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Thursday, February 1


Thursday, February 1

India’s Finance Minister Jaitley arrives at the parliament where he is due to present the federal budget, in New Delhi


Jaitley to reveal 2018 budget on Thursday amid increased growth forecasts

India’s Finance Minister Jaitley arrives at the parliament where he is due to present the federal budget, in New Delhi
Photo: Reuters/Adnan Abidi

Today, Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will present this year’s budget proposal to parliament.

Last year, consumer confidence and spending dropped in the wake of a sudden withdrawal of 86% of the country’s banknotes and the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax. Despite the initial deceleration, the subcontinent’s growth is expected to rise to 7.5% this year, thereby overtaking China as the world’s fastest-growing economy.

But the country is not without its problems. Farmers have seen their incomes fall alongside climbing national unemployment. With much of the country seeing elections this year, it is likely that the government will focus spending on appeasing these pastoral communities through rural housing initiatives or crop insurance programs.

With hundreds of thousands entering India’s job market every month, job creation will be a large priority in today’s revealed budget. Jaitley also faces a careful balancing act: too little growth could cool the economy’s momentum, while unchecked expansion could increase inflation. Though not untamable today, the country’s increasing prices could hurt further down the road.

Delve deeper: India’s GST rollout: creating a national market


Arab states to condemn US recognition of Jerusalem as Israeli capital

Jerusalem trump
Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP

Arab League representatives will meet today in Cairo to discuss the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a move the Arab world has largely condemned.

Just days after President Donald Trump’s controversial declaration, the Arab League held an emergency meeting in the Egyptian capital. Arab foreign ministers passed a resolution calling on the US to rescind its decision and withdraw as “a sponsor and broker” of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Today’s meeting will likely lead to another condemnation, once again calling for a reversal of the decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and for the US to withdraw from the peace process. Expect the resolution to also call for international recognition of a Palestinian state with eastern Jerusalem as its capital, which for decades has been the endgame of Palestinian leaders.

In response, the Trump administration will double down. Following its recent decision to slash $60 million in aid to Palestine through the UN Relief and Works Agency, do not expect what is evidently becoming a major US policy shift—which is exacerbating tensions between the Trump administration and the Arab world—to be affected by a resolution that will likely propose nothing substantially new.


Singapore to impose 0% growth limit on car registrations

Singapore roads
Photo: ST

Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA) has announced that it will cut the annual growth rate for cars from 0.25% to zero beginning today.

An LTA statement cites “land constraints” and a desire to improve public transportation as the primary reasons for the change. With a total land area of just 278 square miles, the island city-state is home to about 612,000 cars, a significant contributor to the congestion of city roads.

The new LTA regulation will implement a zero-sum management of future car sales. In other words, for Singaporeans to get a new car on the road, they will need to de-register an old one. A ten-year, LTA-issued Certificate of Entitlement is required for all purchases of new automobiles.

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Urban planning analysts recognise that in many densely populated Asian cities driving to one’s destination can be challenging, if not impossible, especially during rush hours. Singapore experienced a 3% increase in extra travel time via car between 2017 and 2018, now reaching a total of 34% extra travel time required in situations of traffic congestion. Expect the new regulation to inspire other densely populated Asian urban areas struggling with transportation immobility to consider adopting a similar regulation.


Churches face more regulation with increased popularity

china uighurs
Photo: Kevin Frayer/Getty

China’s religious laws will be tightened today in an attempt to curb the country’s growing Christian population—now expected to outnumber Communist Party membership.

The country’s history of religious oppression dates back to the rule of Mao when almost all worship was banned. Although not currently outlawed, religion is still subjected to severe regulation. Last month, authorities tore down an unregistered church, one of many secretly built across the country to avoid prosecution.

The regulations which go into effect today place further restrictions on such churches regarding their location and financing. Accompanying these changes is the prohibition of religious teaching and an increase in state oversight. Last year, members of the Communist Party were also banned from having a religious affiliation.

Most officials regard the worship of a higher power as a direct threat to the party. Therefore, as President Xi Jinping consolidates his power to a level comparable to Mao, expect religion to further fall into the state’s crosshairs.

Delve deeper: The Chinese Communist Party Congress: Xi ascendant?

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