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[op-ed snap] The case for a progressive international

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Effects of liberalization on the economy

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Gig economy, DiEM25

Mains level: The need for a new global order of democarcy


Context

Problems in bilateral treaties

  1. Earlier this year, it was revealed that India is facing legal claims from international investors in as many as 23 arbitration cases, before various tribunals
  2. These claims, worth billions of dollars, arise out of bilateral investment treaties between India and other states
  3. One striking feature of such treaties is that they allow international investors (primarily MNCs) to initiate a dispute directly in an international tribunal, bypassing the state’s own constitutional system and its courts

Reasons behind such disputes

    1.  Often, the disputes revolve around measures that were triggered by public health emergencies, economic crises or other matters directly involving public welfare — which would, therefore, be permissible under the Constitution, but which a corporation believes have negatively impacted its financial interests

Effect of globalisation

  1. This reveals an important truth about the contemporary, globalised world: issues that were earlier resolved within a sovereign state in accordance with its constitutional system have now acquired a transnational character
  2. For example, because of its attempts to make essential medicines affordable through amendments to its Patent Act, India has come under pressure from the U.S. and the European Union (at the behest of prominent pharmaceutical companies), while finding support and emulation in countries like South Africa and Thailand
  3. In 2011, the EU seized shipments of life-saving Indian drugs that were being transported to Africa and Latin America, on the basis that it could apply its more restrictive patent and customs laws to goods in transit through its territory
  4. The transnational character of these issues suggests that the response cannot succeed if it is unilateral
  5. The issues are not limited to conflicts before international forums. Recent months have seen clashes between national regulatory authorities and the corporations that drive the new “gig economy”, such as Uber
  6. Just like in the case of investment treaties, it is often difficult for one country to tackle the problem alone – especially when the corporation is global in character, and can issue a credible threat of withdrawing substantial levels of investment

The question of accountability

  1. While global problems cannot be solved without nation-states, nation-states cannot solve their problems on their own
  2. India’s battle to preserve affordable access to medicines is part of a larger struggle, where participation in the global intellectual property regime has severely constrained the ability of countries to respond to public health crises
  3. Whatever a country’s Constitution may say about the right to life and the right to health for its citizens, it will still be dragged before an international tribunal if it attempts to forestall or mitigate a public health crisis by lifting patent restrictions upon, for example, a life-saving drug
  4. The point is not only about who finally succeeds in litigation — rather, it is that the final decision is taken by a set of individuals who are beyond the structures of accountability that are established in democratic and constitutional states

Taking a cue from DiEM25

  1. A recent example is that of the Democracy in Europe Movement 25
  2. DiEM25 arose after the debt crisis in Greece had resulted in a wide-ranging “structural adjustment programme” imposed upon that country by the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (or “the troika”)
  3. This included severe austerity measures (including cuts to public funding, resulting in mass unemployment) and widespread privatisation, in direct contravention of the publicly expressed will of the people, through both elections and a public referendum
  4. The central insight of DiEM25 is precisely that today a progressive movement oriented towards social justice and fundamental rights cannot succeed if it is constrained within national borders
  5. Many of the fundamental decisions that shape national policy (with wide-ranging consequences) are simply beyond the ken of nation-states themselves
  6. For this reason, DiEM25 identifies as “pan-European”, and isolates a range of issues currently left in the hands of national governments powerless to act upon them” — including public debt, banking, inadequate investment, migration, and rising poverty
  7. DiEM25 returns these issues to democratic control, but also acknowledges that the solutions needed to achieve this can only come from transnational action
  8. Another important insight of the DiEM25 manifesto is that the world today is based on the reduction of all political relations into relations of power masquerading as merely technical decisions

Understanding DiEM25 in India’s context

  1. For example, what steps a country like India must take to ensure the availability of life-saving drugs (and not only during a public health crisis) is a decision that must be taken democratically and politically, within the constitutional framework
  2. At present, however, it always remains ultimately subject to a “technical decision” (potentially taken by an international tribunal) about whether India has breached its obligations under an international intellectual property rights treaty regime
  3. What needs to be done is to reshape that regime to make it more democratic, an effort that, by its very nature, cannot be undertaken by a single country

The future framework in India

  1. The focus on democracy is particularly important with respect to a third issue: the increasing role of technology in our daily lives
  2. This debate has come to the fore recently, with the long-running conflict over Aadhaar, and the draft DNA Profiling Bill
  3. The relationship between technology and human freedoms will be vital in the future
  4. It is therefore particularly interesting that through the evolving concept of “technological sovereignty”, DiEM25 has drawn a specific link between technology and democracy, which can help us think through contemporary issues such as platform monopolies, the ubiquity of AI in public decision-making (including on public welfare), etc

Way forward: A new international regime

  1. There has been a talk about an international progressive movement that mobilizes behind a vision of shared prosperity, security and dignity for all people, and that addresses the massive global inequality that exists, not only in wealth but in political power
  2. Movements such as DiEM25, which have sprung up in various parts of the world, serve as potential blueprints and models for what a “progressive international” may look like
  3. It is a conversation that progressive movements in India must take heed of, and engage with if we are to adequately address the transnational problems that face us today
WTO and India

[op-ed snap] Cool it: on labour loss due to heatwave

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Geography | changes in critical geographical features (including waterbodies & ice-caps) & in flora & fauna & the effects of such changes

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: UNFCCC, Heatwaves

Mains level: Impact of climate change on various weather events


Context

Loss of crucial labour hours due to heat waves

  1. The staggering loss of an estimated 153 billion hours of labour during 2017 due to rising temperatures around the globe is a reminder to governments that they are not doing enough to dramatically curb greenhouse gas emissions
  2. The Lancet countdown on health and climate has reported that India was particularly affected by the rising frequency of heatwave events and lost about 75 billion hours of work, a significant part of it in the agricultural sector

