Archive for February, 2014


India, the Best Customer for America’s Defense Industry – Businessweek

Once again, Indians are mourning after a tragedy aboard one of the navy’s submarines. After an accident on the INS Sindhuratna filled the vessel with smoke yesterday, two officers with severe burns died and seven other sailors suffering from smoke inhalation had to be flown to safety. Last year, an explosion aboard another Indian sub left 18 sailors dead. Shortly after Wednesday’s incident, Indian Navy Chief of Staff D.K. Joshi resigned, effective immediately.

Indian commandos from the Jammu and Kashmir Armed Police (JKAP) at the Sheeri training center, near Srinagar, on Feb. 24

Wednesday’s accident comes at a bad time for India’s embattled government. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Congress Party, facing a string of corruption scandals as well as a lackluster economy, will probably lose in the upcoming national elections due by May. The leader of the largest opposition party, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, is a Hindu nationalist who argues that Singh hasn’t been tough enough, especially toward the country’s assertive neighbor to the north—China.

In his first major speech as the Bharatiya Janata Party’s leader last September, he accused the Congress-led government of not doing enough to protect India’s borders. “Unless there is a capable government, patriotic government, there cannot be any guarantee of security,” Modi said. Over the weekend, Modi criticized what he called China’s “expansionary mindset.”

via India, the Best Customer for America’s Defense Industry – Businessweek.

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Made-in-USA Luxury Brands Win Fans in China – Businessweek

Corina Su would love to own a handbag or shoes from luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton (MC:FP) or Gucci (KER:FP). For now, Kate Spade (KATE), Michael Kors (KORS), or Coach (COH) will do. “We call these the ‘American trendy brands,’ ” says Su, a 25-year-old who works in advertising in Shanghai. She prefers Kate Spade’s bright colors and bold designs to the more muted styles offered by big European luxury houses that tout their heritage to justify charging more. “I might eventually buy an LV or Gucci bag,” Su says. “But it won’t be until I’m much older, I suspect.”

A Kate Spade handbag

As Chinese shoppers such as Su get better acquainted with American luxury brands, they’re discovering a designer wardrobe doesn’t have to cost months of pay. That’s helping U.S. labels that offer fashions with a foreign pedigree but price tags in the hundreds of dollars even as European luxury-goods makers raise prices for some bags to more than $4,000 to combat slowing growth. “The Chinese market is developing into a middle-class market, looking a bit less elitist and a bit more American,” says Luca Solca, an analyst at Exane BNP Paribas.

via Made-in-USA Luxury Brands Win Fans in China – Businessweek.

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* Report Details India’s Worst Recent Human Rights Abuses – India Real Time – WSJ

Abuses by the police and security forces including extrajudicial killings, torture and rape, as well as corruption at all levels of government, are the most significant human rights problems in India, according to a report commissioned by the U.S. Congress and published by the State Department this week.

The world’s largest democracy is also dogged by separatist violence, life-threatening prison conditions, sex trafficking of children and an atmosphere of impunity resulting from the overburdened judicial system, the “India 2013 Human Rights Report” said.

The 68-page document, released by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday to mark the 65th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights sets out a timeline of recent human rights abuses by the police, bureaucrats and security forces.

The U.S. report found continuing allegations that the police raped women, including while in police custody. Tribal girls were gang-raped in government hostels, and 48,338 child-rape cases were recorded from 2001 to 2011, the authors said.

“Some rape victims were afraid to come forward and report the  crime due to social stigma and possible acts of retribution, compounded by lack of oversight and accountability, especially if the perpetrator was a police officer or other official,” they added.

The Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which gives state governments the right to declare any state a “disturbed area,” allowing security forces to fire on any person to maintain law and order and to arrest anyone without informing the detainee of the reason for doing so, was also a cause for concern, according to the report. The law gives security forces immunity from civilian prosecution in regions where it operates.

A government-commissioned report on changes needed to the law after the gang rape of a young woman in Delhi in Dec. 2012 had said the AFSPA was being used to legitimize “impunity for systematic or isolated sexual violence in the process of internal security duties” and needed to be reviewed. The government had taken no action in this direction during 2013, according to the authors of the human rights report.

They also provided evidence of a complaint long-held by Indians: that corruption exists at all levels of government and leads to a denial ofjustice.

Nonprofit organizations, the report said, had noted that bribes typically were paid to expedite services, such as police protection, school admission, water supply, or government assistance.

“The CBI [Central Bureau of Investigation] registered 583 cases of corruption between the months of January and November,” of last year the report said.

via Report Details India’s Worst Recent Human Rights Abuses – India Real Time – WSJ.

