1 World Bank ups China forecast (BBC) The World Bank has raised its growth forecast for China, saying stimulus measures and approval of infrastructure projects will help boost growth. It added that the pick-up in factory output and investment “suggested that China’s economy was bottoming out”. The bank said it now expects China’s economy to grow by 8.4% in 2013, up from its earlier projection of 8.1%. A slowdown in China’s growth in recent months had prompted policymakers to announce various stimulus measures.
China’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China, has also lowered the amount of money that banks need to keep in reserve three times in the past few months in an attempt to boost lending. “The impact of easing credit conditions and public investment in infrastructure is beginning to show,” the bank said. The bank also raised its forecast for the developing East Asia region, excluding China. The grouping, which includes Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia and Burma, is now projected to grow 5.7% in 2013, up from the previous forecast of 5.5%.
The bank said that the region was likely to benefit from Thailand’s recovery from last year’s floods and strong growth in the Philippines. The Philippines economy has been one of the better performing ones in the region this year. Its growth has been helped by a strong domestic demand, government spending and increased investment in the country. The bank raised its projection for the Philippines to 6.2% for 2013 from 5%. It added that the opening up of Burma and the continuing reforms in the country, which have seen various sanctions against it being lifted, was “another bright spot in the region”.
2 Attempting to be ‘Credible India’ (Ranjani Iyer Mohanty in The Wall Street Journal) India’s economic growth rate, like the world’s, has slowed down. We’re still at an enviable 5% but the issues we had ignored to spotlight the glamour of 9% growth and revel in an India-China comparison are catching up to us. One fundamental issue is corruption. In a recent poll, 65% of Indians blamed politicians for corruption. Economist Raghuram Rajan says, more diplomatically, that a lag in governance has allowed the private sector to make unfair profits.
What he fails to mention is that this same lag in governance may also have benefitted several politicians and bureaucrats. Regular people are battling this issue by supporting anti-corruption movements like those of Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal. Another issue that plagues us is inequality. India’s dynamic growth over the last few years hasn’t been matched by trickle-down benefits. In some parts of India, some 42% of children under the age of five are malnourished. And, of course, gender inequality, beginning with the skewed sex ratio, is well documented.
A third issue is lack of infrastructure. The lack of electrical capacity is revealed every summer, matched only by talk of the dropping water table. While there may be enough airports to handle the flights of the more affluent, there is a lack of roads and those that exist are often of poor quality. After each monsoon, many roads are repaired but with substandard material so they have to be re-done the following year, putting more money into the pockets of contractors. These anomalies have grown during the good times as attention to long-term planning and equal access to opportunity were sacrificed for the greater glory of a big GDP number.
Maybe we don’t need to be “Incredible !ndia,” as our tourism tagline proclaims; perhaps we can just try for “Credible !ndia.” Maybe it won’t be a case of slow and steady wins the race; it may be a case of slow and steady makes it to the finish line with more people intact and in tow. As we roll into winter, objects in the rearview mirror are closer than they appear. And the potholes in front may prove harmful if we ignore them. While the obstacles are clear, the way ahead is not. The best course of action may well be to move forward but slowly.
3 The losing polio battle (Khaleej Times) Pakistan is actually one of the last places in the world where polio continues to thrive. Over 115 fresh cases of polio, mainly in the restive northwestern region and Sindh, have been reported so far this year — a moment of utter shame for the country, which has pumped considerable resources in tackling the disease. While polio is nothing but a distant memory in most of the developed world, the disease is still endemic in South Asia and Nigeria. In Pakistan, the water-borne virus has been particular difficult to control in recent years. The rampant militancy and war on terrorism are to blame for the scourge of polio.
Recently, the country’s polio workers, who are entrusted with the herculean task of traversing a difficult terrain and convincing a largely illiterate population to let their children be immunised, are facing attacks by militantsThe Taleban have been especially wary of the polio immunisation programme, after reports that the CIA collected intelligence on Obama bin Laden’s whereabouts in Pakistan through the polio programme. They have also forced people to reject the anti-polio programme, on the pretext that it supposedly causes infertility is an anti-Muslim propaganda.
Responding to these dastardly attacks on health workers, the UN has scaled down its polio immunisation programme. Quite expectedly, this move will prove to be a disastrous blow to the plan for polio eradication. Earlier this year, the strain of polio responsible for cases in China’s western Xinjiang province that borders Pakistan, were traced back to the latter. Pakistan’s citizens face the risk of a travel ban by the international community if the authorities fail to control polio beyond 2013. As the country continues to battle a raging militancy, its leaders should know that there’s one war that they have already lost — the one against polio.