THE HINDU EDITORIAL : APRIL 2, 2018
THE HINDU EDITORIAL : APRIL 2, 2018
- a) Air India privatisation: High hopes?
Nine months after the Union Cabinet’s in-principle nod for offloading the government’s stake in Air India, the ball has finally been set rolling to privatise the bleeding airline. A preliminary information memorandum was unveiled last week by the Civil Aviation Ministry for prospective bidders. According to this, the Centre will divest 76% of its stake in AI. A 100% stake is being offered in its subsidiary Air India Express, and a 50% stake is on offer in its ground handling operations arm. Other subsidiaries, such as Alliance Air, Hotel Corporation of India, which owns the Centaur properties in New Delhi and Srinagar, Air India Air Transport Services and Air India Engineering Services, are not being sold — they will be transferred to a special purpose entity along with roughly a third of AI’s ₹48,781 crore outstanding debt. Effectively, the government is offering a majority stake in AI and AI Express with management control, as well as a cumulative debt burden worth ₹33,392 crore. For prospective buyers, the attractiveness of AI’s international flying rights and slots would be offset by the possibility of taking on so much debt and putting a plan in place to whittle it down or refinance the loans. Details of the reallocation of these liabilities between AI and AI Express, and the logic behind it, will only be shared with bidders at a later stage when requests for proposals are issued. Given the uncertainties over its debt burden, it will not be a surprise if those bold enough to make a bid for AI find it difficult to offer a lucrative price to the government. It is worth pausing to see if serious investors are enthused by the government’s decision to retain 24% stake in the airline (which will possibly come with one or two bureaucrats nominated to the airline’s board of directors). In 2016-17, the airline suffered a net loss of ₹5,765 crore, owing mainly to its high interest costs. While debt has been the major reason for AI’s losses in recent years, operational inefficiencies and poor management have been bugbears for long. The government is expected to offload its residual 24% stake at a later date, pinning its hopes on a better valuation after the new owner has fixed the airline’s legacy issues. The real benefit of privatisation will be that the airline will no longer drain taxpayer funds, after thousands of crores have been infused over the years to keep it up and running. That its new owner would get some room to rationalise its large workforce a year after the transaction and the government is thinking of footing the bill for some benefits paid to retired employees, such as complimentary air tickets, sounds good. The government is understandably keen to close the AI sale transaction soon, preferably by early 2019, in order to bolster its reformist credentials. But investors will look for the finer details to ascertain the carrier’s true worth.
- b) No surprises in Egypt’s election
Egypt’s election last week was democratic only in name. President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, a former general who had ousted the Muslim Brotherhood from power in 2013, was never expected to struggle to secure a second term. Though the official result is yet to be announced, a landslide victory has been a certainty all along. Given the military backlash against the 2011 upsurge in Cairo’s Tahrir Square that ended Hosni Mubarak’s three-decade dictatorship, a genuinely popular exercise of the ballot was never on the cards. The vote was effectively rendered a one-horse race involving Mr. Sisi, as a number of opposition candidates were forced to withdraw from the contest. His lone challenger, a late entrant thrust forward to save the government from embarrassment, was someone who had declared himself a staunch supporter of the President’s bid for re-election. Public perception of the charade managed to find some expression in both the mainstream and social media. But overall, the government’s close monitoring of content that it deemed contrary to the “national interest” ensured that the election was anything but a democratic and informed exercise of the popular will. This is not to deny Mr. Sisi’s support base — he has one and it is made up of sections of Egyptian society that prize the country’s stability above all else after the tumultuous years of transition following the Arab Spring. Nonetheless, reports of the administration’s exhortations to voters to exercise their franchise is an indication of the widespread cynicism about the entire electoral process. With the election over, the Egyptian establishment will be conscious that the conditions that yielded the mass protests of 2011 still obtain, particularly economic hardship and political repression. The 2016 devaluation of the currency and roll-back of energy subsidies, in return for a hefty loan from the International Monetary Fund, deepened the squeeze. Inflation and the accompanying rise in the cost of borrowing are taking a toll on ordinary people as well as businesses. Meanwhile, two recent developments illustrate the continuing stranglehold of the old order on Egyptian institutions. The first is the 2017 acquittal of Mr. Mubarak in a highly controversial trial relating to the killing of hundreds of protesters during the 18-day uprising. The other is the lengthy sentences slapped last year on protesters who opposed the ouster of Mohamed Morsi as President in 2013. If Egypt is to move on from the fire-fighting phase it is gripped by, in his new term Mr. Sisi must move towards greater transparency and accountability. Restoration of basic democratic freedoms and respect for the opposition are critical for this. As the largest country in the Arab world, Egypt must set an example for the region.
Meaning: As a general idea or plan, although the details are not yet established.
Example: “the government agreed in principle to a peace plan that included a ceasefire”
Meaning: Unload (a cargo).
Example: “a delivery could be offloaded immediately on arrival”
Synonyms: Unload, Discharge
Meaning: Used for emphasis, or to express annoyance.
Example: “the watch was a bleeding copy”
Meaning: Increasing or increased in quantity, degree, or force by successive additions.
Example: “the cumulative effect of two years of drought”
Synonyms: Accumulative, Progressive
5) Whittle it down
Meaning: To gradually reduce the size of something or the number of people in a group.
