Global economy not taking off

global-economyThough the World Bank warns that the recovery in the global economy is fragile, a number of economies from the developing side have been performing well.
Congrats Ethiopia – the fastest-growing economy in 2017, according to the World Bank’s latest edition of Prospects. Ethiopia’s GDP is forecast to grow by 8.3 percent in 2017. By contrast, global growth is projected to be 2.7 percent. The East African country’s accelerating growth comes on the back of government spending on infrastructure. However, borrowing to finance Ethiopia’s large public infrastructure projects has led to a rise in public debt, which increased by more than 10 percent of GDP between 2014 and 2016, and now exceeds 50 percent of GDP.  However, worsening drought conditions could also affect Ethiopia’s growth, warns the report.
What about the Biggies and Minnows?
Globally, growth is predicted to rise by 2.7 percent on the back of a pick-up in manufacturing and trade, improved market confidence and a recovery in commodity prices. Trade increased by around 4 percent in 2017, up from a post-crisis low of 2.4% in 2016. Although it is expected to remain below pre-financial crisis levels. Many emerging market economies have high levels of public debt, and the World Bank says it is concerned about this because it could drag down growth.
So far as the fast performers are concerned Uzbekistan comes second. With projected growth of 7.6 percent  backed by rising oil prices, benign global financing conditions, robust growth in the Euro Area, and generally supportive policies among governments of several large countries in the region. Nepal is next, with a 7.5 percent projection. Nepal’s growth has rebounded strongly following a good monsoon, reconstruction efforts after the 2015 earthquake and normalization of trade with India, says the Bank.
Rightly, India has been placed next – the fourth-fastest-growing economy with 7.2 percent projected growth, solidified by a rise in exports and an increase in government spending. Among the other top 10 performers are Djibouti and Laos with 7 per cent and Cambodia, the Philippines and Myanmar with 6.9 percent. China, despite experiencing a slowdown and an economic transition, was in 16th place with 6.5 percent expected growth, helped by robust consumption and a recovery of exports.
That is to say that much of Asia and Africa are experiencing rapid growth. Emerging-market and developing economies are anticipated to grow 4.1 percent – far faster than advanced economies.
Advanced economies are improving too. As per WB forecast growth in advanced economies is expected to accelerate to 1.9 percent in 2017, according to the World Bank. Europe has experienced strong growth, and growth in the United States is expected to recover in 2017 and to continue at a moderate pace in 2018. Japan also saw robust growth at the start of 2017.
The flip side: at the end of 2016, government debt exceeded its 2007 level by more than 10% of GDP in more than half of emerging market and developing economies. Fiscal balances – the ability of a country to cope with increases in costs of financing – worsened from their 2007 levels by more than 5 percent of GDP in one-third of these countries, according to WB.  Mounting public debt is also of concern. Global government debt has risen by 12 percent of GDP since 2007, to 47percent of GDP by 2016.
What About the Food Sector?
Right now global food prices dipped, mainly as the prospect of bumper cereal harvests pushed up expectations for larger grain inventories. The FAO raised its forecast for global cereal production to a record 2,611 million tonnes. Worldwide stocks of cereals are also expected to reach an all-time high by the close of seasons in 2018, accordingly. The new estimates reflect larger anticipated wheat harvests, as improved production prospects in Russia more than offset downward revisions made for Canada and the United States, as well as higher maize and barley outputs in Brazil and Russia. Global rice production in 2017 is also now forecast to reach a record high.
The UN predicts that we must increase food production by 70 per cent by mid-century. This, in turn, will place additional pressure on already stressed water resources, at a time when need is also there to allocate more water to satisfy global energy demand – which is expected to rise 60 per cent over the coming 30 years – and to generate electricity for the 1.3 billion people currently without it. It is crystal clear that there will not be enough water available on current croplands to produce food for the expected 9.0 billion populations in 2050 if current trends and changes towards diets common in western nations are any indication. Undoubtedly, with 70 per cent of all available water being in agriculture, growing more food to feed an additional 2.0 billion people by 2050 will place greater pressure on available water and land. Competition for water between food production and other uses will intensify pressure on essential resources. What would happen to the world’s poor can be guessed if they remain at the mercy of fragile global food system.
Very importantly, the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) said the best way for countries to protect millions of farmers from food insecurity in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia was to help them invest in small pumps and simple technology, rather than to develop expensive, large-scale irrigation projects. Accordingly, “…..Farmers across the developing world are increasingly relying on and benefiting from small-scale, locally-relevant water solutions. [These] techniques could increase yields up to 300 per cent and add tens of billions of US dollars to household revenues across sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia.”
Silver Lining?
Though global trade is recovering at snail’s pace., yet investment remain weak. Rightly, WB opined that countries now need to undertake institutional and market reforms in order to attract private investment, which, in turn, will help sustain growth in the long-term. To what extent shifting of priorities by WB for lending toward projects that can spur follow-on investment by the private sector would be successful remains a matter to be seen.
The Big Question Remains : Is Not GDP a Poor Indicator of Progress?
GDP has been  widely used over the years to measure economic progress. But many rightly argue that it’s not a useful indicator. Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, IMF head Christine Lagarde and MIT professor Erik Brynjolfsson have all said GDP is a poor indicator of progress, and argued for a change to the way we measure economic and social development. Alternatives could include measuring jobs, well-being and health. GDP also ignores the impact of important things like climate change. Time is here for rethinking before allowing GDP to run as it has been running till now!!
Keeping the Fingers Crossed
Finally, it is pertinent to note that a new United Nations trade and development report, while noting that the world economy in 2017 “is picking up but not taking off,” has cautioned against fiscal austerity and harnessing finance to support job creation and infrastructure investment. Greater international policy cooperation and financial integration, in turn, calls for economic management and better regulation – the Basel III reforms, local rules, stronger and more harmonised regulatory frameworks, inclusive of cross-border supervision and the like.

