CUTS IN Media

 
Home
About CUTS
CITEE
CART
CHD
C-SPAC
CUTS-ARC
Contact CUTS
 


Experts urge developing states to promote local firms

19 August 04, The News International

Regional ties must to counter developed countries hegemony
19 August 04, Business Recorder
S. Asian needs to open services sector for investment
19 August 04, DAWN
Regional cooperation a must in South Asia
19 August 04, Frontier Post

Call to enhance regional ties to benefit from WTO

18 August 04, DAWN
Developing states asked to have their own agenda for WTO talks
18 August 04, The News International
Dog`s breakfast or trade policy?
06 August 04, Business Standard
Call for strict enforcement of National Building Code on schools
05 August 04, Udayavani (Karnataka's Daily)
Book Review: "Is It Really Safe?"-Cutting a swathe
05 August 04, The Hindu
Fire safety not high on buildings' priority list
03 August 04, The Hindu
Holistic fire safety call for state school buildings
02 August 04, Asian Age
Book Review: "Is It Really Safe?"
CUTS Safety
02 August 04,  Business Standard
CUTS wants changes in power bill
23 July 04, Hindustan Times
UNCTAD calls for South-South cooperation
Green Times No.19 (Lusaka), July 2004
Book Review: "Is It Really Safe?"-Creating Safety Awareness
18 July 04, Financial Express
What lies beneath
15 July 04, The Telegraph
COMESA Drafts Precursor Rules
13 July 04, The Post (Lusaka)
(In Hindi)  Education Cess Welcomed
08 July 04, Dainik Bhaskar
Railway safety commission report blames train accidents on human failure
05 July 04, Newindpress
Report blames human errors for train mishaps
05 July 04, NDTV
80% train accidents due to 'human failure': WPS
05 July 04, The Pioneer
Human errors blamed for train mishaps
05 July 04, Central Chronicle
Train accidents due to human failure: report
05 July 04, The Economic Times
Railway reports blame train accidents on ‘human failure’
05 July 04, India Express
Railway report blames train accidents on 'human failure'
05 July 04, Daily Excelsior
Railway report blames train accidents on 'human failure'
05 July 04, Hindustan Times
Power-Divide Draws Flak
03 July 04, Hindustan Times
Use mosquito repellants with caution: experts
28 June 04, Deccan Herald
IS IT REALLY SAFE?

28 June 04, Outlook
Book Review: "Is It Really Safe?" Consuming Trends
15 June 04, Down to Earth
Forget small savings: Economists

06 June 04, The Economic Times
Pundits Ask PC To Push Public Investment
06 June 04, The Financial Express
Government Security and Trading Systems - From Cancun to Sao Paulo

26 May 04, The Hindu Business Line
SA, India and Brazil Form Third Trade Axis
07 May 04, Business Report

Archives

Experts urge developing states to promote local firms

19 August 04, The News International
Rasheed Khalid, ISLAMABAD

ISLAMABAD: Participants of a conference on WTO issues on the second day were of the opinion that negotiating agreements might reduce ability of the developing countries to regulate and formulate investment policies and local firms may lose protection and assistance provided by the state.

The three-day conference as organized by Sustainable Development Policy Institute in collaboration with Oxfam, CUTS and SAWTEE. The participants observed that a prohibition on governments to regulate the flow of funds could lead to financial instability, balance of payments problems and increased external debt.

According to them, the governments should assist and promote local firms so that they may be viable and develop despite their present relative weakness, enabling them to successfully compete with foreign firms and their products. They feared that the developed countries’ market access approach might eventually win out due to their higher negotiating capacity and influence.

On trade facilitation, the participants expressed serious concerns that it might lead to imposition of now obligations on developing countries that would be costly and difficult to implement. On market access for non-agricultural products, the participants were against the formula approaches suggested by the developed countries. Since developing countries have much higher tariffs than the rich countries, these formulae and proposals are couched in terms of percentage points, even if the proposals are couched in terms of less percentage reductions for developing countries.

Pradeep Mehta from CUTS International said that developing countries balked at incorporating issues of foreign investors, standards for anti-monopoly and cartel laws and greater transparency in government purchasing in the trade talks, specifically the investment rules, because many wanted to retain control over their own key industrial sectors. Manoj Kumar from Jawaharlal Nehru University said that harmonization of competition laws across the board may not be in the interest of trade as each country’s policy was determined by its domestic needs and culture. As a result, the one-size-fits-all approach would not work.

Former WTO-ambassador Narayanan while sharing his experiences at the DOHA Summit Said that India had all along questioned the legitimacy of inclusion of the Singapore issues in the WTO programme, and had maintained that the issues did not belong to the multilateral body since they impinge upon the sovereignty of individual governments.

Dr. Saman Kelegama of Institute of Policy Studies, Sri Lanka, said that two stages of the Multi-Fibre Arrangement (MFA) passed but little meaningful integration took place. He said that exports would improve with relocation of industry from the developed to developing countries but the maximum relocation would be in South Asia.

Dr. Aradhana Agarwal of Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations said that even if phase-out of the MFA takes place, the question of which country would gain out of it mainly depend on the competitiveness of the country. Investment in technology and machinery is very low. He said that apart from this, transaction costing the sector is very high. Over time, India is already loosing out to China and although it is predicted that India would gain by the phase out of MFA, possibly this might not actually happen, Dr. Agarwal said.

Dr. Atiur Rahman from Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies said that trade and commerce sector is extremely important for his country, as its fall would lead to collapse of economy in Bangladesh. Samar Verma of Oxfam, India, said that elimination of quotas would certainly take place since there is a strong link between T&C and TRIPS agreement. 


Regional ties must to counter developed countries hegemony

19 August, 04, Business Recorder
Recorder Report, ISLAMABAD

ISLAMABAD (August 19 2004): Regional co-operation and consensus building on policies and participatory approach in South Asian countries are essential to ensure a uniform approach to counter the hegemony of the developed countries, in terms of designing and implementing WTO policies.

These were the general observations of the economic experts who spoke in the second round of a conference here on Wednesday.

The agenda of the second round was to discuss "Trade and service," "Textile and clothing," "Future of Singapore issues," and "Implementation issues and special differential treatments".

Speakers highlighted the deadlocks Centreed around the four Singapore issues, of foreign investors, standards for anti-monopoly and cartel laws, greater transparency in government purchasing - enabling foreign companies to win public sector business and trade facilitation, etc.

Pradeep Mehta, the keynote speaker from CUTS International, said that developing countries had balked for including these issues in the trade talks, specifically the investment rules, because several countries wanted to retain control over their own key industrial sectors.

The complexity of negotiating in completely new areas would have left them at a disadvantage as compared to the rich countries, he said.

The participants agreed that there was "no future of the Singapore issues". The experts demanded an accelerated pace of clarification for these issues, as enhanced awareness in the South, will help the regional governments in leading greater participation in terms of revising the WTO round called "July Package".

If such measures were not adopted the southern states may damage their present and future development chances. It was agreed that although there has been some technical assistance provided since Doha, it was mainly in the form of donor-driven workshops. It was felt that the capacity of southern countries to negotiate and implement new obligations on the Singapore issues had not increased considerably.

Manoj Kumar from Jawaharlal Nehru University said that developing countries were not in a position to undertake such obligations and harmonise the competition laws across-the-board. "Policy of every country was determined by its domestic needs and culture. As a result, the one-size-fits-all approach would not work," he argued.

Former WTO ambassador Narayanan, while sharing his experiences at Doha Summit said that India had questioned the legitimacy of inclusion of the Singapore issues in the WTO programme. He said India had maintained that the issues had no relevance to the multilateral body since they impinge on sovereignty of individual governments.

On the issue of investment, the participants said that negotiating agreements might erode governments' ability to regulate and formulate investment policies.

An investment framework advocated by the proponents would prevent or limit the host government's ability to regulate the entry and operations of foreign firms and funds and its ability to assist or give preference to local firms, they said.

Firms may lose protection and assistance provided by the state. The prohibition on government to regulate the flow of funds could lead to financial instability, balance of payments problems and increased external debt, they said.

On trade and competition, an extremely complex subject to different interpretations, there was a need for governments to assist and promote local firms to enable them to successfully compete with foreign firms and their products.

However, apprehensions were there that the developed countries' market access approach might eventually win out, due to their higher negotiating capacity and influence.

On trade facilitation, the participants expressed serious concerns that it may lead to imposition of new obligations on southern countries that would be costly and difficult to implement.

On the market access for non-agricultural products, the participants were against the formula approaches suggested by the developed countries.

"Since developing countries have much higher tariffs than the rich countries, these formulae and proposals would mean much larger tariff cuts by developing countries in terms of percentage points, even if the proposals are couched in terms of less percentage reductions for developing countries," they said.

During the session on textile and clothing issues, Dr Saman Kelegama from the Institute of Policy Studies, Sri Lanka said that two stages of the multi-fibre arrangement (MFA) have been passed, but little meaningful integration had taken place.

Exports will improve with the relocation of industry from developed to developing countries, but the maximum relocation will be in the South Asia.

South Asia will gain from MFA reform, with India and Pakistan benefiting from low wages and domestic textile industry.

China will dominate global T&C increasing its share to 50 percent after 2005. Sri Lanka, Thailand and the Philippines would, however, lose out due to dependence on imported fabrics and buyers.

Dr Aradhana Agarwal of Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations said that even if phase out of the MFA had taken place, the question of as which country would gain out of it mainly depends on the competitiveness of the country.

Investment in technology and machinery was very low. Apart from this, transaction cost in the sector was very high. Overtime India was already losing out to China and although it is predicted that India will gain by the phase out of MFA, but possibly this might not actually happen, Agarwal said.

