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guest column
Must continue with reforms agenda
Positive signals are gradually emerging, with the recently released inflation data showing signs of cooling off.
Naina Lal Kidwai
The annual excitement around the Budget is back once again, with the Budget two weeks away. In the current situation sustaining growth has become a major challenge. 

FIFTY FIFTY
At the very secular Karachi Literary Festival
The message went clearly across that the festival was a secular space where no matter what gods you worshipped, the common goal was creativity and freedom of expression.
Kishwar Desai
There couldn't have been a bigger surprise. After all the speeches were done and delivered at the inauguration of the Karachi Literature Festival on Friday morning, the very last item on the agenda was a dance performance, which we were told was based on a poem by Rabindranath Tagore.

 

SUNDAY SPECIALS

OPINIONS
kaleidoscope
PERSPECTIVE
PEOPLE
GROUND ZERO

 

EARLIER STORIES

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February 16, 2013
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February 12, 2013
No longer a soft state
February 11, 2013
Translations of Bahadur Shah Zafar
February 10, 2013
Growth is slipping
February 9, 2013
Development or temple?
February 8, 2013
Power sector woes
February 7, 2013


Ground zero
Trouble for India in the paradise
Raj chengappa
From the air, the islands that make up the Maldives appear like a giant string of pearls strewn across the Indian Ocean. Comprising over 1,192 low-lying coral islands grouped into 26 atolls spread over an area of 90,000 square km, Maldives is perhaps one of the most geographically dispersed countries of the world. 







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guest column
Must continue with reforms agenda
Positive signals are gradually emerging, with the recently released inflation data showing signs of cooling off.
Naina Lal Kidwai

The annual excitement around the Budget is back once again, with the Budget two weeks away. In the current situation sustaining growth has become a major challenge. It is hoped that the government will use the Union Budget as an opportunity to sow the seeds of revival and regain the confidence of investors.

The recently released advance estimate of 5 per cent GDP growth in 2012-13 has come in as a dampener, adding to the prevailing sombre mood. Also, the twin deficits of the current and fiscal accounts continue to be major concerns. Nevertheless, positive signals are gradually emerging. The recently released inflation data is showing signs of cooling off. Also the export data released recently shows an upturn in growth after eight consecutive months of decline.

The industry in the North is going through a recessionary phase.
The industry in the North is going through a recessionary phase.

The January data indicates a growth of 0.82 per cent in exports. The global demand is expected to remain flat and domestic demand has languished considerably. We need to devise strategies to overcome this situation. The latest data available for private final consumption expenditure indicated a growth of 3.7 per cent in Q2 FY13, which was the lowest since 2005-06. Supporting the domestic demand at this juncture is extremely crucial.

Though some might argue it is too soon to notice a turnaround. We need to make sure that we continue with the reforms agenda and make every effort to bring the economy back to a higher growth trajectory at the earliest.

Investment activity remains subdued and there is an urgent need to give it a fresh start to push the flagging growth. On the taxation front, FICCI remains focused on the need for concrete steps towards the long-standing demand for introducing the GST. This will provide impetus to the much-needed growth, adding we believe 2 per cent to the GDP of the country aiding increases in revenue collection.

Further, though we have put forward a slew of suggestions on the taxation front during the pre-Budget consultations with the Finance Minister, the one that FICCI would like to reiterate is the need for an improved tax dispute resolution mechanism. FICCI has taken up this issue and requested for a non-adversarial approach to be adopted by the tax authorities. A similar request was made to the Prime Minister's Office last week when FICCI was invited for an interaction on its pre-Budget memorandum.

Disinvestment should also be pursued more aggressively and we would like the government to set an ambitious target for raising resources through this route in the next financial year. In order to achieve the best possible share price for its sales of equity in government-owned companies, sops that support buoyancy in the stock markets and bring investors in, not only help the investors' sentiment, but also enable the government to achieve disinvestment targets.

Continuity and pragmatism in policy while promoting growth, and clarity in the tax regime, should be the guiding principles for 2013.

The writer is the president of FICCI

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FIFTY FIFTY
At the very secular Karachi Literary Festival
The message went clearly across that the festival was a secular space where no matter what gods you worshipped, the common goal was creativity and freedom of expression.
Kishwar Desai

There couldn't have been a bigger surprise. After all the speeches were done and delivered at the inauguration of the Karachi Literature Festival on Friday morning, the very last item on the agenda was a dance performance, which we were told was based on a poem by Rabindranath Tagore.

