God is in the details

God is in the details

Why is it that when we talk of Manila as an important, cosmopolitan, capital city, we do so in the past tense? Is it because Manila is lost in the group of cities that now form the National Capital Region?

Spanish Manila was contained within (Intra) the walls (Muros), while districts outside (Extra-muros) were suburbs or arrabales: Binondo, Ermita, Malate, Paco, Pandacan, Quiapo, Sampaloc, San Miguel, and Tondo. Old Manila disappeared not because of “New Manila” in Quezon City, it was diluted when joined by suburbs and other areas into “Greater Manila” in the last century. Today’s Metropolitan Manila includes Caloocan, Las Piñas, Makati, Malabon, Mandaluyong, Marikina, Muntinlupa, Navotas, Parañaque, Pasay, Pasig, Pateros, Quezon City, San Juan, Taguig, and Valenzuela.

Manila in the 18th century was not a hick, backwater town but a bustling port city in the heyday of the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade, which has been rightly identified as marking the first globalization. The vignettes on the 1734 Murillo Velarde map of the Philippines depict different types of people and different ethnicities in Manila. Aside from Christianized and indigenous Filipinos, Spaniards, and Chinese (from heathen to Hispanicized and Christianized), there were Indians, Japanese, Armenians, Mughals; people from Ternate, Tidore, the Malabar Coast, and even Cafres or East Africans from Portuguese slave markets.

Long after the end of the Galleon Trade in 1815, Manila remained a busy port city as evidenced by advertisements in the revolutionary newspaper La Independencia, which came in three languages: Spanish, Tagalog, and English. La Independencia ran from September 1898 to November 1899, the turbulent period that saw not just the Philippine Revolution, but the passing of the islands from Spanish to American colonization. These two empires, Spain in decline and the United States on the rise, refused to recognize Emilio Aguinaldo and the still-born Malolos Republic when they drafted the terms for the end of the Spanish-American War. On Dec. 10, 1898, the Treaty of Paris was signed. Spain sold the Philippines to the US for $20 million.

Initially, I looked at the few English ads in La Independencia for the shift in language, then the content. One announced the sale of 2,000 Philippine butterflies, preserved and individually filed in envelopes. Contact was Mateo Gutierrez of Bacolor, Pampanga. Blank notebooks and stationery were also available in Bacolor from Ceferino Joven, a correspondent of the newspaper. Another item that caught my eye was violins that would cost a fortune today: “Notice. Excellent ‘Stradivarius’ fiddles have been recently received, as well as superior cords for violins, guitars, and bandores [bandurrias?], mane (cordas), fiddle bows, fiddlesticks of different prices, and further requisites for string and wind instruments. Isla del Romero Street Number 2, Santa Cruz. Benitez and Co.”

An influx of American soldiers, merchants, preachers, teachers, and colonial administrators required housing. The best ones were located outside Intramuros. “To Let. A newly painted house at the seashore with good rooms and shower bath. 36 Carina St., Ermita.” Longer ads were in English and betray thought in Spanish or Tagalog: “Important por sale or to let a pretty Country’s house of two footings wish galeries and a large ground wish a fine garden. Handsome baths, potables water, excellent inhodoro, and all other kind of accomodations. Distance from the Walled City, sparingly 10 minutes. Apply to Palmera Street, no. 0 Sampaloc.”

The ads are examples of early Philippine English: “The undersigned undertakes to construct all sorts of buildings boxes, but make a specialty in cigar boxes, carpenter and seller of all kinds of Philippines Wood. T. Sampedro y Fernandez y Cia. No. 1 Globo de Oro, Quiapo, Manila.”

Previous historians ignored La Independencia ads as trivial, even if they help reconstruct daily life in the early American period. Curious historians can use even ephemera like discarded cigarette wrappers and lotto tickets as keys to the past. Seemingly insignificant data may become relevant after a second, closer, look for God is indeed in the details.

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Left Strategy in the Time of the IMF

On the heels of the International Monetary Fund
International Monetary Fund

Along with the World Bank, the IMF was founded on the day the Bretton Woods Agreements were signed. Its first mission was to support the new system of standard exchange rates.

When the Bretton Wood fixed rates system came to an end in 1971, the main function of the IMF became that of being both policeman and fireman for global capital: it acts as policeman when it enforces its Structural Adjustment Policies and as fireman when it steps in to help out governments in risk of defaulting on debt repayments.

As for the World Bank, a weighted voting system operates: depending on the amount paid as contribution by each member state. 85% of the votes is required to modify the IMF Charter (which means that the USA with 17,68% % of the votes has a de facto veto on any change).

The institution is dominated by five countries: the United States (16,74%), Japan (6,23%), Germany (5,81%), France (4,29%) and the UK (4,29%).
The other 183 member countries are divided into groups led by one country. The most important one (6,57% of the votes) is led by Belgium. The least important group of countries (1,55% of the votes) is led by Gabon and brings together African countries.
’s (IMF) Executive Board approval of a bailout agreement, the government wields promises of foreign aid and investment. It is also attempting to confuse and frustrate the incipient opposition. It is trying to turn social groups, such as working people and public sector workers, against each other. The government is gearing up for a broad privatisation push, for example, by inciting the public against “lazy, entitled” workers. It neglects to mention the even more dramatic increase in the cost of essential services that would result.

In addition, such a framing of privatisation ignores the role that the political class has played for decades in undermining the social arm of the state from within. There has been little accountability to a democratic mandate to provide the people with adequate services. Instead, politicians and big business have been in cahoots. The very inadequacy of public services justified “solutions”—such as the import of private vehicles in the absence of good public transport—that helped create the foreign exchange crisis. Even more cuts to state spending are now envisioned as a solution. The Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government’s strategy is to deflect attention away from the way in which the logic of capital has insinuated itself into the state. However, this is no substitute for a real social base. The professional middle classes in Colombo may appear relatively quiet for now, their sporadic opposition to measures such as tax increases aside. But the regime has no new social contract to offer to the rest of the country.

Nationalist Right

In this context, whoever can seize on the regime’s weakness will ultimately benefit. Given the disorganised state of the Left, the nationalist Right maintains the advantage by default. Moreover, the very lack of discipline within the Left means that its arguments can also be appropriated in defence of the nationalist Right. Some forces that style themselves as Left may even willingly accept this role. The confusion must be clarified. What is at stake is the very definition of the Left itself. The question is whether it can avoid being appropriated by a nationalist Right movement that is almost sure to make headway at some point in the absence of a clear, progressive alternative.

Historically, many have argued that fascism was a response to the threat of the revolutionary Left. But decades of neoliberalism have succeeded in undermining the bonds of social solidarity in Sri Lanka. In this context, the re-emergence of fascism hinges not only on containing but also expressing the underlying frustrations with the system, especially in the absence of an alternative. That includes the likely failure of the Left as well if it focuses narrowly on electoral politics. The current emphasis on the National People’s Power (NPP) gambit within some sections of the Left especially must not preclude the intellectual and organising work necessary to revive an actual social movement grounded in the working people. Only the latter can hold political parties accountable to the demands of the people.

Meanwhile, there are several scenarios that can play out. Politics, of course, depends on timing. But the underlying trajectory remains relatively clear. The continued under-performance of the economy relative to pre-crisis projections—what economists call scarring—will create the space for popular grievances in which a fascist-type movement can intervene. According to this baseline scenario, the nationalist Right could capitalise on popular frustrations with what is being portrayed as a recovery, but which in fact has so far constituted a dramatic regression in most people’s living standards.

The Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government, for example, is celebrating a decline in inflation
The cumulated rise of prices as a whole (e.g. a rise in the price of petroleum, eventually leading to a rise in salaries, then to the rise of other prices, etc.). Inflation implies a fall in the value of money since, as time goes by, larger sums are required to purchase particular items. This is the reason why corporate-driven policies seek to keep inflation down.
year-over-year. This ignores, however, the tremendous devastation that has already occurred in working people’s lives. That includes the tremendous permanent hike in the cost of living along with a catastrophic loss of incomes and other sources of financial support because of the economic depression. The queues for essential items such as fuel and milk powder may have ended. But the crisis of affordability is now apparent in indicators such as growing poverty and child malnutrition. We may not know how and when the social and political consequences will manifest. Nevertheless, in the absence of a progressive Left capable of bending popular anger in a redistributive direction, they are almost certain to occur in a destructive way.