Published by The Sentinel

Written by Dr B K Mukhopadhyay

http://sentinelassam.com/

Cleanliness campaign picking up momentum

 

21swachAs Swachh Bharat campaign picks up further momentum during the ongoing fortnight long sanitation drive, thrust on the cleanliness and hygiene is increasing at a rapid pace not only on the government’s action plans, but awareness has spread manifold during last three years among people including those living in backward rural swathes.
Amid continuous downpour of success stories of the ambitious plan, launched by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Gandhi Jayanti day in 2014, the word Swachhta has substantially gained currency with increasing demands and awareness for clean toilets and safe drinking water.
The campaign, which had made an innocuous beginning, has resulted into construction of large number of toilets, clean potable water arrangements, regular drills of cleaning etc. Apart from bulging statistics of new toilets, involvement of the government machinery, institutions, social organizations, common people etc.is an indicator of the campaign’s growing efficacy. A UNICEF report says good sanitation can save Rs.50,000 per year per family.
During the pan India operations for constructing toilets, a number of glaring successful reports poured in and complaints, where those involved in effecting plans, erred are being looked into for redressal of grievances.
To accelerate the efforts to achieve universal sanitation coverage and put focus on sanitation, Prime Minister Modi had launched Sawachh Bharat Mission which has two sub missions SBM (Gramin) and SBM (Urban).The mission aims to accomplish Clean India by 2019 as a fitting tribute to Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th Birth Anniversary.
According to officials, sanitation coverage in the country has gone up from 39% at the launch of the SBM to 67.5 % today with 2.38 lakh villages having been declared Open Defecation Free (ODF), and that this progress had been verified by third-party independent agencies as well.
To give fillip to individual’s innovative ideas to deal with sanitation related problems, Swachhathon was organized recently for new ideas crowd sourcing. Informatively, the logo of Swachh Bharat Mission itself was a crowd-sourced idea. Now, to boost clean India programme and turn it into an effective public movement, a fortnight long sanitary campaign – ‘Swachhta Hi Sewa’ which includes voluntary participation, ‘Sharamdan ‘(free labour) by law makers and others, got underway this week ,and  no less than the President Ramnath Kovind himself flagged off the campaign from Kanpur Dehat — his home town. Vice President Venkaiah Naidu is set to lead the campaign in Karnataka.
The fortnight ends on Mahatma Gandhi‘s birth anniversary day. A large number of Union Ministers, MPs and MLAs are also scheduled to offer ‘Shramdaan’. The Prime Minister’s birthday on September 17 brings thrust to the initiative by marking the day as ‘Seva Diwas’. Drivers of the Swachhta mission say a slew of such programmes bring the issue to a sharp focus, and finally lead to more participation of common man.
Policy makers are of opinion the strong message for Swachh campaign gains momentum with such high profile participation of law makers, celebrities, and brand ambassadors. To ensure massive outreach, the government machinery is toiling to spread the message through all means including telecasting of Bollywood’s – Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, film by the national broadcaster on Seva Diwas.
‘Swachhta Hi Seva’ drive will see large scale mobilisation of people from all walks of life to undertake ‘Shramdaan’ for cleanliness and construction of toilets and to make their environments free from open defecation. There will be targeted cleaning of public and tourist places. The drive is being coordinated by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, the convening Ministry for the Swachh Bharat Mission. Every occasion is being utilised to highlight and popularise the programme. Like the birth anniversary of the ruling party ideologue and social reformer Dr. Deen Dayal Upadhaya on September 25th will be observed as ‘Sarvatra Swachhata’ with massive cleaning of public utility places like parks, bus stops, railway stations etc.
On the eve of Gandhi Jayanti the tourism sites will be brought under the focus for cleaning. Informatively, the tourism sector, as per an estimate, loses about Rs.500 crore every year due to lack of sanitation. World Bank report estimates that lack of sanitation costs India over six per cent of the country’s GDP.
The government has identified a large number of such sites for sanitation during the ongoing drive. Each ministry has been asked to gear up the operation. Defence ministry will ensure that all cantonments could be declared as open defecation free places besides embarking on cleanliness drives at high altitudes. The information and Broadcasting ministry is playing role of popularising the sanitation programmes on private news channels, FM radio waves besides producing short films on the subject.
According to latest figures, the SBM has clocked many targets. These include construction of 29,79,945 household toilets across the country, while 44,650  wards have been covered for 100 per cent door – to – door waste collection.
As per the ‘dashboard’ (real time figures) of the Swachh Bharat (urban) portal, as many as 2,19,169 community and public toilets were constructed and waste to energy  production stands at 94.2 megawatt currently. Total, 1,286 cities have self-declared as ODF (Open defecation free). According to SBM (Gramin) dashboard reports, 4,80,80,707 household toilets were constructed since October 2, 2014 and as many as 2,38,539 villages have achieved target of open defecation free ( ODF) title. The site says 196 districts turned into open defecation free. Elimination of Open Defecation is crucial aspect of SBM. In order to achieve the objective of becoming Open Defecation Free (ODF) by 2019, 55 million household toilets and 1,15,000 community toilets need to be constructed under the SBM (Gramin), as per the NITI Ayog document. Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Haryana and Uttrakhand are ODF states. Ten states will be ODF by March, 2018. All 4,500 Namami Gange villages are ODF now. The Swachh Bharat campaign encompasses a large number of programmes which covered ranking of educational institutions, cities on sanitation index but real success of the ambitious plan lies with common public who have to be more sensitive to social and personal hygiene. Let us hope that entire country will be free from open defecation by 2019.

 

Published by The Sentinel

Written by Neeraj Bajpai

http://sentinelassam.com/

 

On Analysing Emotions

 

