De-Lurking on the Net

February 13, 2016

Security Council Reforms: Chasing up a mirage of veto power ?

Filed under: India,World — Geekay @ 4:11 am
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

 

Over the years , the Veto power has become a status symbol. Not been able to have it has become a problem and given rise to frustration unnecessarily for certain countries. The G4 nations comprising BrazilGermanyIndia, and Japan are four countries which support each other’s bids for permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council. Unlike the G7, where the common denominator is the economy and long-term political motives, the G4’s primary aim is the permanent member seats on the Security Council.

G4Summit2015

Security council ‘s permanent membership provides veto power. The veto power enables all the countries not to bypass the voice of the veto powered country exercising its veto on any vote. When Veto powers were given after second world war,  UK, France and   China also got vetoes. Though Veto should have been  denied to  all these three as France had somehow re-emerged as an independent country post its capture in the war. Let alone be the big power in its own right. The argument to give veto power to UK was also marginal, specially, neither after war, it was left as a significant big power militarily, nor it was economically strong any more. Similarly, like France and UK, China also should not have been given any veto power  as it too was a dirt poor country and not militarily strong at all. The veto power given to China, in fact ended up going to Taiwan soon as the republic of China whom veto power was given got driven out from its own country. So, one wonders what justification was there to hand over Veto power to  a country who was inherently so week that  it could not manage its own fate. Mainland communist China got Veto in ’71 when Taiwan ‘s veto was handed over to it but by then Communist block had got divided . Perhaps, it would have been better if at the time of UN formation there should have been created only two veto wielding powers  – USA and Soviet Union rather than 5. It should have been called the group veto powers  – Capitalist block veto, Communist block veto as for all purposes the veto exercising history went according to the block’s desires .

But, as no body surrenders power once they have it, so even though the nation (UK and France) may no longer be the front runners either in military power or economy, but they  will still want to hold onto their permanent membership and Veto Power forever even if they become more and more integrated or subsumed into NATO or EU. Being part of these groups will make them irrelevant as it will not allow them any freedom to pursue their own independent line to exercise veto. They can  only toe a group line on any significant international issue. So, here again, it makes one wonder why veto power should only be given to states and not to the group when for all purposes the veto is exercised by states as per the group ‘s dictates.

Now, Russia and China are both power houses in military and economy respectively and they are no longer part of  one block. Though, back again now on most critical occasions either they act in unison or ignore the situation so they should continue to hold onto their individual veto power as they have not forged a military alliance. Even though both Germany and Japan are also economically very -2 important at present but as both are not free to pursue their own independent line, so giving them a  veto power will be a waste.

The other significant country is India which has been rising significantly. It stands at 7th position GDP wise in 2015 and 3rd on PPP basis as can be seen here in this chart –

GDP-PPP

It also is not having any military alliance and  for all purposes, it pursues independent foreign policy. So, it is far more deserving than other candidates. There are many negative things about security council permanent position. First of all, it brings extra responsibility to deal with more and more international issues as the issues are becoming day by day more of global nature needing global solutions. Since, India has great number of issues at home to deal with,  perhaps it should give up pursuing to seek Veto Power for now.

The Security Council membership will bring the need of providing for extra funding too to UN Budget. India contributes just 0.5% to say 10% by Japan and little over 5% by China. This is how the funding situation was in 2013 –

Member state Contribution
(% of UN budget)
 United States

22.000

 Japan

10.833

 Germany

7.141

 France

5.593

 United Kingdom

5.179

 China

5.148

But the most important issue will be if India who usually does not take any stand at all on any issue, will have to start taking a stand after getting the veto power. But taking a stand means preparing to ruin your relationships as independent middle line stand will not be possible any more. Perhaps,  India is besotted to covet the Veto power for enhancing its reputation as a significant power otherwise benefits are not there for chasing it.

Being a non-aligned group’s leading voice in cold war era, when its voice was equi-distant on all international issues in the beginning of non-aligned movement and gradually fully become part and parcel of a pseudo member voice of Communist block led by Soviet Union. So, it chose either not to criticise Soviet Union, or criticise much too late otherwise only privately. This happened  when Communists occupation went into Hungary, Czechoslovakia or Afghanistan. But, American, Britain/France interventions were criticised far more vocally as it happened in Cuba, other parts of Latin America or Suez Canal occupation etc. Though, India now has drawn closer to USA but it has not abandoned Russia entirely. It is closer to both Iran and Israel as well as Saudi Arabia. It is also close to Japan but chances of it voting against China in Security Council are remote as  China has become its biggest trading partner. So, what role a veto given to India will bring to UN. One can surmise it will bring nothing at all. When Russia is involved anywhere, India offers only a muted reaction as it did in Syria, Ukraine, Crimea or Georgia. It remained taciturn when Turkey downed Russian plane because India also have somewhat OK relations with Turkey, a NATO country. In Middle east, both Palestine and Israel are close to India, so for all purposes being too close will prevent it to take any stand on Palestine. It did not act closer home too when Sri Lanka was exterminating Tamils in its north. The  fear was of Sri Lanka falling into the hands of China and Pakistan. It did  not ask or support demand for UN probe initially into the killing of Tamils while UK and west asked  UN team to investigate. It did not upset the Myanmar too by criticising or intervening when it was clear the Buddhists with the support of Myanmar military were burning down the houses of Rohingya Muslims, killing them or putting them adrift in boats with some food. Again the fear was same of losing the Myanmar to China. Then Maldives exploded, its elected president is incarcerated and the new one has taken control. India tried to convey its support for the incarcerated president but Maldives simply chose to ignore India’s stand. Even though, China is so far out in pacific but India chose  not  to press Maldives too for the fear of China getting a toehold in Maldives, which any way China still managed to get. So, when India can not decide on foreign policy issues with either clarity or strong authority at closer home or in distant lands, what point is there to covet a veto power. However, Pakistan and China oppose India to have Veto Power as if India will go into Pakistan straight away after getting the Veto power to free Baluchistan’s trapped people. The fact is India should not get the veto power for its own sake as until it becomes economically significant and able to resolve its internal problems, it will not push its stand on any issue anywhere strongly outside India. To push your stand one will need a far significant economy, content citizens  and a big military might behind and not merely the veto power.  Moreover, by having veto power, the focus would quickly move to international diplomacy from internally focussed development of the country. So rather than rising fast, it will lose its focus of growing rapidly. There will surely come a time when India will be a Veto Power inevitably but that time is still years away, perhaps a decade or so.

