'Allow Kamal Nath to negotiate at WTO'
Economic Times, July 29, 2008

North should not grudge large, emerging economies: Nath
Zee News, July 29, 2008

India is being marginalised at Geneva: CUTS
Economic Times, July 28, 2008

'Curb hoarding, black marketing to control inflation'
The Hindu/Outlook Money, July 28, 2008

Food for thought
The Financial Express, July 27, 2008

'Let's do trade, peace will follow', July 27, 2008

'India, Brazil unity crucial to success of WTO talks'
Economic Times, July 26, 2008

Lifting India's competitive spirit
Business Line, July 22, 2008

Employment scheme checking migration
The Hindu, July 20, 2008

Poor pay keeps private sector applicants away
Live Mint, July 18, 2008

WTO Deputy Director-General Valentine Rugwabiza's Speech
Geneva, July 16,2008

Democracy ensures rapid growth: Scholar
Hindustan Times, Jaipur July 13, 2008

CCI selection panel to meet later this month
Live Mint, July 08, 2008

Race for CCI top job hots up, Virmani among frontrunners
The Financial Express, July 04, 2008



Employment scheme checking migration

The Hindu, Jaipur, July 20, 2008

Also an increase in incomes of the local population in Sirohi district of Rajasthan

JAIPUR: An assessment of the impact of the much talked-about National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) in Sirohi district of Rajasthan has revealed a sharp decline in migration and a substantial increase in the incomes of the local population in the wake of introduction of the jobs scheme. The district, bordering Gujarat, is a tribal-dominated area where unemployment has been rampant and migration of labour a regular feature during the lean season.

A 2Qs (quality and quantity) assessment of NREGS in Sirohi, one of the first six districts brought under the scheme in Rajasthan, by the CUTS Centre for Consumer Action, Research and Training (CUTS CART) in partnership with the World Bank has revealed 97 per cent employment for the inhabitants in their own villages during the lean season. The scheme has helped bring down migration by 93 per cent and helped improve facilities in the villages by 94 per cent.

The findings were presented at a high-level meeting held here to share the key findings of the assessment. Even while there were many gaps detected in the scheme including those pertaining to lack of proper awareness among the people on their entitlements and no full utilisation of allocated funds, its positive impact showed monthly income of the local people going up by 87 per cent and the labourers’ bargaining power gaining new heights.

With 1.48 lakh households carrying job cards, Sirohi district had an allotment of Rs.7,570 lakh for the year 2007-08 while the spending remained at Rs.2,509 lakh. A total of 84,561 persons sought work under the scheme and almost all — 84,537 of them — were provided the same.

CUTS director George Cheriyan, who presented an overview of the project, said lack of awareness (63 per cent) was found to be a major reason for lower participation of labourers in the scheme. “There seems to be an information gap. We found only 4,840 persons who made use of the scheme completing 100 days of work. That is a mere 5 per cent,” he noted. The lack of awareness about entitlements was as high as 63 per cent.

Om Prakash Arya, who presented the key findings, said the study also revealed an absence of local participation in decision-making and low satisfaction levels (50 per cent) on the process of measurement of work. There was no effective grievance redress mechanism in place, he said. 48 per cent of the workers were found unhappy about the transparency and accountability. There was also a shortage of implementation staff, he pointed out.

State Additional Chief Secretary A.K. Pande, who attended the meeting, said: “We accept the findings and the recommendations as there is no point to differ.”

World Bank representative Benjamin Powis, too, felt that further institutionalisation of the scheme would add to its effectiveness.


Poor pay keeps private sector applicants away

Live Mint, New Delhi, July 18, 2008

With requirements that seem skewed in favour of bureaucrats, most of the 200 applicants are government officials

Poor salaries and requirements that seem tailored for bureaucrats have ensured that India hasn’t met with much success in its attempt to attract professionals from the private sector to fill key positions in the Competition Commission of India (CCI), the country’s apex body that will rule on issues related to monopolies, competition, even mergers and acquisitions.

Who’s next? Vinod Dhall, the acting chairman at CCI, resigned in June. (Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint)

The ministry of corporate affairs (MCA) has received at least 200 applications for the six posts it wants to fill—a chairman of CCI and five members—and a senior official at MCA, who does not want to be identified, said most are from government officials. “Over a dozen officials, who are serving secretaries from different Union ministries, besides senior officials from within the ministry have also applied,” this official added. The last date for filing applications was 16 June.

