Connect with us

Economy

India’s Fiscal Deficit: Recent Trends and How to Tackle It

Published

on

Role of any government in the  economy is an essential  one where it takes decision on receipts and  expenditure. Total expenditure and total receipt are the two important features of budget yearly presented by government. Fiscal deficit actually refers to the excess of the spending over the revenues.[1] It  is calculated as a percentage of the  GDP.[2]  

Gross fiscal deficit or GFD is basically the excess of the total expenditure which includes the loans, net of recovery, over receipts of revenue (which includes external grants) and receipts of non-debt capital.[3] Net fiscal deficit is the GFD minus net lending.[4] 

Whenever fiscal balance is in positive then it is considered to be beneficial as revenue  is above  expenditure. Whereas, negative fiscal balance in fact means borrowings on which an economy depends on and is seldom bad.[5]   

Targets for fiscal deficit  are set annually  that  India fails to follow . We will see through this paper why is fiscal deficit happening , what impact it has on economy,  how  demonetisation and GST has impacted it and also how to use it to tackle the economic problems.  

Why Is Fiscal Deficithappening?

 Tax evasions by various organisations along with various other factors, leads to a loss in revenue for government that leads to fiscal deficit.

The Union budget, for 2019-20, estimated fiscal deficit to be 3.3% of GDP or Rs 7.03 lakh crores.[6] The overly-optimistic revenue estimations for 2019-20, was further worsened by the reduction in corporate income taxes (CIT), for which there were no expenditure or revenue offsetting steps been taken. This could result in the government breaching, by about 50 basis points, its fiscal deficit goal.[7]  Cutting CIT to the extent of Rs. 1.45 trillion, was mainly done to lift the weakening economy.[8]The fiscal impact would be felt much sooner than the decision’s growth impact.[9] 

The government ended August 2019, with a Rs 4.36 lakh crores revenue deficit.[10] As of mid-November, the Center mopped up just 6 lakh crores in direct taxes, that is about 50% less of the current direct tax revenue goal of 13.35 lakh crores.[11] This will lead to an increase in fiscal deficit. 

Comptroller and Auditor General or CAG stated that government’s key deficit numbers might be substantially higher than mentioned in the budget. CAG has therefore, asked whether or not extra-budgetary resources taken into account in budget reflect the true picture.[12] The CAG re-calculated, 2017-18 fiscal deficit to reveal that it is 5.85% actually. Government reported a 3.46% fiscal deficit that year.[13]  The fiscal numbers of the government over past few years are under heavy scrutiny as growth has been sluggish since year 2016’s third quarter.

Impact Of Fiscal Deficit On Economy

Fiscal deficit is similar to a vicious cycle. Fiscal deficit has dire consequences on the economy as the government borrowings is in fact one of the last resorts left with the government and that results in higher interest rates in the market.[14] 

Higher interest rates are resulted because markets are doubtful about repayment by the government;  due to which the government bears high interest rates, for this perceived risk that later puts the government into further debt, hence being a vicious pattern.   Higher the rates, lower is the scope of private investment that decreases resources that are available for the private sector investment. High government borrowings can have various potential hazards that are mentioned below.  

The Crowding Out Effect

The government to cover up for its deficit borrow more from the private sector in form of bonds. By selling the bonds it takes money from the private sector. When the private lenders lend money to the government, they actually lend it out, of their savings/ profits. The savings of the private sector gets reduced which lessens itsability to invest which ultimately crowds out the private investment, out of the market.[15]

Therefore, government spending increases and the private spending reduces. Since the government spending’s are considered less effective than private spending this is bad for the economy. The government during a fiscal deficit in fact does two things: increases borrowings or increases tax revenue.

INCREASES TAX REVENUE- Whenever the government increases tax, it does it by actually increasing corporate taxes, income taxes etc. which results in a reduction in disposable income of the firms, so this increase in the government spending does not really result in increase in the aggregate demand(AD).[16]

The increase in the government spending becomes offset by the decrease in the AD   that is due to decrease in the disposable income. When the private sector has lesser money, it even spends lesser in the private projects.

Inflation 

When the government sticks to not borrowing of money but actually ‘monetisation’, inflation occurs,[17] which increases the money supply in the market. Therefore, aggregate demand too increases causing inflation. Fiscal deficit can also imply an increment in the government spending’s which then increases AD that results in higher price levels of services and goods.