Dr Atiur Rahman from Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, while presenting the facts, said that textile and clothing sector is extremely important for Bangladesh. If this sector collapses, Bangladesh economy will also collapse.

Samar Verma of Oxfam GB in India said that elimination of the quotas would certainly take place since there is a strong link between T&C and TRIPS agreement.


'S. Asia needs to open services sector for investment'

19 AUGUST,04, DAWN
By Our Reporter, ISLAMABAD

ISLAMABAD, Aug 18: The South Asian countries should open their services sectors for investment and seek unconditional market access for their services in developed countries.

This was the consensus of majority of speakers who delivered their presentations on trade in services at a seminar here on Wednesday. Economic Adviser to the Ministry of Commerce, India, Dr H.A.C. Prassad highlighted the agreement on trade in services. He said there was huge potential to get maximum benefits from services sectors.

He cited examples of America, Sweden and Japan which offered services for investment but attached with stagnant conditions which was not possible for developing countries to meet.

Mr Prassad said developed countries had also provided high subsidy in their services sector, which he said needed to be removed to provide a level-playing field for developing countries.

He also asked for early removal of non-tariff barriers in the services sector. He agreed that before opening of the services sector for investment, the consumers should be taken into confidence and their interest be well-guarded.

Others who spoke on the services sectors included joint director, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), Manab Majumdar and a researcher of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, Pakistan, Rehana Siddiqui and former member of the National Planning Commission of Nepal Minendra Rijal.

They all asked for opening of selective services sectors for investment and urged for movement of natural persons from developing to developed countries. They dispelled the impression that export of natural persons might result in brain drain in the exporting countries.

During the session on textile and clothing issues, a researcher of Institute of Policy Studies, Sri Lanka, Textiles and Clothing (T&C), Dr Saman Kelegama stated that two stages of Multi-Fibre Arrangement (MFA) had been passed, but little meaningful integration had taken place.

Exports will improve with relocation of industry from developed to developing countries, but the maximum relocation will be in South Asia.


Regional cooperation a must in South Asia

19 AUGUST,04 Frontier Post, ISLAMABAD

F.P. Report ISLAMABAD: Regional cooperation among Southern countries, specifically in the South Asia context, along with consensus building on policies and participatory approaches are essential to ensure a uniform approach to counter-balance the hegemony of the developed countries, in terms of designing and implementing WTO policies. These were the general observations voiced by the experts and participants during the second talks on WTO issues at a conference on Wednesday. During the plenary discussion on the future of Singapore Issues, the speakers highlighted the deadlocks Centreed around the four Singapore issues, of foreign investors, standards for anti-monopoly and cartel laws, greater transparency in government purchasing - enabling foreign companies to win public sector business and trade facilitation, by making things like customs procedures simpler. The keynote speaker, Pradeep Mehta, from CUTS International, stated that developing countries had balked at including these issues in the trade talks, specifically the investment rules, because many wanted to retain control over their own key industrial sectors. The complexity of negotiating in completely new areas would have left them at a disadvantage, compared to the rich countries. As a result, the panelist ironically agreed there was “no future of the Singapore Issues.” Representatives demanded an accelerated pace of clarification for these issues, as enhanced awareness in the South of these issues, may lead greater participation in terms of revising the July Package, even if it meant that dropping a few of the issues from the Package. If such measures were not adopted Southern states may damage their present and future development chances. It was agreed that although there has been some technical assistance provided since Doha, it was mainly in the form of donor-driven workshops. It was felt that the capacity of Southern countries to negotiate and implement new obligations on the Singapore Issues had not increased considerably. On the competition policy, Manoj Kumar, from Jawaharlal Nehru University, stated that developing countries were not in a position to undertake such obligations and a harmonization of competition laws across the board may not be in the interest of trade as each country’s policy was determined by its domestic needs and culture. As a result, the one-size-fits-all approach would not work. Former WTO-Ambassador Narayanan, while sharing his experiences at the DOHA Summit said that India had all along questioned the legitimacy of including the Singapore issues, in the WTO program, and had maintained that the issues did not belong in the multilateral body since they impinge on sovereignty of individual governments. On investment, the participants said that negotiating agreements might erode governments’ ability to regulate and formulate investment policies. An investment framework advocated by the proponents would prevent or limit the host government’s ability to regulate the entry and operations of foreign firms and funds, and its ability to assist or give preference to local firms. Local firms may lose protection and assistance provided by the state. The prohibition on government to regulate the flow of funds could lead to financial instability, balance of payments problems and increased external debt. On trade and competition, an extremely complex subject to different interpretations, there is a need for governments to assist and promote local firms so that they may be viable and develop despite their present relative weakness, to enable them to successfully compete with foreign firms and their products. However there were apprehensions that the developed countries’ market access approach may eventually win out, due to their higher negotiating capacity and influence. On trade facilitation, the participants expressed serious concerns that it may lead to imposition of new obligations on Southern countries that would be costly and difficult to implement. On market access for non-agricultural products, the participants were against the formula approaches suggested by the developed countries. “Since developing countries have much higher tariffs than the rich countries, these formulae and proposals would mean much larger tariff cuts by developing countries in terms of percentage points, even if the proposals are couched in terms of less percentage reductions for developing countries.” During the session on textile and clothing issues, Dr. Saman Kelegama, Institute of Policy Studies, Sri Lanka. Textiles & Clothing (T&C) stated that two stages of the Multi-fibre arrangement (MFA) have been passed, but little meaningful integration had taken place. Exports will improve with relocation of industry from developed to developing countries, but the maximum relocation will be in the South Asia. South Asia will gain from MFA reform, with India & Pakistan benefiting from low wages and domestic textile industry. China will dominate global T&C increasing its share to 50 percent after the year 2005. Sri Lanka, Thailand and the Philippines would, however, lose out due to dependence on imported fabrics and buyers. However, environmental, labour, health and other safety standards may be used to circumvent WTO provisions. The eminent scholar further pointed out that the important aspect in the context of garment exports is to link the whole garment exports with poverty alleviation. Dr. Aradhana Agarwal of Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations said that even if phase-out of the MFA takes place, the question of as which country would gain out of it mainly depends on the competitiveness of the country. Investment in technology and machinery is very low. Apart from this, transaction cost in the sector is very high. Overtime India is already loosing out to China and although it is predicted that India will gain by the phase-out of MFA but possibly this might not actually happen, said Dr. Aggarwal. Dr. Atiur Rahamn, Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, while presenting the facts, said that T&C sector is extremely important for the Bangladesh. If this sector collapses, Bangladesh economy will also collapse. Samar Verma of Oxfam GB in India said that elimination of the quotas would certainly take place since there is a strong link between T&C and TRIPS agreement.


'Call to enhance regional ties to benefit from WTO'

18 August 04, DAWN
By Our Reporter

ISLAMABAD, Aug 17: Speakers at a seminar here on Tuesday said WTO agreements needed to be negotiated in the interest of South Asian people and that developing countries should have their own agenda for the negotiations.

Speaking at the inaugural session, Minister for Privatization Dr Hafeez Shaikh said the people of South Asia needed to develop better linkages through more permanent set of relations to share better understanding to benefit from WTO and trade liberalization for the progress and prosperity of the region.

"No country has progressed without being part of global stream and globalization is unstoppable as the basic desire of people is to prosper through trade," he remarked.

South Asia has lost much time; therefore, "we need to do a lot of catching to match the level of economic development of other regions," he said. The South Asian Civil Society Network on International Trade Issues annual conference titled WTO Post-Cancun Developments: Options for South Asia, was organized jointly by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute, Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS), India, Oxfam GB Pakistan Programme and South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment.

There is a need to improve our industry to enhance efficiency and quality for meeting the challenges of globalization, the minister said. Indian High Commissioner Shiv Shankar Menon underlined the importance of regional cooperation and said efforts towards regional cooperation were now getting necessary government support.

CUTS-International secretary-general Pradeep S. Mehta highlighted the objectives of the conference. Speaking at the technical session on multilateral trading system, Rashid Kaukab of South Centre, Geneva, identified the main features and trends related to the WTO.

Mr Kaukab said the July agreement was vague in many ways: there was no clear move on non-agriculture market access, no deadline for services sector, special and differential treatment for developing countries.

He said it was safe to predict that WTO would continue to remain an important and relevant but not the only form to conduct trade relations among countries. "However, our goal should remain the progress of developing countries which could be achieved by strengthening south-south relationship and shaping, mobilizing and channelizing public opinion," he added.

Economic adviser to the Indian ministry of commerce H.A.C. Parasad analysed the July declaration of WTO. These negotiations were a step forward after Cancun conference. He said developing countries should find ways for better utilization of their alliance of G-20.

While negotiating in future, South Asian countries must come up with the same agenda items as last minute tactics. He said non-tariff barriers should be addressed at the earliest which he said created problems in the smooth flow of trade.

Poshraj Pandey from Nepal was of the view that if developing countries acted jointly, the outcome could be in their interest as practical outcome of the Cancun round. The chances of better negotiations will only be possible if developing countries continued to be part of larger negotiations, he added.

Nagesh Kumar, director-general Research and Information System for on-aligned and other developing countries, India, said 1990 was a decade of regionalism instead of a trend of globalization. As a result of formation of regional trading arrangements (RTAs), 60 per cent of the world trade is done on preferential basis.

Keeping this in view "if a country is not part of any RTA, its exports are prone to be threatened. Now there is a movement in developed world to stop the developing countries from forming blocs."


