Dow Tumbles 876 Points And Stocks Enter Bear Market On Worries Of Drastic Rate Hikes

US stocks have plunged into a bear market as Wall Street investors grew increasingly nervous about the prospect of even harsher medicine from the Fed to take the sting out of inflation.

The Dow (INDU) sank 876 points or 2.8%. The Nasdaq was down by 4.7% and has tumbled more than 10% in the past two trading sessions.

The broader S&P 500 fell 3.9%. That index is now more than 20% below its all-time high set in January, putting stocks in a bear-market.

Recession fears mounted after Friday’s miserable Consumer Price Index report showed US inflation was significantly higher than economists had expected last month. That could make the Federal Reserve’s inflation-control efforts more difficult.

After raising rates by a half point in May — an action the Fed hadn’t taken since 2000 — Chair Jerome Powell pledged more of the same until the central bank was satisfied that inflation was under control. At that point, the Fed would resume standard quarter-point hikes, he said.

But after May’s hotter-than-expected inflation report, Wall Street is increasingly calling for tougher action from the Fed to keep prices under control. Jefferies joined Barclays on Monday in predicting that the Federal Reserve would hike rates by three-quarters of a percentage point, an action the Fed hasn’t taken since 1994.

“After holding their breath for nearly a week awaiting the US CPI report for May, investors exhaled in exasperation as inflation came in hotter than expected,” Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA, said in a note to clients Monday morning.

Stovall said the risk of larger hikes dragged the markets lower Monday.

Investors fear two outcomes, neither of them good: Higher rates mean bigger borrowing costs for businesses, which can eat into their bottom lines. And overly zealous action from the Fed could unintentionally plunge the US economy into a recession, especially if businesses start laying off workers and the red-hot housing market crumbles.

There’s no sign that the job and housing markets are in danger of collapse, although both are cooling off somewhat.

In an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria Sunday, former Fed Chair Ben Bernanke said a US recession remains possible. But Bernanke said he had faith that Powell and the Fed could achieve a so-called soft landing, the elusive outcome in which the central bank can cool the economy down to get inflation under control without slowing it down so much that it enters a recession.

“Economists are very bad at predicting recessions, but I think the Fed has a decent chance — a reasonable chance — of achieving what Powell calls a soft-ish landing, either no recession or a very mild recession to bring inflation down,” Bernanke said.

Analysts appeared to move beyond a “buy the dip” mentality on Monday, signaling that they don’t see markets recovering quickly.

“Valuations aren’t much cheaper given rising interest rates and a weaker earnings outlook, in our view,” wrote strategists at BlackRock in a Monday notes. “A higher path of policy rates justifies lower equity prices. Plus, margin pressures are a risk to earnings.”

BlackRock will remain neutral on stocks for the next six- to 12-months, the strategists said.

Bears and bulls

The S&P 500 closed in a bear market, so the bull run that started on March 23, 2020 has come to an end. But, because of the tricky way these things are measured, the bear market technically began on January 3, when the S&P 500 hit its all-time high.

That means the latest bull market lasted just over 21 months — the shortest on record, according to Howard Silverblatt, S&P Dow Jones Indices senior index analyst. Over the past century, bull markets have lasted an average of about 60 months.

The shortest bull market followed the shortest bear market, one that lasted just over a month — from February 19 to March 23, 2020. Bear markets historically last an average of 19 months, according to Silverblatt.

Stocks briefly fell into a bear market on May 20, although a late-day rally rescued the market from closing below that threshold for the first time since the early days of the pandemic.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq has been in a bear market for some time and is now more than 32% below its all-time high set in November 2021. The Dow is still some way from a bear market. It has fallen about 16% from the all-time high it reached on the last day of 2021.

Gasoline Price Exceeds $5 Per Gallon In Most States

The average U.S. price of regular-grade gasoline spiked 39 cents over the past three weeks to $5.10 per gallon, media reports here suggested. The average price at the pump is $1.97 higher than it was one year ago.

Nationwide, the highest average price for regular-grade gas is in the San Francisco Bay Area, at $6.55 per gallon. The lowest average is in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at $4.43 per gallon. According to the survey, the average price of diesel rose 20 cents over three weeks, to $5.86 a gallon.

Industry analyst Trilby Lundberg of the Lundberg Survey said Sunday that the price jump comes amid higher crude oil costs and tight gasoline supplies.

Skyrocketing gas prices and the high inflation rate, which is 40 year high, are a glaring problem for the White House with no clear, immediate solution, presenting a major political challenge for Biden and Democrats going into the midterms. The Labor Department’s consumer price index rose 1 percent last month alone and 8.6 percent in the 12-month stretch ending in May.

Eighty-five percent of voters said they think inflation is a very serious or somewhat serious problem, according to an Economist-YouGov poll from earlier this month. In the same poll, 44 percent of respondents said Biden has “a lot” of responsibility for the inflation rate and 31 percent said he has “some.”

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told CBS News this week that Americans should brace for a rough summer, with a top energy agency predicting fuel prices may not come down to less than $4 per gallon until the fall or winter.

“There will be some relief on the horizon, but during the summer driving season, it is going to be rough, no doubt about it, because we have such a demand and supply mismatch on the global market for oil,” Granholm said.

The president and his administration have pointed to steps they’ve taken in recent months to try to pump the brakes on rising gas prices.

Biden has ordered the release of millions of barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to boost supply, pushed for nations in the Middle East to boost production, lifted restrictions on the sale of fuel with higher ethanol content, and promoted renewable energy sources such as electric vehicles and solar power.

But the reality, as even some Biden administration officials acknowledge, is the president has little sway over day-to-day gas prices, which are often at the mercy of global supply chains and have been impacted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“This is, in large part, caused by [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s aggression,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said on CNN this week. “Since Putin moved troops to the border of Ukraine, gas prices have gone up over $1.40 a gallon, and the president is asking for Congress and others for potential ideas. But, as you say, the reality is that there isn’t very much more to be done.”

Republican strategist Doug Heye argued the Biden administration has had a lackluster response to inflation that has contributed to the hit his approval rating has taken and the low marks he has received on the economy.

“There seems to be, on some of these issues, just a shrugging of the shoulders, and that’s why you see, overwhelmingly, Biden’s handling of the economy is unpopular,” he said. “Obviously what’s happened in Ukraine has caused a spike, and there’s nothing wrong with talking about that, but that seems to be the entire explanation when inflation has gone up every month that Biden has been president.”

Biden has stressed that he is sympathetic to the impact of high inflation on American families. “I understand Americans are anxious, and they’re anxious for good reason,” he said in remarks at the Port of Los Angeles. “Make no mistake about it: I understand inflation is a real challenge to American families,” he added. “Today’s inflation report confirmed what Americans already know: Putin’s price hike is hitting America hard. Gas prices at the pump, energy and food prices account for half of the monthly price increases since May.”

He called on Congress to pass legislation to cut shipping costs and the costs of energy bills and prescription drugs as well as tax reform so big corporations pay more. Part of the challenge for the White House, however, is that many Americans don’t realize Biden doesn’t control gas prices, said Matt Bennett, a strategist with centrist think tank Third Way.

“I think he needs to get caught trying to do everything possible. Haul the CEOs of the oil companies in to the White House and demand that they tell him exactly what they need to get production up in the short term,” Bennett said.

The White House said it was shifting gears toward a monthlong campaign in June to talk up the economy and to show the White House is prioritizing inflation while pushing the positives it has delivered on the economy.Biden reiterated that the U.S. is dealing with inflation from a position of strength, touting again the low unemployment rate.

Democratic strategist Antjuan Seawright argued that the president’s focus on the positives of the economy will resonate with voters in the midterm elections this fall. “From a messaging standpoint, I think [Democrats] have to demonstrate district by district, race by race, what efforts we have done to save the economy,” Seawright said. “Make sure we tell the story and not let the story be told about us.”

Warren Buffet Warns Of A 50% Fall In Stock Market Buffet Told Investors That They Should Be Prepared For A 50 Per Cent Fall In The Shares

Veteran investor Warren Buffett has tremendous experience in the stock market that makes everyone trust his forecasts. Not only this, he has earned a lot of wealth from the stock market. Now amidst the ongoing volatility in the stock market, he has asked to be prepared for a fall of up to 50 per cent in the shares.

Warren Buffett has shared a video on Instagram. In this video he is giving advice to the investors investing in the stock market. He told investors that they should be prepared for a 50 per cent fall in the shares. This video has been shared on Instagram with the handle Warret Buffet Videos.

He said that when Berkshire’s stock fell, there was nothing wrong with the company. He said that the mind of the investor should be right. Otherwise, your life will be spent in buying and selling shares at the wrong time and you will continue to cry for loss. Investors take decisions on the advice of others when prices fluctuate.

They say that if you cannot keep investing in a stock for a long time, then you should not buy it. He says that just as you keep the farm with you for a long period, in the same way you need to be financially and psychologically prepared to hold the shares. Buffett had also said during an interview that you should invest in only those companies, which he understands. They should expect that the company’s shares will give good returns in the long run.

Warren Buffett takes the help of three rules to buy shares. He says that the first rule is that the company should have a good income on the amount invested in the business. Second, the management of the company should be in the hands of honest and skilled managers. Third the company’s share price should be correct.

APPLE Leads Among Top 100 Global Firms’ Whose Market Value Reaches $31.7 Trillion

The market capitalization of the top 100 companies globally increased from $10.3 trillion to $31.7 trillion, an increase of 48 per cent, from March 2020 till March 2021, a new report said on Sunday.

Apple topped the list with $2.85 trillion in market cap, followed by Saudi Aramco, Microsoft, Alphabet and Amazon, according to the data provided by London-based accounting company PwC.

Apple regained its crown as the world’s largest company by market capitalisation with a valuation 6 per cent and 13 per cent ahead of Saudi Aramco and Microsoft, respectively.

Reliance Industries (at 58th position) and Tata Consultancy Services (69th spot) were the only two companies from India in the global list.

There were no direct entrants to the ‘Global Top 100’ companies via IPO despite a buoyant IPO market.

“The threshold to enter the list is now $129 billion, potentially creating a barrier to future entrants via IPO,” the report noted.

Samsung Electronics Co was the world’s 22nd-largest company in terms of market capitalization, down seven notches from a year earlier.

The tech giant was the only South Korean company on the list with a market value of $342 billion, as of March.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. came in 10th, with its market cap reaching $541 billion, up by one notch from a year earlier.

Amazon’s market capitalisation increased by 61 per cent in the year to March 2021, supported by the growing “stay-at-home economy” seen throughout 2020 and into 2021, although Amazon did not move up from fourth position.

Elon Musk-run Tesla’s market capitalisation increased from $96 billion in March 2020 to $641 billion in March 2021, an astonishing 565 per cent increase and a clear outlier in the top 10 risers.

All regions and component countries experienced a relative increase in market capitalisation of the companies listed in the ‘Global Top 100’.

In-line with expectations, the United States continues to dominate the ‘Global Top 100’ list in terms of market capitalization and number of companies, with 59 companies accounting for 65 per cent of total market capitalization, the data showed.

Technology continues to be the largest sector in terms of market capitalisation ($10.5 trillion).

Global Top 100 Technology companies saw a 71% increase as compared to their value as at March 2020, in-line with the wider industry index performance.

“As a point of comparison, in the private company domain, half of the Top 100 unicorns valued at $1 billion and above (at 31 March 2021) were from the US, broadly in line with the ‘Global Top 100′ of public companies,” the report noted.

The value of the top 100 unicorns grew by 30 per cent to $1.1 trillion in the year to March 2021, behind the public companies’ market capitalisation increase in the same period (49 per cent).

Elon Musk’s Twitter Deal Likely To Fail

With Elon Musk issuing his most direct threat yet to walk away from his purchase of Twitter (TWTR) on June 6th, openly accusing the social media company of breaching the merger agreement by not providing the data he has requested on spam and fake accounts, the proposed deal is likely to fail, reports here suggest.

In a letter to Twitter’s head of legal, policy and trust, Vijaya Gadde, Musk alleged that Twitter is “actively resisting and thwarting his information rights” as outlined by the deal.  “This is a clear material breach of Twitter’s obligations under the merger agreement and Mr. Musk reserves all rights resulting therefrom, including his right not to consummate the transaction and his right to terminate the merger agreement,” an attorney representing Musk wrote to the company.

Musk’s letter speculated that Twitter may be “withholding the requested data due to concern for what Mr. Musk’s own analysis of that data will uncover.”

Meanwhile, Twitter Inc said on Friday last week that the waiting period under the HSR Act for Elon Musk’s $44-billion acquisition of the social media firm has expired. Completion of the deal is now subject to remaining customary closing conditions, including approval by Twitter stockholders and the receipt of applicable regulatory approvals, Twitter said.

The HSR Act, or the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act, requires parties to report large transactions to both the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division for review.

Musk has demanded that Twitter turn over information about its testing methodologies to support its claims that bots and fake accounts constitute less than 5% of the platform’s active user base, a figure the company has consistently stated for years in boilerplate public disclosures. Musk has also called for doing his own independent assessment based on Twitter data.

Shares of Twitter fell 5% in early trading Monday. Even before the latest development, Twitter stock was trading well below Musk’s takeover offer of $54.20 per share, likely indicating investor skepticism about the deal going through.

Twitter’s CEO, Parag Agrawal, has stood by his company’s longtime spam metric. In a statement Monday, the company said: “Twitter has and will continue to cooperatively share information with Mr. Musk to consummate the transaction in accordance with the terms of the merger agreement.” The company also said it intends to “close the transaction and enforce the merger agreement at the agreed price and terms.”

Musk has alleged that the true number of spam accounts is likely much more, potentially as high as 90%. Musk has previously said the acquisition “cannot move forward” until the company provides “proof” of its spam metric.

Some Wall Street analysts have said this pushback may be a case of buyer’s remorse and an effort to pressure Twitter into negotiating a lower price for the $44 billion deal. There have been questions from the start about how Musk would finance the acquisition. Social media stocks have also taken a hit in recent weeks amid broader market jitters.

The letter also claimed Twitter had sought to restrict access to the information by interpreting the merger agreement narrowly, such that providing the information would fall outside the scope of Twitter’s contractual requirements. But the letter charged that even by Twitter’s narrowed definitions, it still has an obligation to furnish the information.

In a separate securities filing, Twitter previously disclosed that Musk had waived a due diligence clause in the deal that could have made it easier for him to back out of the agreement; without it, Musk could face a tougher climb, and the prospect of litigation. In making the agreement to buy Twitter, Musk has made spam bots on the platform a central issue. He has vowed to defeat them or “die trying,” even as he has described Twitter as being vital to “the future of civilization.”

The Buzzy New Drinking Trend: Alcohol-Free Booze

Non-alcoholic alternatives to booze have been around for a while. But recently, the sector has been booming.  For a long time “you had ‘near beer,’ which was kind of a joke,” said Duane Stanford, editor of Beverage Digest. “People would be discreet about drinking them. And now that’s completely changed.”

The non-alcoholic trend started to pick up a year or two before the pandemic, with no-alcohol bars catering to the so-called “sober curious” popping up in some cities, and has continued to grow at a rapid clip.

In recent years, major alcohol companies including Heineken, AB InBev and Molson Coors have started offering more zero alcohol options. Smaller brands, such as Athletic Brewing, which makes non-alcoholic craft beer, and Seedlip, which makes booze-free liquor alternatives, have also arrived on the scene.

A non-alcoholic martini. Seedlip “started to gain momentum a few years ago and continues to today,” said Lizzy Freier, director of menu research and insights at food service consulting firm Technomic.

Mentions of Seedlip on drink menus has grown 100% year-over-year, Freier said, adding that “we’re now starting to see some new alcohol-free spirits show up on the market, especially in independent restaurants.”

Non-alcoholic booze alternatives are still a tiny market compared to regular alcoholic beverages. But while alcohol sales slip, sales of their alcohol-free counterparts are soaring.

In the year ending May 14, US retail sales of non-alcoholic spirits grew 116% to $4.5 million, according to NielsenIQ. Alcoholic spirit sales slipped about 1% to just under $21 billion.

In that same period, non-alcoholic beer jumped 21% to $316 million and non-alcoholic wine rose 20% to $50 million. Traditional beer sales fell 4% to about $46 billion, and sales of alcoholic wine declined 6% to nearly $20 billion.

Stanford sees it this way: As interest in non-alcoholic alternatives rises, there’s a greater imperative for brands to deliver better products as more of them launch.

“There is a real market force now to go and create those solutions and to really work at it,” he said. “There’s money to be made. So people are figuring it out.”

But, Stanford added, “I do wonder what the natural ceiling is for these products, because you don’t have the functionality of alcohol.” In other words, how many people really want booze without the buzz?

Going out, but drinking less

Demand for non-alcoholic alternatives has been largely driven by younger consumers who want to drink less but aren’t interested in abstaining from alcohol altogether, Stanford said.

“They’re not necessarily teetotaling. In fact, most of them aren’t,” he said. “They do drink alcohol, but they’re just trying to moderate.”

A non-alcoholic beer or cocktail might appeal to consumers who, for example, are observing Dry January. Or maybe they want to stay out late with friends, but keep drinking to a minimum. Perhaps they have to drive home, or are trying to avoid a hangover. Or they are aware of alcohol’s negative health effects, and want to consume less in general.

Those drinkers could always reach for a seltzer or a soda, of course. But non-alcoholic beverage makers are positioning their products as more sophisticated and flavorful. And, with colorful cans and festive packaging, they’re designed to help non-drinkers blend in.

“The biggest market play we’re seeing is this emphasized idea that customers can still gather, celebrate and enjoy a good drink while still abstaining from alcohol, whether that be for lifestyle choices or personal reasons,” Freier said.

Erin Flavin, seated facing the table, started researching non-alcoholic alternatives to booz when she quit drinking.

Erin Flavin found herself imbibing more than she wanted to during the pandemic. So in October 2020, she decided to quit drinking. Sick of seltzer, she explored other options.

“I started out with teas,” she said. She discovered Rishi Tea & Botanicals, which makes a line of “sparkling botanicals” drinks. They come in flavors like grapefruit quince, dandelion ginger and elderberry maqui, made with red wine grape skins.

“I was drinking that a lot, in a beautiful glass, and still having my little ritual at the end of the night,” she said. “That really helped.” Last year, she started selling some non-alcoholic drinks at her Minneapolis hair studio, Honeycomb Salon. She plans to open a non-alcoholic liquor store soon.

While some, like Flavin, took stock of their drinking habits during the pandemic, others had been thinking about alcohol alternatives for years.

Non-alcoholic beers get crafty

For Ben Jordan, it was challenging to find something flavorful but non-alcoholic to drink when he’d go to get-togethers while at graduate school, about a decade ago.

“I was wanting to drink beer at parties and in social environments, but didn’t want the effects of ethanol,” he told CNN Business. At the time, the non-alcoholic beer options were “pretty bad,” he said.

So he set out to find a solution, eventually co-founding ABV Technology, which sells and rents machines that remove alcohol from beer to craft breweries, enabling them to get in on the trend. ABV Technology also offers its products to distilleries and wineries. The company was incorporated in 2017, and Jordan is its CEO.

One surprising incentive for craft brewers deciding whether to invest in non-alcoholic beers? The hard seltzer craze.

Once ABV Technology’s machines remove alcohol from beer, that booze can then be used for hard seltzers. For a brewer, that affords the option of turning alcoholic beer into two products: non-alcoholic beer and trendy hard seltzer.

Ben Jordan, CEO of ABV Technology, Jordan predicts that in the United States, non-alcoholic beer could end up making up a fifth of the total US beer market.  “Things look very positive for the non-alcoholic beer industry right now,” he said.

But there are challenges ahead, especially as consumers cope with soaring inflation. Non-alcoholic beer, wine and spirits don’t come cheap.

Bottles of non-alcoholic spirits are priced in the $20 to $30-range on Amazon. And a can of non-alcoholic beer costs about the same, if not more, than the same sized-can of regular beer, Jordan said.

A sliver of the population may be willing to pay that amount for that alternative, Stanford said.

“Upwardly mobile, young consumers who want these kinds of products for specific lifestyle reasons — as long as you’re offering them quality and something that they actually want to hold and be seen with, they will pay those prices,” he said.

But getting money-conscious skeptics on board? “The challenge is, you’re gonna have to convince them that the quality is there,” Stanford said, “that they’re going to look cool drinking it, and they’re going to want to be seen with it.”

Noida To Have India’s Largest Airport

Tata Projects will construct the Noida International Airport in Greater Noida. Yamuna International Airport Private Limited is a 100% subsidiary of Swiss developer Zurich Airport International AG and has been incorporated as a Special Purpose Vehicle to develop Noida Airport

Tata Group’s infrastructure and construction arm, Tata Projects, has bagged the contract to construct the upcoming Noida International Airport at Greater Noida’s Jewar, in Uttar Pradesh.

As part of the contract, Tata Projects will construct the terminal, runway, airside infrastructure, roads, utilities, landside facilities and other ancillary buildings at the airport, Yamuna International Airport Private Limited (YIAPL) said in a statement today.

Yamuna International Airport Private Limited is a 100 per cent subsidiary of Swiss developer Zurich Airport International AG and has been incorporated as a Special Purpose Vehicle to develop Noida International Airport.

In 2019, Zurich Airport International AG won the bid to develop the airport. The Uttar Pradesh government signed the concession agreement with Yamuna International Airport Private Limited on October 7, 2020, to commence the development of the Noida International Airport.

Noida International Airport will be India’s largest airport once constructed fully.

The greenfield facility, spread in 1,334 hectares, will have a single-runway operation in the first phase with a capacity to handle 12-million passengers per annum at an investment of ₹ 5,700 crore.

“YIAPL has selected Tata Projects Ltd to undertake the Engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) of Noida International Airport. The company has been selected from three shortlisted teams with demonstrated experience in the design, procurement, and construction of large infrastructure projects,” the statement said.

The new airport is expected to be functional by 2024, as per the developer. With the closure of the EPC contract, the first phase of the airport is on track to be delivered within three years of the commencement of the concession period, YIAPL said.

“We are pleased to partner with Tata Projects for EPC work at Noida International Airport. With the award of this contract, our project enters the next phase, which will witness a rapid increase in the pace of construction activities on site,” said Christoph Schnellmann, Chief Executive Officer, Yamuna International Airport Private Limited.

The company, together with Tata Projects, is working to deliver a passenger terminal, runway, and other airport infrastructure with a capacity of 12 million passengers annually, by 2024, he said.

“Tata Projects will work closely with Yamuna International Airport Private Limited to deliver the airport on time. We will deploy the latest technologies in its construction, while meeting the highest standards of quality, safety, and sustainability,” said Vinayak Pai, CEO and MD-designate at Tata Projects Ltd.

Comments Tata Projects’ other major projects include the New Parliament Building, Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link, and metro rail lines across various cities, as per the statement.

AAPI’s 40th Convention To Feature Prominent CEOs From Around World

The Healthcare industry in the United States and around the world is rapidly changing, leading to many describing the healthcare environment as dynamic, complex, and highly uncertain. The manner in which the health care environment is perceived and characterized is important for several reasons. Higher-performing health care providers and organizations are those that are, among other characteristics, able to understand and manage uncertainty and ambiguity in their environments.

With a view to helping AAPI members better understand the recent trends in the delivery of healthcare to millions across the nation, the forthcoming 40th annual convention, organized by the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) from June 23rd to 25th, 2022 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, San Antonio, TX is planning a high power CEO Forum, featuring experts and leaders in the healthcare industry, Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President of AAPI announced.

Conceived and developed by Dr. Joseph M. Chalil and Mr. Bob Miglani, and building on the successful experiences of the past several years of the popular CEO Forum at the 40th edition of AAPI’s annual Convention, to be attended by world renowned healthcare leaders will address: “The Future of Healthcare: Technology, Transformation and Beyond.”

“Continuing on the successful experiences of the past several years of the prestigious CEO Forums, AAPI is pleased to announce the HealthCare CEO Forum, which will focus and deliberate on two extremely important challenges of Global contemporary relevance, and harness the vast reservoir of intellect and experience in this group to help provide solutions and direction,” Dr. Miglani said.

“Thought leaders from Healthcare, Pharmaceutical and Technological Companies will discuss ways to ensure that lower cost and effective medicines with the highest quality in an ever changing world utilizing the latest technologies,” said Dr. Chalil.

Featured speakers at the Forum are; Rebecca Seidel, President, Cardiac Ablation Solutions- Medtronic; Samuel Conaway, President, Worldwide Sales of Boston scientific; Robert Mattacchione, Chairman, CEO of Novo Integrated Sciences; Dr. Ingrid Vasiliu- Feltes, CEO, Softhread inc.; Dr. Prem Reddy, CEO, Prime Health Care; and, Dr. Juby Jacob-Nara, Vice President, Sanofi; Dr. Monika Kapur, CEO University Medical Associates

Dr. Ravi Kolli, President-Elect of AAPI will provide introductory remarks to this exclusive Forum, which will be moderated by Dr. Joseph M. Chalil and Mr. Bob Miglani, who have ensured the continuity of this Forum, which is now a signature event at the Convention.

“With the changing trends and statistics in healthcare, both in India and US, we are refocusing our mission and vision, AAPI would like to make a positive meaningful impact on the healthcare delivery system both in the US and in India,” Dr. Ravi Kolli-President-Elect of AAPI says.

“The CEO Forum will focus on the changing trends in the healthcare sector and how they impact the providers, hospitals and corporations as well as the patients,” said Dr. Kusum Punjabi, Chair of AAPI BOT. “The Forum will also offer insights into managing efficiently the growing costs in the delivery of healthcare services.”

“The 2022 AAPI Annual Convention & Scientific Assembly offers the participants at the convention a rare platform to interact with and listen to leading physicians, healthcare professionals, academicians, scientists, and leaders of the hospitals, technology , medical device and pharmaceutical companies,” said Dr. Anjana Samadder, Vice President of AAPI.

“The annual convention this year is being hosted by local chapter, Texas India- American Physicians’ s Society, San Antonio. The annual convention offers extensive academic presentations, recognition of achievements and achievers, and professional networking at the alumni and evening social events,” said Dr. Jayesh Shah, Chair, AAPI Convention & Past President of AAPI.  “A pool of dedicated AAPI leaders are working hard to make the Convention a unique event for all the participants,” he added.

“AAPI has made its presence felt across the nation, through its many roles it plays and the several noble causes and programs its supports both here in the US and in India, and is now set to take this largest ethnic group of physicians in the United States to the next level of continued growth and stability,” Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Secretary of AAPI said.

“From being an ethnic organization, committed to the cause of ethnic Indian American physicians and many noble causes that we advocate for, AAPI’s role has come to be recognized as vital among AAPI members, the larger Indian American community, and among Lawmakers,” said Dr. Krishan Kumar, Treasurer of AAPI.

Representing the interests of the over 120,000 physicians of Indian origin, leaders of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), the largest ethnic organization of physicians, for 40 years, AAPI Convention provides a platform for medical education programs and symposia with world renowned physicians on the cutting edge technology in medicine.

Dr. Gotimukula pointed out: “Physicians and healthcare professionals from across the country and internationally will convene and participate in the exchange of medical advances, to develop health policy agendas, and to encourage legislative priorities in the years to come. We look forward to welcoming you in San Antonio!”  For more details, and sponsorship and exhibits opportunities, please visit:  www.aapiconvention.org   and www.aapiusa.org

A New Billionaire Has Been Minted Almost Daily During The Pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic has been good for the wallets of the wealthy. Some 573 people have joined the billionaire ranks since 2020, bringing the worldwide total to 2,668, according to an analysis released by Oxfam on Sunday. That means a new billionaire was minted about every 30 hours, on average, so far during the pandemic.

The report, which draws on data compiled by Forbes, looks at the rise of inequality over the past two years. It is timed to coincide with the kickoff of the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, a gathering of some of the wealthiest people and world leaders.

Billionaires have seen their total net worth soar by $3.8 trillion, or 42%, to $12.7 trillion during the pandemic. A large part of the increase has been fueled by strong gains in the stock markets, which was aided by governments injecting money into the global economy to soften the financial blow of the coronavirus.

Much of the jump in wealth came in the first year of the pandemic. It then plateaued and has since dropped a bit, said Max Lawson, head of inequality policy at Oxfam.

At the same time, Covid-19, growing inequality and rising food prices could push as many as 263 million people into extreme poverty this year, reversing decades of progress, Oxfam said in a report released last month. “I’ve never seen such a dramatic growth in poverty and growth in wealth at the same moment in history,” Lawson said. “It’s going to hurt a lot of people.”

Benefiting from high prices

Consumers around the world are contending with the soaring cost of energy and food, but corporations in these industries and their leaders are benefiting from the rise in prices, Oxfam said.

Billionaires in the food and agribusiness sector have seen their total wealth increase by $382 billion, or 45%, over the past two years, after adjusting for inflation. Some 62 food billionaires were created since 2020.

Meanwhile, the net worth of their peers in the oil, gas and coal sectors jumped by $53 billion, or 24%, since 2020, after adjusting for inflation.

Davos is back and the world has changed. Have the global elite noticed?

Forty new pandemic billionaires were created in the pharmaceutical industry, which has been at the forefront of the battle against Covid-19 and the beneficiary of billions in public funding.

The tech sector has spawned many billionaires, including seven of the 10 world’s richest people, such as Telsa’s Elon Musk, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Microsoft’s Bill Gates. These men increased their wealth by $436 billion to $934 billion over the past two years, after adjusting for inflation.

Tax the rich

To counter the meteoric growth in inequality and help those struggling with the rise in prices, Oxfam is pushing governments to tax the wealthy and corporations.

It is calling for a temporary 90% tax on excess corporate profits, as well as a one-time tax on billionaires’ wealth.

The group would also like to levy a permanent wealth tax on the super-rich. It suggests a 2% tax on assets greater than $5 million, rising to 5% for net worth above $1 billion. This could raise $2.5 trillion worldwide.

Wealth taxes, however, have not been embraced by many governments. Efforts to levy taxes on the net worth of the richest Americans have failed to advance in Congress in recent years.

Infosys Raises CEO Salil Parekh’s Salary By 88% To Rs 79.75 Crore Per Annum

Infosys CEO Salil Parekh’s salary has been increased to Rs 79.75 crore per annum, which is 88 per cent higher from his previous salary of Rs 42.50 crore, said the company’s annual report for fiscal 2022.

This makes him one of the highest paid executives in India. The company provided the sharp hike citing industry-leading growth in the recent years.

It said that any comparison of CEO’s salary should be seen in the context of the company’s performance and stock price growth. The firm said it considered key factors such as total shareholder return, rise in market cap and growth while recommending his reappointment and change in remuneration.

As per the company’s annual report released on Thursday, the new employment agreement, which is subject to shareholder approval, will come into effect on July 2.

For fiscal FY22 that ended in March, Parekh took home a salary of Rs 71 crore, as per reports. However, of the total Rs 52 crore came from exercising restricted stock units granted to him before.

The latest round of hike comes days after the company reappointed him as MD and CEO for five more years starting from July 1.

“Under his leadership the total shareholder return (TSR) was an impressive 314 per cent, the highest among peers. Revenue has grown from Rs 70,522 crore (fiscal 2018) to Rs 1,21,641 crore (fiscal 2022), a compound annual growth rate of 15 per cent (versus nine per cent for the four years before that) and the profits have also increased from Rs 16,029 to Rs 22,110 crore,” the company said.

Further, the company said it has more than doubled the share of digital revenue from 25.5 per cent FY18 to 57.0 per cent FY22. (IANS)

Fighting Inflation Excuse For Class Warfare

A class war is being waged in the name of fighting inflation. All too many central bankers are raising interest rates at the expense of working people’s families, supposedly to check price increases.

Forced to cope with rising credit costs, people are spending less, thus slowing the economy. But it does not have to be so. There are much less onerous alternative approaches to tackle inflation and other contemporary economic ills.

Short-term pain for long-term gain?
Central bankers are agreed inflation is now their biggest challenge, but also admit having no control over factors underlying the current inflationary surge. Many are increasingly alarmed by a possible “double-whammy” of inflation and recession.

Nonetheless, they defend raising interest rates as necessary “preemptive strikes”. These supposedly prevent “second-round effects” of workers demanding more wages to cope with rising living costs, triggering “wage-price spirals”.

In central bank jargon, such “forward-looking” measures convey clear messages “anchoring inflationary expectations”, thus enhancing central bank “credibility” in fighting inflation.

They insist the resulting job and output losses are only short-term – temporary sacrifices for long-term prosperity. Remember: central bankers are never punished for causing recessions, no matter how deep, protracted or painful.

But raising interest rates only makes recessions worse, especially when not caused by surging demand. The latest inflationary surge is clearly due to supply disruptions because of the pandemic, war and sanctions.

Raising interest rates only reduces spending and economic activity without mitigating ‘imported’ inflation, e.g., rising food and fuel prices. Recessions will further disrupt supplies, aggravating inflation and worsening stagflation.

Wage-price spirals?
Some central bankers claim recent instances of wage increases signal “de-anchored” inflationary expectations, and threaten ‘wage-price spirals’. But this paranoia ignores changed industrial relations and pandemic effects on workers.

With real wages stagnant for decades, the ‘wage-price spiral’ threat is grossly exaggerated. Over recent decades, most workers have lost bargaining power with deregulation, outsourcing, globalization and labour-saving technologies. Hence, labour shares of national income have declined in most countries since the 1980s.

Labour market recovery, even tightening in some sectors, obscures adverse overall pandemic impacts on workers. Meanwhile, millions of workers have gone into informal self-employment – now celebrated as ‘gig work’ – increasing their vulnerability.

Pandemic infections, deaths, mental health, education and other impacts, including migrant worker restrictions, have all hurt many. Contagion has especially hurt vulnerable workers, including youth, migrants and women.

Workers’ share of national income, 1970-2015

Ideological central bankers
Economic policies by supposedly independent and knowledgeable technocrats are presumed to be better. But such naïve faith ignores ostensibly academic, ideological beliefs.

Typically biased, albeit in unstated ways, policy choices inevitably support some interests over – even against – others. Thus, for example, an anti-inflation policy emphasis favours financial asset owners.

Politicians like the notion of central bank independence. It enables them to conveniently blame central banks for inflation and other ills – even “sleeping at the wheel” – and for unpopular policy responses.

Of course, central bankers deny their own role and responsibility, instead blaming other economic policies, especially fiscal measures. But politicians blaming central bankers after empowering them is simply shirking responsibility.

In the rich West, governments long bent on fiscal austerity left the heavy lifting for recovery after the 2008-2009 global financial crisis (GFC) to central bankers. Their ‘unconventional monetary policies’ involved keeping policy interest rates very low, enabling corporate shenanigans and zombie business longevity.

This enabled unprecedented increases in most debt, including private credit for speculation and sustaining ‘zombie’ businesses. Hence, recent monetary tightening – including raising interest rates – will trigger more insolvencies and recessions.

German social market economy
Inflation and policy responses inevitably involve social conflicts over economic distribution. In Germany’s ‘free collective bargaining’, trade unions and business associations engage in collective bargaining without state interference, fostering cooperative relations between workers and employers.

The German Collective Bargaining Act does not oblige ‘social partners’ to enter into negotiations. The timing and frequency of such negotiations are also left to them. Such flexible arrangements are said to have helped SMEs.

Although Germany’s ‘social market economy’ has no national tripartite social dialogue institution, labour unions, business associations and government did not hesitate to democratically debate crisis measures and policy responses to stabilize the economy and safeguard employment, e.g., during the GFC.

Dialogue down under
A similar ‘social dialogue’ approach was developed by Australian Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke from 1983. This contrasted with the more confrontational approaches pursued in Margaret Thatcher’s UK and Ronald Reagan’s USA – where punishing interest rates inflicted long recessions.

Although Hawke had been a successful trade union leader, he began by convening a national summit of workers, businesses and other stakeholders. The resulting Prices and Incomes Accord between the government and unions moderated wage demands in return for ‘social wage’ improvements.

This consisted of better public health provisioning, pension and unemployment benefit improvements, tax cuts and ‘superannuation’ – involving required employees’ income shares and matching employer contributions to a workers’ retirement fund.

Although business groups were not formally party to the Accord, Hawke brought big businesses into other new initiatives such as the Economic Planning Advisory Council. This consensual approach helped reduce both unemployment and inflation.

Such consultations have also enabled difficult reforms – including floating exchange rates and reducing import tariffs. They also contributed to the developed world’s longest uninterrupted economic growth streak – without a recession for nearly three decades, ending in 2020 with the pandemic.

Social partnerships
A variety of such approaches exist. For example, Norway’s kombiniert oppgjior, from 1976, involved not only industrial wages, but also taxes, salaries, pensions, food prices, child support payments, farm support prices, and more.

‘Social partnerships’ have also been important in Austria and Sweden. A series of political understandings – or ‘bargains’ – between successive governments and major interest groups enabled national wage agreements from 1952 until the mid-1970s.

Consensual approaches undoubtedly underpinned post-Second World War reconstruction and progress, of the so-called Keynesian ‘Golden Age’. But it is also claimed they have created rigidities inimical to further progress, especially with rapid technological change.

Economic liberalization in response has involved deregulation to achieve more market flexibilities. But this approach has also produced more economic insecurity, inequalities and crises, besides stagnating productivity.

Such changes have also undermined democratic states, and enabled more authoritarian, even ethno-populist regimes. Meanwhile, rising inequalities and more frequent recessions have strained social trust, jeopardizing security and progress.

Policymakers should consult all major stakeholders to develop appropriate policies involving fair burden sharing. The real need then is to design alternative policy tools through social dialogue and complementary arrangements to address economic challenges in more equitably cooperative ways.

Dislodging China, US Becomes India’s Biggest Trading Partner

The US has surpassed China to become India’s top trading partner in 2021-22, according to the data of the commerce ministry. The India-US bilateral trade stood at $119.42 billion, a sharp jump from $80.51 billion in 2020-21.

India’s exports to the US grew from $51.62 billion in 2020-21 to $76.11 billion in 2021-22. Similarly, imports rose from about $29 billion to $43.31 billion over the same period.

India-China trade also grew during the period but with a lower rate, from $86.4 billion in 2020-21 to $115.42 billion in 2021-22. India’s export to China increased only marginally, from $21.18 billion to $21.25 billion in 2021-22. Imports jumped from about $65.21 billion in 2020-21 to $94.16 billion in 2021-22.

India’s trade deficit with China continued to grow, from $44 billion in 2020-21 to $72.91 billion in 2021-22.  The US is, however, one of the few countries with which India has a trade surplus. In 2021-22, India recorded a positive trade balance of $32.8 billion with the US.

China was India’s top trading partner from 2013-14 till 2017-18 and also in 2020-21. Before that the UAE was the country’s largest trading partner. The UAE was the third largest trading partner of India in 2021-22 with $72.9 billion of trade, followed by Saudi Arabia ($42,85 billion), Iraq ($34.33 billion) and Singapore ($30 billion).

With the ongoing geo-strategic churning that is witnessing economic and strategic realignment, Trade experts believe that the trend of increasing India-US bilateral trade will continue in the coming years. Several top global firms are reducing their overwhelming dependence on China for business. During 2021-22, India’s two-way commerce with China aggregated at $115.42 billion as compared to $86.4 billion in 2020-21, the data showed.

Exports to China marginally increased to $21.25 billion last fiscal year from $21.18 billion in 2020-21, while imports jumped to $94.16 billion from about $65.21 billion in 2020-21. Trade gap rose to $72.91 billion in 2021-22 from $44 billion in previous fiscal year. Trade experts believe that the trend of increasing bilateral trade with the US will continue in the coming years also as New Delhi and Washington are engaged in further strengthening the economic ties.

Federation of Indian Export Organisations Vice President Khalid Khan said India is emerging as a trusted trading partner and global firms are reducing their dependence only on China for their supplies and are diversifying business into other countries like India.

In 2021-22, the UAE with $72.9 billion, was the third largest trading partner of India. It was followed by Saudi Arabia ($42,85 billion), Iraq ($34.33 billion) and Singapore ($30 billion).

“In the coming years, the bilateral trade between India and the US will continue to grow. India has joined a US-led initiative to set up an Indo-Pacific Economic Framework and this move would help boost economic ties further,” Khan said. America is one of the few countries with which India has a trade surplus. In 2021-22, India had a trade surplus of $32.8 billion with the US. —With PTI

World’s Largest Whiskey Bottle Sold For $1.4 Million

A nearly 6-foot tall bottle of Scotch whiskey, the largest in the world, sold for $1.375 million at auction this week. The single-malt whiskey was distilled at The Macallan in Speyside, Scotland, in 1989, according to auction house Lyon and Turnbull.

The bottle, called the Intrepid, was filled last year and subsequently named the largest bottle of whiskey in the world by Guinness World Records. It contains 444 standard bottles, or 68.41 gallons, worth of whiskey.

Team Intrepid & Explorers Dwayne Fields FRGS, Karen Darke MBE, Will Copestake and Olly Hicks on the day of Guinness World Record Certification. Fah Mai and Rosewin Holdings Plc

Daniel Monk, of Fah Mai and Rosewin Holdings, decided to launch the project “in memory of his father Captain Stanley Monk (the auction day would have been his 80th birthday), and inspired by his passion for adventure, exploration and a desire to help raise money for several charities,” Lyon and Turnbull said.

The Intrepid was named for “11 of the world’s most pioneering explorers who are featured on the bottle,” including Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, Dr. Geoff Wilson and Karen Darke MBE. And “the project is supporting the explorers’ chosen environmental, physical and mental well-being charities,” according to the auction house.

The record-breaking bottle sold at auction Wednesday to an anonymous buyer. Several “exclusive bottle sets and miniatures” of the same whiskey used in the Intrepid were also sold, the auction house said.