Higher Taxes 

Whenever the debt to GDP ratio amplifies, the government requires to increase the tax revenue which it does by increasing its tax rates.[18] 

Impact of demonetisation and goods and service tax(GST) on fiscal deficit

Demonetization changed our currency system providing the people an incentive to use and spend money in a much productive way than letting cash lying around. Cash lying around was deposited in the banks and eventually people started trusting digital payments. Banks also experienced a surge in liquidity. Banks then deposited this sum, through different windows such as SLR, to RBI. This resulted in an increase in the government treasury. The raids for the black money also led to an increase in revenue. This resulted in an increase in income taxpayers. Income taxpayers grew by 9.1 million. There had been an 80% rise, above the average annual increase, in taxpayers.[19] The rise was also reflected in the filing of IT returns and the payment of advance tax. While in the evaluation year 2016-17 the figure of taxpayers increased, in the next year the rate of growth fell to acquainted levels.

But demonetization affected India’s MSMEs badly. Micro-industry owners weren’t ready to cope with the lasting effects of demonetization. Therefore, a lot of micro-industry workers lost their jobs and also went back to their villages. These companies therefore had a low growth rate of 1%.[20]   

The primary goal demonetisation was tackling black money, at which it failed. Since the system has recovered 99.3% of the demonetized notes, it indicates that the activity didn’t bring enough “black money”.[21] This could be because just a tiny portion of tax evasion takes place in cash. 

It resulted in job cuts which led to higher unemployment rates.[22] Job losses led to lower productivity and the decrease in liquidity disrupted India’s cash-based economic structure, which devastated unorganized sector. Though, demonetisation led to higher tax revenue, the cumulative losses arising from the move left a scar on economy, which had an impact on GDP and fiscal deficit. Since demonetisation the GDP, has decreased to 5% (July-September 2019) from 8.8% (July-September 2016).[23] In FY20, fiscal deficit breached Rs 7lakh crores mark.[24]

By removing the cascading effect of multiple central and state taxes, GST has worked to increase profit and reduce costs of doing business. This could attract investment which would lead to an increase in GDP.  The increase in GDP would result in an increase in revenue for the government since taxes will increase. The GST is a type of tax that is consumption based and not anymore production based.

During the first 6 months, of the GST implementation, indirect taxpayers increased by 50%, partially due to several small businesses actively opting to be a part of the GST in attempt utilise input tax credits.[25] Even with a wider base, however, GST revenues were underwhelming.[26] Indirect tax collections of the Center in the post-GST era, rose by just 1.8% from the year earlier in April-September 2018, far slower than the growth of 5.6% seen in the full year of 2017-18 and even smaller than the growth of over 20 percent in the previous two years.[27] This is primarily because of decrease in economic activity, sluggish demand and compliance issues. 

Therefore, flawed GST implementation, coupled with demonetisation, served as the catalyst in India’s growth slowdown, which opened doors to fresh economic problems and affected the fiscal deficit.[28] 

Measures To Control Fiscal Deficit

There are two methods of restraining fiscal deficit. First, if the government decreases its expenditure, second, if it increases its revenue. There are again ways to achieve on both the ends.    

Reduce Expenditure 

SALE OR CLOSURE OF SICK UNITS  

India is a centre for the public sector undertakings(PSUs). Several of these PSUs are not making profits and demand more than giving. So, selling or closing the non-viable, sick industry would decrease the government spending on them.[29]

REDUCE SUBSIDY PAYMENTS

The subsidy bill is more than 10% of GDP, of which the non-merit subsidies add up to 5.7%.[30] Rationalization these could free up to 6% of fiscal space.[31]

REDUCE INTEREST PAYMENT  

India’s government is paying a lot of interest in previous years loans. Approximately one-fourth of the Indian spending of the budget went to interest payments.[32]   Therefore, government borrowings need to be reduced in order to decrease interest payments resulting in lower expenditure. 

Increase In Revenue   

PREVENT EVASION AND INCREASE TAX REVENUE 

Government needs to take measures to stop tax evasion and streamline the process of tax so that taxpayer base of the country widens which will lead to higher taxation. Agriculture could be included in the tax net, because distinguishing jobs cannot be the criterion for not paying tax, but rather it should be centered on high and low income.  In fact, people for evading taxes disguise their non-agricultural income as agricultural income.  

