Monday, 2 November 2015

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3 nov 2015

prepared by Ashok Sharma

The Hindu: November 3, 2015 01:39 IST

Misuse of sedition law



Once again the law of sedition has been misused, this time in Tamil Nadu. A folk singer associated with a radical leftist group has been charged with sedition and committing an act with an intent to cause a riot. His offence: disseminating two songs pillorying Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and her government for its policy of retailing liquor. There is nothing in the compositions that even remotely threatens the state or established government; neither is there anything that encourages violence, beyond calling for the closure of state-run liquor outlets as part of a campaign against government policy. The song has gone viral on social media, and many relate to its central theme. The song delineates with a great sense of irony, in tunes that are catchy, the idea of the state selling liquor while at the same time showering the people with freebies. In a sense, it has captured the present patronage paradigm in the political economy wherein the ruling party poses as the provenance of all welfare, but keeps the people disempowered through alcohol addiction and dependent on state doles. The artist, Kovan, whose real name is Sivadas, has managed to capture this reality in his songs. While the tenor of one of the songs, as well as caricatures in its video portraying Ms. Jayalalithaa in poor light, may appear defamatory of an individual, it should be remembered that small radical groups using folk forms for political propaganda communicate in strong, yet easily understandable language.



Powerful political figures ought to have it in them to take such criticism in their stride. They must act to address the underlying grievances rather than use repressive measures. The state's response has been needlessly angry. Kovan's arrest marks yet another instance of a pliant police force invoking Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, which deals with sedition, with utter disregard for several judicial pronouncements limiting its scope. Courts have deprecated the tendency to invoke this grave charge for mere expressions of critical views. The Supreme Court has said that even words that indicate disaffection towards the government cannot be termed seditious, unless there is actual incitement to violence and intention to cause disorder. In this case, it is particularly disgraceful that the Chennai police have equated strident criticism of the Chief Minister with an alleged threat to the government established by law. It was only recently that the Maharashtra government withdrew a controversial circular to the effect that strong criticism of public servants could attract the charge of sedition. In 2012, cartoonist Aseem Trivedi was booked for sedition for a cartoon that highlighted corruption. In Meerut last year, the police initially invoked Section 124A, but later dropped it, against a group of Kashmiri students for, of all things, cheering the Pakistan team during a cricket telecast. Given its repeated misuse, it is time this unwanted, outdated, pre-colonial provision was jettisoned altogether

 

 

 

·        se·di·tion

Conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of a state or monarch.

 

·        dis·sem·i·nate

Spread or disperse (something, especially information) widely.

 

·        pil·lo·ry

Put (someone) in the pillory.

 

·        pil·lo·ry

A wooden framework with holes for the head and hands, in which an offender was imprisoned and exposed to public abuse.

 

·        de·lin·e·ate

Describe or portray (something) precisely

 

·        pa·tron·age

The support given by a patron.

 

·        par·a·digm

A typical example or pattern of something; a model.

 

·        ten·or

The general meaning, sense, or content of something.

 

·        car·i·ca·ture

A picture, description, or imitation of a person or thing in which certain striking characteristics are exaggerated in order to create a comic or grotesque effect.

 

·        stride

Walk with long, decisive steps in a specified direction.

 

·        dep·re·cate

Express disapproval of.

 

 

 

 

The Hindu: November 3, 2015 01:34 IST Erdogan's comeback

 

In a stunning reversal of the June election results, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) has returned with an absolute majority in Turkey. With 49.4 per cent of the popular vote, the AKP has secured 316 seats in the 550-member Parliament, well past the 276 needed to form a government. More important, Mr. Erdogan is now closer to realising his ambition of rewriting the country's Constitution so that his ceremonial presidency could be turned into an executive authority. Even though Mr. Erdogan was not in the electoral fray, the whole focus of the campaign was on the President. Despite his constitutional position that is supposed to be non-partisan, Mr. Erdogan was a regular presence in the campaign. His pitch was stability and security, which the AKP claimed only it could ensure. There were reports that Mr. Erdogan undermined efforts to build a coalition government with the support of smaller parties after the June election so that he could portray the AKP as the only option for a stable government. And he succeeded in making the case that the AKP should be given a stronger mandate.



