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Saturday, 9 June 2018

The Hindu Editorial: An Unexceptional Economic Performance

Mahendra Guru
Title: An unexceptional economic performance 

(It is now clear that the Indian economy is moving along a lower growth path) 

Context:- At the end of May the Central Statistics Office (CSO) released much-awaited estimates of national income for the final quarter of the 2017-18 financial year. The timing coincided with the completion of four years in office of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government. 

The government embraced the GDP figures to declare that it has successfully “accelerated growth”. However, while this holds true for the past few quarters it does not when the past four years are taken into the reckoning(calculate). The facts are that the annual rate of growth since 2014 has first risen and then declined. 

Along which horizon? 

When you take a view longer, you see that on average annual GDP growth in these years is, thus far, no higher than what it was earlier. Actually, by a certain calculation, it is exactly the same but such precision is hardly necessary to conclude that the NDA has not done much better than its predecessor as far as the growth of the economy is concerned. 

There are of course other aspects of an economy that should legitimately be of our concern but this government has generally prioritised production as reflected in its attention to the ‘ease of doing business’ and its flagship programme ‘Make in India’. 

However, growth has not taken of under this government in a way that was anticipated during the election campaign of 2014. 

The question remains as to why the economy has not responded with alacrity(तत्परता)to reforms that were supposedly so significant. 

Budgetary strategy 

Two points may be made about the Modi government’s budgetary strategy. First, over the five budgets it has presented, it has maintained the share of capital expenditure but this has occurred alongside a declining total expenditure, perhaps motivated by the pursuit of ‘less government’. 

The net effect of these is a slightly lower budgetary capital outlay as a share of GDP. Second, the rate of growth of ‘government final consumption expenditure’ has been steadily increased. The growth implications of such a strategy are obvious. 

The irony is that while India finally has ‘inflation targeting’ it does not yet have an effective anti-inflationary policy, which would be to ensure food supply at steady price. 

So, unimaginative conduct of macroeconomic policy has resulted in slowing demand growth. The second factor contributing to slack demand in the economy has been agricultural performance. 

In the first two years of this NDA government, the weather cycle wreaked havoc by reducing agricultural output in 2014-15 and barely increasing it in 2015-16. 

The growth of agricultural incomes could not but have been affected by this. In 2016-17, however, agricultural output rebounded, posting very strong growth. But now demonetisation, by disrupting the supply chain, is likely to have not just stymied(गतिरोध) the growth of agricultural incomes but actually lowered them. The growth of manufacturing reflects this. 

Despite the advantages 

Another favourable development, which unlike the oil price decline continues, is that the world economy is growing steadily for the first time since the global economic crisis set off in 2007-08. Surprisingly, however, India’s export performance since 2014 is far less impressive than it was in the five years following the crisis. 

Final Words 

India’s high foreign reserves, advertised by the Prime Minister at Davos(Switzerland), reflect this aspect rather than dollars earned. This is costly for growth. It keeps interest rates high and demand shackled.

Title: NEET nostrums 

(The national medical entrance test is here to stay; States must prepare their students better) 

Context:- There was no uncertainty over the medical admission process this year in Tamil Nadu. There were no attempts to get an exemption from the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET). And, willy-nilly, as many as 1.14 lakh aspirants took the examination that has been made mandatory by the Supreme Court as the sole admission window for medical colleges. 

Yet, the poor performance of students from Tamil Nadu in the entrance test has demonstrated that the State is still far from being ‘NEET-ready’. 

It is true that a well-intentioned beginning has been made to upgrade the syllabus and to make students more competitive. However, only 45,336 candidates, or 39.6% of those who took the test, qualified for admission. 

Along with Maharashtra, this is the lowest ratio in the country. What is important is that these candidates are merely eligible for admission, and far fewer students are actually likely to get admission. Further, the chances of many of the candidates in the lower percentiles gaining entry into a government medical college are quite low, and many of them may not be able to afford to pay for seats in private colleges. 

Proponents(समर्थक) of NEET may maintain that its objectives — ensuring uniformity in standards of medical education by admitting students on the basis of a common national test and eliminating capitation fee for medical courses in private institutions — are being successfully met. 

However, it is a moot question whether the commercialisation of education has been really eliminated, and whether the admission policy is sufficiently inclusive for this large and diverse country. 

Like many other competitive examinations, NEET has spawned a coaching industry, with some parts of the country proving to be ideal locales for academic sweatshops. Many of those in the top percentiles have attended long-term coaching classes as well as crash courses, paying exorbitant fees. 

There is anger in Tamil Nadu against this perceived socio-economic asymmetry built into the medical admission process that keeps medical courses out of bounds for disadvantaged sections. Such feelings intensified as a result of at least two young women committing suicide after they failed to clear NEET. 

Final Words: 

NEET is here to stay and State governments are now best-advised to upgrade academic standards and prepare their students better. This will help in seeing that India’s healthcare infrastructure continues to get a steady inflow of medical manpower drawn from all sections of society. 

Vocabulary words: 

Coincide (verb) = Occur at the same time (संयोग) 

Precision (noun) = The quality or fact being exact and accurate (शुद्धता) 

Alacrity (noun) = Brisk and cheerful readiness (तत्परता) 

Allude (verb) = Suggest or call attention to indirectly (संकेत करना) 

Stubbornly (adv) = In a way that is difficult to remove or improve (हठपूर्वक) 

Reckless (adj) = Rash, careless (लापरवाह) 

Alpha and the omega (idiom) = The beginning and the end 

Wreak (verb) = Cause a large amount of damage or harm 

Havoc (noun) = Widespread destruction (नाश) 

Stymie (verb) = Prevent or hinder the progress of (गतिरोध) 

Nostrum (noun) = A medicine prepared by an unqualified person 

Willy-nilly (adv) = Whether one likes it or not, haphazardly (बिना सोचे समझे) 

Proponent (noun) = Advocate, supporter (समर्थक) 

Revel (verb) = Celebrate, gain pleasure from (आनंद लेना) 

Toil (verb) = Work extremely hard (कड़ी मेहनत करना) 

Oust (verb) = Expel (बेदख़ल) 

Vehemently (adv) = In a forceful feeling (जोरदार) 


CAPITATION FEE: It refers to an illegal transaction whereby an organisation that provides educational services collects a fee that is more than what is approved by regulatory norms.

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