Europe’s easy-money endgame; Brazil stagnates n 2014; Why people are so mean online

1 Europe’s easy-money endgame (Hans-Werner Sinn in The Guardian) The euro has brought a balance-of-payments crisis to Europe, just as the gold standard did in the 1920s. In fact, there is only one difference between the two episodes: during today’s crisis, huge international rescue packages have been available.

These rescue packages have relieved the eurozone’s financial distress, but at a high cost. Not only have they enabled investors to avoid paying for their poor decisions; they have also given overpriced southern European countries the opportunity to defer real depreciation in the form of a reduction of relative prices of goods. This is necessary to restore the competitiveness that was destroyed in the euro’s initial years, when it caused excessive inflation.

There are four possible economic and policy responses to this state of affairs. First, Europe could become a transfer union, with the north giving more and more credit to the south and later waiving it. Second, the south can deflate. Third, the north can inflate. And, fourth, countries that are no longer competitive can exit Europe’s monetary union and depreciate their new currency.

Each path is associated with serious complications. The first creates a permanent dependence on transfers, which, by sustaining relative prices, prevents the economy from regaining competitiveness. The second path drives many debtors in crisis countries into bankruptcy. The third expropriates the creditor countries of the north, and the fourth may cause contagion effects via capital markets, possibly forcing policymakers to introduce capital controls, as in Cyprus in 2013.

QE in the eurozone will bring about the inflation that Draghi wants via higher import and export prices. Whether this effect will be sufficient to revitalise southern Europe remains to be seen. There is a risk that Japan, China and the US will not sit on their hands while the euro loses value, with the world possibly even sliding into a currency war.

The southern EU countries, instead of leaving prices unchanged, could abandon austerity and issue an ever greater volume of new bonds to stimulate the economy. Competitiveness gains and rebalancing would fail to materialise and, after an initial flash in the pan, the eurozone would return to permanent crisis. The euro, finally and fully discredited, would then meet a very messy end. One can only hope that this scenario does not come to pass, and that the southern countries stay the course of austerity. This is their last chance.

http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/mar/27/europes-easy-money-endgame

2 Brazil stagnates in 2014 (Straits Times) The Brazilian economy, the world’s seventh-largest, posted near-stagnant growth in 2014, expanding just 0.1 per cent, and will likely enter recession this year, officials said.

Hosting the World Cup in June and July and gearing up for the Olympics next year failed to reverse the drag of rising inflation, a ballooning deficit and a $4 billion kickbacks scandal at state oil giant Petrobras that has tarnished Brazil’s largest company and President Dilma Rousseff’s party.

It was the fourth year of lacklustre growth for the South American giant, whose economy expanded 2.7 per cent in 2013, 1.8 per cent in 2012 and 3.9 per cent in 2011, under a revised calculation system that took effect this month. Rousseff has never managed to match the blistering 7.6 per cent GDP growth Brazil posted in 2010, the last year in office of her charismatic predecessor and mentor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

The central bank is expecting an even worse year in 2015, forecasting a contraction of 0.5 percent. Analyst Alex Agostini, chief economist at Brazilian firm Austin Rating, predicted modest growth of around 1-2 per cent in 2016 before a return to stronger growth of about 2.5 per cent in 2017.

Of the Brics group of emerging economies – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – Brazil posted the lowest growth for 2014. Russia’s economy grew 0.6 per cent, China’s 7.4 per cent and South Africa’s 1.4 per cent. Brazil, the largest economy in Latin America, also had the poorest GDP growth in the region outside crisis-hit Venezuela.

http://www.straitstimes.com/news/business/economy/story/brazil-stagnates-2014-recession-looms-2015-20150328

3 Why people are so mean online (Jane Wakefield on BBC) It used to be the case that people got their gossip over the garden fence or from a bit of curtain twitching. But now we have the internet and the nature of chat has changed forever.