Developing states asked to have their own agenda for WTO talks

18 August 04, The News International
Rasheed Khalid, ISLAMABAD

ISLAMABAD: Speakers at a three - day annual conference of South Asian Civil Society Network on International Trade Issues (SACSNITI) on ‘WTO Post-Cancun Developments: Options for South Asia’ observed that globalisation cannot be halted but the WTO agreements need to be negotiated in interest of South Asian people and developing countries must have their own agenda item for negotiations.

Minister for Privatisation Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh inaugurated the conference organized by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here on Tuesday. The SACSNITI was launched three years ago as a partnership between research organizations and advocacy groups in South Asia supported by International Development Research Centre, Canada.

In his keynote address, Dr. Shaikh said that no country progressed without being part of global stream and globalisation is unstoppable, as people want to prosper through trade. “The South Asian region has lost much time, therefore we need to do a lot of catching to match with the level of economic development of other regions,” he said.

The minister said that the World Trade Organisation should be better understood as some of the decisions are going to have far-reaching impact on the lives of people of this region.

Nagesh Kumar, director general, Research and Information System for Non-Aligned and Other Developing Countries, India, said that now there is a movement in the developed world to stop developing countries from forming the blocs. He said the developing countries should not be defensive about Regional Trading Arrangements (RATs). He said they are building blocs and helping to get into multilateral system that not only helps in enhancing trade but also has scope of investment exchanges. As a result of formation of RATs, 60 percent of the world trade is done on preferential basis, and if a country is not part of any RTA, its exports might be threatened, he added.

In the technical session on ‘Multilateral Trading System: Cancun Scenario and the Future,’ Rashid Kaukab of South Centre, Geneva, comparing the establishment of WTO with the present scene said that WTO’s legitimacy and credibility is because of three-fourth of its members that  are developing countries. He said that WTO would remain important and relevant but not the only forum to conduct trade relations among countries. However, he favoured South-South cooperation and mobilization of public opinion for developing the Third World countries. He said that the civil society and media had an important role to play in this respect.

Poshraj Pandey from Nepal was of the view that if developing countries act jointly, the outcome could be in their favour like practical outcome of the Cancun round. The chances of better negotiations would only be possible if developing countries continue to be part of larger negotiations, he said. Solution, he said, lies in joint efforts on behalf of civil society, advocacy and research to assist governments in preparing negotiating agenda.

HAC Parasad, economic advisor to Ministry of Commerce, India, Said that developing countries must find ways for using their unity in the form of G-2 and in future negotiations South Asian countries should have same agenda items as last minute tactics.

Huma Fakhar said that rest of the world is far ahead from South Asia in terms of building regional blocs. She called for more research to deal with regional trade issues and how to benefit from regional trade.

Ratnakar Adhikari, executive director, South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment, Said that nothing is happening in terms of transfer of technical assistance to the Least Development Countries within Safta to catch up to other countries within Safta to Catch up to other Countries in the region. He said the South Asian countries need to show seriousness towards regional cooperation, particularly in trade.

Earlier, Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan Shiv Shankar Menon in his introductory remarks underlined the importance of regional cooperation in South Asia. He observed that efforts towards regional cooperation are now getting requisite governmental support as well.

International Secretary General of CUTS Pradeep S. Mehta highlighted the specific objectives of the conference. Qasim Niaz, joint secretary in Ministry of Commerce, also spoke on the occasion.   


Dog`s breakfast or trade policy?

06 August 2004, Business Standard

T C A Srinivasa-Raghavan / New Delhi August 6, 2004

Few things are as frustrating as attempts to fathom how civil servants in the commerce ministry make trade policy. 

In the end one withdraws because, until recently at least, they had little idea either of the dynamics of international trade, or the imperatives of trade policy.  

Things seem to have improved a bit in the past few years. The Indian approach to trade policy has become a whisker more sophisticated. BJP rule helped a lot because the old Congress notion that the world owed India a living — now revived partially — hampered even those negotiators who understood international trade (and there weren’t many of them).  

In a recent pamphlet* Julius Sen, himself a member of the IAS, has dwelt at length on the subject. The pamphlet is drawn from his Ph D thesis, which he is completing at the London School of Economics.  

Basically, says Sen, the problem is an institutional one because the commerce ministry doesn’t really know what it is doing. “the.. ministry… is firmly embedded in the domestic political culture, which accords little importance to principles of free trade within the domestic context.”  

Since there is no one ministry that deals with domestic trade, says Sen, international trade policy is at sixes and sevens with what is going domestically.  

Furthermore, at the state level, where trade policy has to be actually implemented, there is neither any idea of nor expertise in international trade policy.  

This point was first made by Dr Kripa Sridharan of the National University of Singapore in a paper called “Federalism and Foreign Relations” published in the Asian Studies Review. The result is often a dog’s breakfast posing as national trade policy.  

One of the most telling points that Sen makes is in respect of the Uruguay Round. After it was completed, he says, “there is no evidence that the Cabinet Secretary sat down and said something to the effect that new consultative and decision-making procedures would be needed to deal with this new and complex form of policy making.”  

This is not the only problem. Is it not odd, asks Sen, that it is India alone that struggles so much with trade policy when other similarly placed countries deal with it far more sensibly? “Possibly, the lack of consensus on the very idea of trade as the engine of growth accounts for this.”  

So what should be done? Sen has several suggestions, all mostly dealing with the need to improve the institutions of trade policy. One of the more important ones, perhaps, is to make the Planning Commission the nodal body. The idea is certainly worth discussing.  

As Sen rightly points out, the Planning Commission has the wherewithal in terms of technical expertise and the operating experience with the states. It will certainly do a far better job of coming up with a coherent trade policy than the commerce ministry does or ever can.  

Now that Anwar-ul Hoda, a trade specialist par excellence has joined the Commission, he could push it. He certainly has the credentials. Since Hoda has been at the commerce ministry, he knows what is wrong with it; he has been at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) as a deputy director general, so he knows what makes that place tick; and now he is at the Planning Commission.  

Even without getting such a mandate, perhaps he can persuade the Commission to start educating the politicians that trade is not a zero-sum game. More than anything else, at the political level it is this mis-perception — that India always loses — that results in posturing and then policy.  

At the bureaucratic level, the real problem is to end the turf war between the commerce ministry and the external affairs ministry. Each regards the other as made of HPS (hand-picked and selected) idiots.  

*Trade Policy Making In India: The Reality Below the Waterline, CUTS, Jaipur www.cuts-international.org


Call for strict enforcement of National Building Code on schools

05 August 2004, Udayavani (Karnataka's Daily)

New Delhi, August 5: A premier consumer organisation working on consumer safety issues has called for a nation-wide alert for tightening rules and stricter enforcement of safety regulations in schools across the country.

Though the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has formulated the National Building Code (NBC) that governs design, safety and health aspects of buildings, they were hardly followed, said Soumi Roy, a Safety Watch researcher with Consumer Unity and Trust Society.

NBC specifies rules and regulations regarding fire safety measures to be adopted by educational institutions according to it students should be able to evacuate the building at the rate of one minute or less per floor.

Exit (stairways) of at least half-metre width should be provided for every 25 students. All institutions should have basic fire-fighting equipment like carbon dioxide cylinders, water and sand buckets and should know their right application, the NBC elaborates adding that schools should carry out fire drills in accordance with the fire safety plan at least once every three months.

But educational institutions rarely conform to these standards and norms as is evident from the Kumbakonam tragedy, Roy said.

The Reason behind this laxity was that the norms set up by the BIS under NBC were mere guidelines and could only become mandatory provisions if state governments adopted them through legislation, she said.

The fire at Kumbakonam in which more than 90 children perished was undoubtedly due to "criminal negligence" of the school management compounded by "slack supervision" of education department officials, she added.

The State Government thereafter ordered a judicial probe.

All schools having thatched structures would have to be replaced with non-flammable material by this month-end. One crore special package for the victims was also announced.

However, according to Roy much more was required to be done and nothing less than a miracle could save school children in case of a fire in most of the educational institutions in the country as most of them were veritable firetraps.

Apart from running schools in dense localities, which pose difficulties for the fire services to navigate, in case of an emergency, the floor space, seating arrangements, ventilation, lighting facilities, aeration, the width of staircase and emergency escape routes, if any, leave a lot to be desired, she said.

Many schools were located in dilapidated wooden buildings with fire extinguishers out of order and with old electric wirings. In hundreds of schools in South India, mid-day meals were cooked with little concern for fire safety, she added.

Safety norms were almost unheard of in most district schools. In hill towns, many schools were housed in highly inflammable stone-cum-wooden buildings of the British vintage without conforming to any fire safety norms. Fire protection regulations were not given any consideration by authorities while issuing licenses to schools, Roy said.

The fire safety researcher urged all state governments to take a close look at schools to ensure that they were equipped to combat fire.

Most builders flouted this code with impunity without bothering to take a no-objection certificate from the fire brigade and unless the implementation of the National Building Code was made mandatory, the situation would not improve, Roy felt.

Infernos were dangerous in all overcrowded locations where people assemble like cinema halls, auditorium, educational institutions, marriage halls, and even hotels or restaurants, Roy opined.

Even after the Uphaar cinema tragedy, most of the buildings in the country did not comply with the NBC and it was high time that implementation of NBC was made mandatory to prevent any fire mishap in future, she said hoping that the Kumbakonam tragedy would serve as an eye opener for the school authorities across the nation.


