THE HINDU EDITORIAL – 02nd SEPTEMBER 2017
THE HINDU EDITORIAL – 02nd SEPTEMBER 2017
a) Unending slowdown
India’s economy continues to decelerate with the government’s estimate for first-quarter gross domestic product pegging growth at a 13-quarter low of 5.7% in April-June. The reasons for the protracted slowdown — a slide of five straight quarters from 9.1% in March 2016 — are many and varied. But there is little doubt that the demonetisation exercise combined with the uncertainty around the July 1 adoption of the new indirect tax regime served to significantly dampen economic activity. While the GST-related “inventory deaccumulation” that Chief Statistician T.C.A. Anant referred to may well be reversed in the current quarter as companies across sectors gain comfort with the new tax regime, it is still doubtful whether demand for industrial output is going to attain any meaningful strength. The Reserve Bank of India last month said that its industrial outlook survey had “revealed a waning of optimism in Q2 about demand conditions across parameters and especially on capacity utilisation, profit margins and employment.” A look at the sector-specific trends shows that manufacturing expansion in gross value added (GVA) terms has slackened to a near stall at 1.2%. This, from 5.3% in Q4 of the last fiscal and 10.7% a year earlier, is a far from heartening sign. With capacity utilisation expected to weaken this quarter, according to the RBI, and with surveys suggesting that consumer sentiment has deteriorated steadily in August, the auguries for a demand rebound are far from promising. While expressing concern about the slower-than-expected expansion, the Finance Minister has acknowledged that the challenge before the government now is to work out both policy and investment measures to boost momentum. One option would be to suspend the fiscal road map for a limited period in order to pump prime the economy through increased capital spending by the government. The risks of fiscal loosening are of course manifold, especially at a juncture when several State governments have either announced or are contemplating large-scale farm loan waivers, which would push up interest rates and crowd out fresh lending. Still, there is a thin sliver of a silver lining in the GDP data. The services sector continues to remain buoyant. Quarterly GVA across this broad swathe that encompasses trade, hotels, transport, communication and broadcasting accelerated to 11.1%, from 6.5% in the fourth quarter, faster than the 8.9% posted in the corresponding period last year. The civil aviation sector saw passenger traffic soaring by 15.6%, and construction activity, a provider of jobs, also ticked up by 2%. The Finance Minister has his task cut out: to find ways to restore momentum before the tailwinds of low inflation and affordable energy prices start reversing direction.
b) Calibrating a new standard
In recent years a person questioning the British government’s stance on international students was given one of two typical responses. One track focused on reminding her that the drop in numbers in some groups (including Indian students) was largely the result of the crackdown on fake colleges that admitted students under the pretence of study merely to enable them to come to Britain. The second argument focussed on highlighting the supposedly sizeable number of overstaying students. During a heated debate, a senior British official recently suggested that India had little reason to be aggrieved over Britain’s visa regime for students (nor any right to expect change) given the large numbers of Indians who overstayed their visas. “We welcome students coming to study but the fact is, too many of them are not returning home as soon as their visa runs out… I don’t care what the university lobbyists say: the rules must be enforced. Students, yes; overstayers, no. And the universities must make this happen,” Prime Minister Theresa May insisted two years ago, while still Home Secretary. She was justifying why students needed to be included in Britain’s immigration statistics and therefore one of the groups whose numbers Britain would be aiming to bring down as part of government targets to reduce net migration from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands.