With Parliament passing the Competition Bill last year, CCI needs to fill its top six positions immediately. After these people are hired, it will look to hire at least 240 more professionals in economics, finance and law in the first year.

“Some lawyers and economists have applied, but nobody significant—that’s a bit disappointing. In fact, a lot of jokers have applied, including some from the social sector,” said the MCA official.

Lawyers are unlikely to apply as CCI will likely be the domain of bureaucrats, said an eminent New Delhi-based lawyer, who did not want to be identified. “Officials from the Indian Administrative Services (IAS) think they are the custodian of all wisdom. Besides, the selection committee, which will interview candidates, itself has three senior bureaucrats. On the top of all this is poor salary, so it’s neither prestige nor money,” this lawyer added. Of the 39 regulators in india, more than 95% are IAS officers, he said.

The CCI chairman will earn Rs26,000 plus allowance per month. The members will also get the same remuneration. The salaries offered are contrary to suggestions made by the Sixth Pay Commission, which recently submitted its report to the government. The commission recommended hiring private sector employees in the upper tier of government, especially those who serve as regulators overseeing economic and pricing functions, including the chairman and members of CCI.

The pay commission recommended that while members of such agencies be paid a consolidated salary of Rs1.5 lakh a month, the chairperson be paid Rs2 lakh a month in case the job comes with a car and house. If no such frills are offered, the chairperson should be paid a consolidated salary of Rs3 lakh and members Rs2.5 lakh a month.

The advertisement also listed requirements that seemed to be skewed in favour of bureaucrats. For instance, it asked for 15 years of experience in fields such as international trade and economics to business and commerce, law and finance, accountancy and management, industry and public affairs, and competition matters—tailor-made for civil servants, who typically serve across ministries.

Supreme Court judge Altamas Kabir, who heads the selection committee and is a nominee of the Chief Justice of India, and a panel of experts will decide on the members and the chairperson by August.

Vinod Dhall, who had been heading CCI as sole member and acting chairman, resigned in June and his term ends on Friday. Amitabh Kumar, director general at CCI, and S.L. Bunker, secretary at CCI, will jointly look after the affairs of the commission till the new officials are appointed.

According to the MCA official, senior government officials, who have applied for either the post of chairman or that of a member include K.L. Dhingra, chairman and managing director of the Housing and Urban Development Corp. Ltd, Dhanendra Kumar, executive director of World Bank, Anita Das, secretary at the department of Ayush (Ayurveda, yoga and naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and homoeopathy), and K.P. Kala, former member at the Central Bureau of Excise and Customs. “Two regional directors from the ministry and a couple of income-tax commissioners have also applied, besides CCI director general Amitabh Kumar and Gajendra Haldea, adviser (infrastructure), Planning Commission,” said the MCA official.

The only name the official mentioned from the private sector was that of Pradeep S. Mehta, director general at CUTS Institute for Regulation and Competition, an independent agency that operates in the area of consumer protection. Mehta was not available for comment. However, his office confirmed that he has applied for a post at CCI.

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Democracy ensures rapid growth: Scholar

Hindustan Times, Jaipur, July 13, 2008

IT IS the democratic system of governance that has ensured high rate of economic growth of this country, said Prof Arvind Panagariya of the Columbia University. Delivering a special lecture at the University of Rajasthan on Saturday, he argued for continuance of economic reforms and stated that these would succeed in the long run.

Expert on the Indian economy and the Jagdish Bhagwati Chair in the US varsity Prof Pangariya spoke on “Indian Growth Miracle: What are the Lessons?” He argued in favour of the open market and free trade, but warned the Indian policy makers about being guided by agencies like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

“Democracy is in no way a hurdle in economic progress. The miracle of the double digit growth rate can happen only under a democratic setup,” he stated. Ongoing process of economic reforms adopted by India was securing gradual gains and it would succeed in long run, the expert suggested.

Prof Panagariya argued for more freedom to the entrepreneurs. In his remarks as the Chair of the session Pradeep S Mehta, the secretary general of CUTS International, also spoke in favour of privatisation of services. He blamed Indian society for adopting corruption as a culture and termed it as a barrier in the path of progress.

“Unless the society self-regulates itself, the government cannot do much in controlling corruption,” Mehta said. He praised Right to Information as a successful instrument to curb corruption.

Both the speakers are alumna of the host university. Prof Panagariya had also served as a teacher in the Department of Economics of the varsity, which organized this special lecture. Vice Chancellor Dr NK Jain too was present on this occasion as the chief guest . Several students, researchers and teachers from different departments of the varsity attended the lecture.

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