Economic Survey 2010-2011: Full of Contradictions
The Brigade Parade Ground in Kolkata was full to the brim on February 13, 2011...more slideshows »
With domestic inflationary trend remaining unchecked there is hardly any possibility of economic relief to common people. Pointing to International Monetary Fund projections of continued pressure on commodity and non-commodity prices, the latest economic survey of the Government of India observes that "this year, inflation seems to be driven by demand factors, despite higher supply levels" This is in contrast to the fact that during the last fiscal year, inflation was mostly driven by a deficient mansoon, leading to scarcity of certain food products.
The survey tabled by the Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee for 2010-11 during the current budget session of Parliament reflects contradictory observations. While it warns the spiraling crisis in West Asia and rising global commodity prices could increase the inflationary pressures at home the survey expresses hope that the government expects inflation to moderate to around 5 per cent by June-July. However, it declines to disclose policy measures required to combat the rising pressures of global commodity prices. The commodity prices are sure to jump as the West Asian turmoil has already taken global oil prices to a two-year high of over 100 US dollar per barrel.
The inflationary pressures on the domestic front, according to the survey, are likely to be exacerbated by the higher levels of global commodity prices. "The political turmoil in West Asia and the 'easy money' policy being followed by developed nations will have a bearing on headline inflation.
As regard oil prices are concerned the survey report presented by the Finance Minister says the Indian economy is resilent to deal the rising crude oil prices that surged to a 30-month high. However, a further hike of 2.50 a litre petrol is needed to level them with global rates.
The survey has hinted that despite increase of milk production in the country it cannot meet the demand requiring import.
On the agricultural front, while the survey calls for higher level of investment, creating infrastructure for transport and storage and distribution, it says that increasing production and productivity is a requisite for maintaining high growth. "In order to achieve the Plan target of average 4 per cent per year, the agriculture sector needs to grow at 8.5 per cent during 2011-2012." it adds.
While food inflation has been discomfortingly high bringing untold miseries to those living in the margins, the survey's advocacy of "quicker method to curtail the margin between farm gate and retail prices is to bring in modern supply chain management system and retail sellers into the picture would raise concern from small traders and vendors as they are unsure of their space.
Railway Budget-Only A Wish List To Serve Political Agenda
New Delhi, February 25: This year's Railway Budget is clearly a wish-list presented by the Railway Minister of UPA-II Government. This is specifically so, for the new projects and industries announced by the Minister. All these are there without any funds or time frame.
Various announcements made earlier have not been implemented and nearly 114 pending projects have been bundled together as Pradhan Mantri's Rail Vikas Yojana, to be undertaken by the next five year plan. This being the situation, the new announcements have been made and it is clear that there have not been any follow-up on earlier announcements nor can we expect positive action on the new announcements.
Various new trains have been introduced without enough engines and coaches and also there are not enough tracks for all these. As regards the vacancies in Indian Railways, manpower has come down from 13.94 lakhs as on 31.03.2008 to 13,61,519 within the last two years, as per the Annual Report of Indian Railways presented along with the budget. CITU strongly opposes the "Liberalised Active Retirement Scheme" announced by the Railway Minister.
Indian Railways have become virtually bankrupt as is clear form the details presented to the Parliament. Railway Minister is paving the way for privatization of railways through her overdependence on PPP model for resource mobilization. This is the result of this prime sector being utilized only for a political agenda without a proper administrative policy and directions for ensuring viability, costing very dearly to the country
The Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has issued the following statement:
The CPI (M) considers the Railway Budget presented in parliament today as a fraudulent exercise aimed at window dressing the pathetic state of Railway finances and announcing sundry projects, which will never take off the ground. The Railways is actually facing a financial crisis. There is no increase in freight earnings this year despite the GDP growing at over 8%. The safety record is abysmal with a spate of accidents leading to deaths of over two hundred people in the past one year. Passenger amenities like food and cleanliness have deteriorated sharply, with punctuality hitting a new low.
The operating ratio of 92.1 mentioned in the Budget for 2010-11 is not a credible estimate and conceals the much higher actual operating ratio. This has been done by playing with the figures. The freight loading target this year had to be lowered by the Railway Ministry by 20 million tons (as admitted by the Railway Minister in her speech), which exposes the inefficiency of Railway operations. Despite this, the freight earnings have been retained at the same level of last year in the Budget. This results in a higher level of traffic receipts than what will actually accrue. Moreover, dividend liability committed for the year 2010-11 fell short by Rs. 1700 crore. All this has been done to artificially inflate the operating ratio, raising questions about the credibility of the entire accounting process.
The Budget claims an increase in the annual Plan Outlay to Rs. 57630 crore in 2011-12 from Rs. 40314.93 spent in 2010-11. It is noteworthy, that bulk of this is to be financed through increased funds from the union budget (Gross Budgetary Support) totaling Rs. 20000 crore (up from Rs. 15800 crore last year) and market borrowings of Rs. 20500 crore by the IRFC (up from Rs. 10100 crore last year). On the other hand, investment from Railways internal resources are budgeted to go down by Rs. 300 crore compared to last year. This clearly shows that Railways own resources are going to deteriorate further even as it draws more resources from the general budget and increase its indebtedness, ruining its financial health further in the long-term.
