civils360 Editorials for mains
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Focus 360 on Editorials for IAS March 6, 2017

No time for complacency – OPINION – The Hindu

  • India’s economy is defying the pessimists, and the time is ripe to deepen structural reforms
    • The Indian economy continues to outperform the prognosis of its critics. This is clearly true of the GDP growth estimates in the third quarter
  • Digitisation dividend- How Digitisation helped the Economy?
      • Hopefully, moving towards greater digitisation and reducing dependence on cash transactions will accelerate the pace of financial inclusion and formalisation of the informal economy.
    • The GDP estimates are supported by two other crucial independent international assessments last week. The first from the Article IV Consultations 2017 of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the second from the biennial Economic Survey of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
  • Both conclude that Indian economic growth is robust, propelled by consumption demand and accelerated structural reforms.
    • The overall macroeconomic framework, notwithstanding challenges, remains robust and credible. Continued fiscal consolidation, a modest current account deficit, subdued inflation, enhanced public and private consumption somewhat offsetting the depressed private investment support this conclusion.
  • Macro policies
    • First, the OECD’s survey raises concerns about India’s large interest payments due to the high levels of public debt as compared to other emerging economies.
      • This is in consonance with the suggestions of the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Review Committee chaired by N.K Singh, which projects a declining debt-to-GDP ratio to approximately 60% by 2023.
      • While the Committee’s report is not yet in the public domain, there is broad consensus that the preferred trajectory of debt with enabling fiscal deficit targets is central to macroeconomic stability.
  • Second, the health of the banking and financial sector.
      • The twin balance sheet problem of both corporates and banks, highlighted in the Economic Survey Read here, has a relationship but would need differentiated actions.
      • The concept of a centralised Public Sector Asset Rehabilitation Agency (PARA) envisaged as a ‘Band Bank’ spin-off model has gained some traction. It would, however, be naïve to believe that this represents a systemic solution to the ailments of the banking sector.
      • The classic issues of not confusing between the stock and the flow would need to be addressed.
      • The governance architecture embedded in several actions and intended autonomy cannot be totally divorced from the ownership pattern
  • Creating an enabling political milieu for deeper reforms is inescapable.
  • Rule-based management
      • creating an institutional framework or mechanism to seek broader consensus has some advantages.
      • This also ties up with what the OECD’s Economic Survey and the IMF’s report describe as a progressive move to a more rule-based management of the economy.
        • The constitution of the Monetary Policy Committee, GST Council, Banks Board Bureau, are robust examples.
      • Extensive analytical work by several committees and commissions like the Narasimham Committee, P.J. Nayak Committee, Gopalakrishna Committee, to mention a few, have critically examined the past and suggested future actions.
    • The problem is somewhat complicated, by the Reserve Bank acting as the principal banking ombudsman with inherent conflict of interest. In the long run, we need an alternative mechanism for the banking sector. This will not happen overnight; far-reaching structural changes need perseverance and tenacity.
  • The GST transformation
    • No doubt, the GST (Goods and Services Tax) regime and decisive move towards formalisation of the economy using technology would reduce disparities.
    • Local government entities need greater empowerment.
    • These go beyond the enhanced devolution of resources based on the recommendation of the Thirteenth Finance Commission, more importantly of the Fourteenth Finance Commission.
    • Making grants available in two parts — a basic grant and performance grant — will make a difference.
    • Enabling local bodies to impose and realise property taxes and other levies would strengthen their financial viability.
    • Seeking to replicate best governance practices in labour and product markets among the States could also prove beneficial in mitigating inter-State growth divergence.
  • The future may look bright but pursuing and deepening structural reforms is the way forward.

Elusive reconciliation – OPINION – The Hindu

  • Colombo must do much more to address the concerns of the Tamil minority
  • A United Nations report released last week, Raises serious concerns about the delay in addressing allegations of war crimes and in meeting other promises Colombo made when it co-sponsored a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council in 2015, the report warns the government that the lack of accountability threatens the momentum towards lasting peace.
  • It also alleges that cases of excessive use of force, torture and arbitrary arrests still continue in Sri Lanka, almost eight years after the country’s brutal civil war ended.
  • In 2015, when Sri Lanka agreed to a host of measures at the UNHRC, including a judicial process to look into the war crimes, hopes were high.
  • Undeniably, the government has made some slow progress in addressing the issue of reconciliation.
  • The Sirisena administration has reached out to Tamils and initiated constitutional and legal reforms
  • It has also passed enabling legislation to establish an Office of Missing Persons to help find some of the 65,000 people reported missing during the war.
  • But on key issues such as establishing a hybrid judicial mechanism with domestic and foreign judges and returning the military-occupied lands to Tamil civilians in the north and east, there has been no tangible progress.
  • And issues such as continuing use of excessive force and arbitrary arrests suggest that the government is either not serious in changing the way the police system works or is incapable of doing so.

Saving the Ghats – OPINION – The Hindu

  • There is a need to determine how much of the Western Ghats is ecologically sensitive
    • The hesitation shown by the Central government in deciding upon full legal protection for one of its most prized natural assets, the Western Ghats in their totality, is a major disappointment.
    • Whatever is left of these fragile mountainous forests should be protected from unsustainable exploitation in the interests of present and future generations, while presenting sustainable ways of living to the communities that inhabit these landscapes, is being lost sight of.
    • Quite unscientifically, the issue is being framed as one of development-versus-conservation.
    • What it needs is a framework under which scientific evidence and public concerns are debated democratically and the baseline for ESAs arrived at.
  • Ghats play an irreplaceable role in mediating the monsoon over the country and the forests harbour a rich biodiversity that has not even been fully studied.
    • The ecologically sensitive nature of the forests stretching 1,600 km along the western coast as a global biodiversity hotspot was emphasised by the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel headed by Madhav Gadgil, while for conservation purposes, the Kasturirangan Committee identified only a third of the total area.
    • Both expert groups have encountered resistance from State governments and industries, although they mutually differ in their recommendations.
    • The question that needs speedy resolution is how much of the Western Ghats can be demarcated as ecologically sensitive,
  • A frequently cited example of destruction is the loss of ecology in Goa due to rampant, illegal mining.
  • Mr. Gadgil, for instance, has underscored the unique value of some locations, such as those with fish or medicinal plant diversity peculiar to a small area, which should not get lost in the assessment process.