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The Hindu Editorial

20-February-2024

1. January’s export numbers suggest global shipping woes are yet to fully hit home.

Topic: GS3 – Indian Economy – Effects of liberalization on the economy Crucial for UPSC, the news delves into India’s goods exports, trade deficit, and economic challenges, providing insights into economic dynamics.
Context
  • India’s goods exports grew 3.1% in January, with a notable decline in the goods trade deficit.
  • Red Sea disruptions show limited impact, but uncertainties persist in global trade.
 Indian Goods Exports Overview:
  • In January, India’s goods exports grew by a mild 3.1%, marking the fourth month of growth in 2023-24.
  • The overall value of merchandise exports for the year is down 4.9% at approximately $354 billion.
  • January exports, at $36.9 billion, are above the yearly monthly average but 4% lower than December.
Red Sea Disruptions and Impact:
  • The Houthi rebels’ disruptions in the Red Sea have impacted global trade corridors, but January’s trade numbers suggest the impact is not overtly worrying.
  • Engineering goods’ exports growth faltered, and gems and jewellery experienced a mild contraction of 1.3%.
  • Lack of a broader discernible impact from the Red Sea disruptions is notable.
Goods Trade Deficit and Imports:
  • The goods trade deficit hit a nine-month low of $17.5 billion in January, down from a record high of nearly $30 billion three months earlier.
  • Import bill compression is attributed to slack in imports of project goods and electronics, indicating weakening investment and consumption impulses.
Outlook and Challenges:
  • Despite global headwinds, the Indian government aims to match the record export performance of $776 billion in 2022-23, but reaching last year’s $451 billion goods tally seems difficult.
  • Exports of services, expected to grow by 6.3%, may contribute to an overall export figure close to $760 billion if sustained.
Uncertainties and Risks:
  • Outlook for the coming year is uncertain with weak or mixed demand signals from the U.S. and Germany.
  • Despite Operation Prosperity Guardian, shipping challenges from Houthi disruptions may persist, affecting delivery times, spiking shipping rates, and raising operational costs, impacting demand and competitiveness.
Importance of Export Earnings for Indian Economy:
●     Economic Growth:

○     Export earnings significantly contribute to India’s GDP, fostering economic growth and stability.

○     Foreign exchange generated through exports aids in balancing trade deficits.

●     Employment Opportunities:

○     Export-oriented industries generate employment, supporting livelihoods for a substantial population.

○     Labour-intensive sectors like textiles and manufacturing benefit from export demand.

●     Foreign Exchange Reserves:

○     Export earnings bolster India’s foreign exchange reserves, ensuring currency stability.

○     Reserves are crucial for managing external shocks and meeting international obligations.

●     Technology and Skill Enhancement:

○     Export-focused industries often adopt advanced technologies, promoting innovation and skill development.

○     Exposure to global markets enhances the competitiveness of Indian products and services.

●     Diversification of Markets:

○     Dependence on domestic markets alone is reduced, providing resilience against economic downturns.

○     Access to diverse international markets minimizes risks associated with regional economic fluctuations.

●     Attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI):

○     Robust export performance attracts foreign investors, stimulating overall economic development.

○     FDI inflows often align with sectors contributing significantly to export earnings.

●     Global Competitiveness:

○     Participation in international trade fosters competitiveness, encouraging industries to improve quality and efficiency.

○     It facilitates integration into global value chains, promoting economic resilience.

PYQ: Account for the failure of manufacturing sector in achieving the goal of labour-intensive exports rather than capital-intensive exports. Suggest measures for more labour-intensive rather than capital-intensive exports. (150 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2017)
Practice Question: Examine the role of export earnings in shaping India’s economic landscape, focusing on employment, foreign exchange reserves, and global competitiveness. (150 words/10 m)