The Railway Budget of 2010 had announced numerous projects, from world class stations, to railway coach and loco factories, wagon and axle units, power plants, auto hubs, sports complexes, hospitals and so on. It is clear from Budget 2011, that these announcements were mere gimmicks which have either been recycled this year or conveniently forgotten. Announcements of projects without any specific plan outlay or time schedule amounts to a farce. Railway Budget 2011 is replete with such farcical announcements at the cost of the credibility of an institution like the Indian Railways. The 6 high speed passenger corridors announced in 2010 Budget and forgotten this year is a prime example.
The cavalier manner in which the Railway Minister has claimed an improved performance in railway safety through statistical jugglery, despite the death of 216 persons in railway accidents over the past one year, reflects her lack of concern for the lives of ordinary people. Her promise to install anti-collision devices (ACDs) in three railway zones in 2009 Budget is yet to be realised. And yet she has promised to extend the ACDs to another 4 railway zones. There is no mention of the Train Protection Warning System (TPWS) in this Budget, whose implementation was promised last year!
Rather than explaining her inaction in the filling of 1.75 lakh Group C and D posts in railways and 13000 posts in RPF, which have been lying vacant for the past many years, the Railway minister has made another empty promise. In fact, total employee strength of the Indian Railways has come down by 24600 from March 2009 to March 2010, totaling 1361519 as per the Indian Railways Annual report 2009-10 (not 14 lakhs as repeatedly claimed by the Railway Minister).
It is clear that under the stewardship of the Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, Indian Railways is on a ruinous path. Is the Prime Minister allowing this to happen due to "compulsions of coalition politics"?
New Delhi, Feb 27: The process of formation of the JPC for probing the 2G spectrum allocation scam will be completed on Tuesday when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh moves a motion in the Rajya Sabha, which is expected to approve...
The Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has issued the following statement: The CPI (M) considers the Railway Budget presented in parliament today as a fraudulent exercise aimed at window dressing the...
New Delhi, February 25: This year's Railway Budget is clearly a wish-list presented by the Railway Minister of UPA-II Government. This is specifically so, for the new projects and industries announced by the Minister. All...
Observing that Indian agriculture is at a "crossroads", the Economic Survey on Friday called for a Second Green Revolution with newer technological breakthroughs and higher investment in the sector, even while projecting 5.4...
New Delhi, Feb 24 : A Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe the 2G spectrum allocation issue, being dubbed by the opposition as the biggest scam in independent India, was set up today amid charges and countercharges between...
I assure the House there is nothing we will not do to clean our public life, says PM.
Unfortunate developments have taken place in the areas of telecom and CWG, says PM.
U.N. Council slaps sanctions on Libya's Qadhafi
The United Nations Security Council moved on Saturday to halt Libyan leader Moammar Qadhafi's deadly crackdown on protesters, slapping sanctions on him, his five children and 10 top associates.
Voting unanimously after daylong discussions interrupted with breaks to consult with capitals back home, the council imposed an asset freeze on Mr. Qadhafi, his four sons and one daughter and a travel ban on the whole family along with 10 other close associates. The council also backed an arms embargo.
Council members also agreed 15-0 to refer the Mr. Qadhafi regime's deadly crackdown on people protesting his rule to a permanent war crimes tribunal for an investigation of possible crimes against humanity.
The council said its actions were aimed at "deploring the gross and systematic violation of human rights, including the repression of peaceful demonstrators." And members expressed concern about civilian deaths, "rejecting unequivocally the incitement to hostility and violence against the civilian population made from the highest level of the Libyan government."
The uprising that began Feb. 15 has swept over nearly the entire eastern half of the country, breaking cities there out of his regime's hold. Mr. Qadhafi and his backers continue to hold the capital Tripoli and have threatened to put down protests aggressively.
There have been reports that Qadhafi's government forces have been firing indiscriminately on peaceful protesters and that as many as 1,000 people have died.
The day was consumed mainly with haggling behind closed doors over language that would refer Libya's violent crackdown on protesters to the International Criminal Court, or ICC, at the Hague.
All 15 nations on the council ultimately approved referring the case to the permanent war crimes tribunal.
Council members did not consider imposing a no-fly zone over Libya, and no U.N.-sanctioned military action was planned. NATO also has ruled out any intervention in Libya.
The Libyan mission to the U.N., run by diplomats who have renounced Mr. Qadhafi, told the council in a letter that it supported measures "to hold to account those responsible for the armed attacks against the Libyan civilians, including through the International Criminal Court."