Even if the AKP has not got enough numbers to change the Constitution, Mr. Erdogan will remain the country's most powerful political leader. But political victories cannot whitewash the damage done to Turkish democracy by his dictatorial tendencies, divisive politics and a foreign policy pinned on regional ambitions. As Prime Minister for 11 years, he not only imposed total control over the AKP, but also weakened institutions that could challenge his authority. Public criticism has not been tolerated. Newspapers have been brought under intense government pressure. The youth protests in Istanbul's Gezi Park against the government were dealt with brutally. The period between the AKP's June election defeat and the November victory is a case in point. Immediately after the electoral loss, Mr. Erdogan took a confrontational approach towards the Kurds. The peace process between the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the government crumbled, while Mr. Erdogan often attacked the left-wing Kurdish political party, the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), as a proxy of the PKK. The bomb blasts and other violent incidents that occurred recently strengthened his narrative that Turkey needs strong hands to tackle its mounting security challenges — making it easier for the AKP to clinch the victory. The ball is now in Mr. Erdogan's court. He can use the mandate to carve out more powers for himself, and thereby further damage the Turkish polity. He can also be mindful of the constitutional limits of the ceremonial presidency and guide the AKP-led government to strengthen democratic institutions and promote peace between the government and the rebels as well as different ethnic groups. The choice he makes will defineTurkey's future.

 

 

·        fray

(of a fabric, rope, or cord) unravel or become worn at the edge, typically through constant rubbing.

 

·        co·a·li·tion

An alliance for combined action, especially a temporary alliance of political parties forming a government or of states

 

·        man·date

An official order or commission to do something.

 

·        white·wash

A solution of lime and water or of whiting, size, and water, used for painting walls white.

 

·        brutally

Viciously: in a vicious manner; "he was viciously attacked"

 

·        con·fron·ta·tion·al

Tending to deal with situations in an aggressive way; hostile or argumentative.

 

·        Kurd

A member of a mainly pastoral Islamic people living in Kurdistan.

 

·        crum·ble

Break or fall apart into small fragments, especially over a period of time as part of a process of deterioration.

 

·        mount

Climb up (stairs, a hill, or other rising surface).

 

·        clinch

Confirm or settle (a contract or bargain).

 

·        man·date

An official order or commission to do something.

 

 

Business Standard

A hero forever



Brijmohan Munjal belonged to a generation of business leaders who built their empires from scratch in an environment with a licence-permit raj and artificially limited markets - a world removed from today's India. But only a handful of industry leaders from that era were able to make a seamless transition into the demands of a post-liberalisation India. The late chairman-emeritus of the Hero Group, who did exactly that, would often tell his friends the following story: In the days of the licence raj, it was easy to get tempted and make money through a licence for a commodity in short supply, such as steel sheets, oil or even power, as these could be traded in the market for a handsome profit. But Hero Group, which had a licence to buy steel sheets, never ever thought of doing that and instead focused on making bicycles. He travelled extensively, not just to acquire knowledge on new technologies and designs, but also to learn the best practices followed by global firms, particularly in Germany.



In the process, Munjal did all that it takes to build an industrial group based on a sustainable business model. His vision allowed Hero Group to rapidly overtake well-established rivals and become the world's largest cycle maker, and Hero Motocorp the world's largest two-wheeler manufacturer by volume. He positioned his motorcycles as more fuel efficient than scooters, which struck a chord with cost-conscious Indian buyers. The "Fill it, shut it, forget it" campaign remains one of the most effective ones in the country's corporate history. In the 1980s, organised dealership networks didn't exist; companies produced and sold through traders. When Munjal changed that system, it was thought to be ahead of its time - but, eventually, that distribution mode became an entry barrier for many of Hero's competitors. His relationship with dealers was so strong that till his last days as chairman, he would remember most of the 1,000-odd dealers of Hero MotoCorp by their first name. Forging partnerships and nurturing them into strong relationships were clearly his hallmarks.