Impact on India

  1. This has worrying implications for rural employment and the well-being of a large section of the population that depends on farming
  2. At stake for all countries in the developing world is the health of millions, many of them already vulnerable to extreme weather events
  3. From a public health perspective, the report sounds a warning that rising temperatures will enable the dengue virus and malaria to spread farther and faster
  4. This is also true of some other infections

Measures that need to be taken by India

  1. It is vital that India gets more ambitious about cutting back on carbon emissions, even as it presses for the fulfilment of the climate finance obligations of developed countries under the Paris Agreement of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
  2. A further reduction in the share of coal in the energy mix through sustained support for renewable energy, particularly solar photovoltaics, must form the cornerstone of national policy
  3. This must be matched by a shift away from the use of fossil fuels for transport, and the induction of more electric vehicles
  4. Such a policy would yield the parallel benefit of improving air quality
  5. Ambient air pollution led to the premature death of an estimated half a million people in India in 2015

Garnering international consensus for changing climate fund usage

  1. The consensus on climate change is that it has begun to affect the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events
  2. India’s approach to adaptation should, therefore, prepare for catastrophes with a well-considered plan to provide relief and rehabilitation
  3. If the Centre and State governments can arrive at a consensus on the strong climate link to the excessive rain in Kerala and Cyclone Gaja in Tamil Nadu, for instance, a case could be made for climate funds under the Paris Agreement
  4. Such a claim has to be supported by a perspective plan that identifies vulnerable regions and communities and incorporates transparent systems for funds utilisation

Way forward

  1. The aggravated impact of climate change on health is a serious issue for policymakers to consider
  2. The importance of funds for adaptation is underscored by Lancet’s finding that 99% of losses from climate-related events in low-income countries were not insured
  3. Increased exposure to heatwaves needs a policy response, nationally and globally
Global Geological And Climatic Events

[op-ed snap] Number theory: on lowering UPA-era GDP growth rate

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Indian Economy Issues relating to planning

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: GDP calculation, Base year, CSO, United Nations System of National Accounts

Mains level: Controversy related to GDP revision and why a robust methodology is necessary for calculating growth


Context

Revised GDP data

  1. The release of the new GDP back series data shows that the economy grew at an average of 6.7 per cent between 2005-06 to 2008-09 as well as between 2009-10 to 2013-14
  2. This is lower than the earlier estimates of 8.1 per cent and 7 per cent average growth respectively going by the earlier 2004-05 base
  3. The biggest of learning is that India never really decoupled from the global economy during the years of the financial crisis (2008-10), unlike what was earlier believed

Revisions of figures not new

  1. Backcasting, or reworking past national accounts statistics based on the latest base year, is a regular exercise that governments carry out
  2. Mainly done to enable precise comparison and analysis, it is a difficult exercise prone to contestation as it involves the inclusion of newer data sources, exclusion of outdated ones and making some subjective assumptions in the process

Spat over economic data

  1. In January 2015, when the government switched to a new series with 2011-12 as the base year, and subsequently after the report of the Committee on Real Sector Statistics which was mandated by the National Statistical Commission to work out a robust methodology under the new series a few months ago, there was a controversy, with agencies such as the IMF besides the RBI flagging their concerns
  2. The release of the data under the new series in 2015, and also later, had led to sceptics questioning the validity of growth figures

Reliability of the data

  1. Any criticism of the data has to take into account the fact that it has been generated by a thoroughly professional organisation, the CSO, and the methods have been scrutinised by experts, including past chief statisticians, and the Advisory Committee on National Accounts Statistics
  2. Certainly, the release of the back series by the Niti Aayog goes against convention and is bad in optics
  3. But this should not be the reason to contest its integrity
  4. The method of computation reflects the latest United Nations System of National Accounts
  5. It also captures changes in the economy since 2004-05
  6. Data sources have also been updated. Experts had testified to the robustness of the method when it was introduced in 2015

Way forward

  1. There is little doubt that India needs to invest more in data collection and integration and do informal sector surveys more frequently
  2. Robust, updated data are, in fact, insurance against politicians hijacking what is essentially an economic exercise
  3. Revisions in economic growth data are not uncommon elsewhere but what political parties ought to keep in mind is the potential damage to the credibility and its impact on investors, both global and domestic, who rely on the quality, reliability and consistency of data when they pump in money and on informed policy-making

With inputs from the article: Back and forth

Economic Indicators-GDP, FD,etc

Climate Vulnerable Forum

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CVF, Jumemmej Declaration

Mains level: International collaboration against threats posed by Climate Change


News

  • Leaders at the Climate Vulnerable Forum called on world’s governments to raise the ambition of their climate targets by 2020 in order to save vulnerable nations threatened by warming beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius.

About Climate Vulnerable Forum

  1. The Climate Vulnerable Forum is an international cooperation group of developing countries tackling global climate change.
  2. The CVF was founded by the Maldives government before the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, which sought to increase awareness of countries considered vulnerable.
  3. United Nations agencies collaborate in implementing activities linked to the CVF with the UNDP, the lead organization supporting the forum’s work.
  4. The CVF was formed to increase the accountability of industrialized nations for the consequences of global climate change.
  5. Afghanistan, Nepal and Bhutan are its members, whereas India is one of the observer states.

