India Twitter backlash over confusing graphic

Crowds protest against a fuel price hike in Kolkata on Monday. (AFP)
Updated 11 September 2018
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India Twitter backlash over confusing graphic

  • Social media outcry over misleading graphic
  • Fuel price hike provokes popular anger

NEW DELHI: The rising price of fuel has hurt the Indian economy in general and low earners in particular and while past governments have usually cut fuel taxes when international oil prices risen, the Modi’s administration has so far blamed global factors, such as Turkey’s economic crisis.
As Indians’ anger grows over record fuel prices, the ruling party is getting advice on social media to seek lessons in mathematics and graphic design after it posted a bar-chart graphic that showed fuel prices lower than in prior years.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is facing criticism for not doing enough to cut fuel taxes that account for more than a third of retail petrol and diesel prices, which have soared to record highs this month.
Twitter users on Tuesday derided Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over the graphic, which showed the price of petrol in New Delhi, the capital, at 80.7 rupees a liter, while using an arrow showing a drop of 13 percent, rather than a rise, to compare it to a price of 71.4 rupees four years ago.
Titled “Truth of Hike,” the graphic included Modi’s picture and used four bars to show petrol price rises since 2004, but represented the current, higher price with a smaller bar.
The post was retweeted 2,100 times, attracted 3,200 comments and figured on primetime news shows after it was posted late on Monday, becoming the butt of jokes on social media, with some users questioning how 80 rupees could be less than 70.
Amit Malviya, the chief of the BJP’s information technology cell, said the graphic was not being interpreted correctly and was aimed only at showing that the 13 percent increase since 2014 was lower than in previous years.
“It may sound paradoxical, but that is what it is,” Malviya told Reuters.
Twitter users were unconvinced.
Zaineb Hakim joked on the social network, “Based on this graph, you are all entitled to a full refund from the mathematics department of the school you graduated from, assuming you did attend one.”
Another user, Jas Oberoi, wrote, “Modiji needs to spend taxpayers’ money on a better infographic provider. This is outrageous,” referring to the prime minister with a honorific suffix.
Past governments have usually cut fuel taxes when international oil prices shot up, but Modi’s administration has so far blamed global factors, such as Turkey’s economic crisis.
The fuel price hike has also furnished ammunition for the opposition Congress party to criticize Modi ahead of general elections next year. On Monday, protests against the high prices shut down many businesses, government offices and schools.
The Congress countered the BJP’s graphic with its own, showing a crying Bollywood actor looking at the graphic and retweeting inverted versions of the BJP chart.


Undersea gas fires Egypt’s regional energy dreams

Updated 18 November 2018
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Undersea gas fires Egypt’s regional energy dreams

  • In the past year, gas has started flowing from four major fields off Egypt’s Mediterranean coast
  • Gas production has now hit 184 million cubic meters a day

CAIRO: Egypt is looking to use its vast, newly tapped undersea gas reserves to establish itself as a key energy exporter and revive its flagging economy.
Encouraged by the discovery of huge natural gas fields in the Mediterranean, Cairo has in recent months signed gas deals with neighboring Israel as well as Cyprus and Greece.
Former oil minister Osama Kamal said Egypt has a “plan to become a regional energy hub.”
In the past year, gas has started flowing from four major fields off Egypt’s Mediterranean coast, including the vast Zohr field, inaugurated with great ceremony by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.
Discovered in 2015 by Italian energy giant Eni, Zohr is the biggest gas field so far found in Egyptian waters.
The immediate upshot has been that since September, the Arab world’s most populous country has been able to halt imports of liquified natural gas, which last year cost it some $220 million (190 million euros) per month.
Coming after a financial crisis that pushed Cairo in 2016 to take a $12 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, the gas has been a lifeline.
Egypt’s budget deficit, which hit 10.9 percent of GDP in the financial year 2016-17, has since fallen to 9.8 percent.
Gas production has now hit 184 million cubic meters a day.
Having met its own needs, Cairo is looking to kickstart exports and extend its regional influence.
It has signed deals to import gas from neighboring countries for liquefaction at installations on its Mediterranean coast, ready for re-export to Europe.
In September, Egypt signed a deal with Cyprus to build a pipeline to pump Cypriot gas hundreds of kilometers to Egypt for processing before being exported to Europe.
That came amid tensions between Egypt and Turkey — which has supported the Muslim Brotherhood, seen by Cairo as a terrorist organization, and has troops in breakaway northern Cyprus.
In February, Egypt, the only Arab state apart from Jordan to have a peace deal with Israel, inked an agreement to import gas from the Jewish state’s Tamar and Leviathan reservoirs.
A US-Israeli consortium leading the development of Israel’s offshore gas reserves in September announced it would buy part of a disused pipeline connecting the Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon with the northern Sinai peninsula.
That would bypass a land pipeline across the Sinai that was repeatedly targeted by jihadists in 2011 and 2012.
The $15-billion deal will see some 64 billion cubic meters of gas pumped in from the Israeli fields over 10 years.
Independent news website Mada Masr reported that Egypt’s General Intelligence Service is the majority shareholder in East Gas, which will earn the largest part of the profits from the import of Israeli gas and its resale to the Egyptian state.
Kamal said he sees “no problem” in that, adding that the agency has held a majority stake in the firm since 2003.
“That guarantees the protection of Egyptian interests,” he said.
Ezzat Abdel Aziz, former president of the Egyptian Atomic Energy Agency, said the projects were “of vital importance for Egypt” and would have direct returns for the Egyptian economy.
They “confirm the strategic importance of Egypt and allow it to take advantage of its location between producing countries in the east and consuming countries of the West,” he said.
The Egyptian state is also hoping to rake in billions of dollars in revenues from petro-chemicals.
Its regional energy ambitions are “not limited to the natural gas sector, but also involve major projects in the petroleum and petrochemical sectors,” said former oil minister Kamal.
Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Tarek El Molla recently announced a deal to expand the Midor refinery in the Egyptian capital to boost its output by some 60 percent.
On top of that, the new Mostorod refinery in northern Cairo is set to produce 4.4 million tons of petroleum products a year after it comes online by next May, according to Ahmed Heikal, president of Egyptian investment firm Citadel Capital.
That alone will save the state $2 billion a year on petrochemical imports, which last year cost it some $5.2 billion.
Egypt is also investing in a processing plant on the Red Sea that could produce some four million tons of petro-products a year — as well as creating 3,000 jobs in a country where unemployment is rife.