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The end of growth?

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The end of growth

Sveriges Riksbank Prize: Better Answers to Our Biggest Problems’, focusing on jobs, immigrants, growth, climate change and trade. Here are exclusive excerpts from the book, published with permission from the publishers, Juggernaut.

Good Economics for Hard Times
By Abhijit V. Banerjee & Esther Duflo
Published by: Juggernaut

Is growth over?

Two economic historians at Chicago’s Northwestern University are at the centre of this discussion.

Robert Gordon takes the view that the era of high growth is unlikely to come back. We have only met Gordon once. He gives the appearance of being quite reserved; his book, however, is anything but. On the other side is Joel Mokyr, whom we know much better, an enormously vivacious man, with twinkling eyes and a kind word for everybody; he writes with infectious energy consistent with his generally positive outlook on the future.

Gordon has gone out on a limb and predicted economic growth will average a meager 0.8 per cent per year over the next twenty-five years. “Everywhere I look,” he said during a debate with Mokyr, “I see things standing still. I see offices running desktop computers and software much as they did ten or fifteen years ago. I see retail stores
where we are checking out with bar code scanners the same way we did before; shelves are still stocked by humans, not by robots; we still have people slicing meat and cheese behind the counter.”

Today’s inventions, in his view, are simply not as radical as electricity and the internal combustion engine were. Gordon’s book is particularly daring. He gleefully takes on the set of future innovations futurologists predict and one by one explains why, in his opinion, none of them would be as transformational as the elevator or air conditioning, and why none would take us back to an era of fast growth.

Robots cannot fold laundry. Three dimensional (3D) printing won’t affect large-scale manufacturing. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are “nothingnew.” They have been around at least since 2004 and have done nothing for growth. And so on.

It is clear of course that nothing Gordon says precludes the possibility that something entirely unexpected, perhaps some hitherto unimagined combination of familiar ingredients, will prove to be ransformative. It is just his hunch that it won’t.

Mokyr, on the other hand, sees a bright future for economic growth, spurred by nations competing to be the leader in science and technology, and the resulting rapid spread of innovation worldwide. He sees the potential for progress in laser technology, medical science, genetic engineering, and 3D printing.

To Gordon’s claim that nothing much changed in fundamental ways in how we produced in the last few decades, he counters: “The tools we have today make anything that we had even in 1950 look like clumsy toys by comparison.”

But mostly, Mokyr thinks that the way the world economy has changed and globalized produces the right environment for innovations to bloom and change the world, in ways we cannot even begin to envision. He predicts one factor that will accelerate growth: we will be able to slow down the aging of the brain. Which of course would give us more time to have better ideas. Mokyr, engaging and creative as ever at seventy-two, is a good example for his thesis.

The fact that two brilliant minds come to such radically different conclusions about growth highlights what a vexing topic it has been. Of all the things economists have tried (and mostly failed) to predict, growth is one area where we have been particularly pathetic. To name just one example, in 1938, just as the US economy was going back into high-growth mode after the Great Depression, Alvin Hansen (who was not a nobody; he was the co-inventor of the ISLM model most students of economics will remember from their first macroeconomics class, and a professor at Harvard) coined the term secular stagnation to describe the state of the economy at the time.

His view was that the American economy would never grow again because all the ingredients of growth had already played out. Technological progress and population growth in particular were over, he thought.

Most of us today who grew up in the West grew up with fast growth or with parents used to fast growth. Robert Gordon reminds us of our longer history. It is the 150 years between 1820 and 1970 that wereexceptional, not the period of lower growth that followed. Sustained growth was virtually unknown until the 1820s in the West.

Over the period 1500 to 1820, annual GDP per capita in the West went from $780 to $1,240 (in constant dollars), a paltry annual growth rate of 0.14 percent. Between 1820 and 1900, growth was 1.24 percent, nine times more than in the previous three hundred years, but still much less than the 2 percent it would hit after 1900. If Gordon is right and we end up with a 0.8 percent growth rate, we would simply be returning to the average growth rate over the very long run (1700-2012). This is not the new normal; it is just normal.

