Report: India has one decade to become a developed nation

India’s largest lender the State Bank of India (SBI), released a report stating that India needs to become a developed nation in one decade, or suffer the negative consequences of having a huge demographic dividend.

The report also states that India may never enter into a state of development if it doesn’t act immediately. They calculate that India has a 10 year time span to move into the developed country label or it may be trapped as developing nation in perpetuity.

It further goes on to state that more focus on youth and education investment by the government will help to achieve this goal. Currently, India’s demographic surplus is the main reason for economic growth, but there are already warning signs that by the year 2030 it may lead to problematic issues. For instance, the sluggishness of the population growth in last 20 years, as well as the unpredictability of the fertility rate across India.

The coastal state of Karnataka is one of these cases of low birth rate, resulting in an increase of people over the age of 60 to 9.5 percent in 2011. A lower population growth, increase the wealth of certain demographics of the population who then move from government services to private services, like government schools to private schools, which has an adverse effect of lowering the quality of government schools due to lack of funding. For this reason, calls for more educational funding is need in India for the population that cannot afford to migrate services.


Indian youth develop a device aiding women’s safety

A group of Indian youngsters have won a 1 million-U.S. dollar prize for designing and developing a device ensuring women’s safety.

Safer Pro is a panic-alert device women can use in an unsafe circumstance. The device includes a “Red Button”, that will alert the female owner’s five guardians whose phone are integrated with the safety device.

The device costs around 30 U.S. dollars and could be worn as a wrist watch or put in a pocket or a bag.

The team of developers consists of six members, including a woman named Neiharika Rajiv.

“All these five are smart intelligent boys from a woman’s perspective, so I joined them all around four years back. I got to know about them through newspaper reports while they were still under-graduates,” said Neiharika.

Neiharika said the device is also very helpful for the young kids, teenagers to be specific, who move out frequently in areas nearby their homes.

“Normally, parents of such kids are a worried lot and concerned about their safety. This device helps parents know about their kids’ minute-to-minute location. The other best part is that it has the facility of sending Voice-Notes to the guardians.” She said.

The team aims is to bring down the cost and make it available to women across India and the world.

In India, 79% of women have been victims of harassment or violence in public. As per official figures released by India’s National Crime Records Bureau, in the year 2016 as many as 39 crimes against women were reported every hour, up from 21 in 2007. The rate of crimes per 100,000 female population was 55.2 during the year, up from 41.7 in 2012.

The team plans to integrate the device with the nearest police station to the victim in case of an emergency the police can reach out to the victim.


India’s central bank raised its policy rate for the first time in over 4 years

The Reserve Bank of India’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) raised the repo rate INREPO=ECI by 25 basis points to 6.25%. The growing inflation concerns resulted in the policy rate rise for the first time in over four years, that also caused a sharp increase in global oil prices and a weakening rupee.

Governor of Reserve bank of India, Urjit Patel said: “The committee felt that there was enough uncertainty for us to keep to the neutral stance and yet respond to the risks to (the) inflation target that have emerged in recent months.”

In addition, this has seen consumer spending skyrocket, as India’s economy expanded at a vigorous 7.7% annual pace in the January-March quarter.

The Indian central bank has become the latest bank in Asia to increase rates that combat inflationary pressures or support the domestic currency.

Senior India economist at Capital Economics, Shilan Shah said: “With growth strengthening and core inflation picking up, we think today’s hike marks the start of a modest tightening cycle.”

In March, China raised a key short-term rate following a Federal Reserve’s rate hike and then in May, the Philippines and Indonesian rates were lifted for the first time since 2014.

The head of research operations at research firm William O’Neil, Sudhakar Pattabiraman said: “Increasing inflation and oil prices continues, we expect another 25-bps hike somewhere during this fiscal year.”

Source: Reuters

India launches Startup Action Plan to promote entrepreneurship

The government has launched the Startup India Action Plan to promote promising entrepreneurs in the country.  The plan aims to give incentives such as tax holiday, inspector raj-free regime and capital gains tax exemption.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said: “Our startups are growth engines. Today’s big companies were startups at some point. I urge the people of India to keep innovating.”

Modi interacted with young entrepreneurs from across the country, including cities like Dehradun, Guwahati and Raipur. He also added that smaller towns and villages too are emerging as vibrant startup centres. 

“Adequate capital, courage and connecting with people are required for excelling in the startup sector,” he said.

