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Weekly Summaries

4th of October – 10th of October

A long week for Facebook

Facebook and other apps owned by Facebook like WhatsApp and Instagram were down for over five hours last Monday. The shutdown showed just how dependent people around the world have become on Facebook. Just one day later, last Tuesday, a former product manager at Facebook turned-whistleblower, Frances Haugen, explained to a Senate subcommittee how Facebook “deliberately kept people — including children — hooked on its services,” according to the New York Times. Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, immediately rebutted the claims.

Other News

  • Kurz, Austria’s chancellor announced on Saturday that he would resign
  • The WHO approved the first-ever malaria vaccine. The vaccine was developed by GlaxoSmithKline and could potentially save the lives of tens of thousands of children in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • The city of Venice in Italy is using hundreds of surveillance cameras and buying the cellphone data of tourists in an effort to establish more crowd control, according to the New York Times
  • The cost of oil, natural gas, and coal has increased drastically the past few months. The rise is caused in part by oil companies refusing to produce more to prevent the prices from dropping.
  • In an order last week, the Indian Supreme Court ruled that the government should pay families who have lost family members to COVID-19 50,000 rupees (around 671 U.S. dollars)
  • The world has lost around 14% of its coral reefs since 2009, a new study revealed
Categories
Analysis

India’s Economic Transformation

Introduction

India’s Independence did not only awaken individual dreams, but also opened development opportunities — economically, socially, and politically. On the 15th of August 1947, the Indian peninsula had a new beginning as a country but there were many monumental tasks to be completed by the then-newly formed government. India’s independence was in itself a turning point for India’s economy and its transformation. Seventy-five years later, India seeks to join the $5 trillion club soon. As former prime minister Manmohan Singh put it: “The brightest jewel in the British Crown” was the poorest country in the world in terms of per capita income at the beginning of the 20th century. 

Pre-Independence

Before independence, the much prevalent British dominance drained the country of its natural resources, capital, and labour. India was hopelessly poor as a result of the constant deindustrialization by the British. The vivid social diversity and the exponentially growing unemployment and poverty rates questioned India’s survival as a nation itself. Cambridge historian Angus Maddison’s work shows that India’s share of world income shrank from 22.6% in 1700 (almost equal to Europe’s share in 1700 of 23.3%) to 3.8% in 1952. 

After Independence

Then prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, introduced an economic model that envisaged a dominant role of the ruling government as an all-pervasive entrepreneur and financier of private businesses. The Industrial Policy Resolution of 1948 proposed an economic system that would blend elements of a market economy with elements of a planned economy, free markets with state interventionism, or private enterprise with public enterprise: a mixed economy. Earlier, the Bombay Plan, proposed by eight influential industrialists including J.R.D Tata and G.D. Birla envisaged a substantial public sector with state interventions and regulations in order to protect indigenous industries. The political leadership believed that since planning was not possible in a market economy, the state and public sector would inevitably play a leading role in economic progress. 

The Planning Commission was set up in 1950 to oversee various aspects of economic planning, including resource allocation, implementation and appraisal of the five-year plans, and more. The five-year plans focussed on economic and social growth, modeled after those existing in the USSR. India’s first five-year plan was launched in 1951, and it centralized agriculture and irrigation to boost agricultural outputs as India was running out of its foreign reserves on food grain imports. The first five-year was successfully accomplished, with the economy growing at an annual rate of 3.6%, beating its primary target of 2.1%. 

Though shortly after, India suspended the five-year plans, drawing up annual plans between 1966 and 1969 instead. This was because India was not in a state to commit to long-term provision of resources. The diversion of capital to finance the war with Pakistan, the below-par growth outcomes of the Third five-year plan, and the then-ongoing war with China, had altogether left the Indian economy with little. The approaching monsoon showers worsened food shortages, causing a steep spike in inflation. The government needed to import food grains and seek foreign loans, and this posed a serious threat to India’s political economy: spiking inflation hand-in-hand with increasing foreign debt. 

India’s Economy Now

Though in recent years, the rise of the Indian economy is best depicted in BSE’s Sensex; the 30-share benchmark index. The 30 component companies represent segments of all the sectors of the economy. From a small 1,955.29 points in 1991, the Sensex touched an all-time high of 40,312.07 points on June 4, 2020. Even with the rising taxation on capital gains and investments, India is a country obsessed with cash-driven gold and real estate. These are slowly veering towards investing in a more formal and organized equitable market. Over the past decade, numerous start-ups have budded across the country as young entrepreneurs experiment with investments, technology, and sophistication all side-by-side. The rise of these start-ups has created an ecosystem of new partnerships, venture fundings, along with diversified patterns of consumption in Indian society.

