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2.6.21 Editorials

THE HINDU

The national income estimates released by the NSO posit an economy that appears to have found some footing in the January-March quarter before the pandemic’s second wave hit. GDP expanded by 1.6% in the final quarter of the last fiscal, an acceleration from the 0.5% growth in the preceding three-month period, that marginally softened the extent of the full-year’s record contraction to 7.3%. The Centre had earlier projected full-year GDP to contract by 8%. There was a 3.7% growth in fourth-quarter gross value added, with all but two of the economy’s eight broad sectors posting expansions. Mining and quarrying and the worst-hit contact-intensive omnibus services category of trade, hotels, transport, communications and broadcasting contracted 5.7% and 2.3%, respectively. Still, the pandemic’s crushing impact over the preceding three quarters meant that only the agriculture, forestry and fishing and the utility services recorded full-year growth. On the expenditure side, private consumption spending appeared to have rebounded to growth for the first time in four quarters, posting an expansion of 2.7% that moderated the full-year’s contraction to 9.1%. And gross fixed capital formation, a proxy for private investment, jumped 11% in the three-month period, most likely helped in fair measure by an increase in capital spending by the Government.

The NSO data, however, needs to be seen in perspective. With the ground having shifted since March with the surge in COVID-19 infections, it is vital to correlate the figures with on-the-ground information. Manufacturing GVA appeared to have gained some traction in the last quarter (a 6.9% expansion), following a return to growth in the September-December period after five straight quarters of contraction. Disappointingly, IHS Markit’s Manufacturing PMI survey for May showed the key sector facing the prospect of stagnation as weakening demand pushed increases in new orders and output to 10-month lows. Similarly, the fiscal 2020-21 provisional estimates for private consumption spending — the bulwark accounting for over 50% of GDP — showed the expenditure figure at ₹75.6-lakh crore, its weakest level in three years. Here again, the Refinitiv-Ipsos Primary Consumer Sentiment Index for May, showed consumer confidence had tumbled by 6.3 percentage points from April as fears over the pandemic’s impact depressed respondents’ outlook on all four fronts including jobs and personal financial conditions. With unabated job losses pushing overall unemployment to a one-year high of 11.9% in May, as per CMIE data, and rural areas ravaged, only an accelerated nationwide vaccine roll-out and direct job and income boosting measures can prevent the economy from backsliding again.

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1.Posit (V)-to state or declare.

2.Marginally (Adv)-to a small extent or degree. सीमांत रूप से

3.Contract (V)-decrease in size, number, or range. संकुचित

3.Fourth-Quarter (Adj)-relating to the last three-month period in a company's financial year.

4.Omnibus (Adj)-providing for many things at once. बहुप्रयोजन

5.Crushing (Adj)-very severe.

6.Surge (N)-a sudden and great increase. बढ़ना

7.Stagnation (N)-a state of inactivity. गतिहीनता

8.Unabated (Adj)-unable to be stopped or controlled.

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🛑Six years after abandoning the “one child policy” of 1979, China’s Communist Party has now introduced a “three child policy”. The move is to “improve China’s population structure, actively respond to the ageing population, and preserve the country’s human resource advantages”, the party’s Politburo said on May 31. The once-in-a-decade population census, released on May 11, may have prompted the latest change, recording 12 million births in 2020, the lowest since 1961. The census said there were 264 million in the 60 and over age group, up 5.44% since 2010 and accounting for 18.70% of the population. After the one child policy, China’s fertility rate fell from 2.75 in 1979 to 1.69 in 2018. Monday’s announcement is as much an acknowledgement as may ever come of the unintended consequences of deeply intrusive family planning measures, going back even before 1979, to Mao’s “later, longer, fewer” campaign, which itself, ironically, followed his exhortations to have more children to build the workforce. The party officially still defends the one child policy — that it prevented an additional 300 million births. Yet, the urgency of recent measures suggests otherwise, as China grapples with both an ageing and deeply gender-imbalanced population, and demographers’ worst fears of countries getting old before they get rich.

In 2013, China allowed couples to have a second child if either parent was an only child, with the two child policy introduced in 2015. Explaining why the measures did not boost birth rates, economists Jin Zhangfeng, Pan Shiyuan, and Zheng Zhijie wrote last year the two child policy “substantially increase[d] the number of second-child births” among those “less sensitive to child-rearing costs” but “substantially decrease[d] the number of first-child births” attributing it to rising costs. “Other developing countries, even without China’s stringent child-limitation policies, have also experienced declines,” they argued, suggesting “policy makers should give priority to reducing the child-rearing costs borne by prospective parents rather than simply relaxing or even abolishing birth quotas”. The latest announcement did acknowledge those broader structural problems, pledging to reduce families’ spending on education. It is, however, by no means an abandoning of China’s family planning policies. The entrenched — and widely reviled — family planning bureaucracy remains in place, and this week’s statement underlined that the “current reward and assistance system and preferential policies” for those following rules continue. Even leaving aside the strong moral argument against intrusive family planning — enforcement has meant forced abortions, sterilisations, and other abuses, some of which are still being reported in parts such as the Muslim-majority Xinjiang region — China’s experience is a reminder of the unintended social and economic consequences of state-led demographic interventions.