Of course, the fact that sustained growth over a long time, the kind we saw over most of the twentieth century, was unprecedented, does not mean it could not happen again. The world is richer and better educated than ever before, the incentives for innovation are at an all-time high, and the list of countries that could lead a new innovation boom is expanding.

It could well be the case, as some technology enthusiasts believe, that growth explodes again in the next few years, fueled by a fourth industrial revolution, perhaps powered by intelligent machines capable of teaching themselves to write better legal briefs and make better jokes than humans. But it could also be, as Gordon believes, that electricity and the combustion engine brought about a onetime shift in how much we can produce and consume.

It took us some time to reach this new plateau and there was fast growth along the way, but we have no particular reason to expect this episode will repeat itself. Nor, we might add, do we have definitive proof it won’t. Mostly, what is clear is that we don’t know and have no way to find out other than by waiting.

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Festivities at Rajasthan’s Cattle Fair

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Pushkar Camel Fair

Dotted with majestic forts and palaces, deserts and colourful people, Rajasthan is famous for a great many fascinating and interesting festivals. Each festival has its own significance and legends – tales that can keep you entertained forever!

Coming up at the end of this month is Rajasthan’s 2nd largest Cattle Fair at Nagaur. Celebrated with great enthusiasm and full of exciting events, the Fair attracts tourists from all over the world. Visitors have often said that the festivals of Rajasthan are so full of cultural beauty, colour and vigour, that given the chance, they would love to return every year.

The Nagaur Cattle Fair is an annual festival celebrates the coming together of animals including horses, cows, bullocks, oxen and camels, adding up to more than two and half lakhs! Held in the historic town of Nagaur located between Bikaner and Jodhpur, every year traders and buyers, collect here to trade more than 75,000 camels, horses and bullocks. The Festival is spread over 4 days and offers a vast number of events to keep everyone entertained.

In the mornings there are bullock races, cock fights, tug of war, while the evening offers visitors enjoy vibrant folk music and dance performances. Meals seated around bonfires with groups of folk singers and dancers are among the most unforgettable experiences that everyone takes home. There are many competitors for contests. Among the most sought after competitions are for turban tying, for the longest and best mustache, gymnastic stunts, jugglers, puppet shows and storytelling.

The Nagaur Cattle Fair is also known as the Ramdeoji Cattle Fair, started 56 years ago when Maharaja Umed Singh invited Sufi saint Shri Ramdeoji to Nagaur to demonstrate his powers. People from around the town gathered at Nagaur to watch him and it is said that they were convinced about his supreme powers and insisted that he should stay in Nagaur. A Fort was built with massive walls around the existing dwellings and named – the Fort of the Hooded Cobra. Thereafter it became customary for them to visit him once a year, to pay their respects. Till today the day of the Fair coincides with the day Ramdeoji was born.

This year the Fair is scheduled from January 30th till February 2nd, 2020. However, the fair can last even for 10 days. Visitors can expect the fair to open with sellers showing off their cattle. Each dealer is given a shed of his own and buyers walk around looking for the best buy. There will be stalls selling the vast variety of artifacts made in Rajasthan. Games and competitions of all kinds can be expected.

By sunset most of the buyers would have left the fairground and the sellers stay on to guard their animals. The cultural programmes begin after sunset and music fills the air. Among the main attractions at the Fair is the Mirchi Bazaar, This is considered to be the largest chilli market of Asia. Contest for looks as well as attire among the animals, is the most popularly photographed activity. The handicraft exhibition is spread in stores around the fairground. Among the most popular items are camel leather accessories, wooden items, crafts made of iron and others.