“We are all delighted with this result,” said Jon Land, Rosewin Holdings’ director of operations. “Over the past two and a half years, this giant bottle and everything it stands for has allowed us to gain exposure for exploration, following dreams, and general positivity in a challenging global climate. Thanks especially go to the 11 explorers, and we hope they have benefitted from being part of this bonkers project.”

With DGCA Nod, Jet Can Fly Now

Jet Airways  was granted the airline operating permit (AOP) or licence by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) last week, more than three years after it suspended operations in April 2019. The airline, which is expected to start operations by September, bought Air Sahara initially in April 2007 for Rs 1,450 crore though the deal fell through and was finally concluded in 2013 for Rs 2,300 crore.The DGCA has granted  Jet Airways NSE 4.98 % its air operator’s certificate (AOC), officially paving the way for the grounded airline to take to the skies once again.

The grant of the AOC was the final step in a comprehensive regulatory and compliance process involving several procedural checks for the airline’s operational readiness.

Directorate General of Civil Aviation chief Arun Kumar told PTI the AOC has been granted to the airline, which saw turbulent times before being grounded three years ago.

In its old avatar, the airline was owned by Naresh Goyal and had operated its last flight on April 17, 2019, due to financial distress. The Jalan-Kalrock Consortium is currently the promoter of Jet Airways. The airline intends to restart commercial flight operations in the July-September quarter.

With DGCA officials on board, the airline had successfully operated five proving flights on May 15 and 17. Proving flights are the last step before an airline can obtain an AOC.

In a statement, Jet Airways said with the receipt of the AOC, the Jalan-Kalrock Consortium has fulfilled all the conditions under the resolution plan approved by the National Company Law Tribunal.

“Aircraft and fleet plan, network, product and customer value proposition, loyalty program, and other details will be unveiled in a phased manner over the coming weeks,” it noted.

Additional senior management appointments will be unveiled in the next week, and hiring for operational roles will also now commence in earnest, with former Jet Airways staff getting preference wherever possible, it said.

Murari Lal Jalan, the lead member of Jalan-Kalrock Consortium, said, ”Today marks a new dawn for not just Jet Airways, but also for the Indian aviation industry.”

“We are committed to making this an extraordinary success story in Indian aviation and in Indian business,” he added.

Financial distress forced Jet Airways, which flew for more than two decades, to suspend operations on April 17, 2019 and a consortium of lenders, led by State Bank of India, filed an insolvency petition in June 2019 to recover outstanding dues worth over Rs 8,000 crore.

In October 2020, the airline’s Committee of Creditors approved the resolution plan submitted by the consortium of the UK’s Kalrock Capital and the UAE-based entrepreneur Murari Lal Jalan.

In June 2021, the resolution plan was approved by the NCLT.

Rise of the Super Rich & Fall of the World’s Poor

Michael Bloomberg, the three-term Mayor of New York city and a billionaire philanthropist, was once quoted as saying that by the time he dies, he would have given away all his wealth to charity – so that his cheque to the funeral undertaker will bounce for lack of funds in his bank account.

Sounds altruistic – even as the number of billionaires keep rising while the poorest of the world’s poor keep multiplying.

The latest brief by Oxfam International, titled “Profiting from Pain” and released May 23, shows that 573 people became new billionaires during the two-and-a half-year Covid 19 pandemic —while the world’s poverty stricken continued to increase.

“We expect this year that 263 million more people will crash into extreme poverty, at a rate of a million people every 33 hours,” Oxfam said.

Billionaires’ wealth has risen more in the first 24 months of COVID-19 than in 23 years combined. The total wealth of the world’s billionaires is now equivalent to 13.9 percent of global GDP. This is a three-fold increase (up from 4.4 percent) in 2000, according to the study.

Asked about the philanthropic gestures, Gabriela Bucher, Executive Director of Oxfam International, told IPS wealthy individuals who use their money to help others should be congratulated.

“But charitable giving is no substitute for wealthy people and companies paying their fair share of tax or ensuring their workers are paid a decent wage. And it does not justify them using their power and connections to lobby for unfair advantages over others,” she declared.

Oxfam’s new research also reveals that corporations in the energy, food and pharmaceutical sectors —where monopolies are especially common— are posting record-high profits, even as wages have barely budged and workers struggle with decades-high prices amid COVID-19.

The fortunes of food and energy billionaires have risen by $453 billion in the last two years, equivalent to $1 billion every two days, says Oxfam.

Five of the largest energy companies (BP, Shell, Total Energies, Exxon and Chevron) are together making $2,600 profit every second, and there are now 62 new food billionaires.

Currently, the world’s total population is around 7.8 billion, and according to the UN, more than 736 million people live below the international poverty line.

A World Bank report last year said extreme poverty is set to rise, for the first time in more than two decades, and the impact of the spreading virus is expected to push up to 115 million more people into poverty, while the pandemic is compounding the forces of conflict and climate change, that has already been slowing poverty reduction.

By 2021, as many as 150 million more people could be living in extreme poverty.

Yasmeen Hassan, Global Executive Director at Equality Now, told IPS Oxfam’s report demonstrates systemic failings in the discriminatory nature of countries’ economies and underscores the urgent need for financial systems to be restructured so that they benefit the 99%, not the 1%.

“As with any crisis, Equality Now foresaw that gender would influence how individuals and communities experienced the pandemic, but even we were shocked at how exceptionally and intensely pre-existing inequalities and sex-based discrimination has been exacerbated”, she said.

While billionaires — the vast majority of whom are men — continue to amass vast sums of wealth, women around the world remain trapped in poverty. Wealthy elites are profiting off women’s labor, much of which is underappreciated, underpaid, and uncompensated, she pointed out.

“Economic hardship and inadequate policy responses to the pandemic have eroded many of the hard-won gains that have been achieved over recent years for women and girls. From increases in child marriage, sexual exploitation and human trafficking, to landlords demanding sex from female tenants who have lost their job, and domestic workers trapped inside with abusive employers, women and girls around the world have borne the brunt of the pandemic,” Hassan declared.

The Oxfam study has been released to coincide with the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) annual meeting—which includes the presence of the rich and the superrich—taking place in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland from 22-26 May. The meeting, whose theme is ‘Working Together, Restoring Trust’, will be the first global in-person leadership event since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020

“Billionaires are arriving in Davos to celebrate an incredible surge in their fortunes. The pandemic, and now the steep increases in food and energy prices have, simply put, been a bonanza for them. Meanwhile, decades of progress on extreme poverty are now in reverse and millions of people are facing impossible rises in the cost of simply staying alive,” said Oxfam’s Bucher.

She said billionaires’ fortunes have not increased because they are now smarter or working harder. But it is really the workers who are working harder, for less pay and in worse conditions.

The super-rich, she argued, have rigged the system with impunity for decades and they are now reaping the benefits. They have seized a shocking amount of the world’s wealth as a result of privatization and monopolies, gutting regulation and workers’ rights while stashing their cash in tax havens — all with the complicity of governments.”

“Meanwhile, millions of others are skipping meals, turning off the heating, falling behind on bills and wondering what they can possibly do next to survive. Across East Africa, one person is likely dying every minute from hunger. This grotesque inequality is breaking the bonds that hold us together as humanity. It is divisive, corrosive and dangerous. This is inequality that literally kills.”

Elaborating further, Hassan of Equality Now said women are more likely to be informally employed, low-wage earners, and this disadvantaged position has resulted in higher rates of women losing their jobs, particularly in sectors that were not prioritized in government relief packages.

“Women are also more likely to be primary caretaker and many have had to absorb increases in unpaid duties while schools and nurseries shut down. As a consequence, some women have been forced out of jobs as they found it impossible to juggle full-time work while also providing full-time childcare. This loss of income has been especially catastrophic for women in poverty and has made them more vulnerable to a range of human rights violations.”

She said world leaders must stop pursuing policy agendas that benefit the rich and hurt the poor.

“Instead, we urgently need a committed and coordinated response from governments and policymakers to reduce inequality and poverty, and address discrimination that is holding women and girls back while allowing the super-rich to get richer still,” she added.

The Oxfam study also says the pandemic has created 40 new pharma billionaires.

Pharmaceutical corporations like Moderna and Pfizer are making $1,000 profit every second just from their monopoly control of the COVID-19 vaccine, despite its development having been supported by billions of dollars in public investments.

“They are charging governments up to 24 times more than the potential cost of generic production. 87 percent of people in low-income countries have still not been fully vaccinated.”

“The extremely rich and powerful are profiting from pain and suffering. This is unconscionable. Some have grown rich by denying billions of people access to vaccines, others by exploiting rising food and energy prices. They are paying out massive bonuses and dividends while paying as little tax as possible. This rising wealth and rising poverty are two sides of the same coin, proof that our economic system is functioning exactly how the rich and powerful designed it to do,” said Bucher.

Oxfam recommends that governments urgently:

–·Introduce one-off solidarity taxes on billionaires’ pandemic windfalls to fund support for people facing rising food and energy costs and a fair and sustainable recovery from COVID-19. Argentina adopted a one-off special levy dubbed the ‘millionaire’s tax’ and is now considering introducing a windfall tax on energy profits as well as a tax on undeclared assets held overseas to repay IMF debt. The super-rich have stashed nearly $8 trillion in tax havens.

  • — End crisis profiteering by introducing a temporary excess profit tax of 90 percent to capture the windfall profits of big corporations across all industries. Oxfam estimated that such a tax on just 32 super-profitable multinational companies could have generated $104 billion in revenue in 2020.

— Introduce permanent wealth taxes to rein in extreme wealth and monopoly power, as well as the outsized carbon emissions of the super-rich. An annual wealth tax on millionaires starting at just 2 percent, and 5 percent on billionaires, could generate $2.52 trillion a year —enough to lift 2.3 billion people out of poverty, make enough vaccines for the world, and deliver universal healthcare and social protection for everyone living in low- and lower middle-income countries.

Indian Rupee Falls To The Lowest

The Indian rupee extended its losses and touched an all-time low of 77.42 against the US dollar in early trade on Monday, May 10th.

The Indian currency is weighed by the strength of the American currency in the overseas market and continued foreign fund outflows. Further, rupee slipped on surge in crude oil prices

Foreign institutional investors were net sellers in the capital market on Friday, as they offloaded shares worth Rs 5,517.08 crore, as per stock exchange data. They have been selling equities constantly in the recent months.

Rupee has been under-pressure after global central banks started normalising policy and last week RBI too started raising key interest rates.

On Friday, the rupee had slumped 55 paise to close at 76.90 against the US dollar.

“Local units are also hit by haven dollar flows, higher global rates due to rising inflation and risk-off sentiments. Weakness in Chinese yuan, which fell to its weakest level since November 2020, also weighing on regional currencies,” said Dilip Parmar, Retail Research Analyst at HDFC Securities.

So far this year, foreign institutions have withdrawn a total of nearly $19 billion from domestic equities and debt markets, Parmar said.

Parmar sees near term depreciation in rupee could continue for a few more days with lower side limited in the range of 77.70 to 78. In the event of unwinding, the rupee could see levels of 77 to 76.70.

According to Sugandha Sachdeva, VP-Commodity and Currency Research at Religare Broking, the Indian rupee has plummeted to record lows amid the deteriorating risk sentiments and the unrelenting spree of overseas outflows from the domestic equities.

Besides, an unabated rise in the dollar index towards a two-decade high, soaring US treasury yields and crude prices, all of them have worked their way to push the domestic currency on a downward trajectory, Sachdeva told IANS.

“Markets are concerned about the spiralling inflation and prospects of an aggressive tightening path that continues to threaten the growth outlook, leading to safe-haven flows in the greenback.”

Also, hardening crude oil prices as the EU is moving ahead to impose an embargo on Russian oil are roiling the sentiments, leading to worries about the widening current account deficit and exacerbating the pressure on the domestic currency.

Going ahead, as the Indian rupee has breached the previous all-time lows of the 77.14-mark, it seems poised to witness further depreciation towards the 78-mark in the near term.

Sachdeva, however, anticipates that RBI will intervene around the 78-mark to curb excessive depreciation in the Indian currency.

According to experts, this depreciation is caused by the strength of the American currency in the overseas market and continuous foreign fund outflows from the Indian market. Some also attribute the fall of the rupee to rising crude oil prices globally due to the Russia-Ukraine crisis and the COVID induced lockdown in Shanghai.

India’s Pharma Exports Rise 103% In 8 Years

India’s pharma exports have witnessed a growth of 103 per cent since 2013-14 from Rs 90,415 crore to Rs 1,83,422 crore in 2021-22. The exports achieved in 2021-22 is the Pharma Sector’s best export performance ever and is a remarkable growth with exports growing by almost USD 10 billion in eight years, said Ministry of Commerce & Industry in a statement on Sunday.

Highlighting the achievement in a tweet, the Union Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal said: “India’s booming drugs & pharmaceuticals exports more than double in 2021-22 compared to 2013-14. Under the active leadership of PM @NarendraModi ji, India is serving as ‘Pharmacy of the World”.

The pharma exports in 2021-22 sustained a positive growth despite the global trade disruptions and drop in demand for COVID related medicines. The trade balance continues to be in India’s favour, with a surplus of USD 15175.81 Million, said the ministry.

India ranks third worldwide for production by volume and 14th by value. Indian pharma companies have made global mark with 60 per cent of the world’s vaccines and 20 per cent of generic medicines coming from India.

The share of pharmaceutical and drugs in India’s global exports is 5.92 per cent. The formulations and biologicals continue to account for a major share of 73.31 per cent in total exports, followed by Bulk drugs and drug intermediates with exports of USD 4437.64 million. India’s top five pharma export destinations are the US, UK, South Africa, Russia and Nigeria. (IANS)

US Economy Shrinks By 1.4% In 2022 Amid Omicron Surge

The US economy shrank at an annual rate of 1.4 per cent in the first quarter as effects of the Omicron surge start to show up, the US Commerce Department reported.

The latest data marks the economy’s first contraction since the Covid-19 pandemic impacted the country in early 2020, Xinhua news agency reported.

“In the first quarter, an increase in Covid-19 cases related to the Omicron variant resulted in continued restrictions and disruptions in the operations of establishments in some parts of the country,” the department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) said in an “advance” estimate.

The BEA noted that government assistance payments in the form of forgivable loans to businesses, grants to state and local governments, and social benefits to households “all decreased as provisions of several federal programs expired or tapered off”.

The decrease in real gross domestic product reflected declines in private inventory investment, exports, federal government spending, and state and local government spending, while imports — a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, increased, the report showed.

Personal consumption expenditures, non-residential fixed investment and residential fixed investment increased, it added.

The US economy contracted in the first quarter as inflation remained elevated at levels not seen in four decades.

The March consumer price index surged 8.5 per cent from a year earlier, the largest 12-month increase since the period ending December 1981, according to data from the Labour Department. That compared with a 7.9 per cent year-on-year gain in February.

Since the March policy meeting, a flurry of comments from US Federal Reserve officials indicated that the urgency for rate hikes is growing, and the central bank is prepared to take more aggressive actions going forward.

Diane Swonk, Chief Economist at major accounting firm Grant Thornton, noted in a recent analysis that as the Fed moves forward with more aggressive rate hikes to combat surging inflation, “what was the strongest and fastest recovery on record may soon be among the shortest.”

Even Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, who argued that soft, or at least softish landings have been relatively common in the US monetary history, noted that no one expects that bringing about a soft landing will be straightforward or easy in the current context. “It’s going to be very challenging,” Powell said.

Former US Treasury Secretary, Lawrence Summers also pointed out that in the past decades, when inflation was above 4 per cent and unemployment was below 4 per cent, the US economy usually fell into recession within two years, which means the Fed’s task would be very difficult.

“A growth recession is likely; unemployment will rise,” Swonk said, adding, “Those waiting for a recession to hire workers may find themselves without the jobs they had hoped to fill.”

Toyota To Invest $ 624 Million In India

Toyota Group plans to invest 48 billion Indian rupees ($624 million) to make electric vehicle components in India, as the Japanese carmaker works toward carbon neutrality by 2050.

Toyota Kirloskar Motor and Toyota Kirloskar Auto Parts signed a memorandum of understanding with the southern state of Karnataka to invest 41 billion Indian rupees, the group said in a statement Saturday. The rest will come from Toyota Industries Engine India.

Toyota is aligning its own green targets with India’s ambitions of becoming a manufacturing hub though the switch to clean transport in the South Asian nation is slower than other countries such as China and the U.S. Expensive price tags, lack of options in electric models and insufficient charging stations have led to sluggish adoption of battery vehicles in India.

“From a direct employment point of view, we are looking at around 3,500 new jobs,” Toyota Kirloskar executive vice president Vikram Gulati told the Press Trust of India in an interview. “As the supply chain system builds, we expect much more to come in later.”

He added that the company would be moving toward a new area of technology — electrified powertrain parts — with production set to start in the “very near-term.”

Indian automakers could generate $20 billion in revenue from electric vehicles between now and fiscal year 2026, according to forecast by Crisil. By 2040, 53% of new automobile sales in India will be electric, compared with 77% in China, according to BloombergNEF.

Five Ways Elon Musk Can Transform Twitter

News that Elon Musk bought Twitter could usher in substantial changes for the social media platform. Given its influential role in public conversation and policy actions, a shift in management control could have substantial consequences for the role of social media. Here are five things that could happen under Musk’s ownership.

Weaken Content Moderation in Name of Free Speech

Musk brings a strong free speech perspective that likely would alter some of the firm’s current content moderation policies. In the face of public concern over extremism, violence, hate speech, and false information, Twitter and other large social media platforms have strengthened their content moderation policies to remove content that encourages violence or spreads misinformation.

While many of those worried about the corrosive impact of social media on national and global discourse have applauded these moves, some free speech advocates have questioned these practices on grounds that more, not less speech, is desired—and that private companies shouldn’t be the arbiters of truth and justice.

Musk himself has advocated for stronger protections of freedom of speech on social media platforms and presumably would move the company closer to his perspective when he becomes its new owner. He likely would remove some of the content moderation practices and be less likely to remove tweets that, to him, fall within a gray area.

Bring Donald Trump Back to Twitter

One winner of an ownership change could be former President Donald Trump. Right now, Twitter has imposed a lifetime ban on Trump due to his role in inciting violence on January 6, 2021. After protesters stormed the Capitol and temporarily stopped Congress’ presidential election certification, Twitter executives said Trump had violated its terms of service and kicked him off the platform.

But under Musk, the company could revisit that decision and reinstate the former president on the grounds he is a leading public figure, has important things to say, and is a likely presidential candidate in 2024. If reinstated, that would give Trump a large megaphone to proclaim his views, spread lies and misinformation about the integrity of the 2020 election, and inflame public passions. The consequence could be sharper polarization, more intense partisanship, and a rise of political extremism.

Cozy Up to China

Unlike many leaders of large businesses, Musk has cultivated close ties with China and is building a large Tesla plant there. China is a global leader in the manufacturing of electric vehicle batteries, and Musk has expanded his dealings with China despite human rights concerns and fair labor practices.

The impact of an ownership change could be a different perspective on geopolitics than currently is the case. Musk could push policies that are more sympathetic to China, less restrictive towards Russia, or less supportive of human rights and environmental protection. He could introduce algorithms that favor content with a particular foreign policy take to the exclusion of alternative viewpoints.  To his credit, though, Musk has promised to “open up” the algorithms so that they are more transparent. That would be a positive move for the social media platform.

Weaken accountability by taking company private

Musk plans to take Twitter private when he assumes ownership. If that became the case, there would be less public transparency about what happens, fewer reporting requirements, and more secrecy in regard to corporate practices. One of the byproducts of being a private firm is less oversight by government agencies and more freedom to make decisions. With a company as influential as Twitter, that could have ramifications for public discussion and electoral discourse.

Encourage space travel and push for AI limits

New management likely would push the platform towards Musk’s well-known personal interests in space travel and antipathy towards AI. SpaceX already is a leader in private space exploration and Musk himself has talked about colonizing Mars and building a life presence beyond planet Earth. He likely would encourage space tourism in line with his business interests, and encourage people to think more broadly about the future of humanity. It is an open question how Twitter would deal with possible conflicts of interest with Musk’s other business holdings, but that is something that should be clarified during the regulatory review of this transaction.

In addition, Musk is on record as worrying about artificial intelligence and fearing its capacity to enslave humanity. He wants to put the brakes on the rapid expansion of AI without appropriate human safeguards. While advocates can debate the merits of either stance, there is little doubt that ownership of Twitter would put Musk in a stronger position to influence public discussions and shape policy towards AI and other emerging technologies.

India’s First International Cruise Conference To Be Held In Mumbai

Giving a boost to both the shipping and tourism sectors, India will host the first-ever Incredible India International Cruise Conference in May, 2022 months before the commissioning of the iconic cruise terminal in Mumbai.

On May 14-15, the Mumbai Port Authority (MPA) will hold the event in India’s financial capital. Mumbai will open the first-of-its-kind iconic sea cruise terminal in July 2024.

The conference will also showcase ports on the west coast, such as Mumbai, Goa, Kochi, New Mangalore, and Lakshadweep, as well as Kolkata, Visakhapatnam, Chennai, and Andaman as cruise centers of the country.

The two-day event in Mumbai is being organised by the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, Mumbai Port Authority, and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

The Minister noted during a news conference in Mumbai that the Indian cruise market had the potential to develop tenfold over the next decade, owing to increased demand and disposable incomes.

According to the minister, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship Sagarmala programme connects the ports of Chennai, Vizag, and Andaman with Goa, which attracts the most tourists.

Sarbananda Sonowal also revealed the Conference’s brochure, logo, and mascot, Captain Cruzo. During the press conference, he also launched the event website, www.iiicc2022.in. The focus of the conference will be on Developing India as a Cruise Hub.

Dr. Sanjeev Ranjan, Secretary of the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, Rajiv Jalota, Chairman of the Mumbai Port Authority, and Sanjay Bandopadhyay, Chairman of the Inland Waterways Authority of India, all spoke at the event.

Gautam Adani Is World’s 5th Richest Person

Gautam Adani, the Indian infrastructure mogul, became the richest Asian billionaire in history earlier this month–and he’s kept on climbing, reported Forbes magazine.

“Adani has now passed Warren Buffett to become the 5th richest person in the world,” said Forbes, estimating that the 59-year-old Adani has a net worth of $123.7 billion, as of Friday’s market close, edging out the $121.7 billion fortune of Buffett, who is 91.

Worth $8.9 billion just two years ago, Adani’s fortune spiked to an estimated $50.5 billion in March 2021 because of his skyrocketing share prices–then nearly doubled by March 2022, to an estimated $90 billion, as Adani Group stocks rose even further, according to Forbes.

“Adani’s estimated $123.7 billion net worth makes him the richest person in India, $19 billion wealthier than the country’s number 2, Mukesh Ambani (who’s worth an estimated $104.7 billion). He surpasses Buffett as shares of the famed investor’s Berkshire Hathaway dropped by 2% on Friday amid a broad drop in the U.S. stock market,” said Forbes.

There are now only four people on the planet richer than Adani, according to Forbes’ real-time billionaire tracker: Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates (worth an estimated $130.2 billion), French luxury goods king Bernard Arnault ($167.9 billion), Amazon founder Jeff Bezos ($170.2 billion) and Tesla and SpaceX chief Elon Musk ($269.7 billion), according to Forbes.

World today has 2,668 billionaires, including 236 newcomers—far fewer than last year’s 493

Forbes’ 36th annual World’s Billionaires List, released earlier this month, reveals 2,668 billionaires, including 236 newcomers—far fewer than last year’s 493.

Elon Musk tops the World’s Billionaires ranking for the first time ever, with an estimated net worth of $219 billion. Altogether the total net worth of the world’s billionaires is $12.7 trillion, down from last year’s $13.1 trillion.

Following last year’s record-breaking number of billionaires, the past 12 months have proven to be more volatile. The number of billionaires fell to 2,668, down from 2,755 last year. A total of 329 people dropped off the list this year—the most in a single year since the 2009 financial crisis.

“The tumultuous stock market contributed to sharp declines in the fortunes of many of the world’s richest,” said Kerry A. Dolan, Assistant Managing Editor of Wealth, Forbes. “Still, more than 1,000 billionaires got wealthier over the past year. The top 20 richest alone are worth a combined $2 trillion, up from $1.8 trillion in 2021.”

Key facts for the 2022 World’s Billionaires list:

  • Top Five: Tesla’s Elon Musk tops the list, unseating Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who drops to the No. 2 spot after spending the past four years as the richest person in the world. Bernard Arnault of LVMH remains at No. 3, followed by Bill Gates at No. 4. Rounding out the top five is Warren Buffett, who rejoins the top five after falling to No. 6 last year.
  • Newcomers: Among the list of notable newcomers are Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson(No.1929); OpenSea founders Devin Finzer and Alex Atallah (Nos. 1397); social media and e-commerce tycoon Miranda Qu (No. 1645) and pop star and cosmetics mogul Rihanna (No. 1729).
  • Self-Made: Of the total 2,668 people on the 2022 ranking, 1,891 are self-made billionaires, who founded or cofounded a company or established their own fortune (as opposed to inheriting it).
  • Women: There are 327 women billionaires, including 16 who share a fortune with a spouse, child or sibling, down from 328 in 2021.
  • Globally: Regionally, Asia-Pacific boasts the most billionaires, with 1,088, followed by the United States, with 735, and Europe, with 592.
  • Drop-offs: The war in Ukraine, a Chinese tech crackdown and slipping stock prices pushed 329 people off the World’s Billionaires list this year, including 169 one-hit wonders who were part of last year’s record 493 newcomers.

To view the full list, visit www.forbes.com/billionaires.

The 2022 Billionaires issue features five consecutive covers, including:

  • Igor Bukhman: When Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, Igor Bukhman, the Russia-born billionaire founder of gaming company Playrix, found himself with thousands of employees divided by the frontlines. His internal battlefield offers lessons for us all.
  • Ken Griffin: War in Europe. The China-Russia alliance. De-dollarization. Ken Griffin, Wall Street’s billionaire kingpin, is making the best out of the worst of times.
  • Tope Awotona: Awotona built Calendly out of frustration. Now the scheduling app is worth $3 billion—and the subject of a heated Twitter spat among Silicon Valley elite.
  • Ryan Breslow: Bolt cofounder Ryan Breslow has boosted the value of his fintech to the moon by promising an Amazon-style checkout to millions of online retailers. Now the new billionaire is making a lot of noise—and some powerful enemies—challenging the tech industry’s culture and ethics.
  • Falguni Nayar: A decade ago, when she was 49, Nayar left behind her investment banking career to launch beauty-and-fashion retailer Nykaa. She took it public in November and is now India’s richest self-made woman. Nykaa, which means “one in the spotlight,” currently sells more than 4,000 brands online and in its 102 stores.

The Forbes World’s Billionaires list is a snapshot of wealth using stock prices and currency exchange rates from March 11, 2022.

US Home Prices Rose By 20% In One Year

Prices rose 19.8% year-over-year in February, an even higher rate than the 19.2% growth seen in January, according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller US National Home Price Index.

Phoenix, Tampa and Miami reported the highest year-over-year gains among the 20 US cities tracked by the index. Phoenix led the way for the 33rd consecutive month with home prices rising 32.9% from the year before. It was followed by Tampa and Miami, which saw 32.6% and 29.7% gains, respectively.

All 20 cities reported price increases in the year ending February 2022. In January, 16 cities saw year-over-year growth. Prices were strongest in the South and Southeast, but every region continued to show big gains.

“US home prices continued to advance at a very rapid pace in February,” said Craig J. Lazzara, managing director at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “That level of price growth suggests broad strength in the housing market, which is exactly what we continue to observe.”

Although Lazarra noted that rising inflation, further interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve and rising mortgage rates may soon take the momentum out of the housing market.

The imbalance between strong demand from prospective buyers and insufficient supply of available homes has also been pushing home prices higher, said George Ratiu, manager of economic research for Realtor.com

“Today’s S&P Case-Shiller Index highlights a housing market experiencing a renewed sense of urgency in February, as buyers worked through a small number of homes for sale in an effort to get ahead of surging mortgage rates,” he said.

While inventory has increased a bit since February, according to the National Association of Realtors, there are several other changes that have taken place since then, too.

Real estate markets have seen supply-chain disruptions from the war in Ukraine. Mortgage rates have also been rising fast, climbing above 5% for the first time since 2010. In addition, a strong labor market is driving wages and inflation higher, he said.

“For buyers, the jumps in prices and mortgage rates translated into sticker shock,” said Ratiu.

For a median-priced home financed with a 30-year loan, the monthly payment is $550 higher than a year ago, he said.

But with more inventory expected to come onto the market this spring and rising mortgage rates, housing analysts are expecting to see a cool-off in demand.

“Many buyers are deciding to take a step back and re-evaluate their budgets and timelines,” said Ratiu.

Bitcoin Miners Seek Ways To Dump Fossil Fuels

For the past year a company that “mines” cryptocurrency had what seemed the ideal location for its thousands of power-thirsty computers working around the clock to verify bitcoin transactions: the grounds of a coal-fired power plant in rural Montana.

But with the cryptocurrency industry under increasing pressure to rein in the environmental impact of its massive electricity consumption, Marathon Digital Holdings made the decision to pack up its computers, called miners, and relocate them to a wind farm in Texas.

“For us, it just came down to the fact that we don’t want to be operating on fossil fuels,” said company CEO Fred Thiel.

In the world of bitcoin mining, access to cheap and reliable electricity is everything. But many economists and environmentalists have warned that as the still widely misunderstood digital currency grows in price — and with it popularity — the process of mining that is central to its existence and value is becoming increasingly energy intensive and potentially unsustainable.

The Hardin Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant that is also home to the cryptocurrency “mining” operation Big Horn Data Hub, is seen on April 20, 2022, in Hardin, Mont. Energy from burning coal is used to power thousands of computers that are kept on site to produce the digital currency known as bitcoins. (AP Photo/Matthew Brown)

Bitcoin was was created in 2009 as a new way of paying for things that would not be subject to central banks or government oversight. While it has yet to widely catch on as a method of payment, it has seen its popularity as a speculative investment surge despite volatility that can cause its price to swing wildly. In March 2020, one bitcoin was worth just over $5,000. That surged to a record of more than $67,000 in November 2021 before falling to just over $35,000 in January.

Central to bitcoin’s technology is the process through which transactions are verified and then recorded on what’s known as the blockchain. Computers connected to the bitcoin network race to solve complex mathematical calculations that verify the transactions, with the winner earning newly minted bitcoins as a reward. Currently, when a machine solves the puzzle, its owner is rewarded with 6.25 bitcoins — worth about $260,000 total. The system is calibrated to release 6.25 bitcoins every 10 minutes.

When bitcoin was first invented it was possible to solve the puzzles using a regular home computer, but the technology was designed so problems become harder to solve as more miners work on them. Those mining today use specialized machines that have no monitors and look more like a high-tech fan than a traditional computer. The amount of energy used by computers to solve the puzzles grows as more computers join the effort and puzzles are made more difficult.

Marathon Digital, for example, currently has about 37,000 miners, but hopes to have 199,000 online by early next year, the company said.

Determining how much energy the industry uses is difficult because not all mining companies report their use and some operations are mobile, moving storage containers full of miners around the country chasing low-cost power.

The Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index estimates bitcoin mining used about 109 terrawatt hours of electricity over the past year — close to the amount used in Virginia in 2020, according to the U.S. Energy Information Center. The current usage rate would work out to 143 TWh over a full year, or about the amount used by Ohio or New York state in 2020.

Cambridge’s estimate does not include energy used to mine other cryptocurrencies.

A key moment in the debate over bitcoin’s energy use came last spring, when just weeks after Tesla Motors said it was buying $1.5 billion in bitcoin and would also accept the digital currency as payment for electric vehicles, CEO Elon Musk joined critics in calling out the industry’s energy use and said the company would no longer be taking it as payment.

Some want the government to step in with regulation. In New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul is being pressured to declare a moratorium on the so-called proof-of-work mining method — the one bitcoin uses — and to deny an air quality permit for a project at a retrofitted coal-fired power plant that runs on natural gas.

A New York State judge recently ruled the project would not impact the air or water of nearby Seneca Lake. “Repowering or expanding coal and gas plants to make fake money in the middle of a climate crisis is literally insane,” Yvonne Taylor, vice president of Seneca Lake Guardians, said in a statement.

Anne Hedges with the Montana Environmental Information Center said that before Marathon Digital showed up, environmental groups had expected the coal-fired power plant in Hardin, Montana, to close.

“It was a death watch,” Hedges said. “We were getting their quarterly reports. We were looking at how much they were operating. We were seeing it continue to decline year after year — and last year that totally changed. It would have gone out of existence but for bitcoin.”

The cryptocurrency industry “needs to find a way to reduce its energy demand,” and needs to be regulated, Hedges said. “That’s all there is to it. This is unsustainable.”

Some say the solution is to switch from proof-of-work verification to proof-of-stake verification, which is already used by some cryptocurrencies. With proof of stake, verification of digital currency transfers is assigned to computers, rather than having them compete. People or groups that stake more of their cryptocurrency are more likely to get the work — and the reward.

While the method uses far less electricity, some critics argue proof-of-stake blockchains are less secure. Some companies in the industry acknowledge there is a problem and are committing to achieving net-zero emissions — adding no greenhouse gases to the atmosphere — from the electricity they use by 2030 by signing onto a Crypto Climate Accord, modeled after the Paris Climate Agreement.

“All crypto communities should work together, with urgency, to ensure crypto does not further exacerbate global warming, but instead becomes a net positive contributor to the vital transition to a low carbon global economy,” the accord states.

Marathon Digital is one of several companies pinning its hopes on tapping into excess renewable energy from solar and wind farms in Texas. Earlier this month the companies Blockstream Mining and Block, formerly Square, announced they were breaking ground in Texas on a small, off-the-grid mining facility using Tesla solar panels and batteries.

“This is a step to proving our thesis that bitcoin mining can fund zero-emission power infrastructure,” said Adam Back, CEO and co-founder of Blockstream.

Companies argue that cryptocurrency mining can provide an economic incentive to build more renewable energy projects and help stabilize power grids. Miners give renewable energy generators a guaranteed customer, making it easier for the projects to get financing and generate power at their full capacity.

The mining companies are able to contract for lower-priced energy because “all the energy they use can be shut off and given back to the grid at a moment’s notice,” said Thiel.

In Pennsylvania, Stronghold Digital is cleaning up hundreds of years of coal waste by burning it to create what the state classifies as renewable energy that can be sent to the grid or used in bitcoin mining, depending on power demands.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection is a partner in the work, which uses relatively new technology to burn the waste coal more efficiently and with fewer emissions. Left alone, piles of waste coal can catch fire and burn for years, releasing greenhouse gases. When wet, the waste coal leaches acid into area waterways.

After using the coal waste to generate electricity, what’s left is “toxicity-free fly ash,” which is registered by the state as a clean fertilizer, Stronghold Digital spokesperson Naomi Harrington said.

As Marathon Digital gradually moves its 30,000 miners out of Montana, it’s leaving behind tens of millions of dollars in mining infrastructure behind.

Just because Marathon doesn’t want to use coal-fired power anymore doesn’t mean there won’t be another bitcoin miner to take its place. Thiel said he assumes the power plant owners will find a company to do just that. “No reason not to,” he said.

Time For A Higher Poverty Line In India

The time has come for India to raise its poverty line from the existing extreme poverty line of $1.90 per person per day to the lower-middle income (LMI) poverty line of $3.20, a level some 68 percent higher. This may seem odd to aspire to in what is not even the first post-pandemic year, but that is the main message coming out of our recent IMF working paper “Pandemic, Poverty and Inequality: Evidence from India.”

No one should be surprised at this need for a higher poverty line. Per capita GDP growth in India averaged 3.5 percent per annum for twenty years from 1983 to 2003. In 2004, the official poverty line was raised by 18 percent, when the head count ratio (HCR) was 27.5 percent. Rapid growth (5.3 percent per annum) and an improved method of measurement of consumption (the modified mixed recall period (MMRP) rather than the Uniform Recall Period (URP)), resulted in the HCR reaching the low teens in 2011-12.

The poverty line should have been raised then, as Bhalla (2010) argued. Most countries change from the concept of absolute poverty to relative poverty as they get richer, and India should too. Relative poverty—subject to minor debate—is mostly chosen to mean an HCR level of around a quarter or a third of the population. Hence, the$1.90 poverty line was already too low in 2011-12 and is extremely low today.

The HCR of the $1.90 poverty line (Figure 1) has shown a steep decline since 2004—from approximately a third of the population in 2004 to less than 1.5 percent in 2019. These numbers are lower than those shown in the World Bank’s Povcal database, the most commonly used source, because Povcal does not correct for the misleading uniform recall period used or for the provision of food subsidies.

Figure 1. The poverty rate in India steeply declined starting in 2004

Source: NSS 2011-12 MMRP data; Private Final Consumption Expenditure (PFCE)  growth rates for estimates of monthly per capita consumption; authors’ calculations.

By our estimates, in the pre-pandemic year 2019, extreme poverty was already below 1 percent and despite the significant economic recession in India in 2020, we believe that the impact on poverty was small. This is because we estimate poverty (HCR) after incorporating the benefits of in-kind food (wheat and rice) subsidies for approximately 800 million individuals (75 percent of rural and 50 percent of urban residents). This food subsidy was not small and rose to close to 14 percent of the poverty line for the average subsidy recipient (Figure 2) in 2020. This was enough to contain any rise in poverty even in the pandemic year 2020.

Figure 2. Food subsidies contained any increases in poverty

Source: NSS 2011-12 MMRP data; Private Final Consumption Expenditure (PFCE)  growth rates for estimates of monthly per capita consumption; Indian poverty line very close to PPP $1.9 per capita per month; authors’ calculations.

A notable feature of the pandemic response was the provision of a free extra 5 kilograms of wheat or rice per person per month via the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) program plus 1 kg of pulses. This was in addition to the existing food transfers of 5 kg per capita per month of wheat or rice at subsidized prices. Total subsidized food grain in 2020 therefore amounted to 10 kg, which is the average per capita level of food (wheat and rice) consumption by Indian citizens for the last three decades.

The additional food subsidy was a pandemic-centric response. We would conjecture that a cross-country comparative study could show that this policy response was possibly the most effective in the world. Hence, the Indian experience can provide lessons for individual countries, and multilateral agencies concerned with effective redistribution of income.

Poverty measurement) in India was in 2011-12. The following survey conducted in 2017-18 generated results that have not been officially released, on the grounds that the data were not of acceptable quality. Our paper has an extensive discussion on the validity of the evidence regarding this controversial decision where we conclude that the data is indeed unreliable and of extremely questionable quality and hence should not be released. A very recent World Bank April 2022 study by Edochie et. al. suggests support for our conclusion and inference.

Our paper presents a consistent time series of poverty and (real) inequality in India for each of the years 2004-2020. Our estimate of real inequality (Figure 3) shows that consumption inequality has also declined, and in 2020 is very close to the lowest historical level of 0.28. Poverty and inequality trends can be emotive, controversial, and confusing. Consumption inequality is lower than income inequality, which itself is lower than wealth inequality. And each can show different trends. The levels and trends are different, and intermingled use should carry a warning about this when discussing “inequality.”

Our results are different than most of the commentary and analysis of poverty in India. All the estimates are made in the absence of an official survey post-2011-12. A large part of the explanation for the difference in results is because of differences in definition. Our paper makes a strong case for the acceptance of the official consumption definition (accepted by most countries and also recommended by the World Bank); it should be measured according to the classification of consumption according to the nature of the good or service consumed. This is the MMRP method for obtaining consumption expenditures.

The Indian government has officially adopted this method, and the above mentioned “ill-fated” 2017-18 survey was the first time when the National Statistical Organization exclusively measured consumption (and poverty) according to the MMRP definition.

However, many studies continue to rely on the now obsolete uniform reference period (URP or 30-day recall for all items) method. For example, a very recent World Bank study estimated the HCR to be around 10 percent in 2019; it uses the outdated (URP) definition of consumption and does not adjust for food subsidies. Incidentally, both in 2009-10 and 2011-12, the URP and MMRP poverty estimates diverged by approximately 10 percentage points, as did their respective estimates of mean consumption.

Thus, given the approximate magnitude of definition differences observed both in 2009-10 and 2011-12 and making the necessary adjustment for food subsidies, the World Bank poverty estimate for 2019 is likely to be very close to our estimate.

Inclusive growth is a very relevant policy goal for all economies. With the pandemic ebbing and the IMF’s expected growth for India rebounding very strongly for three successive years from 2021-23, Indian policymakers will soon be confronted with a policy choice—how long should they keep the extra PMGKY subsidy? This query is part of a huge success story of poverty decline. Additionally, another query pertains to whether policies should move toward targeted cash transfers instead of subsidized food grains.

In the past, the key argument in support of a policy shift to cash transfers was to reduce leakages, but our results indicate that leakages have substantially been reduced over the last decade even in the in-kind food transfer scheme. In fact, the recent food transfer program was a very successful intervention, especially during the pandemic when supply chains were breaking down and there was heightened uncertainty. Under normal circumstances, cash transfers are likely to be more efficient, and they retain broadly the same allocative outcomes as food transfers. The debate therefore now should be on the efficiency trade-offs associated with use of either in-kind or cash transfers as the key instrument of poverty alleviation.

These debates are significant given the improvement in targeting of transfers and are consistent with the objective of building a modern social security architecture in developing countries.

Accumulating all the evidence, the strong conclusion from our work is that Indian policy has effectively delivered both growth and inclusion, and in a fundamental sense has faithfully followed the Rawlsian maximin principle—maximizing the welfare of the poorest.

