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Govt, India Inc must take advantage of ultra-cheap Western and Japanese money

India’s current account deficit was a record 6.7% of GDP in the last quarter of 2012. The deficit was plugged mainly by foreign direct investment, foreign portfolio investment and NRI bank deposits. But a significant, rising contribution also came from foreign borrowing, by corporations and the government. Total foreign debt is now estimated at almost More >

India needs a statutory, independent Police Commission

The Supreme Court says the government has “shaken the entire process” by asking the Central Bureau of Investigation to interfere in the coal scam. The court says “our first exercise will be to liberate the CBI from political interference”. Many of us will cheer the prospect. But the CBI chief has said, correctly, that the More >

Growth improves wages more than MNREGA

Agricultural wages have been galloping upwards for six years, rising much faster than prices. So, the living standards of rural labourers, the poorest of the poor, have improved at a record pace (6.8% real growth per year since 2007-08 ). What’s behind this excellent trend? Many politicians and leftist analysts think it is the rural More >

Land acquisition Bill will work for industry, farmers if leases are preferred over acquisitions

Many fear that the proposed land acquisition Bill will greatly harm economic progress through skyrocketing land prices, rewarding speculators while eroding India’s global competitiveness. Fortunately, the government has now accepted an opposition suggestion to make long land leases an alternative to outright acquisition. This is a huge improvement, and must become the preferred route. The More >

Manna from heaven, or a new recession?

The price of gold, oil and many other commodities crashed last week. The stock markets zoomed and economists smiled, suddenly seeing positive consequences in three areas — inflation, the trade deficit and the fiscal deficit. These three factors had earlier dragged down the economy to its lowest growth rate for a decade, just 4.7 per More >

Gold: The party’s over

The Indian price of gold has risen sixfold in the last decade, fuelling a record speculative import spree. Soaring gold imports have hit $42 billion in the first ten months of 2012-13 , pushing the current account deficit to near-disaster levels. The finance minister is wringing his hands in distress, while housewives say that buying More >

West should learn from India’s high patent standards

The Supreme Court’s denial of a patent for Glivec, an anti-leukaemia drug made by Novartis of Switzerland, has been widely but wrongly hailed by NGOs and castigated by pharmaceutical companies as an attack on patents and a victory for cheap medicine. Actually, the Court fully upheld the principle of patents, but set a high bar More >

Can growth tame Maoists?

Different states have different strategies to combat Maoism, which still produces violence in 80 of India’s 620 districts. Chhattisgarh has used quasi-military force and created an anti-Maoist militia, SalwaJudum, which is widely criticised for violating human rights. Andhra Pradesh has deployed a specialised anti-Maoist force, the Greyhounds, combined with development programmes in areas earlier abandoned More >

Slums are hubs of hope, progress and dignity

The Census Commissioner has released a new report showing that 64 million people, representing one in six urban residents, live in slums with unsanitary conditions “unfit for human habilitation.” This has caused much moaning and groaning. But conditions are far worse in most villages. Romantic pastoralists may fantasise about happy green villages as opposed to More >

Bihar: Champion athlete does not need steroids

At a massive Delhi rally, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar boasted of the state’s major achievements after he assumed power, and proclaimed a Bihar model of development for others to follow. If we view development as a sort of Olympics, Bihar would win several gold medals. It’s a champion athlete. Yet Kumar insists that Bihar More >

Lessons in good governance from former ‘Bimaru’ states Bihar, Odisha and Chhattisgarh

Bihar, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, once derisively called Bimaru states, have suddenly started growing much faster than the national average. They have followed widely divergent paths to success, which need elucidation. In 2011-12, national GDP growth was 6.21%. But Bihar (13.26%), Madhya Pradesh (11.81%), Jharkhand (8.92%) and even Uttar Pradesh (6.86%) fared better than More >

Fire from ice: A promising new energy source

Massive imports of oil and natural gas have exacerbated India’s big trade deficit, which is a hurdle to the acceleration of economic growth. Light at the end of the tunnel comes from a technological breakthrough last week by JOGMEC (Japan Oil Gas and Metals National Corporation). It succeeded in extracting natural gas from sea-bed deposits More >

The status quo prince doth protest too much

Dear Rahul Gandhi, You hit the headlines last week by saying you are disinclined to marry and have kids because then “I will become a status quoist and will become concerned about bequeathing my position to my children.” Second, you said you are not in the race to become prime minister. It would be gratifying More >

Can’t buy me an election with budget freebies

“Can’t buy me love,” sang the Beatles. “Can’t buy me an election” is the theme of this year’s budget. Finance ministers usually produce freebies, subsidies and waivers in their last budget before an election. Such attempts to buy votes have very little impact, but finance ministers persist in the hope that it may work this More >

Budget 2013: Finance minister P Chidambaram boldly votes for growth over politics

Never before has a finance minister rejected populist giveaways so decisively in an election year. Never before has a finance minister sought to win the next elections not through tax breaks and freebies, but by accelerating GDP growth and taming inflation through fiscal consolidation. Palaniappan Chidambaram has gambled on good economics proving to be good More >