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India not yet ready for IPR

Thursday, 25th April 2002
The Business Standard,Kolkata

India is not ready to take advantage of the Intellectual Protection Rights (IPR) regime, said Prabuddha Ganguli, a leading IPR consultant in the country.

Addressing a lecture on 'IPR an imperative engine for growth', organised by consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS), Ganguli Said, 'Neither has India been able to take stock of resources nor could create an appropriate legal framework to address IPR issues, In the era dominated by WTO, India should look into its potential and try to protect its IPR by enacting proper legislative measures.'

Chairing the discussion, Ashish Ghosh of Centre for Environment & Development said, the Indian government should take steps to utilise its human resources and strengthen the country's system so that keeping obligation to TRIPS or any other agreements to WTO is less painful.

He also mentioned that although 'neem', 'haldi' and basmati are much talked about, there were only 65 items on which patents have been taken.

According to Ganguli, the necessity of IPR becomes a reality if one thinks in terms of zero tariffs. 'In the ear of globalisation, while the whole world is coming under unified market concept, if all tariffs are brought down to zero then knowledge becomes only trade differentiator' he said.

Experts’ caution on Kyoto pact;;

Tuesday, 23rd April 2002
The Hindustan Times

With India seriously considering ratification of the Kyoto protocol on reduction of greenhouse gases, experts feel the only options before the country lie in reducing fossil fuel consumption.

The 1997 Kyoto protocol will become legally binding only after it is ratified by at least 55 countries. “The question is whether India can cut down on the rate of growth of fossil fuel consumption,” Director of the School of Energy Studies of Jadavpur University, Prof Sujoy Basu, said here today.

Consumer Unity Trust Society, Basu said the major hindrances to the protocol were its short-term commitments as emission standards were set only for a period between 2008 and 2012. The United Nations had no teeth to enforce the legal and judicial aspects of the convention in member nations, he said. India must turn to renewable sources of energy, he said.

India set to sign Kyoto Protocol;;

Tuesday , 23rd April 2002
The Times of India

India is likely to sign the Kyoto Protocol this October. Forty nations have already signed the international agreement that enumerates responsibilities of individual governments to reduce net emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide by the most industrial nations.

The protocol, drawn up under the aegis of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1997, to come into force, requires 55 countries including an industrialised nation, to sign on the dotted line. Collectively, the 55 countries need to account for atleast 55 per cent of the carbon dioxide emissions worldwide.

“Indications are that India will sign the protocol as the awareness of the threat from the increased concentration of greenhouse gases is now quite high. The Energy Conservation Act that was enacted in October 2001 paved the way for India signing the Kyoto Protocol,” said Sujoy Basu, director of School of Energy Studies at Jadavpur University. He was delivering the Earth Day lecture titled ‘Kyoto Protocol: Options before India.’ The lecture was organised by Consumer Unity & Trust Society, a non-government organisation.

He viewed India’s participation in the protocol critical as international pressure was needed to set things right in the country’s industrial sector which continued to pay little heed to environment concerns. “Indian industry is mostly indifferent to environmental needs and continues to use obsolete technology. Industries have to become more energy-efficient,” he said.

Basu criticised the government’s automotive policies that allowed a heavy influx of cars in the country. “With oil reserves at 136 billion tonne or 1,000 billion barrels and consumption of 75 billion barrels a day with a 2 per cent compounded annual growth rate, there will be a scarcity in 45-50 years. The petrol and diesel cars not only cause more pollution but also inflate the oil import bill,” Basu said.

The Kyoto Protocol attempts to arrest the global warming that has already affected the earth’s climate, causing changes in temperature, rainfall, extreme climatic conditions and rise in sea level. While the average global temperature is expected to rise by 1.4-5.8 degree centigrade against last century average of 15.27 degree centigrade, the mean sea level is expected to rise by 15.95 cm, threatening the existence of many island nations.

Indian environmentalist Rajendra Pachauri is the current chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the body that advises governments on long-term climate changes.

He beat the incumbent, US scientist Robert Watson in a secret ballot. Watson’s removal follows a campaign by the United States, which announced its refusal to join the Kyoto Protocol in March 2001.

Though the US withdrawal was initially viewed as a major blow to the initiative, Basu said environmentalist worldwide had received a shot in the arm following the participation of 171 governments in the conference of parties at Marrakesh in November 2001.

Should India sign Kyoto Protocol;

Tuesday, 23rd April 2002
The Jansatta

Consumers need protection;

Tuesday,9th April 2002
Zambia Daily Mail

Poor countries should plan for WTO talks

Tuesday,2nd April 2002
The Post

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Push for Comesa, SADC as bargaining units at WTO

Thursday, 28th March 2002
Times of Zambia

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WTO Doha ministerial indaba on...

Tuesday, March 26 2002
The Monitor


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26th March,2002
Zambia Daily

26th March,2002
Zambia Daily Mail

27th March,2002
The Post

Appeal to farmers to develop new technology

Monday, March 25 2002
Dun Durpan

Experts raise water deficit alarm

Saturday, March 23 2002
The Hindustan Times

SUPPLY WAS 38 per cent short of the water demand in 2000, the year when the State experienced one of the most devastating floods it has known.

The deficit had risen over the years and interpolation to 2025 leaves a deficit of 59 per cent. That would mean a child born today would find less than half the water he needs in his youth.

Experts on water management have blamed successive governments of not managing water effectively enough.

“No new dam has been built since the 1960s. And no efforts have been launched to increase the storage capacity of those in operation either, so that there is no mechanism for storing the excess water in the monsoon season,” said professor Kalyan Rudra, visiting lecturer of Vidyasagar University.

He also questioned the laying of synthetic sheets to prevent water loss from canal bases. “Contractors at work have told me it costs Rs.40 lakhs for making a synthetic turf over a stretch of one kilometre. How many farmers in India can afford to buy water for agriculture at such a price? And even if they can, would they find any takers for the produce that is bound to cost more?”

Rudra was speaking at a seminar on water management organised by Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) on the occasion of International Water Day.

Experts also questioned the logic behind bringing water for cultivation from Bihar and wondered why the state was not keen to use a technology more cost-effective and handy.

If some farmers can be impressed upon to dig a pond that can store rainwater, for instance, it would be more effective.

Another scientist, Arunava Majumder, said the farmers could be taught to purify the stored rainwater for drinking by filtering it through pebbles and sand.

Dipping water levels spells grim future

Saturday, March 23 2002
The Times of India

The per capita availability of water in West Bengal has gone down from 5,608 cubic metres in 1951 to 1,839 cubic metres in 2001. The supply of water fell short of demand by 38 percent in 2000.

These grim facts were revealed at a panel discussion on sustainable management of water resources, organised by Consumer Unity and Trust Society, an NGO working in the field of citizens’ rights. “If things go this way, there is grave doubt where our future generations will get water,” said water management expert Kalyan Rudra.

“According to these trends, in 2011, the per capita availability of water shall go down to 1,579 cubic metres. The deficit of demand to supply was 38 per cent in 2000, when half the state was submerged in flood waters. In 2011, this deficit would go down to 48 per cent, with a further decline to 59 per cent in 2025,” Rudra said, quoting irrigation department figures.

While 60 per cent of the surface water available in the state is in North Bengal, the area has no storage facility. “Even the Teesta barrage project does not have any storage system,” he said. The river valley project, which feed irrigation systems in South Bengal, have lost a significant amount of their capacity due to heavy siltation. “These dams have lost at least 20 per cent of their capacity in the four decades of their operations,” Rudra added.

The main problem in West Bengal is that rainfall, while on an average plentiful when calculated cumulatively, actually occurs mostly between July and September. “Thus proper principles of water management need to be inculcated right away to stop wastage,” Rudra said.

The main problem in the current water management scenario is that the sources of storage are in the neighbouring states. “In the current political scenario, it is impractical to expect that neighbouring states will hold water for us. Besides, lot of water is wasted in transportation. Ideally, these storage sites should be close to the places of agriculture,” Rudra said.

High arsenic level affects district farm products

Friday, March 22 2002
The Times of India

Arsenic contamination has been a major problem in West Bengal. Despite myriad experiments and lengthy studies, the situation continues to be grim.

Recent soil tests in arsenic-affected blocks of North 24 Parganas have shown that around 6.4 tonnes of arsenic is being deposited in the farmlands in these areas. As a result, crops that are being grown here, including paddy, wheat, and vegetables like papaya, potatoes and radish, have also shown a dangerous level of arsenic contamination in them.

Independent tests carried out by Jadavpur University, Cornell University of New York, Dhaka University and CSIRO of Australia the Food and Agricultural Organisation have shown similar results, with the maximum amount of arsenic deposited in rice husk and arum.

Carrying out a field survey in Kolsur village of Deganga block, it was found that every kilogram of rice husk contained 1,900 micrograms of arsenic. The husk is the main food for cattle, which increases the possibility for their entering human food systems.

These were the revelations of a briefing paper prepared by Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) on sustainable management of water resources.

“Due to over dependence on underground water for irrigation, water level has fallen substantially... Unrestrained lifting of underground water with high power pumps has resulted in over concentration of arsenic, iron and other chemicals in water making it unfit for consumption. Use of arsenic contaminated water for irrigation has resulted in alarming deposit of arsenic in vegetables, wheat and rice,” the paper said.

The decline in ground water levels had a severe negative effect on biodiversity. As water level declined, numerous plants, which thrived on ground water, have perished. Apart from affecting biodiversity and ecological balance, it has adversely affected the life of animals due to the scarcity of fodder.

The paper criticises the policy setting up large dams for irrigation projects.

“Big dams have destroyed the water-holding capacity of major rivers due to heavy siltation. Consequently, many rivers have dried up, thus severely affecting the supply of surface water …Loss of surface water has increased the earth’s temperature as well,” the paper states.

March 22 is observed as International Day for Water by the UN General Assembly in 1992. “Studies have shown that without better management of water resources and related ecosystems, two-thirds of humanity will suffer from severe to moderate shortages of water by 2025,” Arjun Dutta of CUTS said.

CUTS is at the forefront of a movement to pressurise the Centre to formulate a national policy on water management. “Our suggestions will be in line with the government policy, which will speed up the implementation process,” Dutta said.