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1.Abandoning (V)-to bring or come to an end.

2.Politburo (N)-the main committee of a Communist party that is responsible for making policy.

3.Acknowledgement (N)-acceptance of the truth or existence of something. स्वीकृति

4.Unintended (Adj)-not deliberate or planned. अनपेक्षित

5.Intrusive (Adj)-affecting someone in a way that annoys them and makes them feel uncomfortable.

6.Exhortations (N)-the act of strongly encouraging or trying to persuade someone to do something. प्रोत्साहन

7.Grapples With (Phrasal Verb)-to try to deal with or understand a difficult problem or subject.

8.Stringent (Adj)-(of regulations, requirements, or conditions) strict, precise, and exacting. कठोर

9.Abolishing (V)-to cancel (a law or an agreement) formally. समाप्त करना

10.Sterilisations (N)-the process of having a medical operation to make it impossible to have children. वंध्यीकरण

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🛑BUSINESS STANDARD

WHO approves Sinovac Covid vaccine, the second Chinese-made dose listed

Reuters | 02/06/2021 | 10 hours ago


The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday it has approved a COVID-19 vaccine made by drugmaker Sinovac Biotech for emergency use listing, paving the way for a second Chinese shot to be used in poor countries.

A WHO emergency listing is a signal to national regulators on a product's safety and efficacy. It will also allow the shot to be included in COVAX, the global programme to provide vaccines mainly for poor countries, which faces major supply problems due to an Indian export suspension.

The independent panel of experts said in a statement it recommended Sinovac's vaccine for adults over 18, with a second dose 2-4 weeks later. There was no upper age limit as data suggested it is likely to have a protective effect in older people.

The WHO's technical advisory group, which began meeting on May 5, took the decision after reviewing the latest clinical data on the Sinovac vaccine's safety and efficacy as well as the company's manufacturing practices.

Branded CoronaVac in some regions, it is the second Chinese developed vaccine to win such WHO listing to combat COVID-19, after the May 7 approval of a shot developed by state-backed Sinopharm.

A third Chinese vaccine, produced by CanSino Biologics , has submitted clinical trial data, but no WHO review has been scheduled.

Sinovac said that it had supplied more than 600 million doses of its vaccine at home and abroad as of end-May and over 430 million doses have been administered.

Vaccine efficacy results showed that the vaccine prevented symptomatic disease in 51% of those vaccinated and prevented severe COVID-19 and hospitalisation in 100% of the studied population, the WHO said.

The WHO's separate Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) had said previously in a review document that vaccine efficacy in multi-country Phase III clinical trials ranged from 51% to 84%.

Indonesia's health ministry said on May 12 that its study of 120,000 healthcare workers who had received the vaccine found it was 94% effective at preventing symptomatic disease.

In a preliminary evaluation, the SAGE panel found that the shot was efficacious in preventing COVID-19 in adults under 60, but that some quality data on the risk of serious adverse effects was lacking.

It cited evidence gaps in safety in pregnancy, and on safety and clinical protection in older adults, those with underlying disease, and evaluation of rare adverse events detected through post-authorization safety monitoring.

The SAGE experts, who issue policy recommendations to states and dosage guidelines, reviewed Sinovac clinical data last month.

China has already deployed hundreds of millions of doses of both Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines at home and exported them to many countries, particularly in Latin America, Asia and Africa.

🛑Social media companies begin updating names of grievance officers in India

BS Reporter | 01/06/2021 | 13 hours ago


Social media companies including Twitter, Google and Facebook have begun updating the names of their grievance officers, as required by the new Information Technology Rules, 2021.


While Twitter India appointed Dharmendra Chatur as its interim resident grievance officer for India, based in Bengaluru, WhatsApp named Paresh B Lal as its grievance officer, based in Hyderabad.


"To contact the Grievance Officer, please send an email with your complaint or concern and sign with an electronic signature. If you're contacting us about a specific account, please include your phone number in full international format, including the country code," WhatsApp said on its website.


Google also said that "to serve any summons or notices in civil proceedings against Google LLC in India", Joe Grier, based in Mountain View, California can be contacted.


Facebook has put up Julie Duvall, based in Menlo Park, California, as the contact person under grievance officer on its website.


Apple, whose iMessage service is also end-to-end encrypted, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Signal, the messaging service touted as the most popular alternative to WhatsApp, also did not respond to a request for comment.


The new IT Rules, 2021, which came into effect on May 25, require intermediaries like Google, Facebook, Twitter and so on, to "prominently publish on its website,mobile based application or both,as the case may be, the name of the Grievance Officer and his contact details as well as mechanism by which a user or a victim may make complaint against violation of the provisions of this rule or any other matters pertaining top the computer resources made available by it".


Last week, WhatsApp filed a legal challenge against the Indian government, protesting before the Delhi High Court new IT rules that would require messaging services to “trace” the origin of particular messages.


Under the recently notified Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, social media intermediaries with more than 5 million users and providing messaging services will have to enable identification of the first originator of problematic content that may harm the country's interests and several other provisions described in the Rules.


Services like WhatsApp, Signal and iMessage would be among the ones impacted by the implementation of this rule. Traceability means they will have to break end-to-end encryption.


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