June 19, 2015

Greece Induced Euro Meltdown reaching to its climax

Filed under: Currencies,Europe,Finance,World — Geekay @ 1:18 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,

The turmoil in Greece due to its inability of committing to austerity pledges as proposed by Brussels & IMF etc. makes one imagine of the day when this turmoil will end. It makes one compare the situation of the country with a company who becomes bankrupt. US companies, who owes others and unable to service their debts, gets protection under chapter 11 keeping its lenders etc from dissolving the company and meanwhile some more funds are arranged by the company from some others source to carry on running. Ford and Gen Motors came out stronger after this situation when it got rescue funds from US govt itself. Not every company is salvageable. So, willy-nilly one cannot fund any amount of loans to such a sinking company. Chapter 7 deals with protection to creditors when a company‘s assets are sold and given to creditors first before returning the rest to owner of company. Important issue is to identify in the sinking company if the salvage plan is any good. It usually rests on selling the currently produced items with the better design and better competitive price or sales with some incentives. Now, in the case of Greece, clearly Greek people want to pay the same pensions or other benefits as before. So the costs for the govt will stay the same and current account deficit will stay just the same. How can the solution lie in sticking to austerity without building some additional revenue generating capacity in Greece. So, if the Greece not only gets funds to service its loans but also additional money to build such a capacity then there may be a ray of hope. The productivity cost in Greece should now be comparable to the best in Europe. The ideas could be to produce new items in Export promotion Tax Free Zone areas. The richer countries should not only commit to buy from such zones but also help in setting it up in the first place. It means the richer countries basically shifting their own industries to Greece.

So, to rescue the EU currency project, not only other member countries have to commit to extend new loans to service the debts of Greece but also shift some of their industrial base out of their own country to Greece.  One cannot see that happening.  The Europe’s centre is pretty weak. The member countries have no desire to help those sinking members unrestrained. The centre has no ability to impose its own taxes and build reserves. Currently EU raises money from member countries’ VAT receipts(0.3%), its gross national income (usually around 0.7%) and export duties it collects on non-EU  products imported. So, if EU parliament cannot decide tomorrow to levy a new tax to build emergency rescue funds for countries in trouble and the individual country‘s largesse does not exist. So, why should Greece not be left to drift away. Of course, it will mean once untethered from Europe, it will seek saviours from where ever the cash pockets can be found in the world.  It could be in China, Russia, Gulf Countries etc.

It gives a lesson to those blocks or groups (like ASEAN, NAFTA, MERCOSUR, SAARC, BRICKS etc) who want to follow EU trading block example to build tighter integrated block. Any block should never attempt the currency union without building a strong centre. No matter how effective the intra trade within the block may be. For a currency union to succeed depends on giving up power from the member countries to raise the tax for the whole group. Merely imposing an austerity formula cannot keep the currency union safe. But if an austerity formula is devised, then countries should be allowed to join and leave at will. A mechanism should be built to entangle and disentangle. Perhaps, writing off debt to creditors after a forced ejection may mean losing the capacity to raise any money at all unless a saviour country outside EU can be found.

A picture of Greece debt (in billion Euros)

GreeceDebt

A wilderness for years like Argentina  following its second default in 2014 in last 14 years awaits Greece, if it doesn’t agree to those willing to bail it out on their terms. On the other hand, will EU risk Greece to move into the arms of unsavoury company of countries? An example of Zimbabwe could be followed where it has now adapted the stable global currencies in place of its own currency. After leaving Euro project, Greece will be free to default on its debt. It can still use Euro and does not have to stick to austerity plans imposed by IMF, Brussels. It can stabilise and build its reserves, economy gradually. Of course, being outside the EU project means it  will probably not able to trade with EU any more but perhaps EU may allow some trade on some conditions.

