China and India on the path of Economic Reforms

The week gone by saw the international media take note of: Chinese President introducing reforms, reconversion issue in India, Indian government facing economic challenge, Sri Lankan President renounced by aides, ISIS, Ukraine and Vladimir Putin to the tsunami that struck 10 years ago.

On China

Project Syndicate ran a report by Andrew Sheng and Xiao Geng which focuses on Chinese President’s reform gambit. The report also mentions that

'Beyond completing China’s transformation into an open, market-based economy, Xi must establish a strong rule of law that applies to all, while addressing acute inequality of income, opportunity, wealth, and wellbeing. For this reason, Xi must pursue reforms that allow people, money, resources, information, and companies to move more freely across sectors. Regions, and national borders'.

The writers are very positive that with the right approach and sustained political will, Xi's risk taking can bring China the kind of returns that Deng Xiaoping’s did 35 years ago - and more.

On India

Dhiraj Nayyar for Bloomberg View wrote that Modi faces a political as much as an economic challenge. None of his other reforms will work unless the government also starts pouring money into power, roads and other critical infrastructure areas where the returns for the private sector are uncertain, in order to make it safer for private companies to invest. At the same time, the government cannot entirely afford to blow a hole in the budget; a chronically high deficit is inflationary (as the previous government found to its peril) and will force the central bank to keep interest rates high, dampening growth.

Daily Mail reported that among the contenders for the key appointment of vice-chairman of the new Neeti Ayog is well-known economist Arvind Panagariya. The media reported that the Neeti Ayog will replace the Planning Commission. The body will be headed by a vice-chairman instead of a deputy chairman. Panagariya has been the chief economist at the Asian Development Bank. He was earlier tipped to be the economic advisor to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Nigam Prusty and Rajesh Kumar Singh for Reuters wrote about PM Modi ordering insurance and coal reforms after stymied by Parliament. They quoted Shashwat Sharma, a partner at consultant KPMG say that,

'It will bring in a lot of confidence and people waiting for it would start thinking through it.'

They also quoted Finance Minister Arun Jaitley say that,

'It also announces to the rest of the world including investors that this country can no longer wait even if one of the houses of parliament waits indefinitely to take up its agenda.'

Rama Lakshmi for The Washington Post wrote about Finance Minister Arun Jaitley introducing legislation in Parliament for one goods and services tax to replace the complex system of nearly 20 different states. She quoted Devesh Kapur, director of the Center for the Advanced Study of India at the University of Pennsylvania say that if a single, rationalised tax system becomes a reality, 'businesses can hope to maintain lighter inventories and adopt efficient, Japanese-style just-in-time manufacturing methods in India, too'.

Chandrahas Choudhury for Bloomberg View wrote that Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, India's powerful, male-only Hindu nationalist outfit, finally played a card it has long held in its hand. It announced an intensive conversion program to recover its 'lost property' in India, feeding the dream of its cadre and allied organizations of an India that is nothing less than '100 per cent Hindu.' Mr. Choudhury further wrote that,

'In the realm of law, the RSS wants the passage of a stringent nationwide bill that would ban religious conversions. In the public sphere, it has arrogated the right to pronounce not just on the future of minorities in India but that of India's Hindu majority as well. In the war of the religions, it seeks to spread the news that there is now a Hindu fundamentalism eager to goad and trump well-established Christian and Islamic fundamentals in India and around the world.'

Gardiner Harris for The New York Times highlighted how the reconversion of religious minorities is roiling India's politics. Mr. Harris quotes Mr. Oswald the pastor of Delhi International Christian Fellowship who says that he receives calls from probably Hindi nationalists who are trying to set him up by requesting him to baptize Hindus so they can become Christians.

Mr. Harris also talks of how Muslims and Christians are being reconverted to Hinduism by offshoots of the powerful Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a Hindu nationalist group that is the ideological wing of the governing Bharatiya Janata Party and that once employed the prime minister, Narendra Modi.

Biswajyoti Das for Reuters reported about India deploying military helicopters to hunt down tribal militants in the north-eastern state of Assam after rebels killed 75 people this week, the attack it is reported was the deadliest in the remote areas in years. The report also mentions that Assam has a history of sectarian bloodshed and armed groups fighting for secession from India.

