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Editorial Today (English)

In this section, we are presenting our readers/aspirants compilation of selected editorials of national daily viz. The Hindu, The live mint,The Times of India, Hindustan Times, The Economic Times, PIB etc. This section caters the requirement of Civil Services Mains (GS + Essay) , PCS, HAS Mains (GS + Essay) & others essay writing competition.

1. Mine Stalled Real Estate for Growth

The latest figures suggest that growth is stalling yet again. Policy must respond by stepping up expenditure from the budget, and prioritising resumption of stalled real estate projects, as these can absorb investment without delay and have the capacity to generate downstream demand for cement, steel, paint, furniture, fittings, curtains, cushions and lots of labour.

Greenfield projects are, indeed, important, but shovel-ready projects are imperative to give the economy the stimulus it requires. The size, structure and scope of the stressed real estate fund surely needs to be promptly revisited on concrete terms, to absorb capital fast. The core sector, which comprises eight segments, has posted its steepest contraction in six months; manufacturing output has hit a seven-month low as per the Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) data.

Back in 2019, Nirmala Sitharaman had announced the setting up of a `25,000-crore Alternative Investment Fund (AIF) to gainfully provide funding for stalled incomplete housing projects. Focused policy measures to shore up funding for the stalled projects now would pay rich dividends and sooner rather than later.

The funds under the special window for affordable and mid-income housing can well be raised from the current Rs10,000 crore to at least twice the figure to better coagulate resources on the ground. Further, the Centre surely needs to open up the stressed real estate fund to overseas investors, on the lines of the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF).

In tandem, foreign direct investment (FDI) norms for real estate require to be liberalised to increase cross-border funds flow. Foreign investments should be exempt from requirements such as a minimum built-up area of 50,000 sq m for development projects or 10 hectares for plotting schemes. Speed is of the essence in unlocking the value in builtup assets identified for a monetisation pipeline, and channelling the funds into fresh projects that fill gaps and create demand for capital and intermediate goods.

2.Welcome Uncle Sam To Global Tax Reform

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen wants a minimum rate of global corporate income tax. It shows US readiness to join the global effort to reform corporate taxation, led by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which has been trying to rally support for ending base erosion and profit shifting and to forge a multilateral pact on digital taxation. Yellen cites a ‘30-year race to the bottom’ in which countries have slashed corporate tax rates to attract multinational companies. MNCs often use differences in tax rates between countries to lower their tax outgo. It erodes the tax base and deprives governments of revenues.

Rightly, Yellen says that competitiveness is a whole lot more than how companies fare against rivals in global M&A bids. Rather, it is about making sure that governments have stable tax systems that raise sufficient revenue to invest in essential public goods and respond to crises. This would entail curbing sharp tax practices. A global minimum tax would level the playing field, somewhat, in the taxation of MNCs. However, it is not the optimal solution. Pillar 1 of the OECD’s reform blueprint, which apportions global profits to the countries in which their customers are located, based on the principle that companies must pay tax in every market where they generate value and make profits, makes eminent sense. Yellen’s wish is what OECD has tagged as its Pillar 2. But that is likely to be redundant, if Pillar 1 becomes operational.

Taxation is a sovereign right, and countries need to reconcile differences in their tax systems to arrive at a consensus. The same holds true for taxing the digital economy, much of it without any physical presence in a jurisdiction to generate revenue and profit.

3.Size enemy right: Movement curbs only stop healthcare access and economic activity, not this Covid wave

In a week marked by sharp contrasts, India demonstrated its awesome vaccination capacity notching 4.3 million inoculations in a day, while also recording the highest daily infection count globally. The fatality rate is also uncomfortably high. Clearly 5, 6 or 10 million daily vaccinations are within our reach. Yet we are stumbling badly. Despite beating down the first peak without lockdowns, panicky reactions to the second wave have set in. Markets, consumption trends and service sector pillars like retail chains, hotels and malls have begun to feel the pressure of a new round of lockdowns, movement restrictions and night curfews acutely. A repeat of last year’s dehumanising migrant worker exodus mustn’t happen.

The emergent situation calls for rational responses, with a keen understanding of what each stakeholder can promise and deliver. Indian Medical Association has urged that vaccination be opened to all adults. In response Centre must reveal the constraints, including doses in stock or other limitations of supply, that justify continuing with highly restrictive age-wise inoculation. Citizens will accept government’s explanation and patiently await their turns if production capacity needs ramping up. As of now, however, information asymmetry and over-centralisation make long-term vaccination planning a near impossibility for other stakeholders, even giving states excuses for irrational lockdowns.