July 8, 2014

Making a Viable Afghanistan

Filed under: Democracy,Europe,India,Pak,USA,World — Geekay @ 6:51 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

To make Afghanistan viable, one has to compare it with the situation of Iraq as both have some similarities. In her interview recently, Hilary Clinton alluded to the reasons for Iraq hemorrhaging and falling apart. So, the new govt. of Afghanistan has to ensure from repeating the mistake of Iraq of alienation of its ethnic groups. Next, the task of sustaining Afghanistan will need elimination of dependence in most walks of nation’s life particularly as it is a landlocked country. The sustainability of any state depends on the economic activity and meeting defence needs.  India has already signed on being a security partner. Deal with the US should also happen after new Afghan president comes on board. So India has to ensure both these needs. Relationship of Afghanistan with Pakistan is a frayed one and the dependence on the only land route to sea via Pakistan has left Afghanistan vulnerable. So, just like it needs a formal deal with Pakistan, it needs to cut also a deal with Iran to allow transportation via its Chābahār port. So perhaps some sort of treaty is needed like Indus Water Treaty between India and Pakistan. It demarcated the division of Rivers after the emergence of both India and Pakistan. A fee for the use of their (Pakistan, Iran) resources like road or railway network need to be set up. Once, it gets formalised, the frictions will get minimised and there will be recourse to get to an international body like Indus Water Treaty, if a dispute were to arise.

(Source: Map Of the World )

For the economic activity, a country will need to have resources for agriculture like tools, fertilizers and electricity. For electricity, it will need generation, transmission equipment. For transport it will again need building roads, bridges besides the need of setting factories for auto parts or refineries for fuel. For building infrastructure setting up of steel mills will be required. For defence needs, the country will need not only ordinance factories but also the big equipment so that it can root out the Taliban etc. from making any part of their land as a base for themselves. So, defence will need re-strengthening or building new cantonment areas around the country, now that NATO is leaving those areas behind. There is a need to reassess the overall need of the locations of all the bases. Perhaps, as NATO may not even be covering certain areas. The armed forces as well as general public will also need lots of hospitals. The country need educational institutions. Perhaps, India can play a role in everything but it comes down to meeting the costs by Afghanistan. Virtually most important institutions India has like technical, management, planning, agriculture, hospital staff training or general educational institutes can start their chapters or branches in Afghanistan. Indian govt. can facilitate talks between its various bodies and the relevant parties in Afghanistan but those parties or institutes need to be formed. Some training is needed even for the bureaucracy in Afghanistan. Since in the short run there is bound to be more unemployment due to losses of jobs as NATO and US leave, India has to ensure these people get back into jobs at the earliest. They will not only be better experienced but if they get into the hands of Taliban, it will make the situation deteriorate pretty quickly. So, perhaps these resources should get the training in India to build various institutes or bodies in Afghanistan. They can then return to Afghanistan to start these bodies.

But how to build all this since there is no cash flowing into Afghanistan. In the short run, Afghanistan has to plead and seek commitment with donors like NATO, US and India, China, Russia and Iran. In the longer run, the mining activity has to start but that can only happen if transport deals with both Iran and Pakistan are in place. Afghanistan need capital not only to build factories etc. but also for building and sustaining the armed forces. One can think the private sector will come on board for 60-70% needs of economic activity like building required factories etc. But for building essential economic activity like infrastructure as roads, canals, electricity, hospitals, ordinance factories etc., the 30 to 40 % capital will be needed by the govt. So, the Afghanistan need to decide what it will need on year by year basis e.g. it needs to set up goals like 1 hospital in year 1 plus a refinery and an ordinance factory etc. This way, it can work out the capital required for these activities with the help of donors. Perhaps, Afghanistan can start getting some money if TAPI pipeline gets going. It can also build a target of 2 to 3 years before it start getting the mining revenue. It still has to move quickly on the transport deal with both Pakistan and Iran. Though a deal with Iran perhaps will need rehabilitation of Iran in international community and that is dependent perhaps on its resolution of Nuclear Issue. What is the new road block in that pursuit is not clear. The world needs a viable Afghanistan as much as Afghanistan itself needs it.

April 10, 2014

Is it possible to resist the allure of Space Research?

Today, I was reading how India’s  mission to Mars has reached half-way stage in its journey. I was happy to see the mission succeeding and reaching a milestone . This mission has a limited objective like searching methane in martian environment. It achieved one other objective that missions can be low cost and still succeed but I was wondering why humans are so obsessed with space while there is so much on earth remains  unexplored, unexploited and rather more necessary. 'Red' letter day: India's Mars mission crosses halfway mark

I guess the answer to this lies in number of observations –

1.  The sky above is always so visible and since it remains an unconquered territory so it ‘ll continue to pose a challenge until there is something left. On earth barring deep sea or deep earth, man has gone everywhere so there is nowhere it can go. So, humans can not easily build on the tales of Robert Scott. Edmund Hilary etc.

2. The science bodies have also lobbies within most govts and they(planetary science) get most funds allocated for their pet projects. Since the prestige and visibility of  space research remains foremost, they get most attention from govt who usually after haggling still allocates the biggest fund to space research see this report .

3. The other research projects are fragmented and too numerous and since not having a  big enough voice on one or two prestige projects, so they can not compete with the space research budget.

