Archive for ‘Economics’

09/06/2017

India has made primary education universal, but not good

IN 1931 Mahatma Gandhi ridiculed the idea that India might have universal primary education “inside of a century”.

He was too pessimistic. Since 1980 the share of Indian teenagers who have had no schooling has fallen from about half to less than one in ten. That is a big, if belated, success for the country with more school-age children, 260m, than any other.

Yet India has failed these children. Many learn precious little at school. India may be famous for its elite doctors and engineers, but half of its nine-year-olds cannot do a sum as simple as eight plus nine. Half of ten-year-old Indians cannot read a paragraph meant for seven-year-olds. At 15, pupils in Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh are five years behind their (better-off) peers in Shanghai. The average 15-year-old from these states would be in the bottom 2% of an American class. With few old people and a falling birth rate, India has a youth bulge: 13% of its inhabitants are teenagers, compared with 8% in China and 7% in Europe. But if its schools remain lousy, that demographic dividend will be wasted.

India has long had a lopsided education system. In colonial times the British set up universities to train civil servants, while neglecting schools. India’s first elected leaders expanded this system, pouring money into top-notch colleges to supply engineers to state-owned industries. By contrast, Asian tigers such as South Korea and Taiwan focused on schools. Of late, India has done more to help those left behind. Spending on schools rose by about 80% in 2011-15. The literacy rate has risen from 52% in 1991 to 74% in 2011. Free school lunches—one of the world’s largest nutrition schemes—help millions of pupils who might otherwise be too hungry to learn.

Pointless pampered pedagogues

However, the quality of schools remains a scandal. Many teachers are simply not up to the job. Since 2011, when the government introduced a test for aspiring teachers, as many as 99% of applicants have failed each year. Curriculums are over-ambitious relics of an era when only a select few went to school. Since pupils automatically move up each year, teachers do not bother to ensure that they understand their lessons. Overmighty teachers’ unions—which, in effect, are guaranteed seats in some state legislatures—make matters worse. Teachers’ salaries, already high, have more than doubled over the past two rounds of pay negotiations. Some teachers, having paid bribes to be hired in the first place, treat the job as a sinecure. Shockingly, a quarter play truant each day.

Frustrated by the government system, and keen for their children to learn English, parents have turned to low-cost private schools, many of which are bilingual. In five years their enrolment has increased by 17m, as against a fall of 13m in public schools. These private schools can be as good as or better than public schools despite having much smaller budgets. In Uttar Pradesh the flight to private schools almost emptied some public ones. But when it was suggested that teachers without pupils move to schools that needed them, they staged violent protests and the state backed down.

India spends about 2.7% of GDP on schools, a lower share than many countries. Narendra Modi, the prime minister, once vowed to bump up education spending to 6%. However, extra money will be wasted without reform in three areas. The first is making sure that children are taught at the right level. Curriculums should be simpler. Pupils cannot be left to pass through grades without mastering material. Remedial “learning camps”, such as the ones run by charities like Pratham, can help. So can technology: for example, EkStep, a philanthropic venture, gives children free digital access to teaching materials.

The second task is to make the system more meritocratic and accountable. Teachers should be recruited for their talents, not their connections. They should be trained better and rewarded on the basis of what children actually learn. (They should also be sackable if they fail to show up.) The government should use more rigorous measures to find out which of a hotch-potch of bureaucratic and charitable efforts make a difference. And policymakers should do more to help good private providers—the third area of reform. Vouchers and public-private partnerships could help the best operators of low-cost private schools expand.Mr Modi’s government has made encouraging noises about toughening accountability and improving curriculums.But, wary of the unions, it remains too cautious. Granted, authority over education is split between the centre and the states, so Mr Modi is not omnipotent. But he could do a lot more. His promise to create a “new India” will be hollow if his country is stuck with schools from the 19th century.

Source: India has made primary education universal, but not good

05/06/2017

Why China’s wasting huge amounts of cleanly-produced electricity and how to fix it | South China Morning Post

China’s scramble to curb pollution has made it the world leader in renewable energy development, yet increasing amounts of that green electricity have gone unused as the country struggles to integrate wind and solar power into an outdated electricity network dominated by coal.

The problem threatens to slow China’s progress in clearing its air and controlling the greenhouse gas emissions that make it the top contributor to climate change. It also runs counter to a desire by Chinese leaders to fill the leadership gap left by President Donald Trump’s move to withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord.

As international energy ministers gather in Beijing this week to promote renewables, China’s difficulty in maximising its green resources underscores uncertainty over how best to transition to cleaner electricity.

“They installed too much too fast,” said Qiao Liming, China director for the Global Wind Energy Council. “A real market should allow electricity to flow between two provinces. That is currently lacking” in China, she said.China wasted enough renewable energy to power Beijing for an entire year, says Greenpeace

Thousands of new wind turbines and solar panels were installed in China’s remote provinces over the past several years as the country’s leaders sought to alleviate choking urban smog without slowing economic expansion. China now has more renewable power capacity than any other nation.Two nagging problems have dampened that success, however, according to industry representatives and outside observers: China’s sprawling power grid has been unable to handle the influx of new electricity from wind and solar, while some provincial officials have retained a preference for coal.In western China’s Gansu province, 43 per cent of energy from wind went unused in 2016, a phenomenon known in the energy industry as “curtailment”. In the neighbouring Xinjiang region, the curtailment figure was 38 per cent and in northeast China’s Jilin province it was 30 per cent. The nationwide figure, 17 per cent, was described by Qiao’s organisation as shockingly high after increasing for several years in a row.

The problem has shown some signs of improvement this year, according to the China Electricity Council. Power demand in general increased in the first quarter, giving a boost to renewables after the economy regained momentum from 2016’s slowdown.However, experts say wasted energy will continue to be a drag on Chinese renewable power potential until the country’s electrical grid is modernised and provincial officials end their preference for coal, which provides almost two-thirds of the country’s energy.

The problem is worst in winter when many coal plants provide electricity for the power grid and send out excess heat to keep homes and businesses warm.

That’s led provincial officials to keep coal plants running and to reject available wind-generated electricity despite pressure from the central government to use more renewables, said Lu Xi, a professor at Tsinghua University’s School of Environment in Beijing.

“On paper they express quite clear attitudes to promote renewables, but in reality they promote coal interests,” said Frank Yu, a renewables specialist with the consulting firm Wood Mackenzie.

To help address the issue, China’s National Energy Administration has pushed for more wind turbines to be installed closer to Beijing and coastal cities where demand is highest. That should allow renewable energy to bypass part of the dated transmission system that has been blamed for impeding its use. It also would give more populated provinces a greater stake in making sure renewables get used.China has leadership role in fight against climate change

In a separate effort, at this week’s energy ministers meeting in Beijing, Chinese officials are expected to launch a campaign to make its power supply system more flexible. The goal is to create a power grid that can more easily absorb the highs and lows associated with weather dependent wind and solar electricity, said Christian Zinglersen, the head of the Clean Energy Ministerial, which is hosting the meeting.

Still, the problem of electricity going unused could get worse before it gets better, said Zhang Liutong, a senior manager with the Lantau Group, a Hong Kong-based energy consulting firm. More solar and wind is planned in Chinese provinces that already have more power-generating capacity than they use. Additional coal plants also are slated to come online, Zhang said.

China’s difficulties, while more pronounced than in other countries, are not unique. Western countries have experienced their own renewable struggles as utilities tried to integrate weather dependent wind and solar power into electricity grids built around coal plants, which are more polluting but also more reliable.

But over the next two decades, events in developing nations including China and India are expected to play a magnified role in addressing climate change. The United States, meanwhile, appears headed for a diminished presence as Trump and fellow Republicans back away from the climate policies of former President Barack Obama.

Almost all of the increased electricity demand during that period is expected to come from developing nations, according to projections from the International Energy Administration.

China alone will account for about half the total.

China’s struggles to maximise its use of renewables will not necessarily prevent it from meeting international emissions targets that aim to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. But it will make it much more expensive unless China is able to adapt its power supply system while it is still in development, Zinglersen said.

“This is a case of political leadership catching up with the reality on the ground,” he said. “The more flexible a system you can have the more renewables you can allow for.”

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Source: Why China’s wasting huge amounts of cleanly-produced electricity and how to fix it | South China Morning Post

02/06/2017

Is Trump abandoning US global leadership? – BBC News

What is Donald Trump’s vision of American leadership? His inaugural speech gave us a headline – “from this day forward, it’s going to be only America first” – but four months on, how much more do we know?

Amid a flood of stories about the president’s lack of commitment to cherished post-war alliances, his attitude to trade and his unwillingness to collaborate on issues like climate change, Mr Trump’s critics draw pessimistic conclusions.

“The cumulative effect of Trump policies, capped by his foolish, tragic Paris decision = abdication of America’s global leadership. Shame!” tweeted Susan Rice, Barack Obama’s former national security adviser.”Donald Trump’s every instinct runs counter to the ideas that have underpinned the post-war international system,” writes G John Ikenberry, Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton.

“Across ancient and modern eras, orders built by great powers have come and gone,” he writes in Foreign Affairs. “But they have usually ended in murder not suicide.”

However, in the wake of President Trump’s first, much scrutinised foreign trip, two of his closest aides argued that America’s allies have nothing to fear.”America First does not mean America alone,” wrote White House National Security Adviser HR McMaster and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn in the Wall Street Journal.

The president, they insisted, had reconfirmed America’s commitment to the Nato principle of collective defence (there is a debate about this: his endorsement was less than explicit). Using a pejorative phrase often thrown at Barack Obama, the authors said America would not “lead from behind”. They also made it clear that the president’s approach is fundamentally transactional and highly competitive.

Donald Trump found himself out of step with other leaders at the G7 summit in Italy

They hailed Donald Trump’s “clear-eyed outlook that the world is not a ‘global community’ but an arena where nations, non-governmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage”.

Where America’s interests align with those of its friends and partners, they wrote, the administration was open to working together to solve problems.

But the two officials signed off with an unambiguous reminder of their master’s core purpose.

“America First signals the restoration of American leadership and our government’s traditional role overseas – to use the diplomatic, economic and military resources of the US to enhance American security, promote American prosperity, and extend American influence around the world.

“No place here, it seems, for Harry Truman’s 1945 declaration that “no matter how great our strength… we must deny ourselves the license to do always as we please”.

For Donald Trump, the exercise of American influence revolves around imposing Washington’s will.

Muscular approach

“We must make America respected again and we must make America great again,” he declared in April 2016.

“If we can do that, perhaps this century can be the most peaceful and prosperous the world has ever known.”

Some of the president’s fiercest critics reacted with horror to the McMaster/Cohn article.The conservative commentator David Frum said the two officials “have re-imagined the United States in the image of their own chief – selfish, isolated, brutish, domineering, and driven by immediate appetites rather than ideals or even longer-term interests.”

There were times, during the European leg of his tour, when the president’s body language and demeanour seemed calculated to confirm his opponents’ worst fears.

Trump pushes past Montenegro’s PM

When he shoved aside the prime minister of Montenegro, Donald Trump seemed to act out an ugly version of America First.

A billionaire who is used to bending friend and foe alike to his will appears to struggle with anything more collaborative.

But there are signs that his muscular approach, while popular among supporters at home, has already caused a shift in the tectonic plates of the global world order.

Germany’s Angela Merkel says the days of depending on others are “to a certain extent” over.”

We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands,” she told supporters last Sunday.

She struck a similar note when welcoming the Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to Berlin.

“We are living in times of global uncertainty,” she said, “and see our responsibility to expand our partnership… and push for a world order based on law.”

For his part, Mr Li seemed only too happy to reciprocate.

“We are both ready to contribute to stability in the world,” he said.It’s been clear since Donald Trump’s election that China sees this as a moment of opportunity.

China is not being pushy, foreign ministry official Zhang Jun told reporters in January.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has committed his country to renewable energy

“It’s because the original front-runners suddenly fell back and pushed China to the front,” he said.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos it was left to China’s President Xi Jinping to defend globalisation and free trade, both frequently and colourfully attacked during Donald Trump’s election campaign.

The EU and Nato also came in for scorn, and even though President Trump has subsequently moderated his tone, damage has undoubtedly been done.

David Frum reaches a bleak conclusion. America is no longer the leader its partners once respected “but an unpredictable and dangerous force in world affairs, itself to be contained and deterred by new coalitions of ex-friends”.

Source: Is Trump abandoning US global leadership? – BBC News

02/06/2017

China flips the switch on world’s biggest floating solar farm | South China Morning Post

The world’s biggest floating solar power plant is up and running in China, as the country increasingly looks to renewable sources for its energy.

It comes at a time when Beijing is expected to take a bigger role in global efforts to tackle climate change, after the United States pulled out of the landmark 195-nation Paris deal.

The new solar farm in the city of Huainan, in the central, coal-rich Anhui province, can generate 40 megawatts of electricity – enough to power 15,000 homes. That’s according to Sungrow Power Supply, the Chinese firm that built the plant. It was connected to the city’s power grid in May.

The solar farm occupies an area that for years saw intensive coal mining. Subsidence and heavy rain created the lake where the solar panels have been installed.

Those panels float on the surface of the water, which ranges in depth from four to 10 metres.While Sungrow did not disclose the exact size of the plant, its capacity is double that of the solar farm previously considered the world’s biggest. That plant is also located in Huainan and was built by Xinyi Solar in 2016.

With US out of Paris climate deal, China’s now able to lead … but is it willing?Earlier in 2016, a floating solar farm began operating on the outskirts of London with capacity to generate just over 6 megawatts of electricity – it was considered the biggest at the time, according to a report in The Guardian.

Floating solar farms take advantage of areas that would otherwise go unused and the water helps to cool the surface of the panels, reducing the risk of overheating.

China is now the largest solar energy producer in the world – its capacity reached 77.42 gigawatts at the end of last year, according to the National Energy Administration. Renewables make up 11 per cent of the country’s energy use, but that number could go up to 20 per cent by 2030.

Earlier this year, the world’s biggest solar farm was unveiled in a remote part of the Tibetan plateau, in western Qinghai province. The sprawling Longyangxia Dam Solar Park covers some 27 square kilometres – almost the size of Macau. It can generate enough power to supply 200,000 homes.

Other large-scale solar projects in the country include the installation of 300 panels above a fish farm in Zhejiang province and a 6-million panel solar farm in the Ningxia autonomous region, which will be the biggest when it is completed.

Chinese companies are also involved in solar projects in other countries. State-owned National Complete Engineering Corporation is working with GCL System Integration Technology to build a 1-gigawatt solar plant in the exclusion zone around the Chernobyl reactor – the site of the worse nuclear accident in history.

China’s embrace of renewable energy presents a stark contrast to the climate policies of the United States, which has announced it will exit the landmark Paris climate agreement. US President Donald Trump has slammed his predecessor Barack Obama for “wasting” taxpayer money on solar companies, called wind farms both “disgusting looking” and “bad for people’s health”, and proposed an administrative budget that would slash renewable energy spending by 70 per cent.

Source: China flips the switch on world’s biggest floating solar farm | South China Morning Post

26/05/2017

Indian population is bigger than one-child China’s, claims academic | World | The Times & The Sunday Times

India has overtaken China and become the world’s most populous country, according to an academic who believes that Beijing has overestimated the number of its citizens by as much as 90 million.

With none of the infamous birth control policies that China enforced for decades, India had been expected to become No 1 in the next five to ten years.

However, Yi Fuxian, a researcher and critic of China’s one-child policy, says that the Chinese authorities have greatly overstated the country’s real fertility rate since 1990.

At a conference in Beijing, Mr Yi concluded that China was home to 1.29 billion people at the end of last year, not the 1.38 billion that is Beijing’s official estimate.Mr Yi’s calculations would put China’s population lower than that of India, whose government estimates that the Indian population is 1.33 billion. Yesterday China’s “ministry of births”, the national health and family planning commission, rejected his claims.

“Some people ignored the birth population data issued by the state statistics bureau after revision, make no analysis on the raw data of population census and random surveys, directly gathered, and believe 2015’s total fertility rate is 1.05,” the commission said. “This is completely not in accordance with the real situation.” It said the 2016 fertility rate — births per woman — was 1.7.

Mr Yi, a scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, whose book Big Country with an Empty Nest was published in Hong Kong and banned on the mainland, said that the government’s denial came as no surprise.

“I am confident in my research,” he told The Times. If the public knew the true numbers then they and policymakers would have stopped the policies and the commission would have been closed years ago, he added.

He called on China to abolish all restrictions rather than just allowing two children per family, a reform introduced last year.

Its one-child policy was introduced in 1979 and was phased out gradually. There were many exceptions: ethnic minorities were exempt and some families could have a second child if the first was a girl.

The title of the world’s most populous nation probably remains with China for the time being, according to other experts. He Yafu, an independent demographer in Guangdong province, said China’s official population statistics probably are inflated “but it’s impossible to be that much [90 million]”.“China’s population must have exceeded 1.3 billion but is less than 1.4 billion. Figures from social insurance and other areas can also prove that it’s definitely more than 1.3 billion,” Mr He said.

“It’s already too late to abolish the family planning policy because according to surveys, even if the policy was totally relaxed only 5 per cent of families will have a third child. Therefore policy-loosening won’t have too much effect on China’s birthrate.”On online forums Chinese people debated the news. “We don’t want to wear the hat of world’s No 1 population country,” wrote one poster on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter. “Hurry up to give it to India!”

Another sympathised with Mr Yi’s sceptical view of official Chinese statistics, saying: “It’s very normal. The family planning commission made up data for its own long existence, which already wasn’t news a long time ago.”

Source: Indian population is bigger than one-child China’s, claims academic | World | The Times & The Sunday Times

26/05/2017

India opens longest bridge on China border – BBC News

India has inaugurated a 9.15km (5.68-mile) bridge over the Lohit river, easily its longest ever, which connects the disputed state of Arunachal Pradesh with the north-eastern state of Assam.China claims Arunachal Pradesh as its own, and refers to it as “southern Tibet”.

Beijing recently strongly objected to India’s decision to allow Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama to visit the state and has also protested against the development of military infrastructure there.

But India has defended its right to do so.”With China getting more and more aggressive, it is time we strengthened our physical infrastructure to defend our territory,” India’s junior Home Minister Khiren Rijiju, a native of Arunachal Pradesh, told journalists.China renames places disputed with India

Why India is planning a new road near the China border

China accused of Indian incursion

Mr Rijiju had earlier said that “Arunachal Pradesh is part of India and that reality will not change, regardless of who likes it or not”.

Construction of the Dhola Sadiya bridge began in 2011.

“It was real tough work, a major engineering challenge, and the speed was slightly affected by some compensation issues,” said an official from Navayuga Engineering, the company which constructed the bridge.

India has defended its right to upgrade its military defences along the border with China

However, it was completed on schedule.

Apart from the bridge, India is constructing a two-lane trans-Arunachal highway, upgrading a World War Two vintage road and undertaking a further four projects to widen roads.

Another project, to upgrade a chain of advance landing grounds for heavy lift transport aircraft, has also moved at some speed. This is expected to improve India’s strategic airlift capabilities.”We need infrastructure to move up troops and supplies if we have to fight the Chinese and this bridge is a great thing,” retired Major General Gaganjit Singh, who has commanded a division in the state, told the BBC.”India did not develop physical infrastructure in Arunachal Pradesh for two decades after the 1962 war as many stupidly believed the Chinese would use the roads if they attacked again. But now we are on the right track.

“India’s Home Minister Rajnath Singh has also stressed the importance of developing physical infrastructure in the state, as part of efforts to defend a long border with China.”We want peace, but peace with honour. We need to be capable of deterring anyone who may think we are weak,” Mr Singh told members of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police force that guards parts of the frontier with China.

His remarks followed Beijing’s strident protests against the “development of military infrastructure in a disputed province”.

Officials hope the bridge will also facilitate development and increase tourism

India has already raised two mountain divisions and is going ahead with raising a strike corps to beef up its defences against China.

“But troop strength is useless if we don’t have the roads and bridges to move them fast when we are threatened. Moving them with heavy equipment quickly to the battlefront holds the key to victory,” Major General Singh said.

A military engineer told the BBC that the Dhola-Sadiya bridge was capable of supporting 60-ton battle tanks.

Locals are also excited about the opening.

“It was unimaginable that this crossing could be bridged at a point where six rivers meet, all flowing into the mighty Brahmaputra,” Gunjan Saharia, a resident, told the BBC.

“I promise this will not just be a military thing, it will help develop the economy of remote regions of Assam and Arunachal, and it will attract tourists in large numbers,” Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said.

The bridge will also reduce travel time by as much as eight hours for communities on either side of the river.

“It will be great for us, as much as it will be great for the army,” Dimbeswar Gogoi of Sadiya told the BBC.

Source: India opens longest bridge on China border – BBC News

24/05/2017

India’s electric vehicles push likely to benefit Chinese car makers | Reuters

India’s ambitious plan to push electric vehicles at the expense of other technologies could benefit Chinese car makers seeking to enter the market, but is worrying established automakers in the country who have so far focused on making hybrid models.

India’s most influential government think-tank unveiled a policy blueprint this month aimed at electrifying all vehicles in the country by 2032, in a move that is catching the attention of car makers that are already investing in electric technology in China such as BYD and SAIC.

The May 12 report by Niti Aayog, the planning body headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, recommends lower taxes and loan interest rates on electric vehicles while capping sales of petrol and diesel cars, seen as a radical shift in policy.

India also plans to impose higher taxes on hybrid vehicles compared with electric, under a new unified tax regime set to come into effect from July 1, upsetting car makers like Maruti Suzuki and Toyota Motor.

The prospect of India aggressively promoting electric vehicles was a “big opportunity”, a source close to SAIC, China’s biggest automaker, told Reuters.

“For a newcomer, this is a good chance to establish a modern, innovative brand image,” the source said, although they added the company would need more clarity on policy before deciding whether to launch electric vehicles in India.

Earlier this year SAIC set up a local unit called MG Motor which is finalising plans to buy a car manufacturing plant in western India. A spokesman at SAIC did not comment specifically on the company’s India plans.

Warren Buffett-backed BYD already builds electric buses in the country, while rival Chongqing Changan has said it may enter India by 2020.

BYD said in a statement the company would have “a lot more confidence” to engage in the Indian market if the government supported the proposed policy. The company said it would look at increasing its investment in India but did not give details on how it would expand its business and market share.

HIGH COSTS

While the Niti Aayog report has not yet been formally adopted, government sources have said it was likely to form the basis of a new green cars policy.

If so, India would be following similar moves by China, which has been aggressively pushing clean vehicle technologies. But emulating China’s success could be tough.Electric vehicles are expensive due to high battery costs, and car makers say a lack of charging stations in India could make the whole proposition unviable.

The proposed policy focuses on electric vehicles, and is likely to also include plug-in hybrids. But it overlooks conventional hybrid models already sold in India, such as Toyota’s Camry sedan, Honda Motor’s Accord sedan and so-called mild hybrids built by Maruti Suzuki.

Hybrids combine fossil fuel and electric power, with mild hybrids making less use of the latter.

In doubling down on electric power India would be shifting away from its previous policy, announced in 2015, that supported hybrid and electric technology.

That could delay investments in India, expected to be the world’s third-largest passenger car market within the next decade, according to industry executives and analysts.

“All these policy changes will affect future products and investments,” said Puneet Gupta, South Asia manager at consultant IHS Markit, adding that most car makers would need to rethink product launches, especially of hybrids.

ECONOMIC GAP

Mahindra & Mahindra is the only electric car maker in India but has struggled to ramp up sales, blaming low buyer interest and insufficient infrastructure.

Pawan Goenka, managing director at Mahindra said the company was working with the government and other private players to set up charging stations in India. Mahindra was also focusing on developing electric fleet cars and taxis, Goenka said.

The cost of setting up a car charging station in India ranges from $500 to $25,000, depending on the charging speed, according to a 2016 report by online journal IOPscience.

While the proposed policy suggests setting up battery swapping stations and using tax revenues from sales of petrol and diesel vehicles to set up charging stations, it does not specify the investment needed or whether the government would contribute.

“For full electric vehicles, the economic gap remains huge and the charging infrastructure needed does not exist,” said a spokesman at Tata Motors. The company makes electric buses and is working on developing electric and hybrid cars.

DELAYED PLANS

Most automakers have focused on bringing in hybrid models that are seen as a stepping stone to electrification. Toyota recently launched its luxury hybrid brand Prius in India, while Hyundai Motor plans to debut its Ioniq hybrid sedan next year.

Maruti’s parent Suzuki Motor, along with Toshiba and Denso, plans to invest 20 billion yen ($180 million) to set up a lithium ion battery plant in India which would support Maruti’s plan to build more hybrids.

But the apparent sharp shift in policymakers’ thinking in favor of electrification is forcing automakers like Toyota and Nissan Motor to seek more clarity before finalising future products for India, while Hyundai may delay new launches.

Toyota, the world’s No. 2 carmaker by sales, had planned to have a hybrid variant for all its vehicles in India, but the company’s future launches would now depend on the new policy, said Shekar Viswanathan, vice chairman of its Indian subsidiary.

Nissan, which plans to launch a hybrid SUV later this year, said in a statement it was waiting for more clarity before deciding whether to bring electric cars to India.

A plan by Hyundai to launch at least three hybrid cars in India in 2019-2020 would likely to be delayed, said a source.

Hyundai did not comment on queries related to delays.

“If the government will be aggressive on electric vehicles and not support other technologies, companies will need to rethink investments,” said an executive with an Asian carmaker.

Source: India’s electric vehicles push likely to benefit Chinese car makers | Reuters

22/05/2017

India announces policy for strategic partnerships in defence | Reuters

India on Saturday finalised a policy that would allow local private companies to work with foreign players to make high-tech defence equipment, in a boost to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s bid to cut reliance on imports.

The policy, whose finer details are still to be formalised, will initially allow the entry of private companies into the manufacture of submarines, fighter aircrafts and armoured vehicles through foreign partnerships, a statement issued by the Defence Ministry said.”In future, additional segments will be added,” the statement said.

Industry experts have said that delays in finalising procurement policies have undermined India’s efforts to get local, largely inexperienced, companies to tie up with foreign manufacturers, a necessary step if domestic firms are to utilise the latest technology.

Prime Minister Modi has vowed to reverse India’s dependence on imports by building a local manufacturing industry. The government is forecast to spend $250 billion on modernisation of its armed forces over the next decade.The policy, announced on Saturday, would allow Indian companies to partner with global defence majors “to seek technology transfers and manufacturing know-how to set up domestic manufacturing infrastructure and supply chains,” the statement said.

Foreign manufacturers such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, BAE Systems and Saab are looking to India as one of the biggest sources of future growth.

Source: India announces policy for strategic partnerships in defence | Reuters

22/05/2017

China, Russia formalize Shanghai venture to build wide-body jet | Reuters

China and Russia on Monday completed the formal registration of a joint venture to build a proposed wide-body jet, kickstarting the full-scale development of a program that aims to compete with market leaders Boeing (BA.N) and Airbus (AIR.PA).

State planemakers Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) [CMAFC.UL] and Russia’s United Aircraft Corp (UAC) said at a ceremony in Shanghai the joint venture would aim to build a “competitive long range wide-body commercial aircraft”.

COMAC, which is increasingly looking to break the hold Boeing and Airbus have over the global commercial jet market, successfully completed the maiden flight of its home-grown C919 narrow-body passenger jet earlier this month.

“The long-haul, wide-body passenger jet is a strategic project for China and Russia, followed closely by the two governments,” said Guo Bozhi, general manager of COMAC’s wide-body department.

COMAC and UAC first announced the twin-aisle jet program in 2014 but the project has so far been slow to materialize.

In November, the firms said they had set up a joint venture in Shanghai and unveiled a mock-up of the wide-body jet, based around a basic version that would seat 280 and have a range of up to 12,000 kilometers (7,500 miles).

UAC president Yuri Slyusar said the firms were aiming to complete the wide-body jet’s maiden flight and first delivery between 2025-2028. He added the plane would look to take 10 percent of the market from the Boeing 787 and Airbus 350.

Previously, the firms had been aiming for a maiden flight of the jet in 2022 and delivery from 2025 or later.

While the target is tough, it is more realistic than recent aircraft programs that have sought results in 5-7 years and then come in late, industry analysts said. COMAC’s first homegrown jet, the ARJ-21, obtained permission to enter domestic service more than 10 years behind its original schedule.

COMAC and UAC hold equal shares in the joint venture.

Last July, Boeing forecast the world’s airlines would need 9,100 wide-body planes over 20 years to 2035, with a wave of replacement demand to come between 2021-2028.China has plowed billions of dollars over the past decade into a domestic jet development program as it looks to raise its profile in the global aviation market and boost high-tech manufacturing at home.

Source: China, Russia formalize Shanghai venture to build wide-body jet | Reuters

18/05/2017

Why are millions of Indian women dropping out of work? – BBC News

Why are millions of women dropping out of work in India?

