1 India growth forecast down to 5% (BBC) India has lowered its growth forecast for the second time in two weeks, underlining the challenges it faces in reviving its sluggish economy. The statistical office has forecast growth of 5% for the year to 31 March 2013, based on advanced estimates. Last week, India’s central bank had cut its forecast to 5.5% from 5.8%. India’s growth has slowed in recent months because of several factors, not least the sharp slowdown in its manufacturing and services sectors.
Rupa Rege Nitsure, chief economist at the Bank of Baroda, said that the revised figure of 5% growth was “more in tune with reality”. “The industrial sector downturn has extended beyond anyone’s expectation. Exports have been continuously declining, non-food credit growth is slowing while agricultural sector performance has also been sub-optimal,” she added.
India’s economy grew by 5.3% from a year earlier in the July to September quarter, the slowest pace of expansion in three years. A slowdown in exports and subdued domestic demand have affected the manufacturing and services sectors. Meanwhile, foreign investors have also been wary of entering the country amid a delay in key reforms. That has led to concerns that India’s growth rate may slow further in the coming months.
2 Wilting of the jasmines (Khaleej Times) While the stalemate between the opposition and the Islamist-led government has sharply deteriorated Egypt’s security, the birthplace of the Arab Spring has also plunged into chaos. Tunisia’s prime minister Hamdi Jebali of Ennahda party has dissolved the government after vociferous protests broke out following the gunning down of a secular opposition figure Chokri Belaid.
For the millions responsible for causing the Jasmine Revolution that deposed Ben Ali’s dictatorial regime in 2011, the fruits of the Arab Spring have already soured. Rampant unemployment — the reason why Mohamed Bouazizi immolated himself in 2011 after the police confiscated his unlicensed fruit cart — continues to persist in Tunisia. Two years after the revolution, economic prospects of the 11 million-strong country remain dismal.
Frustrated and angry at their destitution, Tunisians have shown an impatience with the political squabbling in the democratic government. In December, when president Marzouki visited Sidi Bouzid, the birthplace of the Tunisian revolution, he was bombarded with tomatoes by angry protestors, who called for his ouster. All that the Tunisians, and even the neighbouring Egyptians, care about at the moment are better economic prospects. And for this, they are willing to throng the streets for as long as it takes.
3 Facebook fatigue (Jenna Wortham in The New York Times) Facebook is the most popular social network in America — roughly two-thirds of adults in the country use it on a regular basis. But that doesn’t mean they don’t get sick of it. A new survey by the Pew Research Centre’s Internet and American Life Project found that 61% of current Facebook users admitted that they had voluntarily taken breaks from the site, for as many as several weeks at a time.
The main reasons for their social media sabbaticals were not having enough time to dedicate to pruning their profiles, an overall decrease in their interest in the site, and the general sentiment that Facebook was a major waste of time. About 4% cited privacy and security concerns as contributing to their departure. Although those users eventually resumed their regular activity, another 20% of Facebook users admitted to deleting their accounts.
Of course, even as some Facebook users pull back on their daily consumption of the service, the vast majority — 92% — of all social network users still maintain a profile on the site. But while more than half said that the site was just as important to them as it was a year ago, only 12% said the site’s significance increased over the last year — indicating the makings of a much larger social media burnout across the site.
4 Poison ivory (Khaleej Times) Africa’s rhinoceros and the elephants are being mercilessly wiped out in hordes by a growing number of illegal poachers. The lucrative demand for ivory in Asia, where it is used in luxury items and traditional medicine, has led to an explosion in wild poaching. With ivory procuring up to $1000 for a kilogramme in Asian markets and organised crime syndicates involved in ensuring its entry there, the authorities find it difficult to thwart the efforts of ivory poachers lurking in Africa’s jungles.
Africa’s elephant population has dropped to the middle six figures — roughly half of what it was during the 1970s — according to recent Newsweek report. More than 11,000 elephants have been killed by ivory poachers in Gabon since 2004 and roughly 10,000 of these beasts are eliminated annually just in Tanzania. The rhinoceros population is under an even greater threat, with roughly 26,000 left in the entire continent.
This situation is rather dismal, and reflects the flipside of globalisation in Africa. When the Chinese started investing heavily Africa, many were quick to criticise this as new imperialism intended to deplete the continent of its treasure trove of mineral wealth and energy. But it’s not just the platinum and natural gas and iron ore that the foreigners are interested in; they are also keen to exploit Africa’s rich wildlife. Hapless victims of cold profiteering, the continent’s animals also now come with hefty price tags.