Greek PM defiant on economic plans; Redefining the US agenda; A confused India and Modi’s silence

1 Greek PM defiant on economic plans (BBC) Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras of Greece has said he is sticking to plans to roll back austerity and rejecting an international bailout extension. He said Greece, unable to service its debt, would instead seek a bridge loan. He told parliament he would keep all pre-election pledges, promising to raise the minimum wage, pay a pension bonus and rehire public workers.

Mr Tsipras’s far-left Syriza party won elections last month on a promise to end austerity measures. EU officials have rejected his efforts to renegotiate Greece’s bailout terms. On Sunday, Mr Tsipras said the government’s “irreversible decision is to implement in full our pre-elections pledges”.

Greece’s current programme of loans ends on 28 February. A final €7.2bn is still to be negotiated, but Greece wants permission to issue additional short-term debt while it seeks a new deal. Mr Tsipras and his Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, went on a diplomatic tour this week to try to reassure eurozone leaders about their plans.

However, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who chairs the Eurogroup made up of eurozone finance ministers, said Greece had to apply for a bailout extension if it wanted continued backing from the eurozone. “We don’t do bridging loans,” he said. The European Central Bank has also issued a statement saying Greek banks could no longer access ECB credit by using Greek government bonds or bonds guaranteed by the government. Greek debt stands at more than €320bn, or about 174% of Greece’s economic output.

2 Redefining the US agenda (Khaleej Times) US National Security adviser Susan Rice told the Republican-dominated Congress that President Obama’s foreign policy is ambitious but on an achievable note. That in simple words means it is less jingoistic than his predecessor, George Bush, and no less realistic than that of Franklin Roosevelt.

The top White House adviser went on to argue that America’s leadership success depends on issue-oriented politics and approach, and it encompasses as wide-ranging factors such as eradicating Ebola from Western Africa, correct relations with Moscow to reconciling with Iran in lieu for a permanent deal on its uranium enrichment.

The fact that Obama has desisted to this day from sending troops for a new war is a promising shift in itself. But Susan and Secretary of State John Kerry will have to do a lot of tough-talking as the Congress attempts to resurrect the policy and funnel in arms and troops for Ukraine.

Confronting Moscow is neither in Washington’s interest nor good for serenity of Europe vis-à-vis Western interests worldwide. Obama’s last two years in office will have to focus on the legacy that the president wants to leave behind, and that should include fundamentals such as closing down the Guantanamo prison, clinching a deal with Iran and opening up with the East for business rather than armament.

3 A confused India and Modi’s silence (Latha Jishnu in Dawn) India is clearly in a bind with its people being forced to deal with so many confusions at one time. Old certainties are being challenged as the forces unleashed by the Hindu supremacist government of Narendra Modi undermine what the Indian republic has believed in, or at least subscribed to, in the past six decades and more. The assassin of Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi, the guiding spirit of the independence struggle and the conscience of the new nation in its aftermath, is now the mascot of the Hindu right.

For Indians, from the very young who are unlearning their history in rewritten textbooks to the middle classes who believe that India’s emergence as a dominant economic power is round the corner, these are unsettling times.

The bigger disappointment is on the economic front. It did seem that the Modi regime was in overdrive to undo the stasis of the past five years during which the Congress government of Manmohan Singh appeared to have been in coma. Yet that is an illusion that is beginning to wear thin.

The confusion on the development direction India should be taking is also being cloaked in superficiality. The Planning Commission has been renamed the NITI Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India), but neither its members nor the government has let out any details on what the proposed changes will translate to.

What is perplexing is that the BJP is frittering away factors favouring the government. Foremost is the sharp drop in global crude oil prices which has filled the coffers by as much as Rs180 billion since prices and taxes have not been brought down at par in India. Inflation is another plus since the rate has been dropping.

Nine months may be too short a while for a government to prove its mettle — or for critics to pass judgment. But Modi’s silence has done much damage to both the social fabric of the country and its economy. In the case of attacks on minorities it is frightening. On development, it is puzzling.


About joesnewspicks

This blog captures interesting news items from around the world for those strained by information overload and yet need to stay updated on global events of significance. The news items displayed are not in order of merit. (The blog takes a weekly off — normally on Sundays — and does not appear when I am on vacation or busy.) I am a journalist for nearly three decades.
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