We have all seen nasty comments online – whether they be a row on Twitter or a catty response on Facebook. The internet acts like a kind of digital-fuelled alcohol, freeing us to say things to strangers that we would never dare to say if we met them.

Dave Harte, a lecturer in media communication at Birmingham City University, believes that social media gives us a connection with each other that we are all craving. “People with shared interests come together but often they would disintegrate because the internet gives people the opportunity to say things that you wouldn’t say face to face,” said Mr Harte.

Trolling has become an established term for people who sow discord on the internet by starting arguments – and there are a lot of them around. Women seem to be particularly prone – a survey conducted by cosmetics firm Dove and Twitter found that in 2014 over five million negative tweets were posted about beauty and body image – and four out of five of them appeared to come from women.

The problem is that the nature of the internet means that within groups and the wider social networks we are all part of, people are only a few clicks away from being able to annoy frustrate or upset a whole range of people – often strangers. And for many the temptation to respond to a post they find annoying or frustrating is just too hard to resist.

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-31749753

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Japan on brink of deflation; Worrying over a robot uprising; Pilot on a suicidal mission

1 Japan on brink of deflation (BBC) Annual core consumer inflation in Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, stopped rising for the first time in nearly two years in February. The core consumer price index (CPI) was flat from a year ago, stripping out the effect of last year’s sales tax increase in April. The last time the core CPI did not rise was in May 2013, when it was flat.

The latest figures are moving further away from the Bank of Japan’s (BOJ) inflation target of 2%. Japan’s economy came out of a recession in the fourth quarter of last year, but its recovery remains fragile on sluggish household and business spending. Economists said the data put more pressure on the central bank to expand its monetary policy as falling oil prices keep inflation subdued.

The unemployment rate, however, fell to 3.5% in the same time period – close to what economists see as full employment. Jasper Koll, head of research at JP Morgan, viewed the data as “good deflation” saying that the good news was prices in Japan were coming down while wages were going up.
http://www.bbc.com/news/business-32081871

2 Worrying over a robot uprising (Marcus Gilmer in San Francisco Chronicle) As artificial intelligence continues to evolve, it’s no wonder that some of us are getting a little worried about just how advanced it’s getting: when will AI outstrip our own? Tech entrepreneur Elon Musk is now expressing similar concern.

In a radio program, Musk discussed the advancements in artificial intelligence over the years and expressed his own concern with its growing power. Musk warned that once robots reached the stage of “superintelligence,” they’ll simply overpower humans and keep them “like a pet labrador if we’re lucky.”
Musk’s concerns echo those that Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak made in a recent interview: Like people including Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk have predicted, I agree that the future is scary and very bad for people. If we build these devices to take care of everything for us, eventually they’ll think faster than us and they’ll get rid of the slow humans to run companies more efficiently.

Bill Gates expressed his concern earlier this year: I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence. First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don’t understand why some people are not concerned.

Of course, the warnings require the usual grain of salt. While expressing all those concerns, Musk seems pretty comfortable pushing his own cars to the forefront of autonomous driving. And there are plenty of smart people who say the fears are overblown.

http://blog.sfgate.com/techchron/2015/03/27/elon-musk-is-worried-about-a-robot-uprising-too/

3 Pilot on a suicidal mission (Khaleej Times) If the testimony with reference to the Germanwings crash is to be believed, there couldn’t be a more disgusting episode in the history of aviation. The very belief that the co-pilot of the ill-fated flight wanted to deliberately destroy the aircraft, and went ahead with his intentions, has opened a Pandora’s Box over the scheme of things that would come under suspicion on each and every flight.

As per stated records and bona fides available with the German airline, Andreas Lubitz – the co-pilot, was no extremist and was a promising professional. The biggest question, however, that should be asked is that when the authorities kept on monitoring that there wasn’t any response from the cockpit for more than 10 minutes, they should take extraordinary measures, such as flying a sortie from the air force to ensure that nothing is terribly wrong.