World’s first Virtual Climate Summit

  1. The CVF is being held in Marshall Islands.
  2. Through the summit’s “Jumemmej Declaration”, the forum’s leaders committed to strengthening their national climate efforts by 2020 in order to pressure world governments to act.
  3. “Jumemmej” is a Marshallese word of seafaring origin calling for vigilance to keep a watch against threats.
  4. The carbon-free summit brought together leaders of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), which represents many of the countries most threatened by climate change.
  5. More than 40 heads of state, government and delegation also constituted the first global gathering of leaders of nations most threatened by climate change.
Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

[pib] Exercise KONKAN-18

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Exercise Konkan

Mains level:  India-UK strategic relations


News

Exercise Konkan-18

  1. The Bilateral KONKAN exercise is marks the naval cooperation between India and the United Kingdom based on the long term strategic relationship.
  2. The KONKAN series of exercises commenced in 2004, and since then has grown in scale.
  3. KONKAN-2018 will be conducted from 28 Nov to 06 Dec 18 off Goa with units participating from both navies.
  4. The harbour phase is scheduled from 28 Nov to 30 Nov 18, followed by the sea phase from 02 to 06 Dec 18.
  5. The Royal Navy will be represented by HMS Dragon, a Type 45 Class Destroyer equipped with an integral Wildcat helicopter.
  6. The Indian Navy will field INS Kolkata, the first ship of latest Kolkata class destroyers, equipped with integral Seaking and an IN submarine.
  7. The thrust of the exercise this year would be on Anti-Air warfare, Anti-Surface Warfare, Anti-Submarine Warfare, Visit Board Search and Seizure (VBSS) and Seamanship Evolutions.
Indian Navy Updates

[pib] 8 more States achieve 100% household electrification under Saubhagya

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways, etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Saubhagya’ scheme

Mains level:  Attaining 100% Electrification


News

Nearing 100% Electrification

  1. 8 States have achieved 100% saturation in household electrification under Saubhagya namely Madhya Pradesh, Tripura, Bihar, J&K, Mizoram, Sikkim, Telangana and West Bengal.
  2. The Minister informed that as many as 2.1 crore connections have been released under Saubhagya so far.
  3. Many more State like Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh etc. are left with small number of un-electrified households and expected to achieve saturation any time.
  4. Nation is expected to achieve 100% saturation in the country by 31st December, 2018.

Award Scheme under Saubhagya

  1. For creating healthy competition amongst various DISCOMs, an award scheme has been instituted with awards of more than Rs 300 crore to be won by States/Discoms.
  2. The first DISCOM/Power Departments to complete 100% household electrification will be felicitated with cash award of Rs. 50 Lakh for the employees and Rs.100 crore grant to be spent for distribution infrastructure.
  3. For the purpose of award, States have been divided into 3 categories and award would be given in each of these categories.
  4. The States completing 100% household electrification by 31st 2018 will also receive additional grant of 15% of the project cost (5% for special category States) sanctioned under Saubhagya.

Back2Basics

Saubhagya Scheme

Government launches Saubhagya scheme for household electrification

Country’s first owl festival organized in Pune

 

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Indian Owl Festival

Mains level: Conservation of Owls in India


News

Indian Owl Festival

  1. The Indian Owl Festival, the country’s first owl fest, will be held at Pingori village in Purandar taluka of Pune, Maharashtra.
  2. The two-day festival is organised by Ela Foundation, an NGO working towards nature education and conservation.
  3. It will give information on owl conservation and feature art forms like pictures, paintings, lanterns, lamp shades, posters, origami, stitched articles, poems and stories on owls.
  4. It is a first-of-its-kind festival in the country that is being organised with the intention of creating awareness about owl as a bird and debunking numerous superstitions associated with it.

Why Conserve Owls?

  1. Of the 262 species of owls that are found in the world, 75 feature in the red data book — meaning they are threatened.
  2. Major causes behind this are superstitions and habitat loss, both are man-made.
  3. Owls eat rats, rodents, bandicoots, and mice. Most of the species that owls consume are harmful to agricultural croplands. So these birds are actually very beneficial to farmers.

Owls in India

  1. According to a report published by Traffic India, a wildlife trade monitoring body, and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in 2010, owls were found to be consumed and traded for a wide variety of purposes, including black magic, street performances, taxidermy, private aviaries/zoos, food and in folk medicines.
  2. Despite being protected under the Wildlife (Protection) Act of India, the report has found owls to be highly prized and in demand for black magic purposes.
Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Gender wage gap highest in India, women are paid 34% less than men: ILO

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Development & Employment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Global Wage Report 2018-19

Mains level: Inequality of Wages for Women


News

Highest gender wage gap is in India

  1. Women are paid the most unequally in India, compared to men, when it comes to hourly wages for labour.
  2. On average, women are paid 34 per cent less than men, a recent report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) has found.
  3. This gap in wages, known as the gender wage gap, is the highest among 73 countries studied in the report.

India not alone in the race

  1. This gender wage gap has remained unchanged at 20 per cent from 2016 to 2017. Women are paid higher hourly wages than men in Bangladesh.
  2. In advanced economies (G20), real wage growth declined from 0.9 per cent in 2016 to 0.4 per cent in 2017, meaning near stagnation.
  3. By contrast, in emerging economies and developing G20 countries, real wage growth dipped marginally from 4.9 per cent in 2016 and 4.3 per cent in 2017.

Global Scenario

  1. These findings are presented in the flagship publication of the ILO, the Global Wage Report 2018-19, which was released on November 26.
  2. The trend holds true globally as well. Inequality is higher in monthly wages, with a gap of 22 per cent.
  3. In real terms (adjusted for price inflation), global wage growth declined to 1.8 per cent in 2017, from 2.4 per cent in 2016. The findings are based on the data from 136 countries.
  4. Overall, real wages grew just 1.8 per cent globally (136 countries) in 2017.
  5. In most countries, women and men differ significantly in respect of working time – specifically, that part-time work is more prevalent among women than among men.

Way Forward

  1. But in 2017, the gender gap was accompanied by a near-stagnation in wages. Real wage growth has been the lowest since 2008, the year of the financial crisis.
  2. With empirical evidence that gender wage gap is visible even with women with higher levels of education, the report advocated that emphasis needs to be placed on ensuring equal pay for women and men.
Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

[op-ed snap] Genetic modification goes beyond ethics

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | developments & their applications & effects in everyday life

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CRISPR

Mains level: Potential harms of gene editing technology and the need of an ethical framework for its regulation


Context

Gene modification technology usage

  1. Ever since researchers at the University of Alicante in Spain came up with the revolutionary new gene-editing tool CRISPR, the chance to play god and the temptation to do it have been beckoning scientists
  2. Now, Shenzhen-based Chinese researcher He Jiankui has claimed that he had created the world’s first genetically edited babies by altering their DNA using CRISPR
  3. His claim is still unverified and, in fact, Southern University of Science and Technology, which hosts his lab, later said his work “seriously violated academic ethics and standards”

How does gene modification work?

