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The Air-India privatisation: Privatisation is not reform

Kannan Kasturi in The Economic and Political Weekly
The decision to privatise Air India comes at a time when the government’s “reform” credentials are being questioned by big business. All information publicly available points to a continuing improvement in the performance of the airlines. Between 2011–12 and 2015–16, the last year for which official financial results are available, the airline showed a steady improvement in terms of its operational profit/loss as well as its passenger load factor. The corporate business press is lauding the government’s privatisation decision, hailing it as the resumption of “reforms” which has come to mean more disinvestment and privatisation. It is hard to understand how mismanaging public assets and then selling them is “reform.” The government appears to be on the fast track to privatise Air India (AI), the country’s flag carrier airline with the union cabinet giving its approval soon after a recommendation from the Niti Aayog. The chief executive …
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How economics became a religion

John Rapley in The Guardian



Although Britain has an established church, few of us today pay it much mind. We follow an even more powerful religion, around which we have oriented our lives: economics. Think about it. Economics offers a comprehensive doctrine with a moral code promising adherents salvation in this world; an ideology so compelling that the faithful remake whole societies to conform to its demands. It has its gnostics, mystics and magicians who conjure money out of thin air, using spells such as “derivative” or “structured investment vehicle”. And, like the old religions it has displaced, it has its prophets, reformists, moralists and above all, its high priests who uphold orthodoxy in the face of heresy.
Over time, successive economists slid into the role we had removed from the churchmen: giving us guidance on how to reach a promised land of material abundance and endless contentment. For a long time, they seemed to deliver on that promise, succeeding in a way few other r…

There is a magic money tree. But only for the Queen and the DUP

Owen Jones in The Guardian


There is no magic money tree, say the Tories: unless it’s to bribe extremists to keep them in power, or to renovate the palaces of multimillionaire monarchs. Today nurses take to the streets to demand an end to a pay freeze that has slashed the living standards of these life-saving, care-giving national heroes. One such nurse confronted Theresa May – whose lack of emotional intelligence is only matched by her lack of authority – on national television before the election. There was no magic money tree, was May’s robotic response. If the nurse had been met with a middle finger, it would scarcely have been less insulting.

Let’s be absolutely clear. The Tories’ programme of cuts – austerity, whatever you want to call it – is a con, a lie, an ideologically driven act of sadism that has caused immeasurable and unnecessary hurt and pain. The Tories are keen to portray Labour as shambolic and wasteful spendthrifts. In this they are aided and abetted by the party’s po…

Is the staggeringly profitable business of scientific publishing bad for science?

Stephen Buranyi in The Guardian


In 2011, Claudio Aspesi, a senior investment analyst at Bernstein Research in London, made a bet that the dominant firm in one of the most lucrative industries in the world was headed for a crash. Reed-Elsevier, a multinational publishing giant with annual revenues exceeding £6bn, was an investor’s darling. It was one of the few publishers that had successfully managed the transition to the internet, and a recent company report was predicting yet another year of growth. Aspesi, though, had reason to believe that that prediction – along with those of every other major financial analyst – was wrong.
The core of Elsevier’s operation is in scientific journals, the weekly or monthly publications in which scientists share their results. Despite the narrow audience, scientific publishing is a remarkably big business. With total global revenues of more than £19bn, it weighs in somewhere between the recording and the film industries in size, but it is far more pro…