The findings from the Black Box, which proves that the pilot was locked out and the co-pilot had his way till the aircraft carrying 144 passengers and crew was doomed over the French Alps, raises questions of security and safety in similar circumstances.

A crude question that could be posed is that if the cockpit is taken over by hijackers or terrorists, there should be a parallel ground contact system from the tail of the aircraft – and the crew and flight commandoes should be aware of it. This question can lead to many discoveries and a debate over its merits and demerits. But there is no harm in it. This tragedy could have been avoided had there been some critical thinking undertaken at the spot of time. Such deliberate-suicidal acts from the cabin personnel fall in the gambit of crimes against humanity.

http://khaleejtimes.com/kt-article-display-1.asp?xfile=data/editorial/2015/March/editorial_March55.xml&section=editorial

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Kraft, Heinz to merge; ‘India is tough but rewarding'; Milk as dementia beater

1 Kraft, Heinz to merge (Jill Treanor in The Guardian) A string of kitchen staples such as Heinz ketchup and Philadelphia are to become part of the same company, after a $100bn deal engineered by legendary investor Warren Buffett and the Brazilian private equity company 3G to buy Kraft Foods.

Buffett and 3G are paying nearly $40bn to acquire Kraft, and will merge it with HJ Heinz, which was bought two years ago by the same two investors. The deal will create the world’s fifth largest food and beverage company – but immediately raised concerns about jobs in the combined workforce of around 50,000.

The enlarged company will be known as the Kraft Heinz Company and will be the third largest food and beverage company in the US. 3G Capital is run by Brazilian former tennis player Jorge Lemann, who is now the country’s richest man with a fortune estimated at $25bn. Lemann, who also owns Burger King, built his empire on a beer business. He relocated to Switzerland after threats to kidnap his children.

http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/mar/25/kraft-40bn-offer-3g-capital

2 ‘India is tough but rewarding’ (Issac John in Khaleej Times) The Indian economy is poised for a big take-off, but the business environment has to become more globally competitive to draw international businesses and foreign direct investments, said panelists at a seminar on the Indian budget held in Dubai.

The budget presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in February seeks to prepare the economy for a paradigm shift in the way of doing business to ensure enhanced global competitiveness across all sectors, speakers at the Times Now event entitled “The Indian Budget Impact 2015” said.

Anurag Bhushan, Consul-General of India to the UAE, quoted IMF managing director Christine Lagarde as saying “India is a bright spot in the cloudy global horizon”. He urged investors not to see the government budget as a one-day affair, but as work in progress. He said the new government in Delhi has done a great job in emphasising that economic management is a 365-day task, not confined to the day of the budget.

India ranked 142nd among the 189 countries surveyed for the latest World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report released in October 2014, a drop of two places from last year’s ranking. In the annual Global Competitiveness Report 2014-15 released by World Economic Forum, India slipped to 71st position — the lowest among Brics countries — in 2014. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made it clear that he would like to see India breaking into the top 50 in three years.

The panelists said new measures such as simplified bankruptcy laws, a mechanism for easier regulatory clearances and the revisiting of the public-private partnership model are all key to improving the ease of doing business.

http://khaleejtimes.com/biz/inside.asp?xfile=/data/uaebusiness/2015/March/uaebusiness_March297.xml&section=uaebusiness

3 Milk as dementia beater (Jenny Hope in Daily Mail) Drinking three glasses of milk a day could help stave off diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, say researchers. A new US study shows a link between milk consumption and higher levels of a naturally-occurring antioxidant called glutathione in the brain in older, healthy adults.

The powerful antioxidant may minimise damage to brain cells from free radicals, destructive groups of atoms made as a by-product of metabolism that can damage cells. Antioxidants help to neutralise this type of oxidative stress in the body. The study was carried out at the University of Kansas Medical Center by associate professor of neurology In-Young Choi and Debra Sullivan, professor and chair of dietetics and nutrition.