Book Review: "Is It Really Safe?"-Cutting a swathe

05 August 2004, The Hindu

By Anjana Rajan

HOW MANY times have you bought a substandard product and felt cheated that you could do nothing to redeem your wasted money and time? How many times has your heart sunk at the news of innocent citizens maimed or killed due to the negligence of the building authorities? Or gnashed your teeth in vain at the carelessness of doctors or the chemist who happily prescribes potentially dangerous medicines to ill-educated patients who think they are consulting a doctor? The common refrain is, in India, everything goes. Arre, sab chalta hai. The ignorant get fleeced and the smart ones get away with it. Fortunately, we need not take such a pessimistic view of life, since there are numerous individuals and organisations working for the safety and rights of consumers. This concept, strong in the western hemisphere, cannot be called weak in India either. Take the Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS). Recently, the CUTS unit of Kolkata came out with a compilation of informative essays under the title "Is it Safe?"

Authored by Soumi Home Roy, a researcher with CUTS, "Is it Safe?" deals with a range of issues relating to consumer rights and includes in its purview both products and services. "Our aim," says the author, "is to introduce consumer awareness on safety issues of various products." In this pursuit, she and her colleagues at CUTS have published newspaper articles in the past. Some of these have been included in the present collection, says the author, after appropriate additions and revisions, she explains, since newspapers columns can't always include a great deal of detail. The consumer movement in India, laments this activist author, is hampered because "India has laws, but it is sadly lacking in implementation."

The recent Kumbakonam school tragedy she points out, is a case in point. The Bureau of Indian Standards has a national building code, but "no one is following it because it is not mandatory." Having recently spoken to a BIS official, she says CUTS is in the process of framing awareness on this issue too.

"Also, there should be a consumer safety commission which should be able to test products and empowered to recall them if they are not up to standard," she says.

"We are also working on road and rail safety issues," informs the author who says CUTS' writings are translated into several Indian languages by consumer organisations like Consumer Voice, Common Cause and others. Also on the anvil is a publication documenting case studies where businesses have placed profit over consumer safety.


Fire safety not high on buildings' priority list

03 August 2004, The Hindu

By K. Kannan

NEW DELHI, AUG. 2. Uphaar, Dabwali, Tiruchi and now Kumbakonam. Fire safety does not seem to be high on the priority list of many buildings in the country with schools being no exception. The scant regard for safety norms has turned a majority of the schools in the country into a firebomb, says Soumi Home Roy, a researcher with CUTS Safety Watch, a premier consumer organisation working on consumer safety issues.

CUTS has called for a nation-wide alert for tightening rules and stricter enforcement of safety regulations in every school across the country. Though the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has formulated the National Building Code (NBC), which governs the design, safety and health aspects of buildings, these are hardly ever followed.

The NBC specifies rules and regulations regarding fire safety measures to be adopted in educational institutions. For example, students should be able to evacuate the building at the rate of one minute or less per floor. Stairways of at least half-metre width should be provided for every 25 students. All institutions should have basic fire-fighting equipment like carbon-dioxide cylinders, water and sand buckets and should know their right application. Schools should carry out fire drills in accordance with fire safety plan at least once every three months. But educational institutions rarely conform to these standards and norms as evident from the gruesome tragedy at Kumbakonam.

"The reason behind this laxity is that the norms set up by the BIS under NBC are mere guidelines and can only become mandatory provisions if state governments adopt them through legislation'', says Roy. The fire at Kumbakonam in which more than 90 children perished was undoubtedly due to "criminal negligence'' of the school management compounded by "slack supervision'' of education department officials. While the State Government has ordered a judicial probe and it has been directed that all schools having thatched structures will have to be replaced with non-flammable material by this month-end, Roy noted that there is much more to do. "Nothing less than a miracle can save school children in case of a fire in most of the educational institutions in the country as most of them are veritable firetraps.''

Apart from running schools in dense localities, which pose difficulties for fire services to reach, in case of an emergency, the floor space, seating arrangements, ventilation, lighting facilities, aeration, the width of staircase and emergency escape routes, if any, leave a lot to be desired.

Many schools are located in dilapidated wooden buildings with fire extinguishers out of order and with old electric wirings. In hundreds of schools in South India, mid-day meals are cooked with little concern for fire safety.

Safety norms are almost unheard of in most districts. In hill towns, many schools are housed in highly inflammable stone-cum-wooden buildings of the British vintage without conforming to any fire safety norms.

Fire protection regulations are not given any consideration by authorities while issuing licenses to schools. Thus, Roy on behalf of CUTS Safety Watch urged all the State governments to take a close look at every school to ensure that they are equipped to fight fire.

Roy opined that unless the implementation of the National Building Code is made mandatory, the situation would not improve.

Her recently published book "Is It Really Safe?" on different consumer safety articles, contains one article titled "Does your building follow fire safety norms?" which highlights that most builders flout this code without bothering to take a no-objection certificate from the fire brigade.

"Infernos are dangerous in all overcrowded locations where people assemble like cinema halls, auditoria, educational institutions, marriage halls, and even hotels or restaurants. Even after the Uphaar cinema tragedy, most of the buildings in the country do not comply with the NBC,'' said Roy, adding it was high time that implementation of NBC was made mandatory to prevent any fire mishap in future.


Holistic fire safety call for state school buildings

02 August, Asian Age

The state's prescription of replacing all schools' roofs having thatched structures with non-inflammable material cannot singularly check fire in the educational institutions.

Concerned over fire safety in educational institutions after some 90 students perished in the Kumbakonam fire, a Kolkata-based NGO, Consumer Unity & Trust Society, has urged the state government to formulate the National Building Code charted out by the Bureau of Indian Standards.

Soumi Home Roy of CUTS, that has been working on consumer safety for more than a decade said "Many schools are located in dilapidated wooden buildings with fire extinguishers out of order and with old electric wiring. Safety norms are unheard of in most districts.

In hilly areas, a good number of schools are housed in highly inflammable stone-cum-wooden buildings of the British vintage without conforming to any sort of fire safety norms.

Many schools are situated in dense localities that pose difficulties for the fire services to reach in case of an emergency. Besides, the floor space, seating arrangements, ventilation, lighting facilities, aeration, width of stair case and emergency escape routes are a far cry."

The rules and regulations specified by NBC state that all schools should have basic fire fighting equipment like carbon dioxide cylinders, adequate water and sand buckets.

The school officials should be aware of its application. Schools should carry out fire drills in accordance with the fire safety plan at least once every three months.

According to Roy, to prevent fire mishap in future the implementation of NBC guidelines should be made mandatory by the state.


Book Review: "Is It Really Safe?"
CUTS Safety

02 August 2004, Business Standard

Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS), a non-governmental organisation, has published a book, "Is It Really Safe?", on consumer safety issues. The Safety Watch centre of CUTS has urged the government to make the National Building Code (NBC) mandatory to prevent loss of life from fires like the recent one at a school in Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu. Soumi Home Roy, a researcher with CUTS-Safety Watch, said the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) had formulated NBC on design, safety and health aspects of buildings including schools, but it was not being followed.


CUTS wants changes in power bill

23 July 2004, Hindustan Times

CONSUMER ORGANISATIONS gathered here at a workshop on Thursday suggested changes in the Rajasthan Electricity Bill 2004 for making it more consumer-friendly particularly for agricultural and rural consumers. CUTS, an NGO dealing in consumer affairs, has organised this workshop. 

Participating in the workshop, Energy Minister, Gajendra Singh Keenwasar said the State Government is committed to speed up the electricity reforms keeping in mind common customers and employees of electricity corporations. 

Chief Advisor, National Council for Applied Economic Research, Gajendra Haldia who has drafted the Rajasthan Electricity Bill 2004, interacted with the representatives of consumer organisations from all over the state and gave them information about the drafted bill. 

Representative of a consumer organisation of Bhilwara, Bhanwar Lal Vyas said that the consumers should be made to pay for the maintenance of the Discom's instructural losses. Consumers have been paying for 40 to 50 percent of Discom's losses. This figure is very low in other countries, he added. 

Another consumer organisation member, Hari Prasad Yogi of Sawai Madhopur said a welfare fund should be made in the bill to create consumer awareness and advocacy. Distribution companies should be accountable for the quality and quantity of their distribution, said another representative from Kota, Fazar Mohammad. 

Mahendra Ojha from Jalore said the time and quality of supply should be the decisive factors for tariff determination, especially in terms of rural customers. Farmers mostly get power supply during nights that helps the distribution companies maintain their load curve flat, he added. 

However, Durga Soni, a consumer organisation representative from Jaipur said that Rajasthan Electricity Regulatory Commission (RERC) should incorporate suggestions of people before implementing any decision regarding electricity changes.


UNCTAD calls for South-South cooperation

Green Times No.19 (Lusaka), July 2004

“Developing countries may decide to focus on trade among themselves rather than with their richer counterparts, if developed counties don’t break down trade barriers.”  Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said at the inaugural session of the 11th Conference of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). 

The Conference, which meets every four years, is the highest policy making body of the 192 member UN body shaping the debated on crucial point of trade and development intersect. 

The Conference emphasized that poor countries must also eliminate trade barriers among themselves to increase their share of world trade. 

Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS-ARC) attended the UNCTAD XI meeting in Sao Paulo, Brazil where Zambia was represented by the Minister of Trade, Commerce land Industry, Hon. Dipark Patel. 

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan echoed the voice of civil society on the issue of farm trade liberalisation. 

“I share your concern about agricultural and other subsidies in the developed world that create unfair competition, and about how hard it is for developing-country goods to gain access to rich-country markets”,  Annan Said. 

CUTS-ARC is a Non Governmental Organisation, which is engaged in policy research training, foreign direct investment, consumer protection and capacity building activities on economic, trade and environmental issues with a special focus on South-to-South cooperation.  CUTS, the parent body of CUTS-ARC is an international civil society organisation having its head office in India.  CUTS is affiliated to United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) based Geneva.  Consumers International in London and the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi. 

