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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 >

Economic Survey 2013 paints a rosy picture yet again, but needs follow up

Happy days are here again, says the pre-budget Economic Survey. GDP growth is going to pick up from this year’s 5% to range between 6.1% and 6.7% in 2013-14. Wholesale price inflation will fall to 6.2-6.6% by March despite hike in diesel prices and higher rail fares and freight rates, and the medium-term price trend More >

Attempts to clear stalled projects will soon result in higher growth

The Indian economy presents a puzzle today. On the one hand, it exhibits many symptoms of overheating. On the other hand, many businesses complain of a complete lack of heat. GDP projections reflect the second phenomenon, not the first. But I suspect data revisions will ultimately show GDP to be somewhat better than suggested by More >

Our tax system should go the ASEAN way

To meet a budget crunch, taxes on income, capital gains and dividends have gone up in the US, and may rise further. This has fed speculation that the Indian budget will follow suit. There is also speculation that Chidambaram will introduce an inheritance tax, as in the US. Some Indian analysts think that soaking the More >

New economic activism has strong political roots

Six months ago, the government was seen as a hopeless, paralysed ditherer, frightened of annoying anybody (especially Mamata Banerjee). But since Chidambaram became Finance Minister, the government has started looking like an activist reformer that means business. Risking defeat in Parliament, FDI in multibrand retail has been pushed through. Rail fares have been increased, diesel More >

Tax illiteracy is no solution for budget deficits

Dear Mr Chidambaram, You have been globetrotting to convince the world you are dead serious about budgetary prudence, limiting your fiscal deficit to 5.3 per cent of GDP in 2012-13. You have also promised an investment-friendly climate to attract foreign investment. Alas, your first objective is, unwittingly, sabotaging the second. Your tax officials are so More >

From kirana store budgets to open budgets

Once, budget proposals were top secret. The Finance Minister wouldn’t breathe a word on budget-related matters for months before the event. But no more. Finance Minister P. Chidambaram is touring the world, hitting global headlines on what the budget will contain. He initiated this open approach with domestic audiences and has now gone global. He More >

Higher yields & farmer preferences show, BT cotton detractors spreading patent falsehoods

Last week, Greenpeace’s chief in India, Samit Aich, wrote a column in ET on genetically-modified crops. In this, he repeated an old green falsehood, that Bt cotton has failed to raise cotton yields in India. For the truth, consult the government’s Economic Survey 2011-12 (see accompanying graphic). India’s cotton yield was 225 kg per hectare in 1990-91. It More >

From Libya to Algeria, a bloody trail

Barack Obama’s triumphal second inauguration as US President has been tarnished by Al Qaida’s attack on an Algerian gas plant that killed 38 foreigners. US analysts may ignore the connection, but the Libyan chickens have come home to roost. A major Obama achievement is supposedly Gaddafi’s overthrow in Libya. Yet a line of direct causality More >

How an anti-GM activist learned the science of high-yield crops and became a campaigner for GM

Mark Lynas, a green activist who once ranted against and destroyed fields of genetically modified (GM) crops, has recanted and apologised for “demonising an important technological option.” Other activists like Greenpeace and Vandana Shiva need to do the same. (See www.marklynas. org/2013/01/lecture-tooxford-farminig-conference-3-january-2013). Lynas says when he first heard of Monsanto’s GM soya, he thought a nasty US corporation was putting out a monster More >

De-politicize railways, create independent corporation

Railway fares have finally been raised for the first time in 10 years. Even so, the change may reduce just Rs 6,600 crore of the loss of Rs 25,000 crore on passenger traffic. Why do governments subsidise rail fares so much and for so long? Of all subsidies, rail subsidies look the least justified. They More >

Needed: An exit policy for bad businessmen

Vijay Mallya has not paid employees of Kingfisher Airlines for months, and has defaulted on thousands of crores due to suppliers and creditors. Yet he has just donated three kilos of gold, worth almost one crore, to the Tirupathi temple. In August, he offered 80-kilo gold plated doors to the Kukke Subramanya temple in Karnataka. More >