News Wrap


Since April 2013, the US central Bank introduced plans to end its quantitative easing of bond-buying programme. This has resulted in money to gush out of India and emerging markets since May 2013. Currencies are wilting, borrowing costs rising, and stock markets are slumping. India’s rupee is one of the worst performing currencies in the world. The rupee has shed 11.75% of its value versus the US dollar over the past half year. India’s sensex is dropping below the 18,000 level, and the rupee has plunged to an intractable low of Rs 66 per dollar. In new moves to strengthen the rupee, India has unveiled restrictions on capital outflows. The Reserve Bank of India has cut the maximum outward direct investment by companies and individuals in future deals, by a quarter. State oil companies are excluded. The Central Bank has also tightened restrictions on Indian residents seeking to send money abroad, particularly to buy property.

Goa Tourism
Goa’s tourism is an economic life line, that attracted 2.8 million visitors in 2013, including 450,000 foreigners. A spate of drug related deaths, violent attacks on women, and mounting pollution caused by uncontrolled dumping of rubbish and industrial wastes have tarnished Goa’s image. The golden beaches, the state’s most prized tourist asset, are under threat because of organized Mafia gangs that steal sand for construction. As part of a campaign to attract more tourists, after its image was damaged by a series of gang rapes, Goa has outlawed dance bars. The state government has blocked licenses for the bars, and targeted drugs and prostitution to boost the international reputation of Goa. Hundreds of armed guards have been placed on beaches, to boost security for women. The number of visitors from eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union is growing more than double, while the number of British visitors has fallen by a quarter.

Drug Makers In China
Investigations at Shanghai Linjiang International Travel Agency have revealed that the small travel agency has been using fake contracts and travel invoices to help executives at the British Pharmaceutical giant Glaxo-Smith-Kline and several other global pharmaceutical companies, including Merck, Novartis, Roche and Sanofi, for bribing doctors, hospitals, foundations and government officials. The pharmaceutical companies used the travel agency to make arrangements for events and conferences. One of the drug companies used the travel agency to make a $2500 grant to the Cancer Foundation of China. The records of the past three years of invoice for hotel bookings, travel visas and airline tickets to Chinese cities, and to Australia, Italy, Japan, Korea and the United States point to fraud and corruption in China’s fast growing market for pharmaceutical products. The companies bribed officials in hopes of illegally increasing drug sales, and raising the prices of their products in China. The Glaxo firm in Shanghai promoted products by bribery, using 700 travel and consulting companies, and spending nearly $500 million on conferences, since 2007.

Confidential documents suggest that since 2011, Glaxo-Smith-Kline violated ethics at its Shanghai research and development centre, which develops neurology drugs for Glaxo. 13 of the top 20 global drug makers have set up research and development centres in China. Auditors have found that researchers at Glaxo’s Shanghai centre had not reported the results of animal studies in drugs, that was already being tested in humans. Workers at the research centre did not properly monitor clinical trials, and paid bribes to hospitals. The pharmaceutical organization had failed to keep tabs, on a crucial research centre as it expanded in size and scope.

Bangladesh Factory disasters
In Bangladesh, more than 1000 workers have so far died in hundreds of factories due to fires or accidents. 112 workers, who were making clothes for retailers like Walmart and Sears, were killed in the Tazreen Fashions Factory fire in Dacca, of Nov 2012. The April 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza factory building, killed 1129 people, in the deadliest disaster in the history of the garment industry. Criminal charges against the factory owners are yet to be filed. Police investigations are stalled, court files are lost, and the Bangladesh legal system rarely favours anyone confronting the power structure. Many garment factory owners are now entrenched in Bangladesh’s power elite. Some are members of Parliament, and many finance national election campaigns. Garments represent 80% of Bangladesh’s manufacturing exports, which gives the industry vast economic power.

Along with tanneries and pharmaceutical plants, Bangladesh’s garments and textile industries have contributed heavily to water pollution disaster, especially in the large industrial areas of Dhaka, the capital. Factories dump their waste water in polluted canals. Fish stocks are dying. Many small waterways are being filled with sand and garbage, as developers sell off plots for factories or housing.

Vol. 46, No. 17, Nov 3 -9, 2013

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