Biden Admn. To Decide On Student Loans In Months

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last week that President Biden’s use of executive action to cancel some federal student loan debt is “still on the table” and that a “decision” could be made in the coming months.

Psaki made the comments during an appearance on “Pod Save America” after being pressed about past comments by White House chief of staff Ron Klain. “Yes, still on the table, still on the table,” Psaki could be heard saying to apparent cheers from the audience attending the live podcast, which was released by the platform on Friday. She then pointed to the Aug. 31 deadline for when the freeze on student loan debt payments and interest accrual is set to lapse, saying: “We have to then decide whether it’s extended.”

“Nobody’s had to pay a dollar, a cent, anything in student loans since Joe Biden has been president,” Psaki said. “And if that can help people ease the burden of costs in other parts of their lives, that’s an important thing to consider. That’s a big part of the consideration.”

Between now and the end of August, Psaki said the moratorium is “either going to be extended or we’re going to make a decision, as Ron referenced, about canceling student debt.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Friday said President Biden’s use of executive action to cancel some federal student loan debt is “still on the table” and that a “decision” could be made in the coming months.

Between now and the end of August, Psaki said the current moratorium on student loan payments is “either going to be extended or we’re going to make a decision, as [White House chief of staff Ron Klain] referenced, about canceling student debt.”

Biden last extended the pause earlier this month amid mounting pressure from advocates, borrowers and members of his own party to provide further relief.

Biden during his campaign called for federal student loan debt cancellation, and supported forgiveness of at least $10,000 per borrower. However, some top Democrats have pushed for him to go beyond that, canceling up to $50,000 per borrower or wiping out federal student loan debt entirely.

The White House called on Congress to send legislation canceling debt to Biden’s desk, but Democrats are not optimistic about their chances of doing so in the 50-50 Senate given staunch GOP opposition. Sixty votes would be needed to overcome procedural hurdles.

The background: The current pause on federal student loan payments was first implemented under the Trump administration at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic. It has since been extended six times.

Biden last extended the pause earlier this month amid mounting pressure from advocates, borrowers and members of his own party to provide further relief.

World Bank Cuts India, South Asia Growth Forecast On Ukraine Crisis

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks during the inauguration of the Samsung Electronics smartphone manufacturing facility in Noida, India, July 9, 2018. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

NEW DELHI – The World Bank cut its economic growth forecast for India and the whole South Asian region on Wednesday, citing worsening supply bottlenecks and rising inflation risks caused by the Ukraine crisis.

The international lender lowered its growth estimate for India, the region’s largest economy, to 8% from 8.7% for the current fiscal year to March, 2023 and cut by a full percentage point the growth outlook for South Asia, excluding Afghanistan, to 6.6%.

In India, household consumption will be constrained by the incomplete recovery of the labour market from the pandemic and inflationary pressures, the bank said.

“High oil and food prices caused by the war in Ukraine will have a strong negative impact on peoples’ real incomes,” Hartwig Schafer, World Bank Vice President for South Asia, said in a statement.

The World Bank raised its growth forecast for Pakistan, the region’s second-largest economy, for the current year ending in June, to 4.3% from 3.4% and kept next year’s growth outlook unchanged at 4%.

The region’s dependence on energy imports meant high crude prices forced its economies to pivot their monetary policies to focus on inflation rather than reviving economic growth after nearly two years of pandemic restrictions.

The World Bank slashed this year’s growth forecast for Maldives to 7.6% from 11%, citing its large imports of fossil fuels and a slump in tourism arrivals from Russia and Ukraine.

It raised crisis-hit Sri Lanka’s 2022 growth forecast to 2.4% from 2.1% but warned the island’s outlook was highly uncertain due to fiscal and external imbalances.

Sri Lanka’s central bank said on Tuesday it had become “challenging and impossible” to repay external debt, as it tries to use its dwindling foreign exchange reserves to import essentials like fuel.

Recession Fears Rise As Fed Fights Inflation

As Americans feel the squeeze of rising inflation, fears are growing that a recession is around the corner.  The U.S. economy is running hot as a record stretch of job growth, steady consumer demand and intense demand for labor has helped fuel the highest inflation rate in 40 years.

While the economy has recovered far quicker than many economists expected, the speed of the rebound is putting pressure on the Federal Reserve to take more significant action to help slow price growth.

Wendy Edelberg, director of The Hamilton Project and a senior economic studies fellow at the left-leaning Brookings Institution, said the economy has been “revving” given the amount of fiscal stimulus that has been poured into the system to keep it afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.

But in order to combat the skyrocketing inflation, Edelberg and other economists say a slowdown is vital.

“So, now the question is, how smoothly does that slowdown happen?” Edelberg said. “And slowdowns can be painful. So, there’s absolutely a risk of a recession.”

The Fed’s primary tool for keeping prices stable and the job market strong is adjusting the federal funds rate. When the Fed raises or cuts its baseline interest rate range, borrowing costs for home loans, credit cards and other lending products typically move in the same direction.

When interest rates rise, consumer and business spending tends to decrease as the costs of borrowing money increase. Higher interest rates also incentivize saving, which means less immediate spending in the economy.

After slashing rates to near-zero levels amid the onset of the pandemic, the Fed in March launched a series of interest rate hikes meant to bring down soaring inflation.

The Fed hopes higher borrowing costs will slow down the economy enough to curb price growth without halting the recovery.

“Our goal is to restore price stability while fostering another long expansion and sustaining a strong labor market,” Fed Chair Jerome Powell said last month, adding the bank is aiming for the economy to achieve a “soft landing, with inflation coming down and unemployment holding steady.”

Powell, other Fed officials and some economists believe the U.S. economy is strong enough to withstand rising interest rates without falling into recession or losing jobs. The U.S. gained nearly 1.7 million jobs over the first three months of the year, consumer spending has remained strong and there are roughly two open jobs for every unemployed jobseeker.

Those confident in the Fed’s handle on inflation believe the bank can stanch inflation while only reducing job openings and the intense need for workers, rather than slowing the economy into layoffs.

Even so, the Fed is facing serious turbulence as it attempts to steer the recovery to a sustainable pace.  The war in Ukraine, the sanctions imposed on Russia and Moscow’s response has fueled rapid price increases for oil, gasoline, food, key minerals and other essential consumer goods already hit by inflation. COVID-19 shutdowns in China have also jammed up supply chains, which were already overwhelmed by consumer demand.

Dana M. Peterson, chief economist at The Conference Board, said Fed rate hikes could help reduce consumer demand for goods and services, pent-up savings, rising wages and housing market heat, but can’t do anything about supply chain dysfunction, COVID-19 shutdowns and the war.

“The supply side drivers of inflation, which includes the supply chain disruptions and also higher global commodity prices, the Fed can do very little about. Nonetheless, the Fed is going to be raising interest rates,” Peterson said during a Thursday briefing with reporters.

“I don’t know how confident the Fed is about anything, but certainly I think they’ve abandoned expectations that there’s going to be kind of a natural solution to inflation.”

Economists warn more must be done to tighten monetary policy to cool the economy, which could still mean pain in the months ahead for more Americans’ finances.

“As you slow the economy down, inflation will fall,” Ray Fair, an economics professor at Yale University, said, adding that’s how the Fed can help lower inflation. “But the cost of that, of course, is slower output growth and higher unemployment.”

And Fair, director emeritus at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), said his own research suggests the Fed has “got to do quite a bit” of intervention to slow the economy.

“They’ve got to raise the interest rate, for example, more than just two percentage points, if they expect to get much lowering of inflation,” Fair said. The Fed funds rate is currently at a range of 0.25 to 0.5 percent and bank officials expect to raise it to roughly 2 percent by the end of the year.

Some economists fear inflation may be rising too quickly for the Fed to curb without raising rates so high, it halts economic growth.

In March, consumer prices shot up 1.2 percent, according to data released by the Labor Department this week. The data also found those prices had risen to 8.5 percent in the past year alone, marking the highest yearly increase in roughly four decades.

Americans saw prices go up in a variety of areas, ranging from food to gasoline and transportation, as the Ukraine-Russian war helped exacerbate the nation’s ongoing inflation problem.

Fair, whose bureau is often looked to for measuring recessions, said the NBER’s defines such an event as roughly, but not completely, “two successive quarters of negative real growth in GDP.”

Recent weeks have seen reports of institutions like Bank of America warning of recession shocks. A recent survey by The Wall Street Journal found more economists are also changing their tune on chances of a recession, finding forecasters “on average put the probability of the economy being in recession sometime in the next 12 months at 28 percent,” compared to 18 percent in January.

In an interview, Desmond Lachman, a senior fellow for the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, said he feels a recession is likely.

“In order for [the Fed] to get the inflation out of the system, they’re going to have to tighten policy and that’s going to produce a recession,” Lachman said.

But others believe the Fed may have to contend that higher inflation could be around for a little while longer, as the central bank proceeds in slowing down the economy.

“They’re also going to have to recognize that they may not get back to a 3 percent or 2 percent (annual inflation) target anytime soon,” Peterson said, arguing such an attempt “would essentially drive the US economy into recession.”

Mortgage Rates Hit 5 Percent, Ushering In New Economic Uncertainty

Mortgage rates swelled above 5 percent for the first time in more than a decade — an unexpectedly rapid ascent that has begun to temper the U.S. housing boom and could usher new uncertainty into an economy dogged by soaring inflation.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, the most popular home loan product, hit the threshold just five weeks after surpassing 4 percent, according to Freddie Mac data released Thursday. The average has not been this high since February 2011.

The run-up comes as the Federal Reserve has launched a major initiative to rein in the highest inflation in 40 years. Fed officials are betting that higher interest rates will slash inflation and recalibrate the job market. But their plan also rests on the assumption that higher rates will cool demand for housing, especially while homes themselves are in such short supply.

Low rates fueled the revival of the U.S. housing market after the Great Recession and have helped drive home prices to record levels. But after two years of hovering at historical lows, rates have been on a tear: In January, the 30-year fixed average was 3.22 percent. It was 3.04 percent a year ago. And while mortgage rates had been expected to rise, they’ve done so more quickly than many economists predicted.

“I’m not surprised that rates have hit 5 percent, but I am surprised that everyone else is surprised,” Curtis Wood, founder and chief executive of Bee, a mobile mortgage app, said via email. “If you look at historical action by the Fed in a high-rate environment and compare that to what the Fed is doing today, the Fed is underreacting to the reality of inflation in the economy.

“I’m surprised that rates aren’t at 6 percent right now,” he added, “and wouldn’t be shocked if they’re at 7 percent by end of year.”

Consumers have been absorbing higher prices in nearly every facet of their lives, with essentials such as food and gasoline spiking 8.8 percent and 48 percent, respectively, compared with last year. But higher mortgage rates can significantly limit what they can buy, or price them out altogether.

Several months ago, a home buyer would be looking to pay $1,347 a month on a $300,000 loan at 3.5 percent interest. But if the buyer had waited until this week, the same loan at 5 percent would tack on $263, bringing the monthly payment to $1,610.

The Federal Reserve’s efforts to tame inflation are driving the rise in rates. Although the Fed does not set mortgage rates, it does influence them. The central bank took its first steps toward bringing down inflation in March when it raised its benchmark rate for the first time since 2018. In addition to the federal funds rate hike, the Fed is soon to begin the process of reducing its balance sheet.

The Federal Reserve holds about $2.74 trillion in mortgage-backed securities. It indicated it will reveal its plans for reducing its holdings at its May meeting. The more aggressively the Fed sells those bonds, the faster mortgage rates are likely to rise.

The cost of housing doesn’t only weigh on buyers and sellers. It also has proved to be a major complication for the economic recovery, and potentially jeopardizes policymakers’ ability to rein in soaring inflation.

Inflation is rising at the fastest pace in 40 years, with prices climbing 8.5 percent in March compared with the year before. Shelter is a major part — roughly one third — of the basket of goods and services used to calculate inflation, or what’s known as the consumer price index. That means that if housing costs don’t meaningfully turn around soon, it will be that much harder for overall inflation to simmer down to more normal levels.

Shelter costs also stand apart from other categories, such as gas, food or plane tickets, that may be more susceptible to forces like the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, supply chain disruptions or a war. (Courtesy: https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/realestate/mortgage-rates-hit-5-percent-ushering-in-new-economic-uncertainty/ar-AAWe1XQ)

Inflation Has Risen Around The World, But The U.S. Has Seen One Of The Biggest Increases

Americans who have been to the grocery store lately or started their holiday shopping may have noticed that consumer prices have spiked. The annual rate of inflation in the United States hit 6.2% in October 2021, the highest in more than three decades, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Other inflation metrics also have shown significant increases in recent months, though not to the same extent as the CPI.

Understanding why the rate of inflation has risen so quickly could help clarify how long the surge might last – and what, if anything, policymakers should do about it. The recent acceleration in the rate of inflation appears to be fundamentally different from other inflationary periods that were more closely tied to the regular business cycle. Explanations for the current phenomenon proffered to date include continuing disruptions in global supply chains amid the coronavirus pandemic; turmoil in the labor markets; the fact that today’s prices are being measured against prices during last year’s COVID-19-induced shutdowns; and strong consumer demand after local economies were reopened.

How we did this

At least one thing is clear: A resurgent inflation rate is by no means solely a U.S. concern. A Pew Research Center analysis of data from 46 nations finds that the third-quarter 2021 inflation rate was higher in most of them (39) than in the pre-pandemic third quarter of 2019. In 16 of these countries, including the U.S., the inflation rate was more than 2 percentage points higher last quarter than in the same period of 2019. (For this analysis, we used data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a group of mostly highly developed, democratic countries. The data covers the 38 OECD member nations, plus eight other economically significant countries.)

At 5.3%, the U.S. had the eighth-highest annual inflation rate in the third quarter of 2021 among the 46 countries examined, narrowly edging out Poland. The increase in the U.S. inflation rate – 3.58 percentage points between the third quarter of 2019 and the third quarter of 2021 – was the third highest in the study group, behind only Brazil and Turkey, both of which have substantially higher inflation rates in general than the U.S. does.

Regardless of the absolute level of inflation in each country, many show variations on the same pattern: relatively low inflation before the COVID-19 pandemic struck in the first quarter of 2020; flat or falling inflation for the rest of that year and into 2021, as many governments sharply curtailed most economic activity; and rising inflation in the second and third quarters of this year, as the world struggled to get back to something approaching normal.

For most countries in this analysis, 2021 has marked a sharp break from what had been an unusually long period of low-to-moderate inflation. In fact, during the decade leading up to the pandemic, 34 of the 46 countries in the analysis averaged changes in inflation rates of 2.6% or lower. In 27 of these countries, inflation rates averaged less than 2%. The biggest exception was Argentina, whose economy has been plagued by high inflation and other ills for decades. The OECD has no data on Argentine inflation rates before 2018, but in the 2018-19 period it averaged 44.4%.

At the other end of the spectrum is Japan, which has struggled against persistently low inflation and periodic deflation, or falling prices, for more than two decades, mostly without success. In the first quarter of 2020, Japan’s inflation rate was running at an anemic 0.7%. It slid into deflationary territory in the last quarter of 2020 and has remained there since: Consumer prices in the third quarter of this year were 0.2% below their level in the third quarter of 2020.

A few other countries have departed from the general dip-and-surge pattern. In Iceland and Russia, for instance, inflation has risen steadily throughout the pandemic, not just in more recent months.

In Indonesia, inflation fell early on and has remained at low levels. In Mexico, the inflation rate fell slightly during the 2020 lockdown period but returned quickly, hitting 5.8% in the third quarter of 2021, the highest level since the fourth quarter of 2017. And in Saudi Arabia, the pattern was reversed: The inflation rate surged during the height of the pandemic but fell sharply in the most recent quarter, to just 0.4%.

Sundar Pichai Announces $9.5 Bn For New Offices, Data Centres In US

Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Wednesday announced to invest approximately $9.5 billion for new offices and data centres in the US this year, creating 12,000 new full-time jobs and thousands more among local suppliers, partners and communities.

Pichai said that Google helped provide $617 billion in economic activity for millions of American businesses, nonprofits, creators, developers and publishers last year.

“In addition, the Android app economy helped create nearly two million jobs last year, and YouTube’s creative ecosystem supported 394,000 jobs in 2020,” he informed.

In the past five years, Google has invested more than $37 billion in its offices and data centres in 26 US states, creating over 40,000 full-time jobs.

“That’s in addition to the more than $40 billion in research and development the company invested in 2020 and 2021,” said the company.

Pichai said that while it might seem counterintuitive to step up investment in physical offices even as the world embraces more flexibility in how we work.

“Yet we believe it’s more important than ever to invest in our campuses and that doing so will make for better products, a greater quality of life for our employees, and stronger communities,” the Google CEO noted.

At the same time, the investments in data centres “will continue to power the digital tools and services that help people and businesses thrive”.

“As we work towards running our offices and data centres on carbon-free energy 24/7 by 2030, we’re aiming to set new standards for green building design”.

In California, Google will continue to invest in offices and support affordable housing initiatives in the Bay Area as part of its $1 billion housing commitment. (IANS)

Delhi Airport Is World’s Third Busiest Airport

Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) was the third busiest airport in the world. The information was revealed by a report based on the data provided by the UK based data provider Official Airline Guide (OAG). The organization monitors global travel data and analyses multiple aspects like busiest airports, busiest flight routes and a myriad of other travel-related data.

US airports dominated the list of busiest airports in March, claiming five of the top 10 spots.

According to a report published by the UK-based Official Airline Guide (OAG), Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) is the world’s third busiest airport.

Atlanta International Airport in the United States is first on the list, followed by Dubai International Airport. According to the OAG report, Delhi’s IGIA airport has eclipsed China’s Guangzhou airport, moving up six points to take third place. Guangzhou airport in China is now the world’s fourth busiest.

Other airports on the top 10 list include Dallas Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Denver International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Tokyo International (Haneda), and London Heathrow Airport.

US airports have significantly dominated the list of busiest airports, capturing five out of the top ten positions in the list for the month of March. The OAG report says, “Growth of the US airports has come at the expense of Asian presence in the Global Top 10 as some of the big global airports of 2019, such as Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai, slide down from their 2019 positions affected by travel restrictions.”

China Debt Traps in the New Cold War

As China increases lending to other developing countries, ‘debt trap’ charges are growing quickly. As it greatly augments financing for development while other sources continue to decline, condemnation of China’s loans is being weaponized in the new Cold War.

Debt-trap diplomacy?
The catchy term ‘debt-trap diplomacy’ was coined by Indian geo-strategist Brahma Chellaney in 2017. According to him, China lends to extract economic or political concessions when a debtor country is unable to meet payment obligations. Thus, it overwhelms poor countries with loans, to eventually make them subservient.

Unsurprisingly, his catchphrase has been popularized to demonize China. Harvard’s Belfer Center has obligingly elaborated on the rising Asian power’s nefarious geostrategic interests. Meanwhile, as with so much else, the Biden administration continues related Trump policies.

But even Western researchers generally wary of China dispute the new narrative. A London Chatham House study concluded it is simply wrong – flawed, with scant supporting evidence.

Studying China’s loan arrangements for 13,427 projects in 165 countries over 18 years, AidData – at the US-based Global Research Institute – could not find a single instance of China seizing a foreign asset following loan default.

China has been the ‘new kid on the block’ of development financing for more than a decade. Its growing loans have helped fill the yawning gap left by the decline and increasing private business orientation of financing by the global North.

Instead of tied aid pushing exports, as before, it now shamelessly promotes foreign direct investment from donor nations. Unless disbursed via multilateral institutions, China’s increased lending to support businesses abroad has not really helped developing countries cope with renewed ‘tied’ concessional aid.

Grand ‘debt trap diplomacy’ narratives make for great propaganda, but obscure debt flows’ actual impacts. Most Chinese lending is for infrastructure and productive investment projects, not donor-determined ‘policy loans’. Some countries ‘over-borrow’, but most do not. Deals can turn sour, but most apparently don’t.

While leaving less room for discretionary abuse in implementation, project lending typically puts borrowers at a disadvantage. This is largely due to the terms of sought-after foreign investment and financing, regardless of source. Hence, the outcomes of most such borrowing – not just from China – vary.

Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka’s Hambantota Port is the most frequently mentioned China debt trap case. The typical media account presumes it lent money to build the port expecting Sri Lanka to get into debt distress. China then supposedly seized it – in exchange for providing debt relief – enabling use by its navy.

But independent studies have debunked this version. Last year, The Atlantic insisted, ‘The Chinese “Debt Trap” Is a Myth’. The subtitle elaborated, “The narrative wrongfully portrays both Beijing and the developing countries it deals with”.

It elaborated: “Our research shows that Chinese banks are willing to restructure the terms of existing loans and have never actually seized an asset from any country, much less the port of Hambantota”.

The project was initiated by then President Mahindra Rajapaksa – not China or its bankers. Feasibility studies by the Canadian International Development Agency and the Danish engineering firm Rambol found it viable. The Chinese Harbour Group construction firm only got involved after the US and India both refused Sri Lankan loan requests.

Sri Lanka’s later debt crisis has been due to its structural economic weaknesses and foreign debt composition. The Chatham House report blamed it on excessive borrowing from Western-dominated capital markets – not Chinese banks.

Even the influential US Foreign Policy journal does not blame Sri Lanka’s undoubted economic difficulties on Chinese debt traps. Instead, “Sri Lanka has not successfully or responsibly updated its debt management strategies to reflect the loss of development aid that it had become accustomed to for decades”.

As the US Fed tapered ‘quantitative easing’, borrowing costs – due to Sri Lanka’s persistent balance of payment problems – rose, forcing it to seek International Monetary Fund help. Some argue borrowing even more from China is the best option available to the island republic.

To set the record straight, there was no debt-for-asset swap after Sri Lanka could no longer service its foreign debt. Instead, a Chinese state-owned enterprise leased the port for US$1.1 billion. Sri Lanka has thus boosted its foreign reserves and paid down its debt to other – mainly Western – creditors.

Also, Chinese navy vessels cannot use the port – home to Sri Lanka’s own southern naval command. “In short, the Hambantota Port case shows little evidence of Chinese strategy, but lots of evidence for poor governance on the recipient side”.

Malaysia
China has also been accused by the media of seeking influence over the Straits of Malacca, through which some 80% of its oil imports pass. Debt-trap proponents claim Beijing therefore inflated lending for Malaysia’s controversial East Coast Rail Link (ECRL).

The Chatham House report notes, “The real issue here is not one of geopolitics, but rather – as in Sri Lanka – the recipient government’s efforts to harness Chinese investment and development financing to advance domestic political agendas, reflecting both need and greed”.

ECRL was initiated by convicted former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak. Ostensibly to develop the less developed East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia as part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, it rejected other less costly, but much needed options.

Borrowings are far more than needed – probably for nefarious purposes. Loan terms were structured to delay repayment – to Najib’s political advantage by ‘passing the buck’ to later generations. But such abuse is by the borrower – not the lender – unless Chinese official connivance is involved.

Non-alignment for our times
There is undoubtedly much room for improving development finance, especially to achieve more sustainable development. Instead of mainly lending to the US, as before, China’s growing role can still be improved. To begin, all involved should respect the United Nations’ principles on responsible sovereign lending and borrowing.

After more than half a century of Western donors’ largely betrayed promises, China’s development finance has significantly improved ‘South-South cooperation’. Meanwhile, sustainable development finance needs – compounded by global warming, the pandemic and Ukraine war – have increased.

After decades of the West denying China commensurate voice in decision making, even under rules it made, its role on the world stage has grown. But instead of working together for the benefit of all, rich countries seem intent on demonizing it. Unsurprisingly, most developing country governments seem undeterred.

As the new Cold War and the scope of economic sanctions spread, collateral damage is undermining development finance and developing countries. To cope with the new situation, developing countries need to consider building a new non-aligned movement for our dark times.

Gautam Adani Now 6th Richest Person In World $20.6 Billion Richer Than Mukesh Ambani Of Reliance

Gautam Adani, founder and chairman of the Adani group, a conglomerate with businesses in sectors such as energy, ports, mining, edible oil and so on, with a net worth of $118 billion is now the world’s sixth-richest person, driven by a meteoric rise in the value of Adani group’s listed stocks. The 59-year-old mogul has overtaken Google’s famed founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

It is important to note here in this context that Adani’s net worth soared by $8.57 billion, or about Rs 65,091 crore, due to a rise in the share prices of Adani Green Energy, Adani Enterprises, Adani Gas and Adani Transmission on Monday. While India’s benchmark indices ended the day in the red on Monday, shares of Adani Group surged up to 16 per cent.

Adani Green Energy breaks into list of top 10 most valued firms on BSE, replaces Bharti Airtel

With an almost $41.6 billion jump in his personal fortune, Gautam Adani is the world’s biggest wealth-gainer this year. Meanwhile, Reliance Industries (RIL)— India’s most valuable company—chairman Mukesh Ambani’s total wealth now stands at $97.4 billion, and he is now the 11th richest in the world, as per the latest Bloomberg billionaire ranking. So far this year, his personal wealth has increased by $7.45 billion. If we go by the Bloomberg wealth index, Adani is $20.6 billion ahead of Ambani at present, and it could be tough for the RIL boss to catch up very quickly.

The moot question is: What’s made Adani so rich, so fast? The tycoon is pushing into clean energy, airports and power plants. The mega stock market gainer that catapulted Adani to the top position is Adani Green Energy. Shares of the company soared 16.25 per cent to settle at Rs 2,701.55 apiece on BSE on Monday. It entered the list of top-10 valued companies as its market valuation zoomed over Rs 4.22 lakh crore.

For the last 14 years, Ambani has been the leader of India’s wealthiest list. The oil-to-telecom conglomerate boss was briefly dethroned by pharmaceutical tycoon Dilip Sangavi a few years ago but grabbed the top position.

Last week, Adani had reached a net worth of $100 billion as he became the new member of the centibillionaires club. Worth mentioning here is that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos (currently have a net worth of $176 billion) was the first to hit the $100 billion milestone in 2017 since Microsoft. co-founder Bill Gates back in 1999 for a brief period.

Tesla chief executive Musk, now the world’s richest person with a fortune of $249 billion, joined the elite club in 2020.

Meanwhile, in the last 10 years, while Ambani’s wealth has grown 400 per cent, Adani has seen a 1,830 per cent jump, as per the 2022 M3M Hurun Global Rich List.

India’s Apex Court Upholds BJP Govt’s Foreign Contribution Regulation Act

The Supreme Court on Friday, April 8th affirmed the validity of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment (FCRA) Act, 2020, which imposes new conditions on the receipt and use of funds by NGOs.

A bench headed by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar upheld the 2020 amendments made to the FCRA Act, 2010. The detailed judgment in the case will be uploaded on the top court website later in the day.

The Centre had told the Supreme Court that there exists no fundamental right to receive unbridled foreign contributions without any regulation, while defending the amendments made in 2020 to the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act.

The MHA emphasized that FCRA aim was to ensure foreign contribution does not adversely impinge upon the functioning of parliamentary institutions, political associations, and academic, and other voluntary organisations as well as individuals in India.

The petitioners had challenged the amendments, which included newly added sections 12 and 17, which state that the foreign contributions must be deposited in the FCRA account created in the specified branch of the scheduled bank, which was later notified as State Bank of India, New Delhi branch.

The petitioners claimed the amendments were arbitrary and stringent, which made the functioning of NGOs extremely difficult.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in a 355-page affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, said Parliament has enacted the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, laying down a clear legislative policy of strict controls over foreign contributions for certain activities in the country.

The MHA said the “legislation has also prohibited acceptance and utilisation of foreign contribution or foreign hospitality for any activities detrimental to the national interest and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto”. The affidavit was settled by Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta, who was assisted by advocate Kanu Agrawal.

Petitioners in the matter were — Noel Harper and Nigel Mills of Share and Care Foundation in Andhra Pradesh and Joseph Lizy and Annamma Joachim of National Workers Welfare Trust in Telangana.

KTR, Telengana Minister Woos U.S. Life Sciences Companies, Ready To ‘Beat Any Offer’

Representatives of 18 biotechnology companies attended the roundtable meeting chaired by KT Rama Rao, Telangana information technology and industries minister, where they exchanged ideas on how to promote innovation and investments in the State of Telangana.

Rama Rao, popularly known in Telangana as KTR, was visiting Silicon Valley past month, and during the roundtable meeting with key Biotech, Pharma, and Lifesciences companies, invited them to his state, He discussed the emerging trends in the sector, strategic initiatives that can be rolled out by the Telangana government, and support that can be extended by the government, policy interventions, etc.

Industries and IT Minister KT Rama Rao chaired an industry roundtable with select leaders of biotechnology companies based out of the Bay Area, USA. He presented the overall life sciences and biotechnology ecosystem in Telangana along with the success stories and investment opportunities in the sector.

Rama Rao invited the companies to set up their research and development, digital and manufacturing operations in Hyderabad.

The industry leaders lauded the efforts of the Government to accelerate growth in the life sciences sector and responded positively to Rama Rao’s request to explore investment opportunities in Telangana.

Further, the roundtable discussed the emerging trends in the sector, strategic initiatives that can be rolled out by Telangana Government, support that can be extended by the Government, policy interventions and others to promote innovation and investments in the Telangana.

Industry leaders from Apollomics, Aarvik Therapeutics, Chemveda Life Sciences, Abbvie, Protagonist Therapeutics, Samsara Capital, Stanford India Biodesign, Orbees Medical, Dice Therapeutics, Seal Rock therapeutics, Vasa Therapeutics, Aria Pharmaceuticals, Atomwise, Genentech, Frazier Health Sciences, Alector, Gilead Sciences, AngioSafe and Tosk were among those who attended the roundtable.

Industries Principal Secretary Jayesh Ranjan and Life Sciences Director Shakthi M Nagappan were present.

Value-Driven US Healthcare System Continues, But More Work Remains

Newswise —Value in Health, the official journal of ISPOR—The Professional Society for Health Economics and Outcomes Research, announced today the publication of a report showing that 4 years after the 2018 ISPOR Special Task Force on US Value Assessments published its recommendations meant to advance value assessment methods, researchers have provided more rigorous theoretical and mathematical foundations for some novel value elements while others continue to lag behind. The report, “The History and Future of the ‘ISPOR Value Flower’: Addressing Limitations of Conventional Cost-Effectiveness Analysis,” was published in the April 2022 issue of Value in Health.

In 2018, the ISPOR Special Task Force on US Value Assessments published recommendations intended to help broaden the view of value in healthcare and spur new research on incorporating additional elements of value in traditional cost-effectiveness analyses. The members of the Special Task Force leadership group were Peter J. Neumann, ScD, Center for the Evaluation of Value and Risk in Health at the Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy Studies, Tufts Medical Center, Boston, MA, USA; Louis P. Garrison, PhD, University of Washington School of Pharmacy, Pharmaceutical Outcomes Research and Policy Program, Seattle, WA, USA; and Richard J. Willke, PhD, Chief Science Officer, ISPOR, Lawrenceville, NJ, USA.

Specifically, the Special Task Force identified and considered 12 potential elements of value, including 2 core elements (net costs and quality-adjusted life years), 2 common but inconsistently used elements (productivity and adherence-improvement) and 8 potentially novel ones (reduction in uncertainty, fear of contagion, value of insurance, severity of disease, value of hope, real option value, equity, and scientific spillovers). These 12 elements came to be known as the “ISPOR Value Flower.” In the past few years, the value flower, with its petals highlighting elements that may be overlooked or underappreciated in conventional drug value assessments, has been discussed and debated widely.

Now, years after the Special Task Force published its recommendations, the leadership group—Drs Neumann, Garrison, and Willke—have authored this important update describing recent developments and considering implications for future value assessments.

“Our review of conceptual and empirical papers published in the past 4 years shows that researchers have provided more rigorous theoretical and mathematical foundations for certain novel value elements (eg, severity of disease, value of insurance, value of hope) through generalized risk-adjusted cost-effectiveness analysis, which incorporates risk aversion in people’s preferences and uncertainty in treatment outcomes,” said the authors. “Empirical estimates are also emerging to support key elements, such as value of insurance, real option value, value of hope, and value of knowing.” 

While health technology assessment bodies have applied, or are considering certain elements as described above, other elements have yet to gain traction. The authors note that in part, the lack of uptake may simply reflect the recency of the Special Task Force report and other research. But it may also reflect other factors: a relative dearth of empirical estimates to support novel elements, the difficulties of changing established practices, the absence of strong incentives for US payers to consider non-health effects and externalities, an unwillingness of health insurers to consider elements such as option value or scientific spillovers because they rely on yet undiscovered innovation, or skepticism in the field. 

“Five years after the Special Task Force began its work, the development of novel value measures continues to evolve,” the authors note. “While it is encouraging to see supporting empirical studies emerging, more are needed. Additional efforts are also needed to illustrate how the estimates can be used in the deliberative processes that are integral to health technology assessments. Finally, it would be worth revisiting the design of the ISPOR value flower itself. Considerable discussion of value frameworks has continued without a consensus on any one specific parsing and identification of all the potential elements. Including novel elements will not solve all issues related to value measurement in healthcare. But they can help us think more clearly and comprehensively about the tradeoffs that individuals and societies are willing to make in their choices.” 

Additional information on ISPOR’s work on value assessment can be found on the Society’s Value Assessment Frameworks webpage.

ABOUT ISPOR
ISPOR, the professional society for health economics and outcomes research (HEOR), is an international, multistakeholder, nonprofit dedicated to advancing HEOR excellence to improve decision making for health globally. The Society is the leading source for scientific conferences, peer-reviewed and MEDLINE®-indexed publications, good practices guidance, education, collaboration, and tools/resources in the field.
Website  | LinkedIn  | Twitter (@ispororg)  |  YouTube  |  Facebook  |  Instagram  

 ABOUT VALUE IN HEALTH
Value in Health (ISSN 1098-3015) is an international, indexed journal that publishes original research and health policy articles that advance the field of health economics and outcomes research to help healthcare leaders make evidence-based decisions. The journal’s 2020 impact factor score is 5.725 and its 5-year impact factor score is 6.932. Value in Health is ranked 4th of 98 journals in health policy and services, 9th of 108 journals in healthcare sciences and services, and 24th of 376 journals in economics. Value in Health is a monthly publication that circulates to more than 10,000 readers around the world.
Website  | Twitter (@isporjournals)

British Chancellor Rishi Sunak Seeks Inquiry Into Wife Akshata Murty’s Tax Leak

Rishi Sunak of the United Kingdom, an embattled British Conservative party Chancellor of the exchequer, has defended his Indian wife Akshata Murthy, daughter of Narayana Murthy, one of the founders of software giant Infosys, against charges of avoiding paying taxes in Britain.

Sunak, who is of East African-Indian origin, told media that reports about her non-domicile status are ‘unpleasant smears’. A non-dom in the United Kingdom does not have to pay tax on her overseas income. The BBC estimated “she would have avoided 2.1 million pounds a year in UK tax”.

This, while not unlawful, is embarrassing for Sunak, under whom comes Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). “To smear my wife to get at me is awful,” Sunak insisted.

Murthy is said to own a 0.9 per cent stake in Infosys, which has been calculated as being worth 500 million pounds. Annual dividends from this holding is estimated to be 11.6 million pounds. On Thursday, it emerged she pays just 30,000 pounds a year in the UK on the British income.

Rishi Sunak is now demanding a Whitehall inquiry to find out who leaked details about his wife Akshata Murty’s tax arrangements. Murty has said she will pay UK taxes on her overseas income, following a row over her non-domicile status, the BBC reported.

Downing Street has rejected newspaper reports that its staff leaked damaging stories about Sunak to the media. It has been a bruising week for the Chancellor, and now he has asked senior civil servants for a full investigation to establish who divulged his wife’s tax status.

His allies say very few people had access to the personal information, which Sunak declared to Whitehall officials when he became a minister in 2018, the BBC reported.

Some Conservative MPs say he was naive to think the details would remain private, and that he should have predicted that the tax arrangements would be criticised as inappropriate, despite being legal. Sunak’s team has dismissed suggestions of a rift with Downing Street and say the prime minister has been “incredibly supportive”.

The opposition Labor party said it would be “breath-taking hypocrisy” if the Chancellor’s wife had reduced her tax bill as he raised taxes for millions of workers — referring to the rise in National Insurance contributions imposed in last month’s budget by Sunak.

Opposition Labor Party MP Louise Haigh said: “I think the question many people will be asking is whether it was ethical and whether it was right that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whilst piling on 15 separate tax rises to the British public, was benefiting from a tax scheme that allowed his household to pay significantly less to the tune of potentially tens of millions of pounds.”

The Chancellor’s brand, vigorously promoted since he came to office, has been damaged, with some members of the ruling Conservative Party questioning his judgement. Opposition MPs have said Sunak’s family is benefiting at a time when he is putting up taxes for millions of others, the BBC reported.

However, a section of British newspapers has claimed that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office is leaking damaging material about Sunak to media. 10 Downing Street described the allegations as “categorically untrue” and “baseless”.

On Thursday, the pro-Johnson Daily Mail ran a headline, which read: “Collapsed fitness chain backed by Rishi Sunak’s non-dom wife was paid up to 650,000 pounds in furlough cash – while her billionaire father’s IT firm claimed Covid handout for hundreds of UK staff”.

Earlier, the attack against Sunak ranged from he being the richest member of Parliament with a net worth of 200 million pounds, to Infosys operating in Russia, which western corporate houses are restrained from doing after the West’s sanctions against the Russian Federation following its invasion of Ukraine.

While Sunak may have built a slight fortune as an investment banker, his background is upper middle class, his father being a general practitioner and mother an owner of a chemist’s shop.

The allegation about Infosys was ridiculous as an Indian company is under no obligation to copy its western counterparts, since the government of India maintains normal economic ties with Moscow.

From December 2021 until before the Russia-Ukraine conflict — when Johnson’s continuity as head of government looked untenable, because of a series of scandals associated with him — it was widely being speculated in British print media as well as in Conservative circles that Sunak was a front-runner to succeed Johnson.

It was also pointed out at that point that while other cabinet colleagues were strenuously defending Johnson against the barrage of demands for him to step down, Sunak was lukewarm in doing so, which was interpreted as ‘ambition’.

Sunak became popular when the British government was significantly generous in protecting the livelihoods during the Covid-19 crisis. But having borrowed money to extend such assistance, it was inevitable that he would have to raise taxes to repay the debt. However, given the cost of living crisis that had descended on Britons because of inflation, the Chancellor’s recent budget has been condemned as uncaring.

In Britain, a budget is identified in particular with the Chancellor, although the intelligentsia is aware its contents have the prior approval of the Prime Minister. With Johnson not saying much to protect Sunak against the onslaught unleashed against him on his proposals or lack of them, an impression has grown that the latter is being thrown under a bus.

Discovery Acquires HBO, CNN, And Warner Bros., Creating New Media Giant

Discovery’s merger with Warner Media took effect on April 8th, 2022, creating a streaming media giant led by CEO David Zaslav. The deal combines two treasure troves of content and foreshadows further changes in the streaming era.

The newly formed company, Warner Bros. Discovery, will begin publicly trading on Monday. Zaslav said he will hold a town hall event for employees of the combined company later in the week.

“I am confident that our collective energy and genuine love for these businesses and brands will build the world’s most dynamic media and entertainment company,” Zaslav said in a memo to employees Friday afternoon.

Zaslav said Warner Bros. Discovery “can propel the creation of high-quality content; create more opportunity for under-represented storytellers and independent creators; and serve customers with more innovative video experiences and points of engagement.”

The deal, first announced last May, is a climactic moment for Zaslav and his longtime deputies at Discovery, best known for brands like Animal Planet, TLC and HGTV. The merger adds HBO, CNN, TNT, Turner Sports, the Warner Bros. movie studio, and a huge raft of other media assets to the company.

Setting the stage to compete with the likes of Disney and Netflix, Zaslav said in Friday’s memo that “we are well positioned to become a top-tier streaming competitor.”

He confirmed that the main streaming services from each side of the company, HBO Max and discovery+, will be brought “into a single product in the future.”

The merger vaults Zaslav to the very top tier of the media business, controlling everything from a legendary movie studio to a global news network.

As Rich Greenfield, the influential LightShed Partners media analyst, told CNN Business, “David can actually beat Goliath!” Greenfield said “Zaslav and team find themselves in a position that was unimaginable two years ago — sitting near the top of Hollywood.”

Shareholders of AT&T (T), which spun off WarnerMedia earlier this week, hold 71% of shares in the new company, and Discovery shareholders hold 29%. But the transaction represents AT&T’s reversal of an earlier plan to become a media heavyweight. With Friday’s deal “close,” in Wall Street speak, AT&T has officially unwound its 2018 takeover of Time Warner and refocused on its core business.

AT&T CEO John Stankey bid farewell to the media company in a candid memo to staffers on Friday. “Getting to this moment was one of the more difficult decisions of my life,” he wrote. “I am sure you aren’t surprised that it came with a fair amount of anxiety, disappointment, and concern relative to the changes it would trigger. All considered, I remain confident we have set the right path.”

“Over time,” Stankey wrote, “the combination of WarnerMedia and Discovery will bring forth a stronger company and quicken the already strong pace of innovation and change you have established.”

Warner Bros. Discovery is anticipating $3 billion in what businesses often refer to as “synergies,” which means the combination will almost certainly entail layoffs. Already, many of Warner’s top executives have exited the company, including WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar, whose last day was Friday.

Zaslav wrote in an internal memo on Thursday that “we are establishing a simpler organizational structure with fewer layers, more accountability and more resources focused on the screen.”