The lead dancer and choreographer was the intrepid Pakistani, Sheema Kermani, and she managed to leave us, at least those who were from India, extremely astonished and delighted. Not only because we did not expect a dance performance right at the beginning of the literature festival but also because she did the unexpected in fact, something that even literary festivals in India would not dare to risk: she started with a hymn in Hindi.

As the strains of the Mahatma Gandhi favourite "Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram, Sabko Sanmati De Bhagwan" rang out, many of us felt tears spring to our eyes. Sheema and her troupe followed that up with the extremely well known Tagore poem, "Where the Mind is Without Fear". The combination of both of these was a potent mix, and the message went clearly across that the festival was a secular space where no matter what gods you worshipped, the common goal was creativity and freedom of expression.

Perhaps (though the organisers might not have directly meant it to be so) there was also a subtle message for those Indian authors who had dropped out of the KLF at the last minute, quoting various reasons such as 'visa problems', 'security risks' and even 'ill health'. The fact that the inaugural performance itself had strong Indian influences - from the music, poems to the nature of the dance itself made one think of how robust and inclusive the KLF organisers have turned out to be, especially given the strained environment between the two countries.

And that inclusive sentiment was echoed by the people around us in the audience. The professor of history sitting next to me, in fact, spoke about her family's Indian origin with deep nostalgia and others also wished for the normalising of relations. And indeed, when one is in Karachi, a city which has gained notoriety due to unrelenting terrorist attacks, one feels a deep sense of sympathy for the Pakistanis. My own feeling while attending the festival and also going around the city has been of sorrow that the people here are forced to live under siege. And yet, it has brought out the best among them. We experienced no hostility but only warmth and hospitality that is genuine and heartfelt.

The festival itself (barring the non-shows by big-ticket celebrities such as Gulzar, Shobha De and Ila Arun) has been well organised and attended-with crowds of over 5,000 expected daily.

All events are at the very quaint Beach Luxury Hotel, where we are also staying. This was set up in 1948 by the patriarch of the well known Parsi family of Karachi, the Avaris. Even now the young Dinshaw Avari takes personal care to oversee everything, including hosting a glittering dinner on the first day of the festival along with his wife at their lovely home next door to the hotel. Apart from the extremely pleasant company, the eclectic food, ranging from kebabs to sushi, was superb.

The hotel is perched on the waterfront with a fabulous view of mangroves and seagulls floating on the rippling sea water. The main city is about 10 minutes away in a cab. But we have been escorted everywhere when we step out of this peaceful haven, warned about sudden lawlessness and the gangs which operate with impunity. Thus far, though, our stay has been incident free. Apart from the rain at the festival inauguration, there have been no disruptions, and writers from over 20 countries are attending.

The other wonderful part has been to meet and listen to legendary figures such as Intizar Husain and Kishwar Naheed. Husain, during his keynote address, gave an interesting parable of how story telling can survive at the time of deep crisis. He quoted from Alif Laila, in which the skilful storyteller averts the day of reckoning by keeping the predatory king enthralled with her narrative. She is allowed to live because if she is beheaded the king will never find out 'what happens next'. It was a marvellous allegory for those who often dismiss the case for literature and the role it can play in very adverse circumstances! Husain also took the view that the sub-continental writers owe a debt not just to the western stream of literature but also to Arabic tales and to the 'katha kahanis' from Hindustan. There have been many such references at the KLF to our shared, common heritage.

My own session on Sunday continues the discussion on being a Punjabi and a writer, which began at the Jaipur Literature Festival. Ameena Saiyid, the charming and very efficient MD at Oxford University Press, Pakistan, thought it would be interesting to conduct the discourse here as well, with Pakistani Punjabi authors. And so, much to my delight I will discuss my Punjabiyat with the wonderfully talented writers Mohammed Hanif, Nadeem Aslam and Sarwat Mohiuddin.

The agenda at KLF is packed as we are spoilt for choice, running between sessions on politics, cinema and literature, engaging with some of the best minds from Pakistan and all over the world. And apart from music and dance we are also being treated to poetry readings and mushairas.

Those who feel that Pakistan is falling apart should take a cue from events like the KLF, remembering that ideas and thoughts can survive and even thrive under duress. There is definitely a longing for peace and security and for more dialogue and interaction. One can only hope that those who try to drive a wedge between India and Pakistan would pick up a book instead of a gun.

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