Archive for ‘Economics’

27/11/2014

Inheritance law: A lack of will power | The Economist

IN RECENT weeks China’s leaders have been talking up the need to enhance the rule of law. Their aim is to strengthen the Communist Party’s grip on power while at the same time ensuring that justice is served more fairly. This may improve the lives of some. Many people complain bitterly that courts often pay more heed to the whims of officials than to the law. But in the realm of death, it is the law itself that is the problem. The country’s statutes on inheritance remain little changed from the days when few had any property to bequeath. The rapid emergence in recent years of a large middle-class with complex property claims has been fuelling inheritance disputes. The crudity of the law is making matters worse.

Today’s inheritance law was adopted in 1985 when divorce and remarriage were rare and international marriage nearly unknown. Few owned homes, cars or other valuable property. The law does at least grant men and women equal rights to their kin’s estates, but otherwise it is based largely on tradition. It is specific when it comes to handing down “forest trees, livestock and poultry” but runs out of steam when it comes to newfangled notions such as intellectual property; never mind domain names and digital photographs. A sweeping reference to “other lawful property” is its unhelpful attempt to cover all eventualities. What counts as property? By whose laws? The statute has no answers.

Modest changes were approved in 2003, but woolly areas remain such as in procedures for registering wills. This has led to rancorous court cases like one that last month attracted much public attention. It involved a disputed will and the embattled surviving family members of a famous calligrapher and his estate worth about 2 billion yuan ($326m).

Since the last revisions to the law, society has kept up its blistering pace of change. The divorce rate has risen in each of the past ten years. In 2009 divorces outnumbered marriages. Thus there are now ex-spouses and stepchildren among those squabbling over estates. China’s embrace of globalisation means that some assets (and indeed, clamouring relatives) are located in other countries.

China’s one-child policy has sometimes complicated matters. State media reported on a car crash in 2012 in which both parents died several hours before their sole child, a six-year-old girl. She automatically inherited their assets in that short interval but had no legal heir herself, meaning the assets went to the state instead of other kin.

At a meeting in October Chinese leaders expressed support for amending the inheritance law (though a long-mooted plan to introduce an inheritance tax still looks far from being put into force: the middle class does not want that). Yang Lixin of Renmin University in Beijing says that despite this resolve it could still be several years before the law catches up with reality. It is enough to send legal drafters to an early grave.

via Inheritance law: A lack of will power | The Economist.

27/11/2014

Higher education: A matter of honours | The Economist

FINE porcelain, Chinese-landscape scrolls and calligraphy adorn the office of Shi Yigong, dean of the School of Life Sciences at Tsinghua University in Beijing. Little about his ornamentation hints at Mr Shi’s 18 years in America, where, like thousands of Chinese students, he decamped for graduate study in the early 1990s. Mr Shi eventually became a professor at Princeton University but he began to feel like a “bystander” as his native country started to prosper. In 2008, at the age of 40, he returned to his homeland. He was one of the most famous Chinese scholars to do so; an emblem for the government’s attempts to match its academic achievements to its economic ones.

Sending students abroad has been central to China’s efforts to improve its education since the late 1970s, when it began trying to repair the damage wrought by Mao’s destruction of the country’s academic institutions. More than 3m Chinese have gone overseas to study. Chinese youths make up over a fifth of all international students in higher education in the OECD, a club mostly of rich countries. More than a quarter of them are in America.

Every country sends out students. What makes China different is that most of these bright minds have stayed away. Only a third have come back, according to the Ministry of Education; fewer by some counts. A study this year by a scholar at America’s Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education found that 85% of those who gained their doctorate in America in 2006 were still there in 2011.

To lure experts to Chinese universities, the government has launched a series of schemes since the mid-1990s. These have offered some combination of a one-off bonus of up to 1m yuan ($160,000), promotion, an assured salary and a housing allowance or even a free apartment. Some of the best universities have built homes for academics to rent or buy at a discount. All are promised top-notch facilities. Many campuses, which were once spartan, now have swanky buildings (one of Tsinghua’s is pictured above). The programmes have also targeted non-Chinese. A “foreign expert thousand-talent scheme”, launched in 2011, has enticed around 200 people. Spending on universities has shot up, too: sixfold in 2001-11. The results have been striking. In 2005-2012 published research articles from higher-education institutions rose by 54%; patents granted went up eightfold.

But most universities still have far to go. Only two Chinese institutions number in the top 100 in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. Shanghai’s Jiao Tong University includes only 32 institutions from mainland China among the world’s 500 best. The government frets about the failure of a Chinese scholar ever to win a Nobel prize in science (although the country has a laureate for literature and an—unwelcome—winner in 2010 of the Nobel peace prize, Liu Xiaobo, an imprisoned dissident).

via Higher education: A matter of honours | The Economist.