4. The interlinking of many countries on space projects also mean that certain degree of space spending is guaranteed  but the plethora of other science projects are usually competing with each other rather than cooperating . Of course there are exception on nuclear research ( Nuclear Fusion reactors) and fundamental science projects like “Hadron Collider” in France, Switzerland etc.

But this spending on only one  area of research does not have to be. There are plentiful  impossible challenging missions on planet earth itself e.g. sending a sub or human in a sub into the deep see to mine the expensive minerals. China control the rare earth elements. The world needs more sources for the same than just relying on one country. Can there be minerals picked up from deep sea which can be converted into  rare earth elements. Chinese were given the license for  deep sea mining last year by  International Seabed Authority. The number of licences issued to prospect for minerals now stands at 17 with another seven due to be granted and more are likely to follow. They cover vast areas of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans.Similarly there can be plentiful opportunity to invest money in unusual projects like underwater cities or using plantation ( phytoplankton) for health and food, algae that  can be converted into crude oil or  bio-fuel, Ocean thermal power plants or basing  storage power plant at the sea bed  itself. Perhaps, a project can be started  in claiming the land near the coast by shifting sand from desert, boulders from mountains etc. Japan, Dubai etc has already done this but as there are low lying lands across the world are plentiful and  such land has remained unprotected from not only the rising sea water  but also any occasional typhoon, cyclone or Tsunami . It has plentiful sea and not much on land warehousing space built . Perhaps everything from food grain to chemicals can be stored in the sea or even the the marine food (like fishes caught) etc can also be kept in deep sea . Whenever needed they can be lifted etc. Due to less sea temperature, it will be possible to exploit not only temperature but plentiful space in sea. What I wonder however is this – since all countries need employment generation.

No global leader has a clue about employment generation. They do not talk about employment generation through funding of new science projects or new technology or like the projects mentioned above.  Space programs may seem necessary but I guess far more necessary is employment opportunities for billions across the world. India itself need 12 million new jobs every year just to stand still. Somebody discusses it here in his blog. Leaders still do not believe in any exceptional funding on science or new technologies to generate new jobs. Without this, the employment generation can  just grow marginally with each economic cycle from recession to growth . There is tendencies  in countries of stealing the jobs from one other by a new round of protectionism . This parochialism can be most seen at election time. President Obama wanted to stop the jobs outflow from US to other countries in software or manufacturing and was promising to bring  jobs back from the other countries. This is nothing but  protectionism  which is antithesis of globalism and if the world is returning to age gone by when protectionism was rife then it will not be doing itself any favour.

February 16, 2013

Af-Pak Region after Nato departure

Filed under: China,India,Pak,USA,World — Geekay @ 7:21 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

As US is beginning to leave in 2014 after 13 years, many in Pak started to rejoice as its army felt it could now freely flex its muscles back in Afghanistan and subsequently in Kashmir. But it is beginning to dawn on the main political parties and intellectuals that the Pak itself is beginning to slip through their fingers. This editorial and the article “The shadow over Pakistan” gives away the anxiety felt by intelligentsia. It is clear now that they have to somehow talk peace with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) without asking for any pre conditions for talks like laying down weapons etc. So, Taliban will emerge from any talks stronger. How things shape up after Pak compromises with Taliban will be anybody’s guess as another major actor in this area is Pak Army who has not abandoned anything of the past. It continues to support Afghan Taliban and help other fundamentalist groups within Pakistan. No body is reporting any more of militant training camps, IED factories running within Pakistan to help Taliban dislodge NATO from Afghanistan but there is no reason to stop such an activity now if these were operating before. Even if the violence escalates within Pakistan, the chances of army and political establishment are far more further and further to compromise with these groups than to wage war on them. Without the US funds in Af-Pak, the drones, the holding off Taliban in Afghanistan by NATO there is simply no chance of averting Taliban dominance very much longer after US departure. Should India rue that other countries like Russia, Iran can not do anything to stop this. Both of these as well as China want a stable Afghanistan and not the one infested with Islamist training camps. But other than China, the others do not have big enough economic muscle. China also has an economic interest there just like India. In fact Indian and Chinese interests in Afghanistan are very much in sync to keep Afghanistan away from Islamic turbulence and stable enough for carrying out the economic activity. Iran can also play a big role in stopping Taliban from becoming unstoppable. Since all these three countries (Iran, Russia, China) have same interests in Afghanistan, they should convene a meeting with Afghanistan as to how to help it after NATO departure. Perhaps, India or any of these countries can take initiative for such a meeting. Although, it is in Pakistan’s interest as well not to help Taliban but Pak Army will not undo what it has been doing since 1979’s at the beginning of 9 years Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. US perhaps should do a speedy deal with Iran on the Nuclear concerns bringing that country out from cold. This can help India and Iran relations. These relations could be crucial for the health of Afghanistan as India or anyone else will be able to use Chābahār port of Iran for Afghanistan trade. Perhaps, a railway line can also be laid to connect Chābahār with Zaranj upto where India built a road but which still remains unconnected with the nearby road across the border in Iran due to Taliban control over that area.

