Official Reforms and India’s Real Economy, Pt. 3

By Sunanda Sen, guest blogger

Part three of a three-part series, a version of which was published in Economic and Political Weekly on September 21, 2019.  Find Part 1 here and Part 2 here

Part 3: Pattern of stagnation in India’s real economy

As already emphasised in the preceding sections of this commentary, a country’s GDP growth alone hardly indicates the country’s level of development, which include employment, social security and absence of poverty. Recognising above is important in the context of the ailing Indian economy that is currently subject to concerns more pressing than the plunging financial sector.

Mention can be made here of the structural changes in the Indian economy, with changing relative contributions of its three major sectors.Those include the share for services moving up to 50% and above since the early 1990s and the respective industry and agriculture shares stalling around 25% and 19% or less since then.

The employment situation as currently prevail in the Indian economy include 90% or more people struggling to eke out a survival in the informal sector while the organised formal sectors within industry and services offer 10% or less of jobs, thus pushing the majority of the working population to the dark terrains of the unorganised and informal jobs.

Read the rest of this entry »

Official Reforms and India’s Real Economy, Pt. 2

By Sunanda Sen, guest blooger

Part two of a three-part series, a version of which was published in Economic and Political Weekly on September 21, 2019.  Find Pt. 1 here.

Pt. 2: How effective to revive the economy?

Sops as above as tax relief—to portfolio as well as corporate investors within and outside the country—while effective in temporarily stimulating the secondary stock market, may not work to reverse the tendencies for the stagnation, even in the financial sector and let alone in the real economy. Contrary to what was expected, the initial response of the stock market continued to be rather non-committal over nearly a month between August 23 and September 20 when the big tax bonanza package was announced. It is possibly too early (and nearly impossible) to project the stock market movements in future. Still more doubtful is an expected positive impact of all above policy moves on capacity creation via the market for initial primary offers (IPOs)—short of which there can be no expansion in the real economy of output, investment and employment.

Official Reforms and India’s Real Economy, Pt. 1

By Sunanda Sen, guest blogger

Part one of a three-part series, a version of which was published in Economic and Political Weekly on September 21, 2019. 

That the Indian economy is currently experiencing a slowdown is more than evident, both with the deliberations in different private circles and with official statements signalling a series of remedial measures, mostly focussed on the ailing financial sector. However, as we point out, the ailing Indian economy has concerns that go beyond flagging GDP growth and the ailing financial sector.

Downturn in the economy

As for the downturn, the country’s GDP growth rate has plunged into a low of 5% in the first quarter of the current financial year 2019–2020. The drop has been accompanied by sharp decelerations in the manufacturing output and a sluggish growth of output in agriculture. Matching both, ‘consumption growth’ has also been weak.

A fact which remains less highlighted in current official concerns includes unemployment, at 7.1% of the labour force during September–December 2018 as reported in the Labour Force Periodic Review. Unemployment has been even higher for urban youth during the period, at 23.4%. Information as is available indicates on-going spread of job cuts in different manufacturing units and wide-ranging distress in rural areas with farmer suicides, which causes added concern.

We’re All in the Same Lifeboat Now, Pt. 2

Climate change comes for farmers – from Mozambique to Iowa

By Timothy A. Wise

Originally published at  Medium, as a contribution to Climate Media Week as people the world over strike for climate action and justice.  Find Part 1 here

Part 2: Iowa: implicated in climate change

As Amnesty International’s secretary general Kumi Naidoo told the BBC, “There is one inescapable and burning injustice we cannot stress enough. The people of Mozambique are paying the price for dangerous climate change when they have done next to nothing to cause this crisis.”

You can’t say the same about Iowa. Every part of Iowa’s industrial model of agriculture is implicated and threatened by climate change. Implicated because industrial agriculture is a major emitter of greenhouse gasses; 14 percent are attributed directly to agriculture. That jumps to 23 percent, according to a recent UN report, when deforestation from agriculture-induced land-use changes, is taken into account. High rates of nitrogen-fertilizer applied to Iowa’s corn fields contribute to emissions of nitrous oxide, more potent than carbon dioxide. The state’s factory farms add to the problem when concentrated manure is sprayed on farmers’ fields.

Threatened because the evil twins of climate change are coming for Iowa’s farmers too. NASA modeling for Iowa shows a high probability of more intense storms, like the recent cyclone, with a growing threat of long droughts. Rising temperatures are making nights too warm for optimal production, and high daytime temperatures are drying out the plants in soil no longer rich enough in organic matter to retain much moisture. Summer rains are less consistent; farmers can’t count on rain in that critical two-week period after the corn tassels.