If the nationalist Right strengthens further, the social question would be further shaped by a narrow nationalist interpretation of Sri Lanka’s subordination within the global order. Reaction—draped in the banner of a new “multipolar” alliance—would frame itself in terms of resisting “Western conspiracy”, and the inevitable targeting of internal others, such as non-Sinhala communities, which that project entails. Even if the nationalist Right fails to secure a stable hegemony, the alternative scenario does not look good either. An equilibrium could be achieved through imperial bargaining between hegemonic powers that only entrenches Sri Lanka’s subordination. That too will put the country in the crosshairs of looming global conflict.

Left Disorientation

For the Left, it is not enough to ascribe these two terrible scenarios to the inevitable tendency of neoliberalism to disorganise the opposition. It also reflects a failure specific to the Left in Sri Lanka in the current moment, namely its ideological disorientation. The Left no doubt will take time to recover its long-lost organising potential and grassroots networks, especially in places such as the rural South. But the problem is that the Left has yet to even produce an intellectual, no less than a political, vanguard capable of spelling out the failure of the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government to actively confront the IMF in the interests of its own population.

Some now beseech the IMF to deal with “corruption” for example. But this is a convenient, self-serving explanation promoted by international institutions allowing them to ignore the decades of policy they supported encouraging the upward distribution of wealth. Instead, the Left must challenge the state. It must actively demand fiscal space, for example, for far more relief than the measly 0.6% of Gross Domestic Product
Gross Domestic Product

Gross Domestic Product is an aggregate measure of total production within a given territory equal to the sum of the gross values added. The measure is notoriously incomplete; for example it does not take into account any activity that does not enter into a commercial exchange. The GDP takes into account both the production of goods and the production of services. Economic growth is defined as the variation of the GDP from one period to another.
(GDP) that has been allocated in this year’s budget. The Left must consider each statement it puts out from the vantage point of its ideological value in strengthening popular consciousness. [1] In theory, of course, we can always fall back on our principles, to say that the IMF’s austerity push must be opposed in general. But in practice, even this stance requires hard work to understand where and how the supposed negotiation can be pushed. For example, while the IMF is promoting fiscal consolidation, where has been the opposite emphasis on counter-cyclical spending – that is, policies to support economic recovery especially through jobs and incomes? Why have the IMF’s claims generally gone unopposed in the Sri Lankan public sphere, a few critical voices aside? Here we must contextualise past debates to identify the relevant distinction that can be used to critique the austerity push.

The neoliberals with their well-funded think tanks and experts have temporarily won the debate by delegitimising ‘loose monetary policy’ as an example of “money printing.” They did so by decoupling monetary policy from fiscal policy. Meaning, they obscured the need for an increase in government spending and a shift in where it must occur, to provide relief along with channelling investment into critical areas. Instead, there has been no guiding hand of public stimulus since the onset of the economic crisis. As a result, low interest rates
Interest rates
When A lends money to B, B repays the amount lent by A (the capital) as well as a supplementary sum known as interest, so that A has an interest in agreeing to this financial operation. The interest is determined by the interest rate, which may be high or low. To take a very simple example: if A borrows 100 million dollars for 10 years at a fixed interest rate of 5%, the first year he will repay a tenth of the capital initially borrowed (10 million dollars) plus 5% of the capital owed, i.e. 5 million dollars, that is a total of 15 million dollars. In the second year, he will again repay 10% of the capital borrowed, but the 5% now only applies to the remaining 90 million dollars still due, i.e. 4.5 million dollars, or a total of 14.5 million dollars. And so on, until the tenth year when he will repay the last 10 million dollars, plus 5% of that remaining 10 million dollars, i.e. 0.5 million dollars, giving a total of 10.5 million dollars. Over 10 years, the total amount repaid will come to 127.5 million dollars. The repayment of the capital is not usually made in equal instalments. In the initial years, the repayment concerns mainly the interest, and the proportion of capital repaid increases over the years. In this case, if repayments are stopped, the capital still due is higher…

The nominal interest rate is the rate at which the loan is contracted. The real interest rate is the nominal rate reduced by the rate of inflation.
, or cheaper borrowing, previously accommodated speculation. There was little productive investment through the government’s fiscal deficit. As was recognised long ago, trying to stimulate the economy through low interest
An amount paid in remuneration of an investment or received by a lender. Interest is calculated on the amount of the capital invested or borrowed, the duration of the operation and the rate that has been set.
rates alone is like “pushing on a string”. This is a principle that the previous government led by Gotabaya Rajapaksa failed to recognise. It chose to ignore actual spending measures for revival.

A similar paradox now affects Western countries, where Central Banks are trying to use interest rate hikes to weaken labour and suppress demand. These measures are also provoking financial instability because of the previous boom in the issuance and purchase of speculative assets, such as junk bonds
Junk Bonds
The nickname in the USA for high-risk bonds, also called High Yield Bonds, issued by a company whose solvency is considered doubtful. This type of bond is considered highly speculative by the rating agencies.
. This took place in the context of a low interest rate environment that lacked tighter regulations on financial speculation along with redistributive public spending. Separately, as a growing number of critical economists in the West are arguing, raising interest rates will do little to solve the underlying factors driving the rising cost of living. That includes the critical need for investment to deal with supply constraints along with windfall taxes on corporations that are using these to justify indiscriminate price increases. Finally, as economists such as Jayati Ghosh have pointed out, financial tightening in the core countries threatens to derail development in the global South by dramatically raising the costs for servicing external debt.

In the case of Sri Lanka, the interest rate hikes have been based on incorrect assumptions about the reason behind rising prices. Mainstream experts argued that these were caused by too much demand, when they were in fact the result of exogenous factors that made imports more expensive, such as the war in Ukraine. Moreover, the rate hikes have made the situation even worse by increasing the costs of borrowing for small and medium enterprises along with working people who have been forced to pawn personal assets to survive. The hikes reflect wrongheaded macroeconomic assumptions about the need for forced savings to finance investment. However, in practice, this supposedly neutral methodological claim has become an ideological justification for wage repression. In this case, “savings” or the decline in working people’s real incomes, are absorbed through increased profits abroad, and through the consumption of elite rentiers at home. [2]

Furthermore, the related IMF-designed constraints on government spending—the goal of a primary, or fiscal, surplus—will only aid global finance capital in its project to extract more value from Sri Lanka. They are meant to force the country to prioritise debt repayments in the absence of large haircuts on external loans. It is crucial to keep in mind that in this regard, the IMF recommendations of fiscal consolidation and interest rate hikes have already been implemented since early last year in the aftermath of the release of its Staff Report. The “brutal experiment,” according to the IMF’s Senior Mission Chief for Sri Lanka, was in fact part of the preliminary conditions for approval of a bailout agreement. The resulting economic contraction must be ascribed to a failure to provide immediate relief to people through an increase in government spending.

Where is the Negotiation with the IMF?

At the same time, for the Left to try again to win this debate and realise gains in practical terms also requires grappling with another set of issues. Sri Lanka’s policy autonomy is no doubt constrained. It must seek external financing to deal with its external debt, in addition to a long-term need for development financing. That will inevitably come with conditions. But the Left could argue, for example, that to whatever extent possible, any government sincere in its efforts to negotiate on behalf of its population must draw a redline with the IMF. That includes explaining why immediate ‘fiscal consolidation’ (double-speak for austerity), especially during an economic depression, is flat-out unacceptable. Perhaps the amount of government spending that could be authorised through an IMF agreement would not be unlimited. But it could surely include a threshold for a fiscal deficit that includes some amount of direct spending. This must include far more relief and investment in those areas vital to increasing domestic production for the purpose of reducing the import bill. Lower interest rates would be the necessary complement to these measures.

The IMF may reject such proposals, insofar as they contravene its core free trade assumptions. But at the very least the ideological confidence of the population would be strengthened. This approach could signal to the public that whichever government in power that adopted it was sincere in its negotiation. More importantly, it could further develop the social consciousness of a people capable of demanding more radical, redistributive measures, such as wealth taxes, in time. This attitude would be the real way of measuring the distance between the current Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government in power and any opposition that hopes to replace it with the promise of renegotiating—if not eventually being forced to reject—the IMF agreement. The Left may not be an active part of such an electoral coalition. But it could at least provide the ideological perspective capable of shaping its policies and forcing a quasi-progressive regime to accommodate its critique. This pragmatic perspective contrasts with the hard Right government currently in power, which paints dissent from the IMF agreement as treason.