  1. At the heart of Jiankui’s work is CRISPR (short for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats), the gene editing tool
  2. This tool allowed geneticists and researchers to edit parts of the genome by removing, adding or altering sections of the DNA sequence, much more efficiently than earlier techniques did

Consequences of this technology

  1. Tinkering with the variability of a gene pool can have disastrous consequences given that genes are connected and for one single character many of them have to work in unison
  2. There is also the issue of human germline editing
  3. The germline is the sequence of cells that develop into eggs and sperm, and any changes made in it are likely to be passed down to future generations

Scientific endeavours gone wrong

  1. The atom bomb is a great example of this
  2. What started with the simple statement that a small amount of matter could release a lot of energy built upon Niels Bohr’s atomic model morphed into the most destructive discovery mankind has ever seen
  3. That one discovery still influences our lives and society in massively negative terms
  4. In the race to create defences against nuclear weapons, arms budgets of some of the poorest nations in the world now far exceed their spends on education or health

Science has also proved to be a boon

  1. When scientists in the 1970s discovered how to fertilise human eggs in test tubes there was the apprehension that this might lead to people cherry-picking only high-quality parents for their children
  2. As it turned out those fears were unfounded and the discovery became one of the greatest boons for people who were infertile and couldn’t have children

Problems with evolution and need of gene editing

  1. Genetics is a bit of a stab in the dark and in strictly game theory terms, evolution is open-ended and, therefore, painful and wasteful
  2. It is multidirectional and not always progressive with many inadvertent mutations as a result of which we are saddled with an imperfect replication mechanism
  3. One fallout of this has been that, instead of Malthusian natural factors to keep populations balanced, we have had statist interventions that snuff out people through genocides and wars
  4. Hayekian market proponents would say the market demands genetic interventions
  5. Human civilization has always progressed by interfering with the natural evolutionary process

Way forward for India

  1. India does not have a comprehensive gene editing policy in place, though germline gene editing is banned in line with international norms
  2. Yet, in the face of persisting diseases and crippling human conditions, divine intervention may sometimes need to be supplemented with genetic ones in a carefully regulated environment
Innovations in Biotechnology and Medical Sciences

[op-ed snap] Mother Ganga, Father Rhine

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: India-Germany relationship over the years


Context

Indo-german ties- Looking back at history

  1. India and Germany look back on decades of successful bilateral relations.
  2. Having come into existence as the states we know them today at a similar time — India in 1947 Germany in 1949 after the devastation of World War II — the two countries entered into diplomatic relations almost immediately
  3. In fact, India was one of the first nations to recognise the young Federal Republic of Germany in 1951
  4. Despite facing different kinds of political and economic challenges during this period, India and Germany shared a common destiny as young democracies
  5. As a consequence, both countries soon started concrete economic development cooperation, which continues till today
  6. 2018 marks the 60th anniversary of this strategic relationship

Cooperation across sectors

  1. In the early years and in line with the government policy of that time, the joint projects targeted industrial growth, poverty reduction and rural development
  2. Time has changed the focus of development cooperation as circumstances changed
  3. Now, the areas of focus are renewable energy and energy efficiency, sustainable urban development, environment protection and resource management
  4. This is complemented by supporting sustainable economic development, including vocational education and training (VET)
  5. Today, India and Germany are in a balanced partnership
  6. Their bilateral relations contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which seek to end poverty and create a more inclusive and equitable world

Important bilateral initiatives 

  • Clean Ganga initiative
  1. The Ganga region is home to more than 600 million people — half of India’s population
  2. The Ganga, just as Germany’s largest river, the Rhine, had faced abuse for decades, with untreated industrial and domestic waste flowing into them, causing major pollution and the extinction of marine life
  3. Both rivers have been an inspiration for songs, legends, literature and art. Mythology and sentiment is attached to them
  4. Germany is honoured to share its experience with India to bring back “Mother Ganga” to acceptable standards, as it has successfully done for “Father Rhine”
  • Energy cooperation
  1. India and Germany cooperate closely on energy matters
  2. In 2006, the Indo-German Energy Forum was set up to promote cooperation in renewable energy
  3. Germany’s strategic Green Energy Corridors project will build transmission lines transferring clean energy to different parts of the country
  • Green mobility
  1. Germany pledged up to Rs 8,900 crore over five years to improve solid and liquid waste management and provide climate-friendly urban transport like the Metro in Nagpur, which is the single biggest project of German financial cooperation in India
  2. Germany has partnered with three smart cities — Bhubaneswar, Kochi and Coimbatore — to provide sustainable urban public transport
  3. These projects stand for around 190 already successful or promising cooperation projects of India and Germany today

Way forward

  1. Today, India is one of the biggest and fastest-growing economies, and Germany is the biggest economy in Europe
  2. Germany and India continue to work as equal partners to tackle global development challenges
  3. The know-how and expertise that Germany shares with India is the main value-add of this cooperation, guided by India’s reform programmes and priorities
Foreign Policy Watch: India – Germany

[op-ed snap] Without maternity benefits

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre & States & the performance of these schemes

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY)

Mains level: Hardships faced by women during and after pregnancy and need for better schemes


Context

Maternity benefits under PMVVY

  1. Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 31, 2016
  2. The scheme largely defeats the purpose it is supposed to serve: according to a recent analysis, it excludes more than half of all pregnancies because first-order births account for only 43% of all births in India
  3. Further, the PMMVY provides little assistance to women who lose their baby, because the successive payments are made only if the corresponding conditionalities are met