DISINVESTMENT 

Disinvestment is PSUs offers the government funding to cover the fiscal deficit and also has long-term advantages, as this money can be spent or invested in productiveuses that would generate jobs, increasing revenue and taxpayers.[33] The government has targeted mobilising 1.05 lakh crores by the means of disinvestment.[34]

ECONOMIC GROWTH

 Business promotion will help the economy to flourish. If the economy grows, the government tax revenue increases. It includes setting up a framework conducive to businesses and environmental improvement. 

Conclusion

India’s fiscal deficit, for many years, has been a concern. Although, fiscal deficit affects the economy in many ways like by increasing inflation, increasing interest rates, crowding out private investment, etc., it can be helpful when borrowings are done for productive uses, which can amplify government revenue. It can also be controlled by several measures when it is harmful for the country. The government, in recent years, has taken several reforms like introducing GST and demonetisation, the effects of these can be observed on the fiscal deficit.

A fiscal stimulus dose is needed to revive the growth rate of the economy. The stimulus size will be calculated by the constraints on debt servicing, borrowing capacity and Indian sovereign rating concerns. A downgrade will raise borrowing costs not only for government, but also for private sector; this could cause a freeze in the portfolio funds which track indices passively and has been flowing into India. In addition, such a freeze can strain the exchange rate of the rupee, which could drop abruptly. The possibility of a sudden cessation or reversal of foreign flows is serious, and our fiscal managers cannot neglect it. That is the price you pay for being not able to pay, in your own currency, for imports. It is undeniable that foreign inflows are required, at least in order to pay for capital goods and imported oil.

As India’s fiscal space is at a risk, it can also be assisted with easier monetary policy. Monetary policy must maintain a loosening or easing bias, given the economy’s cyclical weakness, at least till the predicted recovery takes hold.  

To be effective or successful in fiscal policy, it must be counter-cyclical, so a larger deficit in a year like a recession is all right. Every valuable additional fiscal rupee must result in a boost in consumption and growth immediately. The tax on capital gains ought not be abandoned, as stock market being at a high, as these are progressive direct taxes. Because Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook, five of the world’s most successful entities, in India have a huge customer base, a digital tax should be imposed. The GST rate must be rationalized. This could give the fiscal buck, a greater turnout than a reduction in the individual income tax, which is borne only by about 3% of the population. This should be followed by a base expansion. The compensation formula provided to states for their failures in GST collections could be revised, as they too should bear some of the fiscal pain. 


[1]“Definition of ‘Fiscal Deficit” (December 2018) <https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/definition/Fiscal-Deficit>

[2]Will Kenton, “Fiscal Deficit” (August 2019) <https://www.investopedia.com/terms/f/fiscaldeficit.asp>

[3]“India’s Economy Dashboard” The economic times (February 1, 2019) <https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/indias-economy-dashboard/what-is-economy-dashboard/slideshow/67755935.cms>

[4] Ibid 3.

[5]Sean Ross, “Understanding the Effects of Fiscal Deficits on an Economy” (August 2019) <https://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/021015/what-effect-fiscal-deficit-economy.asp>

[6]Singh K, “August Fiscal Deficit at 78.7% Of 2019-20 Target ”The economic times (September 30, 2019) <https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/indicators/august-fiscal-deficit-at-78-7-of-2019-20-target/articleshow/71377147.cms?from=mdr>

[7]Asit Kumar Misra, “IMF says India should avoid fiscal stimulus, opt for easing policy” (May 2019) <https://www.livemint.com/news/india/imf-says-no-to-fiscal-stimulus-okay-with-further-monetary-policy-easing-11577181218530.html>

[8]“Fiscal deficit hits 93% of budget estimate at ₹6.52 trillion till Sept-end” (October 2019) <https://www.livemint.com/news/india/fiscal-deficit-hits-93-of-budget-estimate-at-rs-6-52-trillion-till-sept-end-11572526967720.html>

[9]Asit Ranjan Misra, “Corporate tax cut may widen fiscal deficit by 40 bps: Fitch Ratings” (October 2019) <https://www.livemint.com/politics/policy/india-s-fiscal-deficit-may-shoot-up-to-3-7-in-fy20-fitch-ratings-1569489629214.html>

[10]Ibid 6.

[11] Nandi S, “More Steps to Revive Growth Soon: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman” livemint (December 7, 2019) <https://www.livemint.com/news/india/more-steps-to-revive-growth-soon-finance-minister-nirmala-sitharaman-11575706380335.html >

[12]Narayanan D, “CAG Demonstrates How Govt Relies on off-Budget Resources to Fund Deficit” Economic times (July 25, 2019) <https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/indicators/cag-demonstrates-how-govt-relies-on-off-budget-resources-to-fund-deficit/articleshow/70360281.cms> accessed December 26, 2019.