Such a political programme would also require going to the people. The purpose would be a debate not only about a set of policy demands, but a fundamental shift in the development model. That would mean one that brings into view the core needs of social reproduction. It would entail specifying the investments in the social sector needed to reduce the burdens on women and other frontline communities especially. That includes higher incomes for care
Le concept de « care work » (travail de soin) fait référence à un ensemble de pratiques matérielles et psychologiques destinées à apporter une réponse concrète aux besoins des autres et d’une communauté (dont des écosystèmes). On préfère le concept de care à celui de travail « domestique » ou de « reproduction » car il intègre les dimensions émotionnelles et psychologiques (charge mentale, affection, soutien), et il ne se limite pas aux aspects « privés » et gratuit en englobant également les activités rémunérées nécessaires à la reproduction de la vie humaine.
workers. The approach to development in general would be one that views labour, as opposed to mere capital, intensification as the priority. Redistributive reforms in this context need not necessarily put further pressure on the budget either. They could also include measures to reduce domestic rigidities, as Michal Kalecki and successive development economists after him have noted. One possibility is a programme for land redistribution that prioritises marginalised groups.

In this regard, for it to be effective, self-sufficiency must be articulated in progressive terms. A reactionary understanding of self-sufficiency, predicated on gendered and other exclusivist hierarchies, is useless if not dangerous. Furthermore, the Left can and should engage with the technical question of debt restructuring while thinking about a much wider project to redesign the economy with egalitarian principles in mind. This task is especially urgent when a country such as Sri Lanka is trying to emerge from an economic crisis while grappling with the failure of the previous model that led to the breakdown.

Internationalism over Insularity

Meanwhile, the absence of a clear Left position on the economy is not only deeply felt in terms of the failure to articulate a domestic alternative in Sri Lanka. It is also revealed in the reluctance to grapple with the deep implications of global unravelling. In this regard, the Sri Lankan Left, as part of a broader global Left, has failed to coalesce on a platform that supports the right to self-determination, regardless of an aggressor’s geopolitical affiliation. Meaning, for example, the need for solidarity with Palestine and Ukraine. The resulting ideological confusion demonstrates how far we are from any hope of a real movement for global solidarity through which the Left in Sri Lanka could find succour.

Instead, to arrive at such a position would require parallel efforts to resist the simmering dynamics of hegemonic rivalry that threaten to morph into outright inter-imperialist conflict. The Left needs to be much clearer on the social transformation that must occur in core countries such as the US and the European Union’s member states. For example, redesigning the built environment to facilitate public transportation as opposed to focusing solely on an electric vehicle transition that contains its own problematic reliance on extractive industries. Such a shift in perspective means challenging a post-Washington Consensus rooted in competitive mercantilism by demanding direct redistribution instead. Or, a levelling social policy, not military Keynesianism. [3] The reality is that strategic competition between great powers has always been a poor substitute for confrontation with ruling classes at home. Moreover, the world can hardly withstand another bout of destruction on the scale of a World War in the hopes—even more remote than in Lenin’s time—of converting imperialist war into civil war.

Meanwhile, to the extent that the global Left sees a China-led multipolar bloc as an alternative, it has also failed to contend with the social contradictions that could otherwise set limits on the regimes that consolidate in those countries. Where is the solidarity extended to class struggles and resistance movements within their respective social and regional peripheries? Accordingly, a clear path to “accumulation without dispossession” does not look likely to materialise in the absence of a countervailing force such as a strong social movement. The idea behind such a form of accumulation would be one that strengthens working people’s assets through, for example, the build-up of material wealth within the rural cooperative sector. This could decelerate the forced migration of people from rural to urban areas, or from poorer to richer countries, for the purpose of seeking incomes in the absence of alternative livelihoods at home.

Examples of this style of accumulation have indeed occurred within the interstices of major changes, such as the rise of modern welfare states that introduced pensions and other transfers to support multi-generational households. But even these measures have rarely, if ever, been incorporated into a full-blown, alternative vision of a complex, modern economy. That would presuppose a broader restructuring of relations of production that has yet to occur, even in those states that have claimed to be communist, but which have clung to a narrow ‘productivist’ approach. Instead, because of the absence of a collective agency that can demand change and hold states accountable, the near future seems set to involve a frightening amount of global strife and conflict. This is what the world systems scholars Giovanni Arrighi and Beverly Silver called systemic chaos. Conditions making the situation worse include the constraints imposed by climate change and the inherent tendency of capital’s globalisation toward premature deindustrialisation. The latter reflects the ability of debt to outweigh global trade growth. In the absence of strong domestic resistance, poorer countries will be dragged deeper into austerity.

In this context, there are no clear winners in the geopolitical struggle with which the Left can align on a global level. This is where the current moment is more analogous to the lead up to World War I than to the era of national liberation struggles in the 1960s and 1970s. In the case of the latter, global solidarity was a real, operative force. Counter-hegemonic movements linked anti-racist struggles in the core countries to anti-imperialist forces in the periphery. Stokely Carmichael of the US Black Panther Party, for example, collaborated with Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah. Instead, what we see today is a Left that contains a sizeable constituency willing to praise bellicose isolationism, embodied in the white supremacist Far Right, as an example of an attack on US hegemony. Furthermore, Sri Lanka’s own 1930s-style crisis is concatenated within this descent into a period of intensifying rivalry between hegemonic powers. This leads to a situation in which, for serious thinking actors on the Left in Sri Lanka, there is no clear exit.

The Consequences of Unravelling

If it is the case that Sri Lanka’s crisis distils the most severe consequences of the unravelling of the global order, then it is even more imperative for Sri Lanka to have a programme for self-sufficiency. This is not only for moral-economic but also for strategic reasons. Sri Lanka cannot expect its problems to be resolved through a progressive global mechanism that can alleviate the debt burden on poorer countries. The IMF’s hegemony will not be shaken outside of an existential disruption of the global order. Nor can Sri Lanka export its way out, because global trade growth is under pressure. The reality instead is that Sri Lanka must contend with a polarising global context in which state power is increasingly overdetermining the power of capital. Big banks and corporations in the West, for example, continue to see China as an irreplaceable market. But they are increasingly at odds with their own states. Governments are imposing political discipline. They are offering carrots, such as more investment opportunities and subsidies framed in terms of re-shoring and “friend-shoring”. And they are imposing sticks, such as export controls on critical inputs, especially semiconductors.

This epochal cycle in the reconfiguration of the global regime of accumulation is driven by contradictions in the relationship between capital and state power. Insofar as finance has become unstable, trade has become more politicised. We saw the onset of these changes with the Global Financial Crisis of 2008. In its aftermath, the political pushback against the global order from within Western countries was framed in terms of a populist critique. That focused on the hollowing out of manufacturing and the loss of good-paying jobs that had occurred through decades of trade liberalisation. The process included the domination of financial speculation over productive investment. Growing frustration with this tendency was famously appropriated by right-wing figures such as Trump. Now, the trend is accelerating. Financial instability is again forcing policymakers to reckon with the potential consequences for the real economy.

Such instability is the effect of a persistent delay by policy makers to adopt serious measures to change the basis on which accumulation occurs. To take this stance, however, would force these policy makers to confront their own ruling class. Instead, Central Banks are trying to take a half-way out. They are constructing what Martijn Konings refers to as a bailout state that has dramatically unequal effects. Policy makers are prioritising ‘price stability’ at the expense of those measures needed to combat inequality at the heart of the global system. This approach, however, undermines the investments that are needed to deal with other systemic factors. These include climate change and grappling in general with the real causes of supply shocks. As mentioned above, in the absence of a robust social movement to restrain the power of capital, we can only expect the system to muddle along. Debt and other financial vulnerabilities will continue to accumulate until there is another economic breakdown.