Modi mentioned that there was a time when startups meant only digital and technology innovation. However, things are changing and the government is seeing startups in various other fields, including agriculture.

“We have started an Agriculture Grand Challenge. We invite more youngsters to ideate on how to transform our agriculture sector,” he added.




Indian automaker Mahindra launches assembly plant in SA

Indian automaker Mahindra & Mahindra has opened its first assembly plant in South Africa. The plant will export vehicles to the rest of the continent and will be based at the Dube TradePort special economic zone in Durban, next to the King Shaka Airport to Automotive Investment Holdings (AIH) Logistics.

India’s top-selling utility vehicle maker will compete against rivals with existing plants in South Africa, whose export-focused auto manufacturing sector has attracted billions of dollars of investment from the likes of BMW, Ford, VW and Toyota to expand and upgrade factories.

Mahindra South Africa’s Chief Executive, Rajesh Gupta spoke about plans to assemble 200 Mahindra single and double cab pick-ups a month, or between 2400 and 2500 a year. However, it could easily increase the volumes produced to 4000 units a year with the addition of a second shift.

“Mahindra has grown significantly since the launch of its first models in South Africa. In the last five years alone, it has grown its market share by a compound annual growth rate of over 4.6percent a year, which puts us in the league of the five fastest growing companies in the same period. “Much of this growth was achieved in a declining market, which indicates our increased acceptance and popularity in South Africa,” Gupta said.

He added that this launch was the second phase of Mahindra’s expansion into South Africa. The assembly operation would be used to increase its vehicle exports into Africa, as well as the production of some of Mahindra’s other products (power generation sets and yellow metal products).

He also pointed out the positive effect it’ll have on SA’s economy, creating an in increase in employment, local sourcing and content and the complexity of the assembly facility in KwaZulu-Natal.


India explores greener alternatives for cremation

A team of environmental engineers in Delhi, India have found a way to adapt the age-old tradition of cremation in today’s needs to protect the environment.

Their Mokshda green cremation system is said to reduce fuelwood consumption by over 60% by increasing airflow and heat intensity during the cremation process.

Anshul Garg, head of the Moksha organisation said:“It works on two principles of science. We have increased the combustion efficiency by providing proper air that is through the chimney hood so that there is a natural draft of air so when more oxygen is coming in the combustion efficiency increases and increases the heat energy. In this, the cremation process is over in two hours,”

The cremation system has been around for 15 years, it is only now that mourners are considering it, following green energy advertising as the future to stop climate change.

Dr Ravi Singh, sociologist of funerary rituals, said: “One of the most important and central ways to think about cremation is to begin to think about the dead person himself or herself participating in the ritual as a sacrifice.” 

“Wood generally is very significant. The fire is an aesthetic that is seen with a certain degree of grace. I think that this [the reluctance to adopt alternative ways of cremating] is part of a certain kind of orthopraxy that you do what you have been doing, and this is very difficult to shed in case of death rituals universally,” he explains.

Source: Al Jazeera

Promoting Services Trade

By Zhou Xiaoyan

A services trade cooperation roadmap was adopted at the trade ministers’ meeting to boost economic complementarities and diversification. With the trade in services becoming a new driver for global economic and trade growth, the ministers decided to intensify cooperation on information exchange, capacity building and coordination within BRICS to make services trade a new highlight of BRICS trade growth.

Although the group’s combined GDP accounts for nearly one fourth of the global total, its export of services accounted for only 11.3 percent of the world total in 2015, according to data from the World Trade OrganiSation.

“Services trade is not only a strong driving force of global economic and trade cooperation, but also a precious opportunity for countries to balance their trade structure. It will also push forward the development of China’s services industry and supply-side structural reform,” Xu Hongcai, Deputy Chief Economist with China Center for International Economic Exchanges, told Beijing Review.

Zhang Shaogang, Director General of the Department of International Trade and Economic Affairs at China’s Ministry of Commerce, said services trade covers a wide range of sectors and BRICS countries have demand for cooperation in every one of those sectors.

“As the first step in implementing the roadmap, we will carry out cooperation in the prioritized areas,” Zhang said at the press conference on August 1. “The first prioritized area would be tourism, with Russia being a hotspot travel destination for Chinese, and tourist visits to India, South Africa and Brazil gaining more popularity.”

An Yongming, a retiree living in Haikou, capital of south China’s Hainan Province, recently had an eight-day trip to Moscow and Saint Petersburg, which cost him a little more than 10,000 yuan ($1,500).

