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Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 30 December 2022


Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 30 December 2022


Contents

  1. Concentrating on Africa, the heart of the Global South  
  2. Closing PMGKAY Is Valid, But Malnutrition Is a Problem

Concentrating On Africa, The Heart of the Global South


Context

The second US-Africa summit was recently held in Washington. From Africa, leaders from 49 countries and the African Union (AU) chair attended.

Relevance:

GS Paper-2: Bilateral, Regional, and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

Mains Question

“In order to advance the African agenda, India, as the global south’s voice, must understand the mood and developments in Africa, particularly in its foreign partnerships.” Discuss in light of the recently concluded second US-Africa summit. (250 Words)


Summit outcomes include:

• G20 membership support:

  • The United States announced its support for the AU’s admission to the G20 as a permanent member.
    • Permanent representation for Africa at the UN Security Council (UNSC): The United States has stated that it “fully supports” reforming the UN Security Council (UNSC) to include permanent representation for Africa.
  • Despite the fact that Africa is on the UN Security Council’s agenda and that the majority of Africans are directly affected by the body’s decisions, the continent lacks a single representative member.
    • Aiding African resilience and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic: o The United States plans to lend up to US$21 billion to low and middle-income countries, many of which are in Africa, through the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
  • Several departments and agencies in the United States announced new initiatives and investments to promote two-way trade and investment. For example, the US Trade Representative signed an agreement with the Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) to assist institutions in accelerating sustainable economic growth across Africa.
  • When fully implemented, the AfCFTA will be the world’s largest free trade zone in terms of number of participating countries, with a combined continent-wide market of 1.3 billion people and 3.4 trillion GDP.
    • The First Regional Multi-Sectoral Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compacts: o The MCC was signed with the governments of Benin and Niger to support regional economic integration, trade, and cross-border collaboration, totaling $504 million.
  • The MCC has signed similar agreements for nearly US$675 million with the governments of the Gambia, Lesotho, and Malawi to support climate adaptation.
    • Digital Transformation with Africa Initiative: The United States launched this initiative to increase digital access and literacy across Africa.
  • In accordance with the African Union’s Digital Transformation Strategy, the US intends to invest over US$350 million and facilitate over US$450 million in financing for the continent through this initiative.
    • 21st Century Partnership for African Security (21PAS): The United States plans to provide $100 million to incentivize and support African efforts to implement and sustain security sector capacity and forms. This is a three-year pilot programme in which the United States and African partners, as well as civil society organisations, will look for ways to sync, share, and support solutions to Africa’s security challenges.
    • Visit Promise: o The president and vice president have promised to visit Africa next year. This will be a welcome change, as no US president has visited Africa since 2015.

China’s Shadows:

  • Largest trading partner: o Through consistent diplomacy and extensive economic engagement, China has emerged as the continent’s largest trading partner and fourth largest investor, surpassing the United States.
    • In 2021, while trade between the United States and Africa was $44.9 billion, trade between China and Africa was $254 billion.
  • Investment: o Last year, the United States invested $30.31 billion in Sub-Saharan Africa, compared to China’s total investment in Africa of $43.4 billion in 2020.
  • Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC): o The United States and other countries can learn from the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which was established in October 2000.
    • The FOCAC is made up of African and Chinese ministers and leaders who meet once every three years, alternately in Beijing and an African capital.
    • The Chinese president attends deliberations in person or virtually.
    • China has a full-fledged inter-ministerial mechanism in place to ensure that FOCAC decisions are implemented on time.
    • The most recent meeting, held in Dakar in 2021, expressed support for China’s agenda, which included the One-China Principle, the Global Development Initiative, the Belt and Road Initiative, and the vision of “a community with a shared future.”
    • It also praised the 2018 FOCAC summit in Beijing for deciding to establish “a China-Africa community” focused on “win-win cooperation.”
  • Consistent focus on Africa: o For many years, the Chinese foreign minister has begun his annual series of foreign visits by visiting Africa.
    • Whatever flaws China’s economic diplomacy in Africa may have — and there are many — its consistent attention to Africa contains a valuable lesson.
    • However, US-Africa summits are relatively rare. The most recent summit was held in 2014. Furthermore, no President of the United States has visited Africa since 2015.
    • As a result, the United States’ efforts to raise its profile in Africa remain episodic and flawed.

Implications for India

  • India’s equity in Africa is older and richer than that of China and the United States, but this should not be a source of complacency.
  • Over the last two decades, India has worked hard to strengthen its political and economic partnership with Africa at the continental, regional, and bilateral levels.
  • During the 2015-19 period, the government created a special momentum in arranging high-level exchanges and forging cooperation initiatives.
  • Since then, COVID-19, the economic downturn, the war in Ukraine, and the border conflict with China may have contributed to a slowdown. This should be stopped immediately.
  • The fourth India-Africa Forum Summit should take place in early 2024, lest the third summit in 2015 be forgotten.

