THE HINDU EDITORIAL : DECEMBER 27, 2017
THE HINDU EDITORIAL : DECEMBER 27, 2017
a) Countering growing inequality
The release recently of the World Inequality Report 2018 has brought into focus an aspect of economic progress in India. This is the continuous growth in inequality here since the mid-1980s. To grasp this, consider the reported finding that the top 1% of income earners received 6% of the total income in the early 1980s, close to 15% of it in 2000, and receives 22% today. As this is a report on a global scale, we can see the trend in inequality across the world, providing a comparative perspective across countries. In particular, it enables a comparison of economic progress made in India and China. This is not flattering of India. Since 1980, while the Chinese economy has grown 800% and India’s a far lower 200%, inequality in China today is considerably lower than in India. The share of the top 1% of the Chinese population is 14% as opposed to the 22% reported for India. The authors go on to emphasise that growing inequality need not necessarily accompany faster growth, observing that inequality actually declined in China from the early 21st century. By then China had grown faster for longer than most countries of the world ever did.
Basket of indicators
The findings in the World Inequality Report serve as grist to the mill that is the study of the progress of nations. But before we proceed to reflect on them we may pause to consider their underlying methodology. First, the results are based on the share of top incomes. This is not invalid but some of the findings may alter if we adopt measures of inequality that characterise the entire distribution. To be precise, the inequality ranking of China and India may now reverse. But this need not hold us back as it is evident that China’s performance is far superior all round to that of India. China has grown faster, has far lower poverty and far higher average income, and its income distribution is less unequal at the very top. The World Development Indicators data released by the World Bank show that per capita income in China was five times that of India in 2016 while the percentage of the population living on less than $1.90 a day was about 10 times less at the beginning of this decade. India has a forbidding gap to traverse in all directions, but for now let us focus on inequality. It is the comparative perspective contained in the Report that makes it useful. India-based researchers have for some time now pointed out that the country is becoming less equal since 1991. Also, we need not turn to the experience of China to recognise that growth need not be unequalising. We know independently that inequality in India declined for three and a half decades since 1950 even as the economy grew steadily, though maybe not spectacularly. It is important to comprehend this outcome if we are to understand the source of inequality in India, not to mention why India lags China. Now, is a comparison of the progress made in China and India meaningful at all? Yes it is, for though representing different political systems, they had both been large agrarian economies at similar levels of per capita income when they had started out in the early 1950s. Moreover, the absence of democracy in a society does not by itself guarantee faster economic growth and greater income equality. For a populous poor country to lift itself to a higher growth path and stay there requires imaginative public policy and a steady governance. We can see this in the divergent economic histories of North and South Korea. So what is it that China did better than India?
The Chinese clue
If there is to be a meta narrative for China’s economic development, it is that its leadership combined the drive for growth with the spreading of human capital. Human capital may be understood as a person’s endowment derived from education and robust health. When a population is more or less equally endowed, as it was in China when it began to draw ahead, the human capital profile of a country may be represented by a rectangle. Now the returns to labour would be relatively equal compared to the country in which the distribution of human capital is pyramidical, which is the case for India. To see the latter better, note that the share of the Indian population with secondary schooling is less than 15%. China had by the early 1970s achieved the level of schooling India did only by the early 21st century. The spread of health and education in that country enabled the Chinese economy to grow faster than India by exporting manufactures to the rest of the world. These goods may not have been the byword for quality but they were globally competitive, which made their domestic production viable. The resulting growth lifted vast multitudes out of poverty. As the human capital endowment was relatively equal, most people could share in this growth, which accounts for the relative equality of outcomes in China when compared to India. An ingredient of this is also the greater participation of women in the workforce of China, an outcome that eludes India. While concluding this brief account of China’s progress, two points may be made. China is no exception to the general history of progress made in East Asia, right down to the authoritarianism, only that China has remained even more authoritarian. This makes it appropriate to term progress in the country as growth through human capital-accumulation for there can be no human development without democracy, whatever may be the health and educational attainments of a population. Recent revelations suggest that the massacre of pro-democracy protesters at Tiananmen Square in 1989 was far greater than believed to be. This brings us back to India. India has lower per capita income, persistent poverty and by all accounts rising inequality. It may be said in the context that economic progress here has been neither efficient nor equitable. Democracy per se cannot be held responsible for this. There are States in India with superior social indicators than China. This shows that not only is democracy not a barrier to development but also that similar political institutions across India have not resulted in same development outcomes across its regions. Nor can we remain complacent that democracy is combined with superior social indicators in some parts of India when income levels are lower here than what China has demonstrated is achievable.