That's not all - when the time came to end a 26-year-old alliance with Honda in 2010, when the latter wanted to launch its own branded motorcycles in India, Munjal took charge of rebuilding the group all over again and decided to replace the Hero Honda brand much earlier than the June 2014 deadline set out in the joint venture agreement. That showed extraordinary self-belief, at a time when the company was trying to come out of the shadow of Honda's technological excellence. Munjal, 92, who passed the baton to his son in June this year, will always occupy a prominent place in India's corporate history for his ability to do all this - and still live a life on the principle that if you work hard and be good to people around you, success in business will follow. After all, in the dog-eat-dog business world, it's not often that you find one of your strongest competitors referring to you as his "business guru." Rahul Bajaj did precisely that not only after Munjal's death, but many times during the great man's lifetime.

 

·        e·mer·i·tus

(of the former holder of an office, especially a college professor) having retired but allowed to retain their title as an honor.

 

·        seam·less

(of a fabric or surface) smooth and without seams or obvious joins.

 

·        tempt

Entice or attempt to entice (someone) to do or acquire something that they find attractive but know to be wrong or not beneficial.

 

·        forge

Make or shape (a metal object) by heating it in a fire or furnace and beating or hammering it.

 

 

Indian Express

Uneasy neighbours



Less than a year ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Neighbourhood First policy was being hailed as a radical new breakthrough. It is clear now, to even the most incorrigible optimists, that the product hasn't delivered on its billing. Nepal's relations with India have sunk to a historic low, with what is perceived as an informal but state-backed blockade incensing large swathes of the country. India has watched from the sidelines as the Maldives prepares to jump into the abyss. Facing a serious threat from jihadist terrorism, the government has instead expended its energies on imprisoning much of the opposition leadership, prosecuting one vice president on charges of trying to assassinate the president, impeaching another, removing two defence ministers, and throwing out two Supreme Court judges. The Modi government has dismantled what it sees as PM Manmohan Singh's flawed policies on Pakistan, but the contours of what it intends to put in its place are still unknown. Bangladesh continues to complain of the lack of counter-terrorism cooperation from West Bengal, among other things. Ties with Sri Lanka, though cordial, haven't shown any exceptional energy or direction. Myanmar, outraged by India's decision to go public with a cross-border raid earlier this year, has been assuaged — but there's no great push on economic ties or strategic cooperation.

The lesson in this is a simple one. For all of Modi's high-energy performances on the international stage, his foreign policy still lacks a script. For the most part, the PM has been content to allow foreign policy bureaucrats to continue down the path of their predecessors. In other cases, he has demanded change — but is yet to articulate what alternate course he wishes to take. In some cases, like Nepal, policy seems to have become hostage to special interests, like Hindutva politicians with interests in Bihar.

Put simply, the Neighbourhood First policy hasn't shaken India out of the torpor that characterised the last years of the UPA government. Manmohan Singh's diminished political authority meant his Sri Lanka policy was hostage to parochial politics in Tamil Nadu, and that he was unable to block West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's successful campaign to sabotage relations with Bangladesh. Manmohan Singh was unable, moreover, to reframe India's policy after the collapse of General Pervez Musharraf's regime, with whom he had made real progress. There's no disputing that Modi brought new energy to these problems. Energy, though, isn't policy.

 

·        hail

Call out to (someone) to attract attention.

 

·        rad·i·cal

(especially of change or action) relating to or affecting the fundamental nature of something; far-reaching or thorough.

 

·        in·cor·ri·gi·ble

(of a person or their tendencies) not able to be corrected, improved, or reformed

 

·        block·ade

An act or means of sealing off a place to prevent goods or people from entering or leaving.

 

·        in·cense

Perfume with incense or a similar fragrance.

 

·        swathe

Wrap in several layers of fabric.

 

·        a·byss

A deep or seemingly bottomless chasm.

 

·        pros·e·cute

Institute legal proceedings against (a person or organization).