Commission needed to look into health fraud

Friday, March 15 2002
The Times of India

KOLKATA : A responsible national or state commission must be formed urgently to look into the ‘criminal acts’ being committed in the name of healthcare, said activists on Friday.

While Pharmacology speaks of barely seven hundred formulations, there are as many as 70 thousand drugs being sold in the country, many of which are harmful. Pointing an accusing finger at the Government, Dr Sujit Das of the National ‘Drug Action Network’ declared that while DAN had forced the government to declare over 7 thousand drugs as harmful and ‘illegal’, no follow-up action has been taken by the Government.

He was speaking at a panel discussion on Friday organised by Consumer Unity & Trust Society(CUTS). States, hospitals or even doctors have not been informed of the decision, Das alleged; drugs proscribed have not been withdrawn from the market and licenses issued earlier are yet to be withdrawn. As a result, doctors continue to prescribe the harmful drugs in their ignorance, he added.

In a gathering of lawyers, jurists and consumer activists, Das, himself a trained doctor, declared that in this country most of the doctors could be held guilty of negligence. Patients, he said, are not examined properly and often doctors do not follow the course prescribed in medical texts.

Also, lured by hefty commissions being offered by diagnostic centres, doctors, he said, are busy prescribing quite expensive but needless tests. As much as fifty per cent of the cost of a MRI examination or Rs 2,500, he said, are being paid to doctors prescribing such tests.

How many doctors can resist the temptation, he asked? Medical negligence and even unnecessary surgery are detected abroad as well. But in the absence of accountability here, the medical fraternity seldom exercises caution. Indeed, most doctors are not even aware that they are guilty of negligence, was his scathing remark.

It is difficult for the common man to collect sufficient evidence of medical negligence, put up sufficient funds to approach the court, persuade medical experts to give evidence and produce records from the hospitals to prove negligence of doctors. That is why , he felt, only a fraction of such cases were reaching the courts.

Accusing hospitals and doctors of tampering the records, Das said that in his experience the medical establishments hardly kept any record, fabricating them only when they become necessary or are to be produced before the court. Das advised courts to seek records in their entirety to detect tampering. “ A doctor who maintains records, would do so in all the cases.But if the court cares to look at records of all patients, it would find that in most cases records are perfunctory and meticulously written in cases being adjudicated by the court”, he said. It is already mandatory to keep record of all surgeries in the Operation Theater, he informed.

Prabir Basu, a lawyer, informed that a law is now already in place, making it obligatory for medical establishments to part with all relevant records to the patients. Das felt it was still not mandatory and records were being parted only when specifically asked for.

Justice S.C. Dutta, President, State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission, took umbrage at trial by the Press and said that people need to be considerate and treat doctors more charitably. “They are also human beings and need time to be with their family,” he said, “ and genuine mistakes can occur anywhere". The discussion was moderated by Dipankar Dey of CUTS.

CUTS files petition against airport authorities, alleges violation of human rights

Tuesday, March 5 2002
The Hindustan Times

Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) today filed a petition with the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) against the Airport Authority of India, Jaipur Airport, alleging that the airport authorities are violating human rights of the persons visiting the airport.

Secretary General, CUTS, Pradeep S Mehta said that while the authorities allow government vehicles to park in the porch, which is a no parking zone, private vehicles are not allowed to do so. This discrimination is a form of violation of human rights to the public.

He added that even though there were illuminated signboards declaring the porch to be a no parking zone, government vehicles flaunt the rule, while the airport authorities watch silently. The petition further states that the double standards make a mockery of the Constitution and Laws of the country.

The petitioner requested the commission to examine the matter and take appropriate action against the defaulters. This he said was essential to safeguard the rights of the public.

CUTS calls for upholding consumer interest

Monday, February 18,2002
The Times of India

Jaipur: Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS), a Jaipur based think-tank, has urged the government to uphold consumer interest while taking anti-dumping actions. “Consumer interest is synonymous with national interest and therefore, their interest should be upheld while taking anti-dumping action against import of goods from other countries,” Bipul Chatterjee, associate director of CUTS said.

Expressing concern regarding the recent spate of anti-dumping action by the designated authority of the commerce ministry, he said that more often than not consumer interest is sidelined, even when they are an affected party. He was referring to the clash between the producers and consumers of polyester staple fibres being imported from South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan and Thailand. The Association of Synthetic Fibre Industry, representing the domestic PSF units and a host of user industry, mainly textile mills are at loggerheads.

Relaxation of curbs on farm trade hailed

Sunday, February 10,2002
The Times of India

Jaipur: The Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS), a Jaipur based civil society think-tank, has hailed the government’s decision to relax restrictions on trade in several essential agricultural commodities.

Terming the decision as a step in the right direction, Bipul Chatterjee, associate director of CUTS said that the policy of decontrol is required for removing distortions in the market, thus creating pockets of surplus and storage.

The proposed regime would result in a win-win situation for the producers and consumers, as it improves the marketability of crops and easier access to goods.

However, this could be the ideal situation and much depends on implementation of the new policy, he said.

Freeing farm trade within the country will not only provide a fillip to value addition in agriculture, but will also attract more investment in food processing.

Such domestic reforms are the need of the day if the country is to realise its potentiality in agriculture, not only in the domestic context but also in this era of international trade under the auspices of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), he said.

Overloaded Jeeps

Saturday, February 9,2002
The Dainik Bhaskar

CUTS IN MEDIA


Man seeks compensation for wife’s death due to medical negligence

THURSDAY,31 January 2002
The Hindustan Times

The Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) has brought to light a case of medical negligence in which a woman admitted for delivery to a private hospital in Kota died allegedly because of carelessness of the doctors. Ramesh Chandra, husband of the victim, approached the Consumer Information Centre of CUTS, seeking guidance on how to get compensation for his wife’s death due to the negligence of doctors.

In this particular case, Hemlata, a 20-year-old woman, was admitted to Kota Stone Mariyam Hospital on July 9, 2000 for her delivery. She was having labour pains. Treating doctors verbally informed the husband that a Caesarean was needed. Hemlata gave birth to a baby boy by Caesarean section. But soon after, she started having convulsions which got out of control. Hemlata was referred to MBS hospital, Kota where she died.

Ramesh Chandra alleged that the doctors had just informed him verbally and not taken his written consent before going for a Caesarian. He said that adequate facilities were not available at the hospital. Blood was not arranged on time and there were no qualified anaesthetists at the hospital.

CUTS forwarded this case to the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) in November 2001. SHRC ordered Chief Medical Health Officer, Ramputa, Kota to form a committee for investigating the case.

A three- member committee including CMHO, Community Health Centre, Ramganj and another two specialists, Dr Ranjana Gupta and Dr KG Singhal investigated the case and submitted the report to the SHRC.

The committee stated in their report that no qualified anaesthetists were available at the hospital. No written consent was taken before the operation and blood was not arranged in time in the hospital. According to the report, patient was not treated carefully in absence of anesthetists and shortage of blood in the hospital.

Patient was referred to the higher centre when her condition became serious and she died because of non-availability of proper treatment on time.


Committee to monitor overloaded jeeps should have NGO members


Thursday, February 7, 2002
The Hindustan Times

STATE HUMAN Rights Commission has proposed that the Transport department should incorporate representatives of non-government organisations, including a member of Consumer Unity Trust Society (CUTS) in the committee constituted for periodical checks on overloading jeeps on national highway and Agra-Jaipur highway. To discuss the proposal, the Human Rights Commission has invited commissioner transport and assistant inspector general traffic on March 6 to the commission.

This proposal was moved in the second hearing of the petition filed by CUTS demanding the ban of jeeps as public transport vehicle as many accidents were occurring due to overloading of jeeps.

The data presented by CUTS before the commission said that in Jaipur city, 25 accidents involving jeeps occurred last year claiming 266 victims.Out of these, 177 deaths and 149 grievous injuries occurred due to overload of jeeps.

A representative of Consumer Unity Trust Society, said that rules of the Motor Vehicle Act should be strictly implemented and stringent action taken against people violating them, the commission also said that people need to be told about the dangers of overloading jeeps.

The representatives from Consumer Unity Trust Society, said that permits should not be given to jeeps as a private vehicles as according to the new Motor Vehicle Act, permits should be given only to buses of state transport and Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation (RSRTC) for their day to day operations. Consumer Unity Trust Society, also wanted an increase in the number of flying squads for checking overloading on the jeeps.

Thursday, January17, 2002
The Times of India
INDIA POWERED BY
INDIATIMES
Indiatimes >The Times of India>India >Article

Chemical additive in LPG harmful: NGO

PTI[ WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 16, 20028:52:49 PM ]

KOLKATA: Users of foul-smelling cylinders of Indane marketed by the Indian Oil Corporation run the risk of developing anomalies in the central nervous system resulting in convulsions and respiratory failure, a leading city-based consumer rights NGO alleged here on Wednesday.

The finding comes in the wake of complaints over the last one month by Indane LPG users in some parts of Kolkata that the pungent smell emitting from their gas cylinders was causing breathing trouble while cooking.

IOC corporate communications chief Dipak Bose had earlier admitted that due to a technical fault a sulphur-based chemical additive, Mercaptan, used to detect LPG leakage had been added in excess in its Haldia plant causing the problem.

"Ethyl Mercaptan has been enlisted as a hazardous and toxic chemical under the Chemical Accidents (Emergency Planning Preparedness and Response) Rules of 1996 and according to the International Occupational Safety and Health Information Centre, even short term exposure to it may cause effects on the central nervous system," Dipankar Dey, director of the Consumer Unity an Trust Society said.

An independent survey had put the number of such cylinders already distributed among consumers at 3.5 lakh, he said adding the LPG emergency cell set up by IOC was receiving complaints of pungent smelling cylinders till date.

 

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Trade Round Talkers Should Consider What Divides The Rich And The Poor

16th June 2003, Financial Times

From Mr. Pradeep S. Mehta.

Sir, The Group of Eight summit at Evian has proved to be a disappointment for the whole world as far as the World Trade Organisation's Doha agenda is concerned. Every possible deadline set in the Doha round has failed, while the big leaders (certainly not statesmen) could not say anything to push it forward, beyond muttering homilies ("Leaders paper over cracks on WTO talks", June 3).

