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Cash crisis in India

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] W [/yt_dropcap]orld attention was fully focused on US presidential poll as Republican Donald Trump was leading on November 08 as Indian premier Narendra Modi announced in the night on Indian TV channels about the state ban of currency notes, making life miserable for the people without enough money in hand.

While making the announcement to discontinue Rs 500 and 1,000 banknotes , the government had also announced closure of bank branches and ATMs next day. It also announced the launch of newer notes of Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 from November 10.

India has plenty of money but not got locked in banks, houses, offices, and elsewhere, including hidden underneath to avoid taxes to the government and people of India are unable to use them as government of India has banned currency notes of denomination of Rupees 500 and 1000, causing the first ever serious cash crisis in India.

Modi has indeed declared another surgical attack, now on the helpless Indians.

Demonetization measure is too harsh for the common masses who have very limited resources.

The result is people are not buying things, business establishments have no business, as banks allow only 2000 thousand rupees a day for the peole to withdraw or exchange. New rules are being announced complicating the life of common people while the rich and corporates have their own “channels” of money transfer and expenditures.

The BJP government of Narendra Modi abruptly announced a ban of big notes of denominations 500 and 1000 that played huge role in trade and even ordinary business. In fact, high value currencies have ceased to be legal tender from 8 November midnight when PM Modi announced the new financial measures. There has huge rush since 09 November at the bank branches as customers throng to deposit their Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes or exchange them with Rs 100/50 notes.

The Modi government explains the measures as being necessary to end black and bad money floating along with the genuine notes, causing inflation, whereas experts say corruption is the cause of inflation and poor quality of life of common people. Whether or not PM Modi would be able to contain the dirty cash and make the value of Indian money strong, people are suffering a lot, while the regime has not been able to control the corporate funding of elections, thereby bring Indian democracy closer to American.

Demonetization effect

The recent demonetization of currency notes reveals the sad state of our public discourse on government policy. The combination of braying anchors on TV channels and opinions on social media show how to mangle a discourse.

Demonetization of high denomination currency has created big problems to common people and law and order situation is being created with police being deployed outside banks to control the queue. The issue has reached the parliament. The Winter Session of Parliament opened on Nov 16 with a united Opposition mounting an assault on the government over demonetization, saying it had led to “economic anarchy” in the country. The opposition parties also demanded a probe by a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on the alleged selective leak of information before the official announcement. Joining ranks over the raging issue, parties like Congress, JD(U), RJD, SP, BSP, Trinamool Congress, Left and AIADMK slammed the government, particularly targeting PM Modi, for making Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denomination notes invalid and said the “ill-timed” and “ill-conceived” step had severely hit the common people, the farmers and the poor.

While Lok Sabha was adjourned for the day, the seven-hour-long debate in Rajya Sabha, however, remained inconclusive. The debate in Rajya Sabha continued till 6 pm as there were repeated demands by the opposition members that the Prime Minister should be present in the House to listen to the members. Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said PM Modi, who did not come to the Rajya Sabha, should at least be present tomorrow and possibly intervene.

During a discussion on demonetization, which was taken up after suspension of all business in response to notices given by a host of opposition members, a scathing attack was made on the government which strongly defended the step as one taken in national interest and to end corruption and black money, which it linked to terror activities in the country.

Opposition attack on Modi in parliament

In an all-day debate in parliament today, opposition leaders like Anand Sharma of the Congress said they are not opposed to the reform, but to what they described as the lack of preparation to manage the cash crunch. The government has emphasized that if the notice for the initiative had been longer, the move would not have been effective.

Congress is the major opposition in parliament. Deputy Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma sought a probe into “selective leakage” of the demonetization move, which he termed a “Nadirshahi farman” (autocratic order). Initiating a debate after listed business was suspended to take up a discussion on the 8 November decision to withdraw old higher denomination currency, Sharma used wit and humor to attack Modi for being insensitive to problems caused to the common man. He asked Modi to state where he got Rs 23,000-24,000 crore, estimated by the International Money Watch Group, for his Lok Sabha elections. He also asked if cheque or credit card payments were made to organize his rally at Ghazipur in Uttar Pradesh a few days ago. Alleging that the information on demonetization was selectively leaked, he said, “Your BJP units have deposited crores (just before the 8 November decision).” Sharma sought to know from the Prime Minister as to “who wants to kill him”, referring to the Prime Minister’s speech in Goa where he had said that with demonetization resulting in “Looting of their 70 year corrupt earnings, they will destroy me, they can kill me”. “There should have been an ordinance for demonetization. But no ordinance was brought. This is a Nadirshahi farman (autocratic order),” Sharma said.