Meanwhile, it appears that in the balance
End of year statement of a company’s assets (what the company possesses) and liabilities (what it owes). In other words, the assets provide information about how the funds collected by the company have been used; and the liabilities, about the origins of those funds.
the West will try to contain a China-led bloc. That bloc will push back while insulating its own member states from popular pressure. The resulting geopolitical polarisation means that there is far greater space for Far Right and even fascist regimes to emerge around the world. In the South Asian region, for example, we can only expect the regime of Narendra Modi to get worse before the situation in India gets better. In this context, the potential collapse of US hegemony does not necessarily lead to a progressive future. World history, of course, does not repeat. But if we nevertheless follow the general sequence of cause and effect, today’s moment appears to represent a situation like the collapse of the British-led gold standard system in the 1930s. That unleashed political visions of extremely different and often antagonistic character. The contest was only settled through a full-scale conflict: World War II.

The Role of Self-Sufficiency in Reviving Resistance

We are looking then at a world of accelerating conflict. It is almost hopeless to expect that progressive forces on a global scale can contain the most repressive dynamics that have been unleashed by the neoliberal free trade regime. Even the latter is being converted in key areas into one in which poorer countries remain subordinate through competitive blocs. For Sri Lanka to have a vision of how it will defend its own policy autonomy under these bleak circumstances requires a far deeper understanding of the social struggles at home. This is the real context in which progressive forces must intervene. Organising work will take time to gather force. But in the meantime, at the very least, the ideological debate must be won by opposing the current political economic trajectory with a clear-eyed view toward self-sufficiency.

Only a progressive articulation of this alternative can inoculate the people against fascism, while clearing the intellectual ground for them to take command of their own destiny. In this regard, self-sufficiency must do double work. As a concept, it must oppose the immediate short-term moves of the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government. That includes its leveraging of the IMF agreement to impose drastic, anti-democratic changes on the relationship between state and society; what can be called an IMF Counter-Revolution. In addition to the notorious proposed Anti-Terrorism Act, that includes, for example, attempts to insulate the Central Bank
Central Bank
The establishment which in a given State is in charge of issuing bank notes and controlling the volume of currency and credit. In France, it is the Banque de France which assumes this role under the auspices of the European Central Bank (see ECB) while in the UK it is the Bank of England.

from democratic accountability and even directly attack labour by imposing more regressive “reforms”. At the same time, self-sufficiency must also represent a broader alternative for resisting incipient nationalist moves to frame Sri Lanka’s subordination in terms of Western conspiracy. The latter acquires clearly ethnicised overtones.

Progressives may be nervous to enter the debate on self-sufficiency because it invokes an economic debate. But the key is to remind ourselves that engaging with this question does not necessarily require extraordinary technical knowledge, though one must do the homework where necessary. Rather, it requires having at the very least a general perspective on the relationship between politics and economics. That means recovering the holistic perspective of political economy. In this regard, self-sufficiency is the economic complement to stalled debates about the new form of constitutionalism that emerged last year. Talk about abolishing the Executive Presidency or creating new forms of popular representation such as People’s Councils has become subdued. So, it is critical for the Left to use self-sufficiency as a lever for reviving resistance. Self-sufficiency must be used to reinvigorate debates about how resources can be transferred. That includes mechanisms designed to speak to the national question such as Provincial Councils, in addition to the deeper forms of democratic accountability that must occur through a radical transformation of the state.

Engaging in this way means gaining renewed perspective on the need for democratic space. The citizenry must be able to express their dissent over the direction that the current regime is imposing on the country. Opposition to the regime’s anti-democratic measures requires foregrounding the class dimension—especially the IMF Counter-Revolution—for resistance to have any real hope of becoming effective. Moreover, only this strategy can bypass the fascist spectre that otherwise looms further down the road.


Amin, Samir. (1974). Accumulation on a World Scale: A Critique of the Theory of Underdevelopment (Volumes 1 and 2 Combined). Translated by Brian Pearce. New York: Monthly Review Press.

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Africa Reckonings and Futures – Nigerian Current

By Toyin Falola


Africa, a continent full of diverse peoples and fascinating history, has struggled with several social, economic, and political problems during its existence. Despite its recent development, it has suffered from a number of wrongs stemming from its pre-colonial history and its tangled links with other continents, especially Europe. There is a school of thought amongst certain African academics that the trans-Atlantic slave trade was the high point in the West’s systematic plunder of Africa, resulting in devastating cultural, social, and economic losses on the continent. The transatlantic slave trade was a cultural and social calamity for Africa, ripping apart communities and erasing centuries of history. Peoples of African origin, including those living in the diaspora, continue to feel the repercussions of this pernicious trade, leading to internal conflicts over their own identities. But the slave trade and the brain drain are not the only issues the continent of Africa is contending with. Many problems plaguing the continent call for fresh approaches and changes in perspective. These problems range from insufficient socioeconomic growth to governance worries. Environmental concerns and the effects of climate change pose major risks.

Let’s take global ecology and Africa’s exposure to environmental crises, for instance. Regarding the world’s environment, Africa is about to get some hard truths. The effects of climate change are and will continue to be felt most acutely on the African continent, where the majority of the world’s poor live. Climate change is real and has serious consequences for Africa, as seen by the continent’s warming temperatures, higher sea levels, shifting rainfall patterns, and increased frequency of droughts. It is not enough for Africa to just adapt to this problem; the region must also be creative and rethink its connection with the natural world. The effects of global warming on Africa’s agriculture industry are emblematic of the problem. Many African economies rely heavily on agriculture since it provides a stable income for millions of people. The difficulty of farming and livestock raising is growing due to climate change. Crop failures and decreased yields have resulted from changes in rainfall patterns and the increased frequency of droughts. Because of the severe weather, some farmers have given up and moved on. Given the significance of agriculture to Africa’s economy, this trend is cause for concern.

The effects of climate change aren’t limited to agriculture. The shift in weather patterns is threatening the continent’s ecology and biodiversity. For example, melting glaciers on Mount Kilimanjaro threaten to deplete the water supply for millions of people in East Africa. Loss of biodiversity will likely have significant effects on food security and health while rising sea levels endanger the viability of coastal populations.

To effectively address the global ecological issue, Africa will need to use a variety of strategies. New and creative approaches are needed. Sustainable agricultural strategies, such as crop diversification and conservation agriculture, may aid farmers in dealing with the effects of climate change and shifting weather patterns. In addition, governments may support renewable energy by investing in it and enacting regulations that encourage the use of cleaner energy sources like solar and wind. If such sustainable practices are enacted, Africa’s total carbon footprint could be significantly lessened, thus considerably contributing to the fight against climate change.

Away from climate change and its effect on the continent, we turn to the complicated positions of African Studies. As the continent has become more diverse and complicated, so has the study of Africa. African history, culture, politics, and society have all benefited from the work of academics and researchers from all over the globe, who have contributed to a growing body of work on these topics. There is, however, a continuing discussion over the boundaries and potential of African Studies, with some suggesting that it is time to think both inside and beyond the norms of the field. A critical examination of the underlying assumptions and methods of African Studies is required for both “going with the grain” and “going against the grain.” This perspective acknowledges that the field of African Studies was formed by colonialism and imperialism. Consequently, African Studies frequently reproduce the same power dynamics. African Studies is interested in expanding its horizons and discovering novel approaches to learning about and interacting with the continent and its people, and thinking with and against the grain of the discipline is one method to do just that.

Getting beyond Western scholarship’s hegemonic, oversimplified, and reductionist perceptions of Africa is a major challenge for African Studies. For a long time, colonialism and imperialism were justified by depicting Africa as a land of darkness, ignorance, and cruelty. Even though this viewpoint has been debunked, it is nevertheless often presented in academic literature, where it reinforces inaccurate generalizations about Africa and obscures the region’s complexity. Academics need to interact with the nuances and contradictions of African cultures to think both with and against the grain of African Studies. To do so, we must abandon oversimplified conceptions of “African culture” and “African politics” and instead acknowledge that the continent is home to a wide variety of civilizations, languages, and political structures. Likewise, it requires appreciating the initiative and inventiveness of African people, who have played crucial roles in forging their own histories and cultures.