[13]Ibid 12.

[14]Reem Heakel , “Forces That Causes Changes in Interest Rates” (August 2019) <https://www.investopedia.com/insights/forces-behind-interest-rates/>

[15]Rajesh Kumar, “De-jargoned | Crowding out” (September 2012) <https://www.livemint.com/Money/x5B8XGNuQXqeZzZ6RU41jJ/Dejargoned–Crowding-out.html>

[16]Tenjvan Pettingar, “Crowding Out” (Economics Help,2017) <https://www.economicshelp.org/blog/1013/economics/crowding-out/>

[17]Chandavarkar, Anand G. “Monetization of Developing Economies (Monétisation Des Économies En Développement) (Monetización De Las Economías En Vías De Desarrollo).” Staff Papers (International Monetary Fund), vol. 24, no. 3, 1977, pp. 665–721. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/3866500

[18]Julia Kagan , “Gdp Tax Ration” (July 2019) <https://www.investopedia.com/terms/t/tax-to-gdp-ratio.asp>   

[19]Ibid 18.

[20]Aishwarya Krishnan“Demonetization Anniversary: Decoding the Effects of Indian Currency Notes Ban” (May 2019) <https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/tdmc/your-money/demonetization-anniversary-decoding-the-effects-of-indian-currency-notes-ban/articleshow/61579118.cms?from=mdr>

[21]Ibid 20.

[22]Koustav Das, “Three years after demonetisation: Lot of sound and fury signifying nothing” (November 2019) <https://www.indiatoday.in/business/story/demonetisation-three-year-anniversary-economic-slump-gdp-unemployment-negative-growth-outlook-1617099-2019-11-08 >

[23]Ibid 42.

[24]Ibid 42.

[25] Kundu T, “How GST and Demonetisation Impacted Govt Finances” livemint (November 5, 2018) <https://www.livemint.com/Industry/pkS48kM47yZbxS49jL6MSN/How-GST-and-demonetisation-impacted-government-finances.html>

[26] “Dip in GST Collections Tells a Story” The hindu business line (October 3, 2019) <https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/quick-take/dip-in-gst-collections-tells-a-story/article29585185.ece>

[27]Ibid 20.

[28]Ibid 19.

[29]Devika Kher, “Divestment: More than just revenue” (May 2016) <https://www.livemint.com/Opinion/ZxVQBVNoq8UbqDwVhCMY6M/Divestment-More-than-just-revenue.html>

[30]Nikita Kwatra, “How government can fund a growth revival” ,(November 2019) <https://www.livemint.com/news/india/how-the-government-can-fund-a-growth-revival-11574237638358.html>

[31]Ibid 24.

[32]Krishnaand Tripathi, “Budget 2019: Do you know, a fourth of India’s Budget goes into interest payment?” (January 2019) <https://www.financialexpress.com/budget/budget-2019-do-you-know-a-fourth-of-indias-budget-goes-into-interest-payment/1454897/

[33]Smriti Jain, “Budget 2014: Five prescriptions for Narendra Modi to tackle fiscal deficit” (The Economic Times,2014) <https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/policy/budget-2014-five-prescriptions-for-narendra-modi-to-tackle-fiscal-deficit/articleshow/37697902.cms>

[34]“Cabinet approves new strategic disinvestment process” , (October 2019)<//economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/71445908.cms?from=mdr&utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst,https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/policy/cabinet-approves-new-strategic-disinvestment-process/articleshow/71445908.cms?from=mdr>

Continue Reading
Comments

Economy

Iran has an integral role to play in Russian-South Asian connectivity

Published

on

Iran is geostrategically positioned to play an integral role in Russian-South Asian connectivity. President Putin told the Valdai Club during its annual meeting in October 2019 that “there is one more prospective route, the Arctic – Siberia – Asia.