The decision to demonetize high currency notes was leaked to a select few. Secrecy was not maintained on this issue. It was published in a Gujarati newspaper long back and even other newspapers wrote about it,” said Sharma. “There should be a probe into the selective leakage of information,” he said, asking: “What did the government do to prepare for effective implementation of the policy.” He also sought to know from the government which law gave it the right to impose limits on withdrawing money from peoples’ own accounts. “An atmosphere has been created by the government where questioning them has become a parameter to decide one’s nationalism,” said Sharma. He sought to know from the Prime Minister as to from where the “15 thousand crore rupees spent on your mega election campaign come from”. “Did you pay for your recent Ghazipur rally through credit card,” Sharma said mocking the government for asking people to use plastic money for day-to-day expenses. After withdrawing Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes, restrictions were placed even on foreign tourists who could not get their currency changed.

The Modi government rejected as baseless the opposition charge that there was “leakage” of the 8 November decision that benefited BJP, and said everyone was taken by surprise which is why there are “initial” problems.

The government argues that the honest tax payer is being rewarded as he does not have to worry about his cash deposits. For once the honest tax payer is in a privileged position which is rare and shocking for him.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had informed Parliament in August that fake currency was 0.02 percent of the total currency in circulation. If 0.02 percent by government admission is counterfeit currency, how can that be made the base to remove 86 percent of currency in circulation. An undeclared emergency has put common people in grave inconvenience, he said while crime money, ill-gotten wealth and that accrued through corruption or tax evasion is black money. One wonders if money in the market, or in households or with farmers, workers and employees was also blackmoney.

Key opposition leaders

BSP chief and former UP chief minister Mayawati demanded the presence of the Prime Minister in the House to hear out the Opposition parties and address their concerns. Mayawati questioned the government’s preparedness for the demonetization of high-value bank notes, accusing it of spending the last ten months on settling the black money of its people. “The government has said that they spent ten months preparing for this decision. Ten months was a long time to prepare. If they were serious about it, they would have prepared well for all the problems that people are facing today.” “If the government had spent ten months preparing for it, then why do they need another 50 days? There is something fishy.”

While the masses are in pain, PM Modi keeps taking after creating a national crisis and Mayawati said he must be sleeping after taking pills, adding that the poor and the middle classes were the worst sufferers. “It is an immature decision taken in haste and the whole country feels that is an ‘economic emergency’,” she said adding that it was like a “Bharatbandi situation.”

The hardship is real especially among lower income categories that do not have bank account and need cash for emergencies. Their trouble is painful and affects the society emotionally. There is no justification logical or emotional for this pain. An emotional pain cannot be justified by logic, neither should an economic decision rest on emotional arguments. The reason an emotional justification is pulled in is because of the nationalist fervor or color being given to an economic decision.

The nationalistic line or patriotic one is wrong all it shows is the intellectual drought that TV channels suffer from these days. Their desire to kowtow the government line crosses limits of ridiculousness and borders on stupidity. Though the line is supported by those in the government and is detrimental as it will affect economic decisions in the future. People are not stupid to be swept by such fervor. TD will not reduce or remove corruption. The artifice is high and is the favorite line of criticism for opposition politicians. Especially, as the government is introducing a higher denomination Rs 2000 note and reintroducing Rs 500 and Rs 1000.

To understand, TD by itself does not remove black money or will get rid of it. One, it will help to bring more people in the banking system as they stop relying on cash, particularly traders and jewellers. Second, currency as stock is not going vanish anytime, it cannot go away, Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 are also going to come back. This step is a shock therapy to the system. To put the fear in the minds of people who do not pay taxes or use cash to hide unaccounted income. Clever politicians have tried to explain that black money is no longer kept in cash but in gold and real estate.

Like all criticism it is easy. There is no single step or action that can get India rid of black money irrespective of what politicians say. The reason it is black is because the system is not able to capture it. No country has been able to successfully capture it, which is why tax havens exist. TD affects a small percentage of it, but should this step not be taken because it affects a small percentage. Should we wait endlessly until we find that brahmashastra that will destroy black money. If incremental steps help they should be taken.