Extending the reach of African Studies outside the confines of the field is another crucial problem. Despite the field’s expansion over the last several decades, researchers from the Global North remain preponderant, contributing to the maintenance of existing power disparities on the continent and among its people. The best way to think with and against the grain of African Studies is to have conversations with academics and researchers from Africa and the diaspora. Critical introspection and questioning of one’s own assumptions are necessary outcomes of both “going with” and “going against” the prevailing winds of African Studies. We must be ready to examine our methods critically, accept both the field’s limits and its potential and welcome other viewpoints. This is the only way to get a more complex and accurate picture of Africa and its people.

Africa’s potential in the 21st century is a growing talking point in both academic and wider public circles. Despite this positive trend and the rich cultures and histories of the continent, Africa has been typically seen through a pessimistic and static viewpoint. However, in recent years, mainstream discourse has shifted toward a more optimistic and positive assessment of Africa’s future prospects. The realization of Africa’s enormous potential for economic growth and development is a major factor in this shift. African nations have seen tremendous economic development in recent years despite numerous hurdles, including political instability and violence. Due to this growth, many economists believe that Africa will soon become the world’s next economic superpower.

The expansion of Africa’s communications networks is another reason for hope for the continent’s future. The continent of Africa is more interconnected than ever because of developments in technology and transportation. Trade, investment, and cross-cultural cooperation have all benefited from this heightened accessibility. But, Africa still faces some difficult obstacles. For instance, many African nations are still hampered by pervasive violence and political instability.

More communication and cooperation between African nations and the rest of the globe is crucial if the continent is to overcome its current difficulties and fulfill its future potential. More money spent on infrastructure and technology, together with programs encouraging cultural understanding and cooperation, may help bring this about. Poverty, inequality, and political corruption are all major contributors to the instability and violence plaguing Africa. Africa is frequently presented as a victim of external factors rather than a player in the game of life. A more nuanced knowledge of Africa’s complicated reality and a shared commitment to a more fair and equitable future are possible via attentive listening to and through the sharing of African viewpoints.

Coasting home, colonialism, globalization, and wars for independence and sovereignty have all left their marks on Africa’s rich and varied history. Notwithstanding these setbacks, African nations have been remarkably resourceful, imaginative, and resilient in their pursuit of social justice and economic progress. Several nations in Africa have seen steady economic development, technological innovation, and social revolution in recent years, propelling the continent to a prominent position on the international economic stage. However, many problems, such as poverty, inequality, war, environmental destruction, and political unrest, persist across the African continent.

Africa must tackle issues like reducing poverty and inequality, which are stumbling blocks to their continent’s future. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) reports that Africa is home to some of the world’s most unequal countries, with over 400 million people living in abject poverty. Corruption, poor leadership, and inadequate provision of necessities like education, healthcare, and clean water all play a role in exacerbating the problem. Social safety nets, job creation, and entrepreneurial training are just a few of the efforts and programs that African nations are engaging in to combat these issues. Regional integration, which seeks to encourage trade, investment, and collaboration among African nations, is also gaining prominence.

Africa must also face the need to confront environmental concerns such as global warming, deforestation, and biodiversity loss. The continent is especially at risk with so much riding on agriculture, natural resources, and healthy ecosystems. Droughts, floods, and food shortages are just some of the ways climate change is already threatening the lives and livelihoods of millions of people throughout Africa. To combat these issues, African nations must fund projects and programs in areas like renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, and ecosystem restoration. International collaboration should also receive more attention as a means to foster climate-resilience, adaptation, and mitigation.

Conflict, terrorism, and human rights abuses are also some of Africa’s political and security issues that must be faced head-on. To solve these issues and advance peace, justice, and human rights, many African nations must work to establish democratic and stable institutions. External meddling, resource rivalries, and ideological divisions only fuel the fire. To face these difficulties, African nations should put resources into programs and efforts, including peacemaking, conflict avoidance, and rights advocacy. Regional and continental integration, which seeks to enhance collaboration, solidarity, and collective security, should also gain prominence.

Notwithstanding these difficulties, Africa has a wealth of untapped potential and prospects. The continent’s youthful and energetic population, varied and significant cultural legacy, and plentiful natural resources make it an important and influential part of the world. Several African nations are becoming centers of creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship due to their growing ties to the global economy. Several African nations are investing in areas like education, innovation, and infrastructure building to use their continent’s abundant resources. In sum, Africa is weighing a number of options as it strives to determine its destiny. The continent must face its own realities. Africa’s future lies in its ability to capitalize on its young population, rich cultural traditions, and plentiful resources to create affluent, equitable, and globally integrated communities. Getting to these futures requires African nations to keep questioning everything.

*(Excerpt of Keynote Lecture, by Prof Falola delivered at the Canadian African Studies Association, May 29, 2023)

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India – what’s all the excitement about?

By any measure, the achievement has been remarkable. India today is considered one of the world’s most promising markets and investment destinations. Many of its products and services are world renowned, its people in great demand, its opportunity immense. However, much still needs to be done

History tells us how remarkable the story is. For nearly four decades after 1947, India pursued a closed economy model focused on import substitution, industrialisation and five-year development plans until it hit an economic roadblock in the 1990s. A balance of payments crisis forced it to embrace “liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation.” It was a watershed moment in India’s economic history.

India was now open to global businesses and capital. Its own large consumer base was also becoming aspirational and global. Pick any box office success from the 1990s and you will find the lead actors surreally transporting themselves from the harsh realities of slums in Mumbai to impeccably choreographed dance sequences in the Swiss Alps! A new economic dream was taking shape. This economic dream however still contained elements of anxiety and unease.

Those who could access education (and tertiary education especially) could easily move up the value chain of employment, not only domestically but abroad as well. The great Indian diaspora is now the stuff of movies and novels.

An abundantly available workforce, cheap by global standards, competitively skilled in areas like information technology (IT) and with immaculate English, became the mainstay of an IT services boom in India. Unfortunately, those who could not skill themselves away from less productive sectors like agriculture or small-scale manufacturing, remained stuck.

Thankfully, and it brings much relief to note, tertiary school enrolment ratios have now tripled to nearly 30 per cent since the turn of the century. Education continues to be the most trusted route to prosperity and is rightly viewed as an important policy tool to create a levelled economic playing field.

Human capital development needs focus

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World gathers to tackle ‘time bomb’ plastic

French President Emmanuel Macron today warned that global plastics pollution was a “time bomb”, as diplomats began five days of talks in Paris to make progress on a treaty to end plastic waste.

Representatives of 175 nations with divergent ambitions met at the UNESCO headquarters with the aim of making progress towards reaching, by next year, a historic agreement covering the entire plastics life cycle.

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As the talks opened, the head of the negotiations Gustavo Meza-Cuadra Velazquez said the challenge was “immense, as we are all aware here, but it is not insurmountable”

“The world’s eyes are on us,” he said.

Macron urged participating nations to put an end to today’s “globalised and unsustainable” production model, where richer countries export plastic waste to poorer ones.

“Plastic pollution is a time-bomb and at the same time already a scourge today,” he said in a video message, adding that the fossil-fuel based material posed a risk to global warming goals, as well as biodiversity and human health.

He added that the first priorities of the negotiations should be to reduce production of plastics and to ban “as soon as possible” the most polluting products like single use plastics.

The stakes are high, given that annual plastics production has more than doubled in 20 years to 460 million tonnes, and is on track to triple within four decades.

Two-thirds of this output is discarded after being used once or a few times, and winds up as waste. More than a fifth is dumped or burned illegally, and less than 10 percent is recycled.

The head of the UN Environment Programme Inger Andersen told the delegates that a throwaway plastic culture was “gushing pollution galore, choking our ecosystems, warming the climate, damaging our health” and that the most vulnerable were the hardest hit.

“Only elimination, reduction of, a full lifecycle approach, transparency and a just transition, only those can bring success because the truth is that we cannot recycle our way out of this mess,” she told delegates to loud applause.

In February 2022, nations agreed in principle on the need for a legally binding UN treaty to end plastic pollution around the world, setting an ambitious 2024 deadline.

The Paris meeting, which runs to June 2, is the second of five sessions in the process.

Policy actions to be debated during the talks include a global ban on single-use plastic items, “polluter pays” schemes, and a tax on new plastic production.

Environmental groups are encouraged that global plastics pollution is finally being tackled, but are concerned the treaty may not include targets to reduce overall plastic production.

