Armed Forces and scientists have emerged as the most trustworthy citizens in India, while politicians and advertising executives are the least, as workaround sacrifice and service before self is revered by the Indians.
According to the Ipsos Global Trustworthiness Index 2021, Urban Indians trust the Armed forces (64 percent) and scientists (64 64 percent) the most followed by teachers (61 percent) and doctors (58 percent).
Interestingly, two years ago as well the survey brought the Armed Forces on the top with the only change now is that Corona period has uplifted the sentiments for scientists for their relentless work to find vaccines for the deadly virus.
When we look at the most trustworthy list of global citizens, doctors (64 percent) emerged at the top on the Global Trustworthiness Index 2021, followed by scientists (61 percent) and teachers (55 percent), the survey said.
"The armed forces are trusted and revered by Indians as their whole aura and work are around sacrifice and service before self; defined by discipline and dedication in their contribution to the nation as they protect our frontiers. Likewise, scientists too have been corona warriors, working overtime to find appropriate vaccines to offset the resilient coronavirus; their contribution is being silently hailed by Indians, putting scientists at par with armed forces. Teachers and doctors, who too stepped up during the pandemic are placed 3rd and 4th in the trustworthiness index," says Amit Adarkar, CEO, Ipsos India.
Ipsos has unveiled findings of its Global Trustworthiness Index 2021, a 28-country survey among 19,570 respondents, globally.
With regard to the most untrustworthy professions, India's list on the Untrustworthiness Index 2021 mirrors the global list on Untrustworthiness Index 2021.
All the stories they weave are not so make-believe for the average person -- politicians, government ministers, and advertising executives are least trusted.
The findings are based on an Ipsos online survey conducted between April 23 and May 7, 2021.
The survey was conducted in 28 countries around the world, via the Ipsos Online Panel system in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, and the US.
The headline index results for this year are based on the full 28-country sample while trend results looking back to previous waves of the survey focused only on the 22 markets which have featured in all three waves of the survey.
The results comprise an international sample of 19,570 adults aged 16-74 in most countries and aged 18-74 in Canada, Malaysia, South Africa, Turkey, and the US.
When speculation was rife about an imminent takeover of the ailing Air India by a Tata Sons SPV, a wit had commented: "For the Tatas, Tata doesn't mean goodbye."
Truly, the carrier that Jehangir (J.R.D.) Tata launched as Tata Airlines on October 15, 1932, which rose to become one of the leading airlines of the world named Air India International, was nationalised in 1953, and then got reduced to an ailing behemoth by successive governments after 1977, is finally back home, a year shy of its 90th anniversary.
Young Jehangir was bitten by the flying bug in his childhood, thanks to Louis Bleriot, the French aviator who was the first to fly across the English Channel in 1909. The pioneering pilot knew Jehangir's father, R.D. Tata, well, and their children too became good friends. And whenever Jehangir would spend his summer holidays at a beach resort in northern France where his father's friend had a home, he would see Bleriot's chief pilot occasionally land a plane on the beach. He even took a joy ride on one of these flights.
These experiences fired Jehangir's imagination, but he had to wait till he was 24, when a flying club opened in Bombay and could give him an aviator's licence -- he was the first Indian to get one in India -- on February 10, 1929. In the following year, the Aga Khan announced a cash prize of 500 pounds sterling for an Indian who would fly solo between England and India.
Jehangir completed the flight between Karachi and London, but not before another pilot, Aspy Engineer, flew into Karachi from London. Engineer won the prize, was recruited to the Royal Indian Air Force, and went on to become independent India's second Chief of Air Staff, succeeding Air Chief Marshal Subroto Mukherjee.
The prize may have eluded Jehangir, but he made history on October 15, 1932, when, flying from Karachi at a 'dazzling' 100 miles an hour, he landed in Bombay via Ahmedabad in a wood-and-fabric, second-hand two-seater de Havilland Puss Moth loaded with air mail. The Karachi-Bombay route was important because the Imperial Airways flight from London terminated in Karachi. There was clearly a business opportunity here, for the mail from the imperial metropolis had to reach the Jewel in the Crown.
The final destination of the flight was Madras via Bellary. It was completed by Neville Vintcent, a former Royal Air Force pilot who had convinced the then Chairman of Tata Sons, Sir Dorabji Tata, who was quite reluctant at first, to invest the Rs 200,000 that Jehangir required to set up the airline. Vintcent became the first chief pilot and manager of Tata Airlines, which had two other licensed pilots -- Jehangir Tata and Homi Bharucha.
Recalling those days, J.R.D. Tata said: "We had no aids whatsoever on the ground or in the air, no radio, no navigational or landing guides of any kind. In fact, we did not even have an aerodrome in Bombay. We used a mud flat at Juhu, which was then a fishing village-cum-beach resort near the city. The sea was below what we called our airfield, and during the monsoon the runway was below the sea! So, we had to pack up each year, lock, stock and barrel -- two planes, three pilots and three mechanics -- and transfer ourselves to Poona, where we were allowed to use a maidan as an aerodrome, appropriately under the shadow of the Yerwada Jail!" The jail, incidentally, was where the British Raj had imprisoned Mahatma Gandhi in 1932-33.
Despite working in such primitive conditions, within a year, Jehangir was able to establish Tata Airlines as the quality benchmark of the country's fledgling aviation sector. The annual report of the Directorate of Civil Aviation (DCA) for 1933-34 stated: "As an example of how an airmail service should be run, we commend the efficiency of Tata Services -- even during the most difficult monsoon months when rainstorms increased the perils of the Western Ghat portion of the route, no mail from Madras or Bombay missed the connection at Karachi, nor was the mail delivered late on a single occasion at Madras."
Jehangir launched Air India International in 1948, at a time when flying was considered a luxury meant only for the rich. To raise capital for his aviation company, as the scholar N. Benjamin points out, he wrote letters to the rulers of Bikaner, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Jamnagar, Jammu and Kashmir, Travancore, and others, and also sent them share application forms.
Their response was positive and soon, civil aviation took wing in the country under the stewardship of J.R.D. Tata. Even Jawaharlal Nehru, who was not a great fan of private enterprise, wrote to Tata: "I have had plenty of information from various sources, both official and non-official, about the running of your air service to Europe. All accounts agree in speaking well of it and praising it for its general efficiency. Congratulations!"
It is this legacy, nurtured in challenging circumstances, that has come back to where it rightfully belongs. Tata Sons will now have to carry the dual burden of carrying forward the legacy and measuring up to the expectations of the nation.
There are two primary geographic imaginations of the Western periphery of the Indo-Pacific region. The area as imagined by Australia (and until recently, by America), ends at the Western coast of India. As per this visualisation, this region is defined as the one stretching from Bollywood (located in Mumbai) to Hollywood (located in Los Angeles on the Western Coast of America).
The second definition championed by India and Japan includes the Eastern African seaboard as an inalienable part of the Indo-Pacific construct. In fact, in 2016, Japan launched its Indo-Pacific strategy, known as "Free and Open Indo-Pacific", in Nairobi in Kenya. In 2018, when India outlined its vision for the region, Eastern and Southern African littoral was included as part of the Indo-Pacific.
For India, Kenya being a littoral state and a maritime neighbour located on the Eastern African seaboard, it is important to understand its approach towards the Indo-Pacific. Three recent developments help us to comprehend Kenya's view of the Indo-Pacific: the remarks by Kenya's Chief Administrative Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Ababu Namwamba, at the Bled Strategic Forum; remarks Kenya's President at the United Nations Security Council debate on maritime security and India-Kenya joint statement.
At the Bled Strategic Forum, held in September 2021, Kenya's Chief Administrative Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Ababu Namwamba explained his country's approach towards the Indo-Pacific region. He divided the region into three sub-regions: Eastern, Central, and Western. He argued that Kenya is located in the Western Indo-Pacific and has three key concerns: Militarization, especially of the Red Sea, Piracy and Transnational Crimes, and finally, Oceanic Pollution. Each of these concerns presents challenges as well as opportunities for littoral states.
Kenya is positioning itself as a gateway between Africa and the Indo-Pacific. Kenya's geographic location, political stability and economic dynamism enables it to play the role of the gateway. Namwamba observed that Kenya is interested in engaging with the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) as a platform that would be useful in bringing prosperity.
As the Indo-Pacific is primarily a maritime region, maritime security has emerged as a key focal point for debates about the Indo-Pacific region. In August, at the behest of India, UN Security Council discussed the issue of maritime security. It was the first time that such a holistic debate took place on maritime security. Kenya is a non-permanent member of the UNSC and President Uhuru Kenyatta delivered remarks at the debate.
Kenya links Africa and the Indian Ocean, and therefore, Kenyatta noted that Kenya's "wealth and security rely on the building of sound trade and security linkages between these two regions." However, Kenya is worried about the threat posed by terrorism in its neighbourhood of East Africa and the Horn of Africa. Moreover, for Kenya, "piracy and other sea-based crimes, including attacks on vessels and illicit trafficking of persons, firearms and narcotics, remain a concern."
He observed that "competition for influence in the Red Sea region, particularly by extra-regional Powers, has intensified over the years." Kenyatta said that threats to maritime security arise from "land-based situations." Moreover, he "encouraged more thinking and innovation in developing and launching fair-trade regimes in areas such as the Indian Ocean rim." Kenyatta underscored the need "to build robust coast guard capacities" and stressed "the threat of climate change to the existence of some small island States."
For Kenya, the immediate maritime periphery and the extended region from the Red Sea to the Mozambique Channel matters in its Indo-Pacific security calculations. The concerns it has expressed, such as extra-regional military presence and maritime piracy, are primarily important in the context of this broader region. Therefore, it is clear that Kenyatta's concerns about maritime security and the views expressed by Chief Administrative Secretary on the Indo-Pacific cover more or less similar points. Their emphasis on economic prosperity and trade is noteworthy as well.
The third relevant development was the India-Kenya joint statement issued after the visit of External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar in June. The statement alluded to the Indian Ocean and Indo-Pacific. The joint statement noted that, India and Kenya are "maritime neighbours" and that both countries "recognized the importance of ensuring through shared endeavours greater security, safety and prosperity of the Indian Ocean Region." Furthermore, they also "held extensive exchanges on global and regional issues including the security situation in the Indo-Pacific region and the Horn of Africa."
East African littoral is attaining greater strategic importance as a theatre in its own right as well as a vital sub-region in the Indo-Pacific. Regional security and geopolitics are undergoing changes due to the strategic rivalries between the extra-regional players. Therefore, an important littoral state like Kenya is voicing its concerns, articulating its priorities and by doing so, hopes to influence the debates about the region and to place itself in an advantageous position.
Kenya understands the necessity of building the coast guard and security capabilities for tackling threats like terrorism and maritime piracy. It is also interested in drawing economic benefits by engaging with key Indo-Pacific powers through RCEP or otherwise. It has managed to build resilient ties with China on the one hand and America, Britain and Japan on the other. The balancing between major powers is a normal strategy for smaller yet strategically important states. Kenya is no exception to this.
For India, Kenya is a key partner in East Africa and in the Western Indian Ocean region. With Kenya demonstrating greater interest, India could perhaps engage Kenya in an Indo-Pacific framework.
The foreign ministers of Russia and Iran will "synchronize their watches" on a number of topical issues, including Afghanistan and Tehran's nuclear deal, when they hold talks in Moscow on .
The outcome of the meeting between Sergey Lavrov and his Iranian counterpart Amir Abdollahian will be followed keenly by Washington as the Russian-Iranian relations continue to actively develop and the "intensity of the political dialogue" continues after the victory of Ebrahim Raisi in the presidential elections in Iran.
Both Putin and Raisi have already spoken over phone twice on August 18 and September 14, to reaffirm their commitment to strengthen "mutually beneficial" Russian-Iranian relations in various fields.
"The positions of Russia and Iran on many international issues are close or coincide. The ministers will pay special attention to the situation around the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iranian nuclear program. The only way out of this situation is the earliest possible resumption of the negotiation process to restore the full-fledged functioning of the nuclear deal," said the Russian Foreign Ministry.
It added that the state of affairs in Afghanistan will be "substantively discussed" in the context of the fundamental importance of an effective response to emerging challenges, including the relief of terrorist and drug threats, as well as international assistance to the post-conflict reconstruction of the country.
"On the Syrian settlement, the principled position of Moscow and Tehran is to support unconditional respect for the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of the SAR , the legal right of the Syrians to independently determine the future of their country. Effective interaction within the Astana format will continue," the statement mentioned.
During the dialogue, both ministers will also have other topics of regional agenda to discuss, including the situation in the Caspian Sea, in the Transcaucasus, in the Persian Gulf zone, Yemen , Lebanon and the Middle East settlement.
Russia said that it supports the decision to start the procedure for admitting Iran to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), made during the recent summit in Dushanbe. Moscow reiterated that it has always advocated the full-fledged participation of Iran, which will help to increase the international authority of the organisation.
Intensive bilateral contacts have been maintained at various levels between both countries, including through foreign affairs, parliaments, and other state structures and organisations.
On October 1, another round of Russian-Iranian interagency consultations on international information security (IIB) had taken place in Moscow.
Reza Najafi, the acting Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for Law and International Affairs, who is also the Director-General of the General Directorate of the Iranian Foreign Ministry for Peace and International Security, held discussions with Andrei Kroteskikh, the Russian president's special envoy for international cooperation in information security.
Both top officials exchanged views on the strategic approaches of Russia and Iran in the area of cyber issues based on the Russian-Iranian intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in the field of information security signed earlier this year.
Moscow and Tehran also continue to expand cooperation in the field of countering the spread of Covid-19.
While the deliveries of the Russian vaccine Sputnik V to Iran continues, the Iranian authorities have also approved the use of the Sputnik Light single-component vaccine in the country, which will accelerate the vaccination of the population and form population immunity.
"We intend to further expand mutually beneficial ties with Iran and continue cooperation in the interests of regional stability and international security. We count on the strengthening of positive trends in all spheres of Russian-Iranian cooperation," says the Russian MFA.
After making his presence felt in Mamata Banerjee's territory, political strategist Prashant Kishor seems to be out to poach leaders from the Congress outside West Bengal. In fact, he has successfully poached two prominent leaders of the grand old party.
Both Sushmita Dev from Assam and Luizinho Faleiro from Goa, who joined the Trinamool Congress in recent times, were considered close to the Gandhi family. It was Faleiro who publicly said that he was approached by none other than Kishor and his team to join the Banerjee-led Trinmool Congress.
After winning the elections in West Bengal, the Trinamool Congress is also trying to make an impact in the national arena now.
"We have to see who has got the power to face the current dispensation which is ruling in Delhi and Goa. Definitely, I will support Mamata because she has fought, she has succeeded... She symbolises women's empowerment which can bring this country back on the track of development and progress," Faleiro said, describing the Congress as a "divided house".
Now, the Congress, which was trying to protect the party from poaching by the BJP, needs to keep its guard active against the Trinamool as well.
Even former Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma has been approached by the Trinamool and he had also held a meeting with the party leaders. Sangma, however, has been approached by the Congress not to leave the party. He is likely to meet Sonia Gandhi soon.
Not only this, Abhishek Banerjee, Trinamool's national General Secretary, has said that Congress should leave armchair politics while his party is capable of fighting the BJP. Responding to this, Congress secretary in charge of communications, Pranav Jha, questioned if the change in heart is due to the ED's summons.
The Congress has been taking inputs on Prashant Kishor joining the party from the members of the Congress Working Committee (CWC).
Even as several Congress leaders are divided over Kishor's role in ticket distribution, none is averse to the idea of the political strategist joining the party. They believe that he should be made in-charge of the election management department without the candidate selection authority.
Congress leaders do agree that his inputs should be considered in the party, but suggested that state leaders as well as the former and incumbent Chief Ministers should have a say in the ticket distribution process.
Congress has been consulting the CWC members to revamp the party structure after losing two consecutive general elections.
Sources said the CWC members have been asked to give their feedback on the process. Sonia Gandhi's loyalists and two of the party's senior-most leaders -- Ambika Soni and A.K. Antony -- are involved in the process.
Congress General Secretary (Organisation), K.C. Venugopal, has also been roped in for the purpose.
Kishor has been meeting the Congress leaders informally in the poll-bound states as his induction into the party is still under consideration by Sonia Gandhi.
At the same time, he has also met a couple of leaders and gave his personal state-specific inputs to them.
The cancer survivor rate in children is over 80 per cent in developed countries; however, in lower-middle income countries, it’s only about 20 per cent
This was during the peak of the second wave of Covid-19 in India. A five-year-old boy was referred to us from Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh. His was a blood cancer case. He came at night with pallor, bleeding from the nostrils and had difficulty in breathing. We ruled out COVID-19, transfused blood, started antibiotics and did a bone marrow test that revealed a type of blood cancer called acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.
ALL, as we call this cancer, is one of the “better” cancers a child can have if one were to have a choice in these matters. It has a cure rate of more than 80-90 per cent. We informed his father and got on with our job. The boy had a bad fungal infection in his nose and lungs, akin to the “black fungus” which was doing the rounds those days. We started treatment for both; cancer and fungus, and thankfully got both under control in the next few weeks.
In cancer, it always takes a village to treat one child. We need doctors and nurses to deliver treatment, social workers to make the families understand the process and get documents ready for financial aid, a dietician to suggest the required diet, psychologists, and volunteers to give moral support to parents during this ordeal, voluntary blood donors, and so on.
Cancer is one of the most feared diagnoses in the paediatric age group. At present, in developed countries, more than 80 per cent of children diagnosed with cancer get cured of the illness and will become long-term survivors. However, as per WHO, in lower-middle-income countries, only about 20 per cent are expected to survive.
The hurdles for us are many. There are no screening tests for cancers in children. The symptoms of cancer like fever, bony pain, etc., mimic many other common illnesses in children. It takes an astute doctor to put things together and suspect cancer, failing which they die soon because childhood cancers are aggressive and grow fast.
Even when suspected, the fear and stigma of the disease paralyse and prevent some from seeking medical care. Many lives are lost in the hands of quacks who promise a cure without the “side-effects” of chemotherapy.
And finally, even from those who reach a hospital, many discontinue treatment while running around for “second opinion” or magical remedies. We recently analysed our data of 154 new childhood cancer cases diagnosed over 18 months, where 23 discontinued treatment and subsequently died. 11 cited poverty as the reason even though the children were getting treated for free through various schemes.
In centres such as ours, both governmental and non-governmental machinery starts rolling the minute a child steps into the hospital so that the family gets the best possible treatment without having to wait for arranging finances. Ayushman Bharat, Prime Minister’s Relief Fund, Chief Minister’s Relief Fund, Asadhya Rog Scheme, Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi, are some of the Government schemes that cater to children with cancer. Our country has the means and methods to support high-end radiotherapy, surgery and bone marrow transplant in these children, if needed. Despite all this, the sad fact is that there are many who still are not able to avail any of these.
September is “celebrated” as childhood cancer awareness month worldwide. WHO has set a goal of 60 per cent survival in childhood cancer by 2030 for low-and-middle income economies.
What is the way ahead for us? If a condition such as childhood cancer comes under the purview of a national policy with the involvement of government machinery right from tracking children with suggestive symptoms, getting them to a treatment centre, hand-holding them through the treatment, similar to what we did with COVID-19, then there is no looking back.
This process will have collateral benefits too. The network of care-providers gets strengthened, quality of diagnostics, hospital infection-prevention policy, nursing practices and documentation get refined. And of course, the joy of meeting a childhood cancer survivor who has gone on to make a life ahead makes every struggle worth it. Our own tussles and egos pale in comparison with what they have gone through and achieved.
The boy and his dad went home for a short break in between treatment and never returned. Maybe there were pressing concerns for his dadback home. The boy died after a month. The economical divide that exists in our country could not be more obvious. For some, life is something you get by chance. For them, there is no choice.
(The writer is Associate Professor and Head of the Department of PediatricHematology Oncology, Post-Graduate Institute of Child Health, Noida. The views expressed are personal.)
(Courtesy: The Pioneer)
When practised systematically and regularly, audit becomes a tool of exuding confidence
Nobody quite knows when and where audit became an important legal obligation for a certain level of enterprise in general, and business enterprise in particular. Before one knew, it had almost spontaneously got into this role. This was understandable because everyone wants to know where one’s money is going. The issue of standards became all pervasive in the audit process. A predictable institutionalisation was one of the outcomes. In India, a fall out was the coming into existence of an ‘institute’. As money began to travel with greater speed and wider range, contours of international financial reporting standards became more pressing. Slowly, what happened to cricket, hockey or the invention of United Nations happened to audit. The powerful flexed their muscles, got together and wrote the rules. While all this was happening, technology from being a faceless entity acquired a character. From a supporting function, it became an integral function of the financial reporting system. Machine learning became not just a fad but a necessity. Technology brought with it a need to be familiar with devices. Reporting transactions in domains such as income, expense, assets and liabilities raised issues of policy frames and rules. The last two decades and more have always had a talk of some financial crisis in some part of the world, in some sector. The celebrated ‘global village’ was faced with far too many reverberations. The amazing thing is that the globalisation of this process has not blurred the defining characteristics of regional economies. India is a savings-driven economy. Gold bullion and landholdings are indicators of prosperity. Such a set-up requires an ethical platform, workable governance practices and quality of reporting. The audit process today has pressures of responding to increasingly complex demands of credibility quotient. But practised systematically and regularly, audit becomes an invaluable tool of exuding confidence. The investment climate and the investor’s confidence are deeply affected by this. If market efficiencies are to increase, the quality of both the quantifiable aspects and the non-quantifiable aspects of transactions must keep improving incrementally. This requires rules. Mature communities appreciate the worth of stable practices. Reliable processes of corporate governance yield results. This by itself does not always prevent abuse of power or arrest high risk. By itself it would not even eliminate all imprudent behaviour. However, systems of work well thought through, do encourage shareholders and depositor’s confidence. Unfortunately, technology has its own banes. Sudden, sharp and often misplaced policy initiatives cause more exasperation than delight. A bigoted approach to technology allows little change of track, mid-way. This causes its own grief. Data protection often at tandem with unpredictable data predatory practices generates its own business. This very often becomes a business in its own right, diverting attention from the focus of investment. Indeed, the process detection of processes is on the verge of becoming a discipline. The way forward is to reduce the pressures on the depositor. He is at the heart of the whole activity yet largely neglected, often because, he has no forum. All this perhaps requires a package of solutions. Teaching of banking in an economics curriculum may mark a beginning. Simulation-based training could help contain stealthy demeanour. Maybe the individual investor and his plight when recognised will help all other stake holders in financial operations to be more effective. All this may take time, but the wise man does not always expect to see the distant scene. One step at a time, could help.
(The writer is a well-known management consultant. The views expressed are personal.)
(Courtesy: The Pioneer)
An investigation conducted by the World Bank revealed data irregularities and cited the role of several IMF chiefs in tweaking data in China’s favour
India was on the cusp of improving its ranking further on the World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business” index. It had instituted a single window system for all investors and businesses to eliminate the filing of multiple applications across ministries and departments. It would allow automatic renewal of licenses without the requirement of visiting any Government office. Sadly, the World Bank suspended the ranking itself due to past data irregularity.
It has come as a big disappointment for India and PM Narendra Modi rightly flagged it in his recent address to the UN General Assembly saying the world institutions had “damaged their credibility”. Credibility was the casualty when the World Bank had to disclose that a number of irregularities were reported regarding changes to the data in its ‘Doing Business’ reports, changes that were “inconsistent with the Doing Business methodology.”
To maintain the integrity and impartiality of data and analysis, the World Bank promised to conduct systematic review and internal audit of the process of data collection and assessment of the controls and to “retrospectively correct the data of countries that were most affected by the irregularities”, if necessary. The countries involved were mainly China, UAE and Saudi Arabia. The sordid affair once again brought to the fore the heft that China has in the international multilateral institutions, of which it is a major contributor.
Ever since they were launched in 2003, the ease of business rankings have been a valuable tool for countries to improve their rankings in order to attract industries and investment. The reports have so far engendered nearly 5,000 regulatory reforms in 190 countries including India, whose ranking went up by 17 notches last year improving its ranking to 63rd position among these countries. India indeed took a giant leap in its ranking which improved from 130 in 2016 to 63 in 2020, for which credit must be given to the transformational reforms undertaken by the present government. The PM’s ambition is to improve its ranking to within the top 50, and the report would have acted as a catalyst in this effort.
An investigation conducted by the World Bank reported data irregularities in the ‘Doing Business’reports and cited the roles of present IMF Chief Kristalina Georgieva and the Bank’s then president Jim Yong Kim, who was then her boss, in tweaking the data in favour of China. China launched a slew of reforms afterit was ranked 84 in2016to free entrepreneurs from red tape, cutting fees and effected other reforms that improved its ranking to 78 in 2017, where it remained in 2018. But then its ranking improved dramatically, from 78 to 46 in 2019 and then to 31 in 2020.
The Bank’s investigation found that the staff involved in the process improperly altered the scores of at the behest of its chief, Jim Yong Kim, a South Korea-born American. Georgieva of course denied the allegations, saying that she only asked bank researchers to triple-check the data. But the investigators found that she and herstaff had explored a change in the bank’s method (by including only one city per country) to orchestrate a better result for China and that the changes that were finally implemented introduced errors into the report. The bank cited “pressure applied by CEO Georgieva and her advisor, Djankov, to make specific changes to China’s data points in an effort to increase its ranking at precisely the same time the country was expected to play a key role in the bank’s capital increase campaign”.
In fact, Simeon Djankov was the economist whose landmark paper, written with three other academics, was the trigger for launching the’ Doing Business’ report in 2003. On the basis of quantitative evidence gathered from 85 countries, the paper had found that countries with stricter entry regulation for business had higher corruption and larger unofficial economies, with poor quality of public or private goods. It also found that countries with more democratic and limited governments had lighter entry regulations, and that heavier entry regulation benefited only politicians and bureaucrats without adding any value to the businesses.
The ‘Doing Business’ ranking is done by a survey conducted through questionnaire to measure the regulations directly affecting businesses. A nation’s ranking depends on 41 sample indicators grouped under 10 sub-indices which include the ease of starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting permanent electricity connection, registering property, getting credit, protecting minority investors, paying taxes, cross-border trading, etc.
Data are gathered from about 15000 experts like lawyers, accountants, judges, engineers, architects, business people and public officials in the 190 subject countries who have to deal with business regulations in their normal course of work. For 11 economies including India, China, Bangladesh, Brazil, Indonesia, Japan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia and the USA, the two largest cities are selected from each, and the score is calculated as the population-weighted average of the scores for these two cities. For India the cities selected are Mumbai and Delhi.
The 2020 report, benchmarked on May 1, 2019, acknowledged 10 economies including China, India and also Pakistan that implemented a total of 59 regulatory reforms in 2018/19 — accounting for one-fifth of all the reforms implemented worldwide. It mentioned the PM’s “Make in India” campaign focused on attracting foreign investment, boosting the private sector, especially manufacturing and improving the country’s overall competitiveness. It acknowledged that both India and China had adopted the ‘Doing Business’ indicators as a “core component of their reform strategies” and demonstrated tangible progress in the reforms.
One reason why India’s ranking improved was because of creating better awareness among respondents and involving top officials like partners in accounting firms in the process of responding to survey questionnaires — something that was routinely delegated to officials much lower in the hierarchy who were not properly equipped to appreciate their significance and responded to the questions rather mechanically. But this alone would not have worked without accompanying reforms in the concerned topics. For highlighting the countries that implemented substantial reforms, the report first selects those countries that implemented substantial reforms in respect of at least three of the 10 topics. For the 2020 report, 42 economies qualified in this, including India, China and Pakistan. The areas in which India showed improvement included the ease in starting business, dealing with construction permits, trading across borders and in resolving insolvency. Since then, the government has been focussing in the areas that remained unaddressed till then to remove the regulatory bottlenecks to make the rules simpler and investor-friendly. Corporate taxes were reduced substantially in September 2019 and procedures made simpler, and improvements were made in many other areas including the single window clearance system which is now operational.
As a result of all this, India expected another upgrade in the current year. Unfortunately, that was when the crisis erupted leading to discontinuance of the report. Given its potential to effect reforms, an objective and unbiased Doing Business ranking will help many leaders to motivate their bureaucracy and legal institutions to implement reforms. It is hoped that the rankings will reappear in the near future after necessary revisions in methodology and with suitable oversight mechanisms involving NGOs, think tanks and academia to check errors.
(The writer is former Director-General, Office of the Comptroller & Auditor General of India and currently, Professor, Arun Jaitley National Institute of Financial Management. The views expressed are personal.)
(Courtesy: The Pioneer)
Wearing many hats, a Kerala conman’s brazen antique scam is keeping the State hooked
Is ‘God’s Own Country’ becoming ‘Devil’s Own Paradise’? A school dropout posing as an artifacts collector has taken the State for a ride with his glib tongue. Claiming to be a cosmetologist and proud owner of “the Staff of Moses”, the “oil lantern carved out by Prophet Mohammed” and the silver coins collected by Judas for betraying Jesus Christ, this fraudster par excellence bowled over Kerala politicians, Ministers, bureaucrats and even top IPS officers. He tricked a business group of Rs 10 crore by convincing them that the Sultan of Brunei has sent him Rs 2,60,000 crore which has been put on hold by the Union Finance Ministry with the demand that he pay a fine of Rs 20 crore on the remittances. Monson Mavunkal, the trickster, had a fleet of imported high-end cars parked in the courtyard of his rented bungalow. The billboard on the giant gates told the world that he was the president of Global Malayali Federation, vice-president of International Human Rights Federation, patron of Kerala Expatriates Association and office bearer of hitherto unheard organisations with global taglines. He was also a special guest to the Cyber Hacking Conference held under the auspices of Kerala Police!
Though he claims to have travelled to more than 100 countries, Monson does not have a passport. Photographs of Loknath Behera, a former Kerala Police chief, and Manoj Abraham, a decorated additional DGP, sharing Tipu Sultan’s royal chair which is owned by Monson have gone viral. The sculptor who perfected the chair confessed to the Crime Branch that he had made it at Monson’s instance. The conman even had a wooden pot from which “Lord Krishna in his manifestation as a child used to steal butter”! The interesting thing is that all Malayalis were carried away by his claims. A former woman associate of his spilled the beans on Monson when he cheated her. Kerala, which was discussing “gold smuggling queen” Swapna Suresh around this time last year, is now agog with Monson’s audacious escapades. And all this is happening when trade union workers in the State hold organisations like Isro to ransom for unloading charges. The day is not far when Malayalis would replace in anecdotes featuring members of one particular community who evoked laughter through their imprudent acts.
(Courtesy: The Pioneer)
A ban on online gaming will help neither the child nor the parents
The Union Government wants parents and teachers to look for “gaming disorders” among children. The prompt for such an advisory comes as schools reopen in the country after close to 18 months on account of COVID-19. The Government is worried that children have become addicted to mobile phones and online gaming during this period. The advisory says gaming without restriction and self-limits leads to addiction and disorders. Symptoms of addiction, the advisory tells us, are “unusually secretive behaviour” like changing screens when parents approach children, falling grades and changing social behaviour. It wants parents and teachers to tell children to also maintain safety precautions like not revealing their names, using screen names, not clicking on links and images from unknown sites and not communicating with strangers. Excessive liberalism and political correctness may find fault with the advisory as being intrusive and imposing the Government’s sense of morality on children. The conservatives, on the other hand, will welcome the move and probably ask for a ban on online gaming. The truth lies somewhere in between. If parents gift an expensive mobile phone to their child, the latter will play games on it and the parents surely know that. The parents have two choices: One, to let the child play without any limits, and two, to teach the child to play responsibly.
The media has reported the fallout in both cases — some children stealing money to play online games while some inflicted self-harm or attempted suicide when kept away from playing. A ban, just like unchecked freedom to play, will help neither the child nor the parents and instead impact their relationship. However, the Government advisory takes the issue out of the personal world of parents and their children and into the public domain. To what extent is the exercise prudent and whether the advisory could have been conveyed to the parents in a more personal setting is something for the society to debate. One thing is clear, that any action of the State, once initiated, will reach its logical end. Where the gaming advisory will eventually lead to is anybody’s guess. For now, there is the recent example of China which decided in July that it will not allow children to become addicted to online games. Instead of an advisory, the Chinese Government brought out an executive order, telling children under 18 that they are now allowed to play for just three hours a week. They can access games for an hour each on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Interestingly, while the Indian advisory recommends children using screen names, the Chinese rules ask the gaming companies to make sure that players use their real names to sign on and prevent those who use fictitious names. There is also a limit to what the children can spend on micro-transactions. And the Government has begun to go slow on approving new online games. The right to privacy or prudence is the question.
(Courtesy: The Pioneer)
Opium being freely bought and sold in the drug bazaars of southern Afghanistan will soon make its way as heroin into the neighbouring countries and then into the world beyond, The Telegraph, UK, reported.
It is a trade, which, till a month ago, the Taliban had said they would stamp out in a repeat of a ban imposed under their 1990s regime.
Opium growers in Helmand told The Telegraph that they are again preparing to plant fields full of poppies, with the Islamist group having so far stalled on implementing a ban – one of a number of promises that appeared designed to please the West and have since been broken, the report said.
Afghanistan's militant rulers used one of their first press conferences to announce that they would halt the business, which provides more than 90 per cent of heroin in the UK. But they have fallen back after the growers said they had received no such order and were preparing to carry on as normal.
One trader in Nowzad district, who declined to be named, said business in the province's opium bazaars was proceeding unhindered. "The trade in opium is free and everyone can buy and sell without threat," he said.
Afghanistan is by far the world's largest opium supplier and is estimated to produce four-fifth of the global supplies. The drug accounts for 11 per cent of the Afghan economy, the United Nations estimated in 2018.
Production grew year by year even as the international community poured millions of pounds into counter-narcotics efforts during their two decades in Afghanistan.
A farmer called Mohammad Gul in Marjah said that he plans to plant an acre of opium and knew that hundreds of farmers are preparing to do something similar.
While the trade brings in huge sums for some kingpins, many farmers scrape by but have little other way to make a living. Any Taliban move to halt the trade would probably face stiff resistance, the report said.
"No ban has been announced by the current government," he said, adding: "People are in a bad economic situation and would not agree with a government ban this season. We don't have any other way to get money."
Jan Mohammad, a farmer from Nad-e-Ali district, said he is planning to sow three acres when the planting season begins in a month, adding: "Without opium, we cannot get good returns from our land," the report said.
"If the Taliban want to ban poppy cultivation, we want them to make a good government and create economic growth, jobs and everything. If they can't, we will grow opium," Jan Mohammad said, as per the report.