4b8a1da19c8bc9cc1217c3eac10757ecOver the centuries, there have been ceaseless attempts to analyse and classify human emotions. There has been no valid reason to worry too much about the emotions of animals since human beings have reasons to be concerned only about animals that are pets or those we use as beasts of burden and providers milk and meat. We look after them with great care to ensure that they continue to serve us efficiently for many years and to provide us with more milk and greater quantities of meat for the dining table. The dog has a very special place in our lives as a pet since it provides company and looks after our security. We may be somewhat concerned about the emotions of our pet dogs, but how the cattle feel about the way we treat them does not cause us to lose any sleep. And yet, all available evidence points to the fact that we have been conducting some interesting research into the different states of human emotions. Over the years, we seem to have arrived at the assumption that human emotions fall within the universal categories of happiness, sadness, anger, surprise, fear and disgust. There has also been widespread recognition of the fact that there is always an overlap of emotions that serves to change the very character of the accepted format. A new study on human emotions used statistical models to analyse the responses of 853 demographically diverse men and women to 2,185 emotionally evocative video clips. Researchers of University of University of California, Berkeley now have 27 distinct categories of emotions and have created a multidimensional map to show how they are connected. They include awe, peacefulness, horror, amusement and adoration among others. What is indeed questionable is whether the emotional responses of a select group to a certain number of video recordings can really lead to the creation of what is being called a “semantic atlas of human emotions”. What is bound to be of far greater significance to everyone is how people react in situations of emotional stress rather than what names one gives to the emotions newly added to the existing but inadequate six. The mere creation of jargon is unlikely to carry the human race very far. Much more important than finding names for all human emotions is how we deal with the blend of diverse emotions that has been an established feature of human existence.

 

 

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Arunachal: A Case of Nationalization

 

