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End of US individualism: Rise in social spending will make US similar to welfarist Europe and Japan

Newspapers carry alarmist headlines about the partial shutdown of the US government because of a budget impasse over Obamacare. Yet, the markets have moved only slightly. Veteran traders yawn with amusement: they know the US has had such shutdowns before, and none lasted long or inflicted significant damage. Yet, this is not just one more More >

Time to get cracking on fracking

After years of consideration, the government has come out with a disappointing shale gas policy. The public sector companies, ONGC and Oil India, will be allowed to drill for shale oil and gas in blocks they already have, but fresh auctions will be conducted for all other shale deposits. Private sector companies will not be More >

Pakistan shows why military ultimately fails to govern

Indians don’t realise how exceptional they are in never even thinking about the army when discussing politics. In many developing nations, the army casts a long shadow on politics even when it does not rule directly. Pakistan is a classic example. Fakir S Aijazuddin has written a slim volume From a Minister’s Personal Journal about More >

Clearing projects is not the Cabinet’s job

The rupee has bounced back, the stock market has soared, and finance minister Chidambaram is smiling again. This will not last, because there’s no clear strategy to remedy the economy’s structural weaknesses. One big structural problem is the creation of ever more laws, rules and regulations. Every new rule has admirable aims like inclusivity, environmental More >

Reforms: clear the clutter

Economic reforms should be clear and simple, not cluttered with endless terms and conditions. This has long been forgotten by the UPA government, which tries desperately to ensure that any change satisfies several vote banks simultaneously, supposedly to ensure inclusion. This approach clutters even the most desirable changes (like the land acquisition bill) with loads More >

Bills won’t win polls

The Congress party is feeling good after passing its two new bills on food security and land acquisition in Parliament. It believes it has occupied the moral high ground, and left the BJP making vague, unconvincing objections. The Congress hopes these bills will prove vote winners in the general election next May. These are delusions More >

Why the rupee can keep falling

People ask me, will the exchange rate go to Rs 70 to the dollar? I reply, why not Rs 80? Indian analysts are in denial. They don’t dare face up to the full consequences of the global financial hurricane originating in the US. This will keep blowing for 12-18 months. To revive the US economy, More >

Get ready for another Asian Financial Crisis

Make no mistake, a second Asian Financial Crisis is on its way. This storm will not blow over soon. It originated in the US, when the Fed proposed to taper and end quantitative easing. The frightening thing is that this will happen in stages over the next 12-18 months, and each turn of the liquidity More >

Food Security Bill won’t eliminate hunger, will not help win elections and won’t add to high spending

The Lok Sabha has passed the Food Security Bill. Sonia Gandhi claims it will save the needy from hunger and malnutrition. The BJP claims she is merely buying votes in the coming general election. Critics claim the Bill will strain the exchequer unbearably. Wrong, wrong and wrong again. This farcical exercise will not improve food More >

Land Acquisition Bill is a Luddite throwback to 19th century

The Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation , and Resettlement Bill introduced in Parliament is a terrible piece of work. It is a Luddite proposal that threatens all economic development. Some critics have focused on its high compensation norms. But its worst provisions are for Social Impact Assessment (SIA) reports and mandatory rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R). Every piece More >

Modi ki diwani, Sheela ki jawani

Narendra Modi, chief minister of Gujarat, chose Independence Day, August 15, to launch his campaign to become prime minister. He is not formally the BJP’s official candidate, but makes no bones about his ambition. Even as Manmohan Singh made one more tepid Independence Day speech from the Red Fort, Modi lambasted him in a rival More >

Between rock, sand and a hard place

In several areas, Indian rules and regulations make honest business impossible. The only choice is illegal business or no business. This underlies the suspension of Durga Sakthi Nagpal, the IAS officer in Uttar Pradesh who took on the sand mafia and paid a heavy price. Sand is essential for construction. Sand, gravel and cement are More >

How much does a poor man’s meal cost?

How much does a poor man’s meal cost? One politician said Rs 5. Another said Rs 12. TV channels had a field day going around dhabas in cities, looking for cheap meals. Unsurprisingly, they found that even cheap dhaba meals cost Rs 20-25, and castigated insensitive politicians ignorant of Indian realities. The expose was most More >

Amartya Sen & Jagdish Bhagwati and Congress & BJP agree on development, disagree only in degree

The Indian media specialises in infotainment. An entertaining spin converts boring information into heated discussion. Some journalists have equated the Amartya Sen-vs-Jagdish Bhagwati debate with the Congress-versus-BJP debate in the coming general election. Rubbish! Sen does not embody the Congress, nor Bhagwati the BJP. Both the Congress and BJP borrow ideas from both. The boring More >

Why no applause for 138 million exiting poverty?

When China reduced people in poverty by 220 million between 1978 and 2004, the world applauded this as the greatest poverty reduction in history. Amartya Sen, Joseph Stiglitz and all other poverty specialists cheered. India has just reduced its number of poor from 407 million to 269 million, a fall of 138 million in seven More >