The cost of the meeting was a scandalous $400m, which, as someone commented, could have been better used to reduce poverty in the world. When trade ministers meet in Cancún, Mexico, in September it would be as well to remember a meeting, the North/ South summit that took place there in 1981. Then Ronald Reagan, the US president, and several other heads of government, including Indira Gandhi, India's prime minister, met to agree to launch a new trade round, which ended up as the Uruguay round.

One wonders what ministers will do when the September 2003 meeting takes place. Perhaps they will meet, drink and eat and ask negotiators to proceed on newer deadlines, which will continue to be trapped in a mercantilist mindset of negotiators.

One thing perhaps they may seriously want to do is to ponder what divides the world as far as the WTO is concerned. There is a clear schism between the rich and the poor on the issues that are up for negotiation.

First, to fulfil the development pledge of the Doha round, the poor want better market access, access to cheap medicines, reduced agricultural subsidies in the west, provision of golfing handicaps and a more user-friendly trading regime.

On the other hand the rich want lower tariffs, multilateral lock-in on investment rules, government procurement, trade facilitation and a competition policy. They are not even prepared to look sincerely at the poor's demands.

If one looks at the details of these two sets of diverse demands, the objectives do not pull in the same direction. Thus, there was a sensible agenda that the G8 leaders could have discussed. Alas, they missed the whole point. This will need to be revisited when trade ministers meet at Cancún but that may be asking for the moon.

Minister Wants Homemade Set Top Boxes

04th June 2003, Business Standard

The minister-in-charge Department of Consumer affairs and fair business practices, Naren De said that the central government instead of bringing down the import duty on set top boxes, should provide incentive to private Indian enterpreneurs so that the same can be manufactured in the country.

De was present at a panel discussion on ‘Cable TV Fiasco: The way out’ organised by the Consumer Unity & Trust Society that represented players from the service provider segment, cable operators and consumer activists.

“The government should have provided enough time for implementation of Conditional Access System (CAS) so that the encryption and decryption technology through set top boxes could be adopted in the country blocking outflow of precious foreign exchange,” the minister added.

“The central government seems to be hurrying up matters, but an extended deadline could have eased up matters providing enough time to all concerned parties to for them to clear up confusions,” De explained.

The minister also said that the government should also put in place an authority which could address all problems related to cable channel viewing.

Cable Access To Be Conditioned By Cost

03rd June 2003, The Statesman

The Conditional Access System (CAS) regime will usher in a situation where those with the means will be able to see the channels they want to, while others will have to do without, said state consumer affairs minister Mr Naren De. He was speaking at a discussion entitled Cable TV Fiasco: The Way Out, which brought together representatives of local cable operators, consumer forums and Multi System Operators (MSOs) to throw light on the confusion raging over the implementation of the Conditional Access System.

The minister also questioned whether it was prudent on the part of the central government to import the Set Top Box (STB) at a much higher cost when they could have been manufactured locally. This would have encouraged domestic manufacturers as well as generated jobs.

The discussion was organised by the Consumer Unity Trust and Society (CUTS), a consumer interest body. Apart from the minister, present at the occasion were Mr Mrinal Chatterjee, representative of cable operators, Mr Sudip Ghosh, director of city MSO Manthan, Ms Mala Banerjee of the Federation of Consumer Associations and Mr Pradeep Mehta of CUTS.

While the general agreement was that there is no real confusion regarding CAS, save that generated by vested business interests, and that some of the aspects of the proposed system were far from perfect, no particular solution could not be agreed upon.
Mr Ghosh alleged that broadcasters were against the implementation of CAS because it would then be known how popular their channels really are.

Ms Banerjee advised viewers to go slow and adopt a ‘wait and watch’ policy, and stressed that there was no real urgency to buy STBs since the Free to Air (FTA) channels would suffice for an average viewer.

Conditional Access System (CAS) Case

03rd June 2003, The Telegraph

The state government feels that conditional access system (CAS) should only be rolled out when set-top boxes can be manufactured indigenously. Minister for consumer affairs and fair business practices Naren De said on Monday: “Bulk import of a product, demand for which is bound to soar soon, doesn’t make sense.” The minister was addressing a panel discussion on CAS and its implications to the consumers, organised by Consumer Unity & Trust Society, an NGO. Federation of Consumer Associations of West Bengal chief Mala Banerjee felt consumers shouldn’t be “intimidated” by the set-top box. “Besides, the government has facilitated a free-to-air bouquet of a minimum of 30 channels,” she said.

Pradeep Mehta Of CUTS On WTO Body

24th May 2003, The Financial Express

The Consumer Unity & Trust Society secretary general Pradeep S Mehta has been appointed as a member of the informal NGO advisory body by the WTO director-general Suppachai Panitchpakdi. Twelve members from around the globe constitute this body, a CUTS statement said. The first meeting of the advisory body is to be held in Geneva on June 15. One of the key functions of the advisory body is to add structure to the dialogue between the WTO and its stakeholders.


Comment Received:

"Please accept our hearty congratulations on your elavation and appointment as member of the informal NGO Advisory Body of WTO by its Director General, Shri Supachai Panitchpakdi. All of us were extremely happy to hear the news. We all celebrated the occasion in a grand style. We are extremely happy to know that, atlast WTO has come forward to recognise the meritorious contributions/services rendered by you through your organisation to the world body. In effect it amounts to a world recognition to Indian Consumer Movement. We are sure, our friends from African and Asian countries will welcome this with great happiness. We wish that GOI also will appreciate this appointment. We the members of Kerala Consumer Service Society at Cochin hereby extend to you all our support in leading WTO to a great success."

Dr.T. Balachandran
President, Kerala Consumer Service Society
Prathiba, Asoka Road,Cochin-682017

Textile Industry Can Profit From Scrapping Of ATC Despite Chinese Imports

19th May 2003, The Financial Express

Brussels, May 18: The elimination of quotas on 1 January 2005 will have a dramatic impact on world trade in textiles and clothing, according to both importers and exporters here. However, while countries like China and India are confident that they will be its leading beneficiaries, many smaller developing countries fear an uncertain future, with the expiry of the 1994 Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (ATC) in 17 months’ time. Bangladesh in particular has been pressing the 15-nation European Union (EU) to use its generalised system of preferences (GSP) to “protect” its share of the EU market for garments. The country’s commerce minister Amir Chowdhury, was not alone in expressing his concerns at the conference organised by the EU’s chief trade negotiator Pascal Lamy, on May 5 and 6. Mr Lamy felt obliged, in fact, to reassure the representatives of the least developed and other equally vulnerable developing countries, such as Sri Lanka, by pointing to the need for “a political response” to the threat they faced. This could be in the shape of GSP benefits specially targeted at least developed countries like Bangladesh, he said.

But how do those practitioners of the dismal science, the professional economists, view the prospects for countries like India after 1 January 2005? Now it so happens that a handful of economists and members of Mr Lamy’s staff did meet here, a day or so after Mr Lamy’s conference closed, to exchange views on the post-2005 scenario. The meeting was convened by the Jaipur-based Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS), and hosted by the European Institute for Asian Studies. It brought together some of the authors of the five economic studies which had been carried out by Indian and European economists in a CUTS-sponsored project, the EU-India Network on Trade and Development

This article is limited to the presentation by Dr Dean Spinanger, of the Institute for World Economics, in Kiel, Germany, of the paper he and Dr Samar Verma, of Oxfam GB in New Delhi, are working on. (Dr Verma was not present.) The title of the draft paper says it all in a sense. It is: “The coming death of the ATC and China’s WTO accession: Will push come to shove for Indian textile and clothing exports?” In other words, should India be concerned at the undoubted impact of China’s accession on world trade in general? And, if so, what steps should it take to improve its competitive position?

Dr Spinanger used Sweden as an example of what can happen when quotas are eliminated. In 1991 the Swedish government decided to eliminate all non-tariff barriers on its imports of textiles and clothing. The result was an immediate surge in imports from East Asia, primarily China. But the surge was as quickly halted when Sweden joined the EU in 1995. At the same time Sweden, like other EU countries, began to import more from Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean countries.

The situation is somewhat different today in that overall demand in the EU and other industrialised countries has fallen because of the continued downturn in economic growth. The EU recorded zero GDP growth during the first quarter of this year, as compared to the last quarter of 2002, when it recorded growth of 0.1%. Other changes include the large number of bilateral trade agreements, notably those between the US and various countries in Asia.

The results of the computable economic model used by the two economists to assess the effects of the ATC liberalisation process and China’s accession to the WTO are clear. As regards textile exports, China is expected to record a sizeable increase in its exports. India, however, is expected to experience a decrease. The expected outcome is very different in the case of clothing, with India showing an increase of 217%, as compared to an increase of 168% in China’s case. But India has always been viewed as having a substantial export potential in numerous areas, provided its domestic policies do not come in the way.

India can profit from the elimination of quotas, despite strong competition from China, provided it can “get its show on the road” - in other words, increase its competitiveness (it ranked 42nd out of 49 countries in 2002) by reducing costs. Thus because of poor domestic transport infrastructure, Indian exporters face considerably higher costs than their Asian competitors. Other non-specific product input costs result from an inefficient energy infrastructure and an inadequate financial structure.

Product specific costs include the poor quality of the fabric supplied to the garment sector. This is because only 5% of the fabric is produced in organised mills. The sector also suffers from poor productivity, because of its extremely fragmented structure. As a result of this fragmentation, India’s textile and clothing industries have one of the longest and most complex supply chains in the world. Since the problems are not new, solutions can be found. But this must be done quickly, if India is to strengthen its competitive edge in time.

The five papers deal with textiles and clothing, competition policy, foreign direct investment, anti-dumping and movement of nationals. They are aimed at Indian and European trade officials, who will be attending the WTO ministerial meeting in Cancun, Mexico, in September. The only Indian economist present at the Brussels meeting was the head of CUTS, Pradeep Mehta.

Consumers see CAScading effect

18th May 2003, The Economic Times

CONSUMERS who would ultimately win or lose in the conditional access system regime for television broadcast services, are finally speaking out. Two organisations - Consumer Guidance Society of India (CGSI) and Consumer Unity Trust Society (CUTS) – have spoken out against CAS.