 

·        im·peach

Call into question the integrity or validity of (a practice).

 

·        dis·man·tle

Take (a machine or structure) to pieces.

 

·        con·tour

An outline, especially one representing or bounding the shape or form of something.

 

·        out·rage

Arouse fierce anger, shock, or indignation in (someone).

 

·        hos·tage

A person seized or held as security for the fulfillment of a condition.

 

·        tor·por

A state of physical or mental inactivity; lethargy.

 

·        pa·ro·chi·al

Of or relating to a church parish.

 

·        sab·o·tage

Deliberately destroy, damage, or obstruct (something), especially for political or military advantage.

 

Nov 03 2015 : The Times of India (Ahmedabad)

Business After Bihar





Plans for reform push after Bihar elections vital for economic momentum

The Modi government's reported plan to launch a series of policy reforms after polling ends in Bihar on November 5 signals its intent to arrest drift and regain the initiative on the economy. Controversies around cultural nationalism, beef politics economy . Controversies around cultural nationalism, beef politics and growing intolerance threaten to derail the government's economic growth focus. Its back to business pitch, likely to be unveiled in the window between Bihar polls and Parliament's winter session, reportedly includes a revival package for power distribution companies, freeing up labour rules to push job creation and a renewed thrust to infrastructure, possibly with a special focus on railways. It is also looking to simplify FDI policies, revamp the external commercial borrowings policy framework and to make it easier to do business, including through a new and simpler regime for startups.

It's about time. A year and a half after it was sworn in amid a tsunami of hope, the Modi government's promise of acche din is we aring thin. Some of the reforms being talked about now are relatively easy to push through as they don't require legislative approval, only decisiveness on the part of the government.Others are politically trickier.



The government's real challenge is to build bridges with the opposition to push through crucial legislation like the GST Bill or labour law reform. It must reach out to other parties and build political consensus for this. The second big challenge is to follow up these measures with fundamental changes in the Union Budget early next year. The last two budgets did not really set the business imagination on fire and India needs big bang reforms. These are vital as the slowdown in global growth is already impacting negatively on Indian exports. Lower oil prices have buttressed the trade balance so far but a rebound in oil prices could shift the scales.



It is time to delink reforms from the political cycle of state elections. Bihar will be followed by Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Bengal in 2016 and UP in 2017. This means political parties will remain in constant campaign mode. What the NDA must keep in mind is the national election cycle ­ it is expected to deliver economic results when the next Lok Sabha polls come round in 2019.Since reforms take some time to bear fruit, linking difficult policy changes to fluctuating poll fortunes in states will prove counterproductive. It's literally now or never on reforms.



·        drift

Be carried slowly by a current of air or water.

 

·        de·rail

Cause (a train or trolley car) to leave its tracks accidentally.

 

·        un·veil

Remove a veil or covering from, especially uncover (a new monument or work of art) as part of a public ceremony.

 

·        con·sen·sus

General agreement.

 

 

Nov 03 2015 : The Economic Times (Mumbai)

Disinvestment in PSUs: Just Do It





Sell shares to anyone with a provident fund account

The government's reported plan to privatise profit-making public enterprises is welcome. But the move to set up a panel to oversee strategic sales is redolent of a musty bureaucratic culture that sets up a committee when in doubt. The government should move boldly to raise resources through stake sales in blue-chip PSUs, without worrying unduly about timing or pricing. Despite adverse conditions, both the IndiGo and Café Coffee Day public offers were successful, even if retail investors stayed away for a variety of reasons. So, the case is compelling for the government to encourage broad participation by retail investors in the divestment exercise. The public at large must have a share in the wealth created by taxpayer money . The government should also offload stake at regular intervals, instead of bunching divestment moves by waiting for the right level of stock prices.

In the UK, for example, during the Margaret Thatcher years, shares of many companies that were privatised were offered at heavily discounted prices to ensure wider ownership.



