India economic inequality to persist despite roaring GDP growth

India economic inequality to persist despite roaring GDP growth
Residents fill their containers with water supplied by a municipal tanker in New Delhi on June 19, 2024 amid heatwave. (AFP)
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Updated 20 June 2024
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India economic inequality to persist despite roaring GDP growth

India economic inequality to persist despite roaring GDP growth
  • Despite over 8 percent economic growth last fiscal year, New Delhi still distributes free food grains to more than 800 million of its 1.4 billion people

BENGALURU, India: The Indian economy is likely to remain the fastest-growing major one in coming years, but a majority of independent economists and policy experts polled by Reuters are not confident it will make any difference in narrowing stark economic inequality.
Despite over 8 percent economic growth last fiscal year and a roaring stock market in Mumbai that is easily one of the world’s most expensive, New Delhi still distributes free food grains to more than 800 million of its 1.4 billion people.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, sworn in for a third term with the support of regional parties after a shock election where his Bharatiya Janata Party lost its sizeable majority in parliament, has retained most ministers from his second one.
Yet rising economic inequality — around its highest in decades — and high youth unemployment were widely reported as reasons for the electoral drubbing after securing sweeping victories in 2014 and 2019 on development and economic reform platforms.
A nearly 85 percent majority of development economists and policy experts, 43 out of 51, in a May 15-June 18 Reuters poll, said they were not confident economic inequality would significantly reduce over the next five years, including 21 who said they had no confidence at all.
Only six said they were confident and two said very confident. These are separate from private economists who regularly forecast economic data and interest rates.
“Acknowledging that it is a problem will be a good first step ... Currently, reduction of economic inequality is not a policy objective of decision-makers,” said Reetika Khera, a development economist at the Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi.
“Inequality is not something that will go away on its own ... it needs proactive government interventions.”

Even for a developing economy, income inequality in India is too extreme, according to a March report from the World Inequality Lab.
However, not everyone agrees.
“I don’t think the inequality metrics are meaningful for India. The key issue is not inequality but how the bottom of the pyramid fares economically. This is not a function of how the top does,” said Nagpurnanand Prabhala, finance professor at Johns Hopkins University.
India has the second-highest number of billionaires in Asia but has tens of millions who depend on the government’s 100 days minimum guaranteed wage employment program, digging wells, building roads, and filling potholes for about $4 a day.
“The present government has created an economic system that shrunk the middle-income group considerably. The poor are on public dole ... the rich are on public cross-subsidy using crony capitalism,” said Saibal Kar, professor of industrial economics at the Center for Studies in Social Sciences.
“The economic and social freedoms are low owing to repressive public policies. This has to change. Unless it changes, inequality will rise further.”

Skills needed, not just jobs
Asked to rate the quality of India’s economic growth over the past 10 years, a near-80 percent majority of economists surveyed, 42 of 53, said it was not inclusive, with 17 saying not at all. Eight said fairly inclusive and three said inclusive.
And yet 60 percent, 32 of 53, said India would maintain or exceed the current solid GDP growth rate over the next five years. The rest said it will fall short.
While the Modi government has set a target of turning India into a developed economy by 2047, several experts in the survey said the government should first improve workers’ skills, create more jobs and focus on inclusive growth.
In December, the government’s chief economic adviser said the subsidised grain distribution, as well as spending on education and health had helped to distribute income more equally.
During the election campaign, a government document showed Modi wanted to focus on 70 areas of improvement including workforce skills and vocational training.
Over 90 percent of experts polled, 49 of 54, who answered a separate question said unemployment would be the biggest economic challenge for the government over the next five years.
The unemployment rate was at 7.0 percent in May, according to the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy, a think-tank, up from around 6 percent before the pandemic.
“Most countries that have experienced more rapid growth did it on the basis of a farm-to-factory structural transformation,” said Parikshit Ghosh, professor at the Delhi School of Economics, adding manufacturing as a share of GDP has hovered around 15 percent for about 30 years.
“Of the multiple factors behind this, perhaps the most important is the failure to invest seriously in education.”
India spends around 3 percent of GDP on public education, half the 6 percent the government’s National Policy on Education recommends.
Other experts pointed out the ongoing challenges presented by a society still mired in caste and class divisions.
“We don’t even talk about the cleavage that has been ripping our society apart for thousands of years now in our living rooms — we still live in a world where Dalit families are cleaning toilets in urban and rural areas, generation after generation,” said Aditi Bhowmick, a public policy expert, who previously worked as India Director at Development Data Lab.