bomdila-arunachal-pradeshArunachal Pradesh is an interesting and curious paradigm of a project of nationalization in the post-independence context of democratization in India. Fresh from British colonialism that had ripped apart the Indian soul of self-respect and aspiring to mature into a functioning democracy – which it is yet not yet in the real sense – India had a mammoth task to contain its northeastern part, a region that had more affinity with Southeast Asia rather than with the so-called mainland of the country. As the country embarked on the daunting task of nation-building, the question that harassed policymakers’ minds was whether the building up of a new nation based on constitutionalism would have its different and unique northeastern region form a politically and economically harmonious part of what was then perceived to be a nationalistic construct. Arunachal, then called North East Frontier Agency (NEFA), was a Herculean task as it was in the case of areas such as present-day Nagaland and Mizoram where rebellions against Indian sovereignty would soon erupt fiercely.
The case of Arunachal as part of the nationalization project became more challenging in the aftermath of the humiliation India suffered at the hands of the Chinese in the 1962 war. With panic gripping right up to the Tezpur plains after the Chinese troops entered the Tawang sector in Arunachal, the strategic significance of Arunachal became the high talk of political executives, bureaucrats and security experts in New Delhi. Thus emanated the notion of securitization – if one may use this word – of Arunachal in view of what China did and what it could do in the future too.
In fact NEFA was part of undivided Assam then, with the exception, however, that it was not ruled politically by Assam but by Delhi through the Governor of Assam acting as the Centre’s agent. The immediate imperative was development. But what kind of development? Whose development? Development at what cost? Development of a people who were indeed backward compared to the ones in the rest of the country, including in the rest of the Northeast too, or development of a strategically paramount territory in terms of infrastructure enhancement?
Many such questions came to the fore, and answers were not easy, given the complexity of the newly created federalism as a work in progress vis-à-vis NEFA as also the rest of the Northeast, and given also, and more importantly perhaps, the predicament thrown up by a bewildering mix of ethnicities of the frontier area that had nothing in common with what was called the idea of India.
The discourse prevalent during the time in the corridors of power in Delhi was that a developmental project converging on infrastructure enhancement – no matter if it entailed atrocities on the frontier area’s eco-diversity and environmental health – would have the Arunachalis feel that they were taken very good care of by the ‘mainstream’ and that they would soon form an important part of the pan-Indian growth story, while also making them feel that their customs and traditions, or their uniqueness as a people consisting of diverse tribes, would never be allowed to be diluted or corrupted by anyone from outside. This was part of the work that a “a cosmetic federal order” had set out to accomplish, as Prof Sanjib Baruah, an Assamese political scientist based in the US and one of the most discerning analysts of Northeast Indian political undercurrents, has argued forcefully in his widely acclaimed book Durable Disorder (Oxford).
This is what he says in the chapter “Nationalizing Space” in that book: “Arunachal is a part of one of the global ‘hotspots’ of biodiversity and its mountain eco-system is fragile. Indeed a case could be made for putting the area under a legal regime that would give priority to policies for protecting the interests of its indigenous peoples (emphasis added) and to nature conservation. Even short of that, it is possible to outline a road to sustainable development that takes into account Arunachal’s exceptional environmental wealth and its importance… The goal of nationalizing a frontier space, I would argue, has been the major thrust of Indian policy vis-à-vis Arunachal and Northeast India as a whole… this security