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To end income inequality, rich must pay higher taxes: Piketty

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Jaipur: To strive towards ending income inequality, it is imperative the tax structure be reformed to raise the tax to GDP ratio, which would also entail the world’s rich agreeing to higher taxes, including in India, says renowned French economist Thomas Piketty.

He also advised India not to depend much on foreign inflows and shift from caste-based reservations to those based on income for creation of equal opportunity, needed for an equal society.

Noting that tax structure was one of the great drivers of inequality in an economy, Piketty, a professor at the Paris School of Economics and at the London School of Economics’ new International Inequalities Institute, said it must “undergo real reformation” so that the tax to GDP ratio increases.

In order for income inequality to end, it was essential that the world’s rich agreed to pay higher taxes, including in India.

Indian elites have to accept that they have to pay higher taxes, he said at a session titled “Capital” at the Jaipur Literature Festival on Friday.

This would allow more money to enter the government treasury, and be re-invested in public welfare, such as education and health services that everyone could access, leading to a “redistribution of wealth”, said Piketty, the author of “Capital in the Twenty-First Century”, a seminal work on the global dynamics of income and wealth distribution, including those leading to such inequality.

US writer and journalist Sebastian Mallaby agreed with him on the benefit of more money flowing into the government treasury for utilization on public welfare goals, noting that lack of schooling and health care reduced the potential for growth in an economy, because without these basic goods, a person cannot find employment and so no income can be generated.

Piketty also sounded a note of caution regarding foreign capital, holding no economy should become “too dependent” on capital inflows from other countries, as this could could lead to public debt to foreign governments, which could later be exploited for political gain

Piketty also stressed the need for the “democratization of economic knowledge” which, in his view, would result in “democratization of the economy”, a crucial step towards ending inequality.

“More transparency of information was needed if the general public was to bridge the existing information asymmetry,” he said.

Mallaby, the Paul A. Volcker Senior Fellow for International Economics at the Council on Foreign Relations also concurred here, as “knowledge of financial markets and access to investment opportunities would bring increased returns on people’s financial resources, which they could then re-invest, creating a virtuous circle for the economy”

India’s Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian, who was also participating in the session moderated by academician Pratap Bhanu Mehta, observed that in the last few years, poorer countries like India have started to catch up with richer nations like America, in terms of the growth rates of their national incomes, but as far as India was concerned, it was not just income inequality that needed to be considered, but other concerns such as historical caste and class-based inequality.

Piketty agreed, highlighting the need for change in the parameters for reservations in governmental institutions, from being caste-based to being income-based to help create equal opportunity, essential for an equal society, while there must be equal access to education and employment too. (Vikas Datta, IANS)(Photo: www.thenation.com)

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British Library to host 70 years of India-Britain Cultural relations of Jaipur Literature Festival

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New Delhi, April 21, 2017: The British Library will be transformed like never before as the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival animates its iconic spaces for the first time in celebration as part of significant 70 years of India-Britain cultural relations.

Held for two days on May 20-21, the fourth London edition of the ZEE JLF@The British Library will present a sumptuous showcase of South Asia’s literary heritage, oral and performing arts, music, cinema and illusion, books and ideas, dialogue and debate, Bollywood and politics in the context of this broader view of India and its relationship to the Britain.

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The speakers at the programmer include: Oscar-winning British director Stephen Frears, Swapan Dasgupta, Shashi Tharoor, Shrabani Basu, Neel Madhav, Philip Norman, Tahmima Anam, Sarvat Hasin, Amit Chaudhuri, Kunal Basu, Amit Chaudhuri, Meera Syal, Prajwal Parajuly and Lila Azam Zanganeh, Anita Anand along with William Dalrymple and Namita Gokhale.

ZEE JLF@The British Library is the first of five cultural strands which form part of the Year of UK-India of Culture in 2017, celebrating the deep cultural ties and exchange in what is a year of great significance for the world’s largest democracy as India marks 70 years as an independent democratic republic.

“In only a decade the Jaipur Literature Festival has grown from 14 lost tourists to third of a million people and it’s now the biggest festival of literature in the world. We can’t wait to bring its energy and colour to the British Library: our Jaipur-on-Thames,” author and ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival Co-Director William Dalrymple said in a statement.

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Namita Gokhale, author and ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival Co-Director said: “Delighted that the fourth edition of JLF in London will be hosted by the British Library. London is a uniquely cosmopolitan and literary city, and we look forward to celebrating diversity through a series of vibrant sessions that reflect the special spirit of Jaipur.”

Sanjoy Roy, Producer, ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival, said: “Our collaboration with the British Library is reflective of the shared history between the sub-continent and the UK. The festival will continue to be a platform for diverse voices and will celebrate 70 years of India’s independence.”

“The British Library is delighted to be hosting the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival this year as we celebrate the UK-India Year of Culture. The exciting programme reflects the richness of this new cultural partnership,” Jamie Andrews, Head, Culture and Learning, The British Library, said in a statement. (IANS)

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Hindu Philosophy fascinated WB Yeats: Remembering him and his Timeless Poetry at Jaipur Literature Festival

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WB Yeats, Wikimedia

Jaipur, Jan 20, 2017: William Butler Yeats, one of the foremost figures of 20th-century literature, has cast his shadow over the history of both “modern poetry” and “modern Ireland” for so long that his pre-eminence is taken for granted, it emerged during an intense session on the life of the late poet on the second day of the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) here.