The researchers found those who said they had drunk milk recently had more glutathione in their brains. Oxidative stress is known to be associated with a number of different diseases and conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and many other conditions, say the researchers.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3012150/Three-glasses-milk-day-help-people-beat-dementia-creates-antioxidant-helps-protects-brain-cells.html

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Upturn in Eurozone business activity; What zero inflation means for UK; India court gives boost to free speech online

1 Upturn in Eurozone business activity (BBC) Business output in the eurozone grew at its fastest rate in nearly four years in March, a closely watched survey suggests. The CIPS/Markit composite purchasing managers’ index (PMI) rose to 54.1, compared with 53.3 a month earlier – it’s highest level in 46 months. Any reading above 50 indicates growth while a reading below 50 points to a fall in activity.

Markit said the survey pointed to first-quarter economic growth of 0.3%. That would match the eurozone growth figure for the final three months of 2014. It said the improvement in business output was the result of growth in new orders that had increased at their fastest rate since 2011. Employment also grew at its fastest rate since August 2011.

Crucially, the survey showed that deflationary pressures eased in March with prices falling at the slowest rate since July. Markit added there was some anecdotal evidence that the European Central Bank’s (ECB) stimulus measures were beginning to be felt.

Manufacturing prices rose for the first time in seven months, albeit only modestly. Meanwhile, in the service sector, prices fell, but the rate of decline was the weakest for nine months. Business activity in Germany rose to to its highest level in eight months as new orders hit a nine-month record. The French economy also saw business activity increase for a second month.

http://www.bbc.com/news/business-32030586

2 What zero inflation means for UK (Larry Elliott in The Guardian) Britain is within a month of a period of deflation. When the figures for March come out next month cheaper energy bills will mean that the cost of living is lower than it was a year earlier.

These are uncharted waters for the UK, at least in the modern era. The general assumption is that this is good news all round, even though some people do better out of zero inflation than others. Pensioners benefit because the triple lock means that the state pension is uprated by whichever is highest of the annual inflation rate, average earnings or 2.5%. At present it is 2.5%.

Deflation is also a boon for those with cash in the bank, since their money will buy more in the future than it does now. Losers include those with debts, which rise in value if prices are falling.

There are two reasons economists think zero inflation is a good thing. The first is the boost to living standards from wages rising faster than prices. Wages have risen extremely slowly since the recession of 2008-09 and even against a backdrop of falling unemployment are currently only going up by 1.6% a year.

The second boost to consumers comes from the outlook for interest rates. It will come as no surprise to the Bank of England that inflation now stands at zero. All nine members of the Bank’s monetary policy committee are in favour of official interest rates remaining at 0.5%, which is where they have been since early 2009.

http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/mar/24/inflation-falls-to-0-what-does-it-mean-for-the-uk-economy

3 India court gives boost to online free speech (Niharika Mandhana in The Wall Street Journal) India’s Supreme Court has struck down legislation barring “offensive messages” online, saying it violated constitutional guarantees of free expression. A two-judge panel voided a part of India’s Information Technology Act that made it a crime to share information through computers or other communications devices that could cause “annoyance, inconvenience” and “enmity, hatred or ill will.”

“This provision was hugely problematic for anyone using the Internet in India and that is gone,” said Sunil Abraham, head of the Bangalore-based Center for Internet and Society. “The court has removed the additional, unconstitutional limits to free speech.”

Enforcement of the law has sparked controversy for years. In 2012, a 21-year-old was detained after complaining on Facebook about the effective shutdown of Mumbai for the funeral of a right-wing Hindu leader. Another person was also detained for “liking” her comment.