The idea is to connect ports along the Northern Sea Route with ports of the Pacific and Indian oceans via roads in East Siberia and central Eurasia.” This vision, which forms a crucial part of his country’s “Greater Eurasian Partnership”, can be achieved through the official North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC) and tentative W-CPEC+ projects that transit through the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The first one refers to the creation of a new trade route from Russia to India through Azerbaijan and Iran, while the second concerns the likely expansion of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC, the flagship project of China’s Belt & Road Initiative [BRI]) westward through Iran and largely parallel to the NSTC. W-CPEC+ can also continue towards Turkey and onward to the EU, but that branch is beyond the scope of the present analysis. The NSTC’s terminal port is the Indian-backed Chabahar, but delays in fully developing its infrastructure might lead to Bandar Abbas being used as a backup in the interim.

CPEC’s Chinese-backed terminal port of Gwadar is in close proximity to Chabahar, thus presenting the opportunity of eventually pairing the two as sister cities, especially in the event that rumored negotiations between China and Iran result in upwards of several hundred billion dollars worth of investments like some have previously reported. The combination of Russian, Indian, and Chinese infrastructure investments in Iran would greatly improve the country’s regional economic competitiveness and enable it to fulfill its geostrategic destiny of facilitating connectivity between Russia and South Asia.

What’s most intriguing about this ambitious vision is that Iran is proving to the rest of the world that it isn’t “isolated” like the U.S. and its closest allies thought that it would be as a result of their policy of so-called “maximum pressure” against it in recent years. While it’s true that India has somewhat stepped away from its previously strategic cooperation with Iran out of fear that it’ll be punished by “secondary sanctions” if it continued its pragmatic partnership with the Islamic Republic, it’s worthwhile mentioning that Chabahar curiously secured a U.S. sanctions waiver.

While the American intent behind that decision is unclear, it might have been predicated on the belief that the Iranian-facilitated expansion of Indian influence into Central Asia via Chabahar might help to “balance” Chinese influence in the region. It could also have simply been a small but symbolic “concession” to India in order not to scare it away from supporting the U.S. anti-Chinese containment strategy. It’s difficult to tell what the real motive was since American-Indian relations are currently complicated by Washington’s latest sanctions threats against New Delhi in response to its decision to purchase Russia’s S-400 air defense systems.

Nevertheless, even in the worst-case scenario that Indian investment and infrastructural support for Iran can’t be taken for granted in the coming future, that still doesn’t offset the country’s geostrategic plans. Russia could still use the NSTC to connect with W-CPEC and ultimately the over 200+ million Pakistani marketplaces. In theory, Russian companies in Pakistan could also re-export their home country’s NSTC-imported goods to neighboring India, thereby representing a pragmatic workaround to New Delhi’s potential self-interested distancing from that project which could also provide additional much-needed tax revenue for Islamabad.

Iran must therefore do its utmost to ensure Russia’s continued interest in the NSTC regardless of India’s approach to the project. Reconceptualizing the NSTC from its original Russian-Indian connectivity purpose to the much broader one of Russian-South Asian connectivity could help guarantee Moscow’s support. In parallel with that, Tehran would do well to court Beijing’s investments along W-CPEC+’s two branch corridors to Azerbaijan/Russia and Turkey/EU. Any success on any of these fronts, let alone three of them, would advance Iran’s regional interests by solidifying its integral geo-economic role in 21st-century Eurasia.

From our partner Tehran Times

Continue Reading

Economy

The phenomenon of land grabbing by multinationals

Published

on

Since 2012 the United Nations has adopted voluntary guidelines for land and forest management to combat land grabbing. But only a few people know about the guidelines, which aim to protect small farmers particularly in Third World countries.

When multinational investors buy up fields for their huge plantations, the residents lose their livelihood and means of support and will soon only be sleeping in their villages. If they are lucky, they might find work with relatives in another village. Many also try their luck in the city, but poverty and unemployment are high. What remains are depopulated villages and the huge palm oil plantations that have devoured farmland. People can no longer go there to hunt and grow plants or get firewood. The land no longer belongs to them!

Land grabbingis the process whereby mostly foreign investors deprive local farmers or fishermen of their fields, lakes and rivers. Although it has been widely used throughout history, land grabbing – as used in the 21st century – mainly refers to large-scale land acquisitions following the global food price crisis of 2007-2008.

From 2000 until 2019 one hundred million hectares of land have been sold or leased to foreign investors and the list of the most affected countries can be found here below:

Such investment may also make sense for the development of a country, but it must not deprive people of their rights: local people are starving while food is being produced and turned into biofuels for export right before their eyes.

In 2012, after three years of discussion, the UN created an instrument to prevent such land grabbing: the VGGTs (Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security:

Detailed minimum standards for investment are established, e.g. the participation of affected people or how to safeguard the rights of indigenous peoples and prevent corruption. Formally, the document provides a significant contribution to all people fighting for their rights.