In the session titled “WB Yeats The Arch Poet,” leading Irish historian Professor Roy Foster travelled beyond Yeats’ “towering image as one of the 20th century’s greatest poets to restore a real sense of his extraordinary life as Yeats himself experienced it — what he saw, what he did, the passions and the petty squabbles that consumed him and his alchemical ability to transmute the events of his crowded and contradictory life into enduring art”.

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“Yeats never visited India but it is evident that right from the beginning, Hindu philosophy fascinated him. He deeply admired India and his devotion towards the works of Tagore is well known,” said Foster, author of the first authorised biography of Yeats in over 50 years.Tagore first met Yeats during his third visit to Britain.

English painter William Rothenstein, overwhelmed by the rhetorical simplicity and philosophical gravity of Tagore’s work, is said to have passed his poems to Yeats. And what next? The Irish poet reportedly burst into a torrent of praise on reading the manuscript: “If someone were to say he could improve this piece of writing, that person did not understand literature.”

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Later Yeats wrote the introduction to Tagore’s “Gitanjali”, which caught the imagination of the Western world.

“Yeats presented himself as a representative of his country’s beliefs and that of his generation. This figure is so less understood even today. He is not just a poet but also a politician, a journalist a revolutionary and a theatre director,” said Foster, a Fellow of the British Academy (FBA), the Royal Society of Literature (FRSL) and the Royal Historical Society FRHS). He has delivered dozens of lectures on Yeats in several countries.

“He rediscovers Irish literature, always conscious of looking apart and different from the crowd. He moves from being an Irish Victorian to being an advanced modernist. He moves to a different world but throughout the process and even now he has always remained somebody who continues to make Irish culture richer,” Foster said, as an attentive crowd listened patiently.

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In favor of home rule, Yeats once compared Irish society to “a stagnant pond filled with junk, including the two old boots of Catholic bigotry and Protestant bigotry”. Yeats believed that home rule could undam this pond, Foster said.

“Of course, this wasn’t going to happen. The pond wouldn’t be gently undammed by a constitutional act. It would be dynamited by a revolution,” he said.

Yeats changed his public image from time to time so that he emerged, in 1922, as a prominent figure of a new nation, Foster said.

“Many of his early poems which seemed superficially simple are actually deep, deeper than most of us can ever comprehend. Yeats had an extraordinary ear for rhythm and as such, he believed that his own poetry should be chanted rather than recited.”

“Yards and yards of scholarly research is yet to be written and decoded about the mysteries and the wide range of references and imageries that Yeats made in his work. As somebody growing up in a country facing a revolution, which would soon be free, in the new state of affairs, Yeats would soon emerge as a prominent figure, he always drew anger, strength and motivation from Ireland.

“His poems are so beautiful, in words and significance, because they came at a time when he was constantly changing his mind. He often had to rethink himself,” Foster noted.

Yeats was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1923 “for his always inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation”. (IANS)

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Understanding Capitalism’s Hidden History from a Stalinist Soviet Photo

The developed economies now require the developing economies to eschew the principles of protectionism and regulations

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Capitalism, Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin
Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin. Wikimedia

-by Vikas Datta

Jaipur, Jan 22, 2017: What does a Stalin-era photo of Lenin at a revolutionary gathering tell us about the evolution of the world’s developed economies?

It is that the developed economies do now require the developing economies to eschew the principles of protectionism and regulations and follow fully the principles of free market and trade, conveniently forgetting the role that these two factors had played in their own rise, said acclaimed South Korean development economist Ha-Joon Chang.

At a session titled “The Secret History of Capitalism” at the Jaipur Literature Festival’s third day on Saturday, he showed the original photo of Lenin flanked by Trotsky and Lev Kamenev and its Stalinist version where the latter two, who had been purged, have been air-brushed out.

Chang, who moderator Sanjeev Sanyal noted had “heretical views on economics”, began by telling how Britain had in the 18th century invented protectionism, not free trade which it later championed and how the US had followed its stead.

A reader in the Political Economy of Development at Cambridge and author of books like “Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism”, “23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism” and “Economics: The User’s Guide”, which focus on the double standards followed by the developed nations and international lending institutions and seek debunk received wisdom on economics, Chang said he had not obtained this information “by hacking the IMF” or “been told it by a old man in a remote Italian monastery” but relied it from open sources.

“But the problem is that economists now don’t know it and developed nations make excuses if you bring it up. It is like abolishing schools if some people don’t do too well in them,” he said, stressing the need for a change to a more equitable economic system in the world,

Chang observed that this needed strengthening of democracy, not necessarily the Western type, but one in which there is oversight, vigilance and checks and balances that crony-free systems come up.

Calling for an institutionalized mechanism for industry, he clarified that he was not calling for “compulsive Soviet planning” system but an open and transparent process, say a vision document, which can serve the needs of a country and its people, rather than a narrow section of the elite. (IANS)