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 21, 2016: FDI norms relaxed in 9 sectors, Flipkart sellers on strike…

9

What is it? The number of sectors in which the Indian government has relaxed foreign direct investment (FDI) norms.

Why is it important? The timing – coming days after RBI governor Raghuram Rajan announced that he wouldn’t seek an extension after his term ends in September – is seen as government’s measures to assuage investor concerns. The government has denied this. In any case, the move is likely to help single-brand retailers such as Apple and Ikea, defence contractors and Walmart and Tesco (which could enter retailing through the food sector route).

Tell me more: The norms have been liberalised in food trading, aviation, pharmaceutical, defence, retail and television broadcasting, animal husbandry, broadcasting carriage services and private security agencies. India has reported a 29% increase to $40 billion in FDI in 2015-16.

 

57%

What is it? The share of global urban population that is unconnected, either with fixed or mobile broadband, according to a study.

Why is it important? This goes against the popular perception that a majority of the global urban population is digitally connected. What’s more, about 37% of the unconnected urban population lives in some of the wealthiest cities such as Los Angeles and Shanghai. The Middle East and African regions are the most unconnected while Europe and North America are the least unconnected.

Tell me more: In New Delhi, the proportion of the urban population unconnected is 41.6%. The study is by the Wireless Broadband Alliance conducted by Maravedis Rethink Research, a wireless infrastructure analyst firm.

 

1,000

What is it? The approximate number of sellers on Flipkart’s platform who went on a strike on Monday to protest the e-commerce firm’s decision to increase seller commissions to be paid to Flipkart, according to the All India Online Vendors Association (AIOVA).

Why is it important? Flipkart maintains that the number of sellers on strike are only a handful of the total 90,000 on its platform. Those on strike did not process any orders on Monday and put up out-of-stock notifications against their products. They claim higher commissions would increase product prices by 20-25%. Analysts say it is highly unlikely that sellers would leave Flipkart, though if the issue is not resolved quickly, it may affect customer experience.

Tell me more: Amazon, which has around 85,000 sellers, recently decreased its commission rates for sellers in a few categories while Snapdeal, which has over 300,000 sellers, decreased the commission for sellers with specific ratings and then put a cap of 70% on discounts.

 

1,242

What is it? The total number of graduates (including 253 postgraduates and 5 MPhils) who have applied for five posts of porters in Maharashtra.

Why is it important? The minimum educational qualification for this post is Class IV pass. Yet, about half of those vying for these posts are graduates and above. It shows the level of unemployment in the country, the desperateness to get some job (especially government jobs) and probably the high unemployability factor in professional degree holders.

Tell me more: There have been other such instances in the recent past. Over 1.75 lakh (of a total of 23 lakh applicants) graduates, postgraduates and PhD degree holders applying for the jobs of peons and 17,000 MBAs, B.Tech and B.Sc degree holders applying for the posts of sweepers – both in Uttar Pradesh.

65.3 million

What is it? The number of people forcibly displaced in 2015, about 0.9% of the world’s population or 1 person in 113.

Why is it important? This is the highest ever since global forced displacement records began. They are driven by old conflicts such as those in Somalia and Afghanistan lasting longer, emergence of new conflicts in countries including South Sudan, Yemen and Burundi in the last five years and the slowing pace at which solutions are being found to tackle the problem.

Tell me more: On an average, 24 people were forced to flee from their homes every minute in 2015, four times more than 10 years ago (six people every minute).

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News in numbers, Oct 20, 2015: India’s remittances, electronics imports’ record…

221,000

What is it? The number of jobs created in textiles industry between April 2014 and March 2015, as per Labour Bureau survey of employment in eight sectors.

Why is it important? Textiles industry created four out of 10 jobs created in those eight sectors last fiscal, even though Indian rupee fell only by 5% against the US dollar – and – textile exports declined between April and June 2015. Textiles sector employs more than 45 million people, the second highest after agriculture.      

Tell me more: Information technology contributed the most with net addition of 234,000 jobs.     Among domestic industry, automobile sector hired the highest between January – March 2015, signalling upbeat mood among manufacturers about local demand for cars and commercial vehicles.  

 

2

What is it? Number of states that lifted the ban on Maggi, Nestle’s instant noodles brand, yesterday. They are Karnataka (which also houses a Nestle manufacturing plant) and Gujarat.

Why is it important? It’s another step in the return of the popular instant noodle, which was banned by India’s food regulator in June for containing lead and monosodium glutamate (MSG) beyond permissible limits. On August 13, questioning the tests conducted earlier, the Bombay High Court struck down the ban.

Tell me more? Nestle has eight manufacturing facilities across seven states in India. Besides Karnataka, there’s Goa, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand.

 

8

What is it? Number of years since India and Pakistan, one of the storied cricketing rivalries, have squared up in test cricket. They last played a three-match series in 2007, which India won 1-0.

Why is it important? In a series of pushbacks yesterday to the resumption of bilateral cricket between the two countries, Shiv Sena workers protested inside the Mumbai office of BCCI chief Shashank Manohar, who was supposed to meet his Pakistan counterpart, Shahryar Khan, to discuss the fate of the scheduled Indo-Pak series in December. Elsewhere, the ICC pulled out Pakistani umpire Aleem Dar from the ongoing India-South Africa one-day series. And former Pakistani cricketers Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar will not commentate in the last one-day match in Mumbai in the same series.

Tell me more? India and Pakistan have played 59 tests, with Pakistan leading India 12-9, the remaining being draws. In one-day matches, Pakistan lead India 72-51.

 

11.2

What is it? The multiple by which outflow of remittance from India towards ‘maintenance of close relatives’ abroad grew in one year. Indians have remitted $ 124.2 million abroad in July 2015, compared to $90.2 million during the same month year-ago.  

Why is it important? This could be impact of Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act passed by US to unearth undisclosed money abroad. Indians living in US who had not disclosed their assets and bank accounts in India might be using this route to transfer money back to US, and at the same time avoid tax too. Under liberalized transfer scheme, Indians can remit $ 250,000 each year. In addition, remittance under maintenance of relatives need not be disclosed in tax returns.   

Tell me more: Remittance under ‘studies abroad’ too saw 6.25 times jump in July 2015 at $ 113.9 million, when number of Indians studied haven’t increased that much.

 

$19 billion

What is it? Electronics imports in six months ended September 2015.

Why is it important? This is the the first time, imports of electronics exceeded that of gold and silver. This shows how domestic production (estimated at $ 31 billion) falls short of market size of $ 70 billion in 2014-15, to meet the ever growing demand for modern gadgets like smartphones and for creating telecom infrastructure.

Tell me more? Electronics exports was $ 6 billion in 2014-15. India’s exports represent 0.28% of global trade.

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