The document, however, is quite cryptic. The guidelines should be simplified and explained. Only in this way can activists, but also farmers and fishermen, become aware of their rights.

Others doubt that much can be achieved through these guidelines because they are voluntary. After all, the UN has little or no say in the matter and can do no more than that. If governments implemented them, they would apply them as they will.

In Bolivia, for example, there are already laws that are supposed to prevent land grabbing. In the Amazon, however, Brazilian and Argentinian companies are buying up forests to grow soya and sugar cane, often with the approval and agreement of corrupt government officials. Further guidelines would probably be of little use.

At most, activists already use the guidelines to lobby their governments. Together with other environmental and human rights activists, they set up networks: through local radio stations and village meetings, they inform people of the fact that they right to their land.

Nevertheless, in many countries in Africa and elsewhere, there is a lack of documentation proving land ownership. Originally, tribal leaders vocally distributed rights of use. But today’s leaders are manipulated to pressure villagers to sell their land.

The biggest investors are Indians and Europeans: they are buying up the land to grow sugar cane and palm oil plantations. This phenomenon has been going on since 2008: at that time – as noted above – the world food crisis drove up food prices and foreign investors, but also governments, started to invest in food and biofuels.

Investment inland, which has been regarded as safe since the well-known financial crisis, must also be taken into account. Recently Chinese companies have also been buying up thousands of hectares of land.

In some parts of Africa, only about 6% of land is cultivated for food purposes, while on the remaining areas there are palm oil plantations. Once the plantations grow two or three metres high, they have a devastating effect on monocultures that rely on biodiversity, because of the huge areas they occupy. There is also environmental pollution due to fertilisers: in a village, near a plantation run by a Luxembourg company, many people have suffered from diarrhoea and some elderly villagers even died.

Consequently, the implementation of the VGGTs must be made binding as soon as possible. But with an organisation like the United Nations, how could this happen?

It is not only the indigenous peoples or the local groups of small farmers that are being deprived of everything. The common land used is also being lost, as well as many ecosystems that are still intact: wetlands are being drained, forests cleared and savannas turned into agricultural deserts. New landowners fence off their areas and deny access to the original owners. In practice, this is the 21st century equivalent of the containment of monastery land in Europe that began in the Middle Ages.

The vast majority of contracts are concentrated in poorer countries with weak institutions and land rights, where many people are starving. There, investors compete with local farmers. The argument to which the advocates of land grabbing hold -i.e. that it is mainly uncultivated land that needs to be reclaimed – is refuted. On the contrary, investors prefer well-developed and cultivated areas that promise high returns. However, they do not improve the supply of local population.

Foreign agricultural enterprises prefer to develop the so-called flexible crops, i.e. plants such as the aforementioned oil palm, soya and sugar cane, which, depending on the market situation, can be sold as biofuel or food.

But there is more! If company X of State Y buys food/fuel producing areas, it is the company that sells to its State Y and not the host State Z that, instead, assigns its future profits derived from international State-to-State trade to the aforementioned multinational or state-owned company of State Y.

Furthermore, there is almost no evidence of land investment creating jobs, as most projects were export-oriented. The British aid organisation Oxfam confirms that many land acquisitions took place in areas where food was being grown for the local population. Since local smallholders are generally weak and poorly educated, they can hardly defend themselves against the grabbing of the land they use. Government officials sell or lease it, often without even paying compensation.

Land grabbing is also present in ‘passive’ Europe. Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Lithuania and Bulgaria are affected, but also the territories of Eastern Germany. Funds and agricultural enterprises from “active” and democratic Europe, i.e. the West, and the Arab Gulf States are the main investors.

We might think that the governments of the affected countries would have the duty to protect their own people from such expropriations. Quite the reverse. They often support land grabbing. Obviously, corruption is often involved. In many countries, however, the agricultural sector has been criminally neglected in the past and multinationals are taking advantage of this under the pretext of remedying this situation.

Continue Reading

Economy

No let-up in Indian farmers’ protest due to subconscious fear of “crony capitalism”

Published

on

The writer has analysed why the farmers `now or never’ protest has persisted despite heavy odds. He is of the view that the farmers have the subconscious fear that the “crony capitalism” would eliminate traditional markets, abolish market support price and grab their landholdings. Already the farmers have been committing suicides owing to debt burden, poor monthly income (Rs. 1666 a month) and so on.”Crony capitalism” implies nexus between government and businesses that thrives on sweetheart deals, licences and permits eked through tweaking rules and regulations.