Bharat Biotech has reportedly sought Rs 150 crore to expand Covaxin manufacturing capacity. Funds must be sanctioned quickly for all such reasonable demands. Centre must also encourage administrations down the line to innovate local vaccination strategies. Maharashtra wishes to inoculate the 25+ age group, Delhi is looking at all adults. These plans are on hold pending central concurrence, even as several instances of local governments quietly improvising to widen vaccine access are known.

But to be clear, states’ projecting tough love by announcing quasi lockdowns is a cure truly worse than the disease. Take, for instance, preventing Mumbai food delivery executives from working after 8pm. Such whacky moves will not stop the coronavirus but will certainly wound the economy and livelihoods. Instead, states should do themselves a favour by promoting masking and freely distributing masks, pressuring Centre to decentralise vaccination, and improving access to medical facilities, which  the mobility curbs retard. Delhi simultaneously allowing 24×7 vaccination and announcing night curfews exemplifies governance on steroids, as if “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”. We can beat this wave too – but with common sense and civic responsibility, masks and vaccinations at full tilt.

4.Expanding frontiers: Edtech has the potential to partially even out access among students

As the pandemic has accelerated society’s shift towards digitalisation, education has been forced to go online and seen interesting changes. One symptom of the important transition underway is the growing frequency of acquisitions among online education firms, or edtechs. The most recent instance is the acquisition of brick-and-mortar test preparation firm Aakash Educational Services by edtech major Byju’s, in a deal valued at nearly $1 billion. Such animal spirits underline new pathways for improving the quality of education.

India’s edtech companies work around a hybrid model, one that combines offline and online methods of teaching. Schools remain irreplaceable in providing education in a comprehensive sense. Even India’s flourishing tuition market involves in-person lessons. What the advent of edtech may accomplish is to tailor lessons for a diverse universe of students. The diversity is not just on account of language, it also arises from sharp differences in educational quality across schools. The gap between students, which often arises on account of economic inequality, may partially be bridged through the use of technology.

A common thread running through all schools in India is that they don’t prepare students for what follows. The highly competitive environment of entrance tests specifically spawned a coaching industry, with Kota in Rajasthan transforming into an epicentre. Now the pandemic has catalysed an overlap between the offline and online worlds. Forced closures of physical centres have created a situation in which edtech firms tap into the available teaching resources in coaching centres. This trend is bound to accelerate in India’s hybrid edtech models. But while edtechs are a way to partially level sharp differences in the school system, significant overall uplift in learning outcomes can come only when the quality of brick-and-mortar schools everywhere improves. Technology is only an enabler, and only among students who have access to it.

5.Time to clean up Mumbai

 

Politicians use the police for political, financial and personal ends; police officials are happy to serve in return for protection, promotions, and a share of the benefits. Sometimes, one side overreaches — as Mr Vaze, either alone or with top-level sanction, did in this case. And that is when citizens learn of the utter mockery of the rule of the law in the city. Mumbai’s citizens deserve better. Police reforms would be a start.

It started with a bomb scare (near industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s residence, Antilia), turned into a murder (of Hiren Mansukh), revealed the dubious role of a discredited-yet-powerful police official (Sachin Vaze), led to the transfer of the city’s police chief (Param Bir Singh), triggered allegations about a massive extortion racket presided over by the state’s home minister (Anil Deshmukh), deepened cleavages in the ruling alliance (particularly between the Nationalist Congress Party and Shiv Sena), led to multiple investigations by agencies on various facets of the episode (from the National Investigation Agency to the Central Bureau of Investigation), and has, finally, led to a political resignation (Mr Deshmukh). But this must not be the end of the story of the politics-crime saga that has been playing out in Mumbai.

There is a danger, however, that with Mr Deshmukh’s resignation — he should have quit earlier, and finally put in his papers after the Bombay High Court ordered a CBI probe into allegations against him — powerful political interests will seek to bury the matter. And as is characteristic of investigations in India, cases will get prolonged, the news cycle will move on, and all will be forgotten, except as a footnote in a larger story of how Mumbai is misgoverned. But that would be a lost opportunity, for no episode has, in recent times, opened up the possibility of cleaning up the dark networks that dominate Mumbai.

There is, of course, a political subtext here. The Centre would like its agencies to focus only on the corruption allegations to add to the troubles within the ruling alliance, while Maharashtra’s government will underplay its own complicity and allege a conspiracy. But it is important to investigate the underlying structures of corruption at the bottom of the police structure and at the top of the polity — and how they intersect. Politicians use the police for political, financial and personal ends; police officials are happy to serve in return for protection, promotions, and a share of the benefits. Sometimes, one side overreaches — as Mr Vaze, either alone or with top-level sanction, did in this case. And that is when citizens learn of the utter mockery of the rule of the law in the city. Mumbai’s citizens deserve better. Police reforms would be a start.