“People of my generation have a very deep fascination with Russia and deep memories of the former Soviet Union. We grew up listening to stories about the Soviet Union and reading Russian novels. Russian, instead of English, was the foreign language some of the people of my generation acquired,” An told Beijing Review. “Our minds are full of Russian names and places. I’d always wanted to visit the country.”

However, An thinks the local government has much to do to improve the tourist experience in Russia.

“Most Russians don’t serve their customers. Drivers don’t help passengers carry their luggage. There’s no Chinese language service on the flight, although the plane is full of Chinese. There are no Chinese signs or even English signs in most tourist spots,” An said. While he would still recommend people of his age to visit Russia, he thinks younger generations should visit countries with better tourist services.

In addition to the tourism industry, Zhang said other prioritized areas include healthcare, computer and related services, research and development, business services, construction services, distribution and education.

As the first achievement of the trade ministers’ meeting, China and Brazil signed a two-year action plan on August 1, pledging to bolster collaboration in services trade. It would include project consultation, project construction, information technology, automation of banking services, travel, culture and traditional Chinese medicine.

Read more about strengthening e-commerce cooperation within BRICS here.

This article was originally posted on Beijing Review.

Moving from health challenges to collaborations

[In association with BRICS Journal and the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences]

Access to affordable healthcare is a priority for all the BRICS countries. Dr Aquina Thulare looks at how BRICS is faring and how further collaboration would benefit everyone involved.

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Good health is an indispensable prerequisite for poverty reduction, sustained economic growth and socio-economic development.

Placing  health within a globalised, market-based capitalist system results in a dialectical interplay between social classes and the exact nature of whichever social force is best able to set the agenda differs from country to country. These conditions explain why differential exposure and vulnerabilities have an impact on health and wellness and how these have distinctive consequences on populations. These are the “causes of the causes” of common health challenges.

BRICS is home to 42% of the world’s population and contributes 29.5% to global GDP. Notwithstanding the general economic prosperity and improvements in demographic and epidemiological profile since 1990, profound socio-economic inequalities and public health challenges persist within BRICS countries. Over the years, the different BRICS countries have followed diverse evolutionary trajectories in improving the performance of their health systems.

Health has been placed on the BRICS agenda through the social justice, sustainable development and quality of life dimensions as a key area of development and co-operation. Moreover, BRICS ministers of health are mandated to pursue the agenda of ensuring healthy lives and promoting the well-being of populations in their countries by reaffirming public health financing as an essential element for socio-economic development.

They have committed to:

  • Ending epidemics of communicable diseases;
  • Prevention and relevant treatment of non-communicable diseases (NCDs);
  • Prevention and treatement of substance abuse;
  • Decreasing the number of injuries and deaths from road traffic accidents; and
  • Achieving universal health coverage (UHC) and high-quality healthcare systems.

BRICS would also focus on social determinants of health (SDHs) while also introducing UHC strategies that are appropriate for each country’s context. The concept of “health as a human right” and “health in all policies” pervades much of BRICS’ engagement in contributing towards better global health underpinned by several United Nations (UN) frameworks.

Written by: Dr Aquina Thulare
This is an extract of the full article Moving From Health Challenges to Collaborations, found in Issue 3 of BRICS Journal.

Economist: BRICS exceeds expectations

The economic performance of the five leading emerging economies of the BRICS group exceeds expectations of the man who first came up with the acronym, the inventor of the term told Xinhua in a recent interview.

Former Goldman Sachs chief economist Jim O’Neill coined the acronym BRIC in 2001 to cover the nations Brazil, Russia, India and China (South Africa later joined to make the term BRICS) as economies which would blossom in the 21st century and take the lead in global business.

“Sixteen years later the BRICS share of global GDP (gross domestic product) is bigger than every scenario I projected,” O’Neill said.

His comments came weeks ahead of the ninth BRICS summit which is to be held in the Chinese city of Xiamen early next month.

O’Neill predicted in his 2001 paper “Building Better Global Economic BRICS” that the BRICS nations by now would have a combined economic worth of about 11.6 trillion US dollars. Their actual worth is about 16.6 trillion dollars this year.

The first decade of this century was a period in which the group reached and then more than fulfilled the potential that O’Neill foresaw in 2001, and which has made the world sit up and take notice.