driven process has led to creating a special regional dispensation of small and financially dependent States that in a formal sense are autonomous units of India’s federal polity; in terms of power vis-à-vis the central government, however, the form of federalism is little more than cosmetic. The logic of developmentalism is embedded in the institutions of the Indian state that have been put in place in pursuit of the goal of nationalizing space. Through demographic and other changes in the region the process has made India’s everyday control over this frontier space more effective, but at significant social, environmental and political costs… In Arunachal, I would argue, development discourse is the product of the Indian state’s push to nationalize the space of this frontier region. The developmentalist path that Arunachal has embarked upon is neither the result of a choice made by policy makers about what is best for the well-being of the people of Arunachal Pradesh, nor is it evidence of the inevitability of ‘progress’ and ‘civilization’. Rather, it is the intended and unintended consequence of the Indian state’s efforts to assert control over this frontier space and to make it part of India’s national space… The developmentalist path on which Arunachal has embarked can only be understood in the context of a Northeast policy that has been shaped by this concern for national security… However, the new regional order is federal only in a cosmetic sense: the central government has powers over important areas and the national security establishment in New Delhi even has the capacity to monitor and control political developments.”
Having personally known Prof Baruah for about a decade, this writer knows that his work on “understanding the politics of Northeast India” in relation to Arunachal is a result of a very meticulous research undertaking with corollaries of the best and most relevant political theories drawn from the best political scientists of the world. And having spent his formative years in Arunachal (his parents were posted there as government employees in the education department), this writer has had occasion to know the area, its people, their aspirations, and the clash of their aspirations with what New Delhi calls ‘development’, and the inference is only too obvious: that the task of ‘nationalizing’ the unique space called Arunachal (as is the case too with many tribal areas of the Northeast) cannot perhaps reach its logical conclusion because there perhaps cannot be any appreciable logic in forcing the idea of ‘nationalization’ on a people whose life and livelihood are based primarily on what and how they construe their unique culture, heritage, eco-system, and the possibility of sustainable development within the arc of their uniqueness as a hotbed of eco-diversity and environmental asset.
Hence perhaps the war cry by civil society activists or public activists advocating indigenous causes pertaining to environmental hazards against hydel projects being built in Arunachal as part of a grandiose development enterprise. Having had extensive talks with some educated and enlightened Arunachalis, this writer has been able to read the characteristic Arunachali pulse as to what development, in the real sense of development of an indigenous people for their empowerment and not for the material benefit of the already benefited lot outside, could mean for them: the conservation of their eco-diversity and development for them accruing from it, including by way of making tourism an industry in the State rather than any industry of iron and cement at the cost of a very fragile environment. In this scheme, perhaps tourism as an industry could be the best way to really nationalize the frontier State – people-to-people contact and sharing of ideas for a meaningful future without endangering any naturalness. But this is a subject of another article later. (Sikkim is a case in point.)
Meanwhile, merely having CBSE as the board for education in government schools in Arunachal and having to have Hindi as a lingua franca in the State (strange it may sound but this is the reality due to the CBSE being the educational regime in the State) does not and cannot mean a realization of so-called nationalization.