Sources

  1. https://www.ciiblog.in/economy/the-evolution-of-the-indian-economy-since-independence/
  2. https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.1515/9780804791021/html
  3. https://www.dailypioneer.com/2020/sunday-edition/changing-scenario-of-indian-economy–1947-2020.html
  4. https://oxford.universitypressscholarship.com/view/10.1093/oso/9780190128296.001.0001/oso-9780190128296-chapter-13

Categories
Weekly Summaries

26th of July – 1st of August

Chaos in Tunisia

The President of Tunisia, Kais Saeid, tried to seize power in what some call a coup. He announced that he would fire the prime minister and has already suspended Parliament. However, so far it seems that his success is very limited, although many Tunisians expressed their support. Tunisia has been a democracy since the Arab Spring revolutions.

Other News

  • A landslide in India killed 9 people, most of them tourists. Furthermore, monsoons on the western coast have also killed more than 164 people so far.
  • France has been witnessing many protests against the so-called “Covid Pass” policy
  • North Korea and South Korea have — after 14 months of silence — reopened diplomatic and military hotlines between the two countries
  • Flash floods in Afghanistan have killed at least 80 people, but the search for survivors still continues
  • President Biden announced that EU citizens will continue to be barred from entering the U.S., citing fears that the Delta variant would be spread, despite the fact that U.S. citizens are allowed to enter EU countries, as long as they are fully vaccinated
  • Forest fires in Turkey and wildfires in Greece have had devastating consequences for the people living in the surrounding areas

Are you up to date with the Olympics? Check here for the newest updates

Categories
News

The upcoming market that is destroying livelihoods

Introduction

Sand is the second most used natural commodity, whose relative importance in the global market has increased drastically in the past half a century, due to the substantial increase in demand for materials in which sand is a major contributor. The number of people living in urban areas has more than quadrupled since 1950, to over 4.5 billion today. The UN predicts that another 2.5 billion people will join the 4.5 billion people already living in cities within the next 3 decades.

The increasing demand for sand

Therefore, the demand for sand has increased. An example of this is within the construction industry, where sand is used to provide strength to materials such as asphalt, mortar, and concrete. However, due to the world’s ever-increasing population, there is forever an increase in the demand for sand-based materials used to increase supply for buildings and infrastructure. To meet these demands, many billions of tonnes of sand are used worldwide annually, so much so that a UN report estimated that the global sand use in 2012 alone could have created a concrete wall 27m high by 27m wide around the equator.

Effects of increasing demand for sand

Although sand is associated with its trivial use of constructing sandcastles on holiday as a child, or in the play area at your local park, it is a necessity to keep global river systems intact, a resource that we certainly take for granted. As innocent as sand may seem, the incredible demand for it is causing loss of livelihoods, loss of ecosystems, and is even a cause of death around the world.

As described by an article written by the BBC, in Kenya, the over-dredging of the local riverbeds in poor, rural counties such as Makueni, is leaving some communities without access to drinking water, subsequently leading to the eventual deaths of many locals. Kenya, alongside many other African countries, is known for its seasonal, sand-filled rivers due to its desert biome. When heavy rainfall occurs, the sand allows water to percolate, and therefore acts as a natural store for water flow, providing a water source for the surrounding villages. However, once these rivers are dredged by companies and governments who wish to sell this commodity, only the bedrock — a relatively impermeable surface — remains, causing no water to be stored and surrounding land to be flooded.  It is important to understand that many thousands of people rely on such natural resources of water to live. While companies continue to exploit indigent areas, many are left without the means to survive. 

Furthermore, the increased demand for sand has led to it becoming a highly desired commodity, which subsequently has encouraged unofficial markets to emerge. An example is India’s black market for sand harvesting, which is operated by violent sand mafias. There have been many reports of killings, in a growing wave of violence sparked by the global desire to own one of the worlds’ most under-appreciated commodities. Many hope to purloin sand, through methods of violence in order to export this product in unofficial markets. Based on the law of demand and supply, when there is increased demand, there is an increase in the price. As the price elasticity of demand for sand is relatively elastic this provides mafias and other rogue organizations the power to gain significant funds from the export of such product. 

For some, sand is just a means to an end; a way to exploit yet another non-renewable resource (a skill our population has, sadly, acquired profoundly), but for many, sand protects their village, their livelihood.

Sources

BBC, September 2017. How the demand for sand is killing rivers. Available at https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-41123284. (Accessed May 2021)

Categories
News

Outbreak of Coronavirus in India

For more than a year already, the recent outbreak of the coronavirus has continuously disturbed our plans. Whereas some nations managed to normalize the situation, others have turned into a “death valley.” One of these countries is India. 

On the 26th of April alone, 316 thousand Indians tested positive for the coronavirus. However, this data cannot be fully trusted because the government is not able to supply the doctors with the required number of tests. There is also a lack of doctors to help the sick; the prices for essential medicine have sky-rocketed. Indian doctors have announced that soon there will not be enough space in hospitals anymore, and that therefore hospitals would soon no longer be able to accept new patients. The government has taken some steps to help hospitals by, for example, banning the use of liquid oxygen in non-medical purposes.

