The WTO’s dispute settlements mechanism is all but dead

Headline : The WTO’s dispute settlements mechanism is all but dead

Details :

In News:

  • The World Trade Organization’s (WTO’s) dispute settlement mechanism is on the brink of collapsing.

 

About: World Trade Organisation (WTO)

  • In 1948, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) came in as an ad hoc and provisional mechanism to enable international trade and to establish multilateral rules for the settlement of trade disputes.
  • More than four decades after GATT, the U.S. drove the agenda to establish the World Trade Organisation (WTO) which came into existence in 1995.
  • It’s an organization for liberalizing trade. It operates a system of trade rules.
  • It’s a forum for governments to negotiate trade agreements.
  • It’s a place for governments to settle trade disputes.

Dispute settlement at WTO:

  • Resolving trade disputes is one of the core activities of the WTO.
  • A dispute arises when a member government believes another member government is violating an agreement or a commitment that it has made in the WTO.
  • The WTO has one of the most active international dispute settlement mechanisms in the world.
  • Dispute Settlement Body:
    • Settling disputes is the responsibility of the Dispute Settlement Body, which consists of all WTO members.
    • The Dispute Settlement Body has the sole authority to establish “panels” of experts to consider the case.
    • As the panel’s report can only be rejected by consensus in the Dispute Settlement Body, its conclusions are difficult to overturn.
  • Appellate Body:
    • The appeal to the DSB ruling is heard by the Appellate Body (AB) and a report is submitted to the DSB.
    • The appeal is heard by three member panel of the permanent Appellate Body (consisting of a total  seven-members) set up by the Dispute Settlement Body and broadly representing the range of WTO membership.
    • Once the AB report is adopted by the DSB, the member concerned is obliged to implement the findings and recommendations within a reasonable period of time.
  • Enforcement of dispute settlement:
    • In case of reluctance or refusal to implement of the recommendations by a party, the affected member may seek enforcement by requesting the DSB to authorise retaliatory measures.
    • The DSB may allow retaliation in the same sector (goods, services or intellectual property rights) or even authorise cross-retaliation, but it must be at the same level as the measure complained against.
    • The process of enforcement is, thus, controlled multilaterally to ensure fairness of treatment towards all concerned.

 

Over the years, US has criticized the Appellate Body and called for changes:

  • Over the years, the US in particular found itself on the wrong side of these developments on a few occasions.
    • The US is frustrated at the AB’s rulings against its anti-dumping duties against foreign products, as well as AB’s relaxations for Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs).
  • The US believes the WTO is biased against it, and has criticised it for being “unfair”.
  • The US President Trump and others also believe the WTO has encouraged China — helping it to strengthen its economy at the cost of other nations including the US.

US caused AB membership to shrink:

  • The US administration, hoping to raise attention to these issues, began blocking the he appointments of new members, and the reappointments of members who had completed their four-year tenures.
  • For more than two years, the US has refused to allow vacancies at AB to be filled up.
  • As a result, the strength of the AB (which can have seven members) has already been reduced to three.

 

News Summary:

AB will be rendered disfunctional:

  • The AB will become dysfunctional as two more members retired on December 10, 2019. This leaves AB with only 1 member and the requirement of a quorum of three members can no longer be met.

What it means:

  • AB becoming disfunctional would mean that dispute resolution would not progress beyond the panel process and there would be no final decision in disputes raised before the body.
  • The importance of AB can be seen from the fact that between 1995 and 2014, around 68% of the 201 panel reports adopted were appealed.
  • It could also signal the demise of the 24-year-old WTO itself, as the system for settling disputes has been the organisation’s most important function.
  • Once the appellate body becomes non-functional, with no avenue for appeal, there could be the risk of arbitration proceedings against any member at the wrong end of the panel report.
  • Shortage of members was already impacting AB:
    • The strength of the AB has already been reduced to three in last year or two.
    • The understaffed appeals body has been unable to stick to its 2-3 month deadline for appeals filed in the last few years. The backlog of cases has prevented it from initiating proceedings in appeals that have been filed in the last year.
    • The three members have been proceeding on all appeals filed since October 1, 2018 (as minimum of three members must hear any appeal).

Impact on India:

  • India has so far been a direct participant in 54 disputes, and has been involved in 158 as a third party.
  • India has been impacted directly as a result of this situation of shortage of AB membership.
  • Case of dispute with Japan:
    • Earlier, the panel had found that India had acted “inconsistently” with some WTO agreements in a dispute with Japan over certain safeguard measures that India had imposed on imports of iron and steel products.
    • India had then notified the Dispute Settlement Body of its decision to appeal certain issues of law and legal interpretations in December 2018.
    • However, India’s appeal could not be heard due to the inability to staff the AB to hear the dispute.
  • The situation could be difficult for India, which is facing a rising number of dispute cases, especially on agricultural products.
Section : 

Retributive justice Editorial 6th Dec’19 TheHindu

Headline : Retributive justice Editorial 6th Dec’19 TheHindu

Details :

Outcry for women’s safety after Hyderabad incident:

  • The heinous rape and murder of a veterinarian in Hyderabad in late November shook the collective conscience of India.
  • It resulted in an outcry for justice for the victim and outrage over the persisting lack of safety for women in public spaces.

Creates societal pressure on justice system for quick justice:

  • Such societal pressure for justice invariably weighs upon legal institutions, as the police are required to find the culprits immediately and the judiciary to complete the legal process without undue delay.

But rule of law and procedure must continue to be upheld:

  • But these institutions must uphold the rule of law and procedure even in such circumstances.

 

The ‘encounter’ of the accused was celebrated:

  • The killing of the four accused of the rape and murder of the veterinary doctor by the Hyderabad police was celebrated by people in Hyderabad and across India.

Shows anger against gruesome crimes as well as justice system:

  • The jubilation over the killings by the police stems from the public anger and anguish over the burgeoning crimes against women.
  • There is a perception that the legal institutions are ill-equipped to deal with such crimes and to bring the perpetrators to justice.

 

However, the encounter raises questions:

  • The police claim that they killed the accused in self-defence does not sound fully convincing, and raises disturbing questions.

The encounter must be probed:

  • The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has deputed a fact-finding team to Hyderabad to probe the incident.
  • The guidelines set by the Supreme Court to deal with such events, including the need for an independent investigation, must be strictly observed.

 

Some improvements in justice system from earlier times for quick justice in gruesome cases:

  • There has been greater awareness and improvement in both the policing and judicial process following the ‘Nirbhaya’ case in December 2012 in New Delhi.
  • The Telangana government had, in this case as well, issued orders for setting up a fast-track court to try the four accused.
  • If the Hyderabad police had followed the successful prosecution similar to the Delhi case, this case could have also brought closure to the case in a time-bound manner.

Much more needs to be done:

  • However, much more needs to done in terms of registration and charge-sheeting of sexual crimes by police and addressing the pendency in court of such cases.
  • Existing laws on sexual crimes and punishment need better application.

 

But severe retribution cannot be justice:

  • In any case, recourse to brutal retribution as in the case of present ‘encounter’ is no solution.
  • On the contrary, the political sanction to deliver such swift retribution would only be a disincentive for the police to follow due process. It may even deter them from pursuing the course of justice.

 

Conclusion:

  • Far from ensuring justice to the victims, bending the law in such cases would only undermine people’s faith in the criminal justice system.
  • Justice in any civilised society is not just about retribution, but also about deterrence, and in less serious crimes, rehabilitation of the offenders.

 

Importance:

GS Paper II: Polity

Section : Editorial Analysis

About: Purchasing Manager Index (PMI) and It’s significance

Headline : Manufacturing PMI improves

Details :

In News:
  • The Nikkei India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index rose in November from October, indicating an increase in manufacturing activity November.
About: Purchasing Manager Index (PMI)
  • The Nikkei India Manufacturing PMI is based on data compiled from monthly survey responses by purchasing managers in more than 400 manufacturing companies, on various factors that represent demand conditions.
  • PMI measures activity at the purchasing or input stage. It is very different from industrial production which is indicative of actual production. For example, the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) measures output
  • The PMI is constructed separately for manufacturing and services sector, but the manufacturing sector holds more importance.
  • PMI does not capture informal sector activity.
Significance:
  • The Index is considered as an indicator of the economic health and investor sentiment about the manufacturing sector.
  • PMI is also the earliest indicator of manufacturing activity and economic health, as the manufacturing PMI report for any given month comes out without any delay – either on the last day of that month or on the first day of the next month.
How it is captured:
  • The PMI is derived from survey responses from purchasing managers to a a series of qualitative questions.
  • PMI is composite index based on five individual sub-indices:
    • New orders
    • Output
    • Employment
    • Suppliers’ delivery times
    • Stock of items purchased
Reading the PMI:
  • A figure above 50 denotes expansion in business activity and anything below 50 denotes contraction.
  • Higher is the difference from this mid-point, greater is the expansion or contraction.
  • The rate of expansion can also be judged by comparing the PMI with that of the previous month data. If the figure is higher than the previous month’s then the economy is expanding at a faster rate. If it is lower than the previous month then it is growing at a lower rate.
News Summary:
  • The October Nikkei India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index, at 50.6, was a two-year low.
  • Now, in November, the Index rose to 51.2. In comparision, the survey average is 53.8.
  • This indicates that, although business conditions in the Indian manufacturing sector improved in November, the upturn remained subdued compared to earlier in the year and the survey history.
  • The rates of expansion in factory orders, production and exports remained far away from those recorded at the start of 2019. Subdued underlying demand is being seen as a major reason for this.
Performance of sub-indices:
  • Good: The Index rise was driven by a modest increase in the growth of new orders and production.
  • Bad: On the other hand, it was concerning that firms shed jobs (for the first time in 20 months) and continued to reduce input buying.
Various segments:
  • The consumer goods segment growth mainly propped up the growth in the overall manufacturing sector.
  • The intermediate goods segment also returned to expansion.
  • However, the capital goods segment reported a deterioration in the operating conditions.
Section : Economics

Transforming farm loans Editorial 1st Dec’19 FinancialExpress

Headline : Transforming farm loans Editorial 1st Dec’19 FinancialExpress

Details :

Importance of crop loans in India:

  • Crop loan is a lifeline for over 145 million farmers in India.
  • Every year, millions of farmers and thousands of bank branches go through a intense process of granting crop loans delivered through Kisan Credit Cards.
  • Banks disbursed Rs 12.5 lakh crore worth farm loans (majority as crop loans) during 2018-19.

Efforts to encourage crop loans:

  • The Centre provides interest subvention on crop loans up to Rs 3 lakh, and with additional incentive for timely repayment, effective interest rate works out to affordable 4%.
  • Banks are also mandated to secure crop insurance cover for farmers, who have to pay a minimal premium.

Still many farmers unable to access loans:

  • Despite these measures to make crop loans affordable, only 61% of farmers have accessed institutional loans (NAFIS 2016-17).
  • Manual crop loaning processes is a big reason for that: Due to predominantly manual crop loaning processes in banks, there are substantial direct and indirect costs inflicted on farmers, including:
    • Loss of precious time and potential wage opportunities
    • Expenses on visits to banks/other offices
    • Legal expenses on verification of land records/documentation
    • Processing fee levied by some banks

 

Banks still do not like these loans much:

  • Yet, this massive loan segment continues to be treated as a necessary evil by banks, rather than mainstreaming as a commercial proposition like retail loans.
  • Denial or delay in crop loans forces farmers to borrow from informal sources, on adverse terms.

 

Farm loan waivers across states:

  • Undue glorification of farm loans through politically-motivated loan waivers is common.
  • While the central government has resisted announcing farm loan waivers, this fiscal prudence was not replicated during the several assembly elections held since 2014.
  • Political parties have been promising loan waivers as their main electoral strategy. Subsequently, the elected state governments announced farm loan waivers aggregating a whopping Rs 2.4 lakh crores.

Loan waivers cause systemic damage:

  • Irrational loan waivers cause systemic damage where:
    • Farmers tend to postpone repayments
    • NPAs rise in banks that show reluctance in extending new loans
    • State governments resort to fiscally-imprudent acts such as higher market borrowings
    • Curtailing expenditure on capital investments and welfare programmes to fund waivers
  • Not surprisingly, agricultural NPAs crossed Rs 1 lakh crore mark in July 2019their proportion to total outstanding agri-loans rose from 9.6% in July 2018 to 11.0% in July 2019, and states that implemented waivers ended up in bad fiscal math.

 

Issues with issuing subsidised crop loans:

  • Today, subsidised crop loans are a necessity for farmers.
  • But there are issues relating to:
    • Accurate targeting
    • End-use
    • Skewed distribution across states
    • Exclusions, adverse selection
    • Actual impact in terms of incremental farm productivity/output, etc.
  • Correct diagnosis and mitigation of crop loan issues can be possible only through analysis of credible micro data and trends on farm credit.

Difficulties in tracking actual progress on loans to agriculture:

  • Within the priority sector norms for agriculture, banks are required to provide 8% loans to small and marginal farmers.
  • The presence of women and lessee farmers, who also need credit, is steadily growing in India.
  • But, with existing manual loan operations and related data, it becomes difficult to track actual progress on these parameters.

 

Need a paradigm shift to make crop loans work better for all stakeholders:

  • This calls for a paradigm shift in approach to adopt disruptive fintech ideas for making crop loans work better for farmers, banks, governments.

Some transformative ideas towards achieving this:

  • Loan process automation:
    • Crop loans should continue to be delivered to farmers based on a well-evolved methodology comprising crop-wise acreage, crop seasonality, district-wise scale of finance etc.
    • However, we need to make crop loan delivery simple, transparent and efficient through process automation to allow timely, hassle-free, cost-effective credit access to farmers.
  • Banks must make crop loans a serious and competitive business:
    • Banks must start seeing crop loans as multi-billion worth banking opportunity with 145 million aspirational rural customers, having cross-selling opportunities.
    • Banks need to act proactively and disruptively to make crop loaning a serious and competitive business, like retail loans.
  • National Agriculture Calamity Fund (NACF):
    • To safeguard financial interests of farmers in the event of a natural calamity or market adversity, the government may create a ‘National Agriculture Calamity Fund (NACF)’ within a credible national-level agency.
    • Mandatory annual contributions to NACF by the central/state governments may be facilitated by the Finance Commission in its resource-sharing formula. States granting loan waivers outside the NACF mechanism may be disincentivised in devolution of the formula.
  •  Seamless integration between crop loaning and insurance processes:
    • There is a need to make crop insurance a preferred choice of farmers, insurance firms and banks.
    • To achieve seamless integration between crop loaning and insurance processes, refinements are needed such as:
      • Early remittance of premium collected by banks to insurance firms
      • Timely payment of premium subsidy by state/central governments
      • Use of advanced remote-sensing and digital technologies for timely and trustworthy conduct of crop cutting experiments at farmer level
      • Building effective grievance mechanism, etc.
  • Big data analytics:
    • With numerous data points involved in crop loan operation for 145 million farmers, the segment is a mammoth big data game.
    • in the absence of digitisation, banks, governments and other stakeholders are deprived of power of data analytics for making informed decisions on policies, products, processes, cross-selling opportunities, etc.
    • Therefore, there is an urgent need to adopt modern financial technology in crop loaning.
  • National Data Platform on Farmers (NDPF):
    • Creating a robust ‘National Data Platform on Farmers (NDPF)’ to warehouse data on individual farmers, covering their demographics, land records etc. is the need of the hour.
    • NDPF may be promoted as a joint venture of central/state governments, financial institutions and other stakeholders.
  • Farmer-level risk assessment:
    • Banks do not systematically factor structured risk assessed at farmer level in their crop loaning decisions.
    • With farmer-level micro data on NDPF, it will be possible to evolve appropriate risk-assessment models and generate a ‘Farmer Rating and Credit Score (FRCS)‘.
    • Crop loan eligibility for a farmer, worked out using usual standard criteria, may be further moderated, based on his/her score.
    • Such a risk-based lending approach would help in promoting judicious borrowing by farmers and responsible lending by banks.
  • National Crop Loaning Portal (NCLP):
    • A standardised ‘National Crop Loaning Portal (NCLP)’ may be developed under the aegis of Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) as a fully digitised end-to-end solution for crop loaning.
    • Farmers may be given access for making online loan application, tracking and viewing loan transaction details.

 

Conclusion:

  • The proposed NACF and NDPF could prove to be major steps towards promoting cooperative federalism in Indian agriculture.
  • Loan process automation would enable banks to easily outsource basic loan processes to other agencies.
  • Data-driven, digital and score-based approaches to crop loaning would help liberate farm loans from the crutches of political patronage.
  • The adoption of a digital and score-based retailing approach to crop loans would enable banks to position this segment as their growth driver, like retail loans, and gradually make it immune to syndromes such as loan waivers.

 

Importance:

GS Paper III: Economy

Section : Editorial Analysis

What is the project to redevelop Lutyens’ Delhi all about?

Headline : What is the project to redevelop Lutyens’ Delhi all about?

Details :

In News

  • The Central government has started its plan of redeveloping the three-km-long Central Vista and Parliament.
  • The plan also includes constructing a common Central secretariat for all ministries that are currently spread over many buildings across Delhi.
  • This follows calls from Members of Parliament to have their own offices at Parliament House, which only Ministers get as of now.
  • In October, the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) selected a Gujarat-based architecture firm, HCP Design, Planning and Management Pvt. Ltd., to serve as its consultant for the project.
  • The work on the ground in Lutyen’s Delhi is expected to start by May 2020.

 

Why did the government feel the need for redeveloping the area?

  • The British built Parliament House and the North and South Blocks, which contain the offices of the Ministries of Finance, Home, Defence and External Affairs, between 1911 and 1931.
  • Post-1947, the government of independent India added office buildings such as ShastriBhavan, KrishiBhavan and NirmanBhavan.
  • According to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs these buildings do not have the facilities and space required today.
  • While the British-built buildings are not earthquake-proof, the buildings that came up after 1947 are prone to fires.

What is the plan?

  • The huge rooms for Ministers and secretaries, with corridors lined with clerical staff would be replaced with modern workspaces.
  • The new buildings that come up would have a lifespan of 150 to 200 years, would be energy-efficient and would represent a “new India”.
  • While Parliament House and North and Sout Blocks will not be demolished, their usage may change, for example, they may be used as museums.
  • The rest of the buildings that came up post-Independence, including ShastriBhavan, KrishiBhavan, etc, are likely to be demolished.
  • Through this project the government will also save about ₹1,000 crore a year, which it spends currently on renting office premises for its ministries outside of Lutyens’ Delhi in the Capital.

 

What lies ahead?

  • According to the government’s deadlines, the new Parliament (either as a completely new building or a renovation of the existing one) has to be ready by March 2022, the 75th year of India’s Independence.
  • The revamped Central Vista, complete with public amenities and parking, has to be ready by November 2021 and the new common Central secretariat by March 2024.
  • But after the government’s plan became public in September, concerns about conservation of heritage and the environment have come up.
  • However, CPWD and Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has clarified that the green cover and the history of New Delhi will not be damaged in the process of the revamp.
Section : Polity & Governance

India can learn agri-policy lessons from China Editorial 25th Oct’19 FinancialExpress

Headline : India can learn agri-policy lessons from China Editorial 25th Oct’19 FinancialExpress

Details :

India and China have similar challenges in agriculture:
  • India and China are the most populous countries in the world, having a population size of 1.35 billion and 1.39 billion, respectively, in 2018.
  • With limited arable land [about 120 million hectare (m ha) in China, and 156 m ha in India], both face the challenge of producing enough food, fodder, and fibre for their population.
Followed many similar methods to increase output:
  • Both have adopted similiar methods to get more food from limited land, including:
    • Modern technologies in agriculture, starting with High Yielding Variety (HYV) seeds in the mid-1960s
    • Use of more chemical fertilisers
    • Increased irrigation cover
      • China’s irrigation cover is 41% of cultivated area, and India’s is 48%.
      • As a result of this irrigation, China’s total sown area is 166 m ha compared to India’s gross cropped area of 198 m ha.
But China produces more output than India:
  • Even with much lesser land under cultivation, China produces agricultural output valued at $1,367 billion—more than three times that of India’s $407 billion.
Lessons for India from China in agriculture:
  • There are three important lessons for India, if it is to catch up to the levels achieved in China.
 
I) Increased spending on Agriculture Knowledge and Innovation Systems
  • Agriculture studies have revealed that the highest impact is from investments in agriculture Research and Education (R&E).
  • China spends more:
    • China spends a lot more on agriculture knowledge and innovation system (AKIS), which includes agri R&D, and extension.
    • China invested $7.8 billion on AKIS in 2018-19, amounting to 5.6 times the amount spent by India ($1.4 billion).
    • Presently, India invests just about 0.35% of its agri-Gross Value Added (GVA) whereas China spends 0.8%.
  • India needs to spend more:
    • For increasing total factor productivity, India needs to increase expenditure on agri-R&Dwhile making the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) accountable for targeted deliveries.
  • Note: Better seeds that result from higher R&D expenditures generally demand more fertiliser. China’s fertiliser consumption in 2016 was 503 kg/ha of arable area compared to just 166 kg/ha for India, as per World Bank estimates. Consequently, China’s productivity in most crops is 50 to 100% higher than India’s.
II) Better incentive structure to farmers through agri-marketing reforms
  • The incentive structure, as measured by Producer Support Estimates (PSEs), is much better for Chinese farmers than Indian ones.
  • The PSE concept measures the output prices that farmers get in relation to free trade scenario, as well as input subsidies received by them.
    • The PSE concept is adopted by 52 countries that produce more than three-fourths of global agri-output.
  • China’s PSE much higher to India:
    • For Chinese farmers, PSE was 15.3% of gross farm receipts during the triennium average ending (TE) 2018-19.
    • For the same period, Indian farmers had a PSE of -5.7%.
    • In a way, this reflects that Indian farmers had been net taxed, not subsidised, despite high amounts of input subsidies.
  • Due to restrictive trade and marketing practices in India:
    • This negative PSE (support) comes due to restrictive marketing, and trade policies that do not allow Indian farmers to get free trade prices for their outputs.
    • This negative market price support is so strong that it exceeds even the positive input subsidy support the government gives to farmers through low prices of fertilisers, power, irrigation, agri-credit, crop insurance, etc.
  • China’s experience that high MSPs do not work:
    • India can take a leaf out of Chinese bad experience from high MSPs.
    • China, in fact, used to give procurement prices to farmers that were much higher than even international prices.
    • The result was massive accumulation of stocks of wheat, rice, and corn that touched almost 300 million metric tonnes (MMT) in 2016-17 (see graphic).
    • As a result, they had to incur large expenditure for withholding these stocks without much purpose.
    • Having learnt lesson, China dropped the price support scheme for corn, and in fact, have been gradually reducing support prices of wheat, and rice.
  • India should learn from China and move away from high MSPs:
    • Indian government has been trying to jack up minimum support prices (MSPs) for 23 crops.
    • As a result, India’s stock situation in July 2019 was 81 MMT as against a buffer stock norm of 41 MMT.
    • India needs to reduce the gamut of commodities under the MSP system, and keep MSPs below international prices.
    • Else, India will also suffer from the same problems of overflowing granaries as China did.
  • Marketing reforms are necessary in India:
    • To improve this situation, large-scale agri-marketing reforms (APMC and Essential Commodities Act) need to be carried out.
III) Implementation of single direct income support scheme:
Single input subsidy scheme in China:
  • China has combined its major input subsidies in a single scheme that allows direct payment to farmers on a per hectare basis, and has spent $20.7 billion in 2018-19.
  • This gives farmers freedom to produce anything, rather than incentivising them to produce specific crops.
  • Inputs are priced at market prices, encouraging farmers to use resources optimally.
India offers heavy input subsidies apart from direct benefits:
  • India spent only $3 billion under its direct income scheme, PM-KISAN, in 2018-19.
  • On the other hand, it spent $27 billion on heavily subsidising fertilisers, power, irrigation, insurance, and credit.
  • This leads to large inefficiencies in their use, and has also created environmental problems.
India needs to consolidate subsidies into a single scheme:
  • It may be better for India to also consolidate all its input subsidies and give them directly to farmers on a per hectare basis, and free up their prices from all controls.
  • This would go a long way to spur efficiency, and productivity in Indian agriculture.
Conclusion:
  • If India needs to learn these three lessons from China, i.e., to invest more in agri-R&D and innovations, improve incentives for farmers by carrying out agri-marketing reforms, and collapse input subsidies into direct income support on a per hectare basis.
  • Through this, India can benefit its farmers and put agriculture on a high growth trajectory.
Importance:
GS Paper III: Indian Economy
Section : Editorial Analysis

Is seawater the ultimate answer?

Headline : Is seawater the ultimate answer?

Details :

Context of the topic:

  • As per National Health Profile (NHP), India’s public health spend as a percentage of GDP has increased by 0.16 percentage points from 1.12% to 1.28% of GDP, between 2009-10 and 2018-19.
    • India’s target is 5% GDP on health spend.
    • The NHP is an annual stocktaking exercise on the health of the health sector.

In News

The key findings of NHP 2019 are as below:

  • Increase in cost of treatmentleading to inequity in access to health care services.
  • Increase in per capita public expenditure on health in nominal terms from Rs 621 in 2009-10 to Rs 1,657 in 2017-18.
  • There has been an improvement in sex ratio and a decline in birth and death rates

Health expenditure as percentage of GDP

  • Spending by states showed deviation with the highest average per capita public expenditure on health by Northeastern states and the lowest by Empowered Action Group (EAG) states plus Assam.
    • EAG states are the eight socio-economically backward states of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.
    • Among the NE states, highest GSDP spend was by Mizoram (4.20%) and Arunachal Pradesh (3.29%).
    • Tamil Nadu and Kerala though having better performers on health parameters, performed poorly on the health finance index with low GSDP spend (Tamil Nadu – 0.74% and Kerala – 0.93%).
  • Globally, India’s per capita health expenditure was only $16 in 2016. A comparison has provided against other countries that are on the UHC path.

 

Other Findings of NHP 2019

  • As per NHP 2019, there has been a change in disease profile of the country with a shift from communicable onestowards the non-communicable diseases (NCDs)such as cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cancer, mental health disorder and injuries.
    • This was also documented by the State Level Disease Burden Study 2017. It highlighted an increase in disease burden from NCDs from 30 to 55% between 1990 and 2016.
    • Several initiatives have been taken in this regard. These include:
      • National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases and Stroke (NPCDCS) launched in 100 districts across 21 states with the aim to prevent and control thesediseases thorough awareness generation, behavior and lifestyle changes.
      • Free door-to-door screening programme for early detection of cancer, heart disorders and diabetes.
    • As per the NHP, sex ratio in the country has improved from 933 in 2001 to 943 in 2011.
      • The sex ratio in rural areas has increased from 946 to 949, and in urban areas from 900 to 929.
      • Kerala has recorded the highest sex ratio (1,084), and Chandigarh has recorded the lowest sex ratio (690).
    • Also, the estimated birth ratedeath rate and natural growth rate are declining. During 2000 to 2016, the figures were as below:
      • The estimated birth rate reduced from 25.8 to 20.4.
      • The death rate declined from 8.5 to 6.4 per 1,000 population.
      • The natural growth rate declined from 17.3 to 14.
    • The total fertility rate in 12 States has fallen below 2 children per woman and nine States have reached replacement levels of 2.1 and above.
      • Delhi, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal have the lowest fertility rate among other States.
    • There has been growth in medical education infrastructure.
      • The country has 529 medical colleges, 313 Dental Colleges for BDS & 253 Dental Colleges for MDS.

About: National Health Profile (NHP)

  • The NHP covers demographic, socio-economic, health status and health finance indicators, human resources in the health sector and health infrastructure.
  • It is an important source of information on various communicable and non-communicable diseases that are not covered under any other major programmes.
    • This information is essential for health system policy development, governance, health research, human resource development, health education and training.

Universal Health Coverage

  • In 2011, the High Level Expert Group of the erstwhile Planning Commission submitted its report on the rollout of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in India.
  • It recommended that the government (central government and states combined) should increase public expenditures on health from the current level of 1.2% of GDP to at least 2.5% by the end of the 12th plan and to at least 3% of GDP by 2022.
  • The benefit of increasing health expenditure would result in:
    • A five-fold increase in real per capita health expenditures by the government (from around Rs 650-700 in 2011-12 to Rs 3,400-3,500 by 2021- 22).
    • A corresponding decline in real private out-of-pocket expenditures(from around Rs 1,800-1,850 in 2011-12 to Rs 1,700-1,750 by 2021-22).
  • According to the WHO, Universal Health Coveragemeans “all people and communities can use the promotivepreventivecurativerehabilitative and palliative health services they need, of sufficient quality to be effective, while also ensuring that the use of these services does not expose the user to financial hardship.
  • The three objectives of UHC are:
    • Equity in access to health services;
    • Quality of health services should be good enough to improve the health of those receiving them;
    • People should be protected against financial-risk, ensuring that the cost of using services does not put people at risk of financial harm.

About: Central Bureau of Health Intelligence

  • Central Bureau of Health Intelligence (CBHI) was established in 1961 by the Act of Parliament on the recommendation of Mudaliar committee.
  • It is the Health Intelligence Wing under Directorate General of Health Services (Dte.GHS), Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW).
  • Vision–To havea strong Health Management Information System (HMIS) in entire country.
  • Mission –To strengthen Health Information System (HIS) in each of the district in the country up to the facility level for evidence based decision-making in the Health Sector.

Important Terms

  • Sex Ratio – The number of females per 1,000 males
  • Total fertility rate – The average number of children that will be born to a woman during her lifetime
  • Disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) measures how much of a normal life span of an individual is taken away by a disease related morbidity of mortality.
    • It is an international standard of disease burden.
Section : Social Issues

Explained: Jammu and Kashmir state to two UTs — today, later

Headline : Explained: Jammu and Kashmir state to two UTs — today, later

Details :

In News

  • The state of Jammu and Kashmir will be officially bifurcated into the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh on October 31. The day will mark the beginning of the functioning of the two UTs at a bureaucratic level.
  • This marks an important milestone in the history of J&K and culminates the process that started on August 5 with the landmark announcement for emasculation of Article 370 as well as end of statehood for J&K
  • The period between August 5 and October 31 has been used by the state administration and the Home Ministry to put a basic bureaucratic structure in place to implement the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act.
  • This is the first time that a state is being bifurcated into two UTs. In the past, there have been instances of a UT becoming a full state or a state being reorganised into two states.

 

Slow process of Reorganization

  • As of now, the state administration has implemented all that is mentioned in the Reorganisation Act as it is.
  • For full-fledged bifurcation of States, the Reorganisation Act gives a period of one year. But, reorganisation of states is a slow process that at times can take years.
  • Issues relating to reorganisation of erstwhile Andhra Pradesh, which was bifurcated into Andhra and Telangana in 2013, are still being brought to the Union Home Ministry for resolution.

 

Implication of the official bifurcation

  • Post the official bifurcation the Centre will be in direct control of police and law & order in J&K from 31st October.
  • It also puts an end to J&K’s flag and constitution, symbols of the state’s special status.
  • The Lieutenant Governors of the two UTs will take oath of office along with the Chief Justice of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
  • On the ground, the two UTs will get their own Chief Secretaries and other top bureaucrats, their own police chiefs and key supervisory officers.

 

Impact on laws that governed the state of Jammu & Kashmir

  • Legislative restructuring is a work in progress, with a lot remaining to be done. While 153 state laws are to be repealed, 166 have been retained.
  • The exercise of repealing Acts that mention “applicable to all of India but not the state of Jammu and Kashmir” will also have to be undertaken.
  • Further, there is a massive legislative exercise of making state-specific insertions into the 108 central laws that would now be applicable to the two Union Territories.

 

Impact on staff

  • While the bureaucratic structures are in place, the staff of the state administration are yet to be divided.
  • As of now, the Home Ministry has issued an interim order to maintain the station of all staff in the lower bureaucracy as it is.
  • This is to ensure that the two UTs keep on functioning without any hiccups beginning October 31. However, a subsequent reorganisation of staff will take place in due course.

 

Filling the political void

  • It is early days, but the Centre hopes to slowly fill the political void created following the arrest of almost all notable politicians and prominent workers of mainstream parties in the Valley.
  • A new political alternative being catalyzed by the Centre is starting to take shape in Kashmir.
  • Several young aspiring politicians are ready to look beyond the abrogation of Article 370, and willing to start afresh a dialogue with the people and engage with the Centre.
  • The government is also banking on the emergence of a new crop of political leaders from panchayats and municipal bodies.

 

EU MPs in J&K

  • European Union parliamentarians visiting Kashmir termed the dilution of Article 370 an internal issue of India and said they stand by the country in its fight against terrorism.
  • The 23-member delegation also condemned the killing of five labourers from West Bengal by militants in Kulgam district.
  • They also acknowledged that terrorism is a severe problem in Kashmir and named Pakistan as its source.

 

 

Section : Editorial Analysis

IMF members delay quota changes, agree to maintain funding

Headline : IMF members delay quota changes, agree to maintain funding

Details :

In News

  • Members of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have agreed to maintain its funding at $1 trillion but postponed changes to its voting structure.

Highlights of the deal

  • The deal will allow an extension of non-permanent, supplementary sources of funds, such as the New Arrangement to Borrow (NAB) and the bilateral borrowing facility.
  • The agreement extended the bilateral borrowing facility by a year —to the end of 2020 — and a potential doubling of the NAB.
  • The agreed package will leave IMF quotas (the primary source of IMF funds), which determine voting shares, unchanged. Instead, these will be reviewed before the end of 2023.

 

About: IMF Quotas and Voting Share:

  • An important factor that helps the IMF’s functioning is the quota. This quota is basically money that a member country has to give to the IMF and as per the norms, each member has to subscribe a quota of the IMF.
  • For any member country, out of the quota, 25% should be paid in the form of foreign currency or gold (called as reserve tranche or gold tranche) to the Fund.
  • The remaining 75% in the form of domestic currency (called as credit tranche).

How the size of quota for each member country is determined:

  • When a country joins the IMF, it is assigned an initial quota in the same range as the quotas of existing members that are broadly comparable in economic size and characteristics.
  • The IMF uses a quota formula to guide the assessment of a member’s relative position, which depends on its economic importance.
  • The current quota formula (applied for 14th quota review) is a weighted average of GDP (weight of 50 percent), openness (30 percent), economic variability (15 percent), and international reserves (5 percent).
  • India’s quota is 2.76% and China’s is 6.41%, while the U.S.’s quota is 17.46 %.

Multiple purposes of Quotas:

  • Quota subscribed by the members indicates funds provided by the members to the IMF, and hence it constitute to the resource base of the IMF.
  • A member country’s loan availability depends upon size of its quota. The amount of financing a member can obtain from the IMF (called as access limit) thus depends upon its quota.

Voting Power:

  • The size of quota basically determines voting power of a member.
  • As per the IMF rules, for an important resolution to be passed, at least 85% of the votes should be secured. This means that the US, with 16.54 % of voting power, enjoys a veto power.
  • Thus, a member’s quota indicates basic aspects of its financial and organizational relationship with the Fund.

Review of Quotas:

  • Quotas are supposed to be reviewed every five years although these reviews can be delayed — as was the case with the 14th review.
  • That process, completed in 2010, needed approval of the U.S. Congress, and it was not closed out till early 2016.
  • The review’s outcomes included a doubling of the quota total and a shift in some voting rights to under-represented and emerging market countries.

 

About: Permanent Resource Base

  • Quotas are the IMF’s main source of financing, wherein each member of the IMF is assigned a quota, based broadly on its relative position in the world economy.
  • Quotas of each of the IMF’s 189 members increased to a combined SDR 477 billion (about US$668 billion) from about SDR 238.5 billion (about US$334 billion) after the 14th quota review.

About: New Arrangements to Borrow (NAB)

  • It is a renewable funding mechanism that has existed since 1998. Through the New Arrangements to Borrow (NAB) a number of member countries and institutions stand ready to lend additional resources to the IMF.
  • The NAB constitutes a second line of defense to supplement IMF resources to forestall or cope with an impairment of the international monetary system.
  • Concurrent with the quota increases under the 14th Review, the NAB was rolled back from SDR 370 billion to SDR 182 billion in February 2016.
  • The activation of NAB requires support from 85% of creditors eligible to vote

About: Bilateral Borrowing Agreements

  • The IMF had entered into Bilateral Borrowing Arrangements after the 2008 financial crisis to increase its lending ability. BBAs serve as a third line of defense after quotas and the NAB.
  • In 2016, in view of continued uncertainty in the global economy, the membership committed to maintain access to bilateral borrowing, under a revised borrowing framework.
  • The initial term was till the end of 2019 extendable for a further year with creditors’ consents.
  • Activation of the agreements requires support from 85% of creditors eligible to vote

 

Criticisms and call for governance reforms at IMF

Domination of developed countries:

  • Some IMF members are frustrated with the pace of governance reforms, as the balance of economic and geopolitical power has shifted, becoming more dispersed, particularly with the emergence of China and India.
  • Developed countries have been seen to have a more dominant role and control over less developed countries (LDCs).
  • The scholarly consensus is that IMF decision-making is not simply technocratic, but also guided by political and economic concerns.
  • The United States has historically been openly opposed to losing its “leadership role” at the IMF, and its “ability to shape international norms and practices
  • The criticism of the US-and-Europe-dominated IMF has led to what some consider ‘disenfranchising the world’ from the governance of the IMF.

Discrepancy in the calculated and actual quotas:

  • While quotas as computed by the above formula are the basic starting point in allocating shares, they serve as guidance rather than as a rigid rule, since the IMF’s Board of Governors has full discretion in decisions about shares.
  • There are significant differences between actual and calculated quotas. Notably, for Europe and the euro area, actual quotas are higher than calculated quotas.
  • For China, the actual quota, at 6.4 percent, is only about half of the calculated quota.
  • Many developing countries are up in arms that this discrepancy in particular merits quick correction.

Over reliance on non-permanent sources of funding:

  • Out of the three main financing sources, only one is a permanent feature and there has been an overreliance on non-quota sources of funding.
  • This is inconsistent with the IMF’s basic principle that quota subscriptions should be the main source of IMF resources. Hence, the reliance on alternate funding sources should be reduced.

Narrow development concerns:

  • The IMF is only one of many international organisations, and it is a generalist institution that deals only with macroeconomic issues, while its core areas of concern in developing countries are very narrow.
  • Hence, the IMF should work towards close partnerships with other specialist agencies such as UNICEF, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
Section : Economics

Explained: Why interest rates aren’t falling

Headline : Explained: Why interest rates aren’t falling

Details :

Context for the article:
  • This article explores why, despite significant repo rate cuts by the RBI, the interest rates in the banking system are not falling much.
Rate cuts by the RBI:
  • Since February, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has aggressively cut the repo rate.
  • Repo rate is the interest rate that the RBI charges the banks when it lends them money.
Why does RBI want lower interest rates?
  • Since February, India’s economic growth momentum has rapidly decelerated.
  • Projections of GDP growth rate have come down from roughly 7.2%-7.5% in February to 5.8%-6.0%.
  • There are two key problems in the economy – Consumption and Investment – and a lower interest rate regime is expected to help in resolving both.
  • To this end, RBI has been cutting repo rates, especially since overall retail inflation has been well within the RBI’s comfort zone of 4%.
Lower interest rates could revive consumption:
  • The main issue is that people are not consuming at a high enough rate.
  • Some economists argue that if banks reduce their lending rates, they would also have to reduce their deposit rates (the interest rate banks pay when we park our money with them in a savings bank deposits or a fixed deposit).
  • This, in turn, will incentivise people to save less and spend more.
Lower interest rates could revive private investment:
  • The other problem in the economy at present is that businesses are not investing in existing or new facilities.
  • Part of the reason is also that the interest rate charged on loans is quite high.
  • If banks reduce the interest rates on loans, more businesses are likely to be enthused to borrow new loans for investment.
  • This is particularly relevant with the recent corporate tax rate cuts done in the hope that it will boost the corporate sector’s profitability and get it thinking of investing more.
 
The ‘transmission’ of rate cuts by RBI to the banking system is not happening:
  • By cutting the repo rate, the RBI has been sending a signal to the rest of the banking system that the lending rates in the system should come down.
    • Lending rates are the interest rates that banks charge from their customers.
  • This process of repo rate cuts leading to interest rate cuts across the banking system is called “monetary policy transmission”.
  • The transmission process in India is quite inefficient:
    • For example, between February and August, the RBI cut repo rate by 110 basis points — 100 basis points make a percentage point — from 6.5% to 5.4%.
    • But, the interest rate charged by banks on fresh loans that they extended during this period fell by just 29 basis points – that is just 27% of the amount by which the repo rate came down.
To force transmission, RBI is linking bank lending rates to repo rate:
  • Concerned by the sluggish transmission, the RBI in October 2019 (after cutting the repo rate by another 25 basis points) took steps to make banks link their lending rates to the repo rate.
  • The RBI made it mandatory for all banks to link certain loans to external benchmark rates like Repo Rate, Yields on treasury bills etc.
Only few banks have cut rates:
  • For the most part, the banking system has ignored RBI’s signalling and only some banks have reduced lending rates on new loans by 10 basis points.
  • In essence, while the RBI has cut its lending rate to the banks by 135 basis points (or 1.35 percentage points) in the nine months since February, the interest rates being charged to the common consumer have come down by only about 40-odd basis points.
Why aren’t interest rates in the banking system coming down?
  • The interest rates in the banking system are not coming down despite repo rate cuts by the RBI.
  • This is because repo rates have little impact on a bank’s overall cost of funds, and reducing lending rates just because the repo has been cut is not feasible for banks.
Difference between lending and deposit rates allows banks to function:
  • For any bank to be viable, there must be a clear difference between the lending rates (interest rates it charges from borrowers on loans it provides) and the deposit rates (interest rate it gives to consumers on deposits it accepts).
  • The difference between these two sets of interest rates has to be not only positive but also big enough for the bank to make profits.
Banks can be profitable only if they cut deposit rates also:
  • To attract deposits, banks pay a high deposit rate. Such deposits make up almost 80% of all banks’ funds from which they then lend to borrowers.
  • Banks borrow only a small fraction under the repo.
  • So even sharply reducing the repo rate doesn’t change the overall cost of funds.
  • Unless banks reduce their deposit rates, they will not be able to reduce their lending rates.
Why are banks not reducing their deposit rates?
  • Others could offer better rates: That’s because if a bank were to reduce its deposit rates, depositors would shift to a rival bank that pays better interest rates or invest in small saving instruments such as public provident fund, Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana etc that pay much higher interest rates.
  • Can’t reduce rates immediately: Even if banks wanted to reduce their deposit rates, they can’t always reduce them immediately. This is because 65% of total deposits are “term” deposits (fixed for a certain duration) and take, on an average, up to two years to get repriced at fresh rates.
What hasn’t linking the lending rate to the repo rate worked?
  • This is not a viable solution for the banks.
  • The banks cannot link their lending to the repo rate because repo doesn’t determine their cost of funds.
  • For a repo-linked regime to work, the whole banking system would have to shift to that – in other words, along with banks’ lending rates, their deposit rates too must go up and down with the repo.
  • But if such a regime were in place, depositors would have earned 1.10 percentage points less interest rate on their savings account.
Is this problem of weak transmission new?
  • As per some experts, this is not a new issue.
  • Never even in the past has monetary transmission been better than 50% (that is, only half the rate cuts by RBI were passed through by the banking system).
  • The reason for weak transmission, too, has been largely the same.
Why doesn’t this happen in developed countries?
  • The slow transmission does not happen in developed countries because the financial system is far more developed and diversified.
  • Banks are not burdened to fund everyone:
    • Most importantly, the banking system there doesn’t have to bear the burden of providing loans to everyone in the economy – from farmers to small businesses to large businesses, like in India.
  • Developed bond market:
    • Most demands for big loans are directed towards the corporate bond market – wherein a company floats bonds (or IOUs) and borrows money from the public by paying whatever interest rate the market demands.
  • Better grasp of borrowing and lending dynamics:
    • Depositors there are not in the habit of getting a fixed interest rate on their savings while expecting a variable interest rate on their loans.
    • The savers there are far more willing to take risk and to invest in higher-risk instruments other than bank deposits.
    • On the other hand, at the current low levels of per capita income, Indian savers are risk averse and prefer saving in banks.
  • Government borrowing does not impact interest rates much:
    • The overall borrowing by the public sector – that is the government and government-owned institutions – is not so high so as to drive up the interest rates in the economy, as it happens in India.
Section : Economics