“There is a consensus on the issues at stake and the will to act”, Diane Beaumenay-Joannet, an advocate at the Surfrider Foundation, told AFP.

Environmentalists have also raised concerns about the influence of industry lobbying on the talks.

Plastics are everywhere: packaging, clothing, construction materials, medical tools, even diapers.

In nature, microplastics have been found in ice near the North Pole and inside fish navigating the oceans’ deepest, darkest recesses.

In humans, microscopic bits of plastic have been detected in blood, breast milk and placentas.

Plastic also contributes to global warming: it accounted for 1.8 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases in 2019, 3.4 percent of global emissions, a figure that could more than double by 2060 according to the OECD.

Host country France organised a ministerial summit on Saturday with 60 countries to kick-start the talks.

“If we don’t act now, by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans”, said French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna.

Velazquez called on delegates to put aside differences to work towards an agreement that is fair “by essence, and effective by necessity”.

There are already concerns about divisions among the countries.

A so-called High Ambition Coalition of 50 nations led by Rwanda and Norway, includes the European Union, Canada, Chile and –- as of a few days ago — Japan.

But many countries are reluctant to aim for absolute cuts in production, insisting that recycling and better waste management is the answer.

These include China, the United States, Saudi Arabia and other OPEC countries, all of whom have large petrochemical industries.

The talks will also see the same tensions between rich and developing countries that bedevil UN talks on climate and biodiversity, especially around development aid, technology sharing and access to financing.

“Developed countries — the biggest consumers and the biggest polluters — have their products produced in other countries, and send their waste there too,” said Beaumenay-Joannet.

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The ‘next pandemic’: Why the WHO Director-general

Weeks after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared that Covid-19 was no longer a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, the WHO Director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at the 76th world health assembly said that the threat from Covid-19 or from other pandemics was not over.

He said, “The end of Covid-19 as a global health emergency is not the end of Covid-19 as a global health threat. The threat of another variant emerging that causes new surges of disease and death remains. And, the threat of another pathogen emerging with even deadlier potential remains,” he said.

Dr Tedros said that the meeting on pandemic preparedness during the assembly must be utilised to chart a path forward. He said, “We cannot kick this can down the road. If we do not make the changes that must be made, then who will? And if we do not make them now, then when? When the next pandemic comes knocking – and it will – we must be ready to answer decisively, collectively and equitably.”

Can Covid-19 still mutate to have a deadlier variant?

Over three years after the World Health Organisation raised its highest level of alarm for the novel coronavirus disease Covid-19, the intra-government organisation in May first week said that it no longer was a public health emergency of international concern.

While the infection led to waves of infections and deaths in all countries – three in India – the numbers have been on decline. With people gaining immunity against the infection through natural infection or vaccination, the virus has been leading to fewer cases of severe disease and death. However, it continues to be in circulation.

Many people are still getting the infection – India saw a surge in infections in April – sometimes even without symptoms. Mutations are random and the more a virus transmits, the more mutations it gathers. And, mutations that can cause deadlier infection might arise at random. Experts say, although the likelihood is small, it may happen. This is the reason they say that surveillance for the virus should be continued.

Dr RR Gangakhedkar, former head of epidemiology and communicable diseases at the Indian Council of Medical Research, had previously told The Indian Express that there is always a likelihood of Sars-CoV-2 mutating into a new coronavirus with transmission between humans and animal reservoirs.

“The virus continues to have reservoirs in animals – even say household rodents – so the possibility of transmission back to humans can never be ruled out. That will, however, lead to different mutations that could be beyond Sars-CoV-2. It will remain in the coronavirus family only, of course,” he said.

Why do pandemics happen?

While infections have been jumping from animals to man, a more globalised world with ease of travel makes it likely for such an infection to spread to a large number of populations and countries. Billions of people undertake air travel each year, providing a great mechanism for infections to spread.

There has also been an increase in urbanisation. Urbanisation not only leads to a large number of people living in close proximity – allowing an infection to spread – but it also leaves many without proper sanitation, housing, and healthcare providing a fertile ground for spread of infections.

Travel and density of population has played a role in previous pandemics as well. The Spanish Flu of 1918 happened towards the end of World War I. It spread rapidly among troops living in congested, overcrowded camps with poor hygiene and was then transported by them to the cities and countryside. The deadliest pandemic in recorded history Black Death is also thought to have come to Europe with rats that were aboard trading ships.

How has climate change impacted outbreaks and pandemics?

There are several ways in which climate plays a role in outbreaks and pandemics.

First, deforestation and encroachment of habitats of other animals has brought the humans and animals closer. Increased human-animal interactions give an infection more opportunity to learn how to jump over from their animal reservoir to humans. The pathogen that led to the 2003 SARS outbreak likely came from palm civets and the pathogen that causes MERS came from dromedary camels. Sars-CoV-2 that causes Covid-19 is also thought to have jumped from bats to humans.

Second, the climate itself may change the habitats of the disease-carrying vectors. Take for example, the mosquitoes that cause dengue in India. The disease earlier did not occur in colder, hilly states. The geographical range of dengue in the country expanded from just eight states in 2001 to all states by 2022. Or, scrub typhus that was usually seen only in forested, hilly regions but is now reported every year from cities like Delhi.

Third, climate change also leads to extreme weather events that can displace people and force them to live, even temporarily, in congested encampments without proper hygiene.

What are the pathogens likely to lead to the next pandemic?

Much before Covid-19 happened, there was research suggesting that a novel coronavirus was likely to cause the next pandemic. This is because coronaviruses are one of the pathogens that have pandemic potential – bacteria, viruses, or microorganisms that are highly transmissible capable of spreading unchecked amongst humans and highly virulent capable of causing severe disease and death.

The World Health Organisation has a priority list of pathogens that are likely to pose the greatest threat to public health and don’t have adequate drugs and vaccines against them. This list acts as the basis for prioritising research for developing diagnostics, drugs, and vaccines for these diseases.

Other than Covid-19, the list includes Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (a tick borne fever that can lead to internal bleeding), Ebola virus disease and Marburg virus disease (severe and often fatal viral infection that can lead to heavy bleeding), Lassa fever (another viral fever that leads to bleeding like ebola), Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) (cousins of the Sars-CoV-2 virus that caused Covid-19), Nipah and henipaviral diseases (a viral infection usually transmitted by fruit bats that may lead to brain swelling), Rift Valley fever (mainly an animal disease but can sometimes be transmitted to humans and some forms of the infection can cause eye lesions, brain swelling, or internal bleeding), and Zika (may cause microcephaly or smaller brain and other congenital malformations in foetus when pregnant mother is infected).

Other than that the list also includes ‘Disease X’ that represents “a serious international epidemic could be caused by a pathogen currently unknown to cause human disease.” In which case, the research focus would be to develop platform technologies that can be adapted for a new infection.

What next?

There is a need for countries and healthcare systems to prepare for such future pandemics. This can be done by putting in place a surveillance system that can keep an eye on ups and downs or changes in disease pattern or symptoms in a population and quickly alert the public health machinery. A one-health surveillance that can track outbreaks not only in human population but also in animal populations that may jump over to humans might help.

Government also have to work towards reducing risks of getting an infection by ensuring sanitation and hygiene. Providing clean drinking water and nutritious food can help.

And, there is a need to keep the health systems ready for a health emergency. This will include not only availability of equipment and trained manpower but also having systems to ensure that any new medical countermeasure – diagnostic, drug, or vaccine – can quickly be manufactured and made available.

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Economist Bhalla calls for reduction in direct

Though India is not the richest country, it has the highest tax collection in the world which needs to rationalise to minimise tax evasion

Income Tax, Dividend income, Capital gains
India’s direct taxes need to be rationalised

India may not be the richest country in the world, but the tax collection here is one of the highest in the world and the income tax rate should be reduced to 25 per cent from around 40 per cent at present. The advice has come from none other than Surjit Bhalla.

In an interview with PTI, eminent economist said that reduction in tax rate is required to accelerate the pace of economic growth. “We are a much more globalised economy in the world and the world is a lot more globalised. If you look at the overall tax rate structure in India, collection of taxes is one of the highest in the world and we are not the richest economy of the world,” Bhalla said.