Residents protest over power cuts in southern Russian city

Residents protest over power cuts in southern Russian city
Updated 21 July 2024
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Residents protest over power cuts in southern Russian city

Residents protest over power cuts in southern Russian city
  • One video posted on the Baza Telegram channel appeared to show police making at least two arrests during Saturday’s protest

MOSCOW: Residents angry over recent power cuts in southern Russia staged a rare public protest on Saturday in the city of Krasnodar, posts on social media said, as the local governor blamed a heatwave for causing the blackouts.
The south of Russia has been affected by unusually hot weather that has caused mass power outages in several regions and led to the shutdown earlier this week of one of four power units at the Rostov nuclear power plant, the region’s largest.
The unit has been put back into operation since then.
“There has been abnormal heat in the Krasnodar region for a week now. The load on the energy system is colossal. I know and understand all the indignation of residents due to power outages,” Veniamin Kondratyev, the governor of Krasnodar region, said on the Telegram messaging app.
He said power capacities were not currently sufficient to meet peak demand during the hot summer months.
One video posted on the Baza Telegram channel appeared to show police making at least two arrests during Saturday’s protest.
Russian authorities have clamped down on any protest activity, especially politically laced dissent, since the start of the conflict with Ukraine in February 2022, and public protests are very rare given the risk of arrest.


Nigeria fines Meta $220m for ‘violations’

Nigeria fines Meta $220m for ‘violations’
Updated 21 July 2024
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Nigeria fines Meta $220m for ‘violations’

Nigeria fines Meta $220m for ‘violations’
  • Meta’s platforms — WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram — are among the most popular social media in the country.

LAGOS: Nigeria has issued a $220 million fine against Meta, the parent company of Facebook and WhatsApp, for “multiple and repeated” violations.
The country’s Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) on Friday accused Meta of violating the country’s data protection and consumer rights laws on Facebook and WhatsApp.
The FCCPC’s chief executive officer Adamu Abdullahi said the investigations the commission carried out in conjunction with the Nigeria Data Protection Commission between May 2021 and December 2023 showed that it engaged in “invasive practices against data subjects/consumers in Nigeria.”
Abdullahi accused Meta of discriminatory practices, abuse of market dominance, sharing Nigerians’ personal data without authorization and denying Nigerians the right to determine how their data are used.
Apart from the hefty fine, the FCCPC boss insisted that Meta must “comply with prevailing law and cease the exploitation of Nigerian consumers and their market abuse.”
It ordered the company to “desist from future similar or other conduct/practices that do not meet nationally applicable standards.”
Meta did not immediately respond to a request for a response to the fine. But the FCCPC said the company was aware of its 38-month investigation.
About three quarters of the 200 million people in Africa’s most populous country are younger than 24 — a generation that is also hyper-connected to social media.
The country had some 164.3 million Internet subscriptions as of March, according to the figures published by the National Communication Commission (NCC) on its website.
Meta’s platforms — WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram — are among the most popular social media in the country.
The minister for communication and the digital economy, Bosun Tijani, said in December that there were “over 51 million WhatsApp users in Nigeria.”
The European Union (EU) accused Meta at the beginning of July of breaching the bloc’s digital rules, paving the way for potential fines worth billions of euros.
The EU said Meta’s new ad-free subscription model for Facebook and Instagram “forced millions of users” in the bloc to pay to avoid data collection or agree to share their data with Facebook and Instagram to keep using the platforms for free.


Poland calls on EU to stress ties with US to counter Russian ‘disinformation’

Poland calls on EU to stress ties with US to counter Russian ‘disinformation’
Updated 21 July 2024
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Poland calls on EU to stress ties with US to counter Russian ‘disinformation’

Poland calls on EU to stress ties with US to counter Russian ‘disinformation’
  • Poland calls for positive action ahead of the US presidential election
  • The Kremlin has said it would not meddle in the November US election

BRUSSELS: Poland wants the European Union to launch a campaign in the United States to raise awareness with the American public about the importance of the joint relationship.
In a paper prepared for an EU foreign ministers’ meeting on Monday, Poland calls for positive action ahead of the US presidential election on Nov. 5 to counter what it describes as Russian “disinformation” aimed at sowing division between the EU and Washington.
“At this critical moment in history, it is imperative that we collectively take swift and robust action to strengthen the transatlantic relations through strategic communication about the EU in the US,” the paper, seen by Reuters, says.
It adds: “This means scaling up our de-bunking and, even more importantly, pre-bunking of Russian disinformation and launching campaigns which set the record straight about where Europe stands today and about the benefits of diplomacy, collective security and open society.”
The Kremlin has said it would not meddle in the November US election. It has also dismissed US allegations that it orchestrated campaigns to sway the 2016 and 2020 US presidential elections.
Poland’s paper said Russian state media and online accounts tied to the Kremlin were spreading and amplifying misleading content about US immigration and border security, misstating the impact of immigration, highlighting stories about crimes committed by immigrants, and warning of dire consequences if the US does not crack down at its border with Mexico.
“We should expect much more is to come, as eroding support for Ukraine remains Russia’s top priority. We need to remind the American public, especially the younger generation of the deliverables our decades-long partnership has brought to the US economy,” the paper said.
Poland has said it has been the target of numerous Russian attempts at destabilization and election interference because of its role in supplying military aid to its neighbor Ukraine, allegations Russia has dismissed.
“We should raise awareness among the American public about the size of European aid to Ukraine and how that effort helps save Ukrainian lives,” the Polish paper said in reference to claims by US presidential candidate Donald Trump that European aid to Ukraine was much smaller than that of the US
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the EU has provided 107 billion euros ($116.38 billion) to Ukraine and has agreed on a further 50 billion euros for the next four years.
The US Council on Foreign Relations estimates US support for Ukraine at $107 billion.


US to take ‘hard look’ at fighter project, top official says

US to take ‘hard look’ at fighter project, top official says
Updated 21 July 2024
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US to take ‘hard look’ at fighter project, top official says

US to take ‘hard look’ at fighter project, top official says
  • Kendall: The idea of using drones or Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) will remain part of the proposed initiatives
  • The Air Force faces heavy costs for renewing its land-based nuclear deterrent and developing the B-21 bomber.

RAF FAIRFORD, England, July 20 : The US will closely dissect its plans for a Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) platform — a future family of fighters and drones — before deciding whether to go ahead, Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall said on Saturday.
The cost of the future F-22 replacement has come under scrutiny after topping $300 million each, three times the cost of an F-35. But Kendall also highlighted evolving threats, in an apparent reference to rapidly arming China.
The idea of using drones or Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) will remain part of the proposed initiatives, he said.
“Before we make the commitment that we are close to making, we want to make sure we have got the right design concept,” Kendall said at Britain’s Royal International Air Tattoo, the world’s largest military air show.
“NGAD was conceived before a number of things: before the threat became so severe, before CCAs were introduced into the equation and before we had some issues with affordability that we are currently facing,” Kendall told reporters.
“So we are going to take a hard look at NGAD before moving forward, but the family of systems which includes a crewed platform and CCAs and weapon systems and communications ... is still very much the concept that we are pursuing.”
The Air Force faces heavy costs for renewing its land-based nuclear deterrent and developing the B-21 bomber.
“Before we commit to the 2026 budget, we want to be sure we are on the right path,” Kendall told reporters.
Analysts attending the air show said the depth of the review suggested the Air Force wanted to refresh its view on whether NGAD remained well adapted to threats posed by China as its schedule slips into the 2030s.
“NGAD is a whole series of programs under the umbrella of capabilities that the Air Force wants in order both to better deter China and to fight and win if necessary,” said Vago Muradian, editor of Defense & Aerospace Report.
“The Chinese are changing how they’re going to fight. So the question that a budget-constrained Air Force is asking is whether the tens of billions of dollars is the right investment, or are there better ways of achieving some of these same aims.”
Boeing and Lockheed Martin are widely seen as competing to win the core fighter part of the project.
The rethink has captured attention in Europe where Britain’s crewed-uncrewed GCAP project, in partnership with Japan and Italy, may face scrutiny in an upcoming UK defense review and France, Germany and Spain are working on the FCAS/SCAF project.
Partners in GCAP are expected to give an update at the opening of the Farnborough International Airshow on Monday.


Trump’s former physician gives new details on gunshot wound

Trump’s former physician gives new details on gunshot wound
Updated 21 July 2024
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Trump’s former physician gives new details on gunshot wound

Trump’s former physician gives new details on gunshot wound

WASHINGTON: Donald Trump’s former physician Ronny Jackson said on Saturday that the former president is recovering as expected from a gunshot wound to his ear that he suffered last week, but noted intermittent bleeding and said Trump may require a hearing exam.
The bullet fired by a would-be assassin at a July 13 Trump rally in Pennsylvania came “less than a quarter of an inch from entering his head” before striking the top of Trump’s right ear, said Jackson, a Republican congressman from Texas who served as physician to Presidents Trump and Barack Obama.
Five days after narrowly escaping assassination, Trump on Thursday accepted the Republican Party’s presidential nomination for the Nov. 5 election.
Jackson, providing what appeared to be the first public description by a medical professional of Trump’s gunshot wound, said in a letter posted on social media Saturday that “the bullet track produced a 2 (centimeter) wide wound that extended down to the cartilaginous surface of the ear.”
“There was initially significant bleeding, followed by marked swelling of the entire upper ear. The swelling has since resolved, and the wound is beginning to granulate and heal properly,” he wrote.
Jackson said he had provided daily evaluation and treatment of Trump’s wound since the shooting. He said no sutures were required, but noted that due to the “highly vascular nature of the ear, there is still intermittent bleeding requiring a dressing to be in place.”
“He will have further evaluations, including a comprehensive hearing exam, as needed,” Jackson added.
Trump recounted the assassination attempt to a rapt audience on Thursday at the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, saying that he was only there “by the grace of Almighty God.”
“I heard a loud whizzing sound and felt something hit me really, really hard on my right ear,” he said, a thick bandage still covering his ear. “I said to myself, ‘Wow, what was that? It can only be a bullet.’”