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Chinese criticize state firm behind Three Gorges dam over graft probe | Reuters

A scathing report on corruption at the company that built China’s $59-billion Three Gorges dam, the world’s biggest hydropower scheme, has reignited public anger over a project funded through a special levy paid by all citizens.

Ships sail on the Yangtze River near Badong, 100km (62 miles) from the Three Gorges dam in Hubei province August 7, 2012. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

The report by the ruling Communist Party’s anti-graft watchdog last week found that some officials at the Three Gorges Corporation, set up in 1993 to run the scheme, were guilty of nepotism, shady property deals and dodgy bidding procedures.

Between 1992 and 2009, all citizens had to pay a levy built into power prices across China to channel money to the dam’s construction, a project overshadowed by compulsory relocations of residents and environmental concerns.

“The relatives and friends of some leaders interfered with construction projects, certain bidding was conducted secretly … and some leaders illicitly occupied multiple apartments,” the graft watchdog said on its website(

The Three Gorges Corporation published a statement on its website on Tuesday saying it would look into the issues the probe raised, and strictly punish any corrupt conduct and violations of the law and party discipline.

The accusations – made as part of President Xi Jinping‘s crackdown on deep-rooted corruption – have spread rapidly across China’s popular Twitter-like service Sina Weibo, and some of China’s more outspoken newspapers have weighed in too.

via Chinese criticize state firm behind Three Gorges dam over graft probe | Reuters.

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EDF-Backed Acme Starts 25-Megawatt Solar Plant in India – Businessweek

Acme Solar Energy Ltd., backed by Electricite de France SA’s renewable unit, started generating power from a 25-megawatt solar plant in central India.

Map of India showing location of Madhya Pradesh

Map of India showing location of Madhya Pradesh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The completion of the project in Khilchipur, Madhya Pradesh state, more than doubles Acme Solar’s photovoltaic holdings to 43 megawatts, the company said by e-mail.

The developer, a venture between EDF Energies Nouvelles, Luxembourg-based Eren Groupe SA and India’s Acme Group, plans to jointly develop 200 megawatts of solar capacity.

via EDF-Backed Acme Starts 25-Megawatt Solar Plant in India – Businessweek.

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Indian E-Commerce to Become $8 Billion Industry – India Real Time – WSJ

The outlook for India’s economy may be gloomy for now, but one sector looks set to boom: online retail.

As more and more Indians use the internet, revenues of e-commerce companies could triple over the next three years to 504 billion rupees ($8.13 billion), according to Crisil Research, a unit of division of Mumbai-based ratings firm Crisil Ltd.

There are around 200 million internet users in India currently and the number could grow to 500 million by 2015, according to consulting firm McKinsey & Co.

Over the last few years, dozens of websites have been launched in India to sell everything from books and appliances, to baby care products and flight tickets.

Online retail companies earned revenues of around 139 billion rupees ($2.24 billion) in the financial year that ended on March 31, 2013, according to the Crisil report. Though this is just 0.5% of the total revenues of brick-and-mortar retail companies, online retail sales have been growing much faster.

Revenue of e-commerce firms grew by 56% annually between the financial year that ended March 31, 2008, and the year ended March 31, 2013, according to Crisil.

The scope for growth in this sector has already attracted a lot of interest from venture capital investors.

Earlier this month, online retailer raised around $100 million from CDC Group PLC, a U.K. government-backed private-equity fund-of-funds that invests in some emerging markets, according to The Economic Times.

Clothing and accessories-seller also raised $50 million, this month.

Foreign companies have also been looking to get a piece of the action in India. Inc. launched its India website in June.

via Report: Indian E-Commerce to Become $8 Billion Industry – India Real Time – WSJ.

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Stocks scale peaks, yuan drops most in three years | Reuters

World shares were at a 6-year high on Tuesday following a record peak on Wall Street, while moves by China to stamp out easy betting on the yuan triggered the currency’s biggest drop in over three years.

An office worker walks past the board of the Australian Securities Exchange building displaying its logo in central Sydney April 5, 2013. REUTERS-Daniel Munoz

The upbeat mood among equity investors in the United States as well as Europe helped steady markets in China after the sharp plunge in the yuan and talk of credit tightening had seen stocks in Beijing suffer their biggest drop since September. .SSEC.

Spot yuan has entered a dramatic weakening cycle in recent weeks, guided by a series of moves by the central bank, with the unwinding of yuan positions by banks and funds adding downward momentum.