While Britain does not have a limit on the number of international students able to come and study in the country, it has toughened the regime in other ways, most notably by limiting the ability of students to work in Britain after their degree. Students have a maximum of four months after their degree to find a job, which has proved a major disincentive for many. Their wish to do so cannot be seen as anything other than reasonable, given the premium accorded to work experience in Britain, and the substantial financial investment put into studying in the country. Yet the suggestion that students are keen to abuse the system has been implicit in much of the rhetoric on the issue. Last October, in a speech pledging to toughen the regime, current Home Secretary Amber Rudd said she would be looking at the possibility of a two-tier system with tougher rules for those on “lower quality courses”. “This isn’t about pulling up the drawbridge. It’s about making sure students that come here, come to study,” she said at the time. The raison d’etre for this tough stance came crashing down last week, as it emerged that the number of international students overstaying their visa illegally was a fraction of what the government had been suggesting. Home Office data relying on a new system of exit checks at Britain’s borders that began in 2015 found that a mere 4,600 had done so last year, in contrast to the roughly 100,000 suggested by the International Passenger Survey (IPS) conducted at border crossings that the government had been relying on to date. A separate study by the official statistician, the Office for National Statistics (ONS), considered things by nationality too, finding that Indian students were among the nationals most likely to leave before their visa expired, with many others staying on because they had managed to extend their visa for work or other reasons. While the release of the figures created a media storm, it came as little surprise to those who have been campaigning for international students, who have long been wary of the IPS and the way simple survey figures were being used to justify and draw up tough immigration policies. Many had been pushing for the exit check data to be published, and for the system of exit checks to be developed further to enable Britain to have a far more rigorous system for analysing its migration figures. Last October, the government dismissed a report in The Times that it was sitting on data that showed fewer than 1% of foreign students overstaying their visas, while in July the statistics regulator warned the government and the ONS that the IPS data the government had been relying on had to be seen as “experimental”. However, the government has remained adamant about its commitment to the tough regime for students, passing up an opportunity just before Parliament broke up before the June general election to take students out of the net migration figures, after members of the House of Lords introduced an amendment to legislation on higher education. The government’s unwavering stance on this issue has contrasted with its penchant for U-turns, and is seen as a sign of the Prime Minister’s own obsession with a tough immigration regime. She has faced strong pressure for change from even within her party and cabinet. Even before the latest revelations, the stubbornness appeared irrational to a certain degree at least, given Britain’s post-Brexit ambitions to forge trade deals across the world. India has indicated in the past that taking students off the immigration figures would be seen as a significant concession and gesture of goodwill at a time that Britain has been tightening immigration in other areas.
The Brexit angle
Whether the figures will prompt change remains to be seen. The government’s response so far has been to commission a report into the economic and social impact of international students on Britain. This may be all very well, except for the fact that organisations such as Universities UK have already conducted thorough research highlighting the huge economic contribution foreign students make to local economies across the country (£25 billion a year in total), spurring the creation of jobs. However, even beyond the specific case of international students, the data raise questions about the very basis of the direction of British policy. As the outcome of last year’s Brexit referendum made only too clear, concerns about levels of immigration have had a profound impact on the direction of British political life. With some of the immigration data that have fuelled that debate now in question, a period of national introspection is undoubtedly in order.
Meaning: Reduce or cause to reduce in speed.
Example: The train began to decelerate.
Synonyms: Slow down, Brake
Meaning: Fix (a price, rate, or amount) at a particular level.
Example: The dividend was pegged at 23.59p.
Synonyms: Fix, Control
Meaning: Lasting for a long time or longer than expected or usual.
Example: A protracted and bitter dispute.
Synonyms: Lengthy, Enduring
Meaning: Make less strong or intense.
Example: Nothing could dampen her enthusiasm.
Synonyms: Lessen, Decrease
Meaning: Succeed in achieving (something that one has worked for).
Example: Clarify your objectives and ways of attaining them.
Synonyms: Achieve, Accomplish
Antonyms: Fail, Ignore
Meaning: Make or become slack.
Example: He slackened his grip.
Synonyms: Loosen, Release
Meaning: Become progressively worse.
Example: Relations between the countries had deteriorated sharply.
Synonyms: Worsen, Decline
Meaning: A sign of what will happen in the future; an omen.
Example: They heard the sound as an augury of death.
Synonyms: Portent, Omen
Meaning: Many and various.
Example: The implications of this decision were manifold.
Synonyms: Numerous, Multiple
Antonyms: Same, Single
Meaning: Look thoughtfully for a long time at.
Example: He contemplated his image in the mirrors.
Synonyms: View, Regard
Antonyms: Reject, Discard
Meaning: Cheerful and optimistic.
Example: The conference ended with the party in a buoyant mood.
Synonyms: Cheerful, Carefree
Antonyms: Depressed, Pessimistic
Meaning: A broad strip or area of something.
Example: Vast swathes of countryside.
Meaning: Surround and have or hold within.
