Walmart’s gamble and what it means for India C. P. Chandrasekhar

Much of the writing on Walmart’s purchase of a dominant 77 per cent stake in Flipkart, touted for long as India’s answer to Amazon, is focused on its size. At $16 billion, of which $14 billion goes to buy up the stakes of investors such as SoftBank from Japan and Naspers from South Africa, it is reportedly the biggest acquisition in the global e-commerce area, and way larger than $3.3 billion that Walmart paid for US web retailer Jet.com in a deal considered the largest purchase of a US e-commerce startup. With some existing shareholders exiting, Walmart now shares ownership…

Evolution of Technology in the Digital Arena: Theories, firm-level strategies and state policies Smitha Francis

This paper analyses the evolution of technology, encompassing the characteristics and dynamics of innovation and technological change, as well as their interactions and interrelations across diverse technical areas that generate organisational changes and systemic socio-economic changes. It provides a brief overview of the various theoretical approaches that have examined technological evolution at different analytical levels, which is followed by a detailed discussion of Carlota Perez‟s techno-economic paradigm. Evolution_Technology (Download the full text in PDF format) (This study was commissioned by the Centre for WTO Studies (CWS), IIFT, New Delhi,  and carried out by the author as an independent consultant)

Agricultural Trade Liberalization Undermined Food Security Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury

Agriculture is critical for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) notes, ‘From ending poverty and hunger to responding to climate change and sustaining our natural resources, food and agriculture lies at the heart of the 2030 Agenda.' For many, the answer to poverty and hunger is to accelerate economic growth, presuming that a rising tide will lift all boats, no matter how fragile or leaky. Most believe that market liberalization, property rights, and perhaps some minimal government infrastructure provision is all that is needed. The government's role should be restricted to strengthening the…

Once again, the Oil Price Scare C. P. Chandrasekhar and Jayati Ghosh

The news last week that prices of Brent Crude oil (which is used as a global benchmark) had crossed $80 a barrel in some markets must have created shock waves in policy circles of many countries, especially India. Many oil-importing countries had grown comfortable with – and even complacent about – the relatively low oil prices that persisted after their precipitous drop in the middle of 2014. As Chart 1 shows, average oil prices feel very sharply after June 2014, falling by 56 per cent just in the months until January 2015, and by more than 70 per cent from…

The So-called “Consumers’ Interest” Prabhat Patnaik

In the wake of the take-over of Flipkart by Walmart, one is once again hearing an argument which one has often come across before, namely that having a large multinational in this sphere, which can do global sourcing for its products, will make goods cheaper for buyers and therefore be in the “consumers’ interests”. This argument is so old that it even goes back to the colonial times, when it was argued by many that imports from Britain, which had caused domestic deindustrialization by outcompeting the local craftsmen, had cheapened goods for the consumers and were therefore in the “consumers’…

The Banking Conundrum: Non-performing assets and neo-liberal reform C.P. Chandrasekhar and Jayati Ghosh

As fiscal year 2017–18 drew to a close, the Government of India decided to bite the bullet and implement a proposal to “resolve” what was being presented as one of the leading challenges then facing the Indian economy: large non-performing assets (NPAs) on the books of the banks, especially the public sector banks (PSBs).The Recapitalisation plan, first announced in October 2017, involved infusing ‘2.11 lakh crore of new equity into the PSBs, of which ‘1,35,000 crore would be new money from the government, financed with recapitalisation bonds. Another ‘18,139 crore was the balance due under the ‘70,000 crore Indradhanush plan…

Lucrative Defaults by Hungry Corporates C.P. Chandrasekhar

The deadline for the completion of the resolution process under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), 2016 for the first set of cases taken up has neared or even passed. The IBC provides for a time limit of 180 days (extendable by 90 days) once a case of default is brought to the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), following a joint decision of creditors accounting for a dominant share of claims on a company. If no resolution plan drawn up under the supervision of a resolution professional can be agreed upon, liquidation must follow to recover whatever sums are possible.…

The return of the Oil Threat C. P. Chandrasekhar

On the morning of April 24, the price of Brent crude, the global benchmark for oil prices, rose above $75 a barrel, touching its highest level since 2014 and signalling the return of an era of high oil prices. That is a $30 per barrel or 66 per cent rise from the previous low of around 10 months ago. As expected, this has made oil importers nervous. But, despite the benefits it would bring US shale producers, even President Donald Trump is rattled. In one more of his infamous early morning tweets he declared: “Looks like OPEC is at it…

Agricultural Tenancy in Contemporary India Vaishali Bansal, Yoshifumi Usami and Vikas Rawal

The problem of tenancy -- informal, insecure, exploitative, and often unfree and interlocked contracts for leasing land that have been both growth-retarding and unjust -- has been central to the agrarian question in India. Along with an uneven and distorted penetration of capitalist relations in the Indian countryside, there have been significant changes in the extent of use of tenancy, in the class configuration of tenants and lessors, and in the form of tenancy contracts over the last few decades. With the state unwilling to effectively implement land reforms in most parts of India, tenancy relations have continued to be…