Increased condom use among sex workers and their clients that have taken place as a result of preventive interventions, especially the targeted interventions seem to have contributed to the decline in HIV prevalence among young pregnant women in India
India has been able to avert three million HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infections with World Bank support, along with the role of the government and NGOs (non-governmental organisations). The majority of the HIV infections are heterosexually transmitted, with unprotected paid sex being the major route of transmission. Besides being heterogeneous, the epidemic also has high prevalence in the high risk groups (HRGs): injection drug users (IDU) (7.2%), men who have sex with men (MSM) (7.4%), female sex workers (FSW) (5.1%) and people with sexually transmitted infections (STI) (3.6%). The epidemic seems to be stabilising as a decline in HIV has been observed in high HIV prevalence states of southern India (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu). This conclusion is based on a news release from the World Bank on the eve of World Aids Day 2011—which falls on 1st December.
The HIV epidemic in India has remained more contained than was initially predicted. It appears that increased condom use among sex workers and their clients that took place as a result of preventive interventions; especially the targeted interventions (TIs) seem to have contributed to the decline in HIV prevalence among young pregnant women.
In the high HIV prevalence southern states, the number of TI projects for FSWs increased from five to 310 between 1995 and 2008. In high TI intensity quartile districts, 186 condoms per FSW/year were distributed through TIs. This is in comparison to the 45 condoms/FSW/year in the low TI intensity districts. Behavioural surveillance indicated significant rise in condom use from 2001 to 2009. Among FSWs consistent condom use with last paying clients increased from 58.6% to 83.7%, and among men of reproductive age, the condom use during sex with non-regular partner increased from 51.7% to 68.6%. A significant decline in HIV and syphilis prevalence has occurred in high prevalence southern states among FSWs and young antenatal women. The drop in prevalence is associated with a significant increase in consistent condom use. Among the women seeking antenatal care in districts with high intensity of targeted interventions, HIV prevalence declined by more than 50% from 1.9% in 2001 to 0.8% in 2008 compared with low-intensity districts where the infection rate remained constant at 0.9% in both 2001 and 2008.
Despite these advances in prevention in India, human and financial costs of HIV/AIDS continue to increase, requiring continued diligence and support from the government and the international community. “AIDS remains a critical development issue that is reversing decades of human progress. With 34 million people living with HIV, AIDS continues to decimate communities, stymie economic growth, and orphan children,” said David Wilson, World Bank’s Global HIV/AIDS program director. “As one of the early leaders in the global response to the epidemic, the Bank remains committed to doing our part to halt and reverse the spread of HIV and AIDS, particularly in helping countries invest in proven, cost-effective prevention efforts.”
The World Bank supports developing countries (like India) in their strategic planning for HIV/AIDS response in a number of ways, including helping countries develop well-prioritised, evidence-based AIDS strategies and action plans; designing proven, cost-effective HIV prevention efforts; strengthening country health systems for more effective service delivery; and social protection for people affected by HIV. Since 1989, the Bank has committed nearly $4.6 billion in financing for HIV/AIDS-related activities in developing countries. Since the launch of the National AIDS Control Program in 1991, India has worked in close partnership with the World Bank and other development partners to focus on prevention among vulnerable populations at highest risk of contracting HIV.
“There has been a tremendous scale-up of prevention and treatment interventions under this program, which has led to an overall reduction in new infections and AIDS-related deaths in India,” said Sayan Chatterjee, secretary and director general of India’s National AIDS Control Organisation. “With expanding coverage of treatment, the program has to ensure that the treatment requirements are fully met without sacrificing the needs of prevention.”
The government has attributed the decline to the poor performance of manufacturing, agriculture and mining sectors
Confirming the indications of an economic slowdown in the country, India’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 6.9% in the second quarter this fiscal in comparison to an 8.4% expansion in the same period last year. The government attributed the decline to the poor performance of the manufacturing, agriculture and mining sectors.
GDP growth in the first half of FY11-12 also moderated to 7.3% from 8.6% same period last year, as per the latest data released by the government today.
Given global and domestic issues, domestic growth expectations have come down from 9% to 7%, with growing doubts on whether even a 7% number can hold. Rohini Malkani, Economist, Citi India, said, "While India faces additional headwinds on account of its forex dependence, with inflation peaking, we expect the RBI to begin easing rates by first half of 2012. This, coupled with some determined decision-making from policymakers, could provide economic and investment gains and keep growth from falling below 7% levels."
"In our view, today’s GDP data and other leading indicators suggest that economic growth will remain weak in the next few quarters. High interest rates and the stalemate on the policy front are likely to put downward pressure on investments, while still elevated inflation will probably weigh on private consumption," said Nomura in a note.
The slowdown in the manufacturing sector and decline in mining and quarrying is likely to put further pressure on the government and the RBI at time when the economy is grappling with high interest rates.
India Inc has blamed the tight monetary policy, which has increased the cost of borrowings, for hindering fresh investment and slowing down industrial growth.
The RBI has hiked interest rates 13 times since March 2010 to tame demand and curb inflation. Headline inflation has been above the 9% mark since December last year.
The government and the RBI have accepted that high interest rates may hurt the country’s growth prospects, but the apex bank has underlined that bringing inflation under control is its major agenda.
During the three-month period ending 30 September 2011, growth in the manufacturing sector tumbled to 2.7% from 7.8% in the corresponding period of 2010-11. Farm output also reported a similar trend and expanded by just 3.2% during the reporting quarter compared to 5.4% growth in the corresponding period last fiscal.
Mining and quarrying production declined by 2.9% during the quarter under review against a growth of 8% in the July-September quarter of the previous fiscal. Growth in the construction sector also slowed to 4.3% during the quarter from 6.7% in the same period a year ago.
Furthermore, trade, hotels, transport and communications segments grew by 9.9% in the quarter under review from 10.2% expansion in the year-ago period.
Exhibiting a positive trend, electricity, gas and water supply grew by a robust 9.8% in the July-September period compared to 2.8% growth in the corresponding year-ago period.
The services sector, including insurance and real estate grew by 10.5% in the quarter ended September this year compared to 10% expansion in the corresponding period last year.
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has projected that the Indian economy will grow 7.6% in 2011-12. It had earlier projected GDP growth in FY11-12 at 8%, but later revised the figure downward on account of the global slowdown and high domestic inflation. The Indian economy expanded by 8.5% in the 2010-11 fiscal.
As per government data released today, manufacturing growth slowed to 4.9% during the first half this fiscal compared to a healthy 9.1% expansion in the first half of 2010-11.
The mining and quarrying sector also declined by 0.5% during the April-September period compared to a growth of 7.7% in the same period last fiscal.
This apart, the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector grew by 3.6% in the first half against 3.7% expansion in the first six months of 2010-11.
Growth of the construction sector stood at 2.7% during the first six months of 2011-12, compared to a decent 7.2% in the corresponding period last fiscal.
The tax havens must be in a position, as a sovereign nation, to resist the demands for enquiries or information that come their way from other nations
It is no longer enough for tax haven bankers to wear bespoke suits and then take your assets and park them in a secure location, away from the taxman’s and other people’s prying eyes, and expect you to be content. The assets have to work for you, and here again, placing them out on interest (compound or simple) simply does not cut the ice any more. They have to be not just invested in some business somewhere—preferably in your own country or a part of the world where you can exert some sort of back-room control over it—but they also have to be invested in such a way that the ownership is not traced back to you. Name the large global corporation, and at some level or the other, you will find that they are there in a tax haven—paying lesser tax than you and I do. I did not say this—Warren Buffet—the global investor, did.
This is where the more versatile and modern tax havens come into their own mould. Apart from functioning only as traditional banks would in the traditional tax havens like, say, Switzerland, they also have to provide a full range of additional services, which include