The number of daily cases for the past few days in India. The graph is taken from https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/india/.

Sources

  1. http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2021-04/26/c_139907439.htm
  2. https://www.dw.com/en/india-coronavirus-death-toll/a-57338733
  3. Picture from https://www.cnbc.com/2021/04/26/photos-show-the-deadly-toll-of-covid-in-india-as-coronavirus-cases-top-17-million.html
Categories
Weekly Summaries

22nd of March – 28th of March

Container Ship Gets Stuck in the Suez Canal

By now you may have seen the pictures that are spreading all over the Internet. The ship, which is about as long as the Empire State Building in New York City is high, has been stuck in the Suez Canal since Tuesday evening. It seems as if exceptionally strong winds forced the ship aground one of the Suez Canal’s banks. Because of its tremendous length, this meant that the container ship is now effectively blocking the passageway of one of the most important canals in the world, connecting the Red Sea to the Mediterranean. Over 100 ships are now stuck at either end of the canal, carrying oil and different goods destined for ports around the world. Delays in the transportation of materials from Asia to Europe are being expected. Unfortunately, it does not seem like the container ship will be dislodged any time soon—some suspect that it may take weeks or maybe even months.

Elections in Israel

This past Tuesday, Israel saw the country’s fourth elections in two years. Netanyahu, who is the current Prime Minister, is currently facing corruption charges, but hopes that his policies dealing with the coronavirus outbreak will help him win. Israel has put a vaccination program in place that is far superior to other countries and has been able to successfully vaccinate a large number of people. Recent counts suggest, however, that Netanyahu will have to form a coalition as he only received 52 of the required 61 seats to form a majority. Several parties which jointly hold 57 seats have already announced that they will form a block against Netanyahu, while some parties collectively holding 11 seats have not yet published their decision.*

Other News

  • Indian farmers have camped outside New Delhi for four months now, protesting against the subsidy system that is considered to be “broken” by many
  • An attack by gunmen left 137 people dead in Niger

*according to the news distributor Haaretz

Categories
Weekly Summaries

8th of February – 14th of February

Protests in Myanmar

After the military re-claimed power during a coup last weekend, hundreds of thousands of people in Myanmar responded by going out on the streets to protest. They called for the release of the civilian leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi who was detained during the coup. In the hopes of gaining international attention, the protestors posted videos on Facebook meanwhile the military has taken a firmer grip. Some of the tactics the military has already implemented are telecommunications outages and banning social media platforms such as Facebook during the process of cementing their power.

Trump’s impeachment trial will go ahead

On Monday, the U.S. Senate voted to go ahead with the impeachment trial. The defending team of the former U.S. President Donald Trump argued that it would be unconstitutional to go ahead with the impeachment as Donald Trump is no longer in office at this point. If Trump were to be found guilty, the Senators could prevent him from running for federal office again.

Other News

  • In India, a Himalayan glacier crumbled, killing 7 people, wounding 125 more, and destroying two dam projects.
  • The Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, pleaded not guilty. He is accused of several corruption charges, and the general election for which he is running for re-election is only a few weeks away. 
  • The Netherlands has suspended international adoptions for the time being. Recent investigations have shown that there were abuse cases between 1967 and 1998 on which the government had failed to act.
  • China has banned BBC programs
Categories
Weekly Summaries

25th of January – 31st of January

Elections in Portugal

President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa was re-elected this past week. He received 61% of the votes, a number that may come as a bit of a surprise because Portugal introduced a new lockdown just two weeks ago over concerns of overwhelmed hospitals. This may also explain the low turnout, which was only 39% of the population. 

President Rebelo de Sousa will begin his second 5-year term with a strong foothold: the candidate with the second highest number of votes — the Socialist candidate Ana Gomes — received only 13% of the votes. In Portugal, the role of President is second to that of the Prime Minister who is in charge of the day-to-day affairs. As President, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa can, however, dissolve Parliament and veto some legislations and is also involved in foreign policy and national security.

Italy’s Prime Minister Resigns

The Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned this past Tuesday after weeks of political conflicts. At the moment there is still hope that Italian politicians may come up with a solution but otherwise early elections may be the only solution. Especially opposition parties are very keen on early elections with polls suggesting that the Nationalist Party may win. 

Other News

  • The House of Representatives sent an article of impeachment against Donald Trump on Monday.
  • This past Tuesday, President Biden and President Putin agreed to extend the last remaining nuclear arms treaty between the United States and Russia.
  • Thousands of farmers entered New Delhi, India, on Tuesday with their tractors to protest against new farming laws.
  • A new law went into effect in Poland on Wednesday which bans abortions in almost all instances (in cases of rape, incest, and threat to the life of the mother abortions are still allowed). Thousands went to the streets to protest, vowing to keep fighting.