Discovery executive Bruce Campbell will oversee all revenue for the new company. JB Perrette will run global streaming and interactive entertainment. Kathleen Finch will oversee all cable networks except CNN and HBO. CNN will be operated separately, with Chris Licht becoming chairman and CEO of CNN Global. All will report to Zaslav.

Three key creative executives from WarnerMedia will also report directly to Zaslav: HBO and HBO Max chief content officer Casey Bloys; Warner Bros. Television Group chairman Channing Dungey; and Warner Bros. Picture Group chairman Toby Emmerich.

Rising Oil Prices To Keep Indian Rupee On A Slippery Slope

High crude oil prices combined with fears of rising inflation are expected to keep the Indian rupee under pressure, next week. Lately, the Brent crude oil price has remained elevated due to the Russian-Ukrainian war. The price has hovered in the range of $100-$110 in the last few weeks.

“Rupee has been under pressure due to rising US bond yields, inflation and high crude oil prices,” said Sajal Gupta Head Fx & Rates Edelweiss.

“These circumstances are going to be tough for the Indian rupee to appreciate. Expect rupee to trade between 75.50 and 76.25 in the next week.” Last week, the rupee closed at 75.90 to a greenback.

“Next week is a relatively shorter week but market participants will be keeping an eye on the inflation and industrial production number to gauge a view for the currency,” said Gaurang Somaiya, Forex & Bullion Analyst, Motilal Oswal Financial Services.

“Expectation is that inflation could remain elevated following the recent rise in energy and food prices. On the other hand, industrial production could grow at a slower pace in January and could further weigh on the currency.”

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) is slated to release the macro-economic data points of Index of Industrial Production (IIP), Consumer Price Index (CPI) on March 12.

On the other hand, expectations of India Inc’s healthy Q4FY22 results season should attract fresh equity focused foreign funds which might cub any sharp weakness in the Indian rupee versus the US dollar.

“Dollar index have surged past week and it is now trading near crucial psychological mark of 100,” said Devarsh Vakil, Deputy Head of Retail Research, HDFC Securities.

“Rupee is likely to consolidate next week on back of improving sentiments for equity markets. In near term, spot USD INR expected to trade in the range of 76.20 to 75.70. with bias towards appreciation.”

$40 Billion Borrowed By US Consumers in February Alone

Americans got into a lot more debt in February this year as rampant inflation kept up the pressure, the Federal Reserve’s consumer credit report showed last week. Debt levels jumped by nearly $42 billion to a total of almost $4.5 trillion. That’s an annual increase of 11.3%, seasonally adjusted, far outperforming economists’ expectations and setting a new high. In January, total credit had grown only 2.4%.

The Fed’s historical consumer credit data goes back to the early 1940s. Revolving credit, which includes credit cards, jumped by 20.7% to about $1.1 trillion. The category increased by only 4% in the prior month.

Nonrevolving credit, such as student or car loans, grew by 8.4% to $3.4 trillion, also outpacing a smaller January gain.

Americans have been challenged with a rapid pace of price increases everywhere, from the grocery store to the gas station. Year-over-year inflation has increased at a pace not seen in 40 years.

Consumer spending has kept up the pace so far, but it is not immediately clear whether that’s because people are paying more for the same items that got more expensive or are actually buying more goods and services.

In late February, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine jolted global energy markets and boosted the price of gasoline. With prices at the pump rising higher in March, credit card spending is unlikely to have gone down after the February jump.

Biden’s Order To Release Oil From Strategic Petroleum Reserve To Reduce Gas Prices ‘Fairly Significantly’

US President Joe Biden announced last week that his administration will release 1 million barrels of oil per day for the next six months from its strategic reserve in an effort a bid to control energy prices that have spiked after the United States and allies imposed steep sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. The releasing of over 180 million barrels from the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve is the “largest” release from national reserve in the country’s history, Biden said in a speech from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Thursday.

The president said it was not known how much gasoline prices could decline as a result of his move, but he suggested it might be “anything from 10 cents to 35 cents a gallon.” Gas is averaging about $4.23 a gallon, compared with $2.87 a year ago, according to AAA.

“As Russian oil comes off the global market, supply of oil drops and prices are rising,” he said, acknowledging the US energy embargo on Russia would “come with a cost”.

“The bottom line is if we want lower gas prices we need to have more oil supply right now,” Biden said. “This is a moment of consequence and peril for the world, and pain at the pump for American families.”

The president also wants Congress to impose financial penalties on oil and gas companies that lease public lands but are not producing. He said he will invoke the Defense Production Act to encourage the mining of critical minerals for batteries in electric vehicles, part of a broader push to shift toward cleaner energy sources and reduce the use of fossil fuels. The actions show that oil remains a vulnerability for the U.S. Higher prices have hurt Biden’s approval domestically and added billions of oil-export dollars to the Russian government as it wages war on Ukraine.

Tapping the stockpile would create pressures that could reduce oil prices, though Biden has twice ordered releases from the reserves without causing a meaningful shift in oil markets. Biden said Thursday he expects gasoline prices could drop “fairly significantly.”

Part of Biden’s concern is that high prices have not so far coaxed a meaningful jump in oil production. The planned release is a way to increase supplies as a bridge until oil companies ramp up their own production, with administration officials estimating that domestic production will grow by 1 million barrels daily this year and an additional 700,000 barrels daily in 2023.

The markets reacted quickly with crude oil prices dropping about 6% in Thursday trading to roughly $101 a barrel. Still, oil is up from roughly $60 a year ago, with supplies failing to keep up with demand as the world economy has begun to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic. That inflationary problem was compounded by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, which created new uncertainties about oil and natural gas supplies and led to retaliatory sanctions from the U.S. and its allies.

Stewart Glickman, an oil analyst for CFRA Research, said the release would bring short-term relief on prices and would be akin to “taking some Advil for a headache.” But markets would ultimately look to see whether, after the releases stop, the underlying problems that led to Biden’s decisions remain.

“The root cause of the headache is probably still going to be there after the medicine wears off,” Glickman said. Biden has been in talks with allies and partners to join in additional releases of oil, such that the world market will get more than the 180 million barrels total being pledged by the U.S.

Americans on average use about 21 million barrels of oil daily, with about 40% of that devoted to gasoline, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That total accounts for about one-fifth of total global consumption of oil.

Domestic oil production is equal to more than half of U.S. usage, but high prices have not led companies to return to their pre-pandemic levels of output. The U.S. is producing on average 11.7 million barrels daily, down from 13 million barrels in early 2020.

“Look, the action I’m calling for will make a real difference over time. But the truth is it takes months, not days, for companies to increase production,” he said on Thursday. In his address, Biden also highlighted the importance of US energy independence and called for a transition to clean energy.

“Ultimately, we and the whole world need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels altogether. We need to choose long-term security over energy and climate vulnerability,” he said. Biden, who faces with mounting pressure to address a surging inflation ahead of the midterm elections, blamed the Covid-19 pandemic and Russia’s military action for rising gas prices.

Republican lawmakers have said the problem results from the administration being hostile to oil permits and the construction of new pipelines such as the Keystone XL. Democrats say the country needs to move to renewable energy such as wind and solar that could reduce the dependence on fossil fuels and Putin’s leverage.

Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., blasted Biden’s action to tap the reserve without first taking steps to increase American energy production, calling it “a Band-Aid on a bullet wound.″ Daines called Biden’s actions “desperate moves″ that avoid what he called the real solution: ”investing in American energy production,″ and getting “oil and gas leases going again.”

The administration says increasing oil output is a gradual process and the release would provide time to ramp up production. It also wants to incentivize greater production by putting fees on unused leases on government lands, something that would require congressional approval.

Oil producers have been more focused on meeting the needs of investors than consumers, according to a survey released last week by the Dallas Federal Reserve.

About 59% of the executives surveyed said investor pressure to preserve “capital discipline” amid high prices was the reason they weren’t pumping more, while fewer than 10% blamed government regulation.

In his remarks last week, Biden tried to shame oil companies that he said are focused on profits instead of putting out more barrels, saying that adding to the oil supply was a patriotic obligation.

“This is not the time to sit on record profits: It’s time to step up for the good of your country,” the president said.

The steady release from the reserves would be a meaningful sum and come near to closing the domestic production gap relative to February 2020, before the coronavirus caused a steep decline in oil output.

Still, the politics of oil are complicated with industry advocates and environmentalists both criticizing the planned release. Groups such as the American Petroleum Institute want to make drilling easier, while environmental organizations say energy companies should be forced to pay a special tax on windfall profits instead.

The administration in November announced the release of 50 million barrels from the strategic reserve in coordination with other countries. And after the Russia-Ukraine war began, the U.S. and 30 other countries agreed to an additional release of 60 million barrels from reserves, with half of the total coming from the U.S.

According to the Department of Energy, which manages it, more than 568 million barrels of oil were held in the reserve as of March 25. After the release, the government would begin to replenish the reserve once prices have sufficiently fallen.

Among 108,000 New Immigrants To Canada, Indians Top The List

Canada, which plans to admit a record 432,000 new immigrants in 2022, is on target to hit this mark as the country welcomed 108,000 newcomers in the first three months of the year.

“Canada is proud to be a destination of choice for so many people around the world, and we will continue to work hard to provide the best experience possible for them,” said Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, releasing the figures for the first quarter on Thursday.

Though there is no country-wise break-up of the numbers, Indians are the top immigrant group to take up residence in Canada this year.

In 2021, nearly 100,000 Indians became permanent residents of Canada as the country admitted a record 405,000 new immigrants in its history.

During 2021-2022, over 210,000 permanent residents also acquired Canadian citizenship.

As per figures released by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), it also issued 450,000 study permit applications.

As per figures released by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), it also issued 450,000 study permit applications. As of December 31, 2021, of the approximately 622,000 foreign students in Canada, Indians number as high as 217,410.

The Indian Parliament was informed that as of March 20, this year, a total of 1,33,135 Indian students have already gone abroad for higher studies. There are over 622,000 foreign students in Canada, with Indians numbering 217,410 as of December 31, 2021.

Canada is steadily becoming a popular destination among Indians looking to migrate abroad, for studying or work. According to a study by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP), the number of Indians who became permanent residents of Canada increased by 115% in the last four to five years.

In fact, NFAP data shows that America is no longer the dream destination for most Indians, Canada is taking its place. The number of Indian students doing post-graduation in science and engineering studies at US universities declined by nearly 40% between the 2016-17 and 2019-20 academic years, while it increased by nearly 182% in Canada between 2016 and 2019.

In Canada, it is easier for international students to obtain temporary visas and permanent residence after graduating than it is in the United States. Canada’s post-graduation work permit (PGWP) is commonly seen as the first major step towards obtaining permanent resident status.

Open Work Permit is another immigration pathway that lets one go to Canada without a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) or an offer letter from an employer who has paid the compliance fee. The permit allows one to work for any organisation in Canada as long as it has not been marked ineligible by the government.

Canada’s acute labour shortage became a serious concern during the pandemic after which it announced major plans to overcome the problem by setting a target of admitting more than 1.3 million immigrants over three years.

“Common Prosperity” By President XI A Defining Theme Of Chinese Politics

Introduced by Chinese President Xi Jinping at the beginning of 2021, “common prosperity” has become a defining theme of Chinese politics today, serving to set critical priorities for Beijing across economic, environmental, and social policy, at both the national and local levels. Focused largely on alleviating systemic inequalities, the common prosperity campaign has been described as a transformational new path for China’s development. Despite the central importance of common prosperity to the direction of Chinese policymaking, clarity on the concept remains limited outside of China.

What exactly does common prosperity mean in practice, and what are the intentions and motivations of the political campaign being waged in its name? Where is the campaign headed, and will it be able to accomplish its goals? And, in particular, what will common prosperity mean for international non-profits and philanthropic organizations working in or with China on those areas central to the campaign?

China’s Common Prosperity Program: Causes, Challenges, and Implications,” a new paper by Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI) Senior Fellow Guoguang Wu, examines these questions in detail. The paper finds that common prosperity is derived from a complex number of motivations, including reducing pressing inequalities, but also key political goals of interest to the Chinese party-state.

Air New Zealand Introduces East Coast’s First Nonstop Auckland Flight

Air New Zealand is launching the first-ever nonstop flight from New York to Auckland.

Flights will begin operating out of New York JFK on September 17, flying year-round into Auckland International Airport three times per week on a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner jet. Additionally, Air New Zealand is bestowing special flight numbers on the momentous route: The southbound leg will be dubbed NZ 1, while northbound flights will be referred to as NZ 2.

“Traditionally, flight numbers 1 and 2 are used for an airline’s flagship route. And that’s what New York will be—our flagship route,” Greg Foran, CEO of Air New Zealand, said in a statement. “We’ve worked incredibly hard over the past few years to make this ultra-long-haul service a reality–it’s one of the longest routes in the world.”

In fact, the southbound leg of the historic new route will become the fourth-longest flight in the world, with a flight time clocking in at 17 hours and 35 minutes. The route will also be the first-ever nonstop from the East Coast of the U.S. to the South Pacific.

On board, the airline’s Dreamliners will be outfitted with plenty of premium seats to keep passengers comfortable for the duration of the ultra-long flight, with 27 seats in business class, 33 in premium economy, and 215 in economy class. Notably, the plane will also feature 13 of the airline’s famous Sky Couch product, which is essentially a row of economy seats combined into one fare so fliers can stretch out mid-flight.

Since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, New Zealand has been largely sealed off to most travelers, with its airlines operating few—if any—international flights. Government officials recently announced the nation’s borders would reopen on May 1 to vaccinated visitors from visa-waiver countries, including the U.S.

In 2019, the airline had announced plans to launch a similar nonstop route from New Jersey’s Newark airport to Auckland, but that launch was derailed by the pandemic. “The U.S. has always been a key market for us, and this new route cements our commitment to growing opportunities for tourism between the two countries,” Foran said. “In the six years leading up to COVID, the U.S. visitor numbers to New Zealand doubled, so we expect our much-awaited non-stop service to be incredibly strong year-round.”

Americans looking to hop on one of the new flights this year should book as soon as possible: Air New Zealand executives have said that flights have been selling out almost as quickly as they’ve been adding them, with the airline’s first international flights added in earlier February between Australia and New Zealand booking up in a matter of days.

“This is a breathtakingly beautiful part of the world,” Foran said. “We’ve been keeping all the best spots and hidden gems warm for our visitors while they’ve been gone and now, we’re ready to show them what they’ve been missing.”

Global Jobs Attract Indian Students To Foreign Varsities

Foreign universities, technical institutes and B-schools not only provide world class education to students, but also prepare them for high-paying global jobs which the Indian youth see as an easy way to fast-tract their career growth.

While countries like Russia, China and Australia are a popular choice for technical courses among the Indian students, a large number of them have also turned to universities in the US, the UK and Canada for programmes that will fetch them work permit for global technical jobs.

According to Canada’s Immigration Refugee and Citizenship data, the number of Indian students studying in the country has increased by a whopping 350 per cent between the 2015-16 and 2019-20 academic years.

As per data by the UK’s Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), the number of Indian students enrolling to universities every year has increased by 220 per cent. However, the percentage of Indian students in the US has declined by 9 per cent between 2015-16 and 2019-20.

Canada’s Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP), America’s Optional Training Program (OPT) and Britain’s New Graduate Pathway (GR) offer opportunities for good placements after postgraduation which are a major attraction among Indian students to advance their career.

Notably, Indian applicants have an excellent track record in approval rates for work permits abroad. In Canada, there has been an approval rate of over 95 per cent for the PGWPP in the past five years.

International education expert Karunn Kandoi told IANS that the US, the UK and Canada are the most popular destinations for Indian students for studying Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) or business management programmes.

“While 44 per cent of Indian students in the UK and 37 per cent in Canada have opted for business studies, the US is the first choice to study STEM courses. In 2020-21, 78 per cent of Indians studied STEM programmes in the US. It was the third highest rate among the top 25 countries to study,” he said.

According to a former professor of Delhi University, D. Sharma, universities in the US, Canada and Australia are not only providing modern education and global culture to its students but also excellent employment opportunities.

He also pointed out: “India has been leading the way in global talent development over the past 10 years and the trend of studying abroad remains more relevant than ever in the past two years, despite the constraints caused by the pandemic.”

An Indian student from a reputed B-school in Canada, Bhaskar Sharma, said: “Getting a permanent residency here is also a big goal for many Indian students after admission to an international university. Students sometimes also find it easier to achieve their goals abroad on the basis of their merit, especially when there is a need for special kind of technical knowledge in one field.

“For example, Canada’s health sciences and skilled trades are facing a significant labour shortage, while in the UK, the information and communications sector has the highest vacancy rate at 5.5 per cent.”

Indian students are also now turning to foreign countries to study medicine. However recently, due to the Russia-Ukraine war, around 18,000 students had to return to the country before the completion of their course.

Pawan Chaudhary, President of India’s Medical Technology Association, said: “Due to the Russia-Ukraine war, Indian students will find options to complete MBBS in any other countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal, Spain, Germany, Kyrgyzstan and the UK, where the cost of the course is low.”

The Impact Of Economic War On Putin Led Russia How Sanctions On Russia Will Upend The Global Order

The Russian-Ukrainian war of 2022 is not just a major geopolitical event but also a geoeconomic turning point. Western sanctions are the toughest measures ever imposed against a state of Russia’s size and power.

In the space of less than three weeks, the United States and its allies have cut major Russian banks off from the global financial system; blocked the export of high-tech components in unison with Asian allies; seized the overseas assets of hundreds of wealthy oligarchs; revoked trade treaties with Moscow; banned Russian airlines from North Atlantic airspace: restricted Russian oil sales to the United States and United Kingdom; blocked all foreign investment in the Russian economy from their jurisdiction; and frozen $403 billion out of the $630 billion in foreign assets of the Central Bank of Russia.

The overall effect has been unprecedented, and a few weeks ago would have seemed unimaginable even to most experts: in all but its most vital products, the world’s eleventh-largest economy has now been decoupled from twenty-first-century globalization.

How will these historic measures play out? Economic sanctions rarely succeed at achieving their goals. Western policymakers frequently assume that failures stem from weaknesses in sanctions design.

Indeed, sanctions can be plagued by loopholes, lack of political will to implement them, or insufficient diplomatic agreement concerning enforcement. The implicit assumption is that stronger sanctions stand a better chance of succeeding.

Yet the Western economic containment of Russia is different. This is an unprecedented campaign to isolate a G-20 economy with a large hydrocarbon sector, a sophisticated military-industrial complex, and a diversified basket of commodity exports. As a result, Western sanctions face a different kind of problem.

The sanctions, in this case, could fail not because of their weakness but because of their great and unpredictable strength. Having grown accustomed to using sanctions against smaller countries at low cost, Western policymakers have only limited experience and understanding of the effects of truly severe measures against a major, globally connected economy. Existing fragilities in the world’s economic and financial structure mean that such sanctions have the potential to cause grave political and material fallout.

THE REAL SHOCK AND AWE

Just how severe the current sanctions against Russia are can be seen from their effects across the world. The immediate shock to the Russian economy is the most obvious. Economists expect Russian GDP to contract by at least 9–15 percent this year, but the damage could well become much more severe.

The ruble has fallen more than a third since the beginning of January. An exodus of skilled Russian professionals is underway, while the capacity to import consumer goods and valuable technology has fallen drastically. As Russian political scientist Ilya Matveev has put it, “30 years of economic development thrown into the bin.”

The ramifications of the Western sanctions go far beyond these effects on Russia itself. There are at least four different kinds of broader effects: spillover effects into adjacent countries and markets; multiplier effects through private-sector divestment; escalation effects in the form of Russian responses; and systemic effects on the global economy.

Spillover effects have already caused turmoil in international commodities markets. A generalized panic erupted among traders after the second Western sanctions package—including the SWIFT cutoff and the freezing of central bank reserves—was announced on February 26.

Prices of crude oil, natural gas, wheat, copper, nickel, aluminum, fertilizers, and gold have soared. Because the war has closed Ukrainian ports and international firms are shunning Russian commodity exports, a grain and metals shortage now looms over the global economy.

Although oil prices have since dropped in anticipation of additional output from Gulf producers, the price shock to energy and commodities across the board will push global inflation higher. African and Asian countries reliant on food and energy imports are already experiencing difficulties.

Economists expect Russian GDP to contract by at least 9 to 15 percent this year.

Central Asia’s economies are also caught up in the sanctions shock. These former Soviet states are strongly connected to the Russian economy through trade and outward labor migration. The collapse of the ruble has caused serious financial distress in the region.

Kazakhstan has imposed exchange controls after the tenge, its currency, fell by 20 percent in the wake of the Western sanctions against Moscow; Tajikistan’s somoni has undergone a similarly steep depreciation. Russia’s impending impoverishment will force millions of Central Asian migrant workers to seek employment elsewhere and dry up the flow of remittances to their home countries.

The impact of the sanctions goes beyond decisions taken by G-7 and EU governments. The official sanctions packages have had a catalyzing effect on international businesses operating in Russia. Virtually overnight, Russia’s impending isolation has set in motion a massive corporate flight.

In what amounts to a vast private sector boycott, hundreds of major Western firms in the technology, oil and gas, aerospace, car, manufacturing, consumer goods, food and beverage, accounting and financial, and transport industries are pulling out of the country.

It is noteworthy that these departures are in many cases not required by sanctions. Instead, they are driven by moral condemnation, reputational concerns, and outright panic. As a result, the business retreat is deepening the economic shock to Russia by multiplying the negative economic effects of official state sanctions.

The Russian government has responded to the sanctions in several ways. It has undertaken emergency stabilization policies to protect foreign exchange earnings and shore up the ruble. Foreign portfolio capital is being locked into the country.

While the stock market has remained closed, the assets of many Western firms that have departed may soon face confiscation. The Ministry of Economic Development has prepared a law that grants the Russian state six months to take over businesses in case of an “ungrounded” liquidation or bankruptcy.

The potential nationalization of Western capital is not the only escalatory effect of the sanctions. On March 9, Putin signed an order restricting Russian commodity exports. Although the full array of items to be withheld under the ban is not yet clear, the threat of its use will continue to hang over international trade.

Russian restrictions on fertilizer exports imposed in early February have already put pressure on global food production. Russia could retaliate by restricting exports of important minerals such as nickel, palladium, and industrial sapphires. These are crucial inputs for the production of electrical batteries, catalytic converters, phones, ball bearings, light tubes, and microchips.

In the globalized assemblage system, even small changes in materials prices can massively raise the production costs faced by final users downstream in the production chain. A Russian embargo or large export reduction of palladium, nickel, or sapphires would hit car and semiconductor manufacturers, a $3.4 trillion global industry.

If the economic war between the West and Russia continues further into 2022 at this intensity, it is very possible that the world will slide into a sanctions-induced recession.

MANAGING THE FALLOUT

The combination of spillover effects, negative multiplier effects, and escalation effects means that the sanctions against Russia will have an effect on the world economy like few previous sanctions regimes in history. Why was this great upheaval not anticipated?

One reason is that over the last few decades, U.S. policymakers have usually deployed sanctions against economies that were sufficiently modest in size for any significant adverse effects to be contained. The degree of integration into the world economy of North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Myanmar, and Belarus was relatively modest and one-dimensional. Only the rollout of U.S. sanctions against Iran required special care to avoid upsetting the oil market.

In general, however, the assumption held that sanctions use was economically almost costless to the United States. This has meant that the macroeconomic and macrofinancial consequences of global sanctions are insufficiently understood.

To better grasp the choices to be made in the current economic sanctions against Russia, it is instructive to examine sanctions use in the 1930s, when democracies similarly attempted to use them to stop the aggression of large-sized autocratic economies such as Fascist Italy, imperial Japan, and Nazi Germany.

The crucial backdrop to these efforts was the Great Depression, which had weakened economies and inflamed nationalism around the world. When Italian dictator Benito Mussolini invaded Ethiopia in October 1935, the League of Nations implemented an international sanctions regime enforced by 52 countries. It was an impressive united response, similar to that on display in reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

But the league sanctions came with real tradeoffs. Economic containment of Fascist Italy limited democracies’ ability to use sanctions against an aggressor who was more threatening still: Adolf Hitler.

As a major engine of export demand for smaller European economies, Germany was too large an economy to be isolated without severe commercial loss to the whole of Europe. Amid the fragile recovery from the Depression, simultaneously placing sanctions on both Italy and Germany—then the fourth- and seventh-largest economies in the world—was too costly for most democracies.

Hitler exploited this fear of overstretch and the international focus on Ethiopia by moving German troops into the demilitarized Rhineland in March 1936, advancing further toward war. German officials were aware of their commercial power, which they used to maneuver central European and Balkan economies into their political orbit.

The result was the creation of a continental, river-based bloc of vassal economies whose trade with Germany was harder for Western states to block with sanctions or a naval blockade.

The sanctions dilemmas of the 1930s show that aggressors should be confronted when they disrupt the international order. But it equally drives home the fact that the viability of sanctions, and the chances of their success, are always dependent on the global economic situation.

In unstable commercial and financial conditions, it will be necessary to prioritize among competing objectives and prepare thoroughly for unintended effects of all kinds. Using sanctions against very large economies will simply not be possible without compensatory policies that support the sanctioners’ economies and the rest of the world.

More intensive sanctions will inflict further damage to the world economy.

The Biden administration is aware of this problem, but its actions so far are inadequate to the scale of the problem. Washington has attempted to reduce strains in the oil market by a partial reconciliation with Iran and Venezuela.

Countering the spillover effects of sanctions against one leading petrostate may now require lifting sanctions on two smaller petrostates. But this oil diplomacy is insufficient to meet the challenge posed by the Russia sanctions, the effects of which are aggravating preexisting economic woes.

Supply chain issues and pandemic-era bottlenecks in global transport and production networks predated the war in Ukraine. The unprecedented use of sanctions in these already troubled conditions has made an already difficult situation worse.

The problem of managing the fallout of economic war is greater still in Europe. This is not only because the European Union has much stronger trade and energy links with Russia. It is also the result of the political economy of the eurozone as it has taken shape over the last two decades: with the exception of France, most of its economies follow a heavily trade-reliant, export-focused growth strategy.

This economic model requires foreign demand for exports while repressing wages and domestic demand. It is a structure that is very ill suited to the prolonged imposition of trade-reducing sanctions. Increasing EU-wide renewable energy investment and expanding public control in the energy sector, as French President Emmanuel Macron has announced, is one way to absorb this shock.

But there is also a need for income-boosting measures for consumer goods and price-dampening interventions in producer goods markets, from strategic reserve management to the excess profits taxes that are being rolled out in Spain and Italy.

Then there are the consequences of sanctions cause for the world economy at large, especially in the “global South.” Addressing these problems will pose a major macroeconomic challenge. It is therefore imperative for the G-7, the European Union, and the United States’ Asian partners to launch bold and coordinated action to stabilize global markets.

This can be done through targeted investment to clear up supply bottlenecks, generous international grants and loans to developing countries struggling to secure adequate food and energy supplies, and large-scale government funding for renewable energy capacity.

It will also have to involve subsidies, and perhaps even rationing and price controls, to protect the poorest from the destructive effects of surging food, energy, and commodity prices.

Such state intervention is the price to be paid for engaging in economic war. Inflicting material damage at the scale levelled against Russia simply cannot be pursued without an international policymaking shift that extends economic support to those affected by sanctions. Unless the material well-being of households is protected, political support for sanctions will crumble over time.

THE NEW INTERVENTIONISTS

Western policymakers thus face a serious decision. They must decide whether to uphold sanctions against Russia at their current strength or to impose further economic punishment on Putin. If the goal of the sanctions is to exert maximum pressure on Russia with minimal disruption to their own economies—and thus a manageable risk of domestic political backlash—then current levels of pressure may be the most that is politically feasible now.

At the moment, simply maintaining existing sanctions will require active compensatory policies. For Europe especially, neither laissez-faire economic policies nor fiscal fragmentation will be sustainable if the economic war persists. But if the West decides to step up the economic pressure on Russia further still, far-reaching economic interventions will become an absolute necessity.

More intensive sanctions will inflict further damage, not just to the sanctioners themselves but to the world economy at large. No matter how strong and justified the West’s resolve to stop Putin’s aggression is, policymakers must accept the material reality that an all-out economic offensive will introduce considerable new strains into the world economy.

An intensification of sanctions will cause a cascade of material shocks that will demand far-reaching stabilization efforts.And even with such rescue measures, the economic damage may well be serious, and the risks of strategic escalation willremain high.

For all these reasons, it remains vital to pursue diplomatic and economic paths that can end the conflict. Whatever the results of the war, the economic offensive against Russia has already exposed one important new reality: the era of costless, risk-free, and predictable sanctions is well and truly over.

Elon Musk Could Become World’s First Trillionaire In 2024

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk could become the first person to ever accumulate a $1 trillion net worth, and it could happen as soon as 2024, says a new report.

Musk is currently said to be the richest person in the world, overtaking former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos last year to claim the title, reports Teslarati.

While Musk has stated many times that material possessions are not a concern of his, eventually selling nearly all of his personal properties as proof, a new study from Tipalti Approve suggests he could become the first person to ever accumulate a $1 trillion net worth.

Musk’s net worth, according to Forbes’ Real Time Billionaires list, sits at over $260 billion, nearly $70 billion more than Bezos’ current estimation of about $190 billion.

His wealth skyrocketed over the past few years thanks to his majority ownership of Tesla, which increased in value substantially since 2020. SpaceX also has helped Musk’s net worth skyrocket and could catalyze even more growth in the next two years.

“Since 2017, Musk’s fortune has shown an annual average increase of 129 per cent, which could potentially see him enter the trillion-dollar club in just two short years, achieving a net worth of $1.38 trillion by 2024 at age 52,” Tipalti Approve, who conducted the study, said in their report.

“SpaceX generates massive incomes by charging governmental and commercial clients to send various things into space, including satellites, ISS supplies, and people,” it added.

Other billionaires are also expected to hit the trillion-dollar range, but not before Musk, the report said.

Zhang Yiming, TikTok’s founder, is projected to reach a $1 trillion net worth by 2026 at 42 years old, making him the youngest trillionaire. Bezos may not hit the threshold until 2030. Bezos broke ground in the net worth realm by reaching $100 billion before any other entrepreneur in the world.

2,210 Additional Planes Needed In India Over Next 20 Years

Reuters: -Airbus expects Indian airlines to order 2,210 planes over the next 20 years, up from a previous forecast of 1,900, it said on Thursday, citing growth in the country’s aviation sector.

With low-cost carriers making up the bulk of the Indian market, Airbus expects airlines will need 1,770 narrowbody planes to grow their fleets and replace old planes, with the remainder being widebody planes, Brent McBratney, head of airline marketing for India and South Asia, said at an air show.

India’s domestic and international air travel market is expected to grow 6.2% per year over the next 20 years, outpacing average global growth of about 3.9%, McBratney said.

While a proliferation of low-cost carriers has spurred demand for narrowbody planes in India, McBratney also expects growth in long-haul travel, which he said was a largely untapped market for Indian carriers.

Domestic air travel in India is recovering from the pandemic, helping airlines such as IndiGo, which is Airbus’ biggest customer for its A320 narrowbody planes, and Vistara, a joint venture between Singapore Airlines and Tata Sons, to boost capacity and utilisation levels.

But as crude prices hit record highs following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the cost of jet fuel has risen, which could lead to higher ticket prices and temper demand.

However, Airbus expects domestic air travel in India to reach pre-COVID levels by mid-2022, while international travel traffic is expected to recover by next year. Airbus said in November it expected a market total of 39,020 jetliner deliveries over the next 20 years, fractionally lower than the 39,213 it forecast two years earlier.

Ukraine Incursion, World Stagflation

Finger pointing in the blame game over Russia’s Ukraine incursion obscures the damage it is doing on many fronts. Meanwhile, billions struggle to cope with worsening living standards, exacerbated by the pandemic and more.

Losing sight in the fog of war

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken insists, “the Russian people will suffer the consequences of their leaders’ choices”. Western leaders and media seem to believe their unprecedentedcrushing sanctions” will have a “chilling effect” on Russia.

With sanctions intended to strangle Russia’s economy, the US and its allies somehow hope to increase domestic pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin to retreat from Ukraine. The West wants to choke Russia by cutting its revenue streams, e.g., from oil and gas sales to Europe.

Already, the rouble has been hammered by preventing Russia’s central bank from accessing its US$643bn in foreign currency reserves, and barring Russian banks from using the US-run global payments transfer system, SWIFT.

Withdrawal of major Western transnational companies – such as Shell, McDonald’s and Apple – will undoubtedly hurt many Russians – not only oligarchs, their ostensible target.

Thus, Blinken’s claim that “The economic costs that we’ve been forced to impose on Russia are not aimed at you [ordinary Russians]” may well ring hollow to them. They will get little comfort from knowing, “They are aimed at compelling your government to stop its actions, to stop its aggression”.

As The New York Times notes, “sanctions have a poor record of persuading governments to change their behavior”. US sanctions against Cuba over six decades have undoubtedly hurt its economy and people.

But – as in Iran, North Korea, Syria and Venezuela – it has failed to achieve its supposed objectives. Clearly, “If the goal of sanctions is to compel Mr. Putin to halt his war, then the end point seems far-off.”

Russia, major commodity exporter

Undoubtedly, Russia no longer has the industrial and technological edges it once had. Following Yeltsin era reforms in the early 1990s, its economy shrank by half – lowering Russian life expectancy more than anywhere else in the last six millennia!

Russia has become a major primary commodity producer – not unlike many developing countries and the former settler colonies of North America and Australasia. It is now a major exporter of crude oil and natural gas.

It is also the largest exporter of palladium and wheat, and among the world’s biggest suppliers of fertilizers using potash and nitrogen. On 4 March, Moscow suspended fertilizer exports, citing “sabotage” by “foreign logistics companies”.

Farmers and consumers will suffer as yields drop by up to half. Sudden massive supply disruptions will thus have serious ramifications for the world economy – now more interdependent than ever, due to earlier globalization.

Sanctions’ inflation boomerang

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva has ominously warned of the Ukraine crisis’ economic fallouts. She cautions wide-ranging sanctions on Russia will worsen inflation and further slow growth.

No country is immune, including those imposing sanctions. But the worst hit are poor countries, particularly in Africa, already struggling with rising fuel and food prices.

For Georgieva, more inflation – due to Russian sanctions – is the greatest threat to the world economy. “The surging prices for energy and other commodities – corn, metals, inputs for fertilizers, semiconductors – coming on top of already high inflation” are of grave concern to the world.

Russia and Ukraine export more than a quarter of the world’s wheat while Ukraine is also a major corn exporter. Supply chain shocks and disruptions could add between 0.2% to 0.4% to ‘headline inflation’ – which includes both food and fuel prices – in developed economies over the coming months.

US petrol prices jumped to a 17-year high in the first week of March. The costs of other necessities, especially food, are rising as well. US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has acknowledged that the sanctions are worsening US inflation.

The European Union (EU) gets 40% of its natural gas from Russia. Finding alternative supplies will be neither easy nor cheap. The EU is Russia’s largest trading partner, accounting for 37% of global trade in 2020. Thus, sanctions may well hurt Europe more than Russia – like cutting one’s nose to spite one’s face.

The European Central Bank now expects stagflation – economic stagnation with inflation, and presumably, rising unemployment. It has already slashed its growth forecast for 2022 from 4.2% to 3.7%. Inflation is expected to hit a record 5.1% – way above its previous 3.2% forecast!

Developing countries worse victims
Global food prices are already at record highs, with the Food Price Index (FPI) of the Food and Agricultural Organization up more than 40% over the past two years.

The FPI hit an all-time high in February – largely due to bad weather and rising energy and fertilizer costs. By February 2022, the Agricultural Commodity Price Index was 35% higher, while maize and wheat prices were 26% and 23% more than in January 2021.

Besides shortages and rising production costs – due to surging fuel and fertilizer prices – speculation may also push food prices up – as in 2007-2008.

Signs of such speculation are already visible. Chicago Board of Trade wheat future prices rose 40% in early March – its largest weekly increase since 1959!

Rising food prices impact people in low- and middle-income countries more as they spend much larger shares of their incomes on food than in high-income countries. The main food insecurity measure has doubled in the past two years, with 45 million people close to starvation, even before the Ukraine crisis.

Countries in Africa and Asia rely much more on Russian and Ukrainian grain. The World Bank has warned, “There will be important ramifications for the Middle East, for Africa, North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, in particular”, where many were already food insecure before the incursion.

The Ukraine crisis will be devastating for countries struggling to cope with the pandemic. Unable to access enough vaccines or mount adequate responses, they already lag behind rich countries. The latest food and fuel price hikes will also worsen balance-of-payments problems and domestic inflationary pressures.

No to war!

The African proverb, “When two elephants fight, all grass gets trampled”, sums up the world situation well. The US and its allies seem intent to ‘strangle Russia’ at all costs, regardless of the massive collateral damage to others.

This international crisis comes after multilateralism has been undermined for decades. Hopes for reduced international hostilities, after President Biden’s election, have evaporated as US foreign policy double standards become more apparent.

Russia has little support for its aggressive violation of international law and norms. Despite decades of deliberate NATO provocations, even after the Soviet Union ended, Putin has lost international sympathy with his aggression in Ukraine.

But there is no widespread support for NATO or the West. Following the vaccine apartheid and climate finance fiascos, the poorer, ‘darker nations’ have become more cynical of Western hypocrisy as its racism becomes more brazen.

59 Percent Of Indian Billionaires Are Self-Made

Fifty-nine percent of Indian billionaires are self-made, according to a new report.

“We are happy to be associated with Hurun India for the launch of the M3M Hurun Global Rich List 2022, curated with an in-depth market research which demonstrates that Indian businesses are one of the fastest value creators,” said Pankaj Bansal, Director, M3M India, on the M3M Hurun Global Rich List 2022.

Over the last few years, wealth creation by India Inc. has catapulted the economic growth in the country.

Interestingly, 59 per cent of the country’s billionaires are self-made, thus indicating that the new-generation entrepreneurs are financially-wise, asset-rich and investment-vibrant. Also, gender inclusivity and equality has been a noticeable theme with women outranking men across industries, said Bansal.

“Having said this, it is also true that the rich have invested in philanthropy and have played a significant role in the social and economic growth in India, particularly focusing on nutrition, education and women empowerment,” he said.

As Andrew Carnegie, one of the greatest philanthropists, said, “Ninety per cent of all millionaires become so through owning real-estate.”

“The real estate sector is ranked third amongst major sector in India and is also the second largest in terms of employment generation, and it particularly delivers in short-term and long-term employment creation. This sector is also looking forward to contribute 13 per cent in India’s GDP by 2025 and reach a market size of $1 trillion by 2030.

“No wonder, it contributed 8.1 per cent to the overall list of billionaires and possesses a concentration of 275 billionaires, which I am certain will see a significant jump in the next 5 years owing to unmet housing demands generated by urbanisation and modernisation of towns,” Bansal said.

“We are hopeful that the year 2022 will ignite the economic buoyancy in the country and will enable us to match steps with our global counterparts. Particularly, when India is gaining momentum in startups and unicorns, and has become 3rd largest ecosystem in the world, only after US and China,” he added.

Boditech Med, Global Point-Of-Care Testing Leader Expands Operations To North America

Boditech Med, a global leader in point-of-care testing with more than 90 biomarker products, has announced its plans to expand its operations in North America. Boditech’s expansion begins with plans to open a new manufacturing site in the Miami, Florida, area. The company is also considering opportunities in other states, along with a partnership in Canada.

“In the U.S., it takes as long as three days for a patient to get diagnostic test results. During that time, informed decision making comes to a standstill, even while costs mount,” said Boditech Med co-founder and CEO Eui-Yul Choi, Ph.D. “At Boditech, we develop and manufacture point-of-care tests that deliver actionable results in 12 to 15 minutes. Our goal in the U.S. is to flip the diagnostic industry on its head so that patients get timely, quality care while the healthcare system minimizes waste.”

Founded in South Korea in 1998, Boditech Med markets and sells more than 90 biomarker products in 120 countries. Through its North American expansion, the publicly-traded company aims to improve the health and safety of patients and the effectiveness and workflows of clinicians in the U.S. and beyond.

Boditech offers highly reliable in-vitro diagnostic solutions that empower clinicians and patients to improve health through quick and reliable tests, available anywhere and anytime. Along with venous blood and plasma testing, Boditech’s product line includes technologies that enable accurate, thorough capillary blood tests, based on a small amount of blood from a finger prick.

Boditech is currently seeking approvals from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for several diagnostic solutions in cardiac, cancer, hormone, infectious disease, and other therapeutic areas. Timelines and precise locations remain in the works. Boditech intends to hire hundreds of Americans to support its efforts.

Boditech intends to bring lower-cost, rapid testing that covers many critical areas of medicine, from cardiac health to cancer, to the country. Boditech also produces COVID-19 antibody and over-the-counter rapid antigen tests.

Boditech Med is a global leader in point-of-care testing with a decades-long track record of improving health and quality of life through innovative in-vitro diagnostic solutions. Since its launch in 1998, Boditech has developed 85 biomarkers, which support capillary blood, venous blood, and plasma testing, to meet customers’ evolving needs. Listed as a public company on the KOSDAQ, Boditech’s products aid patients and clinicians in 120 countries. Learn more about Boditech Med and how its in-vitro diagnostic are improving health worldwide: https://www.boditech.co.kr/en

Inflation, War Push Stress To Alarming Levels At Two-Year COVID-19 Anniversary

Newswise — Two years after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, inflation, money issues and the war in Ukraine have pushed U.S. stress to alarming levels, according to polls conducted for the American Psychological Association.

A late-breaking poll, fielded March 1–3 by The Harris Poll on behalf of APA, revealed striking findings, with more adults rating inflation and issues related to the invasion of Ukraine as stressors than any other issue asked about in the 15-year history of the Stress in AmericaTM poll. This comes on top of money stress at the highest recorded level since 2015, according to a broader Stress in America poll fielded last month.