Sure, such moves could become cont roversial, but India's earlier experien ce of disinvestment in small tranches to, say, banks and financial instituti ons showed that all of them got decent returns on their investment. The stakeholder base of India's growth story should be broadened. More so at a time when global economic environment is uncertain. The government must reconfigure its assets to meet its fiscal targets.



The government could innovate the means to expand popular participation in disinvestment. A demat account can be opened for every employee enrolled with the Employees Provident Fund Organisation and the National Pension System so that they can be persuaded to participate in the public offer. The government should credit public enterprises' shares offered for sale into the demat accounts of EPFO and NPS subscribers (read, retail investors), unless, of course, they say an explicit no. A lockin period would prevent any takeover by stealth as well, averting charges of favouritism by the state.



·        red·o·lent

Strongly reminiscent or suggestive of (something).

 

·        mus·ty

Having a stale, moldy, or damp smell.

 

·        com·pel·ling

Evoking interest, attention, or admiration in a powerfully irresistible way.

 

·        tranche

A portion of something, especially money.

 

·        a·vert

Turn away (one's eyes or thoughts).

 

 

The Guardian

view on knights and dames: love them or leave them



max Beerbohm once wrote that there would come a moment when knights would constitute a majority of the population and it would be deemed a greater distinction not to be a knight than to be one. Years later he himself arose as Sir Max, cherishing the irony that his satires on the honours system, the nobility and royalty had culminated in that nevertheless desirable tap on his shoulder. His point, perhaps, was that if you have to have an honours system, you ought to have a sense of humour as well.

Honours in Britain these days are a muddle, recognising merit often, but also rewarding political cronies, timeservers, and, of course, generous contributors to party funds. Their mock feudal trappings are a bit of a joke, or a link with the past, according to taste.



In the former dominions, British-style honours have been problematic for a long time. They did not sit well with the more egalitarian societies of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and that was almost made worse, such is the contradictory nature of men, by the fact that they were rather meanly doled out. Come independence, and even before, a process of distancing from the old imperial centre inevitably began. First Canada, then Australia, then New Zealand started their own national honours systems, which co-existed with versions of the old imperial one. New Zealand today still has knighthoods, Canada does not (although there are those who urge they should be restored), while Australia's new prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has just abolished them, only a year after his predecessor, Tony Abbott, had reintroduced them. There is a low-level and not entirely serious culture war in all three countries between those who retain some affection for the monarchy and the British connection, and those whose instincts are more republican.

Australia, in particular, has been trying, and failing, to settle this question for many years. These pesky imperial vestiges have sticking power. New Zealand is finding the process of replacing its British-style flag with something probably fernlike more difficult and delicate than expected. Some Canadians, meanwhile, find it infuriating that Americans can be given British knighthoods while Canadians cannot. To arise or not to arise? Sir Max must be chuckling in his grave.

 

·        knight

(in the Middle Ages) a man who served his sovereign or lord as a mounted soldier in armor.

 

·        sat·ire

The use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

 

·        cul·mi·nate

Reach a climax or point of highest development.

 

·        hon·or

High respect; esteem.

 

·        mud·dle

Bring into a disordered or confusing state.

 

·        cro·ny

A close friend or companion.

 

·        e·gal·i·tar·i·an

Of, relating to, or believing in the principle that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities.

 

·        doled out - given out in portionsdoled out - given out in portions

·        im·pe·ri·al

Of or relating to an empire

 

·        pes·ky

Causing trouble; annoying.

 

·        ves·tige

A trace of something that is disappearing or no longer exists.

 

·        fernlike

Resembling ferns especially in leaf shape; "the ferny shadows of locust leaves"

 

·        chuck·le

Laugh quietly or inwardly.

 

The Newyork Times

Amartya Sen: Women's Progress Outdid China's One-Child Policy



CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — THE abandonment of the one-child policy in China is a momentous change, and there is much to celebrate in the easing of restrictions on human freedom in a particularly private sphere of life. But we need to recognize that the big fall in fertility in China over the decades, for which the one-child policy is often credited, has, in fact, been less related to compulsion and much more to reasoned family decisions in favor of a new norm of smaller families.