2. In Karnataka, KFD peaks; vaccine efforts stalled

Topic: GS2 – Social Justice – Health
Significant for public health awareness, the Kyasanur Forest Disease challenges highlight vaccine manufacturing hurdles and the need for intervention.
Context
  • The article highlights challenges in manufacturing a vaccine for Kyasanur Forest Disease (KFD) due to private disinterest, with Karnataka reporting new cases and seeking ICMR’s assistance for vaccine development.
 Kyasanur Forest Disease (KFD): Overview
  • Karnataka’s Health Minister cites private companies’ reluctance to manufacture KFD vaccine due to the small number of cases.
  • Since the statement, two deaths and 103 infections reported in Shivamogga, Uttara Kannada, and Chikkamagaluru districts.
Historical Background:
  • Originating in 1956 in Kyasanur forest, KFD initially confined to Shivamogga, later spreading to other districts and neighboring states.
  • “Monkey fever” affects monkeys, and their deaths forecast outbreaks. Transmitted through tick bites.
Spread and Impact:
  • Cases reported in various Karnataka districts since 1972, reaching Chamarajanagara in 2012 and Gadag in 2017.
  • Presence observed in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Goa, and Maharashtra, with over 560 deaths since 1956.
Vaccination Efforts:
  • Vaccine developed in collaboration with National Institute of Virology administered until 2019-20, covering 1.79 lakh people last year.
  • Recent tests show vaccine ineffectiveness; no current vaccine or specific treatment, only symptomatic care.
Vulnerability and Preventive Measures:
  • Cases peak between December and June, with forest workers, wildlife personnel, and trekkers most vulnerable.
  • Tick-repellent oil distributed, villagers advised to seek medical help for symptoms. Mandatory hospital treatment for KFD patients.
Government Initiatives:
  • Karnataka government seeks ICMR’s assistance for vaccine manufacturing, consulting with Indian Immunologicals Limited.
  • Availability timeline unclear, and vaccine unlikely this season.
  • Efforts are ongoing to address the situation of KFD surge in Karnataka
Challenges and Outlook:
  • Private disinterest highlights limitations in addressing public health through market-driven approaches.
  • Urgent need for effective vaccination underscored as cases rise, emphasizing the significance of public health interventions.
Vulnerability and Preventive Measures:
  • The Kyasanur Forest Disease (KFD) issue emphasizes the critical intersection of public health and private interests.
  • Challenges in vaccine production underscore the necessity of robust public health initiatives, demonstrating the importance of proactive measures to address emerging diseases and protect vulnerable communities.
Addressing public health through market-driven approaches
Advantages of Market-Driven Approaches:
  • Efficiency: Market-driven approaches promote efficiency by encouraging competition, innovation, and resource optimization in the healthcare sector.
  • Private Sector Engagement: Involving the private sector can lead to increased investments, expertise, and management efficiency, enhancing service delivery.
  • Innovation and Technology: Market-oriented solutions often drive innovation and the adoption of advanced technologies, improving healthcare outcomes.
  • Financial Sustainability: Market-driven models can generate revenue, ensuring financial sustainability and reducing dependence on public funding.
  • Consumer Choice: Introducing market elements allows for greater consumer choice, empowering individuals to make informed decisions about their healthcare.
Challenges:
  • Equity Concerns: Market-driven approaches may exacerbate healthcare disparities, as access and quality could be unequal, favoring those with higher financial means.
  • Regulatory Oversight: Ensuring proper regulation and oversight to prevent exploitation, maintain standards, and protect public health is a challenge.
  • Affordability: In some cases, market-driven models may lead to higher costs, making healthcare services less affordable for certain segments of the population.
  • Fragmentation: A market-oriented system might result in a fragmented healthcare infrastructure, hindering coordination and comprehensive public health planning.
  • Access Issues: Market-driven approaches might prioritize profitable services over essential public health services, leading to potential gaps in coverage.
PYQ: What is the basic principle behind vaccine development? How do vaccines work? What approaches were adopted by the Indian vaccine manufacturers to produce COVID-19 vaccines? (250 words/15m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2022)
Practice Question:  Discuss the advantages and challenges of market-driven approaches in addressing public health. (150 words/10 m)

3. Engineering graduates are steering the service industry

Topic: GS2 – Social Justice – Education Critical for UPSC as it addresses the dynamic job market, skills gap, and proposes solutions for India’s services-driven economy.
Context
  • The article discusses the evolving role of engineering graduates in India’s growing services sector, proposing the need for a generic “service engineering” course.
  • It emphasizes the transferability of engineering skills, calls for curriculum adaptation, and envisions India’s leadership in service innovation.
 Growth of Services Sector:
  • Services sector contributes significantly to India’s Gross Value Added (GVA), accounting for 53%.
  • Employment distribution favours services sector with 31% generated jobs versus 25% in industries.
Engineering Graduates in Services:
  • Engineering graduates, despite low employability rates (57%), are increasingly joining the services sector.
  • Over 80% of graduate engineers end up in non-technical roles due to a lack of opportunities in their core sector.
Transferability of Engineering Skills:
  • Engineers are valued in non-technical roles for adaptability, problem-solving mindset, critical thinking, and structured thinking.
  • Employers recognize the transferability of engineering skills in dynamic and diverse service-oriented opportunities.
Need for Generic Services-oriented Courses:
  • Current educational offerings lack generic services-oriented courses, leading to a gap between job demand and available skills.
  • Proposal for a new course, “service engineering,” to equip students with technical proficiency, soft skills, and industry-specific knowledge.
Curriculum Design for Service Engineering:
  • Holistic blend of technical proficiency, soft skills, and industry-specific knowledge.
  • Integration of cutting-edge technologies like AI and IoT to enhance employability, especially in emerging sectors.
Transformative Potential:
  • Introduction of “service engineering” can transform employability, service delivery, and economic growth.
  • Graduates equipped with skills for white-collar service roles across various industries.
Inclusivity and Accessibility:
  • Affordability and accessibility of digital service engineering courses can attract students from tier 2 and 3 cities.
  • Potential to increase women’s participation in the workforce, as services offer better flexibility.
Cost-Effective Digital Learning:
  • Service engineering courses leverage digital platforms, reducing infrastructure costs and eliminating geographical barriers.
  • Democratisation of education fosters inclusivity and unleashes the potential of professionals from diverse backgrounds.
India’s Global Leadership in Service Innovation:
  • Investment in skilled workforce development for the services sector can position India as a global leader in service innovation.
  • Drives prosperity and competitiveness in the services-driven economy of the future.
Practice Question:  How can the introduction of a ‘service engineering’ course bridge the skills gap and foster inclusive economic growth in India? (150 words/10 m)

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