Given the growing inequality in India, the direction that public policy should now take is evident. There is need to spread health and education far more widely amidst the population. India’s full panoply of interventions, invariably justified as being pro-poor, have not only not spread human capital, but they have also not been able to prevent a growing income inequality. A ritualistic focus on the trappings of democracy, from frenetic election campaigns to stylised skirmishes in the legislatures, has not worked to deliver its promise. We now need to reorient public policy so that the government is more enabling of private entrepreneurship while being directly engaged in the equalisation of opportunity through a social policy that raises health and education levels at the bottom of the pyramid.
b) After the sanctions: on North Korea
The fresh round of economic sanctions imposed unanimously by the UN Security Council on North Korea is a predictable response to mounting international frustration over the nuclear stand-off. The measures come days after the U.S., echoing suspicions in other countries, charged the North Korean government with the world-wide ‘WannaCry’ cyberattacks in May. The sanctions include an 89% curb on refined petroleum imports into North Korea, stringent inspections of ships transferring fuel to the country, and the expulsion of thousands of North Koreans in other countries (who send home crucial hard currency) within two years. Despite the crippling nature of the curbs, there is some good news on this imbroglio. As on previous occasions, Beijing and Moscow were able to impress upon the Security Council the potentially destabilising and hence counterproductive impact of extreme measures. This is significant given the intercontinental ballistic missile that Pyongyang launched in November. It was described by U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis as technically more sophisticated than anything witnessed previously, and the North Korean regime’s claim that it could deliver nuclear warheads anywhere in North America has been viewed with concern. However, even as China and Russia approved the latest measures, they continued to state their preference for diplomatic engagement. It remains to be seen how much more pressure Beijing can exert upon Pyongyang. The stated aim of the sanctions regime has been to force North Korea to halt its nuclear programme and start disarmament negotiations. In September, North Korea detonated its sixth underground nuclear device, which it claimed was a hydrogen bomb. That assertion remains unverified, but experts believe the explosion was many times more powerful than previous detonations. The development has served as a reminder to the U.S. that the scope for military options may be increasingly narrowing. Against this backdrop, a revival of stalled peace negotiations between the P-5 nations and North Korea may be the only realistic alternative on the horizon. The successful conclusion of the 2015 civilian nuclear agreement between the P-5 plus Germany and Iran affords a constructive template to move ahead with North Korea. Certainly, U.S. President Donald Trump has delivered a scathing blow to the Iran deal, even as he stopped short of scrapping it. Iran’s continued compliance with the inspections of the International Atomic Energy Agency may not mean much to Mr. Trump, given his overall distrust of multilateral institutions. But that is no reason why other big powers should not pursue the diplomatic effort with redoubled energy. Countries that backed the recently adopted UN nuclear weapons abolition pact should likewise lobby Pyongyang.
Meaning: A particular attitude towards or way of regarding something; a point of view.
Example: “Most guidebook history is written from the editor’s perspective”
Synonyms: Outlook, View
Meaning: Full of Praise and compliments.
Example: “The article began with some flattering words about us”
Synonyms: Complimentary, Praising
Meaning: Give special importance or value to (something) in speaking or writing.
Example: “they emphasize the need for daily, one-to-one contact between parent and child”
Synonyms: High light, Deepen
Antonyms: Understate, Play down
Meaning: Useful material, especially to support an argument.
Example: “The research provided the most sensational grist for opponents of tobacco”
Meaning: Unfriendly or threatening in appearance.
Example: “A grim and forbidding building”
Synonyms: Hostile, Unwelcoming
Antonyms: friendly, inviting
Meaning: Grasp mentally; understand.
Example: “He couldn’t comprehend her reasons for marrying Lovat”
Synonyms: Understand, Grasp
Meaning: Relating to landed property.
Example: “The agrarian reforms”
8) Started out
Meaning: To begin your life, or the part of your life when you work, in a particular way.
Example: My dad started out as a salesperson in a shop.
Meaning: Ending to be different or develop in different directions.
Example: “Divergent interpretations”
Synonyms: Differing, varying
Meaning: A quality or ability possessed or inherited by someone.
Example: “His natural endowments were his height and intelligence”
Synonyms: Quality, Characteristic
Meaning: Strong and healthy; vigorous.
Example: “The Caplan family are a robust lot”
Synonyms: Strong, Vigorous
Antonyms: Weak, Frail
Meaning: Denoting the second or second mentioned of two people or things.