Top sources of stress were the rise in prices of everyday items due to inflation (e.g., gas prices, energy bills, grocery costs, etc.) (cited by 87%), followed by supply chain issues (81%), global uncertainty (81%), Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (80%) and potential retaliation from Russia (e.g., in the form of cyberattacks or nuclear threats) (80%).

These stressors are coming at a time when the nation is still struggling to deal with the prolonged pandemic and its effects on our daily lives, with close to two-thirds of adults (63%) saying their life has been forever changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. While a majority (51%) reported this change as neither positive nor negative — simply different — the long-lasting implications of the pandemic are clear. The survey also revealed continued hardships for vulnerable populations, concerns for children’s development among parents and entrenched, unhealthy coping habits.

“The number of people who say they’re significantly stressed about these most recent events is stunning relative to what we’ve seen since we began the survey in 2007,” said Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, APA’s chief executive officer. “Americans have been doing their best to persevere over these past two tumultuous years, but these data suggest that we’re now reaching unprecedented levels of stress that will challenge our ability to cope.”

A year ago, APA’s first pandemic anniversary survey found COVID-19-related stress was associated with unhealthy weight changes and increased drinking. The most recent survey confirmed that these unhealthy behaviors have persisted, suggesting that coping mechanisms have become entrenched — and that mental and physical health may be on a continuing decline for many as a result. Close to half of adults (47%) said they have been less active than they wanted to be since the pandemic started, and close to three in five (58%) reported experiencing undesired weight changes.

Among those who gained more weight than they wanted, the average amount of weight gained was 26 pounds, with a median of 15 pounds. On the other hand, the average amount of weight lost among those who lost more than they wanted to was 27 pounds, with a median of 15 pounds. More than one in five Americans (23%) said they have been drinking more alcohol during the COVID-19 pandemic, with those who have been drinking more consuming an average of 10 drinks per week (and a median of six drinks per week) compared with an average of two drinks (and a median of one drink) per week among those who did not report drinking more.

Adults also reported separation and conflict as causes for straining and/or ending of relationships. Half of adults (51%, particularly essential workers at 61%) said they have loved ones they have not been able to see in person in the past two years as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Strikingly, more than half of all U.S. adults (58%) reported experiencing a relationship strain or end as a result of conflicts related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including canceling events or gatherings due to COVID-19 concerns (29%); difference of opinion over some aspect of vaccines (25%); different views of the pandemic overall (25%); and difference of opinion over mask-wearing (24%).

Strained social relationships and reduced social support during the pandemic make coping with stress more difficult. In fact, more than half of respondents (56%) said that they could have used more emotional support than they received since the pandemic started. “We know from decades of research that healthy and supportive relationships are key to promoting resilience and building people’s mental wellness,” said Evans. “Particularly during periods of prolonged stress, it’s important that we facilitate opportunities for social connection and support.”

The majority of parents reported concerns regarding child(ren)’s development, including social life or development (73%), academic development (71%) and emotional health or development (71%). More than two-thirds of parents reported concern about the pandemic’s impact on their child’s cognitive development (68%) and their physical health/development (68%).

“Living through historic threats like these often has a lasting, traumatic impact on generations,” said Evans. “As a society, it’s important that we ensure access to evidence-based treatments and that we provide help to everyone who needs it. This means not only connecting those in distress with effective and efficient clinical care, but also mitigating risk for those more likely to experience challenges and engaging in prevention for those who are relatively healthy.”

More information on the findings and how to handle stress and trauma related to Ukraine is available at www.stressinamerica.org. APA psychologists are available for media interviews to discuss these findings and provide science-based recommendations on how to address this mental health crisis.

METHODOLOGY

The 2022 Pandemic Anniversary Survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of the American Psychological Association between Feb. 7–14, 2022, among 3,012 adults age 18+ who reside in the U.S. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. Data were weighted to reflect proportions in the population based on the 2021 Current Population Survey (CPS) by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Weighting variables included age by gender, race/ethnicity, education, region, household income, and time spent online. Latino adults were also weighted for acculturation, taking into account respondents’ household language as well as their ability to read and speak in English and Spanish. Country of origin (U.S./non-U.S.) was also included for Latino and Asian subgroups.

Weighting variables for Gen Z adults (ages 18 to 25) included education, age by gender, race/ethnicity, region, household income, and size of household, based on the 2021 CPS. Propensity score weighting was used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris’ surveys. The sampling precision of Harris online polls is measured by using a Bayesian credible interval. For this study, the sample data is accurate to within + 2.9 percentage points using a 95% confidence level.

This credible interval will be wider among subsets of the surveyed population of interest. All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to other multiple sources of error, which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including but not limited to coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments.

The March late-breaking survey was conducted online within the United States between March 1–3, 2022, among 2,051 adults (age 18 and over) by The Harris Poll on behalf of the American Psychological Association via its Harris On Demand omnibus product. Data were weighted where necessary by age, gender, race/ethnicity, region, education, marital status, household size, household income, and propensity to be online, to bring them in line with their actual proportions in the population. The sampling precision of Harris online polls is measured by using a Bayesian credible interval. For this study, the sample data is accurate to within + 2.8 percentage points using a 95% confidence level.

Microsoft To Invest Rs 15,000 Crore In Hyderabad Data Center

Software giant Microsoft will set up its largest data centre in India at Hyderabad with an investment of Rs 15,000 crore. The Telangana government and Microsoft on Monday jointly announced the data centre investment which will be Microsoft’s largest data centre region in India.

Microsoft will make the investment over a period of 15 years into the new data centre region spread across three sites – Chandanvelly, Ellikatta, and Kottur. The software giant already has its India development centre in Hyderabad, which is its largest in the world outside its headquarters in the US. The new data center in Hyderabad will deliver advanced data security and cloud solutions that will help enterprises, start-ups, developers, education, and government institutions.

The announcement was made in the presence of Union Minister of State for Electronics and IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar, and Telangana’s Information Technology Minister K.T. Rama Rao and Principal Secretary, ITE&C, Jayesh Ranjan. The event was also attended by Microsoft’s Executive Vice President, Jean-Philippe Courtois and Microsoft India President, Anant Maheshwari.

The Hyderabad data centre region is another addition to the existing network of 3 regions in India across Pune, Mumbai, and Chennai, which have been operational for more than five years.

K.T. Rama Rao called it an iconic moment in the development story of Telangana. “This will be one of the largest FDIs that Telangana has attracted; Will indirectly support local business growth and facilitate job creation across IT operations, facilities management, data and network security, network engineering and much more,” he tweeted.

Through the data center region, Microsoft will enable opportunities for local businesses to innovate with Microsoft Cloud services in Hyderabad and across Telangana.

Telangana and Microsoft have earlier entered an MoU that will positively reinforce the state government’s capabilities to enhance its citizen service capabilities. Given the state’s technology driven growth agenda around key sectors like agriculture, healthcare, education, law enforcement and mobility, the Microsoft data centre in the region will push up the local growth.

“Today’s commitment to the people and businesses of India will position the country among the world’s digital leaders. A Microsoft data centre region provides a competitive advantage to our digital economy and is a long-term investment in our country’s potential. The cloud is transforming every industry and sector. The investment in skilling will empower India’s workforce today and into the future,” said Chandrasekhar.

“Microsoft and Telangana go a long way back with Hyderabad hosting one of the largest Microsoft offices in the world and I am happy to see the relationship grow,” said Rama Rao.

Maheshwari noted that cloud services are poised to play a critical role in reimagining the future of business and governance and enabling overall inclusion in the country. “The new data center will augment Microsoft’s cloud capabilities and capacity to support those working across the country. It will also support new entrepreneurial opportunities while meeting critical security and compliance needs. The new data centre region is a testament to our mission to empower the people and organisations of India to achieve more,” he said. (IANS)

US Economy Adds 678,000 Jobs In February, Unemployment Dips To 3.8%

The U.S. added 678,000 jobs and the unemployment rate dropped to 3.8 percent in February, according to data released Friday by the Labor Department.

Unprecedented demand for workers and resilient consumer spending helped power another strong month of job growth in February. Economists expected the U.S. to add roughly 400,000 jobs last month, far less than the actual haul in the February jobs report, and push the jobless rate to 3.9 percent.

“If we see more numbers like this moving forward, we can be optimistic about this year. Employment is growing at a strong rate and joblessness is getting closer and closer to pre-pandemic levels,” said Nick Bunker, economic research director at Indeed.

“In these uncertain times, we cannot take anything for granted. But if the recovery can keep up its current tempo, several key indicators of labor market health will hit pre-pandemic levels this summer,” he said.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said the U.S. saw “widespread” job growth in February led by a surge in service sector hiring — a promising sign for industries still recovering from the onset of the pandemic.

Leisure and hospitality employment rose by 179,000 jobs in February, led by a gain of 124,000 jobs in restaurants and bars. Professional and business services added 95,000 jobs, the health care sector added 64,000 jobs and construction employment rose by 60,000 after staying flat in January.

Transportation and warehousing employment rose by 48,000 in February, and retail trade employment rose by 37,000.

The BLS also revised the December and January job gains up by a combined 92,000 jobs.

While the labor force participation rate stayed flat, the February jobs report showed other signals of labor shortages easing and more Americans returning to the workforce.

Average hourly earnings rose 5.1 percent over the past 12 months, down from 5.7 percent in January. Wages have risen sharply as employers struggled to fill a record number of job openings from a smaller pool of workers than before the pandemic.

The number of Americans who said they could not look for a job because of the pandemic — who are not counted as unemployed — fell from 1.8 million in January to 1.2 million last month. The number of people who lost hours at work because of a pandemic-related shutdown also sunk from 6 million in January to 4.2 million in February.

“With the Omicron wave receding rapidly, the labor market has unlocked faster jobs growth. Additionally, employer demand for workers exceeds labor supply significantly, which is likely to keep jobs growth healthy even if demand slows amid disruptions from the war in Ukraine and rising interest rates in coming months,” said Daniel Zhao, senior economist at Glassdoor.

While the U.S. labor market held strong in February, economists are concerned about the potential fallout of the war in Ukraine and the sanctions imposed on Russia in response. A surge in oil prices, steep drop in economic activity or retaliation from Russia could dent the U.S. economy and risk stoking inflation even higher after hitting the highest annual rate in 40 years.

The jobs report will keep the Federal Reserve on track to raise interest rates in March to help cool inflation and tame what Fed Chairman Jerome Powell on Thursday called an “overheated” labor market. Even so, Powell said the deep uncertainty driven by the war could still force the Fed to adjust the pace of future rate hikes.

“The war in Ukraine reemphasizes the risk of inflation in the economic recovery, especially as price increases are concentrated in areas that the Federal Reserve may not have much control over,” Zhao wrote.

“Ultimately, however, today’s jobs report helps build confidence in the resilience of the recovery and its ability to continue driving jobs growth despite unanticipated headwinds.”

TiE Boston Turns 25

TiE Boston, one of the region’s largest organizations supporting the Massachusetts entrepreneurial ecosystem and connecting entrepreneurs, executives, and venture capitalists, turns 25 this year.

“The 25th Anniversary is a rallying point for us, and we’re planning to use this momentum for tremendous growth across all our programs in the years ahead,” said TiE Boston President Anu Chitrapu. “From a simple networking idea 25 years ago, TiE Boston today is leading the startup ecosystem with its signature programs such as TiE Boston Angels, TiE ScaleUp, TiE Young Entrepreneurs and TiE Women.”

TiE Boston is the second oldest chapter of The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE). TiE is the world’s largest not-for-profit network dedicated to helping startups grow. In 30 years, the TiE Network has reached 15,000 members across 15 countries and contributed to $250 billion in wealth creation. TiE Chapters around the world have become a vibrant platform for entrepreneurs, professionals, industry leaders, and investors to interact with one another & forge long-lasting relationships.

What started as TiE Atlantic in February 1997 as the dream of 13 Founding Members and only the second TiE Chapter worldwide, has now grown into an unparalleled network of successful, serial entrepreneurs who are deeply engaged and committed to giving back to the community by providing mentorship, tactical advice, and expertise to rising entrepreneurs.

In 2022, TiE Boston offers a full slate of programming to cover the entire cycle of entrepreneurship, from mentoring young entrepreneurs and student entrepreneurs, to taking business to scale through its ScaleUp program that was recognized as the most innovative TiE program worldwide in 2021, investing in companies through its Angels program, and encouraging diversity through Women’s Initiatives.

The 13 founders of TiE Atlantic (TiE Boston), in 1997, were: Sushil Bhatia, Ashok Boghani, Ash Dahod, Samir Desai, Desh Deshpande, Radha Jalan, Ashok Kalelkar, Ramesh Kapur, Ranganath Nayak, Mahendra Patel, Dinesh Patel, Jit Saxena and Rahul Singh. The founders covered a broad spectrum of professions including technology, medicine, consulting and manufacturing.

“TiE started 25 years ago in Boston when Entrepreneurship was in a nascent stage. Twenty- five years later it is amazing to see its impact,” said Desh Deshpande, one of the founders and the first President of TiE Boston. “It has nurtured many entrepreneurs who contribute billions of dollars to the Massachusetts economy and hire thousands of people. TiE is even more relevant today to keep the economy growing and create opportunities for every resident of the state that has been innovative for the last 400 years.”

Samir Desai, the second President and a founding member of TiE Boston, added: “I remember the early days and am very proud of everything that we have jointly accomplished in the last 25 years! The impact of TiE Boston is tremendous and continues to grow.”

Founding member Radha Jalan said: “As a woman entrepreneur in the 90s, TiE gave me an incredible sense of networking and community. I am proud to have started some Women’s Initiatives for TiE Boston and feel a great sense of pride on seeing how well they have integrated women entrepreneurs into the ecosystem.”

To commemorate the 25th Year, TiE Boston has planned several events to acknowledge the founders, sponsors, members and program participants. The first is a series of fireside chats with each of the Founders. A grand Gala for members will be held in the summer of 2022. Over the course of the next few months, TiE Boston will bring together its Founders and current Charter Members to explore the history of TiE Boston, the road ahead, and unchartered paths decidedly taken by entrepreneurial change makers and trailblazers.

The chapter of The Indus Entrepreneurs, or TiE. It is one of the region’s largest and oldest organizations supporting the Massachusetts entrepreneurial ecosystem, focused on supporting entrepreneurs throughout their lifecycle — from ideation to creation, through growth, wealth creation and ultimately, support of future founders.TiE is the world’s largest not-for-profit network dedicated to helping startups grow. In 30 years, the TiE Global Network has reached 15,000 members across 15 countries and contributed to $250 billion in wealth creation. TiE Chapters around the world have become a vibrant platform for entrepreneurs, professionals, industry leaders, and investors to interact with one another & forge long-lasting relationships. For more information about TiE Boston, visit https://www.tieboston.org/.

A New Phase For AIR INDIA Begins As Tata Group Appoints Former Turkish Airlines Chairman Ilker Ayci As New Air India MD And CEO

The Tata Group has appointed Ilker Ayci — former Turkish Airlines Chairman — as Air India’s Managing Director and CEO effective on or before April 1. The development is in line with the Tata Group’s plans to appoint an expatriate chief to run the airline it took over from the Indian government last month.

The Air India board met on Monday last week to consider the candidature of Ayci, with Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran as a special invitee, and approved his appointment, Tata Sons said in a statement. Ayci’s appointment is subject to requisite regulatory approvals.

The announcement also comes a day after Air India asked its cabin crew to wear minimal jewellery to avoid delays at security checks and not to visit duty-free shops after clearing the immigration process as part of the airline’s efforts to improve its on-time performance.

Commenting on the appointment, Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran said, “Ilker is an aviation industry leader who led Turkish Airlines to its current success during his tenure there. We are delighted to welcome Ilker to the Tata Group where he would lead Air India into the new era.”

Ilker Ayci was chairman of Turkish Airlines since 2015, and his resignation from the post was announced by the airline on January 27 this year — the same day Tatas were handed over Air India by the Centre.

During his professional career, Ayci has been an advisor to the then Mayor of Istanbul Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the Metropolitan Municipality of Istanbul, where he took part in a number of development projects in Turkey’s largest city. Erdoğan is currently the President of Turkey.

Ayci was born in Istanbul in 1971. He is 1994 alumni of Bilkent University’s Department of Political Science and Public Administration, according to the Tata Group statement. After a research stay on political science at the Leeds University in the UK in 1995, he completed an International Relations Master’s program at the Marmara University in Istanbul in 1997.

“Tata Group made the winning bid at ₹18,000 crore to bag the airline in October last year. Of this, ₹15,300 crore is in the form of debt, while the remaining ₹2,700 crore is in cash. The cash consideration has been paid to the government.

The airline is run by Tata Sons’ wholly-owned subsidiary Talace. Out of its total debt of ₹61,562 crore, ₹46,262 crore has been transferred to Air India Assets Holding Ltd (AIAHL), a special purpose vehicle formed by the government in 2019 for holding debt and non-core assets of Air India.

Founded by Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata in 1932, the aviation division of Tata Sons was listed as Air India in 1946, and it began flights to Europe in 1948 under the banner of Air India International. The airline was nationalised in 1953 by the nation’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

Air India has a fleet of 117 wide-body and narrow-body aircraft, and AIXL a fleet of 24 narrow-body aircraft. A significant number of these are owned by the company. More than two-third of Air India’s consolidated revenues comes from the international market.

Made In India Perfume Launched In New York

A Made in India perfume from Uttar Pradesh’s Kannauj was launched in New York as part of the ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ program on Valentine’s Day at the Indian Consulate in New York.

The launch of the perfume ‘Vikas Khanna by Zighrana’ was unveiled by the Consulate General of India in New York Randhir Jaiswal here. Perfume maker Zighrana said that it is delighted to work with an Indian cultural icon and intrepid entrepreneur Vikas Khanna for their first perfume. “This is possibly the first time that you have an Indian perfume from Kannauj (UP), that too, at a time when we are celebrating India’s 75 years of Independence,” said Randhir Jaiswal.

Swapnil Pathak Sharma, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Zighrana, said, “It is an honour to launch the product here in New York. Coming from a small town, it is a dream come true. Presenting my city on such a global platform is a pleasure.”

“The new perfume ‘Vikas Khanna’ by Zighrana is a unique blend of spices like cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, sandalwood, jasmine and rose which have come to define the unique smells of India for more than a millennia,” the company wrote in its press release.

The Zighrana CEO said that the company will also launch a perfume dedicated to her hometown, the “perfume capital of India”, Kannuaj.

“Hailing from Kannauj, the perfume capital of India, situated close to the cradle of our civilization the holy and pure mother river Ganga, this new product is our humble attempt to capture the essence of Incredible India. Incidentally, the parent company of Zighrana has a family history of creating fragrances since 1911,” it added.

The perfume maker said that they have used precious ingredients like pure rose oil which is both resource and labor intensive to generate and it takes nearly 100 kilograms of flowers to make as little as 20 grams of rose oil.

The company has planned to come out with more distinct fragrances representing India’s history and culture. Moreover, the brand wants to bring their traditional attars to the US market and explore opportunities in the scented candles market.

TiE Boston Kicks Off Silver Jubilee Celebrations With Fireside Chats With 13 Founders

TiE Boston celebrates its 25th Anniversary in 2022, traversing the prosperous path of generating and nurturing entrepreneurs, in an ever-changing landscape of technology and finance, and mentoring entrepreneurs through unprecedented pandemic times.

What started as TiE Atlantic in February 1997 as the dream of 13 Founding Members and only the second TiE Chapter, has now grown into an unparalleled network of successful, serial entrepreneurs who are deeply engaged and committed to giving back to the community by providing mentorship, tactical advice, and expertise to rising entrepreneurs.

In 2022, TiE Boston offers a full slate of programming to cover the entire cycle of entrepreneurship, from mentoring young entrepreneurs and student entrepreneurs, to taking business to scale through its ScaleUp program that was recognized as the most innovative TiE program worldwide in 2021, investing in companies through its Angels program, and encouraging diversity through Women’s Initiatives.

The 13 founders of TiE Atlantic (TiE Boston), in 1997, were:

Sushil Bhatia, Ashok Boghani, Ash Dahod, Samir Desai, Desh Deshpande, Radha Jalan, Ashok Kalelkar, Ramesh Kapur, Ranganath Nayak, Mahendra Patel, Dinesh Patel, Jit Saxena and Rahul Singh. The founders covered a broad spectrum of professions including technology, medicine, consulting and manufacturing.

Desh Deshpande

Mr. Deshpande, one of the founders and the first President of TiE Boston said, “TiE started 25 years ago in Boston when Entrepreneurship was in a nascent stage. Twenty- five years later it is amazing to see its impact. It has nurtured many entrepreneurs who contribute billions of dollars to the Massachusetts economy and hire thousands of people. TiE is even more relevant today to keep the economy growing and create opportunities for every resident of the state that has been innovative for the last 400 years.”

Samir Desai

The second President and a founding member of TiE Boston, Mr. Desai adds, “I remember the early days and am very proud of everything that we have jointly accomplished in the last 25 years! The impact of TiE Boston is tremendous and continues to grow.”

Founding member, Ms. Jalan, says, “As a woman entrepreneur in the 90s, TiE gave me an incredible sense of networking and community. I am proud to have started some Women’s Initiatives for TiE Boston and feel a great sense of pride on seeing how well they have integrated women entrepreneurs into the ecosystem.”

Radha Jalan

Besides establishing a network of successful entrepreneurs, corporate executives, and senior professionals, TiE Boston members also boast of creating several successful companies. TiE companies globally have created over $250B in wealth with TiE Boston being a major contributor.

TiECon East, successfully held annually as New England’s largest conference for entrepreneurs, is TiE Boston’s marquee event open to the public and hosts key speakers from the ecosystem of successful entrepreneurs.

Anu Chitrapu

Presently, the TiE Boston Board comprises of President Anu Chitrapu, and 11 Board members: Thomas Arul, Asha Dixit, Anupendra Sharma, Emily Ladd-Kravitz, Venkat Maroju, Zenobia Moochhala, Sangeeta Moorjani, Shirish Nimgaonkar, Kiran Uppuluri, Geetha Sreedhar, and Darshana Zaveri.

On the occasion, TiE Boston President Ms. Chitrapu says, “The 25th Anniversary is a rallying point for our Chapter, and we’re planning to use this momentum for tremendous growth across all our programs in the years ahead.”

To commemorate the 25th Year, TiE Boston has planned several events to acknowledge the founders, sponsors, members and program participants. The first is a series of fireside chats with each of our founders. This ‘Entrepreneurial Pioneers’ series of fireside chats will kick off with its inaugural event on Thursday, February 17th. Register here for the Fireside Chat with Dr Radha Jalan, moderated by Geeta Aiyer. A grand Gala for members will be held in the summer of 2022. Over the course of the next few months, TiE Boston will bring together its Founders and current Charter Members to explore the history of TiE Boston, the road ahead, and unchartered paths decidedly taken by entrepreneurial change makers and trailblazers.

TiE Boston connects tomorrow’s founders with today’s entrepreneurs, executives and venture capitalists. Founded in 1997 by entrepreneurs who immigrated from the Indus region, TiE Boston champions inclusion in innovation by blending the fundamentals of entrepreneurship with traditional Indian values that place importance on community, mentorship, and long-term relationships. TiE Boston is one of the region’s largest and oldest organizations supporting the Massachusetts entrepreneurial ecosystem, focused on supporting entrepreneurs throughout their lifecycle — from ideation to creation, through growth, wealth creation and ultimately, support of future founders. The TiE Boston community encompasses students, founders, experienced entrepreneurs, angel investors, and venture capitalists. Its programs foster trusted, long-term relationships between its participants — span education, mentoring, networking, and funding.

Reach TiE Boston by email at [email protected] with questions. TiE Boston’s Interim Executive Director, Rowena Kay Mascarenhas, oversees the strategic planning, operations and programs, while Archish Mittal manages memberships and partnerships, Dean Walsh manages the TiE ScaleUp program, and Vivek Soni manages the TiE Angels program. For more information about TiE Boston, visit https://www.tieboston.org/.

India-UAE Fortify Multi-Faceted Bilateral Ties

Close on heels after announcement of conclusion of interim trade deal between India and Australia by mid-March, the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with UAE will be a huge boost for Indian economy.  In a virtual summit meet commemorating 75 years of India’s independence and 50 years of UAE’s foundation, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan witnessed the signing of CEPA.

The FTA with UAE is New Delhi’s second major deal after the India-Mauritius Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement (CECPA) in February 2021.

Breaching the traditional timelines, expediting the talks, both countries finalised this early harvest deal in a record 88 days. Both the countries commenced the talks in September 2021. Three visits by the External Affairs Minister and a visit by Commerce Minister to UAE for negotiations laid the ground for CEPA. To increase the existing bilateral trade worth $60 billion to $100 billion merchandise trade, and services trade to $15 billion in five years, the CEPA envisioned to reduce tariffs initially of 80% goods and will extend to 98% of goods over time.

Besides enabling the two-way investment in trade and services, start-ups and fintechs, the FTA is expected to create 5 lakh jobs in gems, textiles, engineering, agriculture and auto sectors in India and 1 lakh jobs in UAE.

Introducing new structural changes and launching “Vocal for Local: Manufacture in India for the World”, a cumulative turn around in manufacturing sector Indian Government set the merchandise export target of $400 billion1 for the 2022. India is almost on reaching this milestone this year. Enthused by fledging manufacturing potential, India is aiming at $2 trillion exports by 2030- comprising of $1 trillion merchandise exports and $1 trillion service exports. The FTA with UAE will not only help in sustaining the growth but would facilitate access to attractive export markets for Indian goods.

In line with its ambitious targets, New Delhi has junked the strategy of signing trade agreements to join trade groups and shifted its focus on sealing bilateral FTAs with countries to facilitate market access and better integration of Indian markets to global supply chains. This FTA with UAE will eventually actuate India to conclude similar trade agreements with GCC countries (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain), the UK, the EU, Australia, Israel and Canada on anvil.

UAE is part of the Greater-Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA) and has free trade access to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Syria, Sudan and Tunisia2. With CEPA on roll, India can enter markets of West Asia and Africa.

Giving major push to its FTA strategy, the UAE is also planning to seal FTAs with eight countries including India, the UK, Indonesia, Turkey, South Korea, Ethiopia, Israel and Kenya this year. Needless to say, enhanced economic cooperation is bound to foster a robust and resilient relationship.

India and UAE established diplomatic ties in 1972. But Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the country in 2015, a first in 34 years, resurrected the ties hinged on the pillars of energy cooperation, remittances and employment destination. In line with UAE’s “Vision 2021” which sought to diversify its economy, India and UAE harnessed a vision to expand the cooperation to different sectors. Subsequently, countries unveiled UAE-India Infrastructure Investment Fund. UAE pledged $75 billion to support India’s plans for building next generation infrastructure over a period of time.

The bilateral trade which mainly comprised of oil valued at $180 million per annum in 1970s steadily grew to $59 billion. Currently UAE is the third largest trading and export destination of Indian goods after US and China. UAE is 9th biggest investor in India in terms of FDI.

Since 2015, state visits by Prime Minister Modi in 2018, 2019 and reciprocal visits by Crown Prince in 2016 and 2017 reinvigorated the ties. In 2017, on the eve of Crown Prince’s visit to India as guest of honour for Republic Day celebrations countries elevated the ties to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. Signalling trust and deepening friendship, UAE armed forces joined the parade becoming the first Arab nation to participate in the Republic Day march and second foreign military contingent. The first being the French contingent.

Aside the synergistic economic cooperation, the significant hallmark of India-UAE relationship is developmental partnership in J&K. Riled by abrogation of article 370, Pakistan has attempted to garner the support of OIC countries against India. Unequivocally stating that it is an internal matter of India, UAE cold shouldered Pakistan.

In response to Pakistan’s nefarious agenda to destabilise J&K, India roped in the UAE as a developmental partner. In October 2021, India hosted a high-level delegation from Dubai for signing a MoU with J&K administration for real estate development, industrial parks, IT towers, logistics, medical colleges among others at Srinagar3. Giving a huge boost to trade, tourism and international connectivity, direct flight between Srinagar and Sharjah was flagged off.

As a follow up, commemorating J&K week at Indian pavilion of Dubai Expo 2020, Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha travelled to UAE to meet business leaders to attract investments for economic development. He finalised investment commitments from Emaar, DP World and the Lulu world towards building of Mall of Srinagar, establishment of multi-modal inland container terminal and cold storage facilities and setting up of network of hypermarkets for handicrafts, horticulture products, fresh produce from J&K respectively. Clearly this mutually beneficial development partnership besides bolstering ties is a message to the World that India is keen of putting J&K on a growth trajectory.

Heralding 50 years of strong bilateral ties, leaders released a road map, “Joint India-UAE Vision Statement: Advancing the India-UAE Comprehensive Strategic Partnership: New Frontiers, New Milestones” for a future looking partnership. Multi-faceted partnership now revitalised by economic cooperation is leaping forward to consolidate such cooperation in arenas of culture, health, skills, education, global issues, defence and security, energy partnership, climate action, renewables, emerging technologies and food security.

Countries have also signed MoUs in areas like- economy, climate change and Houbara Conservation, Industries and Advanced Technologies, Low Carbon Hydrogen Developments and Investments, food security, financial services and Issuance of India-UAE joint stamps5.

Energy partnership has been key pillar of Indo-UAE bilateral ties. Additionally, UAE is also India’s first international partner by way of investing crude in India’s Strategic Petroleum Reserves Program, has committed to collaborate with India towards an equitable transition to low-carbon future. With UAE selected to host COP28 in 2023, countries have agreed to work closely in context of COPs, International Renewable Energy Agency (IREA) and International Solar Alliance (ISA). With UAE joining the UNSC as non-permanent member for 2022-23, both countries resolved to “reinforce mutual support in multilateral areas to promote collaboration in economic and infrastructure spheres”4.

Modi condemned the recent attacks by the Houthi rebels against UAE. Reaffirming their joint commitment to fight terrorism and extremism, both the leaders emphasised the “importance of promoting the values of peace, moderation, coexistence and tolerance”. Thanks to UAE’s commitment towards moderation and tolerance, the West Asia fraught with turbulence and friction is witnessing a new churn. While Abraham Accords played a pivotal role in reshaping and integration of the region, the UAE’s role in bringing the countries has raised the hopes of new dawn of co-existence and peace.

India-UAE comprehensive strategic partnership and strong ties have paved way for a new multilateral touted as the “new Quad” comprising India, UAE, Israel and the US. Led by UAE, foreign Ministers of the countries held the first virtual summit in October to explore risk free economic opportunities in the post Abraham Accords era. As of now there is little to suggest that the new Quad envisages a strategic or security role. But India’s strong ties with UAE has helped it to overcome the traditional inhibitions to enter a regional cooperation arrangement in the West Asia.

UAE is home to 3.5 million Indian community with Indians being “largest minority ethnic group” making up for 38% of UAE residents. The intangible force of people to people connect and strong business to business relations have brought the countries much closer.

Indian diplomacy is certainly coming of the age by breaking the self-imposed barriers of staying away from West Asia. Maintaining strong friendly ties with rivals- Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia, India is slowly expanding its reach in the Arab region.

Breaking new ground through FTA, both countries have signalled their intent to consolidate the partnership with new optimism. Together with close collaboration and sense of purpose, countries have set a stage to usher into a new era of prosperity contributing to global recovery and creating immense opportunities for both economies.

Through an unprecedented outreach, both the countries have transformed a transactional energy cooperation into a comprehensive strategic cooperation. Now UAE is a vital strategic partner of India for the regional cooperation in West Asia.

U.S. National Debt Skyrockets Past $30 TRILLION

The U.S. national debt has surpassed $30 trillion, the highest it’s ever been, as borrowing surged during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to data published by the Treasury Department on Tuesday.

National debt skyrocketed pandemic, but the nation reached the milestone much earlier than projected as a result of the trillions in federal spending being used to combat the pandemic, the New York Times reported.

‘Hitting the $30 trillion mark is clearly an important milestone in our dangerous fiscal trajectory,’ Michael Peterson, head of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, told the Times.

‘For many years before Covid, America had an unsustainable structural fiscal path because the programs we’ve designed are not sufficiently funded by the revenue we take in,’ he added.

In January 2020, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the national debt would reach $30 trillion by the end of 2025. But it was reached much sooner due to the pandemic.

The $5 trillion used to combat the pandemic, which was used to fund jobless benefits, financial support for small businesses and stimulus payments, was financed with borrowed money, the Times reported.

The federal government now owes almost $8 trillion to foreign investors, led by Japan and China, which must be repaid with interest, according to CNN.

‘That means American taxpayers will be paying for the retirement of the people in China and Japan, who are our creditors,’ David Kelly, chief global strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management, explained to CNN Business.

The national debt has been skyrocketing since the Great Recession when the debt was $9.2 trillion in December 2007,  according to Treasury data.

But by the time, former President Donald Trump took office, the national debt stood at nearly $20 trillion, CNN reported.

‘Covid exacerbated the problem. We had an emergency situation that required trillions in spending,’ said Michael Peterson, CEO of the Peterson Foundation. ‘But the structural problems we face fiscally existed long before the pandemic.

The U.S. Is Considering A Radical Rethinking Of The Dollar For Today’s Digital World

Since its establishment as the country’s national currency, the dollar has undergone many updates and changes, but nothing compares to the proposal being debated today.

The U.S. is gingerly considering whether to adopt a digital version of its currency, one better suited for today’s increasingly cashless world, ushering in what could be one of the dollar’s most fundamental transformations.

In that scenario, the U.S. would not only mint the coins and print paper bills but also issue digital cash, or a central bank digital currency (CBDC), that would be stored in apps or “digital wallets” on our smartphones.

We could then use them to pay for things, just like we do with Venmo or Apple Pay, and no physical money would change hands.

It’s a vision of a cashless future that other countries are already embracing. China, for example, has unveiled the digital yuan on a trial basis. India this week said it would create a digital rupee.

Now the U.S. is weighing whether it wants to get into the game.

Last month, the Federal Reserve released a much-anticipated paper, laying out the advantages and disadvantages of a digital currency.

The Fed says it’s a first step, meant to kick-start an important conversation among policymakers and to gather feedback from average people to some of the country’s largest financial institutions.

So, how would it actually work?

Policymakers stress these are early days yet, and there is a lot that needs to be hammered out. All in all, the transactions conducted with digital dollars probably wouldn’t seem too different from existing private alternatives that allow us to pay for things by bringing our smartphones next to digital readers.

China, for example, allows digital yuan payments in the cities in which the country is piloting its digital currency, allowing citizens to make payments via an app set up by the government.

Reducing or eliminating fees is one clear benefit.

When you make a contactless payment today, it may seem immediate, but according to Chris Giancarlo, the former chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, a lot happens behind the scenes.

“My mobile device tells his mobile device to inform a whole series of banks, to confirm who I am, how much money is in my bank, that there is enough money to move from my bank to his bank,” he says.

And at each step of the way, there are transaction fees. In 2020, they added up to more than $110 billion, which was generally shouldered by businesses.

With a digital dollar, you could in theory eliminate those middlemen. If you wanted to buy a sandwich, for instance, you could transfer money from a digital wallet directly to a cashier.

It wouldn’t necessarily entirely eliminate nongovernment players. In China, for example, users who want to use the digital yuan can go to banks to add money to their digital wallets.

But just having digital dollars in circulation could put pressure on credit card companies and payment processors to lower fees to be competitive. That is, if enough people start using the Fed-run version.

In China, adoption of the e-renminbi has been slow given that private providers such as WeChat or Alipay are already pretty popular and entrenched.

Another argument for creating a digital dollar is to open up digital transactions to Americans who don’t have bank accounts. According to the Fed, more than 5% of U.S. households are “unbanked.”

Providing them with a digital wallet would allow people to participate in our increasingly cashless financial system.

It would also make it easier for the federal government to distribute benefits.. For example, having a digital dollar in place during the pandemic could have allowed the government to transfer relief payments directly into digital wallets.

What are the challenges?

Without question, one of the biggest issues is privacy. Because the Fed would implement and oversee the project, the central bank could accrue a vast amount of data, potentially giving it a lot more visibility into everyone’s financial life.

That could be useful to regulators who want to combat money laundering, for example, but it would also raise serious privacy concerns.

That makes it critical to sort out how much information the Fed would have, according to Raghuram Rajan, a professor of finance at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business and a former governor of the Reserve Bank of India.

“There will be legitimate questions about how much the government knows about each individual, and also, how much it can act to restrain activities by individuals,” he says.

Cybersecurity is another critical issue, especially given the uptick in hacks and heists at cryptocurrency exchanges.

To implement a digital dollar, the U.S. government would need to modernize the country’s financial infrastructure to stave off attacks.

A digital version of the Chinese yuan is displayed during a trade fair in Beijing in September. China is among a handful of countries that are experimenting with national digital currencies.

So what’s next?

Fed Chair Jerome Powell and his colleagues are moving ahead cautiously and methodically.

The Fed is in the process of soliciting feedback from the public after releasing its paper last month. And last week, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston released preliminary results of its ongoing research into the technological challenges associated with implementing a digital currency in the U.S.

It would take five to 10 years to introduce a digital currency in the U.S., several experts say, but they argue policymakers can’t sit idly by.

There is concern that by moving slowly, the U.S. is letting other countries shape standards for national digital currencies, and the popularity of the dollar could be diminished.

After all, for decades, it has been the world’s primary reserve currency, meaning many countries hold their reserves in U.S. dollars.

But Powell has made it clear he’s in no hurry. Last year, a reporter asked the central banker whether he was worried the U.S. was falling behind countries like China.

“I think it’s more important to do this right than to do it fast,” he replied.

Oil Prices Hit $90 A Barrel For The First Time Since 2014

US oil prices jumped above $90 a barrel last week for the first time in more than seven years. The latest rally comes just a day after OPEC and its allies declined to aggressively ramp up production to cool off red-hot energy prices.

Crude jumped 2.2% to $90.15 a barrel in afternoon trading. That marks the first time US oil prices surpassed the $90 threshold on an intraday basis since October 2014.

Oil has surged by 37% since closing at a recent low of $65.57 a barrel on December 1 amid Omicron fears and the fallout from the US-led intervention into energy markets.

Last week, Brent crude, the world benchmark, closed above $90 a barrel for the first time since October 2014.

OPEC+, led by Saudi Arabia and Russia, announced Wednesday it will stick to its previously telegraphed plan to increase production by 400,000 barrels per day. That’s despite the fact that some on Wall Street suggested OPEC+ could boost production more substantially to meet demand.

“OPEC+ opted to hold its shortest meeting on record and rubber-stamped the 400 kb/d monthly increase, sticking with a hands-off the wheel management approach despite global inflationary fears,” RBC Capital Markets strategists wrote in a note to clients Thursday.

Indian Union Budget Reveals Importance Of Cryptocurrency

At last, it is a piece of surprising news that Digital currency is also being introduced in the Indian fiduciary system as part of yet another dream project of Digital India. The Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman and the  Governor of the Central Bank of India had elaborated on this. We have heard earlier that the Indian Government was also making a move to ban foreign digital currencies in the country. The Central Bank is in the process of making an official announcement soon on its development model of digital currency (CBDC). Nirmala Sitharaman has said that the Indian Digital Rupee will be launched using blockchain technology in the financial year 2022-23.

Anyway, the Supreme Court made a favorable ruling in favor of lifting the Reserve Bank’s ban on crypto use. This ruling created a new wave among Indian investors and led to a rapid rise in retail. At the same time, investors are optimistic about the central bank and the emergence of digital currencies.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced in her budget speech that the distribution of digital currency would begin. But there are widespread doubts about what a digital rupee is. The announcement comes at a time when the central Government is considering a strong policy to curb the misuse of cryptocurrencies. At the Republican Economic Summit in November 2021, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Electronics & IT, hinted at the introduction of an official digital currency.

 What is Digital Rupee?

The digital currency of the Reserve Bank of India will be based on blockchain technology, the technology behind Bitcoin, and other popular cryptocurrencies. According to the Finance Minister, this will pave a more efficient and cost-effective currency management system. However, the future of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies is unclear.

The RBI has already been keenly watching the performance of major economies worldwide and their respective central banks for CBDC schemes. As a result, the central bank has almost decided on the issue of official digital currency. While the Reserve Bank mentions the need for central banking digital currency (CBDC), it also makes it clear that the government is concerned about the risks surrounding other cryptocurrencies. Why has the government not yet officially banned such currencies? Why did the Supreme Court overturn the ban on banks operating cryptocurrencies? The questions are numerous.

As economists fear that cryptocurrency is one of the most widely used dangerous currencies globally, without any government control. It can also be described as a private currency and minting huge profits sometimes. All of these operate with the support of some unknown sovereign guarantees. No country provides any security. For example, a Rs.500 Indian currency note!. The Reserve Bank Governor guarantees on  500 currency note. Even if it is paper, the RBI pays for it. But governments do not ensure the value of digital currencies like Bitcoin.

However, we know that the value of crypto like Bitcoin is supported by complex programming. No one or any government can change it individually, and it involves multiple checks at multiple computer servers worldwide, related to its value. Therefore, the easiest way to understand digital currency  is to use a digital currency that can only be transferred from one person to another via the Internet on platforms like Coinbase.

However, the RBI is not the first financial institution in the world to make such a drastic move. Reports indicate that India is far behind its technological  derivatives  in terms of crypto controls. We were hearing that China has been working on this for so many  years;  supported by the Chinese Central Bank and government approval. The Chinese widely use digital currency for e-commerce portals, offline shops, and other outlets through smartphones.