Many years it is now just too hot and too dry, depressing yields. A University of Minnesota study estimated that by 2075 Iowa corn yields could be 20-50% lower than they are today.

Like their Mozambican counterparts, some Iowa farmers could face the loss of two years of production to the recent flooding. Many lost this year’s crop to late planting, and some lost last year’s as they watched storm waters destroy last year’s stored crops to water damage. They hadn’t sold their corn and beans because prices were so low and President Trump’s trade war had destroyed the export markets they have come to depend on.

Many farmers now fear losing their farms. Debt levels are rising and farm prices remain low despite the flooding. Most vulnerable are those who owe on mortgages or farm equipment, purchased in the boom years when ethanol drove crop prices to unprecedented highs. Those who rent land are also struggling, and more than half of Iowa’s farmland is now rented. Many expect the floodwaters will add to a wave of consolidation as large landowners and outside investors buy up distressed farms at auction, further hollowing out rural areas.

Read the rest of this entry »

September 30, 2019 | Posted in: Uncategorized | Comments Closed

We’re All in the Same Lifeboat Now

Climate change comes for farmers – from Mozambique to Iowa

By Timothy A. Wise

Originally published at  Medium, as a contribution to Climate Media Week as people the world over strike for climate action and justice.

Part 1: Mozambique

It felt ominous when I was in Iowa in March that both Iowa and Mozambique were underwater from cyclone-induced flooding widely attributed to climate change. I’d studied and written about both places in my recent book. These farming communities are as distant from one another – geographically and developmentally – as they could be, yet there they were in the same metaphorical lifeboat trying to save their families and farms from the floods.

I saw the devastation in central Mozambique in June – houses still missing their roofs, schools barely functioning, and farmers without seeds for the coming rainy season. The March cyclone wiped out crops that were nearly ready for harvest, leaving communities dependent for the present on food aid and without seeds for this year’s planting.

Parts of Iowa were underwater when I was there in March, and today Iowa and much of the Midwest is still suffering periodic flooding from the wettest year on record. Many farmers couldn’t plant because the ground was too wet, or they got their crops in late, reducing yields. There were only three reported deaths from the flooding; Iowa had the lifeboats to get people out of danger. But they are not out of the destructive path of climate change, and I sensed a new awareness of that danger, suddenly clear and present.

With farmers on opposite sides of the globe suffering the same types of severe storms provoked by a changing climate, I imagined them all in the same lifeboat. They would have a lot to learn from one another. The Mozambicans might tell their Iowan boat-mates that U.S. farmers, with their greenhouse-gas-emitting industrial-scale farms, bore at least some of the responsibility for the rising waves of climate catastrophe. But those African peasants might also share their secret to surviving climate change, one that could help reverse Iowa’s own self-destructive agricultural path. Listen closely, Iowa, can you hear it? Diversidade, whisper the Mozambicans. Diversity. It may just be the key to climate resilience, from Africa to Iowa.

Read the rest of this entry »

September 27, 2019 | Posted in: Uncategorized | Comments Closed

Local Responsibility for a Global Problem: Juliana v. the U.S.

The following is the text of the speech that Liz Stanton gave at Wednesday night’s event at Tufts University celebrating the life and work of Frank Ackerman, who died in late July. Frank was one of the founders of Dollars & Sense, which maintains Triple Crisis blog, and was a frequent contributor to Triple Crisis. Cross-posted at the Dollars & Sense blog.

I’d like to talk about some very recent work of Frank’s.

Frank wrote an expert report wrote last year and made a deposition in that same case. Some of you may have heard of it.

Twenty-one kids are suing the U.S. government for knowingly failing to protect them from climate change. It’s Juliana v. the United States, filed in 2015. It’s been tossed back and forth between courts, included the U.S. Supreme Court for going on four years and has yet to see an actual hearing, a day in court for those kids, some of whom are now young adults.

In his expert report on behalf of Kelsey Juliana and her 20 co-plaintiffs, Frank explains that the conventional methods of economic analysis employed by the federal government in its decision making undervalue or dismiss altogether serious risks of climate damage. He writes about some pretty wonky, esoteric topics: the discount rate, fat-tailed distributions, contingent valuation, and credible worst-case risk assessment. He was one of quite a few witnesses offered by the plaintiffs. But it’s his testimony—full of formal economic theory, moral philosophy, and a chapter on pricing the priceless—it’s that testimony on which the judgment in this case may well hinge, if it ever gets that day in court.

