Europe: Politics takes a right turn

This piece originally appeared on Livemint.com

 

Norbert Hofer, a key figure in Austria’s anti-immigration, far right Freedom Party, narrowly missed becoming the president of the country earlier this month. It’s a ceremonial position, yet, that he came so close to the presidency is seen as an indicator of how parties similar to Hofer’s are gaining popularity across Europe.

has Alternative for Germany; France has its National Front; Netherlands, Party for Freedom; Greece, Golden Dawn; Hungary, Jobbik; and Sweden, Sweden Democrats.

The trend has been picking up for some years now, and in 2016 the noise—and the confidence—levels have gone up. The anti-immigrant sentiment came on the back of a large number of refugees landing in Europe from Muslim-majority countries in West Asia and Africa. The inflow dropped in 2016 (see chart 1) compared with 2015, but tension over their settlement and assimilation is simmering. On top of this, there is disillusionment about the European Union. Unemployment rates in two countries, Greece and Spain, are about 20%. In France and Italy, they are above 10% (see chart 2).

Economic growth has been sluggish. The mood worsened after the UK voted to leave the bloc in a June referendum (see chart 3)—in part because the results seemed to reflect the growing trend across Europe. The elections this year in at least three countries saw the right and far right parties gaining vote share (see chart 4). Unlike the sudden rise of Donald Trump in the US, the popularity of right/far right parties has been building up over years. 2017 is unlikely to be any different.

 

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News in Numbers, June 24, 2016: CNG-powered two-wheelers in India, voters say yes to Brexit…

10

What is it? The number of popular iconic places that will be cleaned up/maintained to international standards. It includes Taj Mahal, Jagannath Temple, Tirupati and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.

Why is it important? If successful, it would provide a fillip to tourism, to the Indian government’s Swachh Bharat Mission and could have a trickle-down effect on the other monuments and religious structures. At a two-day workshop next month, experts would be consulted to make site-specific plans, fix international standards and decide on the timeline and financial resources required. The World Bank would provide technical assistance for the same.

Tell me more: Besides these iconic places, the government is working on creating standard operating procedures to improve cleanliness in popular national parks, sanctuaries and tiger reserves including Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary, Gir Wildlife Sanctuary and Flamingo Sanctuary.

 

$1.17 billion

What is it? The amount Tata Sons has been ordered by the London Court of International Arbitration to pay to Japan’s largest mobile-phone carrier NTT Docomo for breach of an agreement over Tata Teleservices.

Why is it important? This is a victory for Docomo, though it’s unclear if Tata Sons would make the payment. In 2014, Docomo had exercised its right to ask Tata Sons to find a buyer for its stake at a fair price of 50% of the acquired cost (whichever was higher). However, Tata failed to find a buyer and India’s central bank did not allow it to buy the stake due to a rule that prevents foreign buyers from selling their stakes in Indian companies at a predetermined price.

Tell me more: Docomo paid $2.6 billion in 2009 and 2011 for a 26.5% stake in Tata Teleservices.

 

50

What is it? The number of Honda Activas that would be retro-fitted with CNG (compressed natural gas) kits as part of the government’s pilot programme.

Why is it important? This is the first time that India will have two-wheelers running on CNG to determine their efficiency and emission rates. Based on its success, this would be available for the public. The CNG-vehicles would have 75% and 20% less hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions (according to the manufacturer of the kits) and the running cost on CNG is estimated to be 40% lower than that of petrol.

Tell me more: The CNG kits are made by the Indian arm of Iranian firm ITUK Manufacturing at its Pune factory and the pilot is being conducted by GAIL (India) and Indraprastha Gas Ltd. The retrofitted two-wheelers would be given to the delivery boys of Domino’s Pizza for free.

 

71

What is it? The number of BSE 100 companies that fully complied with disclosure norms in 2015, according to India Disclosure Index 2016 by FTI Consulting.

Why is it important? This is up from 41% in 2015, suggesting better compliance of reporting and disclosure rules by the top 100 large-size companies on the Bombay Stock Exchange, though still nearly a third are not up to the mark. Just 3% of the top 100 companies had mandatory disclosure scores of less than 2.5 (out of 4) compared to over half of the companies scoring lesser than 2.5 in 2015.

Tell me more: In terms of voluntary disclosure, the average score of the BSE 100 companies marginally improved from 3.5 (out of 6) in 2015 to 3.7. However, over three-fourths of the companies did not provide enough information on risk management metrics while 37% did not provide convenient whistleblowing mechanisms to report fraud or unethical practices in their firms.

 

51.8%

What is it? Percentage of voters who want the United Kingdom to leave the European Union (at around 10 am Indian time).

Why is it important? Though this is not legally binding, the government may not go against the will of the people expressed in the referendum. It is the first time that a full member has voted to leave the 28-nation political and economic union. Those favouring the exit argue that the UK would be free from the EU’s undue bureaucratic, legal and financial control and prevent the free movement of EU nationals into the UK. Those against leaving fear that UK’s economy would be hit, jobs would be lost and the rate of growth would go down to 3-6%.

Tell me more: The Brexit may affect the 800 Indian companies in the UK, which employ over a lakh people. The annual profit of Jaguar Land Rover, owned by the Tata Group, is reportedly estimated to decline by around $1.47 billion in the next 10 years.

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