Average annual growth rates for the BRICS nations from 2001-2011 were, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – Brazil 3.8 percent, Russia 4.8 percent, India 7.8 percent, China about 10.7 percent and South Africa 3.7 percent.

The second decade has seen less stellar progress for the nations, as the world economy recovers from the financial crisis and nations like China are embarking on a different phase of development.

The nations have collaborated and now meet regularly as a group. They have set up a development bank called the New Development Bank, based in Shanghai.

O’Neill also noted a very recent development in bilateral trade between China and Germany, one of Europe’s leading economies.

In 2016, China became Germany’s largest trade partner, with trade between the two nations surpassing 150 billion dollars.

“It’s good. A lot of these forces are happening. Here’s an important statistic about global trade – China became Germany’s largest trading partner. Hugely symbolic for BRICS countries,” said O’Neill, who believed the BRICS success story is for the long term.

O’Neill hits back at those who have said that the BRICS is losing its shine.

To focus merely on a slowdown in the combined growth of the economies is missing the point, said O’Neill.

China’s economy continued its steady expansion in the first half of this year with its GDP up 6.9 percent year-on-year to about 38.2 trillion yuan (5.6 trillion dollars), according to the country’s National Bureau of Statistics.

Russia and Brazil suffered recessions in recent years, but Brazil’s economy grew again in the first quarter of this year after a protracted recession and Russia achieved a growth rate of 2.5 percent year-on-year in the second quarter.

“The fact they have slowed down is an irrelevance if they are still way bigger than I thought 16 years ago – primarily because of China but also because of India, and not withstanding the problems that Brazil and Russia have had.”

“So these people that say it is not so important because they have grown less, it is ridiculous,” he said.

What’s more, O’Neill has his eyes set on other nations that could also surprise the world in the coming decades.

“I would say going to 50 years in the future, there are probably four countries with potential to be as big as Russia or Brazil,” said O’Neill.

“Definitely Indonesia, possibly Mexico, possibly Turkey and, excitingly, possibly Nigeria. But let us see – just because they have the potential it does not mean it will happen.”

“The BRICS countries have already said they are open to other members. But I would not do that any time soon until we see clear evidence of any of those four becoming a lot bigger,” he said.

They are an unequal group in economic volumes, with China leading the way and South Africa being the smallest economically.

O’Neill had always had misgivings about South Africa being in the group, but thinks it should be there, despite its economy being the smallest at about 300 billion dollars a year.

“China creates another South Africa (economically) every six months, how on earth can South Africa be economically in the same class?” the economist said.

– China Daily/Repubhub

Indian politicians vote to elect new president

Politicians from both houses of India’s parliament have cast their ballots to elect the country’s next president, with two candidates from the lowest rank of the Hindu caste system – Dalits – vying for the largely ceremonial post.

The candidate from the ruling BJP, Ram Nath Kovind, a 71-year-old lawyer turned politician who was until recently governor of the eastern state of Bihar, is predicted to win.

Kovind is also backed by several regional parties.

His main rival is Meira Kumar, 72, who was India’s first female speaker of the parliament and a former federal minister. She is backed by the main opposition Congress party.

The new president – India’s 14th – will take over from Pranab Mukherjee, a veteran Congress politician, who completes his five-year term on July 24.

The day-long polling was being held simultaneously in the national and state capitals, according to India’s Election Commission.

The votes will be counted on July 20.

Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, was among the first to cast his vote at a booth in Parliament.

“The presidential poll this time is historic. Probably for the first time no party has made any undignified or unwarranted comment on the rival candidate,” Modi said on Twitter on the eve of the poll.

“Every political party has kept in mind the dignity of this election.”

Against the odds

Sonia Gandhi, the Congress party leader,  acknowledged on  Sunday  that the odds were stacked against the opposition’s candidate.

The president is chosen by an electoral college of two houses of parliament and state assemblies.

The BJP has over two-thirds majority in the Lok Sabha, or lower house of parliament, and runs governments by itself or in alliance with other parties in 17 of India’s 29 states.

The winner of Monday’s contest will be India’s second president belonging to the Dalit community, after KR Narayanan, who was president between 1997-2002.

Dalits, formerly known as untouchables, are on the lowest rank of India’s tradition social system based on caste.

India’s president is the head of the state, but executive powers are vested in the prime minister.

The president, however, has an important role to play when elections produce hung parliaments, state governments are dissolved and during other political crises.