Pandora Papers” — which show how the wealthiest people in the world use offshore tax havens to store and move their money.

2. Democrats offer compromise on spending Senior Democrats say they are willing to lower the $3.5tn cost of the spending measures in Joe Biden’s signature package to boost America’s social safety net, following days of infighting that has threatened to derail the president’s economic agenda.

3. China bias claims against IMF chief escalate A war of words over the future of IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva is likely to come to a head in the next few days as the fund’s board meets to examine allegations that in a previous role she manipulated data to favour China.

4. Duterte scraps vice-presidential bid Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte said on Saturday that he was retiring from politics and scrapping a vice-presidential bid that would have allowed him to stay in power in the number-two job for another six years.

5. China sends record number of warplanes towards Taiwan China dispatched a large number of aircraft into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone on Friday and Saturday ahead of a visit to Taipei by French lawmakers.

  • Go deeper: French defence groups have turned to French president Emmanuel Macron to redress the submarine reputation hit as the scrapping of “transformational deal” with Australia marks a business setback.

Coronavirus digest

  • Ugur Sahin, BioNTech chief executive, said a new formulation of the company’s Covid-19 vaccine is likely to be needed by the middle of next year to protect against virus mutations.

  • In Singapore, reopening the city-state has stoked a surge in new cases and panic among anxious residents.

  • Vietnam is loosening a strict, nearly three-month lockdown in Ho Chi Minh City after a stark warning from business and a record quarterly drop in gross domestic product.

  • Israel was set to strip more than 1m citizens of their vaccine passports, becoming the first country to regulate booster shots as evidence of fully immunised status.

Chart showing that rates of cases, severe disease and death are markedly lower among elderly Israelis who have received a booster shot than among those who have not

The day ahead

Turkey consumer price index data Figures will be announced today as the nation experiences accelerating inflation — a narrative Ankara has been fighting against. Last month Turkey’s central bank unexpectedly cut its benchmark interest rate, despite accelerating inflation that had already turned borrowing costs negative in real terms.

European Medicines Agency Covid-19 booster decision The agency is expected to decide today whether to endorse a booster for the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine.

2021 Nobel Prize The winner of the prize for medicine will be announced in Stockholm today. On Friday the Lasker Awards, the winners of which often go on to win the Nobel Prize, went to researchers whose work was crucial to the development of Covid-19 vaccines. (NYT)

Join us on October 7-8 for the Moral Money Summit Americas, debating money, regulation and how businesses can act more responsibly. Sign up here to receive the Moral Money newsletter in your inbox.

What else we’re reading

Kishida must defy the odds of Japanese political longevity In Japan, ordinary people enjoy one of the world’s highest life expectancies, but postwar prime ministers have lasted an average of about two years in office. Few considerations of a new prime minister, says the chair of one of Japan’s largest companies, matter more than their chances of beating these odds.

Lunch with the FT: Thomas Chatterton Williams In July 2020, Williams was one of the organisers of “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate”, an open letter signed by 152 scholars and writers, published in Harper’s magazine. Recently the writer sat down with FT’s Jemima Kelly to talk about making enemies on the left and the right.

Stakes rise for Singapore’s big crypto bet China’s shunning of crypto transactions increases the potential prizes and perils for the city-state as the cryptocurrency industry seizes upon Singapore as an unlikely Asian alternative.

Crypto awareness in Singapore

Payday for US college athletes rattles $14bn industry For more than 100 years student athletes received no payment — now a U-turn means they could earn as much as $1.5bn this year alone. But confusion remains as to how a thickening patchwork of state laws and possible federal legislation will regulate this fledgling market for image rights.

Money isn’t everything in the Great Re-evaluation People are rethinking what they really want from working life, and employers need to watch them closely, writes Pilita Clark. The shift has profound implications for employers of all industries.


FT gardening columnist Robin Lane Fox reflects on the Chelsea Flower Show, which reinvented itself to be an autumn event. Meanwhile, a new wave of designers is celebrating the full lifecycle of the garden as they embrace the beauty of dead and dying plants. A new trend shows plants being chosen for their spent form.

Marian Boswall’s Reighton Wood in Kent, where winter and summer are given equal importance © Jason Ingram
Marian Boswall’s Reighton Wood in Kent, where winter and summer are given equal importance © Jason Ingram

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Oliver Bolt

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