Example: “The Russians could advance into either Germany or Austria—they chose the latter option”
Synonyms: Last-mentioned, Second-mentioned
Antonyms: Former, Prior
Meaning: The mass of ordinary people without power or influence.
Example: “Placing ultimate political power in the hands of the multitude”
Synonyms: Crowd, Gathering
Antonyms: The elite
Meaning: Escape from or avoid (a danger, enemy, or pursuer), typically in a skilful or cunning way.
Example:”He tried to elude the security men by sneaking through a back door”
Synonyms: Evade, Avoid
Meaning: Continuing firmly or obstinately in an opinion or course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.
Example: “One of the government’s most persistent critics”
Synonyms: Tenacious, Persevering
Meaning: Showing smug or uncritical satisfaction with oneself or one’s achievements.
Example: “You can’t afford to be complacent about security”
Synonyms: Smug, self-satisfied
Meaning: Clearly seen or understood; obvious.
Example: “She ate the biscuits with evident enjoyment”
Synonyms: Obvious, Apparent
Meaning: In the middle of or surrounded by.
Example: On the floor, amid mounds of books, were two small envelopes.
Meaning: An extensive or impressive collection.
Example: “A deliciously inventive panoply of insults”
Synonyms: Array, Range
Meaning: Relating to or characteristic of rituals followed as part of a religious or solemn ceremony.
Example: “A ritualistic act of worship”
Meaning: The outward signs, features, or objects associated with a particular situation, role, or job.
Example: “I had the trappings of success”
Synonyms: Adornment, Decoration
Meaning: A short argument.
Example: “There was a skirmish over the budget”
Synonyms: Argument, Quarrel
Meaning: Change the focus or direction of.
Example: “The country began reorienting its economic and social policies in 1988”
Meaning: Without opposition; with the agreement of all people involved.
Example: “A committee of MPs has unanimously agreed to back his bill”
Meaning: Grow larger or more numerous.
Example: “The costs mount up when you buy a home”
Synonyms: Increase, Grow
Antonyms: Decrease, Diminish
Meaning: The feeling of being upset or annoyed as a result of being unable to change or achieve something.
Example: “Tears of frustration rolled down her cheeks”
Synonyms: Exasperation, Annoyance
Meaning: A feeling or thought that something is possible, likely, or true.
Example: “She had a sneaking suspicion that he was laughing at her”
Synonyms: Intuition, Feeling
Meaning: Cause a severe and almost insuperable problem for.
Example: “Developing countries are crippled by their debts”
Synonyms: Ruin, destroy
Meaning: An extremely confused, complicated, or embarrassing situation.
Example:”The abdication imbroglio of 1936″
Synonyms: Complicated situation, Complication
Meaning: Having, revealing, or involving a great deal of worldly experience and knowledge of fashion and culture.
Example: “A chic, sophisticated woman”
Synonyms: Worldly, Worldly-wise
Antonyms: Naive, Unsophisticated
Meaning: Make (someone) anxious or worried.
Example: “The roof of the barn concerns me because eventually it will fall in”
Synonyms: Worry, Disturb
Meaning: Apply or bring to bear (a force, influence, or quality).
Example: “The moon exerts a force on the Earth”
Synonyms: Bring to bear, apply
Meaning: The reduction or withdrawal of military forces and weapons.
Example: “The public wanted peace and disarmament”
Synonyms: Demilitarization, Demobilization
Meaning: Explode or cause to explode.
Example: “Two other bombs failed to detonate”
Synonyms: Explode, Go off
Meaning: Discussion aimed at reaching an agreement.
Example: “A worldwide ban is currently under negotiation”
Synonyms: Conference, Debate
Meaning: To be able to buy or do something because you have enough money or time.
Example: I don’t know how he can afford a new car on his salary.
Meaning: Witheringly scornful; severely critical.
Example: “She launched a scathing attack on the Prime Minister”
Synonyms: Devastating, Withering
Antonyms: Mild, Gentle
Meaning: Abolish or cancel (a plan, policy, or law).
Example:”He supports the idea that road tax should be scrapped”
Synonyms: Abandon, Drop
Antonyms: Keep, Restore
Meaning: The action of abolishing a system, practice, or institution.
Example: “The abolition of the death penalty”
Synonyms: Scrapping, Ending
Antonyms: Retention, Creation
Meaning: A group of people seeking to influence legislators on a particular issue.
Example: “Members of the anti-abortion lobby”
Synonyms: Pressure group, Interest group
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