It was agriculture which caused the debacle at the WTO in Cancun in last September and since then efforts are being made to bring convergence over this contentious issue but with a little success.  Several rounds of discussions have been held between the two major groups – EU and US on the one side and G-20 on the one other. 

The Civil Society Forum in their declaration to UNCTAD XI expressed deep concern over the collapse of the commodity economy. 

The Forum called for global policy responses including the active involvement of UNCTAD to address problems caused by market failure.  It recommended the creation and management of multilateral mechanisms to regulate and support international markets for agricultural products.


Book Review: "Is It Really Safe?"-Creating Safety Awareness

18 July 2004, Financial Express

In an increasingly consumerism oriented society injury or death due to unsafe products and services are alarmingly on the rise in India. And evertytime such an incident hits the headline, as a consumer you might ask why these things happen again and again? Yet, with the passage of time the issue dies down. 

"Is It Really Safe?", is a book which has documented some of the incidents related to unsafe products and services that cost human lives, aiming to create awareness on the issue. It deals mainly with the consumer safety issues. Brought out by CUTS (Consumer Unity & Trust Society) the book is a compilation of articles written on the subject from time to time. With comments and suggestions from different consumer organisations, the book also provides a synopsis of Indian rules and regulations on safety issues. 

Product safety, services safety, health care services, food safety and transport are areas covered by the book. The section on transport safety makes for informative reading as it deals with the Indian road, railways and air safety and the kinds of accidents that have taken place. It makes you wonder how safe are you as a consumer.


What lies beneath

15 July 2004, The Telegraph

HARMFUL CHEMICALS IN COSMETICS. TOYS THAT CAN BE DANGEROUS. VACCINES THAT DO MORE HARM THAN GOOD. DEBASHIS BHATTACHARYYA REPORTS ON A NEW BOOK ON CONSUMER SAFETY

 

ATTENTION PLEASE: Parlours often use spurious products that lead to skin eruptions; the book cover (above)

When you step into a neighbourhood beauty parlour, do you ever think how safe the creams and lotions being applied to your face, or body, really are? After all, nine out of 10 unbranded cosmetics that you get on the market have toxic chemicals in them. And many parlours are believed to use these as they get them on the cheap. This is just one of the many pressing consumer issues that a new book on consumer safety touches on.

Is It Really Safe?, written by Soumi Home Roy and published by the Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) is actually an updated compilation of articles penned by Roy — an activist with CUTS — over the years. The well-researched pieces — on subjects ranging from product safety to food safety — not only highlight the problems, but also suggest solutions, often in terms of government intervention.

Few women would know that the bindis they sport on their foreheads have “para tertiary butyl phenol”, a toxic resin. Or that the hair dyes have “paraphenyline diamine”, a chemical harmful to your skin. Nor do they have any idea of the chemicals used in their eyeliners and eye shadows. No wonder several women who had undergone “beauty treatments” at some beauty parlours in Allahabad broke out in rashes in May 2001. An inquiry found out that the parlours had used spurious or fake products which had flooded the city’s market. Most of the products used were so-called herbal or ayurvedic. But they had no manufacturing or expiry dates or batch and code numbers.

When it comes to cosmetics, the consumer does have a choice. You can steer clear of a beauty salon if you are in doubt about the quality and safety of products it uses. But when it comes to essential food products like edible oils, one really has no choice. The 1987 Behala oil tragedy might have faded from public memory, but the problem still remains. In the infamous incident, 18 people had died and nearly 1,600 people had fallen ill after eating food cooked in rapeseed oil, adulterated with tricresyl phosphate, a deadly chemical. The local ration shop owner, convicted for adulteration, was sentenced to life imprisonment. But as it turned out, the sentence was hardly a deterrent. In August 2003, adulterated oil took the life of three people and 1,700 more fell ill. This time, it was not in Bengal, but in Maharashtra’s Malegaon.

To stop adulteration, the Centre issued the Edible Oils Packaging (Regulation) Order in September 1998 under the Essential Commodities Act of 1955. The order says the quality of edible oils should conform to the standard stipulated by the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act. They must be sold only in sealed packets with labels, declaring the name and address of the manufacturer. The packets should also carry the manufacturing dates and shelf life of the oils.

But the order remains on paper, Roy says in the book. With most states failing to implement it, adulteration of cooking oils goes on unabated. Of 104 mustard oil samples tested last year by the Industrial Toxicology Research Centre in Lucknow, as many as 56 were found adulterated.

There is now a new bugbear — pesticide. From vegetables to milk, food products are now often found laced with pesticide or insecticide. (Remember the Pepsi-Coca Cola controversy involving pesticide?). In a 1986 study on food contaminants in the country, Roy says the Indian Council of Medical Research found that 51 per cent of the food items were contaminated with pesticide residues, some exceeding the “maximum tolerance limit.”

In a foreword to the book, well-known consumer activist Pushpa Girimaji acknowledges that pesticide levels in food is fast becoming a major health concern in the country. “Until recently, adulteration of food was considered to be a major problem. But in the last decade or so, food scientists are recognising contamination of food with pesticide residues, heavy metals and mycotoxins as an equally health problem facing consumers,” she says.

It’s not just the food or products’ safety that the book is devoted to. It also delves deep into safety issues relating to transport and services. In an essay entitled “Does your building follow fire safety norms?,” the author highlights the national building code, formulated by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). Most builders flout this code with impunity without bothering to take a no-objection certificate from the fire brigade. But there is little the fire services department can do since it has no power to initiate action against the errant builders in most states. It is only in Delhi that the fire department is empowered to initiate action against violators and declare a building unfit to live in. Roy says it’s for the city development authorities to check the high-rises for fire-fighting measures and report the inadequacies to the fire department, a responsibility the development authorities hardly fulfil.

In the preface, Pradeep S. Mehta , secretary general of CUTS, says it’s the duty of the producers and manufacturers to ensure that the consumers, who pay for the products, get safe goods and service. “Safety is a consumer right. Although the right to safety is protected by the Constitution, the Consumer Protection Act and various other laws enacted by Parliament and state legislatures, the current Indian scenario depicts a very poor enforcement. The need of the hour is to effectively enforce this right,” Mehta says.

Is it too much to expect?


COMESA Drafts Precursor Rules

13 July 2004, The Post (Lusaka)

Kingsley Kaswende
Lusaka

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) has said it has already drafted the precursor rules and regulations for the establishment of the COMESA competition policy.

COMESA senior trade advisor Mwansa Musonda yesterday confirmed that the drafted rules and regulations were awaiting the approval of the COMESA Council of Ministers.

He said the rules and regulations would deal with anti-competitive behaviour and restrictive business practices.

According to the Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS), COMESA, in collaboration with United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the Zambia Competition Commission (ZCC), set up the groundwork for a COMESA regional competition framework in 2001.

It is envisaged that the regional competition policy and law shall be consistent with the provisions and intent of the COMESA treaty as well as the internationally accepted practices and principles of competition.

"The region has in the past witnessed anti-competitive practices that have resulted in the creation of monopolies, cartels and collusions that have had an adverse impact on consumer welfare," the CUTS Policy Briefs says.

The publication says some disputes are pure trade related while others are competition related.

It says trade related disputes include rules of origin, origin criteria, charges of equivalent effect to customs duty, unilateral bans and restrictions while competition related ones include acquisitions, cartels and collusions.

COMESA has been urging member states to enact competition laws and establish competent enforcement authorities.

However, only three countries namely Zambia, Kenya and Zimbabwe have a law and enforcement agency at the moment.

Malawi and Namibia have a law, but no enforcement agency while Egypt, Mauritius, Uganda and Swaziland are at different stages of development of national laws.

Musonda said sensitisation had been carried out in member countries and that various stakeholders have been consulted.

He said stakeholders consulted include consumers, government institutions and the business communities.

Musonda said the council of ministers last met in Kampala at the COMESA Business Summit and will next meet in November.


Education Cess Welcomed

08 July 04, Dainik Bhaskar


Railway safety commission report blames train accidents on human failure

08 July 04, Newind Press

NEW DELHI: Train accidents; don't blame them on the bad luck or a devil's hand, as according to a report of the Commission for Railway Safety (CRS), "human failure" is the reason in more than 80 per cent of cases. 

A White Paper on Safety (WPS), prepared by Indian Railways, says as per the statutory inquiries, failure of the railway staff causes most of the mishaps. In 1997-98 report to Parliament, the CRS said 83 per cent of all major train accidents were due to "human failures." 

However, consumer safety experts argue that putting the blame on human failure is like taking the easy way out. 

"If human error is shown as the cause of the latest tragedy, suspension of the person deemed at fault ends the story. If, however, the failure of the system - tracks, bridges, signaling systems, etc - is deemed to be the cause, then it implies a lot of remedial work and is, therefore, avoided," says Soumi Home Roy, a researcher, in a report by CUTS, an NGO. 

"A statutory probe is ordered after almost every mishap by the CRS. It has recommended scores of measures to improve the safety situation of Indian Railways, but most of them have been overlooked. There is no follow up and the report gathers dust in the Rail Bhawan," says Roy. 

Most safety committees have called for strengthening the infrastructure and mechanising the systems for signalling and switching of tracks. However, the bulk of the rail network still relies on outdated, dilapidated safety assets, says the report.


Report blames human errors for train mishaps

05 July 04, NDTV

A report of the Commission for Railway Safety (CRS) has said that "human failure" is the reason for train accidents in more than 80 per cent of cases.

A White Paper on Safety (WPS) prepared by Indian Railways last year says as per the statutory inquiries, failure of the railway staff causes most of the mishaps.

In 1997-98 report to Parliament, the CRS said 83 per cent of all major train accidents were due to "human failures".