However, there is a difference between CBDC and cryptocurrency as the latter has some basic features. Those features cannot be copied to digital currencies. Cryptocurrencies, by nature, operate on the basic principle of anonymity. The exciting part is that the details of the seller and the buyer cannot be tracked. But beware,  in the case of a digital currency released by the central bank will have a whole tracking system, just like a standard currency. This is the kind of digital currency used in China. This ensures that transactions will take place under the supervision of the government. Go ahead Digital India!

The Evolution Of Global Poverty, 1990-2030

The last 30 years have seen dramatic reductions in global poverty, spurred by strong catch-up growth in developing countries, especially in Asia. By 2015, some 729 million people, 10% of the population, lived under the $1.90 a day poverty line, greatly exceeding the Millennium Development Goal target of halving poverty. From 2012 to 2013, at the peak of global poverty reduction, the global poverty headcount fell by 130 million poor people.

This success story was dominated by China and India. In December 2020, China declared it had eliminated extreme poverty completely. India represents a more recent success story. Strong economic growth drove poverty rates down to 77 million, or 6% of the population, in 2019. India will, however, experience a short-term spike in poverty due to COVID-19, before resuming a strong downward path. By 2030, India is likely to essentially eliminate extreme poverty, with less than 5 million people living below the $1.90 line. By 2030, the only Asian countries that are unlikely to meet the goal of ending extreme poverty are Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea, and North Korea.

In other parts of the world, poverty trends are disappointing. In Latin America, poverty fell rapidly at the beginning of this century but has been rising since 2015, with no substantial reductions forecast by the end of this decade. In Africa, poverty has been rising steadily, thanks to rapid population growth and stagnant economic growth. Exacerbated by a pandemic-induced rise in poverty of 11%, African poverty shows little signs of decline through 2030.

These trends point to the emergence of a very different poverty landscape. Whereas in 1990, poverty was concentrated in low-income, Asian countries, today’s (and tomorrow’s) poverty is largely found in sub-Saharan Africa and fragile and conflict-affected states. By 2030, sub-Saharan African countries will account for 9 of the top 10 countries by poverty headcount. Sixty percent of the global poor will live in fragile and conflict-affected states. Many of the top poverty destinations in the next decade will fall into both of these categories: Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique and Somalia. Global efforts to achieve the SDGs by 2030, including eliminating extreme poverty, will be complicated by the concentration of poverty in these fragile and hard-to-reach contexts.

By 2030, poverty will be associated not just with countries, but with specific places within countries. Middle-income countries will be home to almost half of the global poor, a dramatic shift from just 40 years earlier. Nigeria is now the global face of poverty, overtaking India as the top poverty destination in 2019. (While India temporarily regained its title due to COVID-19, which pushed many vulnerable Indians back below the poverty line, Nigeria will reclaim the top spot by 2022.) In 2015, Nigeria was home to 80 million poor people, or 11% of global poverty; by 2030, this number could grow to 18%, or 107 million.

Poverty numbers and trends have traditionally been reported on a country-by-country basis. However, today we see that low-income countries have significant corridors of prosperity, while middle-income countries can have large pockets of poverty. With advances in geospatial and sub-national data, there is a growing push to move from country-wide metrics to sub-national data, in order to better identify and target these poverty “hotspots.”

As Inflation Soars, A Look At What’s Inside The Consumer Price Index

After many years of historically low inflation, consumer prices in the United States continued their steep ascent last month. The Consumer Price Index, the most widely followed inflation gauge, increased 7.0% from December 2020 to December 2021 – its highest rate in nearly 40 years.

The CPI – or, to give it its full name, the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) – isn’t the government’s only measure of inflation. For that matter, it isn’t even the only version of the CPI. Pew Research Center analyses typically use the CPI’s Retroactive Series, especially when adjusting prices or dollar values over several years or decades, because that series adjusts the CPI for previous years to reflect current methodology. There’s also the Chained CPI, which is meant to reflect how consumers alter their buying patterns in response to changes in relative prices – for example, buying more chicken when beef becomes more expensive. The Chained CPI often (but not always) comes in a bit below the “regular” CPI-U: It rose 6.9% between December 2020 and December 2021.

But the CPI-U is the most widely cited inflation metric, so it’s worth popping the hood and looking inside to see how it works.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which is responsible for the CPI, starts by collecting price data for hundreds of discrete goods and services – the so-called “market basket” – from around 8,000 housing units and 23,000 retailers, service providers and online outlets in 75 urban areas around the country. Data on rents is gathered from some 50,000 landlords and tenants. The items sampled, and their weights in the overall index, are determined by the Consumer Expenditure Survey, which is carried out for BLS by the Census Bureau.

The BLS reports index weights for dozens of categories, subcategories and specific items in the CPI’s basket of goods and services. The biggest category by far is shelter, which accounts for nearly a third of the index. The single weightiest item, at about 22.3%, is “owner’s equivalent rent of primary residence” – essentially how much homeowners would have to pay if they were renting their homes. (The idea is to separate out shelter, the service provided by a house, from whatever value the house might have as an investment.)

While shelter costs carry the most weight in the CPI, they’ve not risen nearly as much as the index as a whole. In December, owner’s equivalent rent was up 3.8% compared with December 2020, and regular rent of primary residence was just 3.3% higher. The one big exception among shelter costs was lodging away from home, a category that mostly tracks hotel and motel room rates, where prices were 27.6% higher than a year earlier. However, that subcategory accounts for less than 1% (0.849%, to be precise) of the CPI.

The next-biggest category, food, accounts for just under 14% of the index. Groceries, or “food at home,” makes up a bit more than half of that category. Grocery prices were 6.5% higher than a year ago, which will come as no surprise to anyone who’s been to a supermarket lately. Meats, especially beef and pork, led the way, with prices for beef roasts and steaks more than 20% higher than a year ago, bacon up 18.6% and chicken parts up 11.5%. (On the other hand, prices for hot dogs and cheese both are down 0.6%.)

Eating out has gotten more expensive too. Prices for full-service meals and snacks consumed away from home were up 6.6% from December 2020, and limited-service meals and snacks were up 8%. School breakfasts and lunches were down by nearly two-thirds, perhaps because the U.S. Department of Agriculture has authorized free meals for all children in public schools this academic year.

Besides at the supermarket, consumers also feel the effects of inflation acutely at the fuel pump. Gasoline accounts for just 4% of the overall CPI, but prices for it have risen more than any other good or service in the CPI basket over the past year. Regular unleaded gasoline, for instance, is up 50.8% since December 2020. It should be noted that gas prices fell sharply in 2020, as demand plunged because much of the U.S. economy was shut down. As the economy reopened and demand came back, so did gas prices, though they’ve since risen 20% or more above pre-pandemic levels.

Energy goods and services, a category of which gasoline is a major component, accounts for roughly 7.5% of the overall CPI. Prices for fuels used for home heating and cooking also are sharply higher than a year ago: Fuel oil is up 41%, propane, kerosene and firewood are up 33.8%, and piped natural gas is up 24.1%.

Aside from motor fuels, the vehicles that burn them also loom relatively large in the CPI. New vehicles account for nearly 3.9% of the index; prices for new cars rose 12% from December 2020 to December 2021, and new trucks prices almost as much (11.6%). But the real movement was for used vehicles: Prices for used cars and trucks, which make up about 3.4% of the index, have soared 37.3% over the past 12 months. Why? The pandemic has disrupted and depressed production of new vehicles, while low interest rates have increased demand for cars and trucks. Buyers who couldn’t find the new vehicles they wanted have moved over to the used lot, increasing demand at the same time as the flow of pre-owned cars and trucks dwindled.

Satya Nadella Ranked Top Among CEOs In Brand Finance List

The Brand Finance Brand Guardianship Index has ranked Microsoft boss, Satya Nadella, as the top CEO in the world.

Nadella, a first-generation Indian immigrant to the US, “has been credited with overhauling Microsoft’s fortunes by changing its culture towards one of teamwork, innovation, and inclusivity, and instilling a growth mindset throughout the business”.

Three other Indian-origin expat CEOs rank high: Sundar Pichai of Google is at 5, Shantanu Narayan of Adobe at 6, and Puneet Renjen of Deloitte at 14.

  1. Chandrasekhar of the Tatas is at 25 in the list and Anand Mahindra of M&M and Mukesh Ambani of Reliance are at 41 and 42, respectively. State Bank of India’s Dinesh Kumar Khara is at 46.

The top 10 of the Brand Finance ranking is dominated by CEOs (referred to repeatedly as brand guardians) from the tech and media sectors.

Tech boasts six of the top ten – Tim Cook is in second place, having overseen Apple become the first to hit a $3 trillion market valuation.

Cook is followed by CEOs of household tech names: Tencent’s Huateng Ma at 4, Pichai at 5, and Netflix’s Reed Hastings at 7.

AMD CEO Lisa Su is a new entrant at 10. This makes her the highest-ranked female.

She newly qualifies for the ranking as AMD has propelled into the Brand Finance Global 500 2022 after a 122 per cent brand value growth over the past year.

Su steered AMD through a global chip shortage during the pandemic and came out the other side boasting record revenues.

Her leadership of a tech company is unfortunately a rarity, with most being run by males.

This is reflected in the ranking, as the rise in the number of tech brands has come hand in hand with a decrease in the number of female CEOs in the top 100 – from eight in 2021 to five this year.

At a country level, the index mirrors the Brand Finance Global 500 2022 ranking, with the US and China leading the way. There are 101 CEOs from the US, which represents 40 per cent of the index, and 47 from China, which represents 19 per cent.

Brand guardians from these two countries head up a number of key sectors: Jianjun Wei of Great Wall in Automobiles at 3, Patricia Griffith of Progressive Insurance at 11, Xiongjun Ding of Moutai Spirits at 12, and Baoan Xin of State Grid Utilities at 13.

Among the Americans, Brian Moynihan of Bank of America is at 16, Ramon Laguarta of Pepsi at 17, Andy Jassy of Amazon is at 23.

The highest-ranked CEO outside of the US and China monopoly is ADNOC brand guardian Sultan Al Jaber at 15. He is also the top-scoring leader in the oil and gas sector. Aside from ADNOC, Sultan holds senior positions in the UAE government, and in promoting the diversification and growth of the UAE economy.

CEOs of the three UAE brands from the Brand Finance Global 500 2022 ranking all feature and record higher scores than last year, with Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum of Emirates at 34th and Etisalat’s Hatem Dowidar at 79.

Apple has retained the title of the world’s most valuable brand following a 35 per cent increase to $355.1 billion – the highest brand value ever recorded in the Brand Finance Global 500 ranking.

Apple used 2022 to be effective to a much broader range of services. The iPhone still accounts for around half of the brand’s sales. However, this year saw Apple give more attention to its other suite of products with a new generation of iPads, an overhaul to the iMac, and introduction of AirTags. Its range of services, from Apple Pay to Apple TV, has had increasing importance to the brand’s success, the report noted.

“Privacy and the environment are salient topics, and Apple bolstered its credentials on both fronts. This is evidenced by a greater transparency of the App Store’s privacy policy, reinforcing the trust customers have in the brand, and the announcement that more of Apple’s manufacturing partners will be moving to 100 percent renewable energy, as the company aims to reach carbon neutrality by 2030.”

Tripling in brand value over the past year, TikTok is the world’s fastest-growing brand. With 215 per cent growth, the app’s brand value has increased from $18.7 billion in 2021 to $59.0 billion. Claiming 18th spot among the world’s top 500 most valuable brands, TikTok is the highest new entrant to the Brand Finance Global 500 2022 ranking.

Overall, media brands accounted for the top 3 fastest-growing brands in the ranking – with another social media app, Snapchat, brand value up 184 per cent to $6.6 billion and South Korean internet brand Kakao, brand value up 161% to $4.7 billion, following closely behind TikTok.

Snapchat saw increased daily usage and revenues grow by 77 per cent in the first 9 months of 2021, with the popularity of its short-form video feature, Spotlight, being a key driver.

Other notable performers from the media sector include those that offer streaming services, with Disney (brand value up 11 per cent to $57.0 billion), Netflix (brand value up 18 per cent $29.4 billion), YouTube (brand value up 38 per cent to $23.9 billion), and Spotify (brand value up 13 per cent to $6.3 billion).

Traditional media brands have seen a continued decline, with people favouring social media platforms and on-demand streaming in their place.

The tech sector remained the most valuable in the Brand Finance Global 500 ranking, with a cumulative brand value of close to $1.3 trillion. In total, 50 tech brands feature in the ranking, however, the brand value is largely attributable to three big players, with Apple, Microsoft (brand value $184.2 billion), and Samsung Group (brand value $107.3 billion) together accounting for more than 50 per cent of the total brand value in the sector.

Closely behind them, Huawei managed to reclaim its place among the top 10 most valuable brands in the world, following 29 per cent growth to $71.2 billion. Huawei’s smartphone business was hit by US sanctions, but it reacted positively by heavily stepping up investment in both domestic technology companies and R&D, as well as turning its focus to cloud services.

Brand Finance is an independent brand valuation and strategy consultancy headquartered in London.

India’s Economy To Grow At 8.0-8.5% In 2022-23

The Economic Survey 2021-22 has projected the economy to grow at 8.0-8.5 per cent in 2022-23, thereby moderating the growth forecast from 9.2 per cent expansion for 2021-22 outlined by the National Statistical Office (NSO) in its first advance estimates of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Last year’s Survey had projected real GDP to record a 11 per cent growth in 2021-22, post a 7.3 per cent contraction in 2020-21. While this year’s growth comes on a low base year economic output, the expansion next year has to be seen from the recovery levels in economic output.

The Survey flags inflation as a concern while assessing the macroeconomic stability indicators and suggests that the Indian economy is “well- placed” to take on the challenges of 2022-23.

India’s Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on January 31st tabled the Economic Survey 2021-22 in the Lok Sabha, the Lower House of India’s Parliament.

“Growth in 2022-23 will be supported by widespread vaccine coverage, gains from supply-side reforms and easing of regulations, robust export growth, and availability of fiscal space to ramp up capital spending. The year ahead is also well poised for a pick-up in private sector investment with the financial system in a good position to provide support to the revival of the economy,” it said.

The growth projection for the next year based on “the assumption that there will be no further debilitating pandemic related economic disruption, monsoon will be normal, withdrawal of global liquidity by major central banks will be broadly orderly and oil prices will be in the range of $70-$75/bbl,” the Survey said.

The Survey projection is comparable with the World Bank’s and Asian Development Bank’s latest forecasts of real GDP growth of 8.7 per cent and 7.5 per cent respectively for 2022-23. As per the IMF’s latest World Economic Outlook (WEO) growth projections released on 25th January, 2022, India’s real GDP is projected to grow at 9 per cent in both 2021-22 and 2022-23 and at 7.1 per cent in 2023-24. It stressed the need to watch up for imported inflation. India’s Consumer Price Index inflation stood at 5.6 per cent in December 2021 but wholesale price inflation, however, has been running in double-digits. “Although this is partly due to base effects that will even out, India does need to be wary of imported inflation, especially from elevated global energy prices,” it said.

Last year’s Economic Survey had pitched for an expansionary fiscal policy in 2021-22 to boost growth and advised the government towards significant privatisation of state-owned companies. A privatisation push and review of the banking sector asset quality was recommended in last year’s survey.

Setting the tone for the Union Budget 2022-23, to be presented on Tuesday, the Economic Survey 2021-22 tabled in the Parliament on Monday stressed on the need for the government to provide a buffer against stresses such as the uncertainty in the global environment, the cycle of liquidity withdrawal by major central banks, etc.

India’s economic growth in 2022-23 could spring a surprise: ASSOCHAM

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, India’s economic growth in the upcoming financial year, i.e., 2022-23, can be surprising on the higher side, ASSOCHAM Secretary General said on Monday.

“While the 8-8.5 per cent GDP projections for FY23 are on the back of a high base of 9.2 per cent in the current financial year, ASSOCHAM is of the view that India’s economic growth can surprise us on the higher side.

“Even as the pandemic is still raging in most parts of the world, its latest variant is less damaging. Besides, with 75 per cent of eligible Indians fully vaccinated and the booster dose being rolled out, India would be far better prepared to take on the challenges,” ASSOCHAM Secretary General Deepak Sood said.

ASSOCHAM said it shares the prognosis of the Economic Survey that the Indian economy is well placed to take on the challenges of 2022-23, riding on the back of continuous reforms in supply side and safety nets to the vulnerable sections of the society.

Sood further said that the advance estimates suggest manufacturing to be growing by 12.5 per cent in the current fiscal while services would expand by 8.5 per cent.

“Traditionally, services grow at a faster face. Clearly, the Covid impact on contact intensive industries is reflecting even as manufacturing has been aided by supply side reforms. Once the impact of PLI scheme kicks in, we expect the manufacturing to be leading the growth for the foreseeable future,” Sood said, adding that robust performance in exports has also helped the manufacturing.

He further said that the Economic Survey is right in its assessment about the investment scenario, saying: “The private investment recovery is still at a nascent stage, though there are increased activities in the brownfield projects. Heavy lifting would still be needed by the government with capital expenditure, and we expect that in the Budget.”

The Survey has pointed out that the government has the fiscal capacity to maintain the support, and ramp up capital expenditure when required, ASSOCHAM said in a statement.

“Schemes like credit guarantee with 100 per cent guarantee for additional funding of Rs 4.5 lakh crore to MSMEs have provided critical relief to the sectors severely hit by the pandemic. More such measures are expected in the Budget,” it said.

“The Survey has re-emphasised the government’s asset monetisation and disinvestment agenda, which spells out bare minimum presence of government ownership even in the strategic sectors. Successful completion of Air India disinvestment should infuse confidence for the roadmap,” it added.

House Democrats Push For ‘Swift’ Action To Lower Drug Prices

A group of 40 House Democrats is pressuring party leadership to act quickly on measures to lower prescription drug prices, highlighting the importance of the issue to the party, especially in an election year.

Lowering drug prices is a long-held policy goal for Democrats and a crucial aspect of their campaign messaging.

But the proposal is stalled in Congress along with a slew of other measures included in President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, given concerns from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) about other parts of the package.

The group of Democrats, led by Rep. Susan Wild (Pa.), is pushing to jumpstart action.

“We write today urging you to take legislative action as swiftly as possible to lower drug prices,” the Democrats, many of whom represent competitive seats, wrote to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). “For years, people have sent us to Washington on the promise that we end Big Pharma’s monopoly control over prices and provide patients with much needed relief. We must make good on that promise — and we have the ability to do so.”

Democrats already have an agreement on drug pricing legislation that they reached in November after negotiations with a handful of moderate members.

That agreement would allow Medicare to negotiate lower prices for certain older drugs that are no longer on their period of “exclusivity,” where they are protected from competition. The measure would also limit drug price increases to the rate of inflation and cap patients’ costs for insulin at $35 per month.

But the proposal is facing a murky path forward, given the obstacles for the larger Build Back Better package of which it is a part. Manchin supports action to lower drug prices, but he has concerns about other parts of the package related to spending and the possibility of causing more inflation.

Drugmakers raise list prices for prescription medicines by 6.6% this year

The Wall Street Journal (1/30, Walker, Subscription Publication) reports drug makers raised list prices for diabetes, cancer, and other prescription medicines by an average of 6.6% during the first weeks of 2022. An analysis by Rx Savings Solutions found that through January 20, nearly 150 drug makers raised prices for 866 products in the United States.

The letter from the 40 Democrats, which was first reported by Politico, does not specify a path forward for the drug pricing legislation, but it is possible that a deal could be reached with Manchin on a slimmed-down overall package.

“President Biden supports this plan,” they write. “We support this plan. Every Democratic member of the U.S. Senate supports this plan. And most importantly, the American people support this plan. It is time to enact it into law.”

Tata Group Chairman Tells Air India Staff To Look Ahead On A New Journey

Tata Group Chairman, N. Chandrasekaran, has called upon Air India employees to work together to build ‘the airline our country needs’. In a communication to the employees, Chandrasekaran said: “Now is the time to look ahead.”

The communication to Air India employees came on a day when Tata Group subsidiary, Talace Private Limited, formally took over the managerial control of the airline.

“I, like many others, have enjoyed reflecting on stories from the airline’s brilliant past. My first flight was with Air India in December 1986, and I will never forget how special it felt to be onboard, or the exhilaration as we soared into the sky,” the letter read.

“Today is the beginning of a new chapter. The entire nation’s eyes are on us, waiting to see what we will achieve together. To build the airline our country needs, we need to look to the future,” it added. Notably, the purpose of the letter was to welcome the employees into the Tata Group “family”.

“Our group has its own storied past. I have learned that to preserve what is best about the past, requires constant change. It is by evolving, adapting and embracing the future that we best honour a glorious history,” Chandrasekaran said in the letter.

It added that the “golden age” of Air India lies ahead and the “journey towards it starts now”.

Indian Government has handed over the management control of Air India to Tata Group subsidiary Talace.

With this, Air India’s strategic disinvestment was complete after the Centre received a consideration of Rs 2,700 crore from the ‘Strategic Partner’ — Talace — which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Tata Sons.

Tata Sons subsidiary Talace, which took over the managerial control of Air India on Thursday, will get more than 140 aircraft and eight logos, among other assets such as human resources.

However, the transaction does not include non-core assets, including land and building, valued at Rs 14,718 crore, which are to be transferred to government of India’s Air India Asset Holding Limited (AIAHL).

Besides, Tatas will also not get the world-famous art collection of Air India.

Nevertheless, the group will get Air India’s 117 wide-body and narrow body aircraft apart from 24 aircraft of Air India Express. A significant number of these aircraft are owned by Air India.

It will also get to operate these aircraft on over 4,000 domestic and 1,800 international routes.

Also, eight brand logos would be transferable to the Tatas, which they have to retail for a period of five years.

As far as revenues are concerned, more than two-third of Air India’s consolidated revenues come from the international market. The airline is still the largest player from India in the international market, having a strong footprint across geographies like North America, Europe and Middle East, with attractive slots and bilateral rights.

Additionally, Air India comes with a frequent flyer programme which has more than three million members.

In terms of manpower, the conglomerate will get the total talent pool of Air India and Air India Express, which stands at over 13,000, including permanent as well as contractual employees.

Under the agreement with the Centre, no employee will be removed for one-year. In the second year, if an employee has to be removed, a VRS option will be provided.

The employees will be provided gratuity, provident fund and post-retirement medical benefits.

Financially, Tatas will retain a debt of Rs 15,300 crore. It had to pay Rs 2,700 crore to the Centre as the cash component.

In addition, Tatas will need to take care of the Rs 20 crore loss per day that the company suffers.

There is also a three-year business continuity clause in the agreement.

Tatas would also need to maintain 51 per cent stake in the airline for at least one-year. Besides the upfront payment, Talace will retain a debt of Rs 15,300 crore.

The transaction covered three entities – Air India, Air India Express and AI SATS. Post the formal take over, a new board was constituted which included Tata Group’s executives.  (IANS)

Gold Demand Globally Rose 10% In 2021

Global demand for gold increased 10 per cent in the calendar year 2021, led by improved economic growth and investors’ sentiment during the October-December quarter, the Word Gold Council said on Friday.

Gold demand jumped almost 50 per cent in the period, thereby hitting a 10-quarter high.

The total demand for the yellow metal was at 4,021 tonnes, excluding the “over the counter” figures.

“Demand for gold in the consumer-driven jewellery and technology sectors recovered throughout the year in line with economic growth and sentiment, while central bank buying also far outpaced that of 2020. Investment demand was mixed in an environment of opposing forces: high inflation competed with rising yields for investors’ attention,” the council added.

Jeweler fabrication staged a strong recovery in 2021 and it grew 67 per cent to 2,221 tonnes in 2021.

“This was in good part linked to Q4 demand, which – at 713 tonnes – saw the strongest quarterly jeweler consumption since Q2 2013,” the council said.

Global holdings of gold ETFs fell by 173 tonnes in 2021 in sharp contrast to 2020’s record 874 tones rise.

Bar and coin investment jumped 31 per cent to an eight-year high of 1,180 tones.

“Central banks accumulated 463 tonnes of gold in 2021, 82 per cent higher than the 2020 total and lifting global reserves to a near 30-year high. The pace of buying slowed in the second half, with a 22 per cent Y-o-Y decline in Q4.”

Further, gold used in technology rose nine per cent in 2021, to reach a three-year high of 330 tonnes. (IANS)

India Now 2nd Largest Mobile Handset Manufacturer In The World

Amitabh Kant, CEO at NITI Aayog has informed that India has emerged as the second largest manufacturer of mobile handsets in the world in terms of volume.

We have got used to the fact that every day there are numerous updates on the latest launches of smartphones in India. Mobile companies like Samsung, Realme, Oppo, Xiaomi, among others have already launched a few models while many are lined up. However, there is some other good news as far as mobile phone manufacturing is concerned. India has emerged as the second largest manufacturer of mobile handsets in the world in terms of volume. As per the information provided by Amitabh Kant, CEO at NITI Aayog, over 200 units are manufacturing cellular mobile phones, up from only 2 units in the year 2014.

He further added that production has gone up from 6 crore mobile phones in 2014-15 to approximately 30 crore mobile phones in 2020-21. “India has emerged as the 2nd largest manufacturer of mobile handsets in the world in volume terms. Over 200 units are manufacturing cellular mobile phones up from only 2 units in 2014. Production has gone up from 6 Cr mobile ph in 2014-15 to app 30 Cr mobile phones in 2020-21.Gr8,” he tweeted.

To make sure these gains are used for further growth, recently, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, released the 2nd Volume of Vision Document on Electronics Manufacturing. The document contains a five-year roadmap and vision for the electronics sector.

The document has been released by the ministry in association with ICEA, and is titled “$300 bn Sustainable Electronics Manufacturing & Exports by 2026.”

This report provides a year-wise break-up and production projections for the various products that will lead to India’s transformation into a USD300 billion electronics manufacturing powerhouse, from the current USD75 billion.

Amongst the key products that are expected to lead India’s growth in electronics manufacturing include Mobile Phones, IT Hardware (laptops, tablets), Consumer electronics (TV and audio), Industrial electronics, Auto electronics, Electronic components, LED Lighting, Strategic electronics, PCBA, Wearables and hearables, and Telecom equipment.

As per the information provided by the ministry, mobile manufacturing is expected to cross USD100 billion annual production – up from the current USD30 billion – is expected to constitute nearly 40 percent of this growth.

The domestic market is expected to increase from USD65 billion to US$180 billion over the next 5 years. This will make electronics amongst India’s 2-3 top ranking exports by 2026.

The five-part strategy to reach the USD300 billion goal, based on an “all of the government” approach, sharply focuses on broadening and deepening electronics manufacturing in India. This will be done by building competitiveness and scale by attracting global electronics manufacturers/brands, shifting and developing sub-assemblies and component ecosystem, building a design ecosystem, nurturing Indian champions and steadily removing cost disabilities faced by India.

It can be known that the USD300 billion electronics manufacturing comes on the back of USD10 billion PLI Scheme announced by the government to propel forward the Semiconductor and Display ecosystem. The government has committed nearly USD17 billion over the next 6 years across four PLI Schemes – Semiconductor and Design, Smartphones, IT Hardware and Components.

Air India Set To Be Handed To Tata Group

AIR INDIA will likely be handed over to the Tata Group on January 27 with the disinvestment process reaching the final stages, according to the airline’s officials. The airline’s balance sheet was finalised and shared with the Mumbai-based conglomerate on Monday, and the company is expected to review it by Wednesday, following which the transfer will be made.

On October 11, the central government had issued the Letter of Intent (LoI) to the Tata Group, confirming its willingness to transfer 100 per cent stake in the airline. At the time, the expected timeline for transfer was set for December-end. This was extended to January-end on account of various pending approvals from global regulators and finalisation of the balance sheet by the lenders and the airline’s lessors.

The closing date of the balance sheet was set at January 20.

In a communication to the airline’s employees on Monday, Air India’s Director, Finance, Vinod Hejmadi wrote: “The disinvestment of Air India is now decided to be on the 27th January, 2022. The closing balance sheet as on 20th January has to be provided today, 24th January, so that it can be reviewed by Tatas and any changes can be effected on Wednesday”.

“We have done an excellent job till now in providing all support for the disinvestment exercise. The next three days will be hectic for our department and I request all of you to give your best in these last three-four days before we get divested. We may have to work late in the night to complete the task given to us. I seek the cooperation of one and all,” he wrote.

In October, the government had announced that the Tata Group placed the winning bid for 100 per cent stake in Air India at Rs 18,000 crore, of which Rs 15,300 crore was the debt component and Rs 2,700 crore was the cash component to be paid to the government.

The final balance sheet has been prepared with approvals from the various regulators, lenders and lessors of the airline. This balance sheet, provided to the Tata Group, is expected to account for the Rs 20 crore loss being incurred by Air India on a daily basis, till the cutoff date of January 20.

The Indian Express reported Sunday, citing an RTI response, that government departments and ministries had pending payments to Air India adding up to Rs 278.49 crore till October last year. This included Rs 244.78 crore from over 700 government departments and sections as of September 2021 and Rs 33.71 crore towards VVIP flights as on July 27, 2021, as per the data.

It also included dues from the Prime Minister’s flights of Rs 7.20 crore and the President’s flight dues of Rs 6.14 crore. The airline has already begun recovering pending dues from government departments – it had recovered Rs 30.38 crore as of November 30 last year.

Tata Group and SpiceJet chairman Ajay Singh in his private capacity had bid for debt-laden state-run airline Air India earlier this month. Accordingly, sources said that the two bids are being scrutinized against a reserve price set for the airline. The process will not go ahead if the bids come in short of the reserve price. Reports stated, a panel of ministers accepted a proposal from bureaucrats, who recommended the conglomerate’s bid ahead of an offer from Ajay Singh, according to people with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified as the decision isn’t yet public.

Headquartered in Bombay (Mumbai), AIR INDIA’s first ever scheduled air service was inaugurated in 1932 by J.R.D. Tata, flying mail and passengers between Karāchi, Ahmadābād, Bombay, Bellary, and Madras. By 1939 routes had been extended to Trivandrum, Delhi, Colombo, Lahore, and intermediate points. After World War II, in 1946, Tata Airlines was converted into a public company and renamed Air-India Limited. Two years later, to inaugurate international services between Bombay (Mumbai) and Cairo, Geneva, and London, Air-India International Limited was formed.

In 1953 India nationalized all Indian airlines, creating two corporations—one for domestic service, called Indian Airlines Corporation (merging Air-India Limited with six lesser lines), and one for international service, Air-India International Corporation. The latter’s name was abbreviated to Air-India in 1962. In the following decades as India’s flag carrier, the airline extended its international routes to all continents except South America and Australia, and it expanded its cargo operations. To gain a competitive advantage in computerized reservation searches, the airline removed the hyphen from its name in 2005 to become Air India.1946 R. D. Tata founded Tata Airlines in 1932 as a division of Tata Sons Ltd. (now Tata Group). After World War II, regular commercial service in India went back to normal, Tata Airlines changing its name to Air India and becoming a public limited company on the 29th of July 1946.

On June 9th, 1948, Air India introduced a regular service from Bombay to London, and two years later, AIR INDIA started regular flights to Nairobi. In 1993, AIR INDIA’s first Boeing 747-400, named Konark, operated the first non-stop flight between New York City and Delhi. In 1996, Air India started using its second US gateway at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. Services to Air India’s third US gateway at Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark were introduced in the year 2000.

In October 2016, AIR INDIA changed the Delhi – San Francisco route previously operated over the Atlantic Ocean to flying over the Pacific Ocean, in order to take advantage of jet stream winds and use less fuel. With the total flown distance being over 15,200 kilometres (9,400 miles), AIR INDIA operated the world’s longest non-stop regular scheduled commercial flight.

In December 2020, the government had invited expression of interest for the divestment of Air India. Four bidders had entered the race to take over the beleaguered airline, but Tata Group and Spicejet CEO Ajay Singh were the only ones to make it to the final stage. The Centre had made an unsuccessful attempt to sell the ailing airline earlier in March 2018. However, its expression of interest to sell 76 per cent stake in Air India had no takers at that juncture due to concerns regarding the airline’s burgeoning debt. Top sources from the Ministry of Civil Aviation said all formalities for the Air India disinvestment process will be completed by December 2021.

Number Of Indian Billionaires Grows To 142 In 2021 From 102

The number of Indian billionaires grew from 102 to 142, while 84 per cent of households in the country suffered a decline in their income in 2021, which was also a year marked by tremendous loss of life and livelihoods, according to non profit Oxfam India’s latest report published on Monday.

The report ‘Inequality Kills’ comes ahead of the World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda.

It indicates that the collective wealth of India’s 100 richest people hit a record high of Rs 57.3 lakh crore in 2021.

In India, during the pandemic (since March 2020, through to November 30th, 2021) the wealth of billionaires increased from Rs 23.14 lakh crore to Rs 53.16 lakh crore.

More than 4.6 crore Indians, meanwhile, are estimated to have fallen into extreme poverty in 2020 (nearly half of the global new poor according to the United Nations).

The stark wealth inequality in India is a result of an economic system rigged in favour of the super-rich over the poor and marginalised, the report said

It advocates a one per cent surcharge on the richest 10 per cent of the Indian population to fund inequality combating measures such as higher investments in school education, universal healthcare, and social security benefits like maternity leaves, paid leaves and pension for all Indians.

“The ‘Inequality Kills’ briefing shows how deeply unequal our economic system is and how it fuels not only inequality but poverty as well. We urge the Government of India to commit to an economic system which creates a more equal and sustainable nation,” Amitabh Behar, CEO, Oxfam India said in a statement.

Further, Behar said that Oxfam’s global briefing points to the stark reality of inequality contributing to the death of at least 21,000 people each day, or one person every four seconds.

Moreover, the pandemic set gender parity back from 99 years to now 135 years. Women collectively lost Rs 59.11 lakh crore in earnings in 2020, with 1.3 crore fewer women in work now than in 2019, the report showed.

“It has never been so important to start righting the wrongs of this obscene inequality by targeting extreme wealth through taxation and getting that money back into the real economy to save lives,” Behar said.

“India can show the world that democratic systems are capable of wealth redistribution and inclusive growth where no one is left behind. India’s fight against inequality and poverty must be supported by the billionaires who made record profits in the country during the pandemic,” he suggested. (IANS)

Lessons Learned Doing Business During a Pandemic

Akshar Patel, vice president of conventions for AAHOA and one of this year’s PCMA Groundbreaker Award nominees, shares how COVID-19 has allowed him to “learn and sharpen” his skillset as an events executive.

The business events industry has numerous groundbreaking leaders — trailblazers who represent diverse sectors of the community and make meaningful contributions to advance inclusion and equity within their organizations. PCMA’s Groundbreaker Award, now in its second year, is dedicated to highlighting these individuals. Akshar Patel, vice president of conventions for the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA), was among those nominated for the 2022 PCMA Groundbreaker Award, and with good reason — he has helped successfully lead his organization through one of the most difficult periods the events industry has faced — the COVID-19 pandemic.

Patel has been with AAHOA — the largest hotel owners association in the nation with nearly 20,000 members — for more than six years. Since early 2020, on the precipice of COVID becoming a pandemic, Patel was named vice president of conventions for the Atlanta, Georgia–based association. Like so many other business professionals, navigating COVID-19 has been the greatest challenge he has faced in his career so far, Patel said.

“There has been possibly no bigger obstacle, but also no better opportunity to learn and sharpen your skillset as an event executive,” Patel said. When AAHOA was forced to reschedule its 2021 annual convention no less than five times within the calendar year, “every day presented itself with new challenges, whether it be COVID-related, financial challenges, or contractual challenges,” Patel said, “but we were determined that the show must go on.”

Patel dealt with a fear of failure during this period, he said, “but coming together with clear communication, trust, and partnerships helped us weather the storm.” The AAHOA 2021 Convention & Trade Show was ultimately held successfully in-person in Dallas in early August with 6,272 attendees.

This year’s Groundbreaker Award recipient is Melissa Cherry, chief diversity and inclusion officer and senior vice president at Miles Partnership. Convene spoke with Cherry last fall about her focus on telling the stories of underrepresented community. “I get excited about being in the weeds,” she said during that interview. “I’m a working executive, as people have described me, and just really love helping bring that desire to have equity, diversity, and inclusion” be part of the work of organizations, she said, to raise them up to the next level.

Patel credits mentors like Pramukh Swami Maharaj and Mahant Swami Maharaj, the past and present gurus and presidents of a major branch of denomination of Hinduism, for teachings that he has held tight to throughout his career, and that includes having a sense of humility. “[They] always taught me that if you want to lead and be successful, you need to know what the needs and wants are on ground zero,” Patel said. “Our industry is not about one person doing it all; it is a collaboration of subject matter experts who commit to the end goal and work toward it.”

During Patel’s time at AAHOA, these are values he has been able to embody, not only in running the association’s annual convention, but creating its 175 annual in-house events as well.

“As a planner, I am responsible for the reputation and livelihood of our organization,” he said, “and if I don’t have the right mindset and tools to return on investment, our industry will not grow.”

Income Of Poorest Fifth India Plunged 53% In 5 Years; Those At Top Surged

In a trend unprecedented since economic liberalisation, the annual income of the poorest 20% of Indian households, constantly rising since 1995, plunged 53% in the pandemic year 2020-21 from their levels in 2015-16. In the same five-year period, the richest 20% saw their annual household income grow 39% reflecting the sharp contrast Covid’s economic impact has had on the bottom of the pyramid and the top.

This stark K-shaped recovery emerges in the latest round of ICE360 Survey 2021, conducted by People’s Research on India’s Consumer Economy (PRICE), a Mumbai- based think-tank.

The survey, between April and October 2021, covered 200,000 households in the first round and 42,000 households in the second round. It was spread over 120 towns and 800 villages across 100 districts.

While the pandemic brought economic activity to a standstill for at least two quarters in 2020-21 and resulted in a 7.3% contraction in GDP in 2020-21, the survey shows that the pandemic hit the urban poor most and eroded their household income.

Splitting the population across five categories based on income, the survey shows that while the poorest 20% (first quintile) witnessed the biggest erosion of 53%, the second lowest quintile (lower middle category), too, witnessed a decline in their household income of 32% in the same period. While the quantum of erosion reduced to 9% for those in the middle income category, the top two quintiles — upper middle (20%) and richest (20%)— saw their household income rise by 7% and 39% respectively.

The survey shows that the richest 20% of households have, on average, added more income per household and more pooled income as a group in the past five years than in any five-year period earlier since liberalisation. Exactly the opposite has happened for the poorest 20% of households — on average, they have never actually seen a decrease in household income since 1995. Yet, in 2021, in a huge knockout punch caused by Covid, they earned half as much as they did in 2016.

How disruptive this distress has been for those at the bottom of the pyramid is reinforced by the fact that in the previous 11-year period between 2005 and 2016, while the household income of the richest 20% grew by 34%, the poorest 20% saw their household income surge by 183% at an average annual growth rate of 9.9%.

Coming in the run-up to the Budget, the task for the Government is cut out.

“As the Finance Minister is finalising her budget proposals for 2022-23 to give shape to the roadmap for economic revival of the country,” said Rajesh Shukla, MD and CEO, PRICE, “we need a K-shaped policy too that addresses the two ends of the spectrum and a lot more thinking on how to build the bridge between the two.”

Opinion |P Chidambaram writes: No political price yet

This couldn’t be more timely. Said PRICE founder and one of the authors of the survey Rama Bijapurkar. “Or else, we are back to a tale of two Indias, a narrative we thought we were rapidly getting rid of. The good news is that we have built a far more efficient welfare state for the disbursal of benefit be it DBT or vaccination for all.”

The survey showed that while the richest 20% accounted for 50.2% of the total household income in 1995, their share has jumped to 56.3% in 2021. On the other hand, the share of the poorest 20% dropped from 5.9% to 3.3% in the same period.

As for India Inc, it has been in a better position to weather the disruption. The pandemic accelerated further formalisation of the economy with large companies benefitting at the cost of smaller ones. The survey also shows that while job losses were quite evident among Small and Medium Enterprises in the casual labour segment, large companies did not witness much of that.

Even among the poorest 20 per cent, those in urban areas got more impacted than their rural counterparts as the first wave of Covid and the lockdown led to stringent curbs on economic activity in urban areas. This resulted in job losses and loss of income for the casual labour, petty traders household workers.

Data shows that there has been a rise in the share of poor in cities. While 90 per cent of the poorest 20 per cent in 2016, lived in rural India, that number had dropped to 70 per cent in 2021. On the other hand the share of poorest 20 per cent in urban areas has gone up from around 10 per cent to 30 per cent now.

“The data reflects that the casual labour, petty trader, household workers among others in Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities got hit most by the pandemic. During the survey we also noticed that while in rural areas people in lower middle income category (Q2) have moved to middle income category (Q3), in the urban areas the shift has been downwards from Q3 to Q2. In fact, the rise in poverty level of urban poor has pulled down the household income of the entire category down,” said Shukla.

“The elephant in the room is investment,” said Bijapurkar. “Inspiring confidence through long-term policy stability and improving ease of doing business should make the tide rise again and sweep small business and individuals up along with it. Most big companies are doing well and don’t need more help but we need to work the economy for the bottom half.”

Expert CEO Forum at 15th AAPI Global Healthcare Summit 2022 in Hyderabad Urges Modi Govt. to Appoint an Indian Preventive Task Force (IPTF) and Conduct Annual Preventive Healthcare Screenings Nationwide.

