ECONOMIC NOTES

Destitution, Hunger and the Lockdown

ON March 24, 2020, Narendra Modi had announced that the country would go into a lockdown after four hours! This nation-wide lockdown was to last till the end of May, after which there were local lockdowns but not a general one. It brought acute hardship to millions of the working poor, among whom the migrant workers’ woes received global attention.

Patents versus the People

ON October 2, 2020, even before any vaccines against Covid-19 had been approved, India and South Africa had proposed to the WTO that a temporary patent waiver should be granted on all such innovations. In the following months, 100 countries had supported this demand. And on May 5, the US, usually the most ardent defender of the patent system, agreed to a temporary patent waiver on anti-Covid vaccines, committing itself to “text-based negotiations at the WTO”.

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 Resurgence of Inflation

THE official wholesale price index for March 2021, which was released a few days ago shows it to be 7.39 per cent higher than for March 2020. Such a high rate of inflation has not been seen in India for over 8 years. It was only in October 2012 that the country had witnessed a 7.4 per cent inflation over the corresponding month of the previous year.

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.

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