Example: This area of London encompasses Piccadilly to the north and St James’s Park to the south.
Synonyms: Surround, Enclose
Meaning: Increase in rate, amount, or extent.
Example: Inflation started to accelerate.
Synonyms: Rise, Escalate
Antonyms: Decelerate, Drop
Meaning: A wind blowing in the direction of travel of a vehicle or aircraft; a wind blowing from behind.
Example: Wind & winds.
Meaning: The attitude of a person or organization towards something; a standpoint.
Example: The party is changing its stance on Europe.
Synonyms: Attitude, Viewpoint
Meaning: A series of severe measures to restrict undesirable or illegal people or behaviour.
Example: A crackdown on car crime.
Synonyms: Clampdown, Elimination
Meaning: An attempt to make something that is not the case appears true.
Example: His anger is masked by pretence that all is well.
Synonyms: Acting, Simulation
Antonyms: Reality, Honesty
Meaning: Stay longer than the time, limits, or duration of.
Example: He was arrested for overstaying his visa.
Meaning: Feeling resentment at having been unfairly treated.
Example: They were aggrieved at the outcome.
Synonyms: Resentful, Hurt
Meaning: A person who takes part in an organized attempt to influence legislators.
Example: Industry lobbyists pushed the government to undo the decision.
Meaning: The action of coming to live permanently in a foreign country.
Example: A barrier to control illegal immigration from Mexico.
Meaning: Make or become stronger or more resilient.
Example: He tried to toughen his son up by sending him to public school.
Synonyms: Strengthen, Fortify
Meaning: A factor, especially a financial disadvantage that discourages a particular action.
Example: Spiraling house prices are beginning to act as a disincentive to development.
Synonyms: Deterrent, Discouragement
Meaning: Give or grant someone (power, status, or recognition).
Example: The powers accorded to the head of state.
Synonyms: Grant, Present
Antonyms: Withhold, Remove
Meaning: Suggested though not directly expressed.
Example: Comments seen as implicit criticism of the policies.
Synonyms: Implied, Indirect
Antonyms: Explicit, Direct
Meaning: The art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, especially the exploitation of figures of speech and other compositional techniques.
Example: He is using a common figure of rhetoric, hyperbole.
Synonyms: Oratory, Eloquence
Meaning: Depend on with full trust or confidence.
Example: I know I can rely on your discretion.
Synonyms: Depend, Reckon
Meaning: Work in an organized and active way towards a goal.
Example: People who campaigned against child labour.
Synonyms: Battle, Press
Meaning: Extremely thorough and careful.
Example: The rigorous testing of consumer products.
Synonyms: Exhaustive, Careful
Meaning: Refusing to be persuaded or to change one’s mind.
Example: He is adamant that he is not going to resign.
Synonyms: Immovable, Inflexible
Meaning: Not wavering; steady or resolute.
Example: She fixed him with an unwavering stare.
Synonyms: Steady, Resolute
Meaning: Differ strikingly.
Example: His friend’s success contrasted with his own failure.
Synonyms: Variance with, Conflict with
Antonyms: Resemble, Match
Meaning: A strong or habitual liking for something or tendency to do something.
Example: He has a penchant for adopting stray dogs.
Synonyms: Tendency, Affection
Meaning: An idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind.
Example: He was in the grip of an obsession he was powerless to resist.
Synonyms: Fixation, Enthusiasm
Antonyms: Indifference, Hate
Meaning: The making known of something that was previously secret or unknown.
Example: The revelation of a plot to assassinate the king.
Synonyms: Disclosure, Circulation
Antonyms: Keeping, Covering up
Meaning: Dogged determination not to change one’s attitude or position on something.
Example: His error was sheer stubbornness in refusing to admit a mistake
Meaning: Not logical or reasonable.
Example: Irrational feelings of hostility.
Synonyms: Unreasonable, Illogical
Antonyms: Rational, Logical
Meaning: The action of conceding or granting something.
Example: This strict rule was relaxed by concession.
Synonyms: Admission, Acceptance
Antonyms: Denial, Retention
Meaning: Direct (someone) somewhere by means of a gesture.
Example: He gestured her towards a chair.
Synonyms: Signal, Sign
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