 

Published by The Sentinel

Written by Bikash Sarmah

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Digital revolution in India

 

 

shutterstock_152949047Evolution of technology has been the foundation stone of progress and has over the centuries changed the way societies function. Technological inventions have revolutionized each sector of the society by reducing human labour, brining efficiency and increasing productivity. Be it introduction of information communication technologies in education, digitization in the media and services sector, automated devices for health care — each sphere of society gets a boost with the touch of technology. For a country like India that has a perfect blend of rich traditional heritage and one of the fastest growing economies with the largest ‘young ‘population, there is an immense opportunity to change the face of the society with technological revolution.
While the country has seen implementation of technological inventions in various fields in several decades after independence, the present Government has acted as a catalyst in not only speeding up the process of digital revolution in the country but also taking an initiative in bridging the digital divide in the country. The past three years have not only witnessed a swift rise in exploration, implementation and utilization of digital technologies but also focused on taking digitization and its benefits to the grass root level and especially to the less privileged sections of the society.
Digital revolution in India is significant as it promises to bring a multi-dimensional metamorphosis in almost all sectors of the society. From digitization in governance to better health care and educational services, cashless economy and digital transactions, transparency in bureaucracy, fair and quick distribution of welfare schemes all seem achievable with the digital India initiative of the present Government. A look at Government initiatives in various sectors in past three years show how digital revolution in India is not only changing the way society functions but also bridging the gap between the haves and the have-nots of the country.
The quality of education in any society forms the foundation stone for the very fabric of the society. Keeping in mind the importance of education, the digital India initiatives puts together a number of digital services for improving the dissemination of education in society. Be it primary level, secondary level or higher education and research facilities, the various digital schemes in this sector are revolutionizing the education system in the country.
While there are a number of schemes in the education sector, to mention a few — ‘SWAYAM’ scheme provides an opportunity to students to access courses taught in classrooms from ninth standard to post graduation, that can be accessed by anyone, anywhere at any time. This digital scheme not only brings education at the door step of numerous students but also aims to bridge the digital divide as students who cannot join mainstream or formal education can access this application. Another digital scheme is ‘ePATHSHALA’ which disseminates all educational content through website and mobile app.
Next in row are schemes like ‘ Mid-Day Meal Monitoring App’, ‘Shaala Sidhi’ and ‘Shaala Darpan’ that focus on quality of school administration and evaluate the schools and kendriya vidyalas to improve the quality of education. Promoting research skills is the ‘OLABS’ digital scheme. OLabs i.e. online labs for school lab experiments provide students with ease of conducting experiments over internet. In the area of higher education, Government has the ‘National Scholarship Portal’, ‘eGranthalya’, ‘National Knowledge Network’ to name a few. These digital initiatives not only look at improving the sector of education but are reaching out in bringing education to the underprivileged, thus utilizing the digital revolution to bridge the gap between haves and have-nots of education.
While education sector constructs the fabric of the society, health care is an equally important sector for a society that has a secure and stable future. The various digital initiatives of the Government in the health services include — ‘Digital AIIMS’ a project that aims to create an effective linkage between UIDAI and AIIMS; the ‘e-hospitals’ scheme that is an open source health management system; ‘mRaktkosh’ — a web based mechanism that interconnects all blood banks of the state into a single network.
Besides health and education, the present Government has also taken various initiatives to digitize governance. For instance, ‘UMANG’ aims to bring one-stop solution to all government services; ‘e-panchayat’, ‘eDistricts’, eOffice are also some of the services to digitize governance and administration in the country. Besides these the ‘National Voters Service Portal’ and ‘ECI-EVM Tracking Services are also bringing about transparency in governance. The AADHAR scheme and BHIM app are also significant in speeding up the process of digitizing the economy.
Unique to India’s character is the agriculture sector. The Governments’ Digital India initiative is also proving a number of schemes for the benefit of the farmer. Some of the schemes in the agriculture sector include, ‘mkisan’, ‘farmer portal’, ‘Kisan Suvidha app’, ‘Pusa Krishi’, ‘Soil Health Card app’ , ‘eNAM’, ‘Crop Insurance Mobile app’, ‘Agri Market app’ and ‘Fertilizer Monitoring app’. Keeping in mind women’s safety, applications like ‘Nirbhaya app’ and ‘Himmat app’ have been launched that facilitate sending of distress calls. There are also apps for law enforcement agencies, courts and judiciary.
Thus, several initiatives by Government in various sectors are not only an attempt to revolutionise the society but also focus on utilizing the digital technologies to elevate the down trodden and bridge the gap between the different social strata.

 

Published by The Sentinel

Written by Dr Gurmeet Singh

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