Visitors are welcome to stay back and enjoy themselves after the fair closes which is when the locals gather together to dance and sing. There are games to play and the stores are kept open for selling. It is also the right time to taste the local cuisine at the shops, including the rather rare camel milk delicacies! The finale every night is a spectacular burst of fireworks!

(Shona Adhikari is a lifestyle and travel columnist)

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Cancer’s Big Five

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cancer types poster

Cancer is one of the most dreaded ailments, and from amongst the very many types of cancer, there are a few that Indian women are predisposed to.

47.2 percent of cancer in women is accounted for amongst the five types. The surprising fact is that these cancers can be prevented by early screening. Early detection and treatment reduces not only the death rate but the quality of life post cancer treatment. Dr Neena Singh, Associate Director, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Fortis La Femme, Delhi sheds some light on this.

She reveals the following are the top five types of cancer in women in India:

  • Breast Cancer
  • Cervical Cancer
  • Uterine Cancer
  • Ovarian Cancer
  • Colorectal cancer

BREAST CANCER :

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in India and accounts for 27 percent of all cases of cancer in women. It is more common in urban areas than rural areas.

High risk factors:

  • Family history of breast cancer
  • Long period of OCP (Oral contraceptive pills)

Screening test for breast cancer:

Self-examination of the breasts. If any abnormality found like lump, pain or change in shape, consult a doctor who would examine clinically if it is cancer.

  • Mammography is done which can detect small lesions.
  • MRI Breast is done for staging the disease.
  • Treatment at early stages carries good prognosis.

CERVICAL CANCER

Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in India in women accounting 22.86 percent of all cancer cases in women. It is more common in rural women than urban women.

Risk Factors:

  • Young age at first intercourse (less than 16 years)
  • Multiple Sexual partners
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Human papillomavirus infection (HPV)
  • Immunosuppression

Screening test for cervical cancer:

Any abnormal symptoms like abnormal vaginal bleeding, vaginal discharge and contact bleeding (bleeding after intercourse) report to a gynecologist who would do a clinical examination and do some test on cervix.

  • Visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA)
  • Visual inspection with legal Iodine (VILI)
  • Magnified VI! Under colposcopy
  • Exfoliative cytology (Pap smear)-is gold standard for screening.
  • HPV-DNA testing

Do Cervical biopsy for confirmation. Early detection and treatment have very good prognosis.

Prevention by prophylactic vaccinations in childhood.

UTERINE CANCER (CANCER OF UTERUS)

Uterine cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the uterus in its lining called the endometrium. Hence also named as endometrial carcinoma.

Risk Factors:

It is an estrogen dependent cancer. Persistent unopposed stimulation of endometrium with estrogen is the single most important factor for development of cancer endometrium:

Polycystic ovaries

  • Granulosa cell tumor of the ovary which secret estrogen
  • Hormone replacement therapy-unopposed estrogen therapy
  • Early onset of periods & late menopause (after the age of 50)
  • Age: – 75 percent women are post-menopausal

Nulliparity

  • Obesity, Hypertension & Diabetes (corpus cancer syndrome)
  • Tamoxifen therapy given in breast cancer
  • Endometrial hyperplasia especially atypical
  • Following radiation exposure to the pelvis
  • Family history of cancer uterus breast, ovary & colon

Screening test for uterine cancer:

If any irregularity in menstrual cycle, post-menopausal bleeding, contact bleeding and unhealthy vaginal discharge report to a gynecologist who would do

  • Clinical examination
  • Transvaginal sonography (TVS) to know endometrial thickness or irregularity.
  • MRI pelvis can be done for more details
  • Fractional curettage of uterus for histopathology examination or Hysteroscopy & directed biopsy from suspicious area. Early diagnosis & treatment has very good prognosis.

OVARIAN CANCER

Ovarian cancer constitutes 15-20 percent of all genital cancers. 85-90 percent of all cancers are epithelial in origin. Germ cell constitutes 5-7 percent.