India and Pak history of wars have always brought a stalemate because all those victorious PMs from India have shown magnanimity to sign accords with Pak and return the won territories for the sake of peace. But peace has not arrived because all these accords have strengthened Pak Army and not its civilian democracy. Current Pakistan media has twin worries on reporting any incident within Pak that they will have to face the wrath of Army as well as militant gangs supported by Mullahs. So, when the Pakistan troubles will escalate no body will come to know about them. Pak Army’s big role will continue to haunt this whole Af-Pak region and India at least   .

February 6, 2013

The GDP Growth, Inequality in China and India and trusting any Statistical Data

Sometime back, I was looking at the data on equality. Since, I was mainly interested in the subcontinent plus China etc. So, I compiled this data.

Country                Gini Coefficient (%)                             Year

China                            47.0                                                  2007

India                            33.4                                                   2005

Pakistan                      30.0                                                  2008

Sri Lanka                    40.3                                                  2007

This data is based on World Bank sources as reported in Wikipedia. Here, point to remember is that all the countries aspire for the lower Gini coefficient as that means there are less unequal citizens . Therefore, it is also a measure of the stability of the political system of any country as it  indicates less room for strife (crime, protests etc) by  unequal citizens of a country.

Looking at this data, I noticed that India is better in terms of equality than China but perhaps, it is worse than Pakistan. I tried to reason why. I thought perhaps, Muslim organisations are more charitable (Islamic Zakaat concept) and even if the people are poorer there they are redistributing the wealth in such a way that people are not feeling the poverty as much as they are in India or may be even in China. Pakistan data is even more enigmatic given the worst level of corruption and instability it has in comparison to India and China. But then after coming across this report recently from US govt on China, I felt differently. It says this about the data that comes from China and trusted by all.

NBS surveys continue to provide inadequate samples of important sectors of China’s economy. Small-scale businesses in manufacturing and retail are hard to capture, while sectors like transport logistics are almost completely unaccounted for. Although the NBS measures 94 sectors of the economy on an annual basis, it does so for just 17 sectors on a quarterly basis.

Surveys also fail to capture “opaque spots” in the economy. One of the most egregious is household income. In the United States, tax returns provide a proximate indication of household income. Indeed, personal income tax accounts for about 40 percent of U.S. government tax revenue. But in China, the personal income tax in 2011 makes up just six percent of revenue. A big reason for this is that even the wealthiest Chinese households are taxed directly on their wages, but not on their non-wage income, such as real estate, stocks, bonuses, and personal gifts. Households must actively report such income – but many understate their income in tax returns, or refuse to participate in sample household surveys. In this way, they can evade taxes and also avoid the political implications of having excessive wealth in a nominally socialist state. Chinese economist Wang Xiaolu has determined that national spending on real estate, luxury goods, and travel in China implies much higher income among the top 10 percent of earners than is given in official income data.

In January 2012, the NBS in fact admitted that it does not publish the Gini coefficient –a leading measure of income inequality – because data on high earners is inaccurate. It is also notable that, in an economy with a large state sector, government officials have only recently begun to disclose their own salaries and wealth to the public, and none are under any legal obligation to do so. Opacity extends to other sectors as well. Many state-owned enterprises remain secretive about their income statements, especially if they are not publicly listed. New types of large corporate entities, such as fund management companies and real estate arms of conglomerates, often go unaccounted for in both the direct reporting and enterprise survey systems. In local governments, “off-balance sheet” budgets can also skew fiscal revenue and expenditure.

Opaque Areas of the Economy

The Outdated System of Direct Reporting Enterprise revenue determines which firms are eligible for China’s direct reporting system. As China’s economy grows, so does the number of firms with sizable revenue, which combines to overwhelm the data processing capacity of the NBS. The NBS has tried to reduce the number of firms by continually raising the revenue threshold for direct reporting. When this reform began in 1998, the number of direct reporting firms was decreased from 460,000 to 165,000. However, by 2009, 434,000 firms were again reporting. As of 2011, only firms with annual revenue exceeding RMB 20 million report to the NBS, a measure that has again reduced the number of reporting units.


This data unreliability from China has big similarity to under reporting of data in Indian economic system The Indian economy has a parallel black economy which remains unaccounted for.  I had a chance to meet someone on my last trip to India. He is not only an industrialist but also sells his finished goods from his retail outlet besides distributing it across the country. This person does not use banks most of the times for his business transactions. He uses cash and prefers it over any debit or credit cards. He chose not to have any. It helps him to remain anonymous or untraceable for any tax liabilities. It was incredulous to hear that all his capital (turnover) remains fully invested in the market all the time either in raw material or lent to the buyers who will repay it at different dates all in cash . As his business grows, the extra generated capital also gets absorbed into the same business hands.  When a big spending need arrived for him, he merely clears some lent positions and invests it or spends it on the required need e.g. to buy land or spend on something like children’s expensive (no hold bar) marriage. He also gave me another insight how they have never paid full excise duty. Excise can indicate the produced goods or turnover of the firm. He said, “Usually, they fill just one excise form for the whole day and every time the transport  carries the goods from manufacturing unit, it goes with the same excise form. The form did not register any loading time or departure time of the goods vehicle . So, this way they could report whatever turnover they are comfortable to pay tax on. Since, they never bank the business money and only do it when some customer is making a payment via bank draft or cheque.  The whole of the business community in the capital region of India employs this same method. Of course the problem just does not lie with business community alone. The officials(bureaucrats) who are prepared to accept either bribes, donations for their respective parties or some gifts and favours on various occasions are hand-in-glove. The problem of under reporting by business is considered so much high as to 50 to 60 percent of real data. But this remains a guess in the absence of unreliable official data.