This shock required surprise, surprise required secrecy that means not many people knew. Therefore the system is still not ready. Hence the hardship! Though the secret argument cannot be used for justifying the hardship as once announced banks need to get their act together. Especially as the nail that has lost the kingdom is the tray in ATM machine that is not able to take a Rs 2000 note.

Yechury Mamata, Mayawati

CPM leader Sitaram Yechury said that of the 130 crore population in the country, only 2.6 crore have credit cards. He took a dig at Modi and narrated the infamous quote of Queen Marie Antoinette during the French revolution who had said that people can eat cakes when they don’t have bread. “We have Modi Antoinette who says ‘If you don’t have paper, use plastic'”. Alleging that a BJP unit in Kolkata deposited Rs 1 crore in Indian’s Bank Account on 8 November, he said “prove me if I am wrong.” He added that Prime Minister was advertising for Paytm while talking about cashless economy.

The CPM leader said 1/5th of the economy is black economy and people who kept black money invested it in real estate, gold etc. That is why the imports surged and stated that it was this PM only who had stated that 95 percent of the black money is stashed offshore and is in safe havens. “PM is cleaning a pond to kill crocodiles but big crocodiles have survived and only small fishes are dying.” He also demanded that corporate funding of all political parties should stop and there should be a system of state funding for elections to which Kurien said “why don’t you move a private members bill in this regard.”

Seeking immediate withdrawal of demonetization exercise, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee met President Pranab Mukherjee along with leaders of National Conference, AAP and NDA ally Shiv Sena and submitted a memorandum voicing serious concern over the crisis arising out of ban on Rs 1000 and Rs 500 currency notes. She said the situation arising out of demonetization has triggered a sort of constitutional crisis.

Expressing concern over the problems being faced by the people after the demonetization move, she said “We have requested the President to speak to the government and decide on this and bring back normalcy in the country. President was once the Finance Minister and knows country’s situation better than anyone else, he will take appropriate action.” Leaders of the other opposition parties including Congress, Left parties, SP and BSP did not took part in the protest march. Describing as “dictatorial and draconian step” the government’s demonetization move, the memorandum has sought its immediate suspension. “Stop harassment of the common people by lifting of all sorts of restrictions recently thrust upon them,” the five-page memorandum said, and added “ensure that supply of essential commodities in adequate quantities be restored in the markets forthwith.”

Before beginning the march from Parliament, Mamata said “The march is to save common people from disaster.” The ban has affected the normal functioning of the household as there is no money available. However, the Shiv Sena differed on the issue and insisted the government to extend the deadline of accepting the old currency notes.

Mamata also said “Those with black money have been supported, but taxpayers are suffering”, and added that the situation arising out of demonetization has triggered a sort of constitutional crisis and financial emergency. Seeking the intervention of the President in the “interest of common people to alleviate the untold suffering, helplessness and financial insecurity that they are facing now”, the memorandum said “withdraw this draconian demonetization measure immediately.” Pitching for a broader campaign against demonetization, involving various political parties, Mamata yesterday met Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Both the leaders discussed the crisis for about 40 minutes but Kejriwal reportedly expressed his reservation to come along with Shiv Sena on a same platform.

Mamata had approached other parties, including Congress and Left, to join the march against the demonetization of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes, saying “common people are suffering because of it.” However, Congress and Left though opposing the demonetization move preferred not to join the rainbow platform created by Mamata against the government. Undeterred by the absence of major political parties she marched ahead.

Positives approach

On a day when the opposition launched an offensive against the government over the abrupt withdrawal of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes, there was a rare exception. Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister of Bihar, expressed his “total support” for the ban, introduced last week by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Fake notes will disappear,” said Kumar in his home state, sharing rare agreement with PM Modi, who has said the reform will attack the roots of black or untaxed money, counterfeited currency and corruption.

The parliament decried the ban on notes as a move that is punishing the poorest and weakest, who suddenly find themselves cashless.

Eight days after the old notes were cancelled, with just a few hours’ notice, banks are swarming with huge crowds desperate to get to the counter or an ATM to collect some new currency. A new version of the Rs. 500 note is still a rarity; the 2000 rupee note is being rejected by many vendors who say they cannot provide change for the high-denomination bill.

Nearly 48 billion dollars have been deposited in banks so far, as people turn in the old notes. And though the lines at banks in cities are long, it is in villages that a crisis is threatened with lakhs who are excluded from the banking system.