This development has been particularly helped by the increasing empowerment of Chinese women through rapid expansion of schooling and job opportunities. What China needs now is further expansion of rethinking within families to overcome "boy preference," which is still widespread, despite being at odds with the success of Chinese women.



This is a good moment to examine what the one-child policy has done — or not done. First, we must question the glib history that China was stuck in the adversity of high fertility rates until the policy changed it all.



The one-child policy was introduced in 1978. But the fertility rate had already been falling rapidly for a decade before that — from an average of 5.87 births per woman in 1968 to 2.98 in 1978. After that huge drop, the fertility rate continued to fall with the new draconian policy in force, but there was no plunge — only a smooth continuation of the falling trend that preceded the restriction. From 2.98 in 1978, the rate has declined to 1.67 now.



Clearly, something more than the one-child policy has been affecting birthrates in China. Statistics that compare different countries, as well as empirical analysis of data from hundreds of districts within India, indicate sharply that the two most potent factors that induce fertility reduction globally are women's schooling and women's paid employment.



There is no mystery in this. The lives that are most battered by over-frequent bearing and rearing of children are those of young mothers, and more schooling and more gainful employment both give young women a greater voice in family decisions — a voice that tends to work in the direction of cutting down the frequency of births. Rapid expansion in China of education, including that of girls, and the enhancement of job opportunities for young women occurred through a series of decades that began well before the introduction of the one-child policy, and they have continued robustly since.



As it happens, fertility rate declines in China have been close to what we would expect on the basis of these social influences alone. China often gets too much credit from commentators on the alleged effectiveness of its harsher interventions, and far too little for the positive role of its supportive policies (including its heavy focus on education and health care, from which many other countries can learn).

So while there are harrowing reports of the hardship created in the lives of many people in China by the enforcement of the one-child policy, it is far from clear that this policy has had a large impact on the fertility rate of the population as a whole.



The removal of the one-child policy may, in fact, have been an easy choice. There is little need for the harshness of this coercive program, given the increasing role of reasoning about family decisions, and particularly the growing empowerment of Chinese women.

This takes us back to a classic disagreement between Thomas Robert Malthus and the Marquis de Condorcet in the 18th century, at the height of the Enlightenment. Condorcet had noted the possibility of terrible overpopulation; Malthus acknowledged that he was following Condorcet in this, but he hugely exaggerated the danger when he rejected Condorcet's reassuring argument that human reasoning would produce a corrective. Condorcet had anticipated the emergence of new norms of smaller family size based on "the progress of reason." Buttressed by the expansion of education, especially for women (of which Condorcet was one of the earliest and most vocal advocates), he argued that people would choose voluntarily to cut the birthrate.



Reasoning in decision making is not exclusive to the West. In China it clearly has played a significant part already in restraining family size. It also has other important roles to play. Despite China's extraordinary social and economic success (not just in economic growth), it has one of the worst records in the world in the selective abortion of female fetuses; the number of girls born per 100 male births has been as low as 85, compared with a normal rate around 95 in countries where there is little or no selective intervention against female birth. Chinese women have made huge progress in most spheres of life, but traditional "boy preference" is still rampant. However, legal remedies against sex-selective abortion, like outlawing it, have been ineffective wherever they have been tried.



What is needed is more reasoning, aided by further use of women's empowerment, against such an arbitrary and dehumanizing bias. Such a change has, in fact, been very successfully achieved in South Korea, which once also had a very low ratio of girls to boys at birth. The cultivation of active public reasoning and wider understanding of the demands of gender equity have produced a huge change there.



China needs to rely even more on the force of reasoning, rather than on legal compulsion. The removal of the one-child policy is surely an important move in that direction. The fact that China's demographic history over the last half-century gives firm evidence of what Condorcet called "the progress of reason" certainly gives ground for optimism. This is all the more important, since China has more challenges to address in this productive way

 

·        a·ban·don·ment

The action or fact of abandoning or being abandoned.

 

·        mo·men·tous

(of a decision, event, or change) of great importance or significance, especially in its bearing on the future.