While the former has urged consumer groups across the four metros to join hands and file a public interest litigation, the latter is engaged in drafting its own "comprehensive" Bill on the basis of good practices in other countries, and which would address issues like service standards, performance quality and price caps for pay channels.

As the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Amendment Act, 2002 does not give the Centre authority to fix the price of pay channels, CUTS general secretary, Pradeep S. Mehta says, "This is extremely ridiculous as price capping is resorted to everywhere in the world including India, where natural monopolies operate. In India we have the Electricity Regulatory Commission to fix tariffs. State governments fix fares for taxis, buses and auto rickshaws."

Bundling of channels, unaffordable a la carte pricing, telecast of unpopular FTA channels (to wring out carriage fee form FTA channels with demand), poor quality signals, blackouts, lack of servicing or performance guarantee of STBs are some of the "shenanigans the industry would resort to, to defeat the purpose of the legislation" fears the NGO.

Mumbai-based CGSI chairman Anand Patwardhan says, "CAS is definitely not in the consumer interest and consumers must unite to fight this thoughtless and apathetic draftsmanship which is anti-consumer."

The consumer is being penalised for under declarations by cable operators.

Contaminated Chinese Honey Hits Indian Mart

12th May 2003, The Financial Express

After SARS, now beware of Chinese honey!!

Next time you take your daily dose of honey, watch out if it is imported from China for there is a fair chance of your body immune system being affected by it.

According to consumer interest bodies, Chinese honey, banned in several countries, is making inroads in Indian market to the detriment of the health of common man.

Chinese honey, establishing its presence in India and even being re-exported, is contaminated with chloramphenicol, which might render a person resistant to antibiotics used in the treatment of typhoid and paratyphoid, Director Consumer Unity & Trust Society Rajan R Gandhi said in New Delhi.

‘Restrict Cancun Agenda To Five Issues

10th May 2003, The Financial Express

Geneva, May 9:The Cancun agenda should be restricted to not more than five issues to avoid failure of the ministerial meeting scheduled in September, World Trade Organisation (WTO) deputy director general Roderick Abbott has warned. Speaking to FE at a review seminar ‘Investment For Development’ in Geneva, Mr Abbott said although there were about a dozen unresolved issues in the ongoing negotiations, taking them all up at Cancun would lead to over-loading of the agenda. “If the agenda is over-loaded, we would be back to where we started from.”

According to Mr Abbott, the issues which should be given priority at the ministerial include the pending agreement of Trips & Public Health, implementation issues and the Singapore issues. Among the Singapore issues, investment should get the maximum focus followed by trade facilitation. Addressing the seminar organised by the Consumer Unity & Trust Society, Department for International Development and UNCTAD, Mr Abbott said the Doha declaration on investment was being interpreted differently by the developed and developing countries. While the developed countries believed that a decision on launching negotiations had been taken, most developing countries thought otherwise.

Listing out the gains from a multilateral agreement on investments, Mr Abbott said this would lead to a reduced risk perception in developing countries and hence make the investment climate more attractive.

The DDG pointed out that investment agreements were already taking place bilaterally and plurilaterally. “Developing countries have to decide whether they prefer bilaterals or a multilateral agreement with the mechanism of dispute settlement as a safeguard,” he said. Mr Abbott added that bilaterals often marginalised developing countries and hurt their interests and therefore there was a strong reason for going the multilateral way. Giving the other side of the picture, Mr Abbott said those against a multilateral agreement on investment feel that bilaterals were better as they involved only post-establishment commitments and not pre-investment commitments. The Chinese experience of getting a surge of foreign investment despite keeping out of the WTO till recently is also a good example which shows that investments can be attracted even without multilateral agreements.

Mr Abbott said that if a multilateral agreement on investment is culled out, it should take the interests of both sides into account and has to respect local legislations. The DDG added that while a multilateral agreement on investment was desirable, nobody could force developing country members to negotiate or impose an agreement on them.

Channels Can Be ‘Pay’ And Free Simultaneously!

08th May 2003, The Financial Express

New Delhi: Although the government had earlier turned down the broadcasters’ proposal for a phased introduction of the conditional access system (CAS), the same is being allowed now, with a variation. In what looks like a rollback of CAS, the government has decided to allow channels to opt for variable pricing.

Confirming the move, a senior official in the information and broadcasting ministry said: “The Act (which allows CAS) does not restrict broadcasters from offering dual feeds (both free-to-air and pay) within a city and across cities.”

Also, the pay channels can be priced as per the market requirements, he added.

So, a channel could be priced A in a certain locality, and B in another. And, the same channel could be offered as free-to-air in one locality, and as pay in another.

Even as some pay broadcasters said that offering dual feeds under CAS would be illegal, the government has taken quite a different view.

A Star official, however, said broadcasters had made a proposal for phased introduction of CAS sometime back.

While the demand was for introduction of CAS in one city before going on to another, now the government is indirectly letting broadcasters go for CAS in phases within a city.

But, this concept would work only when there’s a deadline given to a channel for attaining uniformity in being either pay or free-to air within a city, a channel official said. “Otherwise, what kind of CAS is this?” he asked.

The government, however, is not giving any timeframe by when a channel should be uniformly pay or free-to-air.

While denying that this move was a rollback of conditional access system, an I&B official said a second notification on CAS would ask pay channels to declare their rates, including the variable ones, among other things.

While dual feeds have been in existence for years in the pre-CAS era, consumer discrimination issues could arise because of variable pricing post-July 14, pointed out industry sources.

Consumer fora preferred to take a wait and watch attitude, but expressed concern over the discriminatory pricing issue.

Centre for Advocacy & Research executive director Akhila Sivadas, who was part of the first taskforce on CAS, interpreted the government move to allow variable pricing as “pragmatic adjustments”, as nobody’s ready to introduce CAS yet.

But she added that consumers are definitely going to protest against such a move. “The government has just put in place an obligatory framework,” she said.

However, if variable pricing is offered, viewers will stand up and ask questions, she added.

Another consumer forum which is active on CAS, Consumer Unity & Trust Society, examined the issue from a legal standpoint. Researcher Anjali Bansal said: “In principle, variable pricing is not illegal.” Channels could be priced differently across cities, as per the local demands, she said. It would be wrong to price the same channel differently within a city, she added.

Meanwhile, Star admitted on Wednesday that its news channel is being offered in dual mode already.

This is to ensure maximum reach of the channel, Star India COO Sameer Nair said. He assured that over a period of time Star News will be available only as a pay channel.

Honey, you're poison!

08th May 2003, The Economic Times

Honey, you're poison! That's if you're Chinese. Next time you take your daily dose of honey, watch out if it is imported from China for there is a fair chance of your body immune system being infected by it. According to consumer interest bodies, Chinese honey, banned in several countries, is making inroads in Indian market to the detriment of the health of common man. Chinese honey is contaminated with chloramphenciol which might render a person resistant to antibiotics used in the treatment of typhoid and paratyphoid, director Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) Rajan R Gandhi said in New Delhi. He said chloramphenciol, an antibiotic, was banned worldwide in 1970s as it can cause life threatening aplastic anaemia in humans. Selvi Roy of CUTS said a few Indian companies are blending the cheaper contaminated honey imported from China and exporting it under their name with a 'Produce of India' label.

Contaminated Chinese Honey Hits Indian Markets

07th May 2003, PTI

After SARS, now beware of Chinese honey!!

Next time you take your daily dose of honey, watch out if it is imported from China for there is a fair chance of your body immune system being affected by it.

According to consumer interest bodies, Chinese honey, banned in several countries, is making inroads in Indian market to the detriment of the health of common man.

Chinese honey, establishing its presence in India and even being re-exported, is contaminated with chloramphenicol, which might render a person resistant to antibiotics used in the treatment of typhoid and paratyphoid, director Consumer Unity and Trust Society Rajan R Gandhi said in New Delhi.

He said chloramphenicol, an antibiotic, was extensively used to cure these diseases until it was banned worldwide in 1970s as it can cause life threatening aplastic anaemia in humans.

Since Chinese honey contains chloramphenicol, it has been banned in several countries including the US, Canada, Germany, United Kingdom and other European Union countries, he added.

Non-government organisations feel having lost its market in the West there has been a slide in the price of Chinese honey, a fact that some traders have used to their advantage. This has happened at a time when price of Indian honey has increased three-fold.

Selvi Roy of CUTS said a few Indian companies are circumventing this price rise by successfully blending the contaminated honey imported from China and exporting it under their name with a 'Produce of India' label.

An official of the Centre for International Trade and Agriculture said government should check import of such honey by using existing laws.

According to CUTS, the fact that contaminated honey was being exported with the 'Produce of India' label jeopardised the interests and stature of the Indian industry.

"This amounts to falsification and cheating of consumers in India and across the globe," Roy said.

Good image of Indian honey in particular and agro-based products in general is being tarnished, another consumer activist added.

CITA pointed out that every agro-based consignment entering the country should get a sanitary certificate endorsing it fit and safe for human consumption.

It said, however, this requirement is clearly not being taken seriously or acted upon by the trade division of the agriculture ministry.

The provision for undertaking such checks and charging for the same is provided for under the Indian Livestock Importation Act, it added.

Consumer activists have now petitioned the government to 'act fast' to curb such illegal and harmful practices.

CUTS Slams Chinese Honey Import

07th May 2003, Business Standard

Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) has blamed the ministry of agriculture for allowing imports of contaminated Chinese honey into India saying that it was lax regarding testing. "Every agro-based consignment entering the country should get a sanitary certificate endorsing it fit and safe for human consumption. This requirement is not being taken seriously or acted upon by the trade division of the agriculture ministry, " Rajan R Gandhi, director, CUTS, said. Checks and charging for them was provided under Indian Livestock Importation Act.

EC Urges India To Understand Its Stand On Doha

30th April 2003, Financial Express

New Delhi: The European Commission insists that negotiations on the four Singapore issues should commence after the conclusion of the fifth World Trade Organisation (WTO) ministerial meeting in Cancun (Mexico) being held from September 10-14. But India holds that discussions on these can be started only if there is an “explicit consensus” among the members as mandated by the Doha declaration, says Stefano Gatto, European Union’s (EU) counsellor for trade and economic affairs. The issues are trade and investment, trade and competition policy, trade facilitation and transparency in government procurement.