For now, people can exchange Rs. 4,500 of old notes for new ones – after this swap, indelible ink is used on the customer to ensure it remains a one-time exchange; upto Rs. 24,000 can be withdrawn per week from a bank account; Rs. 4,500 can be withdrawn from an ATM per card per day. The government has repeatedly said it is working night and day to reconfigure ATM machines, which need bigger trays to stock the new currency. The Reserve Bank of India has also confirmed that it has made special arrangements to help villages by dispatching micro-ATMs

The Positives approach of Bihar CM Nitish should be misunderstood for support for the BJP government at all.

Observation

If the cash crisis, if not controlled effectively, could lead to a serious economic and financial catastrophe making India a weak nation among third world nations. If the government is unable to tackle the black and other flirty money, that could have serious impact on the future of Indian politics.

Moving towards cashless economy was fine but even the most developed economies of US or Europe has not achieved that objective yet. If they had, the US central bank would have stopped printing dollars, European Central Bank won’t be printing Euros and UK central banks would have stopped printing pound sterling.

The move is without preparedness and people will punish BJP in 2019 during general elections. People of five states going for elections including Manipur, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab will punish BJP.

The common people, especially the poor and the housewives were put to great hardship through this move and if elections are held today they will teach this government a lesson, he said, adding that majority of women who saved money through household savings were upset with the move. It shows the shallowness of the TV anchors as intelligentsia. It also shows social media has the ability to influence the trajectory of public debate. It does not portend well for a democracy when the crowd is used as the arbiter for policy. The broad segment of the public discourse can be easily drawn as it is shorn of all nuances and can be easily clubbed into segments.

The hardship is real, but griping about it is not an argument for or against TD. An opinion based on hardship is just that a gripe.

The nationalistic and the ideological jingoists are not too different. As both do not see facts they only see political angles to every policy. They are criticising this step because it will not rid India of black money.

Criticism is always the lowest form of intelligence as it is an argument without a solution. Anybody can make it does not take any effort. Just because there an opinion exists does not make it right.

Today, social media gives every man the means to broadcast their opinion. But if you have a solution with that opinion it may be just a mite more useful. Otherwise, it is just another voice shouting loudly.

Demonetization move, causing hardship for the common people, is an economic decision that has far reaching ramifications. The hardship caused to people is not the reason temporary demonetization should not be done. Please note it is a temporary demonetization (TD). If the measure is hardship government should not take any step that causes it even it is long term interest of the people.

Undoubtedly PM Modi and BJP are now focusing on the assembly poll in UP and next Parliament poll. UP poll results will have impact on the future elections in the country. After the loss of Delhi and Bihar, BJP would be hard-pressed to be seen as the loser of UP also. But BJP has no hopes whatsoever of winning state UP which is now being ruled by the Samajwadi Party (SP) and opinions reveal a plus point for the BSP of Mayawati in UP.

Economy

Beyond Being Friends: Russia and China Need an Exclusive Trade Deal

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RIAC’s 6th “Russia and China: Cooperation in a New Era” conference in early June showcased once again the will of the two countries to develop exclusive relations. Over the past 1,5 years, during the global COVID crisis, both sides have even strengthened mutual trust. In December 2020, Russia and China extended their agreement on notifying of missile launches for ten years. The document was first signed back in 2009. In March, the Treaty of Good Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation was prolonged, an agreement that has been cementing relations between the two countries for the past 20 years.

Economy contrasted with diplomacy

However, despite the long-sustained foreign policy rapprochement, Russia and China are far from fully utilizing their bilateral economic potential. In 2020, according to the Russian Federal Customs Service, China accounted for 15% of Russian exports, slightly more than the CIS (14%), but significantly less than the European Union (41%). In the structure of Russian imports, China is also behind the EU (24% versus 35%), although European food producers have been excluded from the Russian market since 2014.

In turn, Russia’s share was only 2% in Chinese exports in 2020 (with the U.S. share at 17%), and only 3% in imports (compared to 7% for the U.S., according to the ITC).

The same proportions are typical of mutual investments. By the beginning of 2020, according to the Bank of Russia, China accounted for less than 0.1% of accumulated direct investment from Russia (with the share of UK and Germany at 4.7% and 2.2%, respectively). As for the accumulated direct investments in Russia (private equity and debt instruments), China’s share reached only 0.8% in early 2020, while the share of France stood at 4.5%.