 

·        glib

(of words or the person speaking them) fluent and voluble but insincere and shallow.

 

·        em·pir·i·cal

Based on, concerned with, or verifiable by observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic.

 

·        in·duce

Succeed in persuading or influencing (someone) to do something.

 

·        bat·tered

Injured by repeated blows or punishment.

 

·        har·row

Draw a harrow over (land)

 

·        ex·ag·ger·ate

Represent (something) as being larger, greater, better, or worse than it really is.

 

·        ramp·ant

(especially of something unwelcome or unpleasant) flourishing or spreading unchecked.

 

 

The Moscow Times

A Battle Is Raging for Russian Foreign Policy (Op-Ed)



President Vladimir Putin takes advice from three distinct groups of foreign policy ideologists who can be labeled warriors, merchants and pious believers. Each of them serves a role, but they have very different views of how Russia should develop.



The president deliberately does not privilege one over another and tries to keep his options open. He is constantly lobbied with dossiers full of proposals and ideas and uses them tactically. Novaya Gazeta newspaper caused a stir earlier this year when it published a memorandum with a scenario for the annexation of Crimea that had been allegedly presented to the Kremlin early in 2014.



It would be wrong to take this as proof of a long-term Kremlin plan to seize the Crimean Peninsula. It is much more likely that the Crimea operation was a last-minute improvisation that drew on a contingency plan. Putin simply pulled the relevant dossier off the shelf and put it into action.



Currently, the "warriors" enjoy the most favor in the Kremlin. They consist not only of officials in the Defense Ministry and the counter-intelligence service, the FSB, but also of men outside the security sector who can be described as "hawks," such as parliamentary speaker Sergei Naryshkin, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and presidential advisor Sergei Glazyev. Pretty much anyone who stands to earn money and privileges if Russia follows an isolationist course can be called a warrior.



It would not be correct to call this group a "Party of War." They are a disparate collection of public figures united by an interest in confrontation, who know that the worse things get with the West, the stronger they will grow. These warriors would be willing to bring their children home from schools in the West, close their foreign bank accounts, and sell their dachas, as this would strengthen their position within Russia.



The "merchants" are most in tune with the ambiguous line currently pursued by the Russian state: seeking neither war nor peace and the maximum possible room for maneuver. Even Putin's current aggressive stance still leaves the door open to a possible U-turn in which the Kremlin seeks reconciliation with the West, praises democracy and Western values.



The merchants are mostly businessmen who emerged in the 1990s or who prospered with Putin's blessing in the 2000s. State sector businessmen have been hurt by Western sanctions and as a result become more reliant on the favors Putin provides. Those in the private sector have suffered less but are minimizing their risks by giving full support to the Kremlin.



The merchants oppose confrontation with the West and want sanctions to be lifted as quickly as possible. Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin has complained about the falling capitalization of his company. Gennady Timchenko has redistributed his assets in order to minimize losses. According to oligarch Oleg Deripaska, "we need to work for a de-escalation of tensions with the U.S. … and with Europe."



Potanin and Deripaska remain completely loyal to Putin, accepting that his 90 percent approval rating will not change. But they are afraid that sanctions will stretch into the long term. "We can't leave Europe and the U.S., and they can't leave us," said Potanin. For him the West is a difficult partner, but a partner nevertheless.



Even though the warriors and the merchants both back Putin, they differ strongly on domestic Russian policy. Veteran market reformer Anatoly Chubais keeps up a dialogue with opposition leader Alexei Navalny, whom much of the establishment would like to see behind bars. Potanin calls telecommunications magnate Dmitry Zimin a "real patriot" just as a television documentary on NTV labels him an agent of the U.S. State Department.



The third group, the pious believers, makes a louder noise than the others, but has a smaller influence. It consists of the Orthodox Church, zealous parliamentarians, propagandists, and religious activists. Warmongering is their sacred duty. Social aggression and hatred is their raison d'etre — and a useful practical tool for the Kremlin.