This indicates that India as well as China are growing at far larger rates than they report. They hardly know themselves the correct figures. This national data is from the trading economics Website.

The unreliability of income data makes the estimate of inequality even more difficult to judge. The official Gini
coefficient, the measure of inequality around the world can never be worked out in reliable manner as in corrupt countries (most of the world is) the estimate of income of top earners as well as that of poor can never be done reliably. Just like rich, the poor also does not want to give their real income so as to seek bigger handouts from govt or charities. But, I still relied on Indian data far more because first of all India is reporting far more indices than China does and there is also a possibility of cross checking of its data . Also it has so many NGO and some world bodies like UNESCO, ILO operating in India. Its democratic system and open, free press certainly should cause less data manipulation. I saw my this view-point resonated in this Bloomberg report which wanted to bet on India for investment and growth more than it does on China but no matter how much India may be a better bet in terms of growth, I certainly have been very naive to trust any data quality on equality or the GDP. Let that be  from India, China or elsewhere.

December 12, 2012

Which one is the best government in the world? The winner is Canada !!

I wanted to seek reasons why the democracies are wobbling in reaching maturity. Of course the reasons are not far from comprehension – it is due to inability to develop mature institutions. Any successful democracy needs lots of institutions which are independent and beyond corruption. It needs independent media, independent judiciary, a fully working corruption free legislature who can raise the questions of probity without compromises and legislate the right laws and finally the executive who can oversee the implementation of those laws. Of course, one would also need independent election commission, a strong corruption free military and police for a working and mature democracy . I would like to rank democracies based upon these measures as to how much mature the democracy is. Since, China and other single party state also have to be accommodated in this maturity index. Let us call it govt maturity index rather than democracy maturity index. So, for this I have used stats from ‘Transparency International‘. I have used their stats on the measures like human resource development, judicial independence, press freedom, voice and accountability based on country wide data to discuss governance maturity. I have ignored corruption here as people tend to use this as a single parameter to discuss governance. In my view, there is no single consolidated governance parameter justifying why any country is getting better governance than another and how any country is travelling towards a better governance. But the world definitely need one govt maturity index. There is of course the table printed on which is the best country to live in but it has more to do with issues like standard of living, health, infrastructure etc. Here, I have picked up those countries I was interested in to compare them – the Source is Transparency International

Country Judicial Independence

(score out of Max 7)

Rule of Law Press Freedom

(High means bad)

Voice and Accountability
UK 6.2 1.769596058 2.00 1.312851012
France 4.9 1.524405497 9.50 1.225976029
Japan 5.8 1.31377106 -1.00 1.047643331
Germany 6.3 1.627934067 -3.00 1.345103086
USA 4.9 1.584584729 14.00 1.16180876
Canada 6.3 1.789068657 -5.67 1.379444766
Australia 6.1 1.770200087 4.00 1.428903554
China 3.9 -0.346839923 136.00 -1.649501221
India 4.3 0.057769364 58.00 0.42402758
Pakistan 3.9 -0.785570665 75.00 -0.81606361

Clear winner here is Canada. It has the best measure in all commonwealth countries even better than the mother country UK. The only measure Australia is better than the Canada is on “Voice and Accountability”. Comparing USA with Canada makes you wonder why USA is not as good – is it because the number of people it has in comparison to Canada? If that reason was plausible then it could justify why India is so low down as it has even more people. I consider that it has more to do with the will to change. Comparing India, Pakistan and China makes one wonder about the China’s real achievement. Other than the wealth creation, it virtually falters on everything else. How its citizens must feel one can only empathise. In Europe, it is not the UK who holds the flag of having best govt – but it is Germany. The only measure on which UK leave Germany behind is the “Rule of Law”. And of course, the Asia has also a first world govt in one country at least – it is in Japan.

August 16, 2012

Organ Shortages Around the World And Unresponsive Governments

While the Syria Crisis is on and there are unavoidable deaths taking place not just in Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other places, does the mind not wander if these deaths can bring someone else to life? Definitely it does. Most govts. around the world however considers that organ donations should only come from altruism or someone’s own will. What if some one never had a time to reflect and convey the will to donate when the death came. Such a time could be when a suicide bomber brings the death to innocents. When I think, that Ajmal Kasab, the only captured terrorist of Mumbai mayhem in Nov 2008, has got no right to live, would it not be nice if after his death, his organs could be used to give life to others. After all he killed so many. But would anyone accept his organs? I personally would not mind to have his. World Medical Association thinks no prisoner can give a real consent for organ donation so it is unethical to use any prisoner’s organs. But when a condemned prisoner has died following a death sentence, why those organs of that person be wasted and not be used for someone needing them?

(Illustration courtesy: Deccan Chronicle newspaper of southern India)

An article appeared few days back in Guardian paper from UK body worth more than alive“. The article author wanted to sell all her organs and everything else but no body was interested even though she got the prospective prices for body parts as selling or trading of organs is outlawed. Perhaps, she was just testing the waters for writing an article. If, she had discovered some underground organ trade in UK, there would have been alarm in media and it would have become a big news.