27/11/2014

India’s Car-Sharing Startups Look to Change a Driving Culture – Businessweek

The startups, modeled after U.S. car-sharing service Zipcar (CAR), are gaining in popularity. Slow economic expansion has frozen income growth, and prime lending rates have risen 26 percent in the past five years, discouraging people from taking out car loans. “A lot of people don’t want to invest in cars,” says Abdul Majeed, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Chennai. “With traffic congestion and cost of ownership rising, and with poor public transport in most cities, car-sharing is bound to take off.” For younger Indians joining the workforce, car-sharing comes free of the hassle of maintaining the cars.

Bandra–Worli Sea Link in Mumbai, India

Zoomcar, based in Bangalore, has attracted U.S. investors, including venture capital firm Sequoia Capital, which led an $8 million investment round in October, and former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers. Americans Greg Moran and David Back started the company in February 2013 with $650,000. They raised another $3 million last year. Summers was an early investor. “There were small-time operators, mom-and-pop type shops that didn’t have the technology and the right product,” says Moran, who, along with Back, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2007.

via India’s Car-Sharing Startups Look to Change a Driving Culture – Businessweek.

27/11/2014

South Asia Summit Nearing Failure as India, Pakistan Bicker – Businessweek

South Asian leaders overseeing a quarter of the world’s people struggled to agree on how to ease trade barriers in the region as India and Pakistan continued a decades-long row over a disputed border.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was scheduled to meet every regional leader except Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for a one-on-one meeting during a gathering in Nepal starting today. Leaders of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, or SAARC, last held a summit in 2011.

Failure to agree on cross-border travel and electricity supply would risk derailing Modi’s plan to turn the bloc into a regional force that can counter China’s growing influence. Chinese leaders have promised to invest part of a $40 billion Silk Road fund on infrastructure in South Asia.

via South Asia Summit Nearing Failure as India, Pakistan Bicker – Businessweek.

27/11/2014

China looms over South Asian summit in the Himalayas | Reuters

When eight South Asian leaders gather for a summit in Kathmandu on Wednesday, they will meet in a conference center donated by China to its cash-strapped Himalayan neighbor Nepal 27 years ago.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi watches a guard of honour upon his arrival for the 18th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in Kathmandu November 25, 2014. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar

In the decades since it built the modernist brick and glass hall, China has massively stepped up its presence in South Asia, supplying ports, power stations and weapons.

China’s advance has been aided by bickering between India and Pakistan that stymies almost all attempts at integration in a region that is home to a fifth of the world’s population but has barely any shared roads, fuel pipes or power lines.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not welcomed Beijing’s renewed suggestion its status be raised from “observer” in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), in which India is presently the only major power.

SAARC summits bring together leaders from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Modi’s hope of using the group as a counterweight to China is unlikely to gain traction at the two-day Kathmandu meeting, with officials saying Pakistan is blocking deals to increase transport and energy connections.

Pakistan mooted the idea of upgrading China’s and South Korea’s status in the organization at a meeting of SAARC foreign ministers on Tuesday. It was quickly rebuffed by India.

via China looms over South Asian summit in the Himalayas | Reuters.

27/11/2014

China takes ‘zero tolerance’ approach to regional polluters: Cabinet | Reuters

China will take a “zero tolerance” approach to a wide range of environmental violations and has promised stronger action against regional governments that protect polluters or hinder inspections, according to a Cabinet document.

A man wearing a face mask stands on a bridge in front of the financial district of Pudong on a hazy day, in Shanghai November 17, 2014. REUTERS/Aly Song

Authorities across China have been ordered to take part in a comprehensive inspection program to be completed by the end of 2015, said the policy document that was released on the official government website late on Wednesday.

The program’s findings will be released publicly under a policy of enhanced transparency and accountability, it said, and any regional regulations that hinder enforcement of national environmental legislation must be annulled by June 2015.

The state of China’s air, soil and rivers has emerged as one of the ruling Communist Party’s biggest challenges, with an increasingly prosperous public unwilling to accept the environmental costs of rapid economic growth.

China declared a “war on pollution” this year and passed long-awaited amendments to its 1989 Environmental Protection Law, giving authorities added powers to monitor, fine and even imprison repeat offenders.

On Wednesday, the cabinet also approved draft amendments to China’s air pollution law that include unlimited daily fines if violators do not rectify problems, the China Daily newspaper reported. Polluters currently pay a one-off fine of up to 200,000 yuan ($32,595).

Enforcement remains one of the government’s main concerns, with the Ministry of Environmental Protection complaining last month that some regions preferred “form over substance” when it came to implementing new guidelines.

The ministry also criticized regional governments that failed to comply fully with industrial restrictions during this month’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing.