State support and guarantees

So far, Chinese investments are mainly focused on energy projects, directly or indirectly supported by the state. Yamal LNG plant is a good example (20% owned by CNPC, 9.9% by Silk Road Fund): to launch construction, Novatek raised a loan from the NWF (the sovereign National Wealth Fund). Another example is the Amur Gas Chemical Complex (AGCC) of Sibur (40% owned by Sinopec)—the project will enjoy tax benefits as a resident of one of the Far Eastern territories of priority social and economic development.

Ensuring guaranteed demand is equally important, as is the case for AGCC, which is located in close proximity to the world’s largest consumer of polyethylene and polypropylene, the basic petrochemical products. It is no coincidence that Sinopec acquired the share in the Amur GCC in December 2020. By that time, it became obvious that the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic would not undermine China’s growing demand for petrochemicals and gas chemicals: according to the ICIS forecast, China’s share in global polyethylene imports will grow from last year’s 35% to an even more impressive 43% by 2030.

Looking for viable opportunities

The lack of proper state support and guarantees restrains export in a number of other industries that could have enjoyed demand in the Chinese market. This is apparent in trade frictions between China and the U.S. (in 2019, China imposed a 25% duty on methanol imports from the United States) and Australia (in late 2020, China stopped buying Australian coal). And vice versa, it is possible to increase exports by searching for opportunities in the market niches where Russia’s sales potential is coupled with absolute competitive advantages, such as in helium market, where Russia may become one of the leading suppliers in the coming years.

Another option is the supply of Russian hydrogen, which may allow China to partially replace petroleum imports from other markets.

In 2018, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), some 1,790 hydrogen-fuel vehicles were operated in China out of 12,952 vehicles globally; the Chinese fleet grew to 6,180 out of 23,354 units by the end of 2019. And by 2025, China plans to increase the number of buses and trucks utilizing fuel cells to 50,000, jumping to 1 million by 2030.

Moreover, in 2035, according to the official plans of the Chinese authorities, half of vehicles sold should be climate-neutral, while the other half should be powered by hybrid engines or fuel cells. A similar shift will have to occur in Japan, where the IEA forecasts the number of fuel cell vehicles to increase from 3,633 in 2019 to 200,000 in 2025 and to 811,200 in 2030.

Russia has its competitive edge in hydrogen energy development, taking into account both global leadership in natural gas reserves (used for blue hydrogen stored in ammonia) and 50+ years of experience in nuclear and hydropower, needed for production of yellow and green hydrogen. Understanding these advantages is already reflected in regulatory plans: for example, according to the Energy Strategy adopted last year, Russia will increase its hydrogen exports from 200,000 tons in 2024 to 2 million tons in 2035.

Towards a New Trade Deal

We need to admit though that a long-term strategy requires long-term investment, while the latter requires secure return. To ensure there is a horizon for planning your business, you do not have to necessarily rely on budget support: this is where exclusive trade agreements can step in. This is exactly what the Trump administration did in January 2020, concluding an agreement that obliged China to boost U.S. imports by $200 billion above the 2017 level within two years, including energy ($52.4 billion), industrial production ($77.7 billion) and agriculture ($32 billion). The deal, among other effects, has revived the U.S. oil exports to China: supplies grew to 482,000 barrels per day (bpd) after a drop to 137,000 bpd in 2019 amid trade wars.

An exclusive trade deal between Russia and China could be smaller in volume and longer in tenor (aiming to increase the trade turnover by $100 billion in at least five years) to help resume, for example, the Eastern Petrochemical Company project, in which ChemChina planned to participate previously but which remained on paper. In return, Russia could extend the tax benefits, which are now granted to residents of the territories of priority social and economic development (TOSER), to all projects with Chinese shareholding. Thus, the success story of cooperation between Sibur and Sinopec in the Amur GCC would be replicated and should provide a new impetus to bilateral relations.

From our partner RIAC

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Economy

Emerging Global Market: The Arctic on Sale

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The Arctic Region has been on a journey of geographical transformation induced by Climate Change. There has been an unprecedented percentage of what can be called as ‘Arctic metamorphosis’, witnessed as deterioration of climate twice as rapidly as in any other parts of the globe. There has been a decline in permafrost, sea ice, icesheets on ocean and glaciers in Canada, Alaska and Greenland.  There has been a notable decrease in the snow cover that earlier occupied the land. These alarming changes in the physiography were first recorded in the 1980s, and have been on a surge ever since. Around 1 million sq. miles of sea ice has shrunk over the past 50 years, halving the size of Arctic icecap. The transition has been so dramatic that it actually cut the turf to Asia, revealing the fabled North West Passage that European voyagers sought for shipping, for over centuries. As of now, it is not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’ will the Arctic Passageway open for regular marine transportation and when would the exploration of lucrative natural energy-resources deposits be possible.