Stalemate between the government and the farmers’ unions is unchanged despite 11 rounds of talks. The farmers view the new farm laws as a ploy to dispossess them of their land holdings and give a free hand to tycoons to grab farmers’ holdings, though small.

Protesters allege the new laws were framed in secret understanding with tycoons. The farmers have a reason to abhor the rich businesses. According to an  a  January 2020 Oxfam India’s richest one  per cent hold over four times the wealth of 953 million people who make up the poorest 70 per cent  of the country’s population. India’s top nine billionaires’ Inc one is equivalent to wealth of the bottom 50 per cent of the population. The opposition has accused the government of “crony capitalism’.

Government has tried every tactic in its tool- kit to becloud the movement (sponsored y separatist Sikhs, desecrated Republic Day by hoisting religious flags at the Red ford, and so on). The government even shrugged off the protest by calling it miniscule and unrepresentative of 16.6 million farmers and 131,000 traders registered until May 2020. The government claims that it has planned to build 22,000 additional mandis (markets) 2021-22 in addition to already-available over 1,000 mandis.

Unruffled by government’s arguments, the opposition continues to accuse the government of being “suit-boot ki sarkar” and an ardent supporter of “crony capitalism” (Ambani and Adani). Modi did many favours to the duo. For instance they were facilitated to join hands with foreign companies to set up defence-equipment projects in India. BJP-ruled state governments facilitated the operation of mines in collaboration with the Ambani group  just years after the Supreme Court had cancelled the allotment of 214 coal blocks for captive mining (MS Nileema, `Coalgate 2.0’, The Caravan March 1, 2018). Modi used Adani’s aircraft in March, April and May 2014 for election campaigning across the country.

“Crony capitalism” is well defined in the English oxford Living Dictionaries, Cambridge and Merriam –Webster. Merriam-Webster defines “crony capitalism” as “an economic system in which individuals and businesses with political connections and influence are favored (as through tax breaks, grants, and other forms of government assistance) in ways seen as suppressing open competition in a free market

If there’s one”.

Cambridge dictionary defines the term as “ an economic system in which family members and friends of government officials and business leaders are given unfair advantages in the form of jobs, loans, etc.:government-owned firms engaged in crony capitalism”.

A common point in all the definitions is undue favours (sweetheart contracts, licences, etc) to select businesses. It is worse than nepotism as the nepotism has a limited scope and life cycle. But, “crony capitalism” becomes institutionalized.

Modi earned the title “suit-boot ki sarkar” when a non-resident Indian, Rameshkumar Bhikabhai virani gifted him a Rs. 10 lac suit. To save his face, Modi later auctioned the suit on February 20, 2015. The suit fetched price of Rs, 4, 31, 31311 or nearly four hundred times the original price. Modi donated the proceeds of auction to a fund meant for cleaning the River Ganges. `It was subsequently alleged that the Surat-based trader Laljibhai Patel who bought the suit had been favoured by being allotted government land for building  a private sports club (BJP returns ‘favour’, Modi suit buyer to get back land, Tribune June21, 2015).

Miffed by opposition’s vitriolic opposition, Ambani’s $174 billion conglomerate Reliance Industries Ltd. Categorically denied collusion with Modi’s government earlier this month. Reliance clarified that it had never done any contract farming or acquired farm land, and harboured no plans to do so in future. It also vowed to ensure its suppliers will pay government-mandated minimum prices to farmers. The Adani Group also had clarified last month that it did not buy food grains from farmers or influence their prices.

Modi-Ambani-Adani nexus

Like Modi, both Adani and Ambani hail from the western Indian state of Gujarat, just, who served as the state’s chief for over a decade. Both the tycoons are reputed to be Modi’s henchmen. Their industry quickly aligns its business strategies to Modi’s nation-building initiatives. For instance, Adani created a rival regional industry lobby and helped kick off a biannual global investment summit in Gujarat in 2003 that boosted Modi’s pro-business credentials. During 2020, Ambani raised record US$27 billion in equity investments for his technology and retail businesses from investors including Google and Face book Inc. He wants to convert these units into a powerful local e-commerce rival to Amazon.com Inc. and Wal-Mart Inc. The Adani group, which humbly started off as a commodities trader in 1988, has grown rapidly to become India’s top private-sector port operator and power generator.