 

 

 

 

1.Mine Stalled Real Estate for Growth

The latest figures suggest that growth is stalling yet again. Policy must respond by stepping up expenditure from the budget, and prioritising resumption of stalled real estate projects, as these can absorb investment without delay and have the capacity to generate downstream demand for cement, steel, paint, furniture, fittings, curtains, cushions and lots of labour.

Greenfield projects are, indeed, important, but shovel-ready projects are imperative to give the economy the stimulus it requires. The size, structure and scope of the stressed real estate fund surely needs to be promptly revisited on concrete terms, to absorb capital fast. The core sector, which comprises eight segments, has posted its steepest contraction in six months; manufacturing output has hit a seven-month low as per the Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) data.

Back in 2019, Nirmala Sitharaman had announced the setting up of a `25,000-crore Alternative Investment Fund (AIF) to gainfully provide funding for stalled incomplete housing projects. Focused policy measures to shore up funding for the stalled projects now would pay rich dividends and sooner rather than later.

The funds under the special window for affordable and mid-income housing can well be raised from the current Rs10,000 crore to at least twice the figure to better coagulate resources on the ground. Further, the Centre surely needs to open up the stressed real estate fund to overseas investors, on the lines of the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF).

In tandem, foreign direct investment (FDI) norms for real estate require to be liberalised to increase cross-border funds flow. Foreign investments should be exempt from requirements such as a minimum built-up area of 50,000 sq m for development projects or 10 hectares for plotting schemes. Speed is of the essence in unlocking the value in builtup assets identified for a monetisation pipeline, and channelling the funds into fresh projects that fill gaps and create demand for capital and intermediate goods.

2.Welcome Uncle Sam To Global Tax Reform

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen wants a minimum rate of global corporate income tax. It shows US readiness to join the global effort to reform corporate taxation, led by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which has been trying to rally support for ending base erosion and profit shifting and to forge a multilateral pact on digital taxation. Yellen cites a ‘30-year race to the bottom’ in which countries have slashed corporate tax rates to attract multinational companies. MNCs often use differences in tax rates between countries to lower their tax outgo. It erodes the tax base and deprives governments of revenues.

Rightly, Yellen says that competitiveness is a whole lot more than how companies fare against rivals in global M&A bids. Rather, it is about making sure that governments have stable tax systems that raise sufficient revenue to invest in essential public goods and respond to crises. This would entail curbing sharp tax practices. A global minimum tax would level the playing field, somewhat, in the taxation of MNCs. However, it is not the optimal solution. Pillar 1 of the OECD’s reform blueprint, which apportions global profits to the countries in which their customers are located, based on the principle that companies must pay tax in every market where they generate value and make profits, makes eminent sense. Yellen’s wish is what OECD has tagged as its Pillar 2. But that is likely to be redundant, if Pillar 1 becomes operational.

Taxation is a sovereign right, and countries need to reconcile differences in their tax systems to arrive at a consensus. The same holds true for taxing the digital economy, much of it without any physical presence in a jurisdiction to generate revenue and profit.

3.Size enemy right: Movement curbs only stop healthcare access and economic activity, not this Covid wave

In a week marked by sharp contrasts, India demonstrated its awesome vaccination capacity notching 4.3 million inoculations in a day, while also recording the highest daily infection count globally. The fatality rate is also uncomfortably high. Clearly 5, 6 or 10 million daily vaccinations are within our reach. Yet we are stumbling badly. Despite beating down the first peak without lockdowns, panicky reactions to the second wave have set in. Markets, consumption trends and service sector pillars like retail chains, hotels and malls have begun to feel the pressure of a new round of lockdowns, movement restrictions and night curfews acutely. A repeat of last year’s dehumanising migrant worker exodus mustn’t happen.

The emergent situation calls for rational responses, with a keen understanding of what each stakeholder can promise and deliver. Indian Medical Association has urged that vaccination be opened to all adults. In response Centre must reveal the constraints, including doses in stock or other limitations of supply, that justify continuing with highly restrictive age-wise inoculation. Citizens will accept government’s explanation and patiently await their turns if production capacity needs ramping up. As of now, however, information asymmetry and over-centralisation make long-term vaccination planning a near impossibility for other stakeholders, even giving states excuses for irrational lockdowns.

Bharat Biotech has reportedly sought Rs 150 crore to expand Covaxin manufacturing capacity. Funds must be sanctioned quickly for all such reasonable demands. Centre must also encourage administrations down the line to innovate local vaccination strategies. Maharashtra wishes to inoculate the 25+ age group, Delhi is looking at all adults. These plans are on hold pending central concurrence, even as several instances of local governments quietly improvising to widen vaccine access are known.

