Virulence and variance: On post-pandemic economic strains

The IMF’s latest update to its World Economic Outlook spotlights the starkly widening variance in the global recovery from the economic strains caused by the pandemic. And the primary fault line precipitating the divergence of the world’s economies into two blocs — those that are normalising activities from the COVID-19-induced curbs and those that are still struggling — is vaccine access and the pace of vaccination coverage. Three months since its April forecast, the IMF projects the global economy to expand at an unchanged pace of 6% this year. But it sees the world’s advanced economies registering faster growth than forecast earlier, while emerging markets and developing economies are expected to post appreciably slower recoveries. The IMF projects Advanced Economies to grow by 5.6% in 2021, 0.5 percentage point quicker than forecast in April. Undergirding this anticipated acceleration, the U.S. economy is seen expanding by 7% — a 0.6 percentage point upgrade — on the back of an

Probing Pegasus: On the snooping row

The institution of a judicial probe by the West Bengal government into allegations of surveillance using advanced spyware on potential Indian targets marks a significant political and legal pushback against the Union government’s attempts to deny the global media revelations and diminish the potent threat such practices pose to democracy. Given Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s penchant for the dramatic and her endless run-ins with the Centre, it may be easy to dismiss the act of a State government ordering an inquiry into what could be a large-scale intelligence-gathering programme of a state actor as mere political chutzpah. However, in the context of the Centre and the ruling BJP’s aggressive refusal to cede any ground on the growing demand for a credible probe into the use and misuse of Pegasus spyware, the West Bengal inquiry acquires both legal and political salience. The Union government claims that illegal surveillance is not possible in India and has not specifically admitted

Dangerous conflagration: On Assam-Mizoram border clash

Following a dangerous and avoidable escalation of an otherwise dormant border dispute, five policemen and a civilian from Assam were killed in the Mizo border town of Vairengte in clashes between police from the State and their counterparts in Mizoram, on Monday. The sequence of events, beginning October 2020, suggests that what began as skirmishes between residents close to the disputed border between Assam’s Cachar and Mizoram’s Kolasib districts has snowballed into a violent confrontation between police and residents. The events point to a failure of the constitutional machinery, empowered to de-escalate tensions at the border. The presence of central paramilitary forces should have helped maintain the peace, but it is curiously not the case. Besides, Assam and Mizoram are governed by the BJP and its ally, the Mizo National Front, respectively, and are part of North-East Democratic Alliance, of which the Assam Chief Minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma, is a founder-convenor. The political


Crisis in Tunis: On Tunisian politics

Tunisian President Kais Saied’s decision to sack the Prime Minister and suspend Parliament, amid widespread anti-government protests, has triggered the worst political crisis in the country since the Arab Spring protests. Among the countries affected by the Arab street protests, Tunisia was the only one that managed to successfully transition from dictatorship to parliamentary democracy. But the North African country’s elected rulers never managed to ease its economic woes, or offer stable governance. Tunisia has had nine governments since 2011, with its crisis-hit economy being battered further by the COVID-19 outbreak — last year, its GDP contracted by 8.8% in real terms. The trigger now is the government’s poor handling of the pandemic. The country of 11.8 million has recorded nearly 18,000 COVID-related deaths so far — one of the highest per capita death rates in the world. Only 7% of the population are fully vaccinated. Last week, the government’s move to speed up vaccination by


Change at the helm: on Yediyurappa's resignation

By unseating B.S. Yediyurappa from the Chief Minister’s chair in Karnataka, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has set in motion a new strategy for its consolidation in the State. Considering that this change of guard has been in the making for a while, the party must have accounted for the ramifications. The BJP had to change its Chief Minister in Uttarakhand twice within a span of four months recently, pointing to the pitfalls in effecting changes even when they are premeditated. Mr. Yediyurappa is no pushover and remains agile and active even at the age of 78. He has already said he would remain active in politics. At least for now, he has no intention of crossing swords with the central leadership of the party, which gave him the marching orders. But the Lingayat community that he belongs to has left no opportunity to express its displeasure. Community leaders and seers have come out openly in support of the displaced Chief Minister. Lingayats form the axis of the BJP’s social base

Wounded mountains: on Himachal landslide tragedy

A climate risk: On extreme weather events

Money changer: On need for an official digital currency

Limits of cooperation: On reforms in cooperative sector

In search of gold: On Tokyo Olympics

Dealing with denial: On playing down the COVID-19 tragedy

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