J. Sai Deepak, a New Delhi-based lawyer involved in the case, said the court decision was a significant victory for Internet companies in India. He said the law’s implementation—which earlier was “subject to the vagaries of the political winds of the state,” he said—would now be guided only by the free-speech rules laid down in the Indian constitution.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/indian-supreme-court-overturns-law-barring-hate-speech-online-1427174675

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Perils and promise of drone economy; More women in charge means bigger profits; Farmers, traders, lions and the India beef ban

1 Promise and peril of drone economy (Straits Times) Emerging technologies can charm, baffle and vex all at once. Shorn of the hype, the performance of drones has yet to live up to expectations. External signals can interfere with their navigation systems, many are not able to sense obstacles or other flying objects, they lack autonomous intelligence to discern their relative position, and they are vulnerable to bad weather conditions.

So, those who criticise regulators for not being able to figure out what to do are missing the target. Drone champions themselves haven’t figured out sound ways to address technological risks. Hence, giving them unbridled leeway to experiment in live settings would be sheer folly.

In the circumstances, it would be prudent for regulators to take a common-sense approach by heeding all security, safety and privacy concerns while offering novel technologies some room to breathe and grow safely. The challenge is to separate facts from fantasy.

Internet retail giant Amazon has been dreaming of drone delivery and has been granted some scope to run more tests. In battle zones, sophisticated drones have been used successfully to hunt down terrorists. But that’s a far cry from having mass-produced flying robots routinely deliver pizzas, without crashing into walls, harming people or hurting operators, as reported. New rules cannot come soon enough to both protect society from potential ills while offering sufficient runway for a new technology to take off.

http://www.straitstimes.com/news/opinion/more-opinion-stories/story/promise-and-peril-drone-economy-20150324

2 More women in charge means bigger profits (San Francisco Chronicle) Evidence is growing that gender equity is not just politically correct window-dressing, but good business. Companies are trying to increase the number of women in executive positions, yet many are struggling to do so because of a failure to adapt workplace conditions in a way that ensures qualified women do not drop off the corporate ladder, surveys show.

The case for companies to act is compelling. In a survey last year of 366 companies, consultancy McKinsey & Co. found that those whose leadership roles were most balanced between men and women were more likely to report financial returns above their national industry median.

Companies with more balanced leadership do a better job recruiting and retaining talented workers, reducing the costs associated with replacing top executives, McKinsey found. They also have stronger customer relations because management better reflects the diversity of society, and they tend to make better business decisions because a wider array of viewpoints is considered.

It’s not just about hours. Women often struggle with a male-dominated culture at executive levels, surveys show. Some have accused such a culture for the aggressive risk-taking that led to the global financial crisis. IMF chief Christine Lagarde quipped that if collapsed investment bank Lehman Brothers had been Lehman Sisters, the crisis would look different.

http://www.sfgate.com/news/world/article/For-business-more-women-in-charge-means-bigger-6152247.php

3 Farmers, traders, lions and the India beef ban (Dawn) A renewed thrust by India prime minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to protect cows, worshipped by majority Hindus, has closed abbatoirs in Maharashtra state, making it hard for farmers to sell their animals, and restrictions are spreading to other states.

Even lions, tigers and leopards in Mumbai’s national park are being fed chicken and mutton rather than their usual beef because the city’s main abbatoir has been shut for the past two weeks, said S.D Saste, the park’s assistant conservator. Maharashtra, India’s second most populous state, extended a ban on the slaughter of cows to bulls and bullocks this month and other BJP-led states such as Jharkhand and Haryana have also tightened restrictions on trading beef.

Prices of buffaloes and cattle have fallen by 20-30 per cent in Maharashtra due to the ban and could drop further if more states follow its lead. Several thousand people, mainly from the Muslim community, will be rendered jobless in the beef trade and related industries like leather goods, leaders of the business community say.

The supply of hides to tanneries across India would also be hit, pushing up prices. Tanneries buy and process animal hides and sell leather to makers of shoes, handbags and accessories. Slaughterhouses in Maharashtra are now refusing to slaughter buffalo in protest at the ban, cutting off all beef supplies in a bid to put pressure on the government. Hindus do not consider buffalo to be sacred.