But to be clear, states’ projecting tough love by announcing quasi lockdowns is a cure truly worse than the disease. Take, for instance, preventing Mumbai food delivery executives from working after 8pm. Such whacky moves will not stop the coronavirus but will certainly wound the economy and livelihoods. Instead, states should do themselves a favour by promoting masking and freely distributing masks, pressuring Centre to decentralise vaccination, and improving access to medical facilities, which  the mobility curbs retard. Delhi simultaneously allowing 24×7 vaccination and announcing night curfews exemplifies governance on steroids, as if “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”. We can beat this wave too – but with common sense and civic responsibility, masks and vaccinations at full tilt.

4.Expanding frontiers: Edtech has the potential to partially even out access among students

As the pandemic has accelerated society’s shift towards digitalisation, education has been forced to go online and seen interesting changes. One symptom of the important transition underway is the growing frequency of acquisitions among online education firms, or edtechs. The most recent instance is the acquisition of brick-and-mortar test preparation firm Aakash Educational Services by edtech major Byju’s, in a deal valued at nearly $1 billion. Such animal spirits underline new pathways for improving the quality of education.

India’s edtech companies work around a hybrid model, one that combines offline and online methods of teaching. Schools remain irreplaceable in providing education in a comprehensive sense. Even India’s flourishing tuition market involves in-person lessons. What the advent of edtech may accomplish is to tailor lessons for a diverse universe of students. The diversity is not just on account of language, it also arises from sharp differences in educational quality across schools. The gap between students, which often arises on account of economic inequality, may partially be bridged through the use of technology.

A common thread running through all schools in India is that they don’t prepare students for what follows. The highly competitive environment of entrance tests specifically spawned a coaching industry, with Kota in Rajasthan transforming into an epicentre. Now the pandemic has catalysed an overlap between the offline and online worlds. Forced closures of physical centres have created a situation in which edtech firms tap into the available teaching resources in coaching centres. This trend is bound to accelerate in India’s hybrid edtech models. But while edtechs are a way to partially level sharp differences in the school system, significant overall uplift in learning outcomes can come only when the quality of brick-and-mortar schools everywhere improves. Technology is only an enabler, and only among students who have access to it.

5.Time to clean up Mumbai

 

Politicians use the police for political, financial and personal ends; police officials are happy to serve in return for protection, promotions, and a share of the benefits. Sometimes, one side overreaches — as Mr Vaze, either alone or with top-level sanction, did in this case. And that is when citizens learn of the utter mockery of the rule of the law in the city. Mumbai’s citizens deserve better. Police reforms would be a start.

It started with a bomb scare (near industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s residence, Antilia), turned into a murder (of Hiren Mansukh), revealed the dubious role of a discredited-yet-powerful police official (Sachin Vaze), led to the transfer of the city’s police chief (Param Bir Singh), triggered allegations about a massive extortion racket presided over by the state’s home minister (Anil Deshmukh), deepened cleavages in the ruling alliance (particularly between the Nationalist Congress Party and Shiv Sena), led to multiple investigations by agencies on various facets of the episode (from the National Investigation Agency to the Central Bureau of Investigation), and has, finally, led to a political resignation (Mr Deshmukh). But this must not be the end of the story of the politics-crime saga that has been playing out in Mumbai.

There is a danger, however, that with Mr Deshmukh’s resignation — he should have quit earlier, and finally put in his papers after the Bombay High Court ordered a CBI probe into allegations against him — powerful political interests will seek to bury the matter. And as is characteristic of investigations in India, cases will get prolonged, the news cycle will move on, and all will be forgotten, except as a footnote in a larger story of how Mumbai is misgoverned. But that would be a lost opportunity, for no episode has, in recent times, opened up the possibility of cleaning up the dark networks that dominate Mumbai.

There is, of course, a political subtext here. The Centre would like its agencies to focus only on the corruption allegations to add to the troubles within the ruling alliance, while Maharashtra’s government will underplay its own complicity and allege a conspiracy. But it is important to investigate the underlying structures of corruption at the bottom of the police structure and at the top of the polity — and how they intersect. Politicians use the police for political, financial and personal ends; police officials are happy to serve in return for protection, promotions, and a share of the benefits. Sometimes, one side overreaches — as Mr Vaze, either alone or with top-level sanction, did in this case. And that is when citizens learn of the utter mockery of the rule of the law in the city. Mumbai’s citizens deserve better. Police reforms would be a start.

 

 

 

 

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