Problems in the scheme

  1. Under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) of 2013, every pregnant woman is entitled to maternity benefits of ₹6,000, unless she is already receiving similar benefits as a government employee or under other laws
  2. PMVVY violates the NFSA in several ways
  3. First, the benefits have been reduced from ₹6,000 to ₹5,000 per child
  4. Second, they are now restricted to the first living child
  5. Third, they are further restricted to women above the age of 18 years
  6. The application process is cumbersome and exclusionary: a separate form has to be filled, signed and submitted for each of the three instalments, along with a copy of the applicant’s mother-child protection card, her Aadhaar card, her husband’s Aadhaar card, and the details of a bank account linked to her Aadhaar number
  7. The compulsory linking of the applicant’s bank account with Aadhaar often causes problems

Need of pregnant women

  1. The worst form of hardship reported by pregnant women is the inability to improve their nutritional intake or even to eat properly during pregnancy
  2. Women who were working for wages before pregnancy could not work during their pregnancy and earned zero wages
  3. Women need to spend money during delivery or pregnancy which they have to borrow
  4. It is common for the families of the respondents to sell assets or migrate to cover these costs
  5. The PMMVY could help protect poor families from these financial contingencies

Linking PMVVY with NFSA

  1. The provision for maternity entitlements in the NFSA is very important for women who are not employed in the formal sector
  2. The PMMVY, however, undermines this provision due to the dilution of the entitled amount and the exclusion criteria
  3. There is an urgent need for better implementation as well as for compliance of the scheme with the NFSA
  4. Maternity benefits should be raised to ₹6,000 per child at least, for all pregnancies and not just the first living child
Mother and Child Health – Immunization Program, BPBB, PMJSY, PMMSY, etc.

Nations increasing wealth at the expense of environment, shows Inclusive Wealth Report

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Inclusive growth & issues arising from it.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Inclusive Wealth Report 2018

Mains level: Inclusive growth and GDP as measure of growth


News

  • The Inclusive Wealth Report 2018 shows that while overall global wealth is rising, the increase for many countries comes at the expense of environmental assets, such as water, clean air, forests and biodiversity.

Inclusive Wealth Report 2018

  1. A country’s inclusive wealth is the social value (not dollar price) of all its capital assets, including natural capital, human capital and produced capital.
  2. The IWR 2018 builds on previous versions of the report (IWR2012 and IWR 2014) and advances methods of measuring the base of economy- capital of all types.
  3. It covers the period from 1990 to 2014, which is 25 years, which provides us with a picture of the changes in capital assets over almost a generation.
  4. It is biennially released by UNEP, that seeks to evaluate and report on a country’s wealth and wellbeing.
  5. IWI is a tool assessing a nation’s ability to look after its wealth in a way that is sustainable and safeguards its future generations.

Highlights of the report

  1. The Inclusive wealth (IW) in 135 countries was higher in 2014 compared to the level in 1990 and the global growth rate of IW was 44% over the indicated period.
  2. This implies an average growth rate of 1.8% per year.
  3. However, during the same period the global GDP growth per year was 3.4%, which is close to twofold of the annual growth rate of growth in IW.
  4. The global level growth of each of the three capitals over the study period indicate that produced capital was growing at an average rate of 3.8% per year and health and education induced human capital was growing at 2.1%.
  5. Contrary, natural capital was decreasing at a rate of 0.7% per annum.
  6. The structure of capital at the global scale as of 2014 has composed of produced capital (21%), human capital (59% of which 26% education induced human capital and 33% is health induced human capital), and natural capital (20%).

Inclusive wealth over GDP

  1. By this measure, 44 of the 140 countries – more than a third – ranked in the report’s Inclusive Wealth Index have declined in inclusive wealth per head since 1998, even though GDP has increased in many of them.
  2. The report explores alternatives to using Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a measure of a country’s wealth.
  3. It says that GDP measures the size of a country’s economy but not its underlying asset base.
  4. Instead, it uses inclusive wealth, which focuses on stocks of manufactured, human and natural capital.

Way Forward

  1. The health of an economy must be drawn from the health of the environment.
  2. To make the right choices that will keep us on a sustainable path, we have to be able to properly measure our progress.
  3. This report will equip policy-makers with the right numbers, so that they can make the right decisions to deliver results for generations to come.

With inputs from: UN Environment

Economic Indicators-GDP, FD,etc

India may face an intense and increased water deficit in 2019

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Geography | Important Geophysical phenomena

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Monsoon dynamics in India, Global Water Monitor & Forecast Watch List

Mains level: Impact of deficit monsoon


News

  • Water deficits will increase and intensify in India in 2019, says the latest edition of Global Water Monitor & Forecast Watch List.

About WSIM

  1. The report is presented by IScience (US based LLC) states the findings from the latest Water Security Indicator Model (WSIM).
  2. ISciences Water Security Indicator Model (WSIM) monitors and forecasts water anomalies on a near global basis.
  3. WSIM includes algorithms to assess the impacts of water anomalies on people, agriculture and electricity generation.
  4. WSIM has been run continuously since April 2011 and has been validated against subsequent monitoring based on observed data.

Details of the Forecast

  1. The forecast predicts severe to exceptional surplus water for regions including Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Mizoram.
  2. Moderate to severe deficits were forecast for Bihar.
  3. From February through April, deficits in India are expected to moderate overall and some regions in the country’s eastern third will normalize.
  4. However, intense deficits will persist throughout Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh and along the Tungabhadra River through Karnataka.
  5. The forecast for the final months — May through July (2019) — indicates primarily moderate deficits in India and pockets throughout the region.
  6. The 12-month forecast through July 2019 indicates exceptional (greater than 40 years) water deficits in Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Madhya Pradesh.

Expected El-Nino Impact

  1. Though this September’s extreme heat was unrelated to El Niño which usually introduces warm dry conditions.
  2. El Niño is being blamed for low rainfall during the June-to-September monsoon season.
  3. The monsoon rain deficits have caused drought-like conditions in almost a third of Indian districts, and added stress for the farmers.

Coffee production to decline

  1. India’s coffee production is expected to fall to its lowest in five years due to flood damage to plantations in southern states such as Kerala and Karnataka.
  2. India exports about three quarters of the coffee it produces, and flood damage has been reported in all key producing areas of the country.
Monsoon Updates

Panel suggests measures to tackle crisis in stressed thermal power projects

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Solutions to revamp India’s power sector


News

Background

  1. The High Level Empowered Committee (HLEC) set up by Government of India in July 2018 came out with its report on stranded thermal power projects.
  2. The Committee has assessed the landscape of these stranded assets and identified the various reasons that have contributed to the current scenario.
  3. This report focused on 34 thermal power stations, totalling to a capacity of 40 gigawatt (GW), which are entirely fuelled by coal and lignite.

Reasons behind Power sector crisis

  1. Institutional challenges related to the issue have contributed to the problem.
  2. The envisaged a capacity addition requirement of 88 GW was surpassed with 99 GW during the corresponding period leading plants to perform below their rated capacities.
  3. Several root causes identified by the HLEC are interconnected with the debt burden of the distribution utilities and the financial stress on banks/financial institutions as well as promoters and bidders.
  4. A significant chunk of the problem has been caused by the erratic coal supply and the uncertainty of coal supplies due to scrapping of mine auctions by the Supreme Court.

Suggested solutions

HLEC has put forth suggestions, most of which are in line with current government policies to help power plants in general and stressed assets in particular.

  • Coal Supply
  1. Coal supply is an inter-ministerial issue, whereby the ministries for coal and railways have been requested to work out mechanisms to address short-term issues of supply.
  2. Linking coal supply to power plant efficiency is a good way to incentivise better, newer and more efficient assets.
  • Shutting inefficient Plants
  1. Old plants operating way past their lifetime are less efficient in resource utilization, have higher emission profiles and are also expensive due to swift recovery of renovation costs that keep adding on to them.
  2. Closing down of old, inefficient thermal power units make for good economics and good environmental sense.
  • Addressing financial risks
  1. Several measures related to power markets to address the financial risks have been strongly recommended by the HLEC.
  2. These include getting NTPC or any other agency to act as an aggregator for power purchases, which can subsequently be sold to distribution utilities.
  3. The idea is not new as Power Finance Corporation (PFC) had recently conducted a tender for procuring 2500 megawatt (MW) of thermal power from stranded assets under specific conditions.
  • Easing Clearances
  1. Many promoters are facing National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) for defaults, and their assets are also online for sale.
  2. Any new owner of a power plant should not be subjected to these challenges of obtaining clearances and signing agreements again, else the interest to acquire the asset may wane.

Gas-based thermal power: Not on Priority

  1. The talk to revive gas power plants is important, and serves good purpose as natural gas is a relatively cleaner fuel with lesser emissions.
  2. However, gas supply will continue to remain a problem for several reasons.
  3. Priority of supply of natural gas has always been lopsided to fertiliser industry, which uses natural gas as raw material and has a strong government presence and control.
  4. The political economy of gas supply and pricing will be heavily determined by this emerging consumer base as well.
  5. Even if imported, the lack of sufficient LNG storage terminal capacity and subsequent pipeline capacity will ensure that things remain more of the same in the near future.
  6. Therefore, these are mere platitudes unless a strong position is taken on reviving the fortunes of these power stations.

Way Forward

  1. The HLEC has shown that ways can be found to sort out the mess within the thermal power sector for coal fired power plants.
  2. However, the sole focus on coal has meant that gas-based power plants will have to wait for their turn under the sun.
Renewable Energy – Wind, Tidal, Geothermal, etc.

ISRO successfully launches hyperspectral imaging satellite HysIS

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the HysIS

Mains level:  Important missions of ISRO


News

  • The ISRO has successfully launched the PSLV-C43/HysIS mission from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota late.
  • This mission, the sixth one this year that will use a polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV), will see the launch of HysIS – India’s own earth observation satellite.
  • The satellite will be accompanied by 29 other satellites developed by various nations, including 23 from the US.

About the Launch

  1. The PSLV launcher has a total length of 39.4m and consists of a four-stage rocket, that has alternating solid and liquid stages.
  2. PSLV-C43 is a core-alone version of the launch vehicle, and the lightest one in operation. The combined weight of the satellites is 641.5kg.
  3. PSLV-C43 mission’s payload consists of the HysIS satellite, one micro-satellite and 29 nano satellites.
  4. While the 30 foreign satellites will be launched at an altitude of 504 km from the Earth’s surface, ISRO’s HysIS satellite will be launched at an altitude of 636 km.
  5. The satellite will be put into a polar synchronous orbit, which sets it in motion along the axis that runs along the Earth’s geographic North and South Pole.

HysIS

  1. HysIS stands for Hyper Spectral Imaging Satellite.
  2. The objective of the probe is to provide observations within the visible, near infrared and shortwave infrared bands of the electromagnetic spectrum.
  3. The imaging tools will help the HysIS satellite monitor atmospheric activity and climate change, while also assisting studies of Earth’s magnetic field.
  4. These observations will have a host of applications, prime among which relate to agriculture, forestry, water management, and coastal patterns.
  5. The satellite’s payload also consists of a 730W power backup, and a 64Ah Li-ion battery.
  6. It will continue to make observations till 2023, when the mission ends.
  7. After this launch, the next big event for the Indian space organisation will be its awaited mission to the moon – Chandrayaan-2 – in early 2019.
ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[pib] Emergency Response Support System (ERSS)

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: ERSS, 112 India App, SHOUT

Mains level: Need for pan-India emergency response system.


News

  • The Union Home Ministry has launched Emergency Response Support System (ERSS) for Himachal Pradesh.

Emergency Response Support System (ERSS)

  1. Central Government has allocated ₹321.69 Crore under Nirbhaya Fund for implementation of ERSS project across the country.
  2. Under this project, a single number based 112 emergency services which will connect to Police, Fire, Health and other help lines through an Emergency Response Centre in the State.
  3. The service also includes a ‘112 India’ mobile app integrated with Panic Button of smartphones and ERSS State website for ease of citizen in availing immediate assistance.
  4. To increase the effectiveness of Emergency Response, the ERC has also been integrated with Location Based Services provided by Telecom Service Providers.
  5. Himachal Pradesh is the first state to launch pan-India single emergency number ‘112’ under ERSS.
  6. The ‘112 India’ mobile app will be subsequently rolled out in all States & Union Territories to help people across the country access the unified emergency services.

Safety Feature for Women

  1. To ensure safety of women, a SHOUT feature has been introduced in ‘112 India’ mobile app.
  2. It helps seek immediate assistance from registered volunteers in the vicinity apart from the immediate assistance from Emergency Response Centre.
Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

[op-ed snap] The China-Pakistan love affair in troubled waters

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CPEC, Belt & Road initiative

Mains level: New challenges for CPEC and Sino-Pak bilateral relations


Context

Strain in Sino-Pak relationship

  1. Recently, the Chinese consulate in Karachi came under attack with three gunmen trying to enter it and killing four people in the process
  2. The Balochistan Liberation Army took responsibility for the attack
  3. This attack is part of a series of assaults on Chinese projects and personnel in the restive province of Balochistan over the years as China’s footprint has grown in the region

Turmoil in Balochistan

  1. Balochistan sits at the very heart of the ambitious China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), China’s flagship investment project in Pakistan
  2. Despite being rich in minerals, gas and coal, Balochistan is Pakistan’s most impoverished region, resulting in perpetual political turmoil
  3. Baloch nationalists have gained traction by accusing Islamabad of pursuing exploitative policies and never giving the region its rightful share
  4. The ongoing tussle between security forces and Baloch nationalists has made the region’s security precarious, diminishing the region’s economic prospects

Importance of CPEC for Pak as well as China

  1. China has come up with its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as part of which it plans to link its western Xinjiang province with the Arabian Sea port of Gwadar in Balochistan
  2. With a network of highways, railways and pipelines in conjunction with energy, industrial and other infrastructure development projects, the CPEC aims to enhance connectivity across Pakistan and as well as the country’s overall economic growth prospects
  3. CPEC is being talked about as a potential game changer as it could revive the economic profile of a region that has traditionally been an economic backwater
  4. The CPEC is as much about China’s growing strategic bond with Pakistan as it is about Beijing’s efforts to stem the growing tide of insurgency and radicalism from flowing into its own territory
  5. It is hoping that by generating economic growth and opportunities in Pakistan, it will be able to manage its troubled provinces

Challenges for CPEC increasing

  1. There is growing domestic political opposition in Pakistan—not only from Baloch nationalists but also due to widening differences between provinces and the central government—over the allocation of investments
  2. This has been exacerbated by Pakistan’s economic crisis, which has seen Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves rapidly depleting and the country facing a mounting balance-of-payments crisis, requiring about $12 billion to meet its liabilities
  3. CPEC has been blamed for part of this problem, with imports of heavy machinery and other equipment resulting in Pakistan’s massive trade deficit

Global challenges for China & Pakistan

  1. Pakistan is facing a difficult global environment on the whole
  2. Its relationship with the US has nosedived under the Donald Trump administration which has warned the International Monetary Fund against lending money to Pakistan, arguing that a bailout package could not be used to settle Chinese debts
  3. China is also coming under growing global criticism for its BRI projects with nations as diverse as Thailand, Laos, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and the Maldives all voicing complaints about the terms of the loans from China
  4. China’s debt trap diplomacy is facing a global pushback

Way forward

  1. Though Chinese interests have been repeatedly targeted over the years, Beijing so far has continued to repose its faith in the Pakistani government’s ability to manage the security situation so as to guarantee Chinese investment
  2. Recent attacks in Balochistan merely emphasize that challenges for CPEC and for the China-Pakistan economic relationship are only going to mount in the future
  3. Some kind of a reset in Sino-Pak engagement is inevitable
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Pakistan

[op-ed snap] A reinstated right to property will protect the poor

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions & basic structure

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Right to property, DPSP, Article 300-A

Mains level: Need for reinstating the right to property in India


Context

Demands for Right to Property

  1. The Forest Rights Act of 2006 seeks to correct a historical wrong cemented during the colonial era
  2. The lack of land rights has ensured that generations of tribal cultivators have got a raw deal from governments as well as banks
  3. Now there is a demand for property rights from the farmers from Maharashtra as well as other states

History of the right to property

  1. It is well known that the Indian Constitution originally recognized the right to property as a fundamental right
  2. That right came under attack beginning with the first amendment in 1951
  3. Many of the subsequent laws that undermined property rights were hidden away from judicial scrutiny in the Ninth Schedule
  4. Another big blow came during the epic legal battles after the nationalization of banks in 1969
  5. The Morarji Desai government eventually scrapped the fundamental right to property with the forty-fourth amendment in 1978
  6. In its place came Article 300-A that makes it possible for a citizen to be dispossessed without compensation through an act of legislation

Reasoning for scrapping right to property

  1. Successive governments chipped away at the right to property by arguing that it was an obstacle in the way of pursuing the social justice agenda embedded in the directive principles of state policy
  2. Consider the issue of farmland
  3. It was very unequally divided when India became an independent country because of the colonial institution of zamindari
  4. The estates kept growing in size as indebted peasants were dispossessed after loan defaults
  5. The implicit assumption all the way till the right to property was removed from the list of fundamental rights was that it was essentially a concern of the rich
  6. The poor had little stake in property rights

Need for reinstatement

  1. First, the poor have neither the legal resources nor the political heft to fight laws or administrative orders that allow governments to take over their land
  2. Second, the poor do not have enough opportunities to make a living in formal jobs in case they are forcibly separated from their property

Advantages of giving property rights

  1. There is now a lot of research that shows how property rights help the poor
  2. The security of property provides incentives for a small farmer to invest in his land or a slum dweller to spend on basic infrastructure
  3. Secure property rights allow the poor to raise capital by offering the property as collateral to formal lenders
  4. The poor also have a stake in better property rights—from land titling to legal safeguards

Way forward

  1. Property rights today are a tool of inclusion rather than exclusion
  2. Its reinstatement discussion needs to enter the mainstream of Indian policy discourse
Land Reforms

[op-ed snap] The three bin solution

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies & interventions for development in various sectors & issues arising out of their design & implementation

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Various laws for waste management in India and the need for segregating hazardous waste from household waste


Context

Need for better solid waste management

  1. With changing lifestyles, our homes are awash with different chemicals and products which, often without us being aware, are corrosive, explosive, flammable or toxic
  2. These are dangerous wastes that need to be kept out of the wet and dry waste streams
  3. They are harmful not only for our health but also for the environment if not disposed of properly

Lead exposure risk

  1. Leftover paints and varnishes are examples of common polluting wastes in homes
  2. They often contain toxic heavy metals and flammable solvents
  3. Lead, a highly toxic metal, is found in lead-based paints which are often used on walls, toys and art supplies
  4. Young children are particularly vulnerable as even low levels of lead exposure can cause cognitive disabilities in children
  5. WHO lists lead exposure as one of the top 10 environmental health threats globally
  6. Many countries have phased out lead from their paints. In November 2016
  7. India brought in a regulation which allowed a maximum of 90 ppm lead content in paints
  8. A study by Toxic Links published in October 2018 shows that the concentration of lead in paints manufactured by small and medium enterprises in India remains very high
  9. They found paint samples with as high as 199,345 ppm lead content — more than 2,000 times the maximum limit

Rules for safe disposal of different kinds of wastes

  1. There are rules galore for domestic hazardous waste with quite a bit of overlap in coverage for different types of waste
  2. Domestic hazardous waste comes under the ambit of Solid Waste Management (SWM) Rules 2016
  3. Hazardous waste generated by industries and large offices is separately covered under the Hazardous Waste Rules 2016
  4. Some biomedical waste is included in the definition of domestic hazardous waste, but only waste from healthcare establishments is covered under the Bio-Medical Waste Management Rules 2016
  5. Similarly E-waste Management Rules 2016 are applicable to e-waste including computers, printers, TV, fluorescent and other mercury-containing lamps, while lead acid batteries from home inverters and cars come under Batteries (Management and Handling) Rules 2001

Weak implementation

  1. It is the responsibility of the municipal authorities under the SWM Rules 2016, to collect hazardous waste quarterly or periodically, and/or set up deposit centres, where such waste can be dropped off by waste generators
  2. The authorities must also ensure safe storage of the waste and its transportation to the hazardous waste disposal facility
  3. But the rules lose their significance because there are hardly any deposit centres for domestic hazardous waste
  4. The Biomedical Waste Management Rules 2016 require safe disposal of only healthcare waste
  5. While only 10-25 per cent of biomedical waste is infectious or hazardous, if not properly handled, it presents the physical, chemical and microbiological risk to the general population as well as those who handle this waste
  6. Discarded hazardous medical waste leads to the unintended release of drug-resistant microorganisms in the environment

Drug resistance increasing

  1. According to the WHO, in 2016, 490,000 persons developed multi-drug resistant TB globally and drug resistance is starting to complicate the fight against HIV and malaria, as well
  2. A WHO report also shows that there were 65,000 cases of multidrug-resistant and Rifampicin-resistant tuberculosis in India in 2017

Way forward

  1. With changing lifestyles, our homes are awash with different chemicals and products which, often without us being aware, are corrosive, explosive, flammable or toxic
  2. These are dangerous wastes that need to be kept out of the wet and dry waste streams
  3. They are harmful not only for our health but also for the environment if not disposed of properly
  4. People should start keeping three bins for waste: Dry, wet and hazardous
Waste Management – SWM Rules, EWM Rules, etc

Govt moves to redraft Direct Tax Laws to modernize income tax

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Mobilization of resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Direct and indirect taxes

Mains level: Read the attached story


News

  • The government will take a fresh look at modernizing the Income Tax Act, 1961, after an earlier effort by a six-member task force got derailed.

New propositions

  1. The new direct tax law is expected to make taxation more progressive, wherein the tax burden will be higher on those with better payment capacity.
  2. This approach was evident in the government’s choice of tax rates when it reformed indirect taxation by ushering in the goods and services tax (GST).
  3. Luxury items are subject to the highest rate of 28%-plus cess and mass use items are either exempted or are kept in the 5% GST slab, although a four-slab system risked making GST more complex.

Issue over Inheritance Tax

  1. The task force is however, unlikely to propose the difficult-to-implement inheritance tax.
  2. Although it may be easier to say that one should tax the rich more, implementing an inheritance tax is complex.
  3. It can only lead to high-income earners getting resettled elsewhere.

Other Measures

  1. The union government has appointed a task force, which will advise the government on drafting a new direct tax law that suits India’s economic requirements.
  2. The government has so far attempted to phase out corporate tax concessions, reduce corporate tax rates for small businesses to 25% and give relief to small income earners by lowering tax rates.
  3. The government also plugged some of the massively abused loopholes in the bilateral tax treaties with Mauritius to prevent tax-evaded money coming back into the country in the form of foreign direct investment.
Tax Reforms