September 20, 2019 | Posted in: Uncategorized | Comments Closed

In Memoriam, Frank Ackerman

It is with great sadness that we announce that Frank Ackerman, a frequent contributor to Triple Crisis blog and one of the founders of Dollars & Sense (which maintains Triple Crisis), died on July 25th of this year.

Frank contributed five posts to Triple Crisis earlier this year; the fifth was Inequality, Sunk Costs, and Climate Policy (and the other four are linked at the top of that post). Frank revised the first three of those posts into the cover feature for the March/April issue of D&S, Can We Afford a Stable Climate.

Last September, at the 50th-anniversary celebration for the Union for Radical Political Economics, Frank spoke on a panel with two other D&S founders, Ann Davis and Arthur MacEwan, and D&S co-editor Chris Sturr, on the early history of D&S.  You can listen to Frank’s remarks here.  (The article about the history of D&S that Frank mentions at the beginning of his remarks can be found here.) Thanks to D&S collective member Cadwell Turnbull for recording and editing the talk.

There will be an event honoring Frank tomorrow at Tufts University.  The event begins at 4:30 in the Alumnae Lounge at the Aidekman Center on Tufts’ Medford campus.  Several speakers will discuss Frank’s research on climate change, environmental regulation, and economic modeling. The presentations will go on until about 6:00, and a reception will follow.

September 17, 2019 | Posted in: Uncategorized | Comments Closed

Trade, Currency War Weapons Double-Edged

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Anis Chowdhury
Cross-posted at Inter Press Service.
The US-China trade war has flared up again less than two weeks after US President Donald Trump delayed new tariffs of US$160 billion on Chinese imports until December, purportedly to avoid harming the holiday shopping season.

Ratcheting Up War Talk

Earlier, after two days of trade talks without much progress, Trump claimed on 1 August that China had not kept its promise to buy more US farm exports. He then announced 10 per cent tariffs on US$300 billion worth of Chinese imports, besides the 25 per cent already levied on US$250 billion of goods from China.
China’s Commerce Ministry responded on 5 August by stopping purchases of US agricultural products. Its central bank, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) also allowed China’s long over-valued renminbi (RMB) currency to fall below the RMB7 per dollar ‘threshold’ to its lowest level in more than a decade, causing US equity markets to plunge.
In response, Trump tweeted, “It’s called ‘currency manipulation’.” Supporting the President, the US Treasury officially claimed, for the first time since 1994, that China was manipulating its currency.

Why the Climate Crisis Is Also the Crisis of Capitalism

By Ying Chen and Güney Işikara (guest post)

Many people are wary of bringing a critique of capitalism into the discussion of climate change, even if they are genuinely concerned about the crisis and actively looking for effective solutions. All it takes is the mention of any word ending with “-ism,” and skeptics will conclude that the discussion is unnecessarily ideological.

However, looking at the climate crisis through a Marxist lens can give us greater insight into the political inertia that has stalled the implementation of any kind of coordinated national response to climate change. The way capitalism operates in the United States, with its all-encompassing forces that have played a major role in creating today’s environmental disaster, is also standing in the way of the implementation of a comprehensive solution. We can only understand the impact of capitalism on the current crisis by viewing capitalism as a specific economic system and assessing its historical impact—as well as its limits and contradictions.

Read the rest of this entry »

Agroecology as Innovation

By Timothy A. Wise*

Cross-posted at Food Tank

Recently, the High Level Panel of Experts of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released its much-anticipated report on agroecology. The report signals the continuing shift in emphasis in the UN agency’s approach to agricultural development. As outgoing FAO Director General Jose Graziano da Silva has indicated, “We need to promote a transformative change in the way that we produce and consume food. We need to put forward sustainable food systems that offer healthy and nutritious food, and also preserve the environment. Agroecology can offer several contributions to this process.”

The commissioned report, “Agroecological and other innovative approaches for sustainable agriculture and food systems that enhance food security and nutrition.” Two years in the making, the report makes clear the urgent need for change. “Food systems are at a crossroads. Profound transformation is needed,” the summary begins. It stresses the importance of ecological agriculture, which supports “diversified and resilient production systems, including mixed livestock, fish, cropping, and agroforestry, that preserve and enhance biodiversity, as well as the natural resource base.”