  1. Jai Krishna and Jesse Pesta interviewed S P Udayakumar, founder of a prominent activist group and Swapnesh Kumar Malhotra of India’s Department of Atomic Energy for The Wall Street Journal. Udayakumar opines that Indians are not very good in disaster management and so his group has been opposing the Kudankulam nuclear power plant for several years now. On the other hand Swapnesh Kumar Malhotra said that he was proud to say that emergency preparedness in nuclear sector in India is very good. He added that,

'Directly comparing with Fukushima is scientifically not at all right. Kudankulam is a model plant. It is a light-water reactor of present vintage. [The Japan plant was an older design.] It has some very advanced safety features. For example, in the old-time reactors, there was no 'core catcher' Kudankulam already has a core catcher.'

On ISIS

For The Boston Globe, Sally Jacobs focused on the story of Aafia Siddiqui who had arrived in Boston as a biology major at MIT and had left as an active jihadi after 11 years.  Ms. Jacobs talks of how on a fall evening of 1993 Aafia Siddiqui had raised her skinny little wrists in the air and said that she had be proud to be on the Most Wanted list of FBI as it would mean she was doing something to help their Muslim brothers and sisters. Ms. Jacobs then went on to describe as to how Aafia was identified 'two years after the Sept. 11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind, apparently identified her as one of his accomplices'.

Liz Sly for The Washington Post wrote at length about the Islamic State failing at being a state. She went on to mention that how Islamic State functionaries continue to exact payments, going door to door to collect taxes from shopkeepers and fees for electricity and telephones. She quotes Hassan Hassan, a Syrian analyst with the Abu Dhabi-based Delma Institute say

'If the regime did not supply telecoms and salaries, I don't think ISIS could survive. It charges people for things the regime is providing. But it’s not viable as a state.'

For Reuters, Philip Pullella wrote about Pope condemning Islamic State. Mr. Pullella reports that Pope appealed for an end to conflicts in African countries, urged dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, condemned the attack by Taliban militants that killed more than 130 students in Pakistan last week, and thanked those helping the victims of the Ebola epidemic.

On Sri Lanka

Ellen Barry for The New York Times wrote about aides renouncing Sri Lankan President and how it has dimmed his confidence of being re-elected. Ms. Barry says that the famously sure footed er was so confident that he scheduled elections for January 8, two years before the end of his second term. She adds that,

'But the defections caught him unaware, and he is so jittery that he has begun promising concessions - like constitutional reforms and an investigation into possible war crimes committed during the government’s campaign against northern separatists - should he win a third six-year term.'

On Russia and Ukraine

BBC reported about the biggest exchange that took place in the city of Donetsk where 150 Ukraine soldiers were swapped for 225 militants. BBC quoted freed Ukrainian soldier Artem Syurik who said,

'I am looking forward to seeing my parents and wife. They do not know I am coming. I want to eat fried potatoes and talk to my relatives. I will go back to fighting. It was all right once we were moved to the detention centre, but to begin with, they really tormented and roughed us up.'

The editorial board of The New York Times wrote about growing tension between Russian President and the West over the issue of Ukraine and how Mr. Putin under the stress that Russia’s economy is facing 'is pursuing new friends, including one of the world's most noxious leaders, Kim Jong-un of North Korea'.  The editors also mention that

'As for India, Mr. Putin was warmly welcomed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a visit there this month and given assurances that Russia would remain India's top weapons supplier. The two sides also signed billions of dollars in nuclear power, oil and defense deals. The outcome was a reminder that expectations in America of more trade and political cooperation with India have fallen short since the two countries signed a nuclear deal in 2008.'

On Japan

The New York Times mentioned about Japan planning $29 billion stimulus to fight recession. The media reported that Mr. Abe who took office for a third term on Wednesday faces strong pressure to do something to restore growth. The media reported that

'Core consumer prices, excluding food, rose 2.7 percent, while the inflation rate, excluding food and energy, was 2.1 percent. Overall incomes fell 1.1 percent in November from a year earlier, while household spending was down 2.5 percent.'

Team Niti Central ends the week’s international media roundup with this piece coming fromKarishma Vaswani for BBC on the lessons learned on the fateful day 10 years ago when tsunami hit and how the lessons will live on in Aceh’s next generation.

Ms.Vaswani talks about a tsunami shrine in the village of Lampulo which is not far from the city centre. It is the place where a giant fishing boat sits on top of an abandoned house, the ravaged walls an eerie reminder of how much damage the powerful waters caused.

Courtesy Niti Central


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