In China, few days ago, a nationwide trafficking ring of organ traders was busted that included doctors . On Pakistan TV (PTV) recently, I saw a reporter doing a live sting operation and talking to a doctor(specialist in transplants) pretending to need a liver and kidney. The doctor readily agreed to arrange it for certain amount of money and was willing to meet the reporter next day. In India, last week a prominent politician died needing liver because the family of dead donor suddenly reversed the decision to donate. There was a big illegal organ trading in India in the past and it is quite likely that it must be even now. People were getting kidnapped from roadside and when waking up they were discovering they had lost their kidney. This illegal organ trade in India, China was bringing medical tourists until recently, perhaps it still does.

There is an acute shortage of organs world wide. When new treatments are evolving all the time, it seems incredible that countries are not moving fast enough to make more organs available. Every year, 1,50,000 Indians need either transplantation or dialysis Just 3,500-4 ,000 kidney transplants are performed annually in India. In UK, about 1,000 people die each year because they do not get a transplant, according to NHSBT, its nationwide transplant donor organisation. To reform the organ donation system, NHS is running a survey. After the survey, it will try to emulate Israel where they give priority to those who are already on the donors list themselves. They will also try to introduce opt out system (presumed consent) of organ donation like 17 other European countries in particular Belgium and France. US and UK currently practice opt-in system like India does. But at least there is a nationwide donor database in US and UK unlike in both India and China.

                                                                                                                                                                                 In India, Transplantation of Human Organs Act was passed in 1994 and rules were made in 1995. These rules have been recently amended in 2008. The main purpose of the act was to regulate transplants and promote deceased (cadaver) donor organ transplant. Still the bureaucratic nightmare one has to face is very frustrating. Even those who want to donate can not do so easily.    Of
course, if the donors are next of kin and from the same state then perhaps donation can be accepted without too much paper work but otherwise get NOC from respective state authorities. In accidental deaths, police has to give no-objection certificate after autopsy and dead bodies have to be sent to transplant registered hospitals. The doctors are not allowed to visit for organ harvesting . Often it is too late when the organs are collected. Organ donation does not need big funds to operate. There is a good trend setter NGO, MOHAN based in southern Indian state, Tamil Nadu, which is becoming a model for other states to follow. But it can not be a state issue. The govt. of India need to make national donor register and transplant co-ordination body and remove all bureaucratic hurdles. I wonder if it is general apathy or inaction present in all Indian policy making . It is regrettable when we know one person ‘s donation can benefit 25 others.

There is a time window for organ collection.

Hearts/Lungs

4-6 Hours

Liver/Pancreas/intestines

12-18 Hours

Kidney

36+ Hours

During all this time, if the donor and recipients have to run from pillar to post than death is the only outcome even if one is rich or powerful person.

In US, the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network Network (OPTN) was created by the Organ Transplant Act of 1984 by United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS). Even though, it has best records for cadaver collection for opt-in countries. The rules state that all hospitals should report any death to local organ procurement organisation (OPO) which then discusses the issue of donation with the prospective donor’s family. However, the availability is uneven across all of US. In Spain, which has got even better record than US, there are dedicated referral units attached to every hospital.

In China in 2007, its Chinese Deputy Minister of Health Huang Jiefu admitted that there were 95% organs used for transplant came from executed prisoners. After a media and worldwide scrutiny, they agreed to restrict this from donors to their immediate relatives. The world Medical Association thinks it is unethical to take organs from prisoners because they can not consent organ donation of their own free will. It is said that selling violate human dignity,  eliminates the measure of true charity for making such a donation and promotes a market system which helps those who can pay. A French pharmaceutical company buys placentas from Canadian hospitals to manufacture vaccines and other blood products . In US, sometime back a family resorted to conceive and abort pregnancy in order to get tissue for their suffering child. This may be the state of things to come but should such a family be condemned or helped? Why should such universal organ shortages be there?

Not all people are born equal. Some  minds only comes once in centuries. It may be anathema for socialists and liberals to accept it, but I believe, there is a need when the human race may want to save its best people. Suppose, Einstein needed an organ tomorrow and he is the last person on the waiting list and dies. Will it not be our incompetence then not to be able to save him? I suppose not only there should be national organ banks like countries have blood banks but also these all organ banks should be linked across the world. There should be an international body like Red Cross for collecting and donating both blood and organs. Like Red Cross, it should be allowed to work even in war torn areas and exempted from attack from all sides. There simply can not remain only two sources for organ transplant– live donors and deceased ones who have already given consent. No dead bodies should be wasted – let that be of a prisoner, attack, accident victim or one due to natural death. So, opt-out or presumed consent for all countries is a must.

No religion condemns organ donation. There is nothing better than after the death of a person if part of him or her can still live. For a burial or cremation, there is no use to save an organ. So, why would anybody mind to donate is beyond me. I have several friends who all have got diabetes which is one of the main disease that may cause organ failure. So, I dread about them. In 1995, my father died. I did not know at the time, being a doctor, he had desired to donate all his organs. Because there was no national donor register in India, so no body brought this up. It was my brother, who only knew about his desire but forgot in the grief of his sudden death. We all regretted it greatly afterwards for not being able to carry out his wish.