However, consumer safety experts argue that putting the blame on human failure is like taking the easy way out.

"If human error is shown as the cause of the latest tragedy, suspension of the person deemed at fault ends the story. If, however, the failure of the system - tracks, bridges, signalling systems, etc - is deemed to be the cause, then it implies a lot of remedial work and is, therefore, avoided," says researcher Soumi Home Roy in a report by CUTS, an NGO.

Experts advise the setting up of a Safety Board on the lines of the National Transportation Safety Board of the USA, which would look after the safety aspects of railway network and take the responsibility for all repairs, maintenance and upgradation. (PTI)


80% train accidents due to 'human failure': WPS

05 July 04, The Pioneer

Train accidents; don't blame them on the bad luck or a devil's hand, as according to a report of the Commission for Railway Safety (CRS), "human failure" is the reason in more than 80 per cent of cases. 

A White Paper on Safety (WPS), prepared by Indian Railways, says as per the statutory inquiries, failure of the railway staff causes most of the mishaps. In 1997-98 report to Parliament, the CRS said 83 per cent of all major train accidents were due to "human failures." 

However, consumer safety experts argue that putting the blame on human failure is like taking the easy way out. 

"If human error is shown as the cause of the latest tragedy, suspension of the person deemed at fault ends the story. If, however, the failure of the system - tracks, bridges, signaling systems, etc - is deemed to be the cause, then it implies a lot of remedial work and is, therefore, avoided," says Soumi Home Roy, a researcher, in a report by CUTS, an NGO. 

"A statutory probe is ordered after almost every mishap by the CRS. It has recommended scores of measures to improve the safety situation of Indian Railways, but most of them have been overlooked. There is no follow up and the report gathers dust in the Rail Bhawan," says Roy. 

Most safety committees have called for strengthening the infrastructure and mechanising the systems for signaling and switching of tracks. However, the bulk of the rail network still relies on outdated, dilapidated safety assets, says the report.


Human errors blamed for train mishaps

05 July 04, Central Chronicle

NEW DELHI: A report of the Commission for Railway Safety (CRS) has said that "human failure" is the reason for train accidents in more than 80 per cent of cases.

A White Paper on Safety (WPS) prepared by Indian Railways last year says as per the statutory inquiries, failure of the railway staff causes most of the mishaps.

In 1997-98 report to Parliament, the CRS said 83 per cent of all major train accidents were due to "human failures".

However, consumer safety experts argue that putting the blame on human failure is like taking the easy way out.

"If human error is shown as the cause of the latest tragedy, suspension of the person deemed at fault ends the story. If, however, the failure of the system - tracks, bridges, signalling systems, etc - is deemed to be the cause, then it implies a lot of remedial work and is, therefore, avoided," says researcher Soumi Home Roy in a report by CUTS, an NGO.

Experts advise the setting up of a Safety Board on the lines of the National Transportation Safety Board of the USA, which would look after the safety aspects of railway network and take the responsibility for all repairs, maintenance and upgradation.


Train accidents due to human failure: report

04 July 04, The Economic Times

NEW DELHI: Train accidents - don't blame them on the bad luck or a devil's hand as according to a report of the Commission for Railway Safety (CRS), "human failure" is the reason in more than 80 per cent of cases.  

A White Paper on Safety (WPS), prepared by Indian Railways last year, says as per the statutory inquiries, failure of the railway staff causes most of the mishaps. In 1997-98 report to Parliament, the CRS said 83 per cent of all major train accidents were due to "human failures."  

However, consumer safety experts argue that putting the blame on Human failure is like taking the easy way out.  

"If human error is shown as the cause of the latest tragedy, suspension of the person deemed at fault ends the story. If, however, the failure of the system - tracks, bridges, signalling systems, etc - is deemed to be the cause, then it implies a lot of remedial work and is, therefore, avoided," says Soumi Home Roy, a researcher, in a report by CUTS, an NGO.  

"A statutory probe is ordered after almost every mishap by the CRS. It has recommended scores of measures to improve the safety situation of Indian Railways, but most of them have been overlooked. There is no follow up and the report gathers dust in the Rail Bhawan," says Roy.  

Most safety committees have called for strengthening the infrastructure and mechanising the systems for signalling and switching of tracks. However, the bulk of the rail network still relies on outdated, dilapidated safety assets, says the report.  

Experts advise the setting up of a Safety Board on the lines of the National Transportation Safety Board of the USA, which would look after the safety aspects of railway network and take the responsibility for all repairs, maintenance and upgradation.  

"It is high time the government gave a serious look to the safety of both the airlines and the railways and considered setting up of a common statutory body that exists on the lines of the National Transportation Safety Board that exist in other countries," Roy said.

It could be vested with full control over both the airlines and the railways, with the help of experts from all the wings.  

"It is important to make such commissions independent and vest them with statutory powers, so that they could go beyond mere investigation into serious accidents, involving loss of life and property," says Roy.  

"Unless proper corrective action is taken on the reports of the CRS, the whole process becomes meaningless. It should not be reduced to a bureaucratic exercise to apportion blame and provide for the payment of compensation," the CUTS report said.  

"The WPS too proposes various steps and if implemented, the chances of accidents will reduce. The WPS says railway ministry has identified main causes behind the accidents and proposed certain steps to prevent them. These steps need to be religiously implemented to avoid further mishaps," Roy said.


Railway safety commission report blames train accidents on human failure

04 July 2004, Indian Express

Train accidents - don't blame them on the bad luck or a devil's hand as according to a report of the Commission for Railway Safety (CRS), "human failure" is the reason in more than 80 per cent of cases.

A White Paper on Safety (WPS), prepared by Indian Railways last year, says as per the statutory inquiries, failure of the railway staff causes most of the mishaps. In 1997-98 report to Parliament, the CRS said 83 per cent of all major train accidents were due to "human failures." However, consumer safety experts argue that putting the blame on Human failure is like taking the easy way out.

"If human error is shown as the cause of the latest tragedy, suspension of the person deemed at fault ends the story. If, however, the failure of the system - tracks, bridges, signalling systems, etc - is deemed to be the cause, then it implies a lot of remedial work and is, therefore, avoided," says Soumi Home Roy, a researcher, in a report by CUTS, an NGO.

"A statutory probe is ordered after almost every mishap by the CRS. It has recommended scores of measures to improve the safety situation of Indian Railways, but most of them have been overlooked. There is no follow up and the report gathers dust in the Rail Bhawan," says Roy.

Most safety committees have called for strengthening the infrastructure and mechanising the systems for signalling and switching of tracks. However, the bulk of the rail network still relies on outdated, dilapidated safety assets, says the report.


Railway report blames train accidents on 'human failure'

04 July 2004, Daily Excelsior

NEW DELHI: Train accidents - don’t blame them on the bad luck or a devil’s hand as according to a report of the Commission for Railway Safety (CRS), "human failure" is the reason in more than 80 per cent of cases.

A White Paper on Safety (WPS), prepared by Indian Railways last year, says as per the statutory inquiries, failure of the railway staff causes most of the mishaps. In 1997-98 report to Parliament, the CRS said 83 per cent of all major train accidents were due to "human failures."

However, consumer safety experts argue that putting the blame on human failure is like taking the easy way out.

"If human error is shown as the cause of the latest tragedy, suspension of the person deemed at fault ends the story. If, however, the failure of the system - tracks, bridges, signalling systems, etc - is deemed to be the cause, then it implies a lot of remedial work and is, therefore, avoided," says Soumi Home Roy, a researcher, in a report by cuts, an NGO.

"A statutory probe is ordered after almost every mishap by the CRS. It has recommended scores of measures to improve the safety situation of Indian Railways, but most of them have been overlooked. There is no follow up and the report gathers dust in the rail bhawan," says Roy.

Most safety committees have called for strengthening the infrastructure and mechanising the systems for signalling and switching of tracks. However, the bulk of the rail network still relies on outdated, dilapidated safety assets, says the report.

Experts advise the setting up of a safety board on the lines of the national transportation safety board of the USA, which would look after the safety aspects of railway network and take the responsibility for all repairs, maintenance and upgradation.

"It is high time the Government gave a serious look to the safety of both the airlines and the railways and considered setting up of a common statutory body that exists on the lines of the national transportation safety board that exist in other countries," says Roy.

It could be vested with full control over both the airlines and the railways, with the help of experts from all the wings.

"It is important to make such commissions independent and vest them with statutory powers, so that they could go beyond mere investigation into serious accidents, involving loss of life and property," says Roy.

"Unless proper corrective action is taken on the reports of the CRS, the whole process becomes meaningless. It should not be reduced to a bureaucratic exercise to apportion blame and provide for the payment of compensation," says the cuts report.

"The WPS too proposes various steps and if implemented, the chances of accidents will reduce. The WPS says Railway Ministry has identified main causes behind the accidents and proposed certain steps to prevent them. These steps need to be religiously implemented to avoid further mishaps," says Roy. (PTI)


Railway report blames train accidents on 'human failure'

04 July 2004, Hindustan Times

NEW DELHI: Train accidents; don't blame them on the bad luck or a devil's hand, as according to a report of the Commission for Railway Safety (CRS), "human failure" is the reason in more than 80 per cent of cases. 

A White Paper on Safety (WPS), prepared by Indian Railways, says as per the statutory inquiries, failure of the railway staff causes most of the mishaps. In 1997-98 report to Parliament, the CRS said 83 per cent of all major train accidents were due to "human failures." 

However, consumer safety experts argue that putting the blame on human failure is like taking the easy way out. 