Risk Factors:

Unfortunately, ovarian cancer doesn’t produce any specific symptoms. By the time symptoms appear its already in advanced stages. However, if patients have pain in the abdomen, back ache, indigestion, bloating not responding to basic treatment and lasts for more than two weeks then consult a gynecologist.

Screening test for uterine cancer:

No specific screening method is available. Doctor would do a pelvic examination to feel for ovarian mass.

  • Transvaginal sonography (TVS) to confirm ovarian mass solid or cystic.
  • Blood test like CA125 which is found raised in ovarian cancer.
  • CT Scan /MRI to know spread of cancer

Treatment:

Early diagnosis and treatment carry good prognosis.

COLORECTAL Cancer

When a cancerous growth originates in the colon and then spreads to the rectum, it leads to colorectal cancer. The risk of colorectal cancer is higher after the age of fifty years.

Risk Factors:

  • Smoking
  • Fat rich diet
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Colitis
  • Family history of colorectal cancer or polyp
  • Non residual diet
  • Chronic constipation

Screening test for Colon Cancer:

  • Frank blood in stools
  • Fecal occult blood test is positive
  • Double contrast barium enema (DCBE)
  • CT Scan
  • Colonoscopy
  • Stool DNA test
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More self-employed committing suicides than unemployed

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Suicide

It may appear strange but more self-employed people are committing suicide every day than the unemployed.

It may be a testimony to the bleak economic situation and the slump in various industries that an average of 36 self-employed people ended their lives every day as against a lesser number of 35 unemployed people.

While the government has been offering several categories of loans for the self-employed, the downturn in commercial activity in general, indebtedness and the stress of running a business may be taking a toll on the self-employed. Self-employed category accounted for 9.8 per cent of total suicide victims (13,149 out of 1,34,516).

Suicides by the self-employed and the unemployed in 2018, with the two categories together accounted for 26,085 deaths during the year, according to government data.

The self employed figure of suicides at 13,149 is more than the suicides by the unemployed at 12,936.

Both the categories combined outnumbered the suicide figures of those working in the farming sector at 10,349 in 2018, according to data compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).

“Each suicide is a personal tragedy that prematurely takes the life of an individual and has a continuing ripple effect, dramatically affecting the lives of families, friends and communities. Every year, more than 1 lakh people commit suicide in our country. There are various causes of suicides like professional/career problems, sense of isolation, abuse, violence, family problems, mental disorders, addiction to alcohol, financial loss, chronic pain etc,” says the NCRB adding it collects data on suicides from police recorded suicide cases.

A total of 1.34 lakh suicides were reported in the country during 2018, showing an increase of 3.6 per cent in comparison to 2017. The rate of suicides, which means deaths per one lakh population, also increased by 0.3 per cent during 2018 over 2017, the NCRB stated.

In a shocking revelation, one unemployed person committed suicide every hour during 2018. Of the total suicides, 92,114 male and 42,391 female, were reported in the country, NCRB’s data on “Suicide in India-2018” says.

The latest data, issued by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) under Ministry of Home Affairs, reveals that a total of 12,936 unemployed persons committed suicide in 2018, which accounted for the 9.6 per cent of the total suicides, were of aged below 18 years to above 60 years.

Those below 18 years include 31 males and nine females while those between 18 and 30 years comprise 1,240 male and 180 female. A total of 868 male and 95 female were aged between 30 and 45 years. A number of 237 males and 21 females were aged between 45 and 60 years while 2,431 males and 310 females were above 60 years.

Of the total suicides by unemployed persons, males are 10,687 while the females are 2,249.

Majority of 12.3 per cent suicides committed by unemployed persons were in Kerala (1,585 out of 12,936 suicides), 12.2 per cent in Tamil Nadu (1,579 suicides), 9.7 per cent in Maharashtra (1,260 suicides), 8.5 per cent in Karnataka (1,094 suicides) and 7 per cent in Uttar Pradesh (902 suicides).

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