Meanwhile, Hindu nationalist groups affiliated to Modi’s BJP want to set up more cattle camps and cow shelters to house animals no longer wanted by farmers. India has some 300 million cattle, and animals foraging for food are a familiar sight on the rubbish-strewn streets of towns and villages.

http://www.dawn.com/news/1171384/spreading-beef-bans-hit-indian-farmers-traders-and-lions

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France, Germany join Chinese-led Asia bank; Oil glut pulls prices to six-year low; The danger of erasing history

1 France, Germany join Chinese-led Asia bank (BBC) France and Germany are to join the UK in becoming members of a Chinese-led Asian development bank. The finance ministries of both countries confirmed that they would be applying for membership of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

Last week, the US issued a rare rebuke to the UK over its decision to become a member of the AIIB. The US considers the AIIB a rival to the Western-dominated World Bank. The UK was the first Western economy to apply for membership of the bank. The US has questioned the governance standards at the new institution, which is seen as spreading Chinese “soft power”.

The AIIB, which was created in October by 21 countries, led by China, will fund Asian energy, transport and infrastructure projects. These nations came together last year to sign a memorandum for the bank’s establishment, including Singapore, India and Thailand.

http://www.bbc.com/news/business-31921011

2 Oil glut pulls prices to six-year low (Nicole Friedman in The Wall Street Journal) US oil prices slid to a fresh six-year low Tuesday on expectations that domestic crude stockpiles have risen to a record high. Light, sweet oil for April delivery settled down 42 cents, or 1%, at $43.46 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the lowest settlement since March 11, 2009.

Stored supplies of crude oil in the US are at the highest level in about 80 years, according to the US Energy Information Administration, and production continues to grow. Demand is typically restrained at this time of year as refiners process less crude while performing seasonal maintenance.

The EIA is set to release inventory data for the week ended March 13 on Wednesday, and traders expect it to show another gain in crude stockpiles. Concerns are mounting that oil inventories could reach maximum storage capacity in some locations, which could push down crude prices by limiting the places that producers could sell their crude. Brent, the global benchmark, settled down 43 cents, or 0.8%, at $53.51 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/oil-prices-extend-losses-over-oil-glut-worries-1426588600

3 The danger of erasing history (Farish A Noor in Straits Times) It has come to light that the ancient city of Nimrud has been bulldozed into oblivion by the radical militant group calling itself the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and with that one act of vandalism, much of the legacy of the Assyrian kingdom of old has been pummelled into extinction.

That vandalism is part of war is as old as war itself, and was something practised by everyone from the Mongols who sacked and burned the libraries of Baghdad to the Nazis who robbed museums across Europe. What is specific about ISIS’ brand of vandalism, however, is that it was justified and motivated by a simpler longing for a simpler past, one that is unencumbered by traces of complexity and pluralism which the group so evidently loathes.

ISIS is not the first radical group to claim some sense of moral purpose in its systematic destruction of its own history: The Taleban did the same when it blew up the colossal statues of Bamiyan, despite the appeals by Muslim scholars from other Muslim countries too. Like the Taleban, the adherents of ISIS’ ideology believe that the confusion and anxiety that defines their present condition is partly the result of their complex history that gave birth to the complexities of today.

It is a longing for a simple past that drives the likes of ISIS and the Taleban to do what they do. For the adherents of such movements, their simple message with its simple solution can be delivered only in a simplified setting where no alternative world views and thought systems exist. ISIS’ longing to create a simpler-than-simple realm, where only one people of one faith community who hold to one culture and abide by one monological worldview, can be realised only once all other alternatives are removed from the equation.