Example: We had 80 applicants for the job, but we’ve whittled them down to six.
Synonyms: Less, Smaller
Meaning: A person or organization making a formal offer for something, especially at an auction.
Example: “she was the highest bidder for this rare portrait”
Meaning: Producing a great deal of profit.
Example: “a lucrative career as a stand-up comedian”
Synonyms: Profitable, Gainful
Meaning: A cause of obsessive fear, anxiety, or irritation.
Example: “the biggest villain is that adman’s bugbear, saturated fat”
Synonyms: Hate, Bane
Meaning: Hold (someone) firmly in a specified position.
Example: “She was standing pinned against the door”
Synonyms: Restrain, Press
Meaning: To cause someone or something to take in and be filled with a quality or a condition of mind.
Example: His landscape paintings were infused with a warm, subtle light.
Meaning: To make a company, way of working, etc. more effective, usually by combining or stopping particular activities, or (of a company, way of working, etc.) to become more effective in this way.
Example: The recession is forcing the company to rationalize.
12) Footing the bill
Meaning: A request for payment of money owed, or the piece of paper on which it is written.
Example: Her mother agreed to foot (= pay) the bill.
Meaning: To support or improve something or make it stronger.
Example: More money is needed to bolster the industry.
Synonyms: Support, Improve
Meaning: Supporting or advancing gradual reform rather than abolition or revolution.
Example: “the reformist policies of the government”
Meaning: Drive out or expel (someone) from a position or place.
Example: “the reformists were ousted from power”
Synonyms: Expel, Remove
Meaning: An overwhelming majority of votes for one party or candidate in an election.
Example: “they won by a landslide”
Synonyms: Game, Set
Antonyms: Hung Parliament
Meaning: A strong negative reaction by a large number of people, especially to a social or political development.
Example: “a public backlash against racism”
Synonyms: Comeback, Recoil
Meaning: An upward surge in the strength or quantity of something; an increase.
Example: “an upsurge in vandalism and violent crime”
Meaning: A country governed by a dictator.
Example: “the party was seeking to establish a dictatorship”
Synonyms: Autocracy, Monocracy
Meaning: Provide or give (a service, help, etc.).
Example: “money serves as a reward for services rendered”
Synonyms: Give, Provide
Meaning: A person or group that enters or takes part in something.
Example: “the prize will be awarded to the entrant who wins the tiebreak”
Synonyms: Beginner, Fresher
Meaning: Financial difficulty.
Example: “his temporary financial embarrassment”
Synonyms: Difficulty, Problem
Meaning: Very loyal and committed in attitude.
Example: “a staunch supporter of the anti-nuclear lobby”
Synonyms: Loyal, Committed
Antonyms: Disloyal, Unfaithful
Meaning: Intuitive understanding and insight.
Example: “‘He wouldn’t have accepted,’ said my mother with unusual perception”
Synonyms: Insight, Percipience
Meaning: An absurd pretence intended to create a pleasant or respectable appearance.
Example: “talk of unity was nothing more than a charade”
Synonyms: Farce, Travesty
Meaning: Regard or consider in a specified way.
Example: “the event was deemed a great success”
Synonyms: Consider, Judge
Meaning: Excited, confused, or disorderly.
Example: “a tumultuous crowd”
Synonyms: Stormy, Turbulent
Antonyms: Peaceful, Uneventful
Meaning: An address or communication emphatically urging someone to do something.
Example: “exhortations to consumers to switch off electrical appliances”
Synonyms: Urging, Persuasion
Meaning: The right to vote in an election, especially in order to elect a parliament or similar law-making organization.
Example: American women worked for decades to win the franchise.
Meaning: An inclination to believe that people are motivated purely by self-interest; scepticism.
Example: “public cynicism about politics”
Synonyms: Distrust, Doubt
Meaning: (of an action or feeling) deliberate and intentional.
Example: “a conscious effort to walk properly”
Synonyms: Deliberate, Intentional
Meaning: The action of subduing someone or something by force.
Example: “students sparked off events that ended in brutal repression”
Synonyms: Suppression, Restraint
Antonyms: Freedom, Liberty
Meaning: A reduction of prices, costs, taxes, etc., especially so that they return to a previous level.
Example: Councilman Sanchez is planning to propose a rollback in the tax rate.
Meaning: A strong financial demand or pressure, typically a restriction on borrowing, spending, or investment in a financial crisis.
Example: “industry faced higher costs and a squeeze on profits”
Meaning: Explain or make (something) clear by using examples, charts, pictures, etc.
Example: “the results are illustrated in Figure 7”
Synonyms: Explain, Clarify
Meaning: Complete or overwhelming control.
Example: “in France, supermarkets have less of a stranglehold on food supplies”
Meaning: An act of resistance or rebellion; a revolt.
Example: “an armed uprising”
Synonyms: Rebellion, Revolt
Meaning: To force someone to leave a position of power, job, place, or competition.
Example: The president was ousted (from power) in a military coup in January 1987.
Meaning: Spending time on problems that need to be dealt with quickly, instead of working in a calm, planned way.
Example: I spend all my time firefighting rather than making any progress.
Meaning: The fact or condition of being accountable; responsibility.
Example: “lack of accountability has corroded public respect for business and political leaders”
Synonyms: Responsibility, Liability
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