Sunday, July 05, 2015

Political correctness vs Islamic fundamentalism

Nick Cohen writes about the brave secularist Bangladeshi bloggers:

Liberals in Bangladesh are therefore on both Islamist death lists and police arrest lists. If killers with meat cleavers don’t get them, cops with warrants will. To Bangladesh’s shame, the state has threatened friends and allies of Ahmed and Roy with prison for the crime of “hurting religious sentiments” and jeopardising “communal harmony”.

Lenin said: “The capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.” Islamists must feel the same about the “moderate” governments they want to destroy. Instead of taking extremists on and upholding human rights, Bangladesh justifies extremism by turning on the liberal critics of religion and treating them as criminals. In one of the most pathetic interviews you’ll ever read, Sajeeb Wazed, the son of Sheikh Hasina told Reuters that his mother had found it prudent to offer only private condolences to Roy’s family after his assassination. Although “we believe in secularism”, the wretched man explained, the prime minister could not make a public stand “because our opposition party plays that religion card against us relentlessly, we cannot come out strongly. It’s about perception, not about reality.” (Incidentally, they are both related to Tulip Siddiq, the new Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn.)

Avijit Roy lost his life because he wanted to change reality, not perception. He knew the dangers, but knew too that there are fights that cannot be ducked. “Those who think victory will be realised without any bloodshed are living in a fool’s paradise,” he wrote before his death. “We risk our lives the moment we started wielding our pens against religious bigotry and fundamentalism.”
Compare the bravery of Bangladeshi intellectuals with the attitude of the bulk of the western intelligentsia. Whole books could be written on why it failed to argue against the fascism of our age – indeed I’ve written a couple myself – but the decisive reason is a fear that dare not speak its name. They are frightened of accusations of racism, frightened of breaking with the consensus, frightened most of all of violence. They dare not admit they are afraid. So they struggle to produce justifications to excuse their dereliction of duty. They turn militant religion into a rational reaction to poverty or western foreign policy. They maintain there is a moral equivalence between militant religion and militant atheism.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Water use: top 10 countries in 2010

From an IMF publication (PDF):
The 'Agricultural Land Area' heading is wrong, it is the total land area of the country.  Noteworthy are that Pakistan is the most water-intensive (water used per unit of GDP) country, and that India's per capita water use is so much higher than China's. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Life as a dhimmi - 16

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A formula for a successful school

This National Public Radio story on Brimley Elementary School in Brimley, Michigan should be listened to; but at least read the transcript.

Salient points below:
Brimley Elementary serves two groups that often struggle academically. Of the 300 students, more than half are Native American. Many come from low-income families.
At this school, American Indian students are outperforming other Natives in the state. The school as a whole performs above the statewide average for all schools, and on some tests, the low-income students are performing at the same level as kids from wealthier families.
First-graders who are having a tough time with reading and writing get one-on-one time with a specialist. There's an intervention teacher for kids in fourth, fifth and sixth grades — they mostly focus on math. There are teachers' aids to help out in all the kindergarten, first- and second-grade classrooms. And class sizes are small, averaging 22 kids.
There's one more thing. The teachers are constantly assessing their students to make sure they're where they need to be.
And based on the assessments, the bottom one-third of students get a lot of extra help and support.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

India: Japan's Softbank investing in Solar Power

Widely reported in the media,

The Japanese telecoms giant Softbank has announced plans to invest around $20 billion in solar-energy-power projects in India, joining forces with the country’s Bharti Enterprises and Taiwan’s Foxconn as the Indian government targets a massive expansion in the country’s solar output from some 3 gigawatts today to 100 gigawatts by 2022.

Announcing Softbank’s plans, the company’s chief executive Masayoshi Son said, “India can become probably the largest country for solar energy,” Reuters reports.

“India has two times the sunshine of Japan. The cost of construction of the solar park is half of Japan. Twice the sunshine, half the cost, that means four times the efficiency,” Son said. The Softbank venture is aiming at generating least 20 gigawatts of energy — a goal which, if realized, will be a significant boost to Modi’s plans to develop India’s renewable energy infrastructure.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Arun Jaitley at the American Enterprise Institute

Link to the AEI page (no transcript yet).


My commentary:

The questions posed to Arun Jaitley reflect the right-wing ideological bent of the AEI.   They wanted to know whether it is appropriate to compare Modi to Reagan or Thatcher.   They wanted to know whether Jaitley would recommend the Indian-model or Chinese-model to an African finance minister.  And so on.  Basically, I perceive an American right-wing need to use any Indian economic  success as a way of promoting their ideological compulsions with the American electorate, and worldwide, too.

In his responses, Jaitley was very non-ideological.  He said that the problem in India that the government has to address is the 25-30% of people who are in poverty and often in distress, and thus cannot be Reaganesque or Thatcherite.  He must do the 300 small doable things rather than the one big ideological statement that will run into controversy and block everything else.  That every country must assess its own problems and figure out how to address them based on its circumstances. 

A good example is when Jaitley pointed out that he can count on the support of public sector banks for the financing of infrastructure projects and for creating bank accounts for the hundreds of millions of people not covered in the banking sector; the private sector banks are not able to deliver.  So he is in no rush to privatize the public sector banks; he is committed to reducing government equity in those banks. (See this news-item as to why the 125 million new bank accounts are such a big deal.  Among other things, leakage in subsidies to poor people for things like cooking gas or kerosene can be eliminated by government direct-deposit into their bank account.) 

The contrast with the questions Jaitley met with in the Council on Foreign Relations session are marked.  The audience in the CFR wanted to know how Jaitley would address specific problems.  The AEI audience seemed to want to know how Jaitley would advance a free market ideology.  At least in this session, it seemed to me that Jaitley is more interested in solving the problems faced by India's people than adhering to ideological purity. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

China-India comparison

In terms of size of economy in nominal dollar terms, India today is where China was in 2005. (I'm not sure I have it in constant dollars).   In terms of growth rate, China was clocking 10-11% growth rates around 2005, India is today at 7.5-7.8%.  In terms of trade, China's exports of goods and services in 2005 were 37% of GDP (World Bank ).  India's today (2013) is 25.2% of GDP.  Incidentally, China's today (2013) is 26.4% of GDP.   China's foreign exchange reserves reached a trillion dollars in October 2006.  India's today are around $350 billion.  China was running huge trade surpluses, India is running at a deficit.

China's growth around 2005 was very much export-led.  I'm not sure how to characterize India's growth.

In 2005, China's domestic credit to the private sector was 113% of GDP.  Today (2013) India's is 52% of GDP. ( )

India Power Sector

Via BRF, some tidbits:

1. With 40,000 MW of stalled projects coming online soon, states are scrambling to upgrade their transmission infrastructure.

2. First time in India's history annual power generation crossed 1 trillion units.

3. CEA's data for April 2015 installed capacity (PDF).  The comment added is:
Total nationwide installed capacity: 272.687GW . Between January and April, the number went up from 258GW to 272GW, a significant gain of 14GW in just one quarter. That's equal to the entire operational electricity capacity of a certain unfriendly neighbouring western country, added in a single quarter.