This is a cautionary tale for all of us today, living as we do in a complex world beset by a wide range of challenges: The erasure of history and the denial of our complex past does not, cannot, and will not prepare us for the realities of the complex present.

http://www.straitstimes.com/news/opinion/invitation/story/the-danger-erasing-history-20150318

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Global economy ‘too slow, brittle and lopsided'; Cement majors’ merger in doubt; India’s glaucoma menace

1 Global economy ‘too slow, brittle and lopsided’ (Khaleej Times) The global recovery is “too slow, too brittle and too lopsided”, the head of the International Monetary Fund said in India, describing Asia’s third-largest economy as a rare bright spot on a cloudy global horizon.

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said that monetary policy in the world’s leading economies was out of step and, even if well managed, could cause “excessive volatility” in international financial markets. “Looking ahead, something better may yet come on the back of low oil prices and interest rates,” she said. “Still, there are significant risks to this fragile global recovery.”

The first of those was what Lagarde called “asynchronous monetary policy” in advanced economies, with the US and Britain normalising their stances while the euro area and Japan increase their monetary stimulus. More than six years after the global financial crisis, the world will grow by a sub-par 3.5 per cent this year and 3.7 per cent in 2016, Lagarde said, reiterating recent IMF forecasts.

The euro area and Japan were at risk of remaining stuck with low growth and low inflation, she said making it difficult to reduce unemployment and debts, and raising the risk of recession and deflationary pressures. Emerging markets, meanwhile, could face a “triple hit” of a stronger US dollar, higher global interest rates and more volatile capital flows, Lagarde said.

India’s economy is doing better than its peers, with recent policy reforms and improved business confidence set to boost growth to 7.5 per cent in the fiscal year that starts on April 1. But to anchor long-term growth and employ a workforce that will become the world’s largest by 2030, India needs to open up its labour market to women, boost financial inclusion and invest even more in infrastructure, she said.

Lagarde cited a new IMF working paper which found that only 33 per cent of women in India worked — below the global average of 50 per cent and a comparable level in East Asia of 63 per cent.

http://khaleejtimes.com/biz/inside.asp?section=internationbusiness&xfile=/data/internationbusiness/2015/March/internationbusiness_March69.xml

2 Cement majors’ merger in doubt (BBC) A deal to create the world’s largest cement maker is in jeopardy after Swiss firm Holcim said its merger with French rival Lafarge could not go ahead “in its present form”.

The two firms agreed to merge in April, with Lafarge shareholders receiving one Holcim share for each Lafarge share. But since then, Holcim’s shares have outperformed those of Lafarge. If a merger were to go ahead the combined company would have sales of about €32bn (£22.8bn; $33.8bn).

“The Holcim Board of Directors has concluded that the combination agreement can no longer be pursued in its present form, and has proposed to enter into negotiations in good faith around the exchange ratio and governance issues,” it said in a statement. In response, Lafarge said it remains committed to the tie-up and was willing to explore “the possibility of a revision of the parity, in line with recent market conditions”.

http://www.bbc.com/news/business-31902749

3 India’s glaucoma menace (Odisha Samaya) Glaucoma will cause 5.8 percent of total blindness across India. Glaucoma is the third chief reason behind irreversible blindness in the country. Periodic eye exam are crucial to check glaucoma for everyone. According to health experts, regular eye check-ups are vital for early detection of ophthalmic condition of glaucoma.

Several eye hospitals have been conducting screening camps to create awareness about the need for early detection of glaucoma, which is called as the ‘sneak thief of sight.’ The services of the OPD clinics were available to all sections of the general population and for patients with symptoms and signs indicating glaucoma, further evaluation and essential management modalities were initiated free of cost.

According to a study, many people get to know about their condition and problem so late that by then their vision in one eye would already have been deteriorated or lost along with a considerable fall of vision in the other eye. The best way to protect against glaucoma is to go for periodic eye evaluation, especially for people who are above 35 years of age.

http://odishasamaya.com/news/glaucoma-will-cause-5-8-blindness-india

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