The regressing ecosystem has been the least of the concerns of our capitalist, market-oriented, energy-hungry world economy. The melting ice caps and glaciers are paving way to access the 13% of globe’s undiscovered oil and 30% of globe’s undiscovered natural gas lying at the Arctic Ocean seabed, a home for world’s largest unexplored hydrocarbon resources. These percentages translate to 1,669 trillion cubic ft. of natural gas and 90 billion barrels of oil. The economic potential for these energy resources exceeds $2.7 trillion for Russian and American Arctic claims alone. Moreover, there are massive reserve potential for rare mineral resources also referred to as “strategic minerals” including palladium, nickel and iron-ore which might prove to be a greater economic driver than the energy resources. Apart from these, Arctic has tremendous new opportunities for high sea fisheries. The Ocean has vast stocks of marine resources including shrimp, pollock, crab, pacific salmon, squid, scallop and halibut. It would prove to be a new arena of industrial-scale commercial fisheries.

Whether the sought resources are hydrocarbon or mineral, they must procure their route via pipelines or shipping routes to the receptive markets. Along with the transitory passageways, there would be need for improved icebreakers, satellite and communication and navigation, deep water ports, double-hulled shipping vessels, operational search and aviation infrastructure development.

An even better incentive would be the inception of new sea-lanes initiated by the great Arctic melt. The shipping shortcuts of Northwest Passage and Northern Sea Route would reduce the nautical transit times by days, saving the shipping corporations thousands of miles. The sailing distance between Yokohama and Rotterdam on the Northern Route would be reduced from over 11,200 nautical miles to 6,500 nautical miles, in comparison with the current Suez Canal Route which would amount to the savings of up to 40 percent of shipping expenses. Likewise, the voyage from Rotterdam to Seattle would be trimmed by the North West Passage by over 2000 nautical miles, reducing the distance up to 25 percent in comparison with the current Panama route.

Taking into consideration the fuel costs, canal fees and various other miscellaneous charges that amount to lofty freight rates, these alternative passages will cutback the charges of a single voyage down to at least 20%, saving around $17.5 million, saving billions of dollars per annum for the shipping industry. These savings would be far greater for the megaships that have to sail all the way down to Cape Horn and Cape of Good Hope.

The world’s shipyard’s have already started building ice-capable ships, beginning with the groundwork for the navigation through these sea-lanes and for the transport of Arctic’s natural gas and oil. Billions of dollars are being invested by the private sector for the fleet of Arctic tankers. As of now, around 496 ice-class ships have been built worldwide. The gas and oil markets are investing in development of the avant-garde technology and assemblage of advanced ships, possessing double-acting tankers, that have the dual technology of steam bowing through open waters and proceed stern to smash through deep ice. These ships are capable of sailing unobstructed to Arctic’s burgeoning gas and oil fields independent of ice-breakers. These breakthroughs will turn previously unviable commercial projects into booming businesses.

Of all the Arctic States, the largest stakeholder with greatest intrinsic interests in the region is Russia. A significant 20% of Russia’s GDP comes of Russian North, and accounts for 22% of all exports. The resources of Arctic are of strategic importance for Russia; therefore, it has been so far the largest investor in the region. It has invested in the fleet of nuclear-icebreakers, the only of their kind in the world. Further, Russia is planning on increasing this fleet of 4 to 13 with a cost of over $1.5 billion. Moreover, Russia has endeavored to aim for 92.6 million ton of cargo by 2030. These hefty investments indicate the importance of Arctic as a market. Russia aims at charging for providing the sea-routes since it has the largest geographical proximity to the ocean as well as providing shipping and infrastructure in the region. The claims of oil and gas reserves are only an addition to the gains Russia has planned to make.