Also Read: Net direct tax collection ₹ 13.73 lakh crore so far, up by 17%

He said that tax collection by state, Centre and local bodies is around 19 per cent of country’s GDP. “We should move towards reducing it by 2 percentage points. As far as direct taxes are concerned, I think the overall tax rate should not be more than 25 per cent. Right now it is close to 40 with surcharges etc. 25 per cent, which is our corporate tax rate, that’s what our income tax rate should be,” Bhalla added.


At present, the highest income tax rate in India stands at 39 per cent. The Budget 2023-24 had lowered the highest rate of income tax from 42.74 per cent, by reducing the surcharge applicable to high net-worth individuals.
India’s gross direct tax collection during the last fiscal ended March 2023 grew over 20 per cent to Rs 19.68 lakh crore. This includes a growth of 16.91 per cent in gross corporate tax collection at over Rs 10.04 lakh crore. Gross personal I-T collection also witnessed a 24.23 per cent growth to over Rs 9.60 lakh crore.

According to Bhalla, taxes need to come down for all and not just benefit a select section of the society. Direct tax is one of the areas where there is a lot of bureaucratic involvement and it should be a lot more streamlined to minimise tax evasion. “You cannot minimise tax evasion without doing something about very, very high rates of income taxation. We need to change the tax structure so that everyone benefits rather than some selected sectors,” he said.

(With agency inputs)

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A guide to international expansion for

In today’s globalized world, businesses of all sizes can benefit from expanding internationally. For entrepreneurs and small business owners, taking their businesses to the international level can be a key driver of growth and profitability. However, navigating the challenges of international expansion can be daunting. That’s why it’s essential to have a solid understanding of the process and the potential risks and rewards. In this article, we’ll explore the key considerations for international expansion and provide a guide to help entrepreneurs and start-ups make informed decisions.

The first step in international expansion is to assess your company’s readiness. Before considering expansion, you should have a successful business model that is profitable and sustainable. You should also have a clear understanding of your target market, your competition, and the potential risks and rewards of international expansion. Once you’ve evaluated your company’s readiness, you can begin to research potential markets and assess their potential.

When evaluating potential markets for international expansion, it’s important to consider several factors. First, you should evaluate the size and growth potential of the market. You should also consider the level of competition and the regulatory environment, as well as any cultural and language differences that may impact your ability to do business in the country.

Additionally, you should consider the costs and logistical challenges of doing business in the country, including taxes, tariffs, and shipping costs.

Once you’ve identified potential markets for expansion, you can begin to develop a market entry strategy. This will involve identifying the best channels for reaching your target audience, such as online marketplaces or local distributors. You should also consider the level of investment required to enter the market, as well as any regulatory or legal requirements. To minimize risks and maximize your chances of success, it’s important to conduct thorough market research and develop a detailed market entry plan.

One of the biggest challenges of international expansion is managing the logistical and operational complexities of doing business in a foreign market. This may include sourcing local suppliers, establishing local partnerships, and managing international supply chains. To ensure that your operations run smoothly, you may need to invest in additional staffing or technology, such as translation services or international shipping software.

Another key consideration for international expansion is managing the financial risks and challenges of doing business in a foreign market. This may include currency fluctuations, regulatory compliance, and tax laws. To minimize these risks, it’s important to work with a trusted financial advisor and ensure that you have the appropriate legal and accounting resources in place.

In addition to these logistical and operational considerations, it’s also important to consider the cultural and social differences that may impact your ability to do business in a foreign market. This may include differences in language, communication styles, and business practices. To build strong relationships with local partners and customers, it’s important to invest in cultural awareness training and develop a deep understanding of the local market.

In conclusion, international expansion can be a challenging but rewarding process for entrepreneurs and start-ups. By carefully evaluating your company’s readiness and assessing potential markets, developing a detailed market entry plan, and investing in the necessary resources and support, you can position your business for growth and success in the global marketplace. However, it’s important to approach international expansion with a strategic mindset and a deep understanding of the potential risks and rewards.

What are the main challenges that entrepreneurs and start-ups face when expanding internationally, and how can these be addressed?

Kamla Said al Rrahbia

Coach,Trainer & Consultant

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Ode to Winston Springer Sr | Winston’s Last Post!

Winston Springer Sr
Winston Springer Sr
Earl Bousquet
Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

As per increasingly regretful yet inescapable norm, I heard on Tuesday several regretful announcements of the end of life for another lifelong colleague.

Winston Springer spent a lifetime in Humanity’s transit lounge before being handed his boarding pass, from on high, for his last flight to the final destination none has ever returned from, that Ultimate Trip to the Great Beyond along the never-ending River of No Return.

Unlike those who earlier boarded the slow sailboat to the other world, Winston wasn’t known to have exuded anything suggesting excruciatingly-painful illness, or battling this-and-that health challenge with what-have-you.

His vital signs might have diminished in some functional human departments, but never did his wit and will shorten, or his determination to always get his message across.

On-air on Radio St. Lucia (RSL) or spinning the Caribbean Heat on Radio Antilles in the 70s and 80s, Winston had his distinctive delivery style that put him alongside the likes of earlier stalwarts Margaret Roberts-Steele, Winston Hinkson and ‘Jeff’ Fedee, et al.

But his unique voice delivered words and messages his way – much alike his love for Frank Sinatra’s ‘I did My Way’.

Always the man of the social party, Winston naturally became the ultimate party-man in all its applicable senses.

Growing-up in Central Castries with two parents as distant and apart in character as between loud and quiet and who supported different political parties, Winston, Cletus and Denys also grew-up dutifully applying their parents’ respectful formula of peaceful political coexistence.

Winston aged gracefully with time, only getting better like wine in his old cask, seen and heard in his monthly presentations on GIS and NTN explaining the business on the Order Paper at House of Assembly sittings, his vast accumulated experience allowing him to present researched facts and figures about the historicity of the day’s legislative presentations and interventions.

Naturally, the consummate professional in him allowed Winston to say-his-say and have-his-way in ways and with words he wished and so chose, which listeners and viewers would relate to differently; and – to the chagrin of his detractors — he’d religiously identify every election campaign promise delivered by the ruling Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) at every House sitting since July 2021.

But the Bottom Line is: he’d never been accused of lying.

Each time I watched Winston take his crease on air in this era, I also saw how some of my generational 20th Century colleagues have made the transition from Medium Wave (MW) and Short Wave (FM) bands in the age of undersea cable and wireless, to the age of Bandwidth and The Internet of Things.

Where once we were only heard, we’re now also seen; where once we read letters mailed through and delivered by the General Post Office (GPO), today we mail by Gmail.

But while I simply shun those online platforms that will deepen my unavoidable overdependence on IT, Winston was one of my older colleagues who just wouldn’t allow himself to have been ‘left-behind’ by the tech of the times.

His daily WhatsApp postings were widely varied, from quoting global political thinkers to sharing inspiring poems by illustrious bards, from nostalgic calypsos from the likes of Lord Nelson to daily prayers of faith – and always those daily blessings and greetings…

Winston’s Last Posts were quite telling, his last week of mailings including a saucy ex-tempo coronation-related calypso by Tobago Crusoe, a clip from the Trinidad & Tobago parliament on how the Speaker there handled a recent matter of distinguishing between ‘lies’ and ‘untruths’, a video on ‘The first artificial woman made by China’, a shared definition of ‘A Narcissistic Sociopath’ – and a brief music video of a gem of a joint performance by Harry Belafonte and Nat King Cole singing ‘Mama Look a Boo-Boo Dey’.

But Winston’s Very-Last-Post was that which touched me most — an image of ‘The Royal Gaol in Castries’ with a caption noting it was built in 1827 and ‘Demolished on May 23, 2020’.

As his and our fate would have it, Winston’s Last Post bugled a call that highlighted personal and historical events on May 23, 2020.

That Sunday, I’d just hosted my weekly ‘Earl@Large’ TV on DBS and was hit by a speeding vehicle while crossing the road along the Castries Waterfront just after 5pm, leaving me a left leg broken in several parts — and bequeathing me a three-year survival and rehabilitation phase that’s still ongoing.

That was also the same day George Floyd was killed by bad cops in the USA, leading to the mass protests across America and the globalization of the Black Lives Matter movement.