"If human error is shown as the cause of the latest tragedy, suspension of the person deemed at fault ends the story. If, however, the failure of the system - tracks, bridges, signaling systems, etc - is deemed to be the cause, then it implies a lot of remedial work and is, therefore, avoided," says Soumi Home Roy, a researcher, in a report by CUTS, an NGO. 

"A statutory probe is ordered after almost every mishap by the CRS. It has recommended scores of measures to improve the safety situation of Indian Railways, but most of them have been overlooked. There is no follow up and the report gathers dust in the Rail Bhawan," says Roy. 

Most safety committees have called for strengthening the infrastructure and mechanising the systems for signaling and switching of tracks. However, the bulk of the rail network still relies on outdated, dilapidated safety assets, says the report.


Power-Divide Draws Flak

03 July 2004, Hindustan Times

CONSUMER GROUPS across the State have criticised the draft of the Rajasthan Electricity Bill, 2004 for “ignoring” the concerns of rural consumers. 

Issues pertaining to quality of Services provided to rural and agricultural Consumer have been overlooked, various consumer groups have said. 

The groups feel the tariff must be linked to the quality of supply offered to a category of Consumers. A rural consumer getting erratic supply with poor voltage should not be charged equal to his counterpart in cities like Jaipur where far better supplies and services are maintained. 

Over 25 Consumers groups have expressed these views in response to a survey conducted by the CUTS, an NGO dealing with consumer affairs. The organization has sent a detailed memorandum to the State Government demanding incorporation of suggested improvements in the draft. 

The draft has also been criticised for having a provision that calls for the consumer to pay for the maintenance of Discom’s infrastructure in case he is seeking a new connection.  

Provided that the farmers mostly get supply during nights, which helps the distribution companies maintain their load-curve flat, the draft should provide for taking into account parameters like time of supply and quality of supply as decisive factors for tariff determination. 

The consumer groups have also disapproved the decision of not imposing penalties if the services with agreed standards. 

Time bound provisions have been made for “open access” to protect the interest of industrial consumers whereas in the case of rural consumers there is insufficient mention without necessary elaborations, said CUTS official George Cheriyan.


Use mosquito repellants with caution: experts

28 June 2004, Deccan Herald

Researches have shown that prolonged use of mosquito mats is harmful for several organs in the human body.

NEW DELHI, PTI: As rains come and mosquitoes get ready to bite, health experts are ringing alarm bells over mosquito repellants as research shows their use could lead to nausea, convulsions and eye problems.

These symptoms and disorders are caused by pyrethroids, a class of insecticides manufactured synthetically. Such chemicals are highly toxic and injurious to humans, says CUTS, a Safety Watch group, in its new publication — ‘Is it really safe?’.

“Researches abroad have already established that prolonged use of mats is harmful for several organs in the human body. It can lead to corneal damage, shortness of breath, asthma and even damage the liver in the long run,” say CUTS researcher Soumi Home Roy, also the author of the book.

The Gujarat State Consumers Protection Centre had conducted a study on mosquito repellants in public interest.

It requested the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to issue necessary orders to stop the manufacture and sale of repellants containing harmful insecticides. However, the health ministry has no say in the registration or de-registration of insecticides. As a result, nothing has happened so far, says Roy.

The Indian market for repellants is estimated to be Rs 500-600 crore, growing annually by 7-8 per cent. “This upward trend is mainly because of people’s willingness and capacity to buy repellants. Advertisements also play an important role in increasing the demand for these products. Although they highlight the easy-to-use features, they suppress vital information such as their possible effects on human health,” says Roy.

According to a study conducted at King George Medical College, Lucknow, mats and coils should be used only for a few hours at a time. Infants exposed to mats for a long time may get convulsions.

Recent studies at Industrial Toxicology Research Institute (ITRI) show that prolonged exposure to mosquito repellants can be hazardous to the health of children and pregnant woman.

“The vapours, when inhaled by a pregnant woman, can reach the foetus and later can also be passed on to the child through the mother’s milk during lactation. This can lead to brain damage in the baby,” the ITRI study says.

“Scented sticks, mats, coils and liquidators contain 1.5 to 3.6 per cent of allethrin and if the vapours are inhaled by children, it can be unsafe as it crosses the Blood Brain Barrier, which is at its formative stage among children,” the study says.


IS IT REALLY SAFE?

28 June 2004, Outlook

IS IT REALLY SAFE?

Soumi Home Roy, CUTS, Pages 163
Price Rs. 100

Required reading if you want to learn about the hazards of mosquito mats, about how milk actually turned into white poison and the danger of the Hepatitis B vaccine. It tells us all that we desperately need to know- about our food, drink and health. If only it was an easier read.


Book Review: "Is It Really Safe?"
Consuming Trends

15 June 2004, Down to Earth

We all are sitting on a time bomb slowly ticking away. That, in a nutshell, is what the latest publication of Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) drives at. The second in the series of publications under the series title "Caveat Emptor", this book is a compilation of articles on consumer awareness of the safety aspects of various products and services. It is also a voyage through products used on a day-to-day basis without any understanding of safety or its lack.
 
Issues such as product safety (cosmetics, mosquito repellents, firecrackers) and services safety (joyrides, escalators and buildings) are discussed here. An important section is devoted to drinking water. In fact, "no institution can be ultimately held responsible for the quality of water, because nobody has defined standards that can be legally enforced".
 
However, it is the chapter on Heath Care Safety, which proves to be the most disturbing. What is otherwise considered a life-giving source can at times poison lives. In late 2001, 30 children died in Assam after being administered doses of Vitamin A in a UNICEF-Assam Government jointly organised Pulse Vitamin A programme. The book also raises the question of safety of vaccines. It discusses Hepatitis B vaccination, a part of the national immunisation programme in 120 countries, and expected to make it to India's 10th Five-year plan. It draws attention to issues such as a 1999 survey by Vienna-based National Vaccine Information Centre, which revealed that the number of vaccine-associated adverse events and deaths reported in US children under 14 outweighed the reported cases of Hepatitis B disease in that same age group.
 
The chapter addressing food safety is topical and unnerving. It explodes the myth of safe and delicious chocolates; discusses adulterated edible oil; demonstrates milk as white poison; captures the great Indian iodised salt debate; and last, but not the least, pesticides in food. It refers to studies carried out by the Indian Council of Medical Research, Industrial Toxicology Research Centre, Annamalai University, all of which show how Indian food is heavily contaminated with pesticide residues.
 

Forget small savings: Economists

06 June 2004, The Economic Times

NEW DELHI : Finance minister P Chidambaram’s meeting with prominent economists on Saturday turned out to be an interesting discussion on the CMP of the UPA government and the focus was on growth.

Economists even advised the FM not to bother too much about the return on small savings as the current situation deserves an all-out push for stimulating the economy.

On the corporate sector’s reluctance to bear the ‘education cess’ proposed in the CMP, varying views emerged. “While there was no consensus, some of participants emphasised that education was an important area,” said Pradeep Mehta of Consumer Unity and Trust Society.

“It is for the government to take a final decision but we presented different options to the finance minister,” said B B  Bhattacharya of Institute of Economic Growth.

Unfortunately, only 11 of 21 people invited turned up.

While supporting the CMP’s emphasis on targeting strong economic growth, the economists also endorsed the plan to step up investment in agriculture and infrastructure.

The other key suggestions included persisting with disinvestment, rationalisation of taxes, introduction of VAT and widening the service tax net.

“If the government wants employment generation, the Budget should pave the way for strong growth,” Bhattacharya said, adding only strong growth can lead poorer sections to prosperity.

To uplift farmers, there is a need to encourage them to diversify from traditional foodgrains into high-value products in horticulture and floriculture. The government should encourage the corporate sector to invest in agriculture and strengthen infrastructure, he added.

Chidambaram declined to comment on any of the suggestions.


Pundits Ask PC To Push Public Investment

06 June 2004, The Financial Express

New Delhi, June 5  Economists have advised finance minister P Chidambaram to give a big push to public investment to accelerate agricultural and industrial growth without worrying too much about increasing fiscal deficit. What is important is employment generation as spelled out in the common minimum programme (CMP), growth and higher taxation will automatically take care of fiscal deficit in the medium term.

Dr BB Bhattacharya of the Institute of Economic Growth (IEG) suggested to the finance minister at the customary pre-budget consultation meeting on Saturday, “there is no need to be fussy about fiscal deficit”. He wanted the minister to step up investment in agriculture and infrastructure.

Dr Bibek Debroy, FE columnist and director, Rajiv Gandhi Foundaton, in his presentation, pitched for labour market reforms on a broader sense without actually carrying out radical changes in Industrial Disputes Act, which covers only 2.4 per cent of the total workforce.

Dr Debroy also urged the minister to redefine “profit-making PSUs” and favoured disinvestment of state-owned enterprises that are vulnerable to global competition.

Both Dr Bhattacharya and Dr Debroy opined against lowering of the interest rates on small savings scheme. Dr Bhattacharya said that interest rates on deposits should be increased to prop up savings rate in the economy. He added efforts should be made to restore credibility of financial institutions like UTI and stock markets in the eyes of investors.

Dr Bhattacharya said private companies should be provided fiscal incentives to invest in agri infrastructure. He also asked the minister to rationalise subsidies and encourage higher education to promote IT, biotech and other forex earning sectors.

To carry forward the reforms, Dr Debroy said the Centre had to take responsibility to rehabilitate the states, most of which were virtually bankrupt. In this context, he said early introduction of value added tax was necessary.

National Institute of Public Finance & Policy (NIPFP) director Govinda Rao suggested that service tax base should be expanded. Earlier, Dr Rao had headed a committee on service tax which had favoured a generalised tax on services, to be integrated with value-added tax.