July 19, 2012

Indian Migration Around The World – Unmitigated Joys And Sorrows In Equal Measure

Usually, there should be no surprise as there are two major countries China and India with the biggest population and no matter how much progress these two countries have made, their citizens are always craving to leave their motherland. Both countries not only compete in terms of growth but also in terms of migration to the western world. Indians have the advantage because of English and having good understanding of democratic norms of governance that allows dissent. It helps them settle, integrate and grow better in a foreign land. So, it is not a surprise that they are most prosperous ethnic group in US. But they are usually the cream or the most talented bunch of India. Indians provide the third biggest migration to US after Mexico and China. This was the data in 2010

Country

2010

Mexico 139,120
China 70,863
India 69,162

Interestingly, the Australia has just published their data too saying that Australia took more permanent migrants from India than any other country for the first time in the year to June, 2012. India was the largest source of permanent migrants in 2011/12 with 29,018 places, or almost 16 per cent of the total. China was the second most fertile source with 25,509. “Skilled migration is essential to support our economy and help overcome the challenges of an ageing population,” said Australian Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen.

Some migration will always take place as there can never be an equitable world. There will always be poorer areas and rich areas. Some areas will have more opportunities and therefore, more potential to individual growth than others. Not all migration ends on happier note. There was a news – An Indian’s suicide in a Bahrain park highlights workers’ nightmare“. The agencies who recruit usually are the first to exploit the emigrant. After landing the employer does the same, so the only escape route is that of the suicide as one can’t escape a continuous exploitation or modern day slavery and return home. By now, everyone realises that Indian govt. wants to ship the human capital as much as that can be absorbed by another country. India clearly can not absorb the number of engineers and other graduates itself  that it produces annually by providing them meaningful employment without frustration. It is not creating such jobs in equal number. So, whether it is right or wrong, why should govt. policy bother to stop that migraion. After all, there are plenty of benefits of migration. It generates FDI inflow to India, reduces the need to generate employment for these people back home. Moreover, the other country becomes more Indianised. Also, the migration to the west in particular of highly educated, skilled persons brings another benefit. It creates the absence of those people who may prove restless and critical of govt. functioning by not bringing changes fast enough. It is like quietening the voices without an active action on the part of the govt. but akin to the outcome Pol Pot of Kampuchea sought by actively eliminating intelligentsia. Besides this, migration results in yet another outcome. The Indian immigrants as they all are getting absorbed by west, so they are inculcating the western values affecting the govt. policies in both west and India itself. There is a big Indian voice now in US. So, the inter-government harmony is taking root. So, no matter how many socialist or left leaning parties, politicians and media outlets may be present in India, the Indian govt. policy will start leaning more and more towards the capitalism and the west.

Migration brings both joy and cringe in equal measure. If a migrant wins a coveted award like ‘Noble Prize’ or recognition, people feel puffed up at home and feel helpless when someone gets caught doing something un-mentionable like terrorism, fraud, crime etc. Migration causes some headaches too for both countries when one country wants to act according to its own laws but the other country wants to intervene. This was the case when Germany sought pardon in 1992 for two twins brothers ‘Walter’ and ‘Karl’ ‘LaGrand’ for murdering a couple in 1984. Germany remained unsuccessful in spite of Vienna convention ruling and Arizona went ahead with death penalty. In some situation, the migration become even bigger headache as was the case in second world war when the Japanese Americans living in US were taken away after ‘Pearl Harbour’ and kept in relocation camps away from their homes from January 42 until Dec 1944. They were suddenly considered aliens.

Migration was slated as brain-drain in ’70s India and was looked down upon by the then govt . of India. It will be silly to stop the migration to the west by any Indian govt. regulatory moves as it is a free democratic country. The west already puts the visa restrictions. But, should India be actively seeking to overcome those restrictions? If someone looks at the longing for the home and uneasiness that lingers on during the whole life time of an uprooted person, settled in a foreign soil, one may a have different view. India may recall that even after centuries of adaption abroad e.g. the Indians in west-indies, Surinam, Fiji , that feeling of belonging to Indian roots never went away. India has certainly not been able to help all those settled abroad or going to settle.  It will need ever growing funds to help people in trouble. So should there not be a neutral policy on migration – neither encouraging nor discouraging?

Sir Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, 2009 Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry

It is quite clear that world is becoming more homogenised due to migration but there is personal as well as national pain with every joy or benefit that each migration brings. My own migration to the west has brought me both – pain and the joy. I clearly decried every struggle back home when I was growing up and even working. The only solution and dream was to escape from that struggle to a foreign land. I never wanted to go back home because I was clearly enjoying the life abroad. But, the realisation of my folly of short-term gain dawned on me recently after the death of my mother and younger brother in less than a month when it was too late to be able to help them in more meaningful way. Gazing through their funeral pyres reminded me that my sin was not to consider that my original home was still the home, I should had been looking after. There, I was needed not only by my family but also by that country itself, I had left behind and that I had yearned to escape from. The yearnings for both, family and country linger very deep even today after roughly quarter of a century of creating a home abroad.

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: