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A non-reformist Budget

This government is high on rhetoric, short on facts.



This government has finally accepted that demonetisation is going to bring down GDP to 6.75 per cent. This roughly translates into a loss of 1.5 lakh crore in the interim to an already sluggish economy. The ill effects of demonetisation have become visible while the so-called benefits elude us.

The finance minister said that spring is a season of hope. He should have confessed that politicians are essentially dealers in hope. The Budget clearly demonstrates that the finance minister is far removed from the prevailing economic situation. This budget is presented with an eye on politics. Empty promises, with no roadmap, like doubling farmer incomes in five years sound like poll promises.

This government is high on rhetoric, short on facts. The Prime Minister in campaign mode promised one crore jobs annually. In 2016, 1.35 lakh jobs were created as per Labour Bureau data. At the end of every month there are almost 10 lakh youngsters looking for a job who are being let down. This challenge is not been addressed in the budget.

The finance minister has not convinced us on revenue projections that will finance the budget’s populist schemes. On the revenue side, earnings may not turn out to be as expected. The Government may have to provide a clearer picture of how it intends to finance budgeted programmes. The Budget proposes increase in spending on infrastructure but this is largely restricted to railways, roads and the rural and allied sectors. Without revenue earnings based on reasonable projections, such increased allocations will remain on paper.

With reference to allocations to agriculture and allied sectors, the Budget fails to address the impact of demonetisation on farmers. Though agricultural credit is fixed at ₹10 lakh crore, there is no realisation that farm loans are already declared as NPA’s and therefore, farmers will not be able to take advantage of the credit facility. The government, instead, should have waived farmers’ loan so that credit could be accessed.

The road to recovery should have been possible by incentivising private investment and generating consumer demand by putting more money in the pockets of ordinary folk. Indirect taxes should have been lowered, which in turn would have increased consumer spending.

Skill development is a long-term measure and will not give immediate dividends. Labour reforms require State governments to come on board. Digitisation requires investment in digital infrastructure, which is not seen in the budget numbers. The fibre-optic network connecting 2.5 lakh gram panchayats is not likely to be completed even till 2019. Without last mile connectivity, the benefits of digitisation cannot be realised. There are other manufacturing issues connected with digitisation, which too, have to be put in place. The budget papers do not reflect any attempt to address these issues. The Budget ignores the manufacturing sector. The textile, leather, hosiery and diamond industries needed incentives to kick start manufacturing and create jobs. The informal sector needs incentivisation, being the hardest hit on account of demonetisation.

Exports are in decline. There should have been some indication in the budget about how the finance minister will be addressing this issue. There should have been some financial incentives for export growth, especially since international developments will make some of our industries non-competitive. The IT sector in particular will be facing hard times. The minister did not address this concern as well.

The revenue numbers will only be available by March 31 of this year. Before that, all revenue projections are only speculative. Consequently, it is not understood how allocations of this magnitude could be made without ascertainable numbers for revenue collection. This is a non-reformist budget. Difficult times require the Government to stand up and guide the economy with a firm hand. Both the Prime Minister and the finance minister have failed to rise to the challenge.

(The writer is a Senior Congress leader and former union minister)
(Article Source: This article was first published on BusinessLine, dated February 1, 2017)


Trump’s China Tariff plan sparks fears of a trade war




United States slapped trade sanctions on China, including restrictions on investment and tariffs on $50billion worth of Chinese imports from entering the Washington thus stoking fears of a trade war.

“It’s going to make us a much stronger, much richer nation,” Trump said, adding that the retaliation could hit about $60 billion worth of Chinese goods.

Trump lamented the US’ multi-hundred billion dollar trade deficit with China and said the action would be “the first of many.”

“That’s really just a fraction of what we’re talking about,” he said, citing the large trade deficit that the U.S. runs with China.

Trump directed his administration to take action that will likely result in tariffs on a proposed list of 1,300 products as punishment for Beijing’s intellectual property practices, senior White House officials said ahead of the announcement.

Speaking at the White House, Donald Trump said the imposition of tariffs was part of an effort for fairness, noting that China imposes a 25% tariff on US cars while the US only has a 2.5% duty on Chinese cars. “They charge us, we charge the same thing,” said Trump.

The president blamed China for the loss of 60,000 factories and 6 million jobs and  also ordered Lighthizer to complain to the World Trade Organization about China’s discriminatory licensing practices for foreign companies.

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Sneaker  makes a stop at New Delhi



 PUMA, in collaboration with Peter Fahey hosted the second event of the Sneaker Pimps India chapter in the country’s capital.The exhibit showcased over 500 rare, vintage, and limited edition sneakers along with a collection of sneaker inspired art-work, sneaker fashion and customization booths. In honour of The Suede’s 50th year, PUMA is dropping 50 exclusive kicks in collaboration with legends of the music world, the streets, the fashion industry and pop culture through 2018. Some of these timeless icons are the Suede Classic, Suede Bboy, Suede Classic Exposed Seams, Suede Classic Sock and the Select Suede Classic Perforation.
After a hugely successful Pune edition, the international sneaker exhibition in New Delhi held at a colony of warehouses in the Dhan Mill Compound saw an exciting line up of speakers and artists at the HG Street festival by Homegrown. Present at the exhibition were – Sneaker Pimps founder Peter Fahey, PUMA Select Head Yassine Saidi, international artists like Futura and DJ Neil Armstrong,  and Indian hip hop icons like Divine, Rajakumari and Prabhdeep and along with a multitude of sneaker heads and sneaker aficionados from across the country coming together to celebrate 50 years of the iconic PUMA Suede.
Sneaker Pimps is one of the most popular travelling sneaker exhibits and street-based art show founded by Peter Fahey. Speaking about the Sneaker Pimps India tour, Peter said, “It’s great to be here in Delhi and an India tour is something that has been on my mind for a while now. This edition is very special as it commences celebrations for 50 years of the legendary PUMA Suede. PUMA has a long legacy and rich history of sneakers making them the perfect partner to have enabled our India tour. The sneaker culture in India is on the rise and I am very excited to be displaying this unique collection of kicks on this special occasion.”
Abhishek Ganguly, MD, PUMA India, said, “True to our brand legacy of creating unique experiences through groundbreaking product collaborations and exciting events, we are ushering in the 50th anniversary of PUMA Suede with a special line of stellar kicks which will be exhibited at the Sneaker Pimps event along with a host of other cool sneakers. India’s love for sneakers is fast growing and I am certain that this event will give the rising sneaker sub culture a massive impetus.”
Yassine Saidi, Global Senior Head of Lifestyle Footwear and Select, PUMA, who is the force behind collaborations like McQ,  Rihanna’s FENTY, The Weeknd’s  Run The Streets collection and Big Sean teaming up with PUMA Classics, was present at the event. Speaking at the event, he said, “PUMA is renowned for the sheer number of collaborations in our sportstyle segment and we find that these are key to connecting with our consumers. Sneaker Pimps is known world over for exhibiting the best and most unique sneaker collections and it is the perfect platform to showcase PUMA’s most revered kicks and the legendary PUMA Suede. Collaborations are all about co creating and PUMA’s collaboration with Sneaker Pimps has allowed us to co create something really special for sneaker lovers in India”
A big highlight at the exhibit was a live art display by American graffiti artist and the pioneer of abstract street art, Futura, a.k.a Leonard Hilton McGurr. Legendary footwear customizer from Moscow, Maggi, curated four pairs Suede Classics exclusively for the exhibition.
There were performances by Indian hip hop icons like the Grammy nominated songwriter Rajakumari,   Mumbai-based rapper Divine, and rising star of the underground hip hop scene Prabh Deep along with DJ Mocity, co-founder of Reggae Rajahs, the first Reggae Sound System in India and DJ Neil Armstrong – the first DJ at a presidential inauguration when he performed with Jay Z at President Barack Obama’s 2008 inauguration party.
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BJP inadvertently exposes its game of influencing voters

Controversial firm Cambridge Analytica used to conduct psychological war by harvesting millions of Facebook profiles without authorization and then further used them to build a powerful software program to predict and influence voters at the ballot box.



Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has inadvertently exposed the Bharatiya Janata Party’s scandal of influencing voters through Ovleno Business Intelligence (OBI)—an Indian affiliate of Cambridge Analytica firm. Mere a tweet by Manish Tewari seeking enquiry by the Election Commission on the claim by Cambridge Analytics about giving services during elections and campaigns in India compelled BJP minister to call a press conference to save and clear themselves of the charges and rather accused that Congress had links with Cambridge Analytica.

Congress media in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala Surjewala said, “Desperate times call for desperate press conferences. BJP’s factory of fake news has produced another fake news today. Such baseless allegations show the character of the party, Indian National Congress or the Congress President has never used or never hired the services of a company called Cambridge Analytica.”

British data analytics and election strategy firm Cambridge Analytica (CA), which is under a scanner in the UK and the US for using Facebook to influence voters in the US presidential election and the vote on Brexit in UK, is also involved in a scandal involving the 2010 Bihar Assembly election and claimed its client “achieved a landslide victory.

Controversial firm Cambridge Analytica used to conduct psychological war by harvesting millions of Facebook profiles without authorization and then further used them to build a powerful software program to predict and influence voters at the ballot box.

Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon has been allegedly accused of compiling user data to target American voters during the presidential election for US President Donald Trump. In the same manner, Prime Minister Narendra Modi allegedly used the same psychological warfare tool in 2010 and in 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

After Information Technology and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has alleged that Congress president Rahul Gandhi and the Congress party had links with Cambridge Analytica, Congress media in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala countered the Minister saying, “Fake Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad is presenting fake agenda. The truth is contrary to this. The BJP and JDU used Cambridge Analytica. The BJP hired the Indian business partner of Cambridge Analytica — OBI during Delhi Assembly election and used its services. Apart from this, the firm also involved in the party’s Mission 272+ (BJP’s slogan for 2014 general election) as an additional support in Haryana, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Delhi”, Surjewala added.

Surejewala stated that information available on the website of Ovleno Business Intelligence (OBI)—an Indian affiliate of CA’s parent company Strategic Communications Laboratories (SCL) firm also furnished a constituency-wise database to BJP candidates for state and national elections.

The firm used to collect data about people who are on Facebook through an app and target voters with personalised political advertisements, in the same manner as television, radio and print.

Prasad even issued a sharp warning to the social media giant, saying the government would take ‘stringent action”, including “summoning” its CEO Mark Zuckerberg to India, in case of any data theft of Indians.

Meanwhile, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has admitted mistakes and outlined steps to protect user data in light of a privacy scandal involving a Trump-connected data-mining firm. As Cambridge Analytica is accused of improperly using the data on behalf of political clients. He said that Facebook has a “responsibility” to protect its users’ data and if it fails, “we don’t deserve to serve you.”

As both BJP and the Congress accuse each other of data theft and of having used Cambridge Analytica’s services to swing elections in the country.

Ravi Shankar Prasad made a bizarre statement when he said that Rahul Gandhi’s Twitter followers had risen recently and wondered if  Cambridge Analytica was responsible for this “fake popularity”.

Prasad became so desperate that he made out of the context statement as Cambridge Analytica does not work for Twitter and there is also a report viral on online media about Prime Minister Narendra Modi of having 60% fake twitter followers. So, by making these charges what he is trying to say?

But the most significant aspect in this entire episode is how India is going to fix the loopholes so that no political party is able to covertly or overtly able to influence the electoral process for 2019 Lok Sabha elections.


Arti Bali

Sr Journalist

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

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