The letter was signed by Ambassador Mohamed Shalgham, a former longtime Gadhafi supporter who had a dramatic change of heart after the crackdown worsened. Shalgham pleaded with the council on Friday to move quickly to halt the bloodshed in his country.
Earlier Saturday, in Ankara, Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged the council not to impose sanctions, warning that the Libyan people, not Qadhafi's government, would suffer most.
Also Saturday, U.S. President Barack Obama said in a telephone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that Mr. Qadhafi needs to do what's right for his country by "leaving now."
The White House on Friday announced sweeping new sanctions and temporarily abandoned its embassy in Tripoli as a final flight carrying American citizens left the embattled capital. The U.S. put an immediate freeze on all assets of the Libyan government held in American banks and other U.S. institutions. The sanctions also freeze assets held by Mr. Qadhafi and four of his children.
Britain and Canada, meanwhile, temporarily suspended operations at their embassies in Tripoli and evacuated their diplomatic staff.
In Geneva on Friday, the U.N. Human Rights Council called for an investigation into possible crimes against humanity in Libya and recommended Libya's suspension from membership of the world body's top human rights body.
Cynicism's danse macabre
THE politics of plunder imposed by the United States and its NATO allies in the Middle East is in crisis. This was inevitably unleashed with the high cost of grain, the effects of which are being felt with more force in the Arab nations where, despite their enormous oil resources, the shortage of water, arid areas and generalized poverty of the people contrast with the vast resources derived from oil possessed by the privileged sectors.
While food prices triple, the real estate fortunes and wealth of the aristocratic minority rise to billions of dollars.
The Arab world, with its Islamic culture and beliefs, has seen itself additionally humiliated by the brutal imposition of a state which was not capable of meeting the elemental obligations which brought about its creation, based on the colonial order in existence since the end of World War II, which allowed the victorious powers to create the United Nations and impose world trade and economy.
Thanks to Mubarak's betrayal at Camp David, the Palestinian Arab State has not come into existence, despite the United Nations agreements of November 1947, and Israel has become a powerful nuclear force allied with the United States and NATO.
The U.S. military-industrial complex supplies tens of billions of dollars every year to Israel and to the very Arab states that it subjugates and humiliates.
The genie is out of the bottle and NATO doesn't know how to control it. They are going to try and take maximum advantage of the lamentable events in Libya. No one is capable of knowing at this time what is happening there. All of the figures and versions, even the most improbable, have been disseminated by the empire through the mass media, sowing chaos and misinformation.
It is evident that a civil war is developing in Libya. Why and how was this unleashed? Who will suffer the consequences? The Reuters news agency, repeating the opinion of the well-known Nomura Japanese bank, said that the price of oil could surpass all limits:
"' If Libya and Algeria were to halt oil production together, prices could peak above US$220/bbl and OPEC spare capacity will be reduced to 2.1mmbbl/d, similar to levels seen during the Gulf war and when prices hit US$147/bbl in 2008,' the bank stated in a note."
Who could pay this price today? What will be the consequences for the food crisis?
The principal NATO leaders are exalted. British Prime Minister David Cameron, reported ANSA, "'admitted in a speech in Kuwait that the Western countries made a mistake in supporting non-democratic governments in the Arab world.'" He should be congratulated for his frankness.
His French colleague Nicolas Sarkozy declared, "The prolonged brutal and bloody repression of the Libyan civilian population is repugnant."
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini declared "believable" the figure of one thousand dead in Tripoli […] 'the tragic figure will be a bloodbath.'"
Ban Ki-moon added, "The use of violence in the country is absolutely unacceptable.'"
"…'the Security Council will act in accordance with what the international community decides.'"
What Ban Ki-moon is really waiting for is that Obama give the last word.
The President of the United States spoke Wednesday afternoon and stated that the Secretary of State would leave for Europe in order to reach an agreement with the NATO European allies as to what measures to take. Noticeable on his face was his readiness to take on the right-wing Republican John McCain; Joseph Lieberman, the pro-Israel Senator from Connecticut; and Tea Party leaders, in order to guarantee his nomination by the Democratic Party.
The empire's mass media have prepared the ground for action. There would be nothing strange about a military intervention in Libya, which would, additionally, guarantee Europe almost two million barrels of light oil a day, if events do not occur beforehand to put an end to the presidency or life of Gaddafi.
In any event, Obama's role is complicated enough. What would the Arab and Islamic world's reaction be if much blood is spilt in this country in such an adventure? Would the revolutionary wave unleashed in Egypt stop a NATO intervention?
In Iraq the innocent blood of more than a million Arab citizens was shed when this country was invaded on false pretenses. Mission accomplished, George W. Bush proclaimed.
No one in the world will ever be in favor of the deaths of defenseless civilians in Libya or anywhere else. I ask myself, would the United States and NATO apply that principle to the defenseless civilians killed by yankee drones, and this organization's soldiers, every day in Afghanistan and Pakistan?
It is cynicism's danse macabre.
Fidel Castro Ruz
February 23, 2011
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