27/07/2016

Why India’s Lack of Toilets Is Hurting Its Children’s Development – India Real Time – WSJ

India’s lack of toilets and poor access to sanitation are holding back its children, causing stunted growth and curbing their development, a new report says.

Is India Winning the Fight Against Childhood Malnutrition?

Why Is Indian Children’s Growth So Stunted? It’s Not Why You ThinkT

he country has more than 48 million under fives with impaired growth, the largest number in the world, the report from London-based international development charity WaterAid said.

India also has 774 million people without access to adequate sanitation, and 76 million without safe water, the report said.

Children who are stunted because of malnutrition tend to be shorter and lag behind their peers cognitively. Poor access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene cause diarrhea and expose children to other intestinal infections during the crucial first two years of life.

Around 140,000 under-fives die in India every year because of diarrhea and other diseases caused by lack of access to these basic services, the report said.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said in the past that he would rather build toilets than temples — setting a goal for every home in the country to have a place to go to the bathroom by 2019. But the program has suffered challenges: some Indians prefer to relieve themselves outdoors.

India is making some progress, however. The report said the percentage of its children who were stunted reduced from 48% in 2006 to 39% in 2014, the year Mr. Modi came to power.

Pakistan, India’s closest neighbor, ranked third with more than 9.8 million children who are stunted, according to the WaterAid study.

Source: Why India’s Lack of Toilets Is Hurting Its Children’s Development – India Real Time – WSJ

26/07/2016

Could India Become a Cashless Economy? – India Real Time – WSJ

Cash is set to lose currency in India, as an explosion in smartphone usage drives a digital payments boom, according to a new report.

By year 2020, nearly $500 billion worth of transactions in India will happen digitally, using online wallets and other digital-payment systems, 10 times the level currently, according to a report by Google India and The Boston Consulting Group.

Indians traditionally prefer to save and spend in cash, and a vast majority of the more-than 1.2 billion population doesn’t have a bank account.

Last year, 78% of all consumer payments in India were made by cash, whereas in developed countries like the U.S. and U.K., only 20% to 25% of such payments were made that way, the report said.

But the reliance on notes and coins in India is likely to diminish, as spending habits change and financial services reach more people, said the Google-BCG report. It expects cash-based consumer payments to fall to 40% to 45% by 2025.

A sharp increase in the use of mobile phones with internet connectivity will help drive the move to digital payments, said the report.

India has more than 1 billion mobile subscribers, a quarter of whom use smartphones, according to the report. By 2020, the number of smartphone users in the country will likely be 520 million, and the number of internet users 650 million, twice the number currently, according to the report.

Personal internet banking has become more popular in India over the past few years along with digital payment options that allow users to settle mobile phone, electricity and even taxi bills.

The recent spurt of growth has come from non-bank companies offering payment services. Cellphone companies like Airtel and Vodafone offer facilities to transfer money using phones, while “wallet” companies like One97 Communications’ Paytm unit, and MobiKwik, allow users to store money digitally and pay through their systems.

The next level of growth will come when local mom-and-pop grocery stores start accepting digital payments, said the report.However, there are plenty of consumers and merchants who still feel skeptical of digital payments, or find them too complicated, said the report. And others just don’t want to give up using cash, it added.

Source: Could India Become a Cashless Economy? – India Real Time – WSJ

25/07/2016

India urges security forces to exercise restraint in Kashmir | Reuters

India has asked its security forces to exercise restraint in responding to protests in disputed Kashmir and replace pellet guns with non-lethal weapons, its home affairs minister said on Sunday.

Forty six people have been killed and more than 5,000 wounded, including security forces, since protests erupted after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8.

Normal life remains paralysed because of the curfew imposed by the government and calls for a shutdown by separatist leaders.

“I appeal to the youth not to resort to stone pelting and I also want to appeal to the security forces not to use pellets. I have told security forces to use maximum possible restraint,” Rajnath Singh said, winding up his two-day visit to Kashmir.

Kashmir has been at the centre of a tussle between New Delhi and Islamabad for decades, as both claim the region in full but rule it in part.

“We don’t need the involvement of a third party to address the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. I want to tell my neighbour that you are yourself a victim of terrorism,” said Singh.

Since they split some 67 years ago, India and Pakistan have fought each other in three wars, two over Kashmir. There has not been a full-blown war since they both tested nuclear weapons in 1998.

Singh on Thursday told lawmakers that India would set up a panel to look for an alternative to pellet guns.More than 300 people have suffered because of pellet guns, including 171 with eye injuries, Kaisar Ahmad, principal of the Government Medical College in Srinagar, told Reuters.

Source: India urges security forces to exercise restraint in Kashmir | Reuters

25/07/2016

ASEAN breaks deadlock on South China Sea, Beijing thanks Cambodia for support | Reuters

Southeast Asian nations overcame days of deadlock on Monday when the Philippines dropped a request for their joint statement to mention a landmark legal ruling on the South China Sea, officials said, after objections from Cambodia.

China publicly thanked Cambodia for supporting its stance on maritime disputes, a position which threw the regional block’s weekend meeting in the Laos capital of Vientiane into disarray.

Competing claims with China in the vital shipping lane are among the most contentious issues for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, with its 10 members pulled between their desire to assert their sovereignty while finding common ground and fostering ties with Beijing.

In a ruling by the U.N.-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration on July 12, the Philippines won an emphatic legal victory over China on the dispute.

The Philippines and Vietnam both wanted the ruling, which denied China’s sweeping claims in the strategic seaway that channels more than $5 trillion in global trade each year, and a call to respect international maritime law to feature in the communique.

Backing China’s call for bilateral discussions, Cambodia opposed the wording on the ruling, diplomats said.

Manila agreed to drop the reference to the ruling in the communique, one ASEAN diplomat said on Monday, in an effort to prevent the disagreement leading to the group failing to issue a statement.

The communique referred instead to the need to find peaceful resolutions to disputes in the South China Sea in accordance with international law, including the United Nations’ law of the sea, to which the court ruling referred.

Source: ASEAN breaks deadlock on South China Sea, Beijing thanks Cambodia for support | Reuters

25/07/2016

Ways India Has Changed Since Liberalization 25 Years Ago – WSJ

Twenty-five years ago this week, India unshackled private industry and embraced foreign investment, ending four decades of socialist self-reliance and making a major bid to reclaim its place as an economic power.

The finance minister at the time, Manmohan Singh, had a keen sense of the moment’s place in history. Presenting the budget before Parliament on July 24, 1991, he framed the new economic policies as a means of eliminating “the scourge of poverty, ignorance and disease,” and of realizing the full potential of the Indian people. In the famous closing flourish of his speech, he invoked Victor Hugo: “No power on Earth can stop an idea whose time has come.”

But even Mr. Singh, who later served a decade as the country’s prime minister, could not have foreseen all the changes that this set of ideas would bring about.

1 Economic Liftoff

By every measure, India has grown more economically prosperous. National output last year was nearly five times what it was in 1991. Indians sell more to the world, and enjoy more of the outside world’s products and services, know-how and technology. A country that was once a byword for famine is today one of the planet’s biggest exporters of rice, cotton and other agricultural products.Not all sections of Indian society have risen as much as others: The country is still home to more of the world’s poorest people than any other nation. And much of the growth has been in the informal economy, where companies don’t pay taxes or have access to large-scale finance, and where workers don’t receive benefits or protection from unfair treatment. That suggests the deterrents to doing business above-board, such as government regulations and enforcement, are still too many.ANUPAM

2 People Power

Indians are living longer, and fewer are dying at or shortly after birth. More are literate, more receive schooling and more go to college. Still, the nation badly lags its neighbors on many of these human indicators. Women fare worse than men. And despite recent government sanitation campaigns, more people in India have cellphones than have access to decent toilets, according to the United Nations.

3 Consumer Explosion

In 1991, Indians had two television channels to choose from, and both of them were produced by Doordarshan, the state broadcaster. In much else, too, from sweets to cosmetics to butter, autarky meant the choices for the average consumer were very limited. Today’s riot of options makes pre-liberalization India seem, as the writer Mukul Kesavan wrote recently, like “another country.

4 Car Crazy

It isn’t quite true that Indians had only one car available to them, the Hindustan Motors Ltd. Ambassador, before 1991. But their options have certainly multiplied since then. Almost every major international maker has tried to enter the market; not all have succeeded. The industry in India churned out nearly 24 million vehicles in the year that ended in March.

5 A Flailing State

Over the last quarter-century, as India’s economy has grown more complex, it has arguably loped ahead of the government’s capacity to manage it and provide essential services. That’s why the Harvard economist Lant Pritchett in 2009 called India a “flailing state”: The top institutions of government are sound, but they don’t deliver reliably on the ground.Public health facilities are understaffed and underfunded. Schoolteachers don’t show up for their own classes. Unlike in 1991, “India’s problem is not what the state does wrong now,” says Manish Sabharwal, chairman of TeamLease Services Ltd., a Bangalore-based staffing company. “It is what the state does not do.”

Source: Ways India Has Changed Since Liberalization 25 Years Ago – WSJ

25/07/2016

More Than 100 Chinese Firms on Global Fortune 500, but Not Alibaba – China Real Time Report – WSJ

More than 100 Chinese companies made the Fortune Global 500 list this year, with the U.S. the only country with more names on the list.

China power giant State Grid jumped from seventh place last year to the No. 2 spot, after Wal-Mart Stores Inc., followed by oil giants China National Petroleum Corp. and Sinopec Group, in third and fourth place, respectively.

Dubbed “the world’s most profitable lender,” Industrial & Commercial Bank of China–China’s biggest bank by assets–was No. 15 on the list, up from 18th last year even after a year of nearly flat profit.

Among the 13 Chinese companies that made their debuts on the list were three home builders: China Vanke Co.(356th), Dalian Wanda Group (385th) and Evergrande Real Estate Group (496th), which all benefited from the property-market recovery in China last year after the government loosened restrictions on home purchases.

Ranked at 366th, China’s second-largest online retailer, JD.com Inc., also entered the list for the first time.

One notable absence: China’s perhaps most famous company, e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., which as an online platform doesn’t have massive revenue, the basis for the list’s rankings.Investors and analysts have focused on a different metric to chart its growth — gross merchandise volume, or the total value of third-party sellers’ transactions on its platforms — because it shows how fast an e-commerce company is growing relative to competitors.

Earlier this year, Alibaba said that transaction volume on its sites hit 3 trillion yuan ($463 billion) in the fiscal year ended in March, which it said meant that by that measure it had overtaken Wal-Mart to become the world’s biggest retail network.

Source: More Than 100 Chinese Firms on Global Fortune 500, but Not Alibaba – China Real Time Report – WSJ

25/07/2016

China Unveils ‘World’s Largest Amphibious Aircraft’ – China Real Time Report – WSJ

Chinese media said the AG600 giant aircraft, which rolled off a production line in Zhuhai in southern China on Saturday, will be used for marine rescue missions and forest fire fighting.

Source: Video: China Unveils ‘World’s Largest Amphibious Aircraft’ – China Real Time Report – WSJ

01/07/2016

Our bulldozers, our rules | The Economist

THE first revival of the Silk Road—a vast and ancient network of trade routes linking China’s merchants with those of Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe—took place in the seventh century, after war had made it unusable for hundreds of years. Xi Jinping, China’s president, looks back on that era as a golden age, a time of Pax Sinica, when Chinese luxuries were coveted across the globe and the Silk Road was a conduit for diplomacy and economic expansion. The term itself was coined by a German geographer in the 19th century, but China has adopted it with relish. Mr Xi wants a revival of the Silk Road and the glory that went with it.

This time cranes and construction crews are replacing caravans and camels. In April a Chinese shipping company, Cosco, took a 67% stake in Greece’s second-largest port, Piraeus, from which Chinese firms are building a high-speed rail network linking the city to Hungary and eventually Germany. In July work is due to start on the third stage of a Chinese-designed nuclear reactor in Pakistan, where China recently announced it would finance a big new highway and put $2 billion into a coal mine in the Thar desert. In the first five months of this year, more than half of China’s contracts overseas were signed with nations along the Silk Road—a first in the country’s modern history.

Politicians have been almost as busy in the builders’ wake. In June Mr Xi visited Serbia and Poland, scattering projects along the way, before heading to Uzbekistan. Last week Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, made a brief visit to Beijing; he, Mr Xi and Mongolia’s leader promised to link their infrastructure plans with the new Silk Road. At the time, finance ministers from almost 60 countries were holding the first annual meeting in Beijing of an institution set up to finance some of these projects, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). Like a steam train pulling noisily out of a station, China’s biggest foreign-economic policy is slowly gathering speed.

Chinese officials call that policy “One Belt, One Road”, though they often eviscerate its exotic appeal to foreigners by using the unlovely acronym OBOR. Confusingly, the road refers to ancient maritime routes between China and Europe, while the belt describes the Silk Road’s better-known trails overland (see map).

OBOR puzzles many Western policymakers because it is amorphous—it has no official list of member countries, though the rough count is 60—and because most of the projects that sport the label would probably have been built anyway. But OBOR matters for three big reasons.

First, the projects are vast. Official figures say there are 900 deals under way, worth $890 billion, such as a gas pipeline from the Bay of Bengal through Myanmar to south-west China and a rail link between Beijing and Duisburg, a transport hub in Germany. China says it will invest a cumulative $4 trillion in OBOR countries, though it does not say by when. Its officials tetchily reject comparison with the Marshall Plan which, they say, was a means of rewarding America’s friends and excluding its enemies after the second world war. OBOR, they boast, is open to all. But, for what it is worth, the Marshall Plan amounted to $130 billion in current dollars.