Speaking at a meeting on EU-India network on trade and development in Delhi on Wednesday, Mr. Stefano Gatto however conceded that the deadlines on some of the issues set by the Doha mandate had been missed and pleaded that developing countries, including India, must understand the EU’s position on the Doha agenda. The network was launched in Brussels in 2000.

On textiles, he referred to a recent statement of the EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy that all the remaining quotas under the WTO Agreement on Textiles and Clothing would be phased out as scheduled by December 31, 2004.u though some developing countries were not fully ready to face the free market regime arising after this date.

In regard to services, he clarified that the EU was not in favour of full liberalisation of the sector. “We are not ready for it nor are we asking others to do it”, he stated.

Under Mode IV of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), namely, movement of natural persons, the Commission in its offer made on Tuesday had expanded the scope of services to include professionals such as laywers, engineers, architects, scientists and self-employed and maintained that it matched with New Delhi’s request, Mr. Stefano Gatto stated. He agreed that the EU could not make its offer by the March 31 deadline fixed earlier. Pointing out that anti-dumping was an important issues for the EU, Mr. Stefano Gatto felt it should not be used as a protectionist measure by the member-countries.

Speaking on the occasion, L Alan Winters of the University of Sussex, noted that one of the major issues between developed and developing countries related to mobility of labour, but none of the countries had utilised the GATS agreement for liberalisation of health services because of immigration policies.

Mr. Winters said the UK had liberalised its immigration rules in 2000 and increased the work permits for foreign doctors by 54 per cent adding that those issued to Indian doctors was 19 per cent, second only to the US with 20 per cent.

Further, about 20,000 doctors graduated in India every year, of which 4,000 to 5,000 moved out of the country while those registered in the country stood at 5,50,000, he stated.

Investment policy Weak

23rd April 03, Times of Zambia

The Consumer Unity and Trust Society, Africa Resource Centre (CUTS-ARC) says Zambia lacks a clearly defined investment policy with elaborate social and economic objectives.

According to CUTS research findings from its ‘Investment Policy, Performance and Perception in Zambia’, what existed as an investment policy was a set of fiscal measures for new investors.

The draft country report paper says an investment policy should have a clear focus on technology development and transfer, human resource development and the creation of jobs.

The reports further says investment incentives for new investors in the existing policy was silent on development clauses yet these should have been tied to employment creation or measures related to sound production.

The report underscores the inadequacy of the current investment policy, which should be formulated to ensure it addressed pertinent issues in investment.

The report says it was worth finding out how far the investment policies in Zambia had helped increase the inflow of Foreign Direct investment (FDI) and how these policies had in the past helped to attract FDI to priority areas of the economy.

Draft Investment policy

23rd April 03, Times of Zambia

Stakeholders who attended a national consultation on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policy and practice in Zambia have called for the early drafting of a national investment policy for Zambia.

The adoption of a national investment policy would be the immediate priority for Zambia to overcome the existing difficulties in attracting sufficient investment said Mr. Richard Chavula of the Zambia Investment Centre.

He was presenting a paper on the role of coordination among sector regulators in promoting FDI to Zambia. Though there are several sectors regulatory bodies that deal with investment decision in Zambia, they lack any workable coordination arrangements, which cause a lot of delay in the decision making process, he lamented.

Can CAS clear cable confusion?

22nd April 2003, The Statesman

By Subhajit Banerjee,

Kolkata: Even before its launch, Conditional Access System (CAS) continues to create enough controversies to assure a permanent place in newspaper headlines.
And the foremost among them is whether CAS will be able to provide a number of options to the consumer when eventually it is launched in four metros from 15 July.
Ideally, CAS should allow viewers to pick and pay for their chosen channels. However, according to consumer interest associations and cable operators, the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Amendment Bill does not address most concerns of the consumer.
Lack of awareness is a major issue, as most consumers are still clueless about how CAS will affect them when they automatically become a part of the system from 15 July. A survey by CUTS, a consumer organisation, found that 70 per cent respondents across the four metros are not familiar with the system.
As of now, only the rates for the Free-to-Air (FTA) channels have been fixed. The information & broadcasting minster Mr Ravi Shankar Prasad said the cable operator must provide 30 FTA channels at the rate of Rs 72.00. But it is not clear who will decide upon those 30 channels when hundreds are on offer. Ideally, it should be the consumer, but in this case it is the government which has determined the mix (comprising Doordarshan channels, regional channels, news and entertainment).
The consumer must therefore watch only those 30 channels which his cable operator provides and forego his favourite channels, though they might be FTA. A member of the working committee (which was in charge of recommending the FTA price) feels this is an ideal mix. No need to ask the consumer!
Monitoring bodies have not been appointed either to ensure smooth running or address consumer grievances. So the consumer can’t choose or change his cable operator or turn to anyone else apart from consumer rights bodies if he is unhappy with the service. However, he may approach the nearest police station in case of overcharging by cable operator, being forced to buy set-top box of a particular make, non-publication of subscription rates or in case operators do not route pay channels through set-top boxes.
Most of the pay channels are being offered in bouquets. But the pricing of the bouquets has only been proposed and not fixed yet.
The Centre has no authority to fix these rates. Whether the consumer will be able to select individual channels from the bouquet or must subscribe to the entire bouquet, and at what rate, is yet unclear. The monthly bill of the consumer is also bound to increase by a considerable amount, given the varied tastes of the family members. A family which wants to subscribe to three bouquets — Zee Turner, Star and Sony Discovery, will have to shell out at least Rs 140 (proposed rate) along with the FTA charge of Rs 72.
The multi-system operators, claimed the CEO of a city MSO, have been asking the broadcasters to decide which pay channels will turn FTA as well as what the pricing of the bouquets will be. The broadcasters are still in discussion.
The set-top boxes cost anything between Rs 3,000 to Rs 7,000. But consumers are in the dark as to where they can be procured from.
The Amendment Bill asks the consumers should procure it themselves. But not many of the 6.4 million households across four metros paying an average of Rs 150 per month currently, will be able afford it. Another concern raised by a media watchdog is that on the eve of CAS introduction, a number of pay channels might turn free, rendering set-top boxes unnecessary.

Do we really need that smart new microwave?

20th April 2003, Times News Network

By Nilanjana Bhowmick,

Kolkata: Switch on the television and a beautiful woman assures you what a cakewalk it is to cook an entire banquet in a microwave oven; switch to some other channel, there are vacuum cleaners doing a magic clean all around the house; on another channel, magic formulae for being fairer than the fairest is being advertised. People from all age groups are targets of what can be called `useless consumerism’.

However, is the concept of `useless consumerism’ just an urban legend? Soumi Home Roy, from Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS), says the concept not only exists but nowadays the targets are even children. Especially advertisements for toothpaste and fast foods, which make a lot of misleading claims to entice the children, exploiting the fact that children have huge persuasive powers where the parents are concerned.

The top 10 list of must haves these days are appliances like microwave ovens, washing machines, toasters, blenders and grinders. Everyone will admit that we are living in a fast society, leading fast lives, and these amenities make like easier. However, do they really? Can a microwave really cook our daily desi food? Has the blender totally sent into oblivion the traditional sil nora? Or are these just status symbols?

Archita Patra, a housewife in her mid-twenties, says she cannot imagine life without her microwave or her blender or her washing machine. She says she cooks in her microwave every day. However, she admits, “I only cook the rice. But the microwave comes in handy for heating food.”

Debjani Singh, a working woman in her thirties, has a demanding job. She brought the same microwave in the hope that it will make cooking easier and quicker. However, now she only uses it for occasional dishes but mostly for heating food. As she points out, “People who are really into cooking can actually cook a lot of delicacies in the microwave. I do not have the time to experiment with new dishes and figure out the various complications. But I must admit it is a very handy appliance for heating purposes or making quick snacks.”

Both Archita and Debjani are the proud owners of the combi microwave oven that costs around Rs. 25000 and instead of taking care of all your culinary needs, as the ads promise, it is mainly used for heating up food.

In such a scenario, ads obviously play a huge part in influencing the customer’s preferences. Anurag Hira, executive creative director of Bates India, says he wouldn’t actually call it duping the customers. “Ads just tell the customers about the limitless possibilities that they can explore. Ultimately it is up to them to make use of all that the product offers,” he says.

Hira also points out that products like fairness creams, hair related products, along with microwaves and some other modern appliances, can indeed be termed as promoting useless consumerism.

However, the root of the problem might not always be mere vanity. Lack of awareness also makes consumers an easy prey to useless consumerism. As Archita says, “I probably could have done with a conventional microwave oven paying much less. But when we went to buy it, we did not have proper guidance and we brought what we had seen on TV and what the salesman in the showroom touted as being the best.”

Zambia needs strong trade policies- COMESA

17th April 2003, Zambia Daily Mail

By NKWETO MFULA

The common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) says Zambia needs to strengthen her trade policy platform in the grouping for it to attract major Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).

COMESA regional Investment Agency Unit official, Watipaso Mkandawire, said in Lusaka yesterday at the national consultation on FDI policy and practice in Zambia organised by Consumer Unity and Trust Society, Africa Resource Centre (CUTS-ARC).

Mr Mkandawire observed that the country needed an export lead policy to strengthen trade process and institutions that support commerce in the nation.

“In promoting trade policy Zambia should look at strengthening its platform for the regional market,” he said.

He cited Swarp Spinning Mills of Ndola as one of computers that was forced to export due to the small market of yarn in the country.

He pointed out that Zambia was still a high recipient of FDI in the region despite the decline of foreign investment for the past years.

And speaking at the same function, CUTS-ARC research associate, Eric Kalimukwa said government does not have a clearly defined investment policy.

He said the sad development makes it impossible to see economic objectives of what qualities as an investment policy.

He said what seems to exit as a policy was a set up of fiscal measure for new FDI investment.

He said an investment policy would have a clear focus on technology development and transfer of human resources training and job-creation.

“Politicians often make statements on the need for foreign investors to improve job creation, but nothing has been done to show how this can be achieved,” he said.

But Zambia Investment Centre projects manager Richard Chavula said

Government had enacted a law and established department and statutory bodies of sector regulators all aimed at improving the FDI regime in Zambia.