Parallel with the USA

Ambani and Adani are like America’s Rockefellers and Vanderbilt’s in the USA’s Gilded Age in the second half of the 19th century (James Crabtree, The Billionaire Raj: a Journey through India’s New Gilded Age).

Modi government’s tutelage of Ambanis and Adanis is an open secret. Kerala challenged Adani’s bid for an airport lease is. A state minister said last year that Adani winning the bid was “an act of brazen cronyism.”

Threat of elimination of traditional markets

Farmers who could earlier sell grains and other products only at neighbouring government-regulated wholesale markets can now sell them across the country, including the big food processing companies and retailers such as WalMart.

The farmers fear the government will eventually abolish the wholesale markets, where growers were assured of a minimum support price for staples like wheat and rice, leaving small farmers at the mercy of corporate agri-businesses.

Is farmers’ fear genuine?

The farmers have a logical point. Agriculture yield less profit than industry. As such, even the USA heavily subsidies its agriculture. US farmers got more than $22 billion in government payments in 2019, the highest level of farm subsidies in the last 14 years, and the corporate sector paid for it. The Indian government is reluctant to give a permanent legal guarantee for the MSP. In contrast, the US and Western Europe buy directly from the farmers and build their butter and cheese mountains. Even the prices of farm products at the retail and wholesale levels are controlled by the capitalist government. In short, not the principles of capitalization but well-worked-out welfare measures are adopted to sustain the farm sector in the advanced West.

Threat of monopsonic exploitation

The farmers would suffer double exploitation under a monopsony (more sellers less buyers) at the hands of corporate sharks.  They would pay less than the minimum support price to the producers. Likewise, consumers will have to pay more because the public distribution system is likely to be undermined as mandi (regulated wholesale market) procurement is would eventually cease to exist.

Plight of the Indian farmer

The heavily indebted Indian farmer has average income of only about Rs. 20000 a year (about Rs. 1666 a month). Thousands of farmers commit suicide by eating pesticides to get rid of their financial difficulties.

A study by India’s National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development found that more than half of farmers in India are in debt. More than 20,000 people involved in the farming sector died by suicide from 2018-2019, with several studies suggesting that being in debt was a key factor.

More than 86 per cent of India’s cultivated farmland is owned by small farmers who own less than two hectares of land each (about two sports fields). These farmers lack acumen to bargain with bigger companies. Farmers fear the Market Support Price will disappear as corporations start buying their produce.

Concluding remarks

Modi sarkar is unwilling to yield to the farmers’ demand for fear of losing his strongman image and Domino Effect’. If he yields on say, the matter of the farm laws, he may have to give in on the Citizenship Amendment Act also. Fund collection in some foreign countries has started to sustain the movement. As such, the movement may not end anytime soon. Unless Modi yields early, he would suffer voter backlash in coming elections. The farm sector contributes only about 15 per cent of India’s $2.9 trillion economy. But, it employs around half its 1.3 billion people. 

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

Development53 mins ago

Reversing the Impact of the Pandemic on Female Workers in Latin America

Working women in Latin America and the Caribbean were disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 pandemic compared to men. This fact...

East Asia3 hours ago

Chinese Diplomacy: Xi’s “Twin” Victory over Biden, Modi?

On China, the US public stands apart and India’s Hindu majority population is described by Beijing as “self-deceptive.” In the...

Eastern Europe5 hours ago

Zangazur corridor will stimulate regional cooperation

The trilateral declaration signed between the Presidents of the Russian Federation and Azerbaijan and the Prime Minister of Armenia on...

Reports7 hours ago

Smarter Food Policy Could Boost Health and Economic Recovery of Asian Cities

Across the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the critical importance of reliable food systems that provide healthy and affordable...

Southeast Asia9 hours ago

Calibrating Vietnam’s role in ASEAN in 2021

Vietnam handed over the ASEAN chairmanship baton to Brunei in November 2020, but at the same time also handed over...

New Social Compact11 hours ago

Nearly 350 Million Children Lack Quality Childcare in the World

More than 40 percent of all children below primary-school age – or nearly 350 million – need childcare but do...

Africa Today13 hours ago

Mozambique: Growth Expected to Rebound by 2022

Mozambique’s economy is expected to gradually recover from 2021 but substantial downside risks remain due to uncertainty surrounding the path...

Trending