The numbers are stark – for the first time in India’s recent history, not only was there a decline in the female labour participation rate, but also a shrinking of the total number of women in the workforce.

Nearly 20 million Indian women quit work between 2004-05 to 2011-12

The labour force participation rate for women of working age declined from 42% in 1993-94 to 31% in 2011-12

Some 53% of the total drop – the largest chunk – happened among women aged 15-24 and living in villages

In rural areas, the female labour force participation rate dropped from 49% to 37.8% between 2004-05 and 2009-10

While more than 24 million men joined the work force between 2004-5 to 2009-10, the number of women in the the work force dropped by 21.7 million

Using data gleaned from successive rounds of National Sample Survey Organisation and census data, a team of researchers from World Bank have attempted to find out why this is happening.

“These are significant matters of concern. As India poises itself to increase economic growth and foster development, it is necessary to ensure that its labour force becomes fully inclusive of women,” says the study, authored by Luis A Andres, Basab Dasgupta, George Joseph, Vinoj Abraham and Maria Correia.

So what accounts for the unprecedented and puzzling drop in women’s participation in the workforce – at a time when India’s economy has grown at a steady pace?

Women need better and more suitable job opportunities outside farming, the authors say

Predictable social norms are attributed to women quitting work in India: marriage, motherhood, vexed gender relations and biases, and patriarchy.

But they may not be the only reasons. Marriage, for example, does affect the rate of participation of women in the workforce. But in villages, the workforce participation rate of married women has been found to be higher than that of unmarried women – whereas in the cities, the situation is reversed.

Significantly, rising aspirations and relative prosperity may be actually responsible for putting a large cohort of women out of work in India.

Remember, the largest drop has been in the villages.

After calculating the labour force participation rates and educational participation rates (young women in schools) the researchers believe that one plausible explanation for the drop in the participation rate among rural girls and women aged 15-24 is the recent expansion of secondary education and rapidly changing social norms leading to “more working age young females opting to continue their education rather than join the labour force early”.

The study says there has been a “larger response to income changes among the poor, rather than the wealthy, by sending children to school”.

Also, casual workers – mainly women – drop out of the workforce when wages increased for regular earners – mainly men – leading to the stabilisation of family incomes.

“Improved stability in family income can be understood as a disincentive for female household members to join the labour force,” says the study.

Many women work outside the home, and on their farms

“This largely resonates with the existing literature, which suggests that with rising household income levels, women in rural India withdraw from paid labour and engage in status production at home.

“But dropping or opting out of the workforce to go to school and get an education may not ensure that these women will eventually go to work.

After studying the relationship with the female labour participation rate and levels of educational achievements, the researchers found that having a high school-level education was “not found to be an incentive for women” to work.

The lowest rate of participation is among those who had secured school and high school education in the cities and villages. And the rate is actually highest among illiterates and college graduates.

But there has been a general drop in the rate in recent years, indicating that irrespective of educational attainments, “the incentive for women to participate in the workforce has declined over this period”.

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The Indian women who took on a multinational and won

To be sure, India has a poor record of female participation in the workforce: the International Labour Organisation ranked it 121 out of 131 countries in 2013, one of the lowest in the world.

Also, India is not an outlier when it comes to women dropping out of the workforce.

Between 2004 and 2012, the female labour force participation rate in China dropped from 68% to 64%, but the participation rate remains very high compared with India. In neighbouring Sri Lanka, for example, the participation rate has dropped, but only by 2%.

“India stands out because of a such a sharp decline within such a short period. In levels, it is very low in international rankings now,” the researchers told me.

Indian woman auto rickshaw driver Rajani Jadhav pose for photographs during her training session of rickshaw driving in Mumbai, India, 14 April 2017.India needs to offer more opportunities to women, the researchers say

Clearly women need better and more suitable job opportunities, outside agriculture. Rural labour markets need to offer jobs that are acceptable and attractive to women and their families.

The World Bank study suggests that gains will not be realised unless social norms around women’s – and men’s – work also change:

“Strategies to communicate the importance of women’s work should take into account the roles of women, husbands and in-laws.”

Also, as another study says, the “ongoing decrease in the availability of farm-based work, has led to women focusing on economic activities within their households”. Should home-based workers then be counted as members of the labour force?

Source: Why are millions of Indian women dropping out of work? – BBC News

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