(1 US dollar = 6.1360 Chinese yuan)

via China takes ‘zero tolerance’ approach to regional polluters: Cabinet | Reuters.

25/11/2014

Massive Himalayan hydropower dam comes on stream in Tibet | South China Morning Post

Tibet‘s biggest ever hydropower project has begun generating electricity, state-run media reported, the latest dam developed on Himalayan rivers to prompt concern in neighbouring India.

tpbje20141123187_46897531.jpg

The first generating plant at the 9.6 billion yuan (HK$12.1 billion) Zangmu Hydropower Station, which stands more than 3,300 metres above sea level, went into operation on Sunday, Xinhua said.

The dam on the Yarlung Zangbo River, known as the Brahmaputra in India where it is a major waterway, will be 116 metres high when completed next year, according to reports.

It will have a total generating capacity of 510,000 kilowatts.

“The hydropower station will solve Tibet’s power shortage, especially in the winter,” Xinhua quoted an official from Tibet Electric Power Company as saying.

India has previously expressed concern about damming the Brahmaputra, one of the largest Himalayan rivers and a lifeline to some of India’s remote, farm-dependent northeastern states.

India’s Foreign Ministry last year urged China “to ensure that the interests of downstream states are not harmed by any activities in upstream areas” of the river after state media reports that China planned several more dams there.

Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said yesterday that New Delhi had been aware the dam was “coming up”.

“The Chinese have told us that it should have no implications for us,” he said.

Dam construction in China has been blamed for reduced flow and sudden flooding on the Mekong River, which flows into Southeast Asia, claims Beijing has denied.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters: “The hydropower stations China builds will not affect the flood prevention and ecological system of downstream areas.”

via Massive Himalayan hydropower dam comes on stream in Tibet | South China Morning Post.

25/11/2014

News Corp. invests in India real estate website – Businessweek

News Corp. says it has invested in a real estate website in India as it tries to grow its digital business.

The New York-based media company, which is controlled by Rupert Murdoch, owns the Wall Street Journal newspaper and HarperCollins book publisher and runs the real estate website realtor.com.

News Corp. said Monday that it paid $30 million for a 25 percent stake in Elara Technologies Pte Ltd., which owns the Indian website, PropTiger.com. A News Corp. executive will join Elara’s Singapore-based board.

Last year, News Corp. split its newspaper and publishing business from its more-

via News Corp. invests in India real estate website – Businessweek.

25/11/2014

India to Double Renewables in Energy Mix, Minister Says – Businessweek

India plans to more than double the share of renewables in the mix of fuels it consumes, an effort to reduce the dominance of coal.

Renewables such as solar and wind may account for 15 percent of India’s energy supply in the next five years, up from 6 percent currently, said Piyush Goyal, a government minister in charge of power, said at a conference in New Delhi.

“While coal will continue to dominate our energy mix for sometime, we are taking steps to protect the environment,” Goyal said today. “Neither India nor the world has the luxury of time when it comes to protection of the environment.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to speed up clean energy deployment in India as it tries to attract more than $100 billion of investment for the industry in the next four years. At present, coal generates 60 percent electricity in a nation that suffers from chronic blackouts.

The minister reiterated his previously stated view that renewables can’t count on government subsidies for too long. He said the industry should focus on convincing banks to make funding for projects as easily available as loans for cars.

Modi’s administration reintroduced a tax break for the wind industry earlier this year. Goyal said he hopes those will help turbine installers add 8 gigawatts of capacity every year, a level that would make India one of the biggest wind markets in the world.

India plans to require power purchasers and generators to include renewable energy in their suppliers and will penalize those that don’t, he said.

India will host a renewables conference from Feb. 15 to Feb. 17 to encourage growth in the industry.

via India to Double Renewables in Energy Mix, Minister Says – Businessweek.

25/11/2014

Nepal to ink India power deal during Modi visit – Businessweek

Nepal’s government is signing an agreement Tuesday with an Indian company to build a hydroelectricity plant that will export power to India and also boost supplies in the energy starved Himalayan nation.

The inking of the deal with Indian company Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd. to build the 900 megawatt Arun III hydropower station will coincide with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s visit to Nepal for a South Asian regional summit.

The $1.04 billion project is expected to begin producing electricity in 2020. More than three quarters of its output will be exported to India, said Ghanashyam Ojha, external affairs official at the Investment Board Nepal.

The Arun III agreement, which was endorsed by Nepal’s Cabinet late Monday, comes just two months after a similar deal with another Indian company.

They are the two biggest private foreign investments in Nepal, and put India ahead of neighboring China, which has long shown interest in developing Nepal’s power industry.

In September, Nepal signed an agreement with Indian company GMR to build the $1.15 billion Upper Karnali Hydro power plant.

via Nepal to ink India power deal during Modi visit – Businessweek.

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