Considering the economic and strategic importance of Arctic and its potential to add to the world’s oil, gas, minerals, fisheries and shipping reserves makes it an alluring marketplace. The region itself has been divided among the ‘Arctic States’ that include Russia, Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, and United States. Instead of making efforts to preserve the deteriorating environmental conditions and the physiographic challenges, these states are only in a race of dividing the resources among themselves and reaping as much assets as they can. All domains of Arctic are on sale; including the sea, land, sea-life, mineral resources, and fossil fuels. The world has turned a blind eye towards the environmental consequences for the region of the planet which will surely cost more than the gains. Putting nature’s commodities on sale have never worked in anyone’s favor.

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Economy

Covid-19 and food crisis

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COVID-19 has hit at a time when food crisis and malnutrition are on the rise. According to the most recent UN projections, the pandemic-induced economic slump would cause as many as 132 million people to be hungry. This would be in addition to the 690 million people going hungry now. At the same time, 135 million people suffer from acute food insecurity and in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. Although the pandemic’s transmission has slowed in certain countries and cases have decreased, COVID-19 has resurfaced or is spreading rapidly in others. This is still a global issue that needs a worldwide solution.

This epidemic threatens both lives and livelihoods. COVID-19 has had a wide-ranging and disruptive influence on the agriculture system. We fear a worldwide food crisis unless we act quickly, which may have long-term consequences for hundreds of millions of children and adults. This is mostly due to a lack of food availability — as wages decline, remittances decline, and in certain cases, food prices rise. Food insecurity is increasingly becoming a food production concern in nations that already have high levels of acute food insecurity.

Agriculture continues to serve a reliable and major part in world economy and stability, and it remains the primary source of food, income, and work for rural communities, even in the face of a pandemic. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the agricultural system and sector has been wide-ranging, causing unprecedented uncertainty in global food supply chains, including potential bottlenecks in labor markets, input industries, agriculture production, food processing, transportation and logistics, as well as shifts in demand for food and food services.

The COVID-19 epidemic not only created a new sort of agricultural catastrophe, but it also occurred at a difficult moment for farmers. In most years during the last few years, global commodity output has exceeded demand, resulting in lower prices. In 2013, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) predicted decreased global agricultural output growth due to limited agricultural land development, rising production costs, expanding resource restrictions, and increasing environmental concerns.

An expanding global population remains the main driver of demand growth, although the consumption patterns and projected trends vary across countries in line with their level of income and development. Average per capita food availability is projected to reach about 3,000 kcal and 85 g of protein per day by 2029. Due to the ongoing transition in global diets towards higher consumption of animal products, fats and other foods, the share of staples in the food basket is projected to decline by 2029 for all income groups. In particular, consumers in middle-income countries are expected to use their additional income to shift their diets away from staples towards higher value products. Meanwhile, environmental and health concerns in high-income countries are expected to support a transition from animal-based protein towards alternative sources of protein.

When people suffer from hunger or chronic undernourishment, it means that they are unable to meet their food requirements – consume enough calories to lead a normal, active life – over a prolonged period. This has long-term implications for their future, and continues to present a setback to global efforts to reach Zero Hunger. When people experience crisis-level, acute food insecurity, it means they have limited access to food in the short-term due to sporadic, sudden crises that may put their lives and livelihoods at risk.

However, if people facing crisis-level acute food insecurity get the assistance they need, they will not join the ranks of the hungry, and their situation will not become chronic

It is clear: although globally there is enough food for everyone, too many people are still suffering from hunger. Our food systems are failing, and the pandemic is making things worse.

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RIAC’s 6th “Russia and China: Cooperation in a New Era” conference in early June showcased once again the will of...

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Americas8 hours ago

Joe Biden’s European vacations

Joseph Biden, better known as Joe Biden, is an American politician from the Democratic Party who won last year’s presidential...

Tourism10 hours ago

Promoting ‘Brand Africa’ to Realize the Continent’s Tourism Potential

UNWTO’s African Member States will work together to establish a new narrative for tourism across the continent. To better realize...

East Asia12 hours ago

High time for India to Reconsider the One-China Policy

Sino-Indian bilateral relations have seen major challenges in the recent years, beginning with the Doklam crisis to the current pandemic situation. The sugar-coated rhetoric of Beijing proved to be mere duplicity after...

Environment13 hours ago

How food waste is trashing the planet

18 June is Sustainable Gastronomy Day, an international celebration of local cuisine that is produced in ways that are both...

Development15 hours ago

COVID-19 and social protection

The June segment of the 109th International Labour Conference  has come to a close – the first virtual ILC in...

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