Next, OBOR matters because it is important to Mr Xi. In 2014 the foreign minister, Wang Yi, singled out OBOR as the most important feature of the president’s foreign policy. Mr Xi’s chief foreign adviser, Yang Jiechi, has tied OBOR to China’s much-touted aims of becoming a “moderately well-off society” by 2020 and a “strong, prosperous” one by mid-century.

Mr Xi seems to see the new Silk Road as a way of extending China’s commercial tentacles and soft power. It also plays a role in his broader foreign-policy thinking. The president has endorsed his predecessors’ view that China faces a “period of strategic opportunity” up to 2020, meaning it can take advantage of a mostly benign security environment to achieve its aim of strengthening its global power without causing conflict. OBOR, officials believe, is a good way of packaging such a strategy. It also fits with Mr Xi’s “Chinese dream” of recreating a great past. It is not too much to say that he expects to be judged as a leader partly on how well he fulfils OBOR’s goals.

Third, OBOR matters because it is a challenge to the United States and its traditional way of thinking about world trade. In that view, there are two main trading blocs, the trans-Atlantic one and the trans-Pacific one, with Europe in the first, Asia in the second and America the focal point of each. Two proposed regional trade deals, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, embody this approach. But OBOR treats Asia and Europe as a single space, and China, not the United States, is its focal point.

Source: Our bulldozers, our rules | The Economist

01/07/2016

India factory growth at 3-month high in June on strong demand | Reuters

Indian manufacturing activity edged up to a three-month high in June, driven by stronger demand, but firms barely raised prices, a private survey showed, leaving the door open for another rate cut by the central bank this year.

The Nikkei/Markit Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) rose to 51.7 in June from May’s 50.7, its sixth month above the 50 mark that separates growth from contraction after it fell below that level in December for the first time in more than two years.

“The domestic market continues to be the main growth driver, as the Indian economic upturn provides a steady stream of new business,” said Pollyanna De Lima, economist at Markit.

“There were also signs of an improvement in overseas markets, as new foreign orders rose. However, it looks as if lackluster global demand remains a headwind for Indian manufacturers.

“While retail inflation hit a near two-year high in May, the survey’s output prices sub-index fell to a three-month low of 50.1 in June versus 50.5 the previous month, as input costs rose at a weaker pace.

There was also broadly no change to manufacturing employment in India during June, the survey showed.

“This lack of inflationary pressures provides the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) with further leeway to boost economic growth through cutting its benchmark rate,” said De Lima.

According to a Reuters poll, RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan could deliver another rate cut before his term ends in September. After cutting rates in April, he has left the key interest rate unchanged at a five-year low of 6.50 percent.

However, at the June policy meeting he signalled another rate cut later in the year if monsoon rains were sufficient enough to dampen upward pressure on food prices.

Rains are expected to be above average this year which could keep prices in control and give the government room to focus on key economic reforms in tandem with low interest rates.

Source: India factory growth at 3-month high in June on strong demand | Reuters

30/06/2016

India to get over $1 billion from World Bank for Modi’s solar goals | Reuters

The World Bank said on Thursday it would lend India more than $1 billion for its huge solar energy programme, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought climate change funds from its visiting head.

Modi is banking on India’s 300 days a year of sunshine to generate power and help fight climate change rather than committing to emission cuts like China.

The World Bank loan is the global lender’s biggest solar aid for any country and comes as India has set a goal of raising its solar capacity nearly 30 times to 100 gigawatts by 2020 and is attracting mega investment proposals from top companies and institutions.

“Prime Minister Modi’s personal commitment toward renewable energy, particularly solar, is the driving force behind these investments,” World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said in a statement released after he met Modi. “The World Bank Group will do all it can to help India meet its ambitious targets, especially around scaling up solar energy.

“India is the largest client of the World Bank, which lent it around $4.8 billion between 2015 and 2016.

Modi’s office said he told Kim about the need for climate change financing for countries like India that are “consciously choosing to follow an environmentally sustainable path”.

India wants the share of non-fossil fuel in total installed power capacity to jump to 40 percent by 2030 from 30 percent currently, but there are challenges including weak finances of state distribution companies forced to sell subsidised power, difficulties hooking up solar projects to grids, and access to affordable capital.

Still India reckons its renewable energy industry could generate business opportunities worth $160 billion this decade, making it a lucrative market that has already attracted big global players such as Japan’s Softbank Corp, Taiwan’s Foxconn, First Solar, Trina Solar Ltd and Finland’s state-controlled utility Fortum Oyj.

German development bank KFW has already agreed to offer India low-interest loans of around 1 billion euro over the next five years to fund roof-mounted solar panels, and the construction of solar energy farms and self-contained solar power facilities not connected to the grid.

Source: India to get over $1 billion from World Bank for Modi’s solar goals | Reuters

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