China allows the yuan to move 1 percent above or below a midpoint set daily but traders believe the recent depreciation is intended to set the stage for a widening of that band to 2 percent or more this year to make it more free moving.

via Stocks scale peaks, yuan drops most in three years | Reuters.

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Property remains top wealth driver in China-Hurun list | Reuters

Real estate remained the most lucrative road to riches in China last year, according to the Hurun Global Rich List, despite Beijing’s repeated efforts to cool red-hot property prices.

A labourer works at a construction site in Beijing, January 20, 2014. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Six of world’s 10 top real estate tycoons are now from China and Hong Kong, according to Hurun Report Inc, which released its Global Rich list on Tuesday.

Hong Kong property tycoon Li Kai-shing claimed the top spot in the Greater China area with his fortune rising 3 percent to 200 billion yuan ($32.80 billion).

Wang Jianlin, chairman of China’s largest commercial property developer, Dalian Wanda Group, and Lui Che-Woo, founder of casino operator, Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd (0027.HK), were the runners-up with personal wealth of 150 billion yuan ($24.60 billion) each.

Wang’s fortune doubled last year, while Lui’s wealth jumped 108 percent, the report said.

Wang bought UK luxury yacht maker Sunseeker for $1.6 billion and is planning billion-dollar luxury hotel developments in London and New York.

Home prices in many Chinese cities continued to set records last year despite a four-year government campaign to cool the housing market, official data showed.

via Property remains top wealth driver in China-Hurun list | Reuters.

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After farmers commit suicide, debts fall on their families – The Times of India

Latha Reddy Musukula was making tea on a recent morning when she spotted the money lenders walking down the dirt path toward her house. They came in a phalanx of 15 men, by her estimate. She knew their faces, because they had walked down the path before.

After each visit, her husband, a farmer named Veera Reddy, sank deeper into silence, frozen by some terror he would not explain. Three times he cut his wrists. He tied a noose to a tree, relenting when the family surrounded him, weeping. In the end he waited until Musukula stepped out, and then he hanged himself from a pipe supporting their roof, leaving a careful list of each debt he owed to each money lender. She learned the full sum then: 400,000 rupees, or $6,430.

A current of dread runs through this farmland, where women in jewel-colored saris bend their backs over watery terraces of rice. In Andhra Pradesh, the southern state where Musukula lives, the suicide rate among farmers is nearly three times the national average; since 1995, the number of suicides by India’s farmers has passed 290,000, according to the national crime records bureau, though the statistics do not specify the reason for the act.

India’s small farmers, once the country’s economic backbone and most reliable vote bank, are increasingly being left behind. With global competition and rising costs cutting into their lean profits, their ranks are dwindling, as is their contribution to the gross domestic product. If rural voters once made their plight into front-page news around election time, this year the large parties are jockeying for the votes of the urban middle class, and the farmers’ voices are all but silent.

Even death is a stopgap solution, when farmers like Reddy take their own lives, their debts pass from husband to widow, from father to children. Musukula is now trying to scrape a living from the four acres that defeated her husband. Around her she sees a country transformed by economic growth, full of opportunities to break out of poverty, if only her son or daughter could grasp one.

via After farmers commit suicide, debts fall on their families – The Times of India.

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China’s Migrant Workers Lack High-End Skills – Businessweek

China is already facing the challenge of a shrinking labor force. Its working age population—16 to 59—declined by more than 2 million people, to about 920 million last year, compared with 2012. And while the total number of migrant workers is still increasing slowly, up 2.4 percent, to 269 million, last year, many lack needed skills. That’s despite the fact that wages keep rising, up about 14 percent, to around 2,600 yuan ($427) a month last year.

China's Migrant Workers Lack High-End Skills

“It is difficult to hire general workers, which reflects the limited supply of migrant workers. Despite China upgrading and restructuring its industrial base, there are difficulties in recruiting enough skilled technicians to work in these fields,” said Yang Zhiming, deputy minister of Human Resources and Social Security, at a press conference Thursday in Beijing, reported the Global Times.

China is aiming to shift its economy to higher-value-added industries and lessen its reliance on low-end, low-skill manufacturing of shoes, clothes, and toys, a process officials have dubbed tenglong huanniao, or “clearing the cage and changing the bird.” To meet the skills gap, the government will offer more training programs and educate at least 10 million migrants a year. Beijing intends to provide training by 2020 for the entire “new generation” of migrant workers, or those born after the 1980s, which now number about 100 million, according to Yang.

via China’s Migrant Workers Lack High-End Skills – Businessweek.

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