For Free Universal Vaccination Against Covid-19

OF all the decisions taken by the Modi government the most mindless has been the so-called “liberalisation” of vaccine distribution. Originally, the central government was the sole buyer from the two producing firms at a fixed price of Rs150 per dose, and then, while itself distributing them free to the people,also usedother channels for distribution, including private hospitals (who however charged Rs250 per dose because they had to pay the central government for the vaccines).

The Scandal of Covid-Vaccine Pricing

WHEN the country is grappling with the worst health crisis it has faced in a century, the Covid-vaccine producers have decided to seize the opportunity to go on a profiteering spree, taking advantage of the Modi government’s  incompetence or complicity (call it what you will).Two issues have to be distinguished at the outset: one, what should be the price for the Covid vaccine that consumers should be paying; and there can be little doubt that this price should be zero, as even Dr Arvind Subramaniam, a former chief economic adviser under the Modi regime has pointed out.

Biden’s Package and Its Pitfalls

US President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion rescue package is one of the most ambitious measures to revive the US and, with it, the world economy. Coming on the heels of Trump’s $2 trillion package last year and a further $900 billion package announced in December 2020, it seeks not just to provide relief from the pandemic but to start a new boom in the US which, it is expected, will have spill-over effects for the world as a whole, notwithstanding the protectionist measures against imports introduced in the US under Donald Trump.

Ruling Classes and Concern for the Poor

WHEN Elizabeth Warren a contender for American presidentship had proposed a progressive wealth tax during her campaign for Democratic Party nomination, 18 American billionaires had come out in support of her proposal; one cannot recall or even imagine any comparable behaviour in the Indian context. This is not because the American, or more generally Western, capitalists are particularly kind or generous towards those whom they exploit.

The IMF’s True Colours

THE Covid-19 crisis has seen a very different response from the advanced countries compared to the third world countries. The former have unrolled substantial fiscal packages for rescue and recovery while the latter have been trapped in fiscal austerity. Among third world countries, India’s fiscal package has been perhaps the most niggardly, amounting to no more than one per cent of GDP; but even other third world countries have not fared all that much better.

The Modi Government and the Public Sector

THE Modi government has made no secret of its intention to hand over India’s public sector to its favoured corporate houses and foreign multinationals. And this is backed not by any economic argument, but rather by its desire to raise resources for government expenditure, thereby betraying both its utter ignorance of economics and its bloody-minded determination to favour its crony corporate houses.The public sector in India emerged out of the anti-colonial struggle.

Fiscal Policy in a Bind

EVEN the blinkered BJP government sees the need for a fiscal policy that would stimulate the economy by increasing government expenditure; but it finds itself in a bind since it does not know how to finance such larger government expenditure. Simply spending more by borrowing, that is, by enlarging the fiscal deficit, is frowned upon by international finance capital, and our government, notwithstanding its much advertised “hyper-nationalism”, does not have the gall to violate the dictates of globalised finance.

Mass Movement as a Teacher

PARTICIPATION in a non-divisive mass movement, i.e., one that is not directed against some other segment of the people, of which the struggle for improving the material conditions of life is a classic example, is the greatest teacher of the values of democracy and unity.