In another recommendation pertaining to the rationalisation of customs duty, Dr Rao said, it would be better to get rid of special excise duties.

The NIPFP director was also in favour of redefining profit-making PSUs. Tax reforms and better tax administration alone could help mop up more revenue, he said. Dr Rao pointed out the case of last fiscal, when the tax-GDP ratio increased by 0.6 per cent without hike in rates.

Mr Pradeep Mehta of the Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS), a non-government organisation, suggested that the government can save about Rs 2,00,000 crore and contribute to the national income by 8.9 per cent if wastage could be curbed. He also suggested that minister should hold consultations with consumer groups as was the past practice. Mr Chidambaram, this time had not invited consumer activists and scientists for pre-budget consultations.

He said that while the government spoke about achieving 7-8 per cent growth over the next few years, hardly anyone spoke about how national income could be increased and accelerated by efficiency and savings. Transmission and distribution losses in the power sector are to the tune of 1.5 per cent of the gross domestic product, while non-merit subsidies cost Rs 20,600 crore, he said.


Government Security and Trading Systems - From Cancun to Sao Paulo

26 May 2004, The Hindu Business Line

By Alok Ray

ORGANISED by CUTS International, a Jaipur-based civil society organisation, a three-day seminar in Delhi titled "From Cancun to Sao Paulo: The Role of Civil Society in the International Trading System", was attended by researchers, officials from international institutions (such as WTO, UNCTAD) and governments, representatives of NGOs from many countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

The objective was to exchange ideas, develop networking and take an informed stand to further the development goals of the Third World. The immediate outcome was to prepare an Afro-Asian Civil Society Statement that would be presented before the 11th Session of United Nations Conference on Trade and development (UNCTAD XI) to be held at Sao Paulo, Brazil in June 2004.

This seminar was substantially different from standard academic seminars or NGO meets. By bringing together academic researchers, people working at the grassroots from so many countries and policymakers in active and lively debates, the seminar sought to bridge the gap between research, advocacy and capacity-building. It brought out many different perspectives on the same issues.

One thing that came out sharply was that the problem in most African countries is quite different from what it is in India today. Their problems are similar to what India had in the early years following Independence. Their economies still depend on a few agricultural products and, hence, the continuing massive subsidisation of agriculture by the EU and the US hurts them most.

These countries do not have the tax revenue to subsidise their agriculture. The only way they can protect the livelihood of their farmers is by import duties which, in addition to providing protection from subsidised foreign competition, brings them significant revenues to be used for development purposes.

The question of Special and Differential Treatment (SDT) for the LDCs in multilateral trade negotiations came up repeatedly. Several arguments were advanced by different speakers. These included the poor state of infrastructure that imposes an extra cost on LDC producers and the over-dependence on a few commodities for survival of the majority of population in some countries. Some suggested that the developing countries have unilaterally reduced tariffs as part of their structural adjustment programmes. But they are not getting any credit for this — they are being asked to further reduce their tariffs to get reciprocal tariff concessions from the developed countries.

Moreover, the developed countries have derived significant advantages in IPRs, agricultural subsidies and textiles in the intervening period without giving matching benefits to the developing world. For all these reasons, the developing countries can legitimately ask for SDT in multilateral trade negotiations. One commentator, however, pointed out that SDT is a double-edged sword.

It can be used to create divisions within the developing countries bloc by giving preferential treatment to some among them. For example, recently the EU granted tariff preferences to 12 developing countries, including Pakistan, for joining the war on drugs. This STD put countries such as India (especially its textile exports) to disadvantage, for no fault of theirs .

Fortunately, the WTO Appellate Body has ruled against this selective tariff preference by the EU. That, again, underlines the importance of strengthening the multilateral trading system and bringing down the MFN tariffs on a non-discriminatory basis.

This would make regional trading arrangements and SDTs that much less attractive. If some preferential treatment is needed for the "least developed countries', then this term needs to be very clearly defined, leaving no scope for discretionary interpretation by the interested parties.

In the discussions on the benefits and feasibility of free trade areas in the developing world, several participants from smaller developing countries emphasised the need for giving STD by the big countries such as India and China towards their smaller neighbours. Their point was that such unilateral concessions by big countries would not hurt them much as the smaller countries have a limited number of products to export whereas the big brothers can export a much greater variety. Moreover, such gestures would create the good will and the political momentum in smaller countries to further liberalise.

Once the stronger economies within the developing countries bloc provide STD to their weaker neighbours, that would strengthen the legitimacy of demand by the "least developed countries" for STD from the developed countries as well.

It was generally recognised that globalisation opens up enormous opportunities for the developing countries. But many of them are not able to make effective use of these opportunities. Several speakers emphasised the importance of social and political stability, macro-economic stability, infrastructure, appropriate institutions and governance.

In this connection, the need for capacity building and the special role of NGOs were underlined. Capacity building, it was explained, includes updating knowledge about the rules/laws, improving the working of regulatory agencies, developing institutions to effectively voice the concerns of the people before the appropriate authorities, imparting information about how to fight anti-dumping cases in the developed countries and so on.

The domestic distributive implications of international trade policies were brought out forcefully by several speakers. Even the best of policies create gainers and losers. For example, people gain jobs in the export sector but lose jobs in the import competing sector as a country makes use of international trade opportunities.

The speakers emphasised the need for social safety net, adequate compensation and retraining facilities for those losing jobs as a result of resource reallocation following trade liberalisation. They cautioned that instead of addressing these problems which fall in the domestic policy domain, there is a tendency in the developing countries to pass all the blame onto the developed countries or the working of international institutions.

Many expressed happiness at the way the developing countries formed and maintained an effective coalition while bargaining with the developed countries at Cancun. This could be the biggest achievement for the developing world at the `failed' Cancun talks.

Now, the challenge is to preserve this coalition and engage in constructive negotiations to carry forward the development agenda in the ongoing Doha Round of talks.

Though a few speakers talked about the need to includ new emerging issues such as restrictions on work-related visas, offshore outsourcing etc, some others voiced reservations about bringing in more contentious issues before the major ongoing concerns like agricultural subsidies, STDs, IPRs etc are satisfactorily resolved.

Opening up talks on new issues (including the so-called Singapore issues) may provide an opportunity to the developed countries to divert attention and stall progress on the outstanding ones. Should the NGOs be called as a negotiating party at multilateral trade talks? There was an agreement that it was not a feasible and or even a desirable option. First of all, whom to call as representatives of NGOs?

Second, if a lot of representatives are called to participate, it would need a stadium to conduct talks. Third, the actual hard bargaining is a professional job to be done by experts. They, in turn, should do their homework, in close touch with researchers and the civil society organisations beforehand. Some speakers also talked about the need to de-dramatise the role of ministerial meetings and to thrash out mutually-acceptable agreements before the ministers meet in the glare of world media and protesting social activists of all persuasions.

Finally, a question came up: How to influence policy-making in the developed countries? Some felt that however much we talk about our needs, that would not cut much ice. US Congressmen would be more concerned with one textile job in North Carolina than a hundred jobs in Bangladesh.

The suggested avenues included networking with NGOs in the developed countries, making use of influential expatriate lobbies (such as the Indian diaspora in the US) and the US trade and business lobbies (people like Mr Bill Gates are big champions of offshore outsourcing in the interest of their companies). Somehow, the American public needs to be convinced that a $1,200 that Mr Kenneth Lee (the former Enron CEO) used to receive each year as cotton subsidy from the US government may not matter to him but it may mean the difference between life and death for some African farmers.


SA, India and Brazil form third trade axis

07 May 2004, Business Report

By Quentin Wray 

Johannesburg - South Africa, India and Brazil, all key members of the Group of 20-plus (G20+) developing countries, were vital parts of an emerging “third axis” in world trade that was trying to balance the negotiating power of the US and EU, a top Indian non-governmental organisation has said.

Pradeep Mehta, the secretary-general of the Consumer Unity and Trust Society, which has taken strong positions to try to prevent the abuse of developed countries’ trading strength, said this week that while India and South Africa shared common positions on many aspects of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks, there were some key areas where their positions diverged.

South Africa has a flexible approach to incorporating negotiations on the so-called Singapore issues - which include government procurement and investment - in the current round of WTO talks.

India is opposed to them being discussed at all until outstanding problems with the agreement struck during the Uruguay round are dealt with.

South Africa's “flexible negotiating strategy” meant it often faced ‘awkward’ situations in the Africa Group in the WTO.

 He gave the example of Doha in November 2000, when it was agreed that a new round of trade talks would be launched. “The entire African Group was against the new round and Singapore issues but South Africa supported both.” 

In Doha, South Africa was not part of the Like Minded Group of developing countries, which was opposing a new round but had started coming round.

 
“At Cancun ... the situation was different,” Mehta said. “South Africa not only led the G20+ alliance but also supported the cause of west African cotton growers.”


One of the reasons behind the difference in the positions of the two countries was that domestic political pressure meant India, the world's largest democracy, had to take a “hardline stance”.

 
“Unlike South Africa, India has always given more importance to political diplomacy rather than its trading interests.”


Mehta said the emergence of closer three-way ties between India, Brazil and South Africa was important in light of the fact that there had been such poor progress in the multilateral trade talks under the WTO and the “growing problem of market access in North”.

“It is very essential to enhance the South-South trade,” he said, adding this would not only reduce the South’s dependence on North for its exports but would also help diversify exports and increase their negotiating power in trade talks.


CONTACT US

Consumer Unity & Trust Society

D–217,  Bhaskar Marg,  Bani  Park, 

Jaipur  302 016,  India,

Ph: +91(0)141-2282821

Fax: 91.141.2282485  

Email: citee@cuts.org


Hosted by: www.fullestop.com