Hyderabad: January 18th, 2022: The Healthcare industry in India and worldwide is rapidly changing, leading to many describing the healthcare environment as dynamic, complex, and highly uncertain. How the health care environment is perceived and characterized is vital for several reasons.  In this context, continuing with the traditions on the successful experiences of the past Global Health Summits, the largest ethnic medical organization in the United States, The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) organized the next edition of the influential Healthcare CEOs Forum on January 7th in Hyderabad during the 15th annual Global Healthcare Summit 2022.
During the much anticipated CEOs Forum, a panel of healthcare experts, health industry leaders, opinion makers, and community organizers discussed the significance of promoting Preventive healthcare in India.
The CEO Forum Unanimously approved “An Appeal by AAPI to the Government of India to initiate efforts for creating an Indian Preventive Task Force (IPTF) and conduct annual preventive healthcare screenings nationwide,” benefitting the 1.4 billion people in India.
“We are excited to welcome you to the 15th Global Healthcare Summit and this elite panel of experts and physicians and healthcare industry leaders from India and the United States, offering an excellent platform to brainstorm and explore ways to focus on the theme, “Transformation of Healthcare through Telehealth and Technology usage during this post-Covid Era,” and to have an opportunity to recommend possible ways to plan and implement preventive medicine that will save resources and precious human lives,” said Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President of AAPI.
Prof. Joseph Chalil, Chair of AAPI’s CEO Form, who organized such an elite panel of healthcare leaders, said, “AAPI, under the guidance of President Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, would like to collaborate with the Healthcare leaders in proposing the creation of an Indian Preventive Task Force (IPTF). IPTF guidelines should be promoted and implemented as part of the annual physical exam or telemedicine visit at government hospitals and primary care centers. We envision a great future for our country with the direct result of complex interactions at this forum with your assistance, guidance, and experience.”
Analyzing and assimilating the diverse and expert views expressed by the renowned speakers at the CEO Forum regarding the current state of healthcare in India, the CEO Forum provided a great stage to interact with a varied and distinct group of individuals and corporations, and comprehend the complex dynamics of the commerce of health care enterprise.
“At the CEO forum, AAPI is excited to perceive, debate, and walk towards a common goal of “Preventive medicine is better than Cure.”  We intend to promote preventive care guidelines in India by collaborating with Indian Physicians, Pharmaceutical companies, modern diagnostic labs, medical device companies, robust hospital chains, and public health experts,” Prof (Dr) Joseph M. Chalil, Chair of the Complex Health Systems advisory board at Nova Southeastern University’s School of Business; Chairman of the Indo-American Press Club and The Universal News Network publisher, added.
In her eloquent keynote address, Dr. Sangita Reddy, a Global Healthcare Leader, Indian Entrepreneur, and Humanitarian, is the Joint Managing Director of Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Limited – Asia’s largest and most trusted healthcare group, shared her passion for the care of the masses, using technology to reach out. Her conviction in using the Internet for patient management was substantiated by an MOU signed between Apollo Hospitals and AAPI for Telemedicine for Second Opinions. “Healthcare is in the center stage as never been before. Let us work together to bring about the transformation in healthcare. Technology is the great growling engine of change and transformation. It transforms quietly and silently,” she said.
Attended by a record 17 senior leaders from the healthcare industry, several challenges were addressed by multiple renowned speakers from the healthcare field, deliberating on the healthcare delivery system in India. Expert panelists who were part of the CEO Forum included: Prof. MD Nalapat, Vice-Chair of Manipal Advanced Research Group; Prof. (Dr.), Joseph M Chalil Global Healthcare Strategist & Best Selling Autor; Dr. Sangita Reddy, Joint Managing Director of Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Limited; Dr. Juby A Jacob-Nara, Vice President, Head of Global Medical- Respiratory Allergy & Gastroenterology (Sanofi-Genzyme); Dr. Anuj Maheshwari, the current Governor of the American College of Physicians India Chapter and the Vice President of Research Society for Study of Diabetes in India (RSSDI);
Dr. Gurava Reddy, Founder & Chairman, Sunshine Hospitals; Dr. Karthik Anantharaman Chief Operating Officer, Karnataka cluster of Roche India; Dr. Vikas Bhatia, Director of All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Hyderabad, and the founder, Dean of AIIMS Bhubaneshwar; Gaurav Agarwal, Managing Director of IITPL and co-founder of Involution Healthcare Pvt. Ltd; Shekhar Sattiraju, Senior Director – Takeda Pharmaceuticals, USA; Dr. Aarti Shah, Trustee, SRLC-USA; former senior VP of Eli Lilly; Dr. Neyas Mohammed, Chairman, AEC GROUP; Dr. Murthy Gokula, CEO & Founder, Global Tele Clinics; Dr. Venkat Ramana Sudigali, Founder-Director Excell Multispeciality Hospital, Hyderabad; Mr. Narayana Rao Sripada, Founder/CTO, Salcit Technologies Pvt. Ltd; and Ravi Gopalan, President & CEO of Argusoft India Ltd.
The CEO Forum unanimously approved “An Appeal by AAPI to the Government of India to initiate efforts for creating an Indian Preventive Task Force and conduct annual preventive healthcare screenings nationwide.” And an appeal was signed by the panelists to be submitted to the Honorable Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi, and India’s Ministry of Health.
“We urge the Government of India to appoint an expert panel of nationally recognized experts in the disciplines of preventive medicine and primary care,  including Internal medicine, Family medicine, Geriatrics, Pediatrics, Preventive medicine, Behavioural, Critical Care medicine, public health, mental health, obstetrics and gynecology, and nursing to create an Indian Preventive Task Force (IPTF),” the Panelists on the CEO Forum wrote to the Government of India.
Urging the Government of India to encourage private hospitals and insurance companies to provide Annual Physical exams, or Telehealth visits at an affordable cost to patients, the CEO Forum members stated, “many routine lab tests, vaccinations, blood pressure checks, and some cancer screenings like self-breast examination can be done remotely and even at patients’ homes with the help of Asha workers.”
“ We believe, the largest democracy in the world needs urgent investment in the preventive health of all its citizens and grassroots level reforms of the public healthcare system,” the letter to the Government of India, pointed out. “AAPI will be happy to collaborate with the appropriate authority of the Government of India to support India in its efforts to provide one of the best healthcare systems in the world.”
With the changing trends and statistics in healthcare, both in India and US, we are refocusing our mission and vision, AAPI would like to make a positive and  meaningful impact on the healthcare delivery system both in the US and in India,” said Dr. Gotimukula.
American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), the largest ethnic physician organization in the United States, representing over 100,000 Indian American Physicians, has initiated preventive healthcare screenings in 75 Indian villages to diagnose any silent diseases, which are causing premature deaths from Diabetes, Hypertension, Renal disease,  Coronary heart disease and cancers like Breast cancer, cervical cancer, which are preventable if diagnosed early through these annual screenings.
For more information on Global Health Summit, please visit: https://summit.aapiusa.org/ceo-forum/  CEO Forum Video: https://youtu.be/t1cw1toalAQ

US Consumer Prices Rise At Fastest Rate In Nearly 40 Years

Prices in the US are rising at their fastest rate in almost 40 years, with inflation up 7% year-on-year in December. Strong demand and scarce supply for key items such as cars are driving the increases, which are putting pressure on policymakers to act.

The US central bank is expected to raise interest rates this year. The rise in borrowing costs is aimed at reducing demand by making purchases such as cars more expensive.

December’s increase marked the third month in a row that the US annual inflation rate has hovered above 6% – well north of policymakers’ 2% target. The last time the pace of inflation exceeded that level was 1982.

Housing costs were up 4.1% year-on-year, while the cost of groceries rose 6.5% – compared to a 1.5% annual average over the last 10 years.

Wednesday’s report from the Labor Department showed signs that some of the pressures may be easing. The cost of energy dropped 0.4% from November to December – its first decline since April. But over 12 months energy costs are up by nearly 30% and have returned to their upward trend in recent days.

“Overall, this is every bit as bad as we expected,” Paul Ashworth, chief economist at Capital Economics, said of the December inflation report.

Reacting to the latest report, President Joe Biden said that it “demonstrates that we are making progress in slowing the rate of price increases”.

He added that there is “more work to do” in the US and noted that “inflation is a global challenge, appearing in virtually every developed nation as it emerges from the pandemic economic slump”.

The price pressures occurring in the US have been seen to varying degrees around the world.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, which represents more than 30 of the world’s largest economies, said this week that inflation among its members had hit its highest rate in 25 years in November.

Further rises

In the UK, inflation hit a 10-year high in November, while globally, prices are rising at their fastest pace since 2008, according to the World Bank.

While many countries are grappling with higher food and energy costs, the US has seen an unusually large pick-up in inflation.

That’s due in part to strong demand from households, whose spending got a boost from government coronavirus aid and shifted suddenly from things like travel to furniture during the pandemic.

Economists in the US were initially hopeful that the pressures would ease as the pandemic faded. But ongoing production snarls and the emergence of virus variants have made the price increases more persistent than expected.

“It’s proving more difficult than we had hoped to end the pandemic,” the head of America’s central bank, Jerome Powell, told Congress on Tuesday.

Sarah House, economist at Wells Fargo, said it is no longer likely that inflation will fade naturally as the pandemic abates, pointing to worker shortages and wages, which have also been rising – though not as fast as prices.

“Although the exceptional pace of goods inflation and momentum in shelter costs are still firmly rooted in the pandemic, the increasingly tight labour market and ensuing wage pressures will make it difficult for inflation to fall back on its own,” she said.

The issue has put pressure on the Biden administration, eroding consumer confidence despite other signs of a strong economy.

Mr Powell has pledged to keep inflation in check by raising interest rates. But on Tuesday he warned those moves would only go so far to address the problem if supply chain issues persist, pointing to risks from new shutdowns in China.

“Omicron, particularly if China sticks to a no-Covid policy, Omicron can really disrupt the supply chains again,” he said.

Official inflation figures from China on Thursday showed prices rose less than expected in November, with producer prices up 10.3% and consumer prices up 1.5%.

But that easing is not necessarily an indicator of what will happen elsewhere, said Gian Maria Milesi-Ferretti, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

“Indicators of what is happening [in China] to the labour market, to wage demands and to the supply bottlenecks that have pushed up some prices … those are more important indicators,” he said.

World Bank Downgrades 2022 Global Growth Forecast To 4.1%

The global economy is on track to grow by 4.1 per cent in 2022, down 0.2 percentage point from a previous projection, the World Bank Group said in its latest Global Economic Prospects release.

“The global recovery is set to decelerate markedly amid continued Covid-19 flare-ups, diminished policy support, and lingering supply bottlenecks,” the semiannual report added on Tuesday.

The global outlook is “clouded by various downside risks,” including renewed Covid-19 outbreaks due to new virus variants, the possibility of unanchored inflation expectations, and financial stress in a context of record-high debt levels, according to the report.

After rebounding to an estimated 5.5 per cent in 2021, global growth is expected to decelerate markedly to 4.1 per cent in 2022, the report noted. The latest projection for 2021 and 2022 is 0.2 percentage point lower than the June forecast, respectively.

The report also noted that the Covid-19 pandemic has raised global income inequality, partly reversing the decline that was achieved over the previous two decades, Xinhua news agency reported.

By 2023, annual output is expected to remain below the pre-pandemic trend in all emerging market and developing economy (EMDE) regions, in contrast to advanced economies, where the gap is projected to close.

Preliminary evidence suggests that the pandemic has also caused within-country income inequality to rise somewhat in EMDEs because of particularly severe job and income losses among lower-income population groups, according to the report.

“The world economy is simultaneously facing Covid-19, inflation, and policy uncertainty, with government spending and monetary policies in uncharted territory,” said World Bank Group President David Malpass.

Noting that rising inequality and security challenges are “particularly harmful” for developing countries, Malpass added that putting more countries on a favourable growth path requires concerted international action and a comprehensive set of national policy responses.

Eternalhealth Raises $10 Million Series A Funding After Initial $10 Million In Seed Financing

EternalHealth, the first new health plan to be approved in Massachusetts since 2013, announced today that it has raised another $10 million in Series A funding. This additional financing follows an initial $10 million in Seed and Pre-Series A investment by successful healthcare and tech entrepreneurs last summer.

John Sculley, former Apple CEO, is involved in the Series A funding round and believes in the mission of eternalHealth, which is founded by Pooja Ika, the first woman at the age of 24 to launch a new Medicare Advantage Health Plan in the United States.

“Around two decades ago, I decided I wanted to disrupt the healthcare industry by collaborating with entrepreneurs who believed in their mission,” said Sculley, former Apple CEO and an investors and shareholder in eternalHealth, “I truly believe we have a healthcare Moonshot with eternalHealth and I am excited to see how we can better the space together. I believe in Pooja’s mission and with the help of her team, she has been able to accomplish so much in one year.”

Ms. Ika said the Series A funding, which includes seed investors and additional successful technology and healthcare entrepreneurs, will be used to support the day-to-day operations, and help attract and retain membership, while most of the capital will be used as risk-based capital to support the company’s membership growth.

Typically, the launch of a new health plan takes two to three years and costs tens of millions of dollars, said Ms. Ika.

“At eternalHealth, we accomplished this historic goal within a year. The initial seed round helped us build a technology-powered infrastructure, optimize our operations, and hire a skilled team of 20 professionals,” added Ms. Ika. “Now, that we are operationally sound, we are actively trying to grow and increase our membership base. The goal has always been to build a sustainable business model, that is committed to doing things the right way.”

New insurers have raised hundreds of millions of dollars at the same stage Ms. Ika is at now, but Ms. Ika is very mindful about raising capital and said, “It is not because we cannot raise the capital, it is because we are being intentional with our use of capital. I strive to achieve the same results of some of my mentors who have started successful health plans across the country. Their advice to me was to get all of our regulatory approvals with as little capital as possible, and that is exactly what we did.”  Ms. Ika added that this is the first time ever that a health plan has been launched in the United States by a woman at 24 and not only that, but by a woman of color.

“Navigating through the healthcare system can be complicated, and insurance companies are not always the best at helping beneficiaries navigate through it,” said Ms. Ika. “eternalHealth is committed to empowering and educating our members so that they make informed decisions and take their care into their own hands. By educating our members, establishing collaborative relationships with the providers and health systems in our network, and using the latest technology and tools, we can deliver higher quality care at a lower cost to our members.”

eternalHealth believes that through their partnership with Red Sox legend David Ortiz, popularly known as Big Papi, Massachusetts residents will be able to connect Ortiz’s trustworthy and kind personality to eternalHealth’s commitment to offering high quality, affordable products, while acting as a trustworthy and transparent partner to its members.

Through its technology-driven, innovative platform, eternalHealth is looking to substantially reduce its administrative & operating costs (SG&A) across the entire enterprise. The cost savings will allow for more dollars to be allocated towards the total cost of care, while also passing down the savings to their members through its robust benefits to lead them in the healthy direction.

Once eternalHealth reaches the critical membership threshold, it will implement value-based contracting with providers, through which they will collaborate with providers and help them manage the overall quality of care for their patients through platform driven intelligence, improve the overall quality of life, and reduce healthcare costs. Ms. Ika says, “At eternalHealth, we believe we can really reduce healthcare costs by leveraging the right technology. That helps with member retention and satisfaction, which remains a key priority for eternalHealth. Just because it has not been done before, that does not mean it is impossible. eternalHealth strives to be a catalyst for change in a market that has seen little disruption.

About eternalHealth

Headquartered in Boston, eternalHealth provides high-quality care with low out-of-pocket costs to the residents of Massachusetts, while prioritizing preventive care and transparency. Founded, owned, and built by women, eternalHealth is a Medicare Advantage health plan that offers HMO and PPO products. For more information about our plans and services, please visit our website at www.eternalHealth.com

Patel Spirits Creates India-Influenced Vodka Using Appalachian Water

Patel Spirits Inc. of Orlando, Florida officially released its P1 Vodka to the public market. P1 Vodka is Patel Spirits Inc.’s inaugural brand of Premium Vodka inspired from their founder’s Indian heritage.

“P1 Vodka adheres to their gold standard in gluten-free, handcrafted, small batch vodka by using American Mountain water from the Appalachian Mountain region, high-quality maize while using a proprietary charcoal mellow filtration process,” said a press release issued by the company.

During the early 1970’s, a young Ashokkumar Patel, the son of a Laborer for the British Empire in Uganda, Africa up until 1972 once Edi Amin took control of Uganda. Ashokkumar was then forced to relocate with the assistance of the British Government to Stradishall Refugee Camp in Cambridgeshire, England. While residing in the England, Ashokkumar met his wife and began a new journey into the Spirits Industry. In 1979, a new edition to the Patel family was born and introduced into the Spirits Industry as Meechal “Mitch” Patel.

Founder/Principal Mitch Patel of Patel Spirits Inc., brings over 20 years of expertise and knowledge in the retail spirits industry to Patel Spirits Inc. He has used his knowledge from developing and executing actionable retail sales plans in Central Florida for some of the biggest brands in the industry. These brands include Bacardi flavors, Three Olives flavors, Southern Comfort, Proper 12, Jack Daniel’s Honey and many more.

Patel envisioned a high-quality vodka that is smooth enough to drink straight while also encompassing Pan Asian Indian influences. Patel set out to bring his vision to fruition while incorporating his many years of experience in the Spirit Industry to bring to the market a Gold Standard Vodka.

In addition to Founder Mitch Patel, Patel Spirits is backed by board members who have over 60 years of combined experience in the spirits industry. Together, the team has created a vodka that’s like no other. The label bears a distinct design that represents India’s culture while including the colors of black and gold as homage to Patel’s alma mater, the University of Central Florida (UCF). While at UCF, Patel studied Aerospace Engineering while performing as a Collegiate Athlete on the Rugby Team.

“We felt it was of the utmost importance to create a vodka brand that bears a premium taste profile while also giving the Indian community a sense of ownership and inclusion in the brand. Our inclusion in the spirits industry is paramount since more than 25% of all retail stores are owned or operated by persons of Pan Asian Indian descent.

I’m proud to say that P1 Vodka will be the first Indian-influenced vodka brand created in The Appalachian Mountain Region of The United States. This region is known for producing some of the World’s Best and known spirits to date. P1 Vodka is made from the highest quality pure Appalachian Mountain spring water and richest maize, which leads to its premium silky smooth taste profile that allows you to enjoy it straight while indulging your pallet to its rich flavorful blends. Our philosophy is, the better the water, the better the vodka,” said Patel. Patel went on to describe the essence of P1 Vodka as a premium handcrafted spirit that was conceptualized in Orlando, Florida.

“Beyond the look of the label, we’ve also included a special Indian tradition which is deeply rooted in the Founder’s upbringing. Patel’s vision of the branding of P1 Vodka intentionally includes the number 1. A historic Indian tradition includes the basis that when gifting a monetary value to a loved one, we end in a 1 ($51, $101, $201) to wish prosperity to the receiver of the gift. The 1 represents a positive starting point to build from, and we wish all that enjoy our product to have a prosperous future.” Added Patel.

Democrats Look To Scale Back Biden Bill To Get It Passed

According to media reports, momentum is growing for narrowing the scope of President Biden’s social spending and climate package as Democrats seek a way to get the bill through the Senate with Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) support.

Manchin effectively killed a much more wide-ranging bill, known as the Build Back Better Act, on Sunday by announcing his opposition, deeply disappointing and angering the White House and fellow congressional Democrats.

Days later, the pain still stings, but Democrats are actively seeking solutions that might find muster with the conservative West Virginia senator, whose vote is a necessity in the 50-50 Senate evenly divided between the two parties.

Democratic lawmakers, lobbyists and experts at think tanks believe Manchin might be won over if the bill is revised to include fewer programs for a longer period of time.

“That is the way forward here,” said Ben Ritz, director of the Center for Funding America’s Future at the Progressive Policy Institute, who has advocated for a bill with fewer items.  “Most of the party is starting to come around to that,” Ritz added. Some Democrats think their party made a mistake in going too large in the first place.

Progressives initially pushed a $6 trillion measure before falling back to $3.5 trillion — in part to signal that cut represented a concession on their party. The lower figure also proved too high for Manchin and fellow centrist Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), however, and the House ultimately passed a roughly $2 trillion version of Biden’s spending plan in November, which had a number of key provisions that were temporary. For example, the bill included provisions to extend the increased child tax credit amount for one year, and to create a universal preschool program for six years.

“To get someone like Manchin, a Democrat representing a conservative state, to a point where they can support something, [Democrats] started off on the wrong foot about letting the bill get too big about too many things,” said Tucker Shumack, a principal at Ogilvy Government Relations who previously served as an aide to former moderate Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine).

Manchin argued that Democrats are not being honest about the cost of the bill, since temporary programs are likely to be extended in the future. “They continue to camouflage the real cost of the intent behind this bill,” Manchin said in a statement Sunday outlining his opposition to the measure.

In his recent comments, Manchin said he couldn’t explain voting for Build Back Better in West Virginia, a state former President Trump won twice by double digits. Jorge Castro, co-lead of the tax-policy practice at Miller & Chevalier and a former aide to former West Virginia Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D), said that a more focused bill could help Democrats counter Republican attacks that the bill is a grab-bag of spending. “I think it definitely helps from a messaging perspective,” he said.

Some moderate Democrats have long called for the Build Back Better Act to include fewer items for a longer time period, and are emphasizing this idea in the wake of Manchin’s recent comments.

“At the start of these negotiations many months ago, we called for prioritizing doing a few things well for longer, and we believe that adopting such an approach could open a potential path forward for this legislation,” Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) chair of the centrist New Democrat Coalition, said in a statement Sunday.

White House Chief of Staff Ronald Klain tweeted a link to DelBene’s statement, saying the administration appreciates “all that @RepDelBene and the House New Dem Coalition has done to move forward on Build Back Better and the President’s agenda!”

Progressive lawmakers have been leading supporters of including more items in the bill, even if that means some programs are temporary. But they are acknowledging that some items may need to be removed from the package in subsequent negotiations.

In a statement on Wednesday, Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said that cuts should be as minimal as possible.

“In Congress, we will continue to prioritize a legislative path for Build Back Better, focused on taking the current text of the legislation passed by the House, keeping as much of it as possible — but no less than the elements contained in the framework negotiated by the President and committed to by Senators Manchin and Sinema some months ago,” Jayapal said.

It’s not certain exactly which items from the House-passed bill would end up in a narrower bill, and exactly which would be left out. The New Democrat Coalition in their statement mentioned as top priorities the expanded child tax credit, building on ObamaCare and addressing climate change. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) also made reference to those items in a statement.

Manchin has raised concerns about including Medicare expansion and paid family leave in the spending package, suggesting that those items might not make it into a package with fewer content areas.

The expanded child tax credit could prove to be challenging to include in a compromise with Manchin. The West Virginia senator has expressed a desire for the income limits for the credit to be lowered and for there to be work requirements associated with the credit.

The Washington Post on Monday reported that Manchin had provided the White House last week with a $1.8 trillion proposal that included universal preschool for 10 years, ObamaCare expansion and climate spending, but not the expanded child tax credit. Neither Manchin’s office nor the White House have publicly confirmed the report.

Ritz said it’s possible that Manchin and other Democrats could reach a compromise on the child tax credit, such as by targeting the child tax credit expansion more toward younger children or lowering the income level where the expanded credit starts to phase out.

He also said that even if a bill didn’t include an extension of the expanded child tax credit, a package that included other items such as universal preschool, Obama Care expansion, climate funding and affordable housing investments would still be transformative.

Biden Administration Extends Student Loan Pause Through May 1, 2022

The U.S. Department of Education announced a 90-day extension of the pause on student loan repayment, interest, and collections through May 1, 2022. The extension will allow the Administration to assess the impacts of the Omicron variant on student borrowers and provide additional time for borrowers to plan for the resumption of payments and reduce the risk of delinquency and defaults after restart.

The Department will continue its work to transition borrowers smoothly back into repayment, including by improving student loan servicing.

“Since Day One of this Administration, the Department has focused on supporting students and borrowers throughout the pandemic and ensuring they have the resources they need to return to repayment successfully,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “This additional extension of the repayment pause will provide critical relief to borrowers who continue to face financial hardships as a result of the pandemic, and will allow our Administration to assess the impacts of Omicron on student borrowers.

As we prepare for the return to repayment in May, we will continue to provide tools and supports to borrowers so they can enter into the repayment plan that is responsive to their financial situation, such as an income-driven repayment plan. Students and borrowers will always be at the center of our work at the Department, and we are committed to not only ensuring a smooth return to repayment, but also increasing accountability and stronger customer service from our loan servicers as borrowers prepare for repayment.”

The pause on student loan payments will help 41 million borrowers save $5 billion per month. Borrowers are encouraged to use the additional time to ensure their contact information is up to date and to consider enrolling in electronic debit and income-driven repayment plans to support a smooth transition to repayment. More information can be found at StudentAid.gov.

This action is one of a series of steps the Biden-Harris Administration has taken to support students and borrowers, make higher education more affordable, and improve student loan servicing, including providing nearly $13 billion in targeted loan relief to over 640,000 borrowers. Actions within that include:

Revamping the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program in October, which has already provided $2.4 billion in loan relief to 38,000 borrowers. As part of that effort, the Department implemented a Limited PSLF Waiver to count all prior payments made by student borrowers toward PSLF, regardless of the loan program. Borrowers who are working in public service but have not yet applied for PSLF should do so before October 31, 2022, and can find out more at StudentAid.gov/PSLF.

Providing $7.0 billion in relief for 401,000 borrowers who have a total and permanent disability. Approving $1.5 billion in borrower defense claims, including extending full relief to approved claims and approving new types of claims.

Providing $1.26 billion in closed school discharges to 107,000 borrowers who attended the now-defunct ITT Technical Institute. Helping 30,000 small business owners with student loans seeking help from the Paycheck Protection Program.

The Temple Economy Of Goa, Famous For Its Churches

When Pune’s D.S. Pai visited Goa four years ago for an official conference, he took out time early one morning to visit his Kuldev, family deity, Ramnathi temple at Bandivade. “My colleagues were interested and came along with me. They said they did not even know of the existence of such a beautiful temple,” Pai, who is India Meteorological Department’s (IMD) head, Long-Range Forecast, told IANS on phone.

Pai’s family migrated to Kerala in the 17th century when the Portuguese took over Goa. Like him, several others chose to make Kerala their home, but almost all of them have retained ties with the family deity even now. The trips have increased since he was posted to Pune, he said.

Pai is not the only example. Not all visitors to this sunshine state go to the beach first but a bulk of them are actually temple goers. In fact, even when for the majority of tourists visiting Goa, the equation is simple: ‘Goa = Sun, Sand & Sea’, over a dozen major temples and several smaller ones attract regular and annual crowds that have a sizable contribution to Goa’s economy.

According to India Tourism Statistics 2019, a government of India publication, in 2017, Goa had 68,95,234 domestic and 8,42,220 foreign tourists while in 2018, the respective number of 70,81,559 and 9,33,841 showing a growth rate of 2.70 per cent and 10.88 per cent, respectively. Of course, the pandemic changed the situation, and the tourism sector was the hardest hit. In 2021, even when the domestic sector has picked up slowly, foreign tourists’ numbers are no match.

But even before the pandemic and lockdown, tourists in general were unaware of Goa’s rich tradition of multiple temples for centuries, and it would only be the niche tourists who would opt for it or those like Pai, who came for their deities.

Amongst the 50-odd main temples across Goa, about a dozen stand out for various reasons, their distinct architecture being one of them. Brick and mortar structures, most of these big temples are 400-year-old, have unique tiled, sloping roofs and almost all of them have ‘deep maal’, a vertical decorative pillar with niches to keep earthen oil lamps. Each temple compulsorily has a tank / water body next to it.

Mangeshi temple is amongst the most famous, but there are scores of others. Shantadurga at Kawale, Mhalsa Narayani at Mhardol, Lakshmi Nrusinha at Veling, Ramnathi and Mahalakshmi at Bandivade, Kamakashi at Shiroda, Santeri at Kelshi are amongst the bigger temples. Many of them are listed on the official website of Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC).

And then there are temples with even older vintage. The 1000-year-old Mahadev temple at Tambdi Surla near the border with Maharashtra and about 700-year-old Rudreshwar temple at Harale are the stone temples. When the Portuguese conquered Goa, devotees of several temples lining the coastal areas took the deities away to either deep inside the forests and undulating landscape of Goan territory, which now comprises the area between Panaji and Fonda, or further away to coastal Karnataka. With it, a lot of community members — all Konkani speakers — too migrated away to almost the entire coastal belt from south Gujarat to Kerala. Konkani speaking Gaud Saraswat Brahmins (GSBs), scores of Marathi speaking families from across Maharashtra and of course, many from Goa itself, all have their family deities in Goa.

Shanta Durga at Amone is the family deity, the Kuldevi, of senior journalist Rajdeep Sardesai’s family that hails from Madgaon. Not much into religious rituals — “God resides in my heart” — Sardesai said, “but I visit Goa for family functions regularly”.

Sardesai agreed that outsiders are unaware of the rich temple traditions. “Goa lives by the river and not by the sea. Once you start discovering the river, you discover the real Goa. There is nothing wrong in promoting beaches but there is more to Goa than the beaches,” he said.

Over the decades, especially after Independence, the diaspora spread to other states and even abroad. Many families make it a point to annually visit their family deities, many visit when there is a special occasion such as a marriage in the family and likewise. “The Goan temples are unique by the fact that the deities are identified not just as Brahminical, but those belonging to all types of communities. The temples had a land of their own, they supported the economy of the area around them,” said Padmashree Vinayak Khedikar, author who has documented the folk arts and literary traditions of Goa.

Families and villages from ‘thal’, a local term meaning the catchment for that temple, were dependent on the temple as a central institution and in turn they donated to the temple. “Each of the temples is an independent Sansthan institution. Till a few decades ago, anyone from the thal getting married would get a saree and dhoti from the temple. Also, some minor repairs or such chores to be carried out at people’s homes were supported by the temple,” said Khedikar, who has authored a book ‘Goa Dev Mandal: Unnayan aani Sthalantar’ (Goa temple boards: upgradation and migration). e

“Except for the law & order, the temples reigned over their respective thal even in the Portuguese era. There was a Mahajan system — which led to a Mahajani Act in the late 18thecentury — who were responsible for the maintenance of the temples and all its real estate. There were separate families identified for daily puja. Much of it has changed later,” he said. But he was non-committal about the popularity of these temples. Sardesai said, “Temples would have to be promoted by the local community.”

“Last 6-8 years, lots of people who read my blogs budget a day or two for temples and inform me or ping me or ask for information. Sometimes, they also put out a thread on social media and tag me to say, it was because of my blog,” said Anuradha Goyal, author, columnist and blogger based in Goa and who has extensively written about Goa temples.

There has been no active promotion of temples by the state either. The BJP government for the last 10 years has had no promotional schemes for popularising temples to domestic tourists. However, given the political mileage that ‘pilgrimage’ is yielding — Delhi Chief Minister has announced trains to pilgrim places from Goa; West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said Trinamool Congress stood for the temple, mosque and church; the Congress seems to have slowly woken up to the opportunity.

Former Deputy Chief Minister Ramakant Khalap agreed that temple tourism has been neglected and also acknowledged the contribution of temples in Goa’s economy. “Ahead of the Assembly elections, we are preparing the Congress manifesto. It will prominently feature dev ghar (temple) promotion and planning to celebrate Goa as ‘God’s Own Abode’,” Khalap said.

However, his idea of places of worship is not restricted to Hindu temples. “We plan to promote all places of worship. Puranas tell us this is a place reclaimed by Parshuram. Parvati did her penance here, we have Shanta Durga. Then much later came the Buddhists and Jain, there are a lot of remnants. Jews were here, Muslims were here and last were the Portuguese. Goa is a good example of how all religions have a syncretic existence. The temples, churches, and mosques, we have all of them,” he said.

“Our manifesto will demand to have designated state festivals from each religion,” Khalap added.

How Elon Musk Became The Richest Private Citizen In The World

If you want to become a billionaire—and you didn’t happen to be born into the Saudi royal family—there are a few ways to get the job done. You could come up with one seriously good idea, like a new computer operating system or social network, and then build it into a gigantic company. Or you could take the Warren Buffet route, making a decades-long series of shrewd, low–risk investments, and then watch the wealth slowly trickle in. And then there’s what Elon Musk did.

Musk made his money differently than most of today’s famous billionaires. Instead of one amazing idea, he had several good ones. And instead of a bunch of clever, safe investments, he made just a few spectacularly risky ones. But there was a method to his madness, even if it wasn’t apparent to many at the time. The sum total of those bets made Musk the richest private citizen on the planet this year, and their world-altering effects—from privately-launched space missions to an electric vehicle titan that has left the auto industry desperate to catch up—have landed Musk as TIME’s 2021 Person of the Year.

Musk’s family was well-off. He had an early aptitude with computers, designing his own video game at 12-years-old. When he was 17, he left for Canada to escape military service in South Africa’s apartheid regime, attending Queens University in Ontario.

In 1992, he transferred to the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied physics and business. Penn’s tree-lined campus may have also given Musk his first taste for risky business ventures—he and a couple of friends rented out an off-campus house and turned it into a nightclub.

Then it was on to Silicon Valley and—briefly—to grad school. Musk enrolled in a physics Ph.D. program at Stanford, then dropped out after two days. Young entrepreneurs were starting to realize that the internet, a newfangled web of connections between computers, might be more than a playground for nerds, and Musk wanted to try his luck. Together with his brother Kimbal, Musk founded a company called Zip2 as an online business directory, a kind of web-enabled yellow pages with maps—a nifty idea back in the mid-nineties.

Elon and Kimbal recruited investors and brought on outside help to run the company, which made deals with publishers like the New York Times. In 1999, they sold the Zip2 to Compaq, a then-declining computer manufacturing giant, for $307 million. Musk netted a cool $22 million from the Zip2 sale; he promptly went out and spent $1 million on a McLaren F1 supercar. “It’s not consistent with the rest of my behavior,” he would tell CNN, which filmed Musk as the car was delivered to his home. A year later, Musk wrecked the car—he was trying to show off its acceleration and ended up accidentally launching it into the air like a frisbee. The million-dollar sports car was not insured.

But by then, Musk was already on to his next venture. Driving with him in the McLaren the day of the wreck was Peter Thiel, co-founder of a payments startup called Confinity. (Thiel and Musk weren’t injured in the crash).

Musk had plowed his millions into starting another online banking startup called X.com. The two companies would merge in March 2000, forming a business that eventually became PayPal. Musk was named CEO, but in September, while he was on vacation, the board fired him, replacing him with Thiel, partly due to a disagreement over switching the company’s servers.

“It’s not a good idea to leave the office when there are a lot of major things underway that are causing people a great deal of stress,” Musk would later reflect. Musk still had a stake in the company, though. When eBay bought PayPal for $1.5 billion in 2002, Musk netted a $180 million mega-fortune from the deal.

Musk didn’t end up relaxing with all the things his new millions could buy. In 2002, he founded SpaceX with the almost ludicrous mission of colonizing Mars. The next year, he sank an initial investment of more than $6 million into Tesla, which was then not much more than a pair of founders and a vision of electric sports cars.

The company planned to take advantage of new lithium-ion batteries, which were both light and energy-dense, to revolutionize the struggling field. At the time, lithium-ion cells were only being used in small electronic devices, and one of Tesla’s central innovations was scaling them up, which enabled it to create an electric vehicle with far greater range than previous electric cars had been able to achieve.

Both companies had a tough start in the first few years—Musk says he ended up pushing essentially all his proceeds from the PayPal sale into funding the ventures. SpaceX endured multiple failed launches, which almost put it out of business, while Tesla ran into trouble as its engineers realized its prototype battery packs were likely to catch fire. “It was a potentially company-ending discovery if we couldn’t fix it,” says former Tesla chief technical officer J.B. Straubel. Later, Tesla almost went bankrupt during the Great Recession in 2008.

Eventually, Musk’s investments began to pay off. In 2008, SpaceX secured a $1.6 billion deal with NASA, while Tesla in 2012 began cranking out its first mass-market car, the Model S. Today, Tesla is a behemoth, controlling about two-thirds of the U.S. electric vehicle market. SpaceX is the undisputed leader in private space exploration.

Rich Morgan

Though Tesla produces fewer vehicles than legacy carmakers like Ford and GM, its valuation has soared many times higher than theirs. In the past 18 months, Tesla’s stock price has more than tripled, pushing its market cap over $1 trillion.

Musk controls a healthy chunk of that stock, even after selling off almost $12 billion worth of shares in the past two months, though exercising his additional stock options may leave him with a bigger stake than when he started. It’s anyone’s guess as to whether the company will maintain its massive valuation—if Tesla’s stock falls, so does Musk’s fortune.

He currently holds about 17% of Tesla’s stock, valued at $175 billion, which constitutes the largest portion of his net worth. And with SpaceX’s value floating at over $100 billion, according to its October funding round, Musk’s 48% stake in the rocket-maker, plus cash and other assets, brings his total net worth to around $266 billion.

He’s put his money into new companies as well. In 2016, Musk started The Boring Company, which digs tunnels, and neurotechnology startup Neuralink. Both are now worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Those two most recent ventures are illustrative examples of the mindset that created Musk’s fortune. They’re both highly speculative endeavors—Neuralink is trying to develop telepathic interfaces with machines; The Boring Company aims to revolutionize infrastructure.

There’s not much chance either will pay off in the long run, experts say, but big-bucks risk-taking is Musk’s bread and butter. That same approach, throwing millions of dollars at impossibly difficult projects, is what turned Musk from a lucky kid with a dot.com fortune into the wealthiest person on the planet. Or at least the wealthiest private citizen. “I think [Russia’s] President Putin is significantly richer than me,” Musk told TIME in early December. “I can’t invade countries and stuff.”

The Reasons And Solutions To Rising Inflation In The US

With inflation at a 39-year high, Americans are feeling the pinch in just about every facet of daily life. The consumer price index jumped 6.8% from a year earlier, the fastest pace since 1982, as prices surged for staples such as food and gasoline, as well as new and used cars, rent and medical care, the Labor Department said Friday.

There’s been plenty of finger-pointing from both sides of the political aisle about who’s responsible for the spiraling costs, but as usual with issues that have such a broad impact, the causes are complex.

President Joe Biden acknowledged last month that “inflation hurts Americans’ pocketbooks, and reversing this trend is a top priority for me.’’ But he said his $1 trillion infrastructure package, including spending on roads, bridges and ports, would help ease supply bottlenecks.

Here’s a quick breakdown of how we got here and some of the strategies that might help reverse the trend:

►CPI Report: Consumer prices climbed 6.8% in November from a year earlier, the most since 1982, as inflation surged higher

►Inflation surges to 39-year high: How much more are you paying and what’s the damage for Biden?

►Personal finance: What’s not to love? The US savings bond that earns 7% with inflation protection, yet gets ignored

Why are grocery prices so high?

There are myriad reasons for the higher grocery bills, including the same labor shortages, supply chain bottlenecks and strong consumer demand that have driven up the cost of other goods and services. Toss in the wild cards plaguing the food industry: Extreme weather, particularly heat and drought that have curtailed crop yields. A surge in exports. COVID-19 outbreaks at meatpacking plants. Volatile consumer eating patterns amid the ups and downs of the health crisis.

Meanwhile, dire worker shortages, particularly at restaurants, have pushed up wages and the cost of dining out.

There are still fewer factory, warehouse and port workers as parents care for distance-learning children or stay home because of COVID-19 fears. Fuel costs have soared. Dozens of container ships are stuck in the waters near the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California, waiting to unload cargo. The cost to lease a shipping container for a delivery from China has increased nearly tenfold to $20,000.

Other factors driving inflation

Cars are one of the leading culprits.

Also behind the spike are items such as hotel rates and airline fares, which plunged last year in the early days of the pandemic and rose sharply from those lows this year as consumer demand returned amid the reopening economy.

Supply chain bottlenecks, with COVID-19-related worker absences at factories and ports still high, are also leading to low supplies and higher prices for consumer electronics, appliances and many other products.

The crunch comes on top of a semiconductor shortage and parts supply disruptions that have meant low inventories and higher prices for cars.

The average sales price of a new vehicle hit a record $42,802 in September, breaking the old record of $41,528 set in August, J.D. Power said. The average U.S. price is up nearly 19% from a year ago, when it broke $36,000 for the first time, J.D. Power said. The auto price increases have helped to drive up U.S. inflation.

The Gerald Jones Honda lot in Augusta, Ga., is mostly empty. On a late October morning, there were only six new cars available when there are usually around 250.

►Where are we going from here? Are we at risk of stagflation as prices rise and growth slows?

►The high cost of buying a car: US vehicle sales tumble amid chip shortage, record prices

What role did the stimulus play in driving inflation?

That’s complicated. The stimulus checks, which started to get mailed out under President Donald Trump’s administration, continued through March, when eligible married couples, for example, received up to $2,800 – plus $1,400 for each dependent.

The economy looked very different in the spring of 2020, when Americans first started to receive stimulus checks: The U.S. economy had collapsed as lockdowns took effect, businesses closed or cut hours and consumers stayed home as a health precaution. Employers slashed 22 million jobs. Economic output plunged at a record-shattering 31% annual rate in last year’s April-June quarter.

Everyone braced for more misery. Companies cut investment. Restocking was put off. And a brutal recession ensued.

Yet instead of sinking into a prolonged downturn, the economy staged an unexpectedly rousing recovery, fueled by massive government spending and a bevy of emergency moves by the Fed. By the spring of 2021, the rollout of vaccines had emboldened consumers to return to restaurants, bars and shops.

Suddenly, businesses had to scramble to meet demand. They couldn’t hire fast enough to plug job openings – a near record 10.4 million in August – or buy enough supplies to fill customer orders. As business roared back, ports and freight yards couldn’t handle the traffic. Global supply chains became snarled.