The believers give the regime a solid base in society. The ideology of the new Putinism rests on traditional values, religious faith and contempt for Western lifestyle and civilization.



The stock of the believers is highest when the West attacks Russia, when Russia's enemies twist Putin's arm and trample on its national interests. The more enemies Russia has, the greater their freedom of action, their budgets, and their career potential. But, unlike the warriors, the believers want the West to stay accessible so they can wage ideological combat there. A harsher confrontation with the West would make redundant the army of spin doctors who are currently fighting propaganda battles in the decadent West.



Putin presides over and above all these different conglomerates. He views them as actors in a play he knows well. The warriors are a powerful resource, the merchants are subjects with a certain political potential, and the believers are a Greek chorus who make threatening noises. In Putin's mind, all of them can co-exist.



However, it is unlikely that the warriors and the merchants will always agree to the limited roles assigned to them. If it ever develops into a real political force, a Party of War would acquire a separate identity and begin to make the Kremlin dependent on its actions. The merchants are fed up with the new trends and aspire to play a more long-term political role. So Putin's biggest foreign policy dilemma is whether he wants to fight or to do business

 

·        pi·ous

Devoutly religious.

 

·        dos·si·er

A collection of documents about a particular person, event, or subject.

 

·        lob·by

Seek to influence (a politician or public official) on an issue.

 

·        stir

Move a spoon or other implement around in (a liquid or other substance) in order to mix it thoroughly.

 

·        con·tin·gen·cy

A future event or circumstance that is possible but cannot be predicted with certainty.

 

·        hawk

A diurnal bird of prey with broad rounded wings and a long tail, typically taking prey by surprise with a short chase.

 

·        da·cha

A country house or cottage in Russia, typically used as a second or vacation home.

 

·        ma·neu·ver

A movement or series of moves requiring skill and care.

 

·        warmongering

A policy of advocating war

 

·        com·bat

Fighting between armed forces.

 

The Dawn

Business rankings



OUT of 10 benchmarks that the World Bank uses to compile its "ease of doing business" rankings, Pakistan has improved its score in only one. And even that is the relatively easy one of "dealing with construction permits".



The overall decline by two positions of Pakistan's place in the "ease of doing business" rankings is yet another dent in the credibility of a party that has prided itself as being business-friendly.



The slip in the rankings is most telling in those categories where the slide is the largest. For example, starting a business has become more difficult since last year, as well as availing credit from the formal sector.



Resolving insolvency issues has also slipped, as has the protection of minority business owners and trading across borders.



None of this will come as a surprise to those who already have stakes in the economy.



Even though some uptick in activity is seen in a few sectors, with construction and associated industries such as cement leading the way, the overall business climate in the country has largely failed to improve in the two and half years of rule by the PML-N.



Bread-and-butter economic issues such as enforcement of contracts or access to credit have not been addressed, and in the case of the latter, the data actually shows a massive crowding out of the private sector from bank credit, where the state is lifting almost the entirety of the bank's available liquidity.



Much of the legislation required to improve contract enforcement, such as the Corporate Rehabilitation Act and the Corporate Restructuring Companies Act, still await passage into law.



Tax procedures need to be simplified, and even after identifying which processes can be reformed to reduce the burden of filing returns, and the introduction of an e-filing system, the government has failed to make serious headway in these areas.



The languid pace of the economic revival, not to mention its lopsided nature, under the current dispensation, owes itself at least in some measure to these failures.



The real test of a government is not in the numbers but on the ground, in the kinds of sentiments it can inspire amongst those who have the means to acquire stakes and take risks in the economic environment created by the administration's policies.



Thus far, the government appears to be failing this test, as exemplified by the low rate of investment and the decline in the rankings.



 

 

·        dent

A slight hollow in a hard, even surface made by a blow or by the exertion of pressure.

 

·        up·tick

A small increase.

 

·        en·force·ment

The act of compelling observance of or compliance with a law, rule, or obligation.

 

·        lan·guid

(of a person, manner, or gesture) displaying or having a disinclination for physical exertion or effort; slow and relaxed.

 

 

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