George and I lay on our respective sidewalks on the same day, both awaiting emergency transfer to the nearest medical facility, but while I got to OKEU Hospital in quick-enough time, George never left…

Three years later, thanks to Winston’s Last Post, I now also know that on that fateful Sunday too, the 196-year-old colonial prison — perhaps the oldest building in Castries — was demolished, never mind the legal protestations of the Saint Lucia National Trust, in whose trust such buildings are placed, by law.

Regretfully, three years after his death shook the world, I saw no mention of George Floyd’s anniversary in the international news this past Tuesday, but the worst news I got that day was that Winston had indeed sounded his Last Post.

Then came the news that the iconic Tina Turner, ‘Simply the Best’ of her generation, had died at 83 — which, in some strange way, coming so soon after Harry Belafonte, didn’t hit me as hard as the sound of Winston’s last post.

But (to me), Winston going with Tina to meet Harry was definitely no boo-boo, leaving me to actually say (to myself): ‘Winston has good company!’

In which case, I also daresay, my good old friend just won’t suffer gladly by even trying to Rest in Peace!

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Yes, Minister! Let the spirit of unity permeate

Al-Sultan Abdullah sharing a light moment with one of the participants of the welcoming parade during the launch of National Unity Week 2023 at Kuching Waterfront. — Bernama photo

CITIZENS must coexist peacefully and harmoniously for a state to continue to be prosperous, especially when it is characterised by ethnic and religious plurality.

The statement, which has been repeated frequently in public by democratic egalitarians and political leaders alike, has almost taken on a life of its own.

It has found expression in policy statements, in the agenda of political parties and charters of institutions.

Although nobody would argue about the sanctity of the statement, nobody could also claim that the passage towards peace, harmony and unity in the wider society is a straight one, free from intervening hands.

Myth or reality

Whether critics regard the trajectory of unity, harmony, and peace as myth, reality, fiction, or the truth, it is pleasant to the ear and a colourful sight to behold.

Unity in diversity has a significant impact on the development of the nation because an integrated nation will always advance along the path of development.

Compared to a state that is socially unstable and severely divided, an integrated state will have fewer internal problems. This ought to be the case in theory.

Unfortunately, the realities frequently outsmart the ideals and aspirations promoted by the vision.

Shared destiny

The desired path of unity in diversity built by men of high vision purportedly united by a shared destiny would probably diverge from its intended course when the human factor and power of hegemony take centrestage.

Why is this the case despite the fact that a national policy or plan has been created and approved by all parties involved, regardless of ethnicity?

Party politics, which occasionally preys on emotive ethnic consciousness, can be identified as a major offender, but is only one of many complex factors that may be to blame.

The idea that diversity, equity, and inclusion are based on the values of valuing individual differences and the benefits that diversity brings to our homes, communities and places of employment, prompts us to take a critical look at our social and cultural diversity.

Al-Sultan Abdullah being accompanied by Taib (front, right) during the royal tour around the event’s site. — Bernama photo

Celebrating diversity

If we celebrate diversity in all of its manifestations, how does that also celebrate the unity we seek in this place?

How do we celebrate the unity we seek if we accept diversity in all of its forms?

And don’t we find that we are battling a paradox inherent in our creation?

However, diversity, equity and inclusion are either definers or determinants depending on how one chooses to view or analyse them in the complex context we are in.

Politicians use them to adorn their speeches and impress audiences, while the majority of sociology academics use them to provide phenomenological explanations but end up problematising the issue.

Even politicians would need to exercise caution, especially when speaking to a particular audience that may be different from another audience in terms of ethnicity and religion.

He may need to play to the gallery and make concessions to the realities of politics.

You could be excused for claiming that in this situation, power obfuscates the ideas of equity, inclusivity, and unity in diversity.

Seeking root-cause solutions

While compromise is frequently chosen as a means of resolving the complex multi-ethnic situation and is reflected in institutions, it does not always provide root-cause solutions.

The covert hegemonic assertion of the systems makes many previously ideal cross-ethnic positions less accommodating.

Many politicians are either reluctant to bring up certain important questions or find it challenging to address and respond to them.

In situations like this, political correctness is typically a factor that cannot be disregarded.

Are we prepared to take the initiative and speak out as a group to close the gaps and overcome the obstacles?

Do we genuinely support initiatives that ensure equitable distribution of the advantages that some ethnic groups already enjoy in the fields of education, business, and employment?

Are we prepared and willing to look beyond the specific requirements of our own ethnic community and to embrace a shared ideal that values and respects everyone equally?

The preservation of peace and stability has always been a predominant concern – an ideal that is also enunciated in the Preamble to the Charter of the United Nations

The gap between the idea of peace and harmony and the reality of silent tension remains a major challenge.

Because solutions are never simple to find, many fair-weather leaders would observe the phenomenon from a distance.

Filling the gap with solutions might spark debate and trigger more sensitivity than necessary, if they do not favour the interest of certain groups.

Patronising approach

In an era of greater global connectivity, the assertion of cultural identity can only be seen as being based on respect for one another and an appreciation of diversity.

In an increasingly multi-polar context of globalisation, the traditional, frequently patronising and propaganda-like approach to cultural cooperation has not made many strides.

The Malaysian culture or for that matter, the Sarawak culture, can fully develop and realise its own identity when participants in our local cultural melting pot are able to relate to other cultures and ways of life in a thorough and interactive way.

A people’s or a nation’s capacity for constructive engagement with other societies determines its strength.

Yes Minister, it is a process that involves ‘dialectics of cultural self-comprehension’.

It ought to provide leaders with a window into a deeper and broader understanding of intercultural engagement than just that of power dynamics.

His Majesty launching the National Unity Week celebration at Kuching Waterfront. Looking on are (from right) Anwar, Taib and National Unity Minister Datuk Aaron Ago Dagang. — Bernama photo

Internal hiccups

Although maintaining a peaceful society with people from various cultures and backgrounds can also result in some internal hiccups, unity in diversity is crucial to achieving this.

It contributes to their continued unity despite their differences.

The most thorough integrated approach, however, has not yielded a single definition that addresses these ethnic nuances, regardless of how they manifest, express, or are made to elude awareness.

Unity is intended to create an overarching sense of fusion and grouping.

Theoretically, people are brought together by a shared spirit and a connection that expresses a sense of justice.

‘Unity Week’

At the recent National Unity Week celebration at the Kuching Waterfront, hundreds of Sarawakians from various ethnic backgrounds came in their proud traditional attire and shared their cultural performances along with a variety of activities and artistic displays, bringing this spirit of togetherness and connectedness to life.

The week-long National Unity Week, which was attended by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah and Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah, Yang Di-Pertua Negeri Sarawak Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, and Premier of Sarawak Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg, was a celebration of Sarawak’s multi-ethnic culture and made a powerful social statement about the state’s prevailing unity and harmony that states in Peninsular Malaysia should learn from.

Will that spirit of harmony, openness, and acceptance permeate the national institutions and pervade the government’s policies?

Will we have to wait until the next National Unity Week before we are reminded and awakened?

The spirit of unity and openness brings together different groups and makes them function as a single entity in the pursuit of a shared destiny.

Again, these are all noble statements, virtuous claims but deconceptualising and contextualising them in the reality of time and social nuances, is a different challenge.

Wisdom and courage

Do we have the wisdom and courage to plot the best course for establishing a revived civilisational order, or as Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim describes it as ‘a new Renaissance’?

It is a challenging, even contentious, question that may not be resolved for a long time.

The same old script continues to remain faithful to the mantra ‘unity in diversity’, refusing to uncover, much less deconstruct, the social layers that matter.

Rhetoric still rules and provides a cursory glance at the dictum.

The concept is best understood from a phenomenological perspective as the absence of distinctions made between members of various ethnic and social groups based on racial, linguistic, or religious factors.

Dissimilarity and diversity both exhibit differentiation.

It can be summed up as the distinctions made between various groups based on racial, religious, or linguistic factors.

However, it is not quite as straightforward and uncomplicated as one might hope.

* Toman Mamora is ‘Tokoh Media Sarawak 2022’, recipient of Shell Journalism Gold Award (1996) and AZAM Best Writer Gold Award (1998). He remains true to his decades-long passion for critical writing as he seeks to gain insight into some untold stories of societal value.

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