Costs rose. And companies found that they could pass along those higher costs in the form of higher prices to consumers, many of whom had managed to sock away a ton of savings during the pandemic.

To curb inflation, fed reduces bond purchases

Last month, in a milestone for the U.S. recovery from the COVID-19 recession, the Federal Reserve agreed to gradually dial back the bond-buying stimulus it launched early in the health crisis.

The decision, which has been expected for months, reflects the strides the economy has made, with unemployment falling sharply from its pandemic peak. But it also pointedly reveals the central bank’s growing concern about inflation that has surged in recent months amid supply chain bottlenecks.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell told reporters the Fed will be patient and hold off on raising rates so the economy can reach full employment, but he added officials “won’t hesitate” to act if inflation doesn’t ease, presumably by the second half of next year.

►Worker shortage: As millions of jobs go unfilled, employers look to familiar faces in ‘boomerang employees’

►Personal finance and politics: What the jump in consumer prices means for your pocketbook, Joe Biden’s troubles

Biden announces ports open 24/7 to fight inflation, reduce supply chain crunch

In October, Biden announced that the Port of Los Angeles – at the center of the supply chain logjam – will operate around the clock to help clear out some of the hundreds of thousands of shipping containers from Asia stranded on its docks. The neighboring Port of Long Beach, which has been conducting a similar pilot project at one of its 12 terminals, is expected to follow.

As ports gear up operations, dozens of cargo vessels dot the surrounding harbor, waiting for the chance to unload 40-foot containers filled with food, clothing and even holiday gifts, from skateboards to elliptical bicycles. In normal times, there are no waits. But it’s not that simple.

A visit to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and interviews with port officials, union representatives, workers and freight companies reveal it likely will take months to make a significant dent in the port backlog and disentangle the myriad other kinks in the nation’s vast supply network.

Other players, including truck drivers and warehouse workers, need to shift their schedules. There are also equipment shortfalls, bureaucratic hurdles and severe worker shortages at other hubs in the overwhelmed supply chain.

►Will it save holiday shopping? Biden says running LA ports 24/7 will help save Christmas shopping. It’s not that simple, experts warn.

Aditya Birla Fashion To Buy Exclusive Rights To Reebok In India

India’s Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Ltd (ABFRL) said on Tuesday it would buy exclusive rights to sell global sportswear brand Reebok’s products both online and offline in the Indian market. Shares of ABFRL jumped 4.6% to 279 rupees after the announcement.

The deal will be effective once the global ownership of the Reebok brand is transferred from Adidas to Authentic Brands Group under a 2.1 billion euros ($2.37 billion) acquisition announced in August.

Major Indian fashion retailers have gone on a shopping spree for big brands this year, aiming to strengthen their positions in one of the country’s fastest growing segments. ABFRL picked up a 51% stake in luxury wedding wear brand Sabyasachi, while rival Reliance Industries Ltd’s retail unit bought 52% of designer label Ritu Kumar.

ABFRL said the transaction also includes buying certain assets of Reebok India Company, including inventory, current assets and liabilities. It added that the long-term licensing deal gave it exclusive rights to sell Reebok products in India and other Southeast Asian countries.

The company expects to spend around 750 million rupees ($9.88 million) to 1 billion rupees ($13.17 million) to buy Reebok’s inventory and other current assets and liabilities.

ABFRL operates more than 3,000 stores in India and is the exclusive retailer for Forever 21, American Eagle Outfitters and Ralph Lauren branded clothes, among others, in the country.

Tamil Nadu Engages Tamil Diaspora In Efforts To Raise Trillion Dollar

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin is in the process of roping in Tamil diaspora abroad to achieve the state’s trillion-dollar goal by 2030, a pet project of the Chief Minister.

The Tamil Nadu government has already roped in the services of several nonresident Tamils for this project.

US-based entrepreneur R. Rangaswami, who is Founder and Chairman of Indiaspora which is a network of global Indian origin leaders, has already been roped in for executing the project. A panel of Tamil diaspora including Sunder Pichai of Google, Indira Nooyi, the former Chairperson of Pepsico, and several other technocrats and management experts will be used for developing the economic investment in the state.

Tamil Industries Minister Thangam Thennarasu will be the Chairperson of the 12 member panel, and the Vice Chairman of the Tamil Nadu State Planning Commission, and the state Industries Secretary are the ex-officio members. The Managing Director and CEO of Guidance will also be an ex-officio member.

The others in the 12 member panel are Dr Bala Swaminathan, of the Bala family foundation, Ganesh Radhakrishnan, CEO, Wharfedale Technologies Inc, US, Saravanan M. Sinapan, President, DHRRA, Malaysia, Suresh Sambandam, CEO, KISSFLOW (Founder, Dream Tamil Nadu), M. Arumugam, CEO, Broadline Computer Systems Private Ltd, Tamil Nadu, Elenchezhian Loganathan, CEO, Yaal Exports, Tamil Nadu and Rm Arun, President, SICCI, Tamil Nadu.

Thennarasu said that the members would act as brand ambassadors of Tamil Nadu’s industrial ecosystem and they would be given the mandate to open sub-chapters in their respective countries of residences.

The panel will help the Tamil Nadu government to conduct an annual investment and cultural conclave and the panel members will help the Chief Minister and Industries Minister to conduct physical and virtual meetings with the diaspora in their respective countries.

The panel will connect with the Tamil diaspora and create an online platform for regular interactions.

Tamil Nadu is arguably the best governed state of the country. It is probably the only state which has successfully moved labour from agriculture to other sectors as it is the only state to register absolute decline in labour employed in agriculture in the last two census.

It is among the top states that have maximum number of engineering colleges, polytechnique institutes and medical colleges.Its dream run from USD 1 billion of GDP in 1980s to USD 260 billion today is nothing sort of a miracle.It marched forward right from the time of Independence.

The foundation for this growth was laid by K. Kamaraj, then Chief Minister, who got large PSUs into the state and also set up industrial parks like Guindy in Chennai.Another popular CM, M.G. Ramachandran, made two decisive policies which resulted in an unintended economic boom.First one is the mass implementation of the midday meal scheme.

He didn’t want children to go hungry and staked his personal political capital to bring more kids to school.He was ridiculed and scoffed at for making children ‘beggars’. But it turned out to be the single trigger for Tamil Nadu’s enhanced literacy.

The second one, his zeal to privatise technical education which had created abundant supply of seats where anyone who wanted to pursue technical education got the opportunity.

The first corporate hospital “Apollo” was set up in his time and it resulted in more healthcare entrepreneurs setting up hospitals across TN, and this also emerged as a fore-runner for successful corporate hospitals across the country.

There is no wonder that TN has the maximum number of labs testing for Covid-19, compared to any other state, and has the least mortality rates, bettering even developed countries.There is no denying the fact that the successive chief ministers could pursue on that foundation to make TN the best governed state.

Gasoline Costs More For A Host Of Reasons

Americans are acutely sensitive to gasoline prices, especially when they’re on the rise. One reason, of course, is that we buy a lot of gas: an estimated 570 gallons this year for the average driver, which at current national average prices would cost close to $2,000. Also, gas prices are posted all over town on large signs – unlike, say, milk prices – and people typically buy gas on its own rather than as part of a larger shopping trip, making price changes more noticeable. And gas prices can and do swing sharply and unpredictably, in ways that can seem unconnected to the rest of the economy.

Regular gas costs, on average, 58.7% more than it did a year ago this time – $3.491 a gallon last month, versus $2.20 in November 2020, according to the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA).

But looking just at the recent rise can be misleading, or at least incomplete. For one thing, a year ago the United States was battling yet another wave of COVID-19 cases, large parts of the economy were still shuttered and demand for gas was way down. Estimated consumption in 2020 was 534 gallons per driver, down 14.4% from 624 gallons in 2019.

How we did this

Also, the volatility of gas prices means they can go down as sharply and as suddenly as they go up. In the spring of 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic sparked widespread lockdowns, the average gas price sank 27% between Feb. 24 and April 27. Since 1994, average gas prices have fluctuated between a low of 96.2 cents a gallon in February 1999 and a high of $4.114 in July 2008. The current average price, in fact, is almost exactly what it was in September 2014 – at least on a nominal basis.

When inflation is factored in, today’s prices appear more modest. In today’s dollars, gas cost an average of $5.20 a gallon in June 2008, and more than $4 as recently as September 2014.

Also, gasoline is not a single, uniform product. Besides regular, midgrade and premium gas, which differ by octane rating, there’s conventional and “reformulated” gas. The latter is required to be sold in California, along the Northeastern seaboard and in several other major urban areas to reduce smog and other air pollutants.

Over the past year, reformulated gas was consistently 30 to 35 cents more expensive than conventional gas until mid-October, when the differential began to widen, according to an analysis of EIA price data – it’s­ now about 46 cents more expensive. Over the same period, midgrade gas has ranged from 37 cents to 46 cents more expensive than regular, while premium has been 25 to 27 cents higher than midgrade.

Where you buy gas also matters. Much of the U.S. petroleum industry is concentrated along the Gulf Coast, making it perhaps unsurprising that gas tends to be cheapest there. The average price in that region was $3.072 a gallon in late November, and in Texas it was also a hairsbreadth above $3.

By contrast, California almost always has the most expensive gas in the country. The state’s average price in late November was $4.642 a gallon, and in San Francisco it was $4.816. Besides the fact that California already uses pricier reformulated gas and has relatively high gas taxes and environmental fees, it is geographically far removed from other refining centers and relatively few fuel pipelines cross the Rocky Mountains to connect California’s refineries to the rest of the country.

Under normal conditions, the state’s refineries can produce enough gasoline to meet demand there, according to the California Energy Commission. But if refineries go offline due to weather, accidents or mechanical breakdowns, the state typically imports gasoline from overseas – adding to the price because of the cost of marine shipments.

A Good Pay Raise Next Year Expected As Companies Struggle To Fill Jobs

The amount of money companies are setting aside for raises is expected to rise at the fastest rate in more than a decade, as employers fight to keep and hire workers in a historically tight labor market, a new survey says.  

Budgets for wage hikes are projected to jump 3.9% next year, the biggest annual leap since 2008, according to a November survey of compensation executives by the Conference Board, a nonprofit membership group of mostly large businesses.  

The growing pools of cash are meant to entice young workers and hold on to existing staff at a time when a record number of jobs are going unfilled, and consumers are dealing with the worst inflation in 39 years.   

“Growth in wages for new hires and accelerating inflation are the main causes of the jump in salary increase budgets,’’ the report said. It added that 46% of executives said higher pay for new employees was a reason for the larger pay pools that are expected, while 39% said inflation helped fuel the increase.

The consumer price index increased 6.8% in November as compared to the previous year, the fastest pace since 1982, with the cost of groceries, gas, rent and cars all on the rise, the Labor Department said Friday.

Labor shortage and wages

Budgets for salary increases have already risen, with the average pool of cash increasing by 3% in the survey taken last month, compared with the 2.6% that was predicted in an earlier survey in April.

A labor shortage has helped spark a ripple effect, enabling younger people entering the workforce to earn higher wages, more experienced employees to pursue new positions and potentially higher pay, and blue-collar workers to demand union representation and better work conditions.

“The rapid increase in wages and inflation are forcing businesses to make important decisions regarding their approach to salaries, recruiting, and retention,’’ the Conference Board report said, It tnoted that labor shortages will probably continue through 2022 while wages likely increase by more than 4%.

Blue-collar workers as well as those in unions are also expected to see pay hikes. “Wages for new hires, and workers in blue-collar and manual services jobs will grow faster than average,’’ the report wrote. 

Workers, from Kellogg cereal facilities to university faculty to Starbucks stores, are demanding higher wages and improved working conditions amid a pandemic that many say magnified inequities and disparities.

The pay hikes many businesses are offering could cost consumers if companies raise the price of services or goods to cover the higher wages, says the Conference Board.. 

And the Federal Reserve may boost interest rates beyond the two increases that economists are already projecting for next year to help slow inflation, according to the Board.

Why Indian-Born CEOs Dominate Silicon Valley

Parag Agrawal, who was appointed this week as Twitter’s CEO, has joined at least a dozen other Indian-born techies in the corner offices of the world’s most influential Silicon Valley companies.

Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, Alphabet’s Sundar Pichai, and the top bosses of IBM, Adobe, Palo Alto Networks, VMWare, and Vimeo are all of the Indian descent.

Indian-origin people account for just about 1% of the US population and 6% of Silicon Valley’s workforce – represented in the top brass. Why?

“No other nation in the world ‘trains’ so many citizens in such a gladiatorial manner as India does,” says R Gopalakrishnan, former executive director of Tata Sons and co-author of The Made in India Manager.

“From birth certificates to death certificates, from school admissions to getting jobs, from infrastructural inadequacies to insufficient capacities,” growing up in India equips Indians to be “natural managers,” he adds, quoting the famous Indian corporate strategist C K Prahalad.

The competition and chaos, in other words, make them adaptable problem-solvers – and, he adds, the fact that they often prioritize the professional over the personal helps in an American office culture of overwork.

“These are characteristics of top leaders anywhere in the world,” Mr. Gopalakrishnan says.

Indian-born Silicon Valley CEOs are also part of a four million-strong minority group that is among the wealthiest and most educated in the US.

About a million of them are scientists and engineers. More than 70% of H-1B visas – work permits for foreigners – issued by the US go to Indian software engineers, and 40% of all foreign-born engineers in cities like Seattle are from India.

“This is the result of a drastic shift in US immigration policy in the 1960s,” write the authors of The Other One Percent: Indians in America.

In the wake of the civil rights movement, national-origin quotas were replaced by those that gave preference to skills and family unification. Soon after, highly-educated Indians – scientists, engineers, and doctors at first, and then, overwhelmingly, software programmers – began to arrive in the US.

This cohort of Indian immigrants did not “resemble any other immigrant group from any other nation”, the authors say. They were “triply selected” – not only were they among the upper-caste privileged Indians who could afford to go to a reputed college, but they also belonged to a smaller sliver that could finance a master’s in the US, which many of Silicon Valley’s CEOs possess. And finally, the visa system further narrowed it down to those with specific skills – often in science, technology, engineering, and maths or STEM as the preferred category is known – that meet the US’s “high-end labour market needs”.

“This is the cream of the crop and they are joining companies where the best rise to the top,” says technology entrepreneur and academic Vivek Wadhwa. “The networks they have built [in Silicon Valley] have also given them an advantage – the idea was that they would help each other.”

Mr. Wadhwa adds that many of the India-born CEOs have also worked their way up the company ladder – and this, he believes, gives them a sense of humility that distinguishes them from many founder-CEOs who have been accused of being arrogant and entitled in their vision and management.

Mr. Wadhwa says men like Mr. Nadella and Mr. Pichai also bring a certain amount of caution, reflection, and a “gentler” culture that makes them ideal candidates for the top job – especially at a time when big tech’s reputation has plummeted amid Congressional hearings, rows with foreign governments and the widening gulf between Silicon Valley’s richest and the rest of America.

Their “low-key, non-abrasive leadership” is a huge plus, says Saritha Rai, who covers the tech industry in India for Bloomberg News.

India’s diverse society, with so many customs and languages, “gives them [Indian-born managers] the ability to navigate complex situations, particularly when it comes to scaling organizations,” says Indian-American billionaire businessman and venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, who co-founded Sun Microsystems.  “This plus a ‘hard-work’ ethic sets them up well,” he adds.

There are more obvious reasons as well. The fact that so many Indians can speak English makes it easier for them to integrate into the diverse US tech industry. And Indian education’s emphasis on math and science has created a thriving software industry, training graduates in the right skills, which are further buttressed in top engineering or management schools in the US.

“In other words, the success of Indian-born CEOs in America is as much about what’s right with America – or at least what used to be right before immigration became more restricted after 9/11 – as what’s right with India,” economist Rupa Subramanya recently wrote in Foreign Policy magazine.

The huge backlog in the applications for US green cards, and increasing opportunities in the Indian market have certainly dimmed the allure of a career abroad.

“The American dream is getting replaced with the India-based start-up dream,” Ms. Rai says.

The recent emergence of India’s “unicorns”- companies worth more than a $1bn – suggests that the country is starting to produce major tech companies, experts say. But, they add, it’s too early to tell what global impact they will have.

“India’s start-up ecosystem is relatively young. Role models of successful Indians both in entrepreneurship and in executive ranks have helped a lot but role models take time to spread,” Mr. Khosla says.

But most of the role models are still men – as are almost all of the Indian-born Silicon Valley CEOs. And their rapid rise is not enough reason to expect more diversity from the industry, experts say.  “Women’s representation [in the tech industry] is nowhere close to what it should be,” Ms. Rai says.

Gita Gopinath Promoted As First Deputy Managing Director At IMF

Indian-American Gita Gopinath, the chief economist of International Monetary Fund, is being promoted as IMF’s First Deputy Managing Director, the fund announced last week. She would replace Geoffrey Okamoto who plans to leave the Fund early next year. Ms. Gopinath, who was scheduled to return to her academic position at Harvard University in January 2022, has served as the IMF’s chief economist for three years. Gopinath was to return to her position as John Zwaanstra Professor of International Studies and of Economics, Harvard University in January 2022.

“Both Geoffrey and Gita are tremendous colleagues — I am sad to see Geoffrey go but, at the same time, I am delighted that Gita has decided to stay and accept the new responsibility of being our FDMD,” said Kristalina Georgieva, IMF’s Managing Director.

Ms. Georgieva said Ms. Gopinath’s contribution to the Fund’s work has already been exceptional, especially her “intellectual leadership in helping the global economy and the Fund to navigate the twists and turns of the worst economic crisis of our lives.”

She also said Ms. Gopinath — the first female chief economist in IMF history — has garnered respect and admiration across member countries and the institution with a proven track record in leading analytically rigorous work on a broad range of issues.

The IMF has had 10 occupants of the FDMD chair since the position was created in 1949. Each – only one of them a woman – has been a citizen of the US. Gopinath too is a US citizen.

Noteworthy that Gopinath wasn’t always the topper type she became as an economics undergraduate in Delhi’s Lady Shriram College. Till her Class 7, she was at around 45 per cent and then toyed with the idea of professional sports. Also, she briefly showed up for modelling.

In an interview to an Indian weekly some years back, her mother, V.C. Vijayalakshmi, had talked of the ascent since Class 7: “The girl who used to score 45 per cent till class seven, started scoring 90 per cent.”

Then a good science intermediate degree at Maharaja PU in Mysore and topping Delhi University in BA. “She created quite a flutter by bagging the gold medal as LSR had beaten St Stephen’s for the first time, and by just two marks.” Like many kids her age in India, Gopinath also entertained ideas of taking the civil services exam and MBA too.

Today, the IMF MD spoke of the struggling Class 7 student thus: “…given that the pandemic has led to an increase in the scale and scope of the macroeconomic challenges facing our member countries, I believe that Gita – universally recognised as one of the world’s leading macroeconomists – has precisely the expertise that we need for the FDMD role at this point. Indeed, her particular skill set – combined with her years of experience at the Fund as Chief Economist – make her uniquely well qualified. She is the right person at the right time.”

Georgieva, a Bulgarian economist, noted Gopinath’s contribution has already been exceptional, especially her “intellectual leadership in helping the global economy and the Fund to navigate the twists and turns of the worst economic crisis of our lives”.

She said Gopinath – also the first female Chief Economist in IMF history – has garnered respect and admiration across our member countries and the institution, with a proven track record in leading analytically rigorous work on a broad range of issues.

Georgieva said that the IMF’s Research Department had gone from “strength to strength”, particularly highlighting its contributions in multilateral surveillance via The World Economic Outlook, a new analytical approach to help countries respond to international capital flows (the integrated policy framework), and work on a Pandemic Plan to end the Covid-19 crisis by setting targets to vaccinate the world at feasible cost.

Born in Kolkata, Gopinath will take the lead on surveillance and related policies, oversee research and flagship publications and help foster standards for Fund publications.

Gopinath has a Ph.D. in economics from Princeton University in 2001 after the B.A. from LSR and M.A. degrees from Delhi School of Economics and University of Washington. She is the younger of two daughters of T.V. Gopinath and Vijayalakshmi. They are both from Kannur, Kerala and settled in Mysuru.

Understanding Medicare Fraud

“Corruption, embezzlement, fraud are all characteristics which exist everywhere. It is regrettably how human nature functions, whether we like it or not. What successful economies do is keep it to a minimum. But, unfortunately, no one has ever eliminated any of that stuff”- said. Alan Greenspan, on the evil characteristic of frauds in general.

In USA, the system of Medicare benefits has been an abundant resource for fraudsters. Medicare improper payments were estimated to be $25.74 billion in fiscal year 2020. However, the amount of improper payments made in Medicare are significant, during 2019 representing to an amount of $28.91 billion.

Medicare fraud occurs when someone, whether doctors or patients or scammers, knowingly deceives Medicare to receive payment when they receive a higher payment than they should. Committing fraud is illegal and should be reported. Anyone can commit or be involved in fraud, and there are cases of fraudsters  including doctors, other providers, and Medicare beneficiaries.

Some common examples of Medicare fraud include billing for services that were not provided, over billing, billing unnecessary services, misrepresenting dates of service or providers of service, and paying kickbacks for patient referrals.

Medicare fraud happens when someone illegally use their Medicare card to get medical care, supplies, or equipment, or sell their Medicare number to someone who bills Medicare for services not received, or provide their Medicare number in exchange for money or a gift.

But sporadic instances of frauds are committed by greedy doctors, and a recent case reported, unveils an example of similar cases.

Ravi Murali, 39, formerly from Wisconsin, was sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge James D. Peterson to 54 months in federal prison for Dr. Murali’s role in defraud Medicare. He pleaded guilty to this charge on March 31, 2021.

Dr. Murali wrote thousands of fraudulent orders for Durable Medical Equipment (DME). Other participants in the scheme used Dr. Murali’s fraudulent orders to bill Medicare $26,000,000, of which Medicare paid $13,000,000.

As we all know, Medicare is complicated. What may seem like an error to the beneficiary, may result from a misunderstanding about benefits.

It may also be abuse, which involves billing Medicare for services that are not covered or are not correctly coded. The provider has not knowingly and intentionally misrepresented the facts to obtain payment.

Medicare fraud assumes criminal offense. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) defines fraud as “the intentional deception or misrepresentation that the individual knows to be false or does not believe to be true,” and that is made “knowing that the deception could result in some unauthorized benefit to themselves or some other person.

Some common examples of suspected Medicare fraud or abuse are:

  • Billing for services or supplies that were not provided
  • Providing unsolicited supplies to beneficiaries
  • Misrepresenting a diagnosis, a beneficiary’s identity, the service provided, or other facts to justify payment
  • Prescribing or providing excessive or unnecessary tests and services
  • Violating the participating provider agreement with Medicare by refusing to bill Medicare for covered services or items and billing the beneficiary instead
  • Offering or receiving a kickback (bribe) in exchange for a beneficiary’s Medicare number
  • Requesting Medicare numbers at an educational presentation or in an unsolicited phone call
  • Routinely waiving co-insurance to attract business

The federal government has made significant strides in reducing fraud, waste, and improper payments across the government.

The CMS “Guard Your Card” campaign tells people how they can protect themselves against fraud by:

  • Never give out their Medicare or Social Security Number to anyone except those you know should have it.
  • They reported any suspicious activities like being asked over the phone for their Medicare/Social Security number or banking information. Medicare will NEVER call you uninvited for this information.
  • By checking their billing statements and reporting suspicious charges. Using a calendar to track doctor’s appointments and services helps quickly spot possible fraud and billing mistakes. Check claims early by logging into gov.

Any suspicious activities may be reported by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

Under the False Claims Act (FCA), the government may pay a reward of up to 30% to people who report healthcare fraud. In September 2019, TELG client Kevin Manieri was awarded more than $12 million for reporting that a drug company defrauded Medicare and other government insurance programs by encouraging doctors to prescribe an unnecessary medication to patients.

Health care fraud is a felony under Michigan’s Health Care False Claims Act, punishable by up to four years in prison, a $50,000 fine and loss of health insurance. It’s also a federal criminal offense under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

India Ranked Fourth Most Powerful Country In Asia

India is the fourth most powerful country in Asia, as per the Lowy Institute Asia Power Index 2021. The annual Asia Power Index — launched by the Lowy Institute in 2018 — measures resources and influence to rank the relative power of states in Asia. The project maps out the existing distribution of power as it stands today, and tracks shifts in the balance of power over time.

The top 10 countries for overall power in the Asia-Pacific region are the US, China, Japan, India, Russia, Australia, South Korea, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand, Lowy Institute said.

India is ranked as a middle power in Asia. As the fourth most powerful country in Asia, India again falls short of the major power threshold in 2021. Its overall score declined by two points compared to 2020. India is one of eighteen countries in the region to trend downward in its overall score in 2021, the report said.

The country performs best in the future resources measure, where it finishes behind only the US and China. However, lost growth potential for Asia’s third largest economy due largely to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has led to a diminished economic forecast for 2030, Lowy Institute said.

India finishes in 4th place in four other measures: economic capability, military capability, resilience and cultural influence.

India is trending in opposite directions for its two weakest measures of power.

On the one hand, it remains in 7th place in its defense networks, reflecting progress in its regional defense diplomacy — notably with the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, which includes Australia, Japan and the US. On the other hand, India has slipped into 8th position for economic relationships, as it falls further behind in regional trade integration efforts, Lowy Institute said.

India exerts less influence in the region than expected given its available resources, as indicated by the country’s negative power gap score. Its negative power gap score has deteriorated further in 2021 relative to previous years.

As per the report, many developing economies, including India, have been hardest hit in comparison to their pre-Covid growth paths. This has the potential to reinforce bipolarity in the Indo-Pacific, driven by the growing power differential of the two superpowers, the US and China, in relation to nearly every other emerging power in the region.

The US beat the downward trend in 2021 and has overtaken China in two critical rankings. But its gains are dogged by a rapid loss of economic influence.

China’s comprehensive power has fallen for the first time, with no clear path to undisputed primacy in the Indo-Pacific.

Uneven economic impacts and recoveries from the pandemic will likely continue to alter the regional balance of power well into the decade. Only Taiwan, the United States and Singapore are now predicted to have larger economies in 2030 than originally forecast prior to the pandemic.

Yet richer countries, such as Japan, have seen their economic prospects improve not just relative to 2020, but also to economies with lower vaccination rates. China, which avoided a recession last year, is not far behind. (IANS)

VISA Complains To U.S. Of India Backing Rupay

Visa Inc has complained to the U.S. government that India’s “informal and formal” promotion of domestic payments rival RuPay hurts the U.S. giant in a key market, memos seen by Reuters show.

In public Visa has downplayed concerns about the rise of RuPay, which has been supported by public lobbying from Prime Minister Narendra Modi that has included likening the use of local cards to national service.

But U.S. government memos show Visa raised concerns about a “level playing field” in India during an Aug. 9 meeting between U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai and company executives, including CEO Alfred Kelly.

Mastercard Inc has raised similar concerns privately with the USTR. Reuters reported in 2018 that the company had lodged a protest with the USTR that Modi was using nationalism to promote the local network.

Alfred Kelly, Jr., CEO, Visa Inc. speaks at the 2019 Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., April 29, 2019. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

“Visa remains concerned about India’s informal and formal policies that appear to favor the business of National Payments Corporation of India” (NPCI), the non-profit that runs RuPay, “over other domestic and foreign electronic payments companies,” said a USTR memo prepared for Tai ahead of the meeting.

Visa, USTR, Modi’s office and the NPCI did not respond to requests for comment.

Modi has promoted homegrown RuPay for years, posing a challenge to Visa and Mastercard in the fast-growing payments market. RuPay accounted for 63% of India’s 952 million debit and credit cards as of November 2020, according to the most recent regulatory data on the company, up from just 15% in 2017.

Publicly, Kelly said in May that for years there was “a lot of concern” that the likes of RuPay could be “potentially problematic” for Visa, but he stressed that his company remained India’s market leader.

“That’s going to be something we’re going to continually deal with and have dealt with for years. So there’s nothing new there,” he told an industry event.

Modi, in a 2018 speech, portrayed the use of RuPay as patriotic, saying that since “everyone cannot go to the border to protect the country, we can use RuPay card to serve the nation.”

When Visa raised its concerns during the USTR gathering on Aug. 9, it cited the Indian leader’s “speech where he basically called on India to use RuPay as a show of service to the country,” according to an email U.S. officials exchanged on the meeting’s readout.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said last year that “RuPay is the only card” banks should promote. The government has also promoted a RuPay-based card for public transportation payments.

While RuPay dominates the number of cards in India, most transactions still go through Visa and Mastercard as most RuPay cards were simply issued by banks under Modi’s financial inclusion program, industry sources say.

Visa told the U.S. government it was concerned India’s “push to use transit cards linked to RuPay” and “the not so subtle pressure on banks to issue” RuPay cards, the USTR email showed.

Mastercard and Visa count India as a key growth market, but have been jolted by a 2018 central bank directive for them to store payments data “only in India” for “unfettered supervisory access”.

Mastercard faces an indefinite ban on issuing new cards in India after the central bank said it was not complying with the 2018 rules. A USTR official privately called the Mastercard ban “draconian”, Reuters reported in September.

Jet Air In Talks With Boeing, Airbus For $12 Billion Order

The new owners of once-bankrupt Jet Airways India are in talks with Boeing and Airbus to purchase at least 100 narrowbody jets for the carrier’s fleet in a bid to revive what used to be the biggest private airline in the South Asian nation before it collapsed under a pile of debt.

The winning bidders for Jet Airways in a state-run bankruptcy resolution process — Dubai-based, Indian-origin businessman Murari Lal Jalan and Florian Fritsch, the chairman of London-based financial advisory and alternative asset manager Kalrock Capital Management Ltd. — plan to start flights in the first three months of next year, Ankit Jalan, a representative for the consortium, said in an interview with Bloomberg News.

The group will invest around 15 billion rupees ($200 million) via equity and debt in the airline over the next six months, half a year earlier than originally planned, Jalan, who is Murari Lal’s nephew, said earlier this week.

The potential revival of Jet Airways, which forced creditors to take a 95% haircut, will be the first for any airline under India’s bankruptcy laws and will intensify competition in one of the world’s most cut-throat aviation markets. Founded by ticketing agent-turned-entrepreneur Naresh Goyal after India ended a state monopoly on aviation in the early 1990s, Jet Airways became popular among fliers as an attractive alternative to Air India Ltd., offering full-service flights to cities including London and Singapore, before a bunch of low-cost airlines ushered in cheap fares for no-frills services.

“The reaction that we saw of the Jet Airways brand coming back was motivation in itself,” 37-year old Jalan, who’s leading the consortium’s airline venture, said from the old offices of Jet Airways just outside of New Delhi on Wednesday evening. “That’s exactly why Jet is coming back; to serve the loyal fan base, to serve the people who miss Jet.”

Shares of the airline rose as much as 5.6% Thursday in Mumbai, their biggest jump in more than three months.

Jet Airways — which had almost 21,000 creditors seeking claims of around $6 billion under the bankruptcy process — is reentering a notoriously tough market. Kingfisher Airlines, founded by beer tycoon Vijay Mallya, ended operations in 2012 after failing to clear its dues to banks, staff, lessors, and airports. SpiceJet almost collapsed two years later before its founders returned to gain control and revive the company. Singapore Airlines Ltd. and AirAsia Group Bhd. have also set up local affiliates, but they aren’t making any money.

Jet Airways is now left with a fleet of 11 planes, including Boeing 737s and 777s, as well as Airbus A330 jets. But those aircraft are mostly old and need to be sold and replaced with newer, more fuel-efficient ones, Jalan said. A deal for the most popular model of Boeing 737 Max jets could cost more than $12 billion, although discounts are common in large orders.

Options for the plane deal includes both outright purchase and leasing, Jalan said. While Airbus is looking at possible early delivery of its most popular A320neo jets, which are already sold out for several years, Boeing may potentially relook at an old 225-plane order for 737 Max aircraft, which Jet Airways had placed before going belly up, Jalan said. A decision is expected by early next month.

“It will be at least something that covers us for the next five to six years,” Jalan said, in what is the new owners’ first interview to media since taking control of the airline. “Our plan is to be a 100-plus airline in five years, a 100-plus aircraft fleet. That is our plan. So the order has to support that.”

India still has “enough room” to accommodate more planes, particularly compared with China, which has a lot more aircraft and a comparable population, and the U.S., which has 10 times the number of aircraft versus India with just one-quarter the population, Jalan said. Jet Airways has already hired most top management for the company, Jalan said, declining to elaborate before a formal announcement.

The Jalan family, little-known in India, is based in Dubai and has businesses spanning healthcare, real estate and renewable energy primarily in Uzbekistan, Dubai and Russia, said Jalan, who was educated in both Dubai and the U.S. Murari Lal Jalan has been a so-called nonresident Indian for more than three decades, with the majority of his businesses outside India.

Jet Airways 2.0 — as it is dubbed by the new owners — will be a full-service airline, with a business class in most planes once the venture takes off. It will also offer a frequent flyer program. The airline will target the corporate market in particular, which Jet once dominated, and have connections to major metro cities including New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, Jalan said.

“We are working on all the things that we need to do to make an airline operational — whether that’s the training infrastructure, whether that’s the IT systems, whether it’s the marketing plan — all that is being worked upon as we speak. All these things will come beautifully together in the next two or three months,” Jalan said. “This is how we are doing it, in the present tense, not in the future tense.”

Is India Against Cryptocurrencies?

While the crypto currency market is booming and thousands of new virtual currencies are being mined every week, many financial experts and governments are vehemently raising voice to ban all cryptos for various reasons.

Last week, RBI governor Shaktikanta Das said the Reserve Bank had “serious concerns from the point of view of macro-economic and financial stability” and that blockchain technology can thrive without cryptocurrencies. Really, there is a grain of truth to the claim that cryptocurrencies are rivals of central banks as they cannot control them like sovereign money.

India has recently taken a more keen note on cryptocurrencies, thanks to its robust growth in the country amid a lack of regulations. However, things are likely to undergo a drastic change, with the government eager to bring in rules and regulations in the digital currency sector. (News18.com 12/18/2021).

There are thousands of virtual currencies on the market today, which are known as cryptocurrencies. Such currencies exchanged through crypto exchanges have not yet been approved by any country or central bank. Recently, El Salvador, a Central American country, officially recognized only the powerful Bitcoin.

But the CBDC is the official cryptocurrency issued by the Central Bank of India. This is the main difference between other cryptocurrencies and CDBC. The CBDC (Central Bank Digital Currency) will also be  marketed through the blockchain technology as done by other virtual currencies . It is likely to be a digital token or electronic form of the current currency. The Reserve Bank of India will be in charge of supervising and monitoring the official crypto of the Indian government. Digital money cannot be withdrawn as we usually withdraw from banks and ATMs. Their transactions will be through digital platforms. It is not yet clear whether it will be listed on other crypto exchanges.

There is no doubt that the operation of private currencies is being restricted to strengthen the official cryptocurrencies. There are some valid points to know about the official cryptocurrency of India.

The primary concern for India’s central bank is the anonymity that virtual currencies offer to their investors. While the record of cryptos is kept on an open ledger, the owner’s identity is not revealed. This can create problems for banks and the IRS to track the flow of money. And hence cryptocurrencies could be used to transfer illegal money or evade taxes and fund terrorist activities.

Digital currency will reduce the difference between the value of an ordinary currency and the cost of printing it. The bottom line is that government spending will go down. Meanwhile, the RBI Due to the restrictions, the value of digital currency will not fluctuate as seen in cryptocurrencies. This is where investors are most likely to stay away.

The total amount of digital currency issued can be converted into cash and is part of the currency in circulation in the economy. Over the last 5-6 years, the currency, including notes and coins, has grown from Rs 16.63 lakh crore to Rs 28.60 lakh crore. One of the main reasons for the rise in inflation is the circulation of this currency in the markets.

With the advent of digital currency, the RBI’s ability to intervene in markets will increase. Digital currency can reduce the amount of money in the market. After Kovid, people are increasingly using digital means.

New International Airport In NOIDA Inaugurated

Noida International Greenfield Airport, also known as Delhi Noida International Airport or Jewar Airport, is proposed to be built in Jewar, Greater Noida, in Uttar Pradesh, India. The proposed airport will help relieve congestion at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGI) and serve the fast-developing industrial region between Delhi and Agra.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021, said that the Noida International Airport will develop the tourism and agriculture sector in Uttar Pradesh and pilgrims will be able to easily travel to temples and shrines in the state. Modi added that the Noida International Airport (NIA) in Jewar, would make Uttar Pradesh  known for its ‘Uttam Suvidha and Nirantar Nivesh’.

The new airport is expected to increase demand for commercial and residential projects and hotels in the region, while also boosting the real-estate sector.

Speaking on the occasion of the foundation laying stone ceremony of Noida International Airport here, PM Modi said, “Tourism of land-locked states like Uttar Pradesh will greatly benefit from the Noida International Airport. Now, pilgrims will be able to easily travel to temples and shrines in Uttar Pradesh.”

“The agricultural potential of Western UP will witness a sharp rise and help the small farmers in exporting goods easily, efficiently and instantly,” he said.  PM Modi further said that Uttar Pradesh will now be known for its ‘Uttam Suvidha and Nirantar Nivesh’.

The airport is being developed by Yamuna International Airport Private Limited (YIAPL), a 100 per cent subsidiary of the project’s Swiss concessionaire Zurich International Airport AG. Yamuna International Airport Pvt Ltd (YIAPL) is developing Noida International Airport under the PPP model in close partnership with the Government of Uttar Pradesh and the Government of India.

According to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, the International Airport near Jewar will be developed as an Aviation Hub which is conceived to provide all the modern, efficient and hi-tech facilities.

The airport area when fully operational is expected to have Aero and Non-Aero activities along with MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Operations) facilities. The present project envisages an area of land requirement measuring 3500 acres. In the first phase of development, only 1327 hectares of land would be developed.

Noida International Airport is strategically located, which is at a road distance of about 72 km from IGI Airport, 40 km from Noida, Faridabad and Ghaziabad respectively, 28 km from Greater Noida, 65 km from Gurugram and 130 km from Agra.

The projected cost of the proposed project is estimated at around Rs 15000- 20000 crore and the development of the first phase of the airport is being done at a cost of around Rs 10,050 crore. The work at the airport is scheduled to be completed by 2024.

South Korea All Set To Get ‘World’s First Sustainable Floating City’

The floating city could withstand natural disasters including floods, tsunamis and Category 5 hurricanes as its floating platforms will be anchored to the seafloor. The world’s first floating city, which will be built off the coast of South Korea, is likely to be completed by 2025. As per Business Insider, it is essentially a collection of hexagonal platforms perched on top of water.

Backed by the United Nations, the floating city, built off the coast of the city of Busan, will be a ‘flood-proof infrastructure’ comprising several human-made islands that all rise with the sea to eliminate flood risks, Daily Mail UK reported.

Being built at an estimated cost of $200 million, it could also withstand other natural disasters including tsunamis and Category 5 hurricanes as its floating platforms will be anchored to the seafloor.

Planned in collaboration between project’s designer, OCEANIX and the UN Human Settlement Programme (UN-Habitat), the floating city will be self-sufficient in terms of food, energy and water. It will generate electricity from solar panels installed on the top of buildings and ferry the inhabitants on futuristic boat pods, the report further stated. It will foster organic farming in aeroponic and aquaponic systems along with traditional outdoor farms and greenhouses.

“Sustainable floating cities are a part of the arsenal of climate adaptation strategies available to us. Instead of fighting with water, let us learn to live in harmony with it,’ said Maimunah Mohd Sharif, executive director of UN-Habitat to Daily Mail UK.

While the size of the city hasn’t been determined yet, it will reportedly have the capacity to shelter 10,000 residents, divided into 300-resident large neighbourhoods. As per OCEANIX, inhabitants will have to survive on a “primarily plant-based diet” to reduce strain on space, energy and water resources. Work is still ongoing “to determine who the residents will be and how they will be selected”.

The city will be constructed using locally sourced materials like fast-growing bamboo. The platforms will be built using limestone coating. Cages underneath the platforms could be used to house scallops, kelp, or other forms of seafood, Business Insider reported.

Tamil Nadu CM MK Stalin Appoints MR Rangaswami As State’s ‘Investment Ambassador’

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin has appointed a prominent Indian American venture capitalist, M.R. Rangaswami as Tamil Nadu’s ‘Investment Ambassador’ on Friday, November 26.

Rangaswami has been an active member of the Indian American community whose influence has inspired many.

Over the years he has worn many hats including being an entrepreneur, investor, corporate eco-strategy expert, community builder and a philanthropist.

Most importantly, he is the founder of Indiaspora, a nonprofit who mission is to unite the Indian diaspora and to transform their success into meaningful impact in India and on the global stage.

By sharing insights, hosting events and connecting people, Indiaspora unites the professionally, geographically and religiously diverse Indian American community toward collective action, the press release said.

On honoring him his new crown, CM Stalin praised Rangaswami for his achievements in the US.

Dr. VGP, an Indian American community leader and president of the World Federation of Tamil Youth, USA in Chicago, congratulated CM Stalin on the appointment and said Tamil Nadu will soon become India’s number one industrialized state under Rangaswami’s captaincy, it said.

Neil Khot, national chairman of the Indian American Business Coalition, based in Washington, D.C., congratulated Rangasawami, saying that he is an excellent and apt choice who can make things happen.

Tamil Nadu has made giant strides in attracting global investment recently, thanks to IAS officer T. Muruganandam, who was till recently industries secretary and was now promoted to the key position as the state’s finance secretary, noted the release.

The event was attended by Rangaswami wife and his two children, who have been supportive of his past endeavors and his current leadership position to tackle more India-centric issues.