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GM foods considered safe in US, but not in India

An expert panel appointed by the Supreme Court has suggested a 10-year moratorium on field trials for genetically modified (GM) crops, ending prospects of their cultivation in the foreseeable future. Chengal Reddy, secretary general of the Consortium of Indian Farmers’ Associations , has protested that this goes dead against the interest of farmers who need More >

Ignoring small businesses and public service delivery a big mistake for government

Forget the notion that the government has recently produced an avalanche of reforms. The word ‘reform’ is being misused to cover everything from irrelevant fiddling to minor changes, to selling the family silver (in the shape of spectrum or minority stakes in public sector undertakings). Raising the price of diesel by Rs 5 per litre More >

CSR: a cloak for crooks

The government’s new Companies Bill will reportedly ask large companies to spend 2% of their net profit on CSR (corporate social responsibility). The theory is that corporates must aim for social goals, not just profits. It’s unclear whether the 2% allocation will be compulsory or indicative. In either case, this misses altogether what corporate social More >

Exposes need convictions to have impact

Will the Robert Vadra expose help end corruption? Or will it be just another rib-tickler that titillates the middle class for a few weeks and is then forgotten? Will politics remain India’s biggest business by far? I am not optimistic. Politicians of every party love slinging mud at rivals: as good businessmen, they hope this More >

Bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities not an option, but sanctions could lead to regime change

Sanctions may not stop Iran’s nuclear programme, but could spark a revolt against the mullahs. Bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities will only strengthen the mullahs . Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has repeatedly threatened to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities, saying that country is close to producing a nuclear bomb. The US has opposed bombing, and imposed stiff More >

Raising prices sensibly can reduce inflation

The Kelkar Committee report has painted a dire picture of government finances. It emphasizes the need to phase out unwarranted subsidies (such as those on diesel, cooking gas and urea) while maintaining warranted subsidies (on education, health, food) and targeting the poor. The committee has warned that India must curb its high fiscal deficit, which More >

Infrastructure crisis endangers future growth

Without infrastructure, an economy cannot grow. Industry and services cannot expand without highways, electricity, ports and airports, rail links and pipelines. The 12th Plan (2012-17) projects infrastructure investment of a trillion dollars. Alas, infrastructure has hit a wall, and been knocked semi-conscious. This has seriously undercut India’s future growth potential. No remedy is in sight. More >

Profit and loss can be manipulated, market price gives a better picture of cos’ financial position

The Comptroller and Auditor General’s ( CAG) estimates of government losses and corporate gains have stirred much controversy. Supreme Court Chief Justice S H Kapadia attempted to elucidate valuation principles in a recent speech. He reportedly said, “Today, a number of controversies on valuation are discussed but the basic principle of valuation is that loss More >

Cheap Chinese imports can be good for us

Across Asia, including China, foreign retailers have proved a blessing, providing consumers with cheaper wares, and upgrading the technology of local producers to make them globally competitive. Only in India do opposition parties want to protect the aam bania against the aam admi. The worst argument against foreign retailers is that they will flood India More >

US electoral college maths favours Obama

With less than two months to go for the US presidential election, most opinion polls suggest that Barack Obama is a clear favourite to beat Republican challenger Mitt Romney. A Gallup poll last Thursday gave Obama 50% of the popular vote against Romney’s 44%. However, a Rasmussen poll showed Romney nosing ahead by 47% to More >

Why we need better economics

In Washington DC, a fellow bus traveller asked about my job. I said I was an economist. “Oh” he said in disgust “you economists don’t know nothing.” This was a cruel, yet accurate comment. The world is staggering under multiple problems, but economists of all stripes have failed to come up with convincing remedies. Once, More >

The XI that won the Gujarat Test

There was much cheering last week when our cricket Test team demolished New Zealand . Yet the truly great Test and victory was in the Gujarat High Court, which imposed stiff sentences on perpetrators of the Naroda Patiya massacre of 2002. India’s institutions and civil society defeated a state bent on protecting the guilty. This More >

Don’t cancel coal blocks, levy high royalties

Opposition parties want Manmohan Singh’s head for supposed corruption in 57 coal blocks that were allocated, not auctioned. The government is under pressure to cancel the allocations. That would be politically, legally and economically wrong. Politically, it will look like a confession of crookedness. Neither the CAG nor anybody else has produced any evidence of More >

CAG, SC, EC: institutions up in arms

Indian politics today seems driven less by politicians and more by the Supreme Court and Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG). What does this imply for Indian democracy? The answer is that we are seeing a revolt by India’s institutions against a corrupt, callous state. An implicit political conspiracy ensures that all parties can, with impunity, More >

End discretionary allocations in coal and everything else

The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on coal block allocations highlights the mess in the coal sector, but has led to very faulty interpretations of what exactly has gone wrong. The report exposes the pitfalls of ministerial discretion to allocate coal blocks. Market-based procedures like auctions, which would eliminate bribes and increase revenue, More >