Conclusion:

  • India intends to be remembered as the voice of the Global South, at the heart of which is Africa, through its G20 presidency.
  • The majority of this continent’s 54 countries are developing or least developed.
  • To truly represent the South, it is critical to understand Africa’s mood and changes, particularly in its external partnerships. This will determine India’s ability to contribute to the advancement of the African agenda.
  • The G20 presidency is an opportunity for India to ensure that the African Union becomes a permanent member of this grouping and to firmly reflect Africa’s Agenda 2063 for development.
  • In Africa, India and the United States should collaborate more closely.
  • The time has come for India and the United States to demonstrate their long-term commitment to Africa and Africans.

Closing PMGKAY Is Valid, But Malnutrition Is a Problem


Context

  • The Union Government has announced that the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) will be phased out in its current form on December 31.
  • PMGKAY announced during the height of Covid that the unemployed’s needs would be’merged’ with the National Food Security Act (NFSA).

Relevance:

GS Paper-3: Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices; Public Distribution System- objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security.

Mains Question

Why is the government correct not to extend the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana scheme? Comment (150 words)


Highlights include:

  • The 81.35 crore people identified under the NFSA, 2013, will now receive their usual five kg of food grains free of charge, as opposed to the nominal rates of 3 or so that they currently pay.
  • However, the 10 kg they have been receiving for the past two years will come to an end.

The Decision’s Justification:

  • The Centre has taken action in response to the rising cost of food subsidies.
  • The food subsidy budget for this fiscal year (including NFSA and PMGKAY components until September) was Rs 2.07 lakh crore.
  • However, the bill has risen by over 80,000 crore, owing largely to the three-month extension of PMGKAY until December 3.
  • The increase due to PMGKAY alone is approximately 60,000 crore.
  • Another factor that could lead to the discontinuation of PMGKAY is that the FCI’s food stocks are currently significantly lower than they were in December.
  • The Central pool’s current rice and wheat stocks, at 55.46 mt on December 1, are one-third lower than a year ago.
  • Given the risk of market and weather-related shocks, the Centre would prefer to hold onto stocks.
  • The fiscal implications should be minimal because there is little difference between issuing 50 mt of wheat/rice at Rs 2-3/kg and giving it away for free.

PM Kalyan Garib Pradhan Mantri Ann Yojana

  • The Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana was created to assist the poor in their fight against the Corona Virus.
  • This scheme would cover 80 crore people, or roughly two-thirds of India’s population.
  • Every month, 80 crore poor people will receive 5 kg of wheat or rice and 1 kg of preferred pulses for free.
  • Over the next three months, each of them would receive double their current entitlement (time period was increased).
  • This feature would be free of charge.

The NFSA,2013

  • NFSA 2013 provides beneficiary households with food and nutritional security.
  • Covers up to 50% of the urban population and 75% of the rural population.
  • Two eligibility categories exist.
  • Antyodaya Anna Yojana households (AAY).
  • State governments designate priority households (PHs).
  • Important Provisions:
  • Each AAY household receives 35kgs of free food grains per month.
  • PHs receive 5 kg of subsidised food grains per month.
  • ₹6,000 Meal-maternity benefit for pregnant and lactating mothers (during pregnancy and for 6 months after delivery).
  • Food security allowance if eligible food grains or meals are not available.
  • Mechanisms for resolving complaints at the district and state levels.
  • Following the merger of PMGKAY and NFSA, 81.35 crore individuals identified under the NFSA, 2013, will receive their usual five kg of food grains free of charge, as opposed to the nominal rates of 3 or so that they currently pay.

Does Bulk Rationing Address India’s Endemic Malnutrition?

  • The endemic malnutrition in India, as revealed by the fifth round of NFHS, cannot be addressed by allocating bulk rations.
  • It requires a distinct fiscal and policy thrust, one aspect of which is the establishment of a diverse and decentralised procurement system (DCP).
  • Despite being in place for 24 years, DCP has only been adopted by nine States and UTs for wheat and 16 for rice.

Conclusion:

  • A panel should investigate why PDS has not yet been diversified to include pulses, edible oils, and coarse grains.
  • Community kitchens can help create a market for these crops, as well as vegetables. The Supreme Court had previously urged the Centre to develop a plan for community kitchens.
  • All farm price supports and input subsidies should be replaced with per-hectare income transfers to supplement the NFSA’s limited grain entitlement for low-income and vulnerable consumers.

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