He said the setting up of government agencies was meant to enhance the investment climate and make it more conducive and responsive to the attraction of FDI as well as to ensure that the national social, economic and political interest were safeguarded.

Unclear laws affecting foreign investments;

17th April 2003, Times of Zambia

THE Zambia Investment Centre (ZIC) says there is need to harmonise operations of conflicting investment regulations to enhance the inflow of foreign direct investment (FDI).

ZIC project development manager Richard Chavula said in Lusaka yesterday that there were conflicting areas in pieces of legislation under which various regulatory sectors in Zambia operated and these were impacting negatively on the FDI regime.

Speaking at the Consumer Unit Trust Society (CUTS) workshop on ‘foreign direct investment policy and practices in Zambia’ at Taj Pamodzi Hotel, Mr Chavula said the conflicting area presented themselves as negative factors that adversely affected FDI.

He said because of these factors, investment implementation was rendered burden some and the country as a whole became less attractive to FDI.

A part from conflicting pieces of legislation, other negative factors to FDI include duration of processing permits and lack of appreciation of each other’s pieces of legislation by all sector regulators.

Mr Chavula said sector regulators could work together to improve the FDI regime by putting in place measures that would identify conflicting of the Acts under which they operated.

The sector regulators could then harmonise, streamline and synchronise all aspects of investment procedural requirements.

And CUTS associate researcher Eric Kalimukwa said Zambian investment process was uncoordinated.

Mr Kalimukwa said the country did not have a clearly defined investment policy and what existed as a policy was just a set of fiscal measures for new investors.

He said the Zambian investment policy was inadequate and required transformation as in its current state, it was not clear as to whether the policy was sufficient enough to attract FDI.

Mr Kalimukwa observed that it had been difficult to discern what levels of FDI had come to Zambia especially that information obtained from the ZIC showed more of investment pledges and commitments.

But Mr Chavula said there was room for improvement as evidenced from the various statutory bodies of sector regulators set up by Government and enacting of laws all aimed at improving the FDI regime in Zambia.

“The setting up of these institutions is meant to enhance the investment climate and make it more conductive and responsive to the attraction of FDI as well as ensuring that national social, economic and political interests are safeguarded,” Mr Chavula said.

The workshop was called to brainstorm on sharing insights on how best to contribute to the debate on FDI and improve the overall development in Zambia.

Size of markets vital in attracting foreign investment

14th April 2003, Times of Zambia

The size of local markets is on of the most important ingredients for a country to interact foreign direct investment (FDI).

This is according to a 1984-2003 publication of foreign direct investment in developing countries produced by the CUTS Centre for International Trade, Economic and Environment based in India.

When competing for FDI, policy markers have to be aware that various measures intended to include FDI were necessary, but far from sufficient to do the trick.

Reforms such as privatization tended to be more effective in stimulating FDI inflows, but need to be complemented by reform in other areas like competition policy, in order to ensure that FDI inflows were beneficial.

“Still other determinations of FDI, which were sufficient in the past, may prove to be less relevant in future. But the size of local markets appears to be the most important case in point.” the publication says.

The good news however is that FDI is anything but a zero-sum game in which one particular country could attract FDI only at the expense of another.

Additionally, FDI was likely to take place when new investment opportunities emerge in countries opening up FDI and all developing countries have a chance to become attractive to foreign investors.

Globalisation could be expected to include a shift from marker-seeking FDI to efficiency- seeking FDI while international competitiveness of local production by foreign investors, would then, turn out to be a decisive factor shaping the distribution of future FDI.

This involved major Challengers for policy makers in developing countries.

In general terms, the task is to create immobile domestic assets that provide a competitive edge and attract internationally mobile factors of production.

Attraction of FDIs also depends on conductive economic fundamentals as fiscal and financial incentives offered to foreign investors may do more harm then good, especially if these incentives discriminate against small investors and local firms.


Media has failed to highlight rural problems

14th April Hindustan Times

MARKET ECONOMY, consumerism and declining sensitivity has resulted in the failure of media to highlight the problems of rural areas.

These views were expressed by Information and Public Relations director Amar Singh Rathore on Sunday.

Rathore was speaking at a seminar on 'Role of Media in Rural Development' organised by the Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) on the occasion of 21st year of publication the organisation's publication Gram Gadar.

Speaking on the occasion, Rathore said the history of media is as old as the establishment therefore the role of media in progress cannot be overlooked. Only the newspapers can spread information about the rural areas and can create an understanding about the rural progress, he said. He however, added that the media had not able to do much as they are not free to give impartial news.


Thumbs down for cable service

PTI[ FRIDAY, APRIL 11]

KOLKATA: Cable TV consumers throughout the country are highly dissatisfied with the services, according to survey conducted by the Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS).

The survey, conducted recently, found that 64 per cent of the respondents claimed an unreasonable increase in the service charges in the last one year and 54 per cent expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of services rendered by the cable operators.

The survey covered “a large number of consumers” from Kolkata, New Delhi, Jaipur, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai.

“The dissatisfaction was compounded by the fact that cable operators do not even issue money receipts against payment of rentals. Nearly 54 per cent respondents have complained against the lack of money receipt by virtue of which they cannot even approach consumer fora when seeking redressal of complaints,” a CUTS researcher, who prepared the report, said. Only 13 per cent consumers received a complaint docket number voluntarily.

However, of the 18 per cent respondents, who demanded such a docket, 54 per cent were furnished a docket number by the operator. “This only shows the callousness and indifference which prevails in the unregulated industry,” the researcher said.

The survey observed that though the passing of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Amendment Act, 2002 was a step in the right direction, much more needed to be done to ensure a healthy pro-consumer scenario in the cable TV market. “Nearly 70.3 per cent respondents are not familiar with the Act or its popular term such as set top boxes,” it said.

Everybody hates the cable guy

Hindustan Times
April 11, 2003

The OFT-REPEATED complaint by cable customers that they are being charged in an arbitrary manner by cable operators has now found an echo in a survey conducted in A-class cities across the country.

Conducted by the Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) with inputs from cable homes in cities, including Jaipur, Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata and Chennai, the survey revealed a great deal of resentment among cable consumers.

Sixty four per cent of the customers surveyed were of the opinion that there has been an unreasonable increase in service charges in the last one year. A majority of the consumers expressed their dissatisfaction over the quality of services being provided by the cable operators.

CUTS researcher Anjali Bansal said the dissatisfaction is compounded because of the cable operators not issuing receipts against payments. “Without a receipt, they cannot even approach consumer groups for seeking redressal for their grievance,” she said.

A large number of consumers are not aware of the government regulation providing for conditional access system(CAS) to the cable customers. Over 70 per cent of the cable users were unaware of the set-top boxes or CAS, the report said. The government had approved the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Amendment Act, 2002, that provides for CAS or a view-what-you-want –channel system.

The worst part was that 70 percent of the customers said they did not have an option to switch over to another service provider in case of errant cable connection from their present operator. “This is because cable operators form cartels and divide territories among themselves,” said Pradeep S. Mehta, CUTS Secretary General.

The sample survey was based on a respondent strength of 2,500 cable users from different A class cities. The responses were taken on a questionnaire prepared by CUTS.

Troubled by cable operators and the monopoly of the multi system operators in Jaipur, city lawyers took charge and formed a panel to provide complainants with legal help, if necessary. The latest findings suffice the panel’s formation.

COMESA competition policy to benefit region

Thursday, 10th April 03
Zambia Daily Mail

By NKWETO MFULA

THE Consumer Unity and Trust Society-Africa Research Centre (CUTS-ARC) says the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) competition policy will be beneficial to consumers in the regional grouping.

CUTS-ARC co-ordinator, Sajeev Nair, said in an interview in Lusaka yesterday that once the policy was implemented, organisations and the business sectors would conform to the region's competition regulations.

"So there is need for COMESA council of ministers to ratify the regional policy," he said

Mr. Nair said CUTS-ARC welcomed COMESA's initiative to consult consumer bodies in Zambia in the formulation of regional competition policy.

COMESA has called for a meeting end of this month of which about 30 stakeholders would attend the gathering to be held in Lusaka.

Mr. Nair said his organisation recently completed a study on enforcing competition policy in seven countries including Zambia.

The study underlines the importance of the regional framework for the protection of consumers in the region.

Meanwhile, CUTS-ARC would be holding a national consultation on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policy and practice in Zambia.

Mr Nair said the national reference grouping was part of a two-year research and advocacy project titled ' Investment for Development' being carried out by his organisation.

He said CUTS-ARC aimed at developing an advocacy platform at national and regional level through disseminating the research inputs on the consultations for the benefit of the stakeholders.

Strong Competition Law May Help Attain 6% Growth

Our Economy Bureau
The Financial Express
April 8, 2003

New Delhi, April 7:The Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS), a leading non-government organisation working on trade and economic issues in the country as well as abroad has stated that an effective competition law will make it possible to attain the projected 5-6 per cent annual growth in gross domestic product.

“We have a new and modern competition law. But to get good results we need adequate resources and good professionals to implement the law,” said the organisation secretary-general Pradeep S Mehta here on Monday.

According to a release issued by CUTS, studies have shown that competition law enables the growth process by conserving scarce resources and raising the efficiency in the economy.

A study carried out for the Australian economy in 2000 had estimated that the benefits to be expected from a package of competition promoting deregulatory reforms to incur an annual gain in real GDP of about 5.5 per cent or worth $23 billion.

“The study had showed that consumers gained by almost $9 billion and there was increase in real wages, employment and government revenue,” according to Anjali Bansal, programme officer of CUTS.

In terms of expenditure on the competition regime, the approach has been to provide it with peanuts, the organisation has said in its release. A soon to be published study in Korea establishes that as against the cost of implementing the competition law of $18.4 million in 2001, consumer welfare increased by $527 million through price reduction and increased availability of goods from a monopolistic market structure. The study had also showed that the income transfer effect was about $536 million due to good enforcement of the competition law, said the organisation.

India, EU Renegotiate Lower FarmTariff

Brussels, March 16: Relations between India and the 15-nation European Union (EU) are marked by either great expectations or something close to despair. Last fortnight was no exception.

There has been the high-profile visit to New Delhi by EU chief trade negotiator Pascal Lamy. But even while he was preparing for his visit, Mr Lamy’s officials were meeting their counterparts from India from the working group on agriculture and marine products, one of the numerous bodies set up under the 1994 EU-India cooperation agreement on partnership and development.

Trade commissioner Lamy’s visit to New Delhi and the meeting of the members of the working group can be seen as two sides of the same coin: intimately related yet conveying different messages. Speaking at the celebrations to mark the 20th anniversary of the Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) Mr Lamy maintained that the name given to the current round of trade negotiations, the Doha Development Agenda, “is not just a pretty, politically correct name...but it also demands results, not just retoric”.

Mr Lamy agreed that “market access is the number one priority for the Doha development round for most developing countries with competitive export sectors, such as India”. He went on to defend the EU against the charge that it remains highly protectionist, especially when it comes to agriculture. Mr Lamy pointed out that the EU has put forward a proposal to slash its import tariffs on agricultural products by more than one third, and has listed specific actions aimed at giving developing countries a better deal through the Doha development round of trade negotiations in Geneva.

But Mr Lamy’s bold pronouncements seemed to have little or no bearing on the position taken by his officials at the meeting of the working group on agriculture and marine products. India is determined to increase its exports of these products to the EU, which at present account for 11 per cent of its total exports (of some $13 billion in 2001 and $10 billion during the first nine months of last year). Hence, the importance of the meeting of the working group, which dealt with the key issue of market access for a wide range of products of export interest to India, including sugar, basmati rice, flowers, gherkins, mushrooms and eggs and egg products. Mr Lamy’s officials raised a number of market access issues from their side, such as India’s shelf life requirements and its high level of protection in the case of cheese.

Mr Lamy’s officials listened attentively to their Indian counterparts, undertook to look into their demands for improved market access but made it clear that action on the part of the EU was unlikely - because of the Doha Development Agenda. Take the Indian request for a reduction in the import duty on cut flowers. The EU could not commit itself at this stage, given that it wants the matter taken up in the wider framework of the WTO negotiations, where a reduction in the import duty on floricultural products can be used as a bargaining counter.

An Indian request regarding basmati rice received a somewhat similar response, but this time because of changes to the EU’s own import regulations on rice, currently under discussion among the EU member governments. At present both India and Pakistan enjoy a duty derogation of 250 euros per tonne on their exports of basmati rice. This amounts, in practice, to virtually duty free entry. However, given the conflict of interests within the EU itself as regards rice production and trade, the negotiations among the 15 member states are making slow progress.

In the present confused situation, India has asked the EU to continue with the present duty derogation system, pending the outcome of their internal negotiations. EU officials meanwhile are considering alternatives to this system, including tariff rate quotas. Should the new import regulations for basmati rice be less favourable to India and Pakistan, both countries would be entitled to compensation under Article 28 of the GATT. Under these circumstances, Mr Lamy’s officials on the working group could only offer to take note of Indian concerns at this stage. The unfavourable impact of the EU’s sanitary and phytosanitary measures on India’s exports of marine products, particularly shrimps, was also discussed in the working group. The EU currently has a policy of zero tolerance as regards the presence of certain chemicals, such as chlorophenicol, in shrimps. The regulation is very strictly enforced by EU customs authorities, to the point where shipments which are rejected are destroyed, thus making it impossible for Indian exporters to re-export to destinations where the sanitary and phytosanitary measures are less draconian. Since scientific evidence as to the safety or otherwise of processed foodstuffs is not always conclusive, the EU has preferred the “better safe than sorry” approach to food safety.

Given this situation, India has asked the EU to approve its milk and egg production units, as it wants to export these products, as well as poultry meat, to Europe. The EU will be sending a veterinary mission to look at those production facilities that want to be approved for export purposes. Indian officials taking part in the working group asked their EU counterparts for concessions on exports of gherkins and mushrooms.

The short answer in the case of gherkins was a polite “no”, on the grounds that India already accounts for 75 per cent of the EU’s imports of provisionally processed gherkins. The situation was more complex as regards provisionally preserved mushrooms.

Mr Lamy’s officials had a number of requests of their own to put to their Indian counterparts. Under Indian regulations, 60 per cent of the shelf life of a product should be in India. EU exporters want this requirement scrapped; they maintain that Indian customs procedures for processed foodstuffs are far too time-consuming. EU officials also asked that the Indian regulation requiring the maximum retail price to be shown on the package be waived in the case of European exports to India. But such a move would discriminate against Indian producers, disadvantage Indian consumers and prevent under or over invoicing.

Given the meagre results of the latest meeting of the working group on agricultural and marine products, it could be argued that Mr Lamy’s speech to CUTS last week should be required reading for his officials. The fact is that while the Trade Commissioner was looking at the broader picture, his officials were busy at individual bushes and trees. The task facing Mr Lamy is how to reconcile the EU’s global interests in world trade with the interests of its own mushroom growers, for example. But this is a task facing Mr Lamy’s counterparts in India and the United States also.

Gramphone bridges digital divide

Times News Network
15th March 03

NEW DELHI: In a remote village in Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh, life hasn't been the same ever since the "gram-phone" made an appearance in many households nine months ago.

The world is within talking distance for nearly 200 households of Kalleda village - they now have access to a telephone in their own homes.

This isn't all. Connectivity has come at a low cost for the rural poor, with each household having to shell out just Rs 12.50 a month for a "gram-phone" in their house. They can make 30 outgoing calls and receive an unlimited number of incoming calls each month.

This endeavour to bridge the digital divide between urban and rural areas has come about thanks to a pilot project launched in this village by an NGO, the Rural Telecom Foundation.

The details of this project were shared by Madan Mohan Rao of the Foundation during the on-going partnership conclave on "Governance and its relationship with poverty reduction" here.

The Foundation says in rural areas, there is only one phone per 100 people. It also says that there are nearly 25,000 Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) rural exchange centres in the country which are under-utilised.
Also, people living in rural areas find even the subsidised telephone rentals and tariff structures beyond their reach.

BSNL helped execute this project for which the Foundation gave each household an initial subsidy of Rs 900 for the telephone's registration and installation.

The Madhya Pradesh government has approached the Foundation to replicate the Kalleda experiment in some rural areas of the state.

Rao said the aim of the pilot project was to provide affordable telephony solutions using "party lines". A "party line", as described in the Indian Telegraph Act, basically means "a telephone connection where two or more parties share a common line to a departmental exchange".

India softens stand on WTO issues

Business Standard
March 14, 2003

India today softened its stance on the four contentious Singapore issues of investment, trade facilitation, government procurement and competition policy and said it was willing to engage in talks if the developed countries offered market access to Indian exports, addressed the implementation issues and operationalised the special and differential provisions under WTO.

At the same time, India expressed concern that there had not been much progress on agriculture negotiations without which Cancun could be a failure.

“We need to see progress in substance,” said SN Menon, additional secretary in the commerce ministry, at the partnership conclave organised by Consumer Unity & Trust Society.

Menon also cautioned that unless the special and differential provisions were operationalised, the benefits of TRIPS and public health were made available to developing and under-developed countries and the pending implementation issues of the Uruguay Round sorted out, “it would be very difficult to have a package that is win-win” for the developed and developing countries.

“India is still not fully convinced that the issues should be part of the multilateral trade framework under WTO but negotiations are a dynamic process. If we get market access we may have a look at it.

We will wait and see how the overall negotiations progress,” Menon said.

Officials said EU wanted India's support on commencement of negotiations on the four issues and in return was willing to support India’s stand on agriculture.

They, however, said that India had not changed track and was sticking to the stand taken at the Doha meeting of trade ministers from WTO member countries.

While EU had been pushing for the inclusion of the issues, India was continuously opposing it with support from the United States.

India had maintained that the issue should be studied in detail by the working groups before taking a decision on bringing them under the multilateral trade framework.

The Doha declaration had said that at the next ministerial (at Cancun), the ministers would decide whether it was time for commencing negotiations.

Menon said that trade facilitation was an important aspect and India was moving towards reduction in transaction costs. India was simplifying the rules for government procurement, he said.

In case of investment, the rules had been liberalised unilaterally to attract foreign investment, he said, adding that the Competition Bill had been cleared by Parliament.

Earlier in the day, European Union trade commissioner Pascal Lamy after a meeting with commerce and industry minister Arun Jaitley said that EU and India had come closer on the Singapore issues.


Promises To Take Up Movement Of Natural Persons Issue At EU

The Financial Express
March 14, 2003

New Delhi, March 13:European Union trade commissioner Pascal Lamy has said that he would take up the issue of liberalisation of movement of natural persons with all EU members in Geneva next week and persuade them to get over their reluctance to facilitate movement of work force.

Addressing a gathering of industrialists and government officials at a meeting organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (Ficci) here on Thursday, Mr Lamy said that he was aware that Mode IV of the services negotiation, which dealt with movement of natural persons, was of key interest to India. “I have assured the commerce ministry in my discussion with them this morning that I would try my best to convince EU members that their attitude of reluctance should change.”

Mr Lamy said the EU and India had converging interests at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the two sides were working hard to come closer. He further said that he had a very important meeting with commerce minister Arun Jaitley and his team. “The key to success in Doha would be for the two regions to build a partnership based on shared interests of business communities and the society at large,” he added

Later, at a panel discussion organised by the Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS), Mr Lamy said that the development aspect of the Doha mandate could be addressed by interlinking three main areas of market access, rules and technical assistance to developing and poor countries.

The trade commissioner said that in market access, the ambience was improving and the EU was willing to fulfil its share of commitments. In agriculture, the EU was in favour of giving flexibilities to developing countries including India to protect their interests like food security, he added.

When questioned about his views on the growing regional trade arrangements by Martin Wolf from Financial Times, Mr Lamy replied that there was no evidence that major trading blocks including the EU or the North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA) resulted in diversion of trade.

He was, however, countered by TN Srinivasan from Yale University, who pointed out that figures showed that India’s exports to the North American region was adversely affected after NAFTA was formulated.

On technical assistance, Mr Lamy said that there was no doubt that both developed and developing could do better on the front. “The resources are sufficient, but they need to be redirected and better used. The absorption capacity of recipients also needs to be improved,” he said.

Identify Key Areas For Poverty Eradication

13th March 03
The Financial Express

New Delhi, March 12:The possible areas of intervention for the betterment of tea estate workers include effective land and natural resource management, housing, skill development, micro-financing, social mobilisation and networking with mainstream organisations, says a study conducted in Sri Lanka.

Anura Herath of the economics research unit in Sri Lanka’s department of export agriculture presented the study at the session, “Livelihood Security: What Are the Issues,” of the CUTS Partnership Conclave, “Governance and Its Relationship with Poverty Reduction.” Wage labour fluctuated because of fluctuation in tea yields, and prices and real wages were anti-poor, he said, adding that housing policy was inappropriate and resource ownership was insecure.

Progress has also been low in direction of giving workers ownership of shares. In any case, profits are uncertain, one reason for which is that government holds golden shares in tea estates, which results into unnecessary official intervention in commercial activities, Dr Herath said. Tea is an important sector of the Sri Lankan economy. The sector employs more than one-tenth of labour force. The study was intended to provide in-depth understanding of poverty in tea estates and suggest directions of intervention.

David Kuria of Intermediate Technology Development Group, Kenya, pointed out in his paper that policy framework was essential for housing of the poor. The housing policy should enable the use of inexpensive materials and appropriate technologies.

Experts Call For Steps To Ensure Cheaper Drugs For Poor Nations

13th March 03
The Financial Express

New Delhi, March 12: With affordable health care continuing to elude a large section of population in poor countries, experts believe that steps need to be taken both domestically and at the multilateral level to improve access to cheap medicines.

To ensure that countries with low manufacturing capacities don’t lose their right to buy low-cost generic medicines from non-patent holding manufacturers, the US should not be allowed to restrict the scope of the pending agreement on TRIPS & Public Health, experts add.

Speaking at a workshop on promoting health for the poor under the aegis of Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) here on Wednesday, Zafrullah Chowdhury, Gonoshasthaya Kendra, Bangladesh, pointed out that although a commitment was made at the Doha ministerial meet to ensure access to cheap medicines for developing countries, the US had single-handedly blocked it.

Developing nations including India should not accept a diluted version of the TRIPS & Public Health Agreement, said James Love, director, Consumer Project on Technology, USA. “Getting a bad deal is worse than not getting a deal,” he said, adding that if the US didn’t relent, developing countries should look for alternative ways outside the Agreement.

Speaking on the occasion, Rama Baru from the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) emphasised the need for greater government focus on traditional medicines as these were not just a cheaper option but were increasingly being perceived as a system which went beyond the limits of allopathy.

Although, allopathy and the Indian System of Medicine (which includes Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha) could work very well together, Dr Baru said that allopathy practitioners were averse to such an idea. The allopathy stream resisted the thought of integrating with the traditional system. Dr Baru added that the Union Budget reflected the preference of policy makers for the allopathy system as the allocations made for it was several times higher than that made for the traditional system.

Community based health insurance could be one way of providing health care to the poor, said Akash Acharya from the Tribhuvandas Foundation.

EU must offer more on Services (Letters to the Editor)

10th March 03,
The Financial Times

Sir, In the current Doha round of global trade talks, the services sector has until now been less controversial than agriculture and trade-related intellectual property rights ("Restricted services", February 11). But the recent offers by the European Union on services liberalisation have changed that. The EU is willing to open markets further only in areas such as banking and telecommunications, and shies away from new commitments in public services such as health and education, as well as in audio-visual services.

Denying access to European markets in health and education clearly reflects double standards. This has jolted many developing countries that were hoping to gain access to the EU health and education sectors through mode 4 of service supply (movement of "natural persons"). The supply of services in banking and telecommunications takes place under mode 3 (investment), where developing countries are at a clear disadvantage.

Already, mode 4 commitments are limited in sectoral coverage. Sectors such as health, legal and accountancy services, where cross-border mobility is important, have not been scheduled by many countries.

Greater mobility of labour would not only benefit developing countries, but also provide substantial gains to many developed countries, which are short of manpower in the health and education sectors. A recent study carried out on behalf of the Home Office found that immigrants contributed about 10 per cent more to public finances than they took out. Further, the rising numbers of elderly people as a proportion of total population is increasing the burden on those of working age. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development estimates that by 2050 this trend could take 18 per cent off living standards in the EU, 23 per cent in Japan and 10 per cent in the US.

Under the rubric of movement of "natural persons", we would like to see more export of workers in other sectors such as construction, agriculture and service industries. Another OECD study has pointed out that there are more than 1,000 occupations in the west that need skilled manpower. To take just one, a British Housing Corporation report has identified a shortage of skilled bricklayers in UK, which has pushed up wage costs. In areas such as construction, public transport, hotels and retailing the case for lifting immigration controls is compelling.

According to research into the mobility of labour carried out for the EU-India Network on Trade and Development by the Consumer Unity and Trust Society in partnership with the University of Sussex, UK, movement of health workers from India and the Philippines to Europe is taking place despite the lack of commitments under the General Agreement on Trade in Services. Commitments under Gats would benefit sending countries by providing a more transparent framework based on non-discrimination.

There is also a debate about whether rich countries' gain is necessarily developing countries' loss. Any "brain drain" is nullified by the money sent back home by such migrants, and by returnees bringing investment and technology. Globally, remittances are estimated at $60bn-$70bn a year, larger than development aid flows.

First Competition Report Launched

26th Feb- 04th March 03,
The Enquirer

The Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) has launched its first report on the competition regime in Zambia, which has coincided with the national reference group.

Officiating at the launch, deputy Commerce minister, Eugene Appel said enforcing competition laws in Zambia would require many palyers in order to focus on global trade.

Mr. Appel added that the removal of complicated vices in trade had brought more people in business. Mr. Appel also pointed out that there was need to harmonise trade.

"Though we cry for trade, we are not at the same level," Mr. Appel said.

In response, Professor Oliver Saasa, speaking on behalf of the Zambia Competition Commission (ZCC) remarked that the world was becoming a global village, which needed to be supported by domestic systems.

"This launch," Prof. Saasa siad, "will enable us to improve our performance."

Mrs. Helen Lungu Banda, a local consultant, observed that the performance of the ZCC had to improve to a position where it could effectively handle complex international mergers and takeovers.

Experts Warn Of Politics Clouding Cancun Chances

02 March. 2003
The Financial Express

New Delhi, March 2: With the two post-Doha mini-ministerials failing to make much progress on the agenda of negotiations charted at the fourth World Trade Organisation (WTO) ministerial meet in Doha, experts feel that the success of the fifth ministerial in Cancun in September depends on how successful members are in keeping politics away from economic issues.

In a seminar organised by the CUTS Centre for International Trade, Economics & Environment on Saturday, former WTO deputy director-general Anwarul Hoda said it is uncertain how things will turn out in Cancun as nobody knows what twist will be given by the United States and Britain to the negotiations because of political pressures. The three main issues to be discussed in WTO will be the market access in agriculture, trade & industrial tariff and services. Mr Hoda said it is difficult for an agreement on modalities for negotiations on agriculture and industrial tariff to be firmed up before Cancun as mandated by the Doha declaration. “There are divergent views among the member states and there are indications that an agreement on modalities would not be possible before Cancun,” he said.

According to trade expert from the Jawaharlal Nehru University Manoj Pant, it is time for the government to re-focus on the sector on which it should base its negotiating strategy and coalition partners.

Dr Pant said New Delhi does not have much to gain or lose from the agreement on agriculture as it is mainly a tussle between the EU, the US and the Cairns Group. Instead of basing our strategy on agriculture, New Delhi should focus on more relevant issues, he said.

Dr Pant also said the government should also chose its coalition partners carefully and come out of the false impression that it is representing the cause of the developing countries. If on certain issues like industrial tariffs we feel that our views match with the US, we should not hesitate to team up with them, he said.

CUTS secretary general Pradeep S Mehta said to ensure that it has capable negotiators at the WTO, New Delhi should not keep transferring its civil servants.

The Vitamin Mafia

Monday, 19th Feb. 03,
Businessworld

Leading manufacturers of the world- Roche, BASF and Aventis have been involved in fixing prices of bulk vitamins and their shares over a decade. The executives of these colluding companies acted as if they were working for one single corporation, ‘Vitamin Inc.’ The cartel controlled the production and sale of the most popular vitamins, including vitamin A, C and Betacarotene. So, every have had a glass of milk, eaten a bowl of cereal or popped a vitamin pill, you have probably been a consumer of products manufactured by Vitamin Inc.

When the U.S anti-trust department conducted investigation in to the cartel, French pharmaceuticals giant Rhone-Poulenc turned approver and helped them crack the evil combine. A $1.18- billion fine was imposed on the companies in 1999. Since then, Australia, Canada, Japan and European Union have levied heavy fines on the guilty firms. The conspiracy led to an artificial increase in prices of hundreds of foods and beverage makers, inflating the cost of, well, everything. This cartel is estimated to have overcharged consumers in developing nations by around $3 billion. But no competition authority from any developing country except Brazil, has investigated a handled this case.

Jaipur- based Consumer unity & Trust Society (CUTS) has taken the onus of finding out whether this cartel operated in India. It has compiled details of investigations in other countries and sought written undertaking from CEOs of the Indian subsidiaries of the MNCs that they did not engage in any such anti- competitive practice in India. Hoffman La Ronche and BASF India said that they had not, but no response came from Rhone- Poulenc, which had turned approver in US. CUTS then passed on information to the director general (investigation and registration), who, in turn, informed the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRTPC). The MRTPC held that no case had been made out and that was the end of the vitamin cartel investigations in India as we knew it.

But a judgement in an US appeals court last week could change all that. Food growers from Ukraine and South America had pressed anti- trust charges against these MNCs in the US. The court in a 2:1 decision, ruled that foreign customers have the right to press charges against these vitamins giants even if they bought their vitamins abroad. The court felt that shielding the cartel’s overseas profits could leave them with an incentive to collude, even if sued successfully in the US. CUTS is now talking to legal experts about litigation possibilities. Stay tuned.


CONTACT US

Consumer Unity & Trust Society
D–217, Bhaskar Marg, Bani Park,
Jaipur 302 016,India,
Ph: +91(0)141-228 2821
Fax: 91.141.2282485
Email: citee@cuts.org

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