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Realising India’s economic potential July 19, 2015

Posted by nishankmotwani in : Guest authors, India , comments closed

Peter Drysdale

India is a very large labour-abundant economy with a rapidly growing workforce and its manufacturing sector might be expected to be the primary driver of its economic growth. In fact, the manufacturing sector has contributed little to income growth and its share in total merchandise exports has been declining, as recent OECD analysis points out. Manufacturing has not brought much new employment, and most of the recent rise in manufacturing employment has been in the informal sector.

EAS India labour

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Does Pakistan need soft power? Challenges and prospects (Part 2) July 3, 2015

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Pakistan , comments closed

Maqsudul Hasan Nuri

Pakistan lies at confluences of east, west and Central Asia. Although it has good relations with the Arab world it is intrinsically South Asian. Ties with India have to normalize as it is dragging both countries down. Since the 1990s, India has made a shift from hard power to soft power. Pakistan is a culturally diverse and rich country. It has Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic and British influences. Exhibitions, road shows, student exchanges, art, sports and cultural visits of delegations can help build the soft power of a country. Propaganda can be part of soft power, but must be based on facts to be credible. Moreover, soft power employment is less competitive and involves lesser financial and material resources. It is the power of ideas, of attraction and persuasion, that are important. But if soft power becomes too condescending the real message could be easily lost.

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Women as farmers, feminisation of farming August 21, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Lahiri-Dutt, Kuntala, South Asia - General , comments closed

Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt

What is new in the world of farming today? Well, for one, there is a ‘feminisation’ of farming in many parts of the world, and South Asia is no exception to that. Before I explain that process, let me point out first that women have always performed important roles in agriculture, whether in less- or more-developed countries and irrespective of time, but have remained invisible as farmers. This is because when women have worked side-by-side with men on the farm, they often worked as part of a family unit of labour. A powerful sexually-based division of labour meant that women’s labour and active participation were limited only to certain parts of agriculture and to certain tasks, or even to certain crops. Often, the bulk of this labour was performed under the direct or indirect control of men, who also controlled (or owned) land, resulting in both inaccurate information about and the invisibility of women and also undervaluing of their contributions to agricultural production systems.

Photo: K. Lahiri-Dutt

Photo: K. Lahiri-Dutt

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BCIM Corridor a game changer for South Asian trade July 24, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Bangladesh, Guest authors, India , comments closed

Pravakar Sahoo and Abhirup Bhunia

The Bangladesh–China–India–Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor will increase socioeconomic development and trade in South Asia. The initiative seeks to improve connectivity and infrastructure, energy resources, agriculture, and trade and investment. It will connect India’s Northeast, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and the Chinese province of Yunnan through a network of roads, railways, waterways, and airways under a proper regulatory framework. The current focus of BCIM talks is on an inter-regional road network. This makes sense, as roads are the cheapest route of trade. NyaungShwe_Conrad2236 The BCIM Economic Corridor is a modern version of the Silk Road, and a revision of the 1999 Track II Kunming initiative between BCIM countries. It is planned to run from China’s Kunming province to Kolkata in India, and link Mandalay in Myanmar and Dhaka and Chittagong in Bangladesh. BCIM initiatives have gained momentum since Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to India and the conclusion of the first official meeting of the joint study group of the BCIM Economic Corridor on 19 December 2013.

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Life for all: nourished now & forever? July 5, 2014

Posted by ruthgamble in : Guest authors, Pakistan , comments closed

A Ercelan and Muhammad Ali Shah

In Pakistan, the right of expression is being increasingly eroded by actual assassinations and threats of assassination carried out by those who trade in religious militarism. Such acts of terrorism should not succeed in deflecting attention from increasing economic vulnerability. This is the reason for the following discussion.

This year, 2014 marks a decade for the UN Right to Food Guidelines. Their report for this year states in part that:

“[T]he right to food remains one of the most frequently violated of all human rights.  As such, the 41st session [of the UN] is an opportunity to generate a renewed political commitment towards advancing the implementation of the right to adequate food, as well as towards addressing the most important challenges in that regard, including: ensuring the primacy of human rights, human rights accountability, and human rights coherence at all levels.”

Yet, South Asian children and their mothers suffer endlessly; too many have even died because of hunger and malnutrition. Pakistan’s low and sluggish labour compensation accompanied by its high and rising prices for goods and services has even forced its Supreme Court to ponder the meaning of “dignified survival”. Yet despite their acknowledgement of widespread hunger, the Supreme Court did not seriously admonish the authorities for creating the causes of this hunger nor hold them responsible for its result, the untimely annual termination of hundreds of thousands of lives. This despite the fact that in Pakistan today, hunger and malnutrition kill vastly more people than the wars of terror. (more…)

Will China ‘wedge’ India and the US? June 5, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Gordon, Sandy, India, Pakistan , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

Commentators have generally assumed that the Obama Administration’s wrong-footedness over Modi’s US visa, along with the latter’s pragmatic approach to Chinese investment in Gujarat, signal a new tilt by the BJP away from the United States and toward China. Neville Maxwell, writing in the Times of India, urges India to seize the opportunity offered by Modi’s election to achieve a border breakthrough with China.

Writing in the Global Times, Liu Zongyi, of the Shanghai Institute of International Studies, has hailed Modi as ‘India’s Nixon’ and characterised his pragmatic approach to the conduct of business and foreign relations as ‘very close to Chinese practices’.

India would certainly favour a thaw in relations with China so it can get on with the urgent task of infrastructure development and economic uplift of its people, including with Chinese investment in the otherwise etiolated international investment climate. If we take a long-term view, however, we can discern a number of wildcards that may complicate relations between India and China.

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Can Nepal unlock its potential? May 25, 2014

Posted by ruthgamble in : Guest authors, Nepal , comments closed

Sujeev Shakya

In April 2006, when the second people’s movement, popularly known as ‘Jana Andolan II’, brought an end to 240 years of the Shah monarchy, there was little planning to ensure the country’s rapid political transformation.

The 10-year insurgency that had claimed over 13,000 lives came to an end with the United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (UCPN) joining mainstream democratic parties. Nepal was declared a federal democratic republic in May 2008 after elections to the Constituent Assembly, and the Shah dynasty came to an end in June when the last ruler, King Gyanendra, vacated the palace and his position without resistance.

The process of writing a constitution began after the election for the Constituent Assembly (CA). The drafting process was extended on three occasions, adding two years to the deadline to finalise the document, but the 601-member CA engaged mostly in intra- and inter-party fighting and failed to write a constitution. As a result, the assembly was dissolved on 28 May 2012. An interim government of retired bureaucrats led by the chief justice was formed in March 2013 to hold yet another election for the CA. (more…)

Hard times force Pakistan to privatise March 27, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Pakistan , comments closed

Sajjad Ashraf

On returning to power after 14 years in 2013 the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government led by Nawaz Sharif faced a bankrupt economy. While mostly caused by an abysmally low tax-to-GDP ratio, the public sector enterprises (PSEs) had also haemorrhaged US$25 billion over the previous five years. Sharif remains desperate for immediate IMF support to keep Pakistan afloat. A condition of the IMF’s US$6.7 billion bailout package is the privatisation of at least 65 PSEs in two tranches within two years. During Sharif’s two previous terms the government privatised 76 companies. He seems eager to begin the privatisation process from where he left off in 1999. But the task is enormous and full of challenges.

The majority of these PSEs are overstaffed and under heavy debt; they were created to accommodate retiring favourites and party loyalists. Only subsidies that drain national resources keep them afloat. Since any layoff is a politically charged subject it is not easy to restructure the PSEs before sale. Yet few investors will venture into buying moribund companies with conditions on staff retention.

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Can India discard populism? December 2, 2013

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , comments closed

Ashima Goyal

The Indian economy is suffering from the effects of the government’s high-risk development policy, which relied on volatile capital inflows from US quantitative easing to finance consumption and inclusion.

This strategy is high-risk because, in the long term, capital and investment follow growth, and aren’t determined by the monetary policy of a foreign country. But India has focused excessively on financing deficits and neglected growth-promoting domestic reforms — a strategy which is risky at best and disastrous when the global markets are fragile as they are now. Domestic and international reform to encourage economic growth is the sustainable way forward. Short-term measures to alleviate the current account deficit or reduce pressures on the rupee are all, at best, only stop-gaps.

But of course, in a democracy that is going into an election year, only politically friendly reforms are likely to be undertaken. So can politicians persuade their constituents to accept reform?

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Understanding India’s demographic transition November 27, 2013

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Jha, Raghbendra , comments closed

Raghbendra Jha

Rising incomes, increasing levels of education — particularly in women — and a variety of social factors contribute to determining the demographic profile of India’s youth and their role in India’s demographic transition.

India’s 2011 census revealed two key trends regarding India’s demographic transition. The first is that the total fertility rate has dropped from 2.9 in 2001 to 2.62 in 2011. And the second is that the gender balance has deteriorated in recent times, particularly among India’s youths. The number of girls per 1000 boys, for age groups 0–4, 5–9 and 0–6, fell from 939 to 891, 920 to 889, and 927 to 914 respectively.

The first trend is usually taken as an indicator of the demographic transition associated with rising per capita income. The second trend, however, may point to the growing widespread gender imbalance that is taking place in India. There is evidence to suggest that sex selection tests exist in India and follow-up abortions are more likely to be carried out if the fetus is found to be female. One study uses household-level data from India’s National Sample Survey (NSS) for 1993–94 and 2004–05 to identify characteristics that increase the chance of feticide, something that the Census data alone cannot identify. The study found, ironically enough, that women with higher levels of education, as well as women from wealthier households, are more likely to contribute to India’s gender imbalance. Only when the level of education and wealth combined reach a relatively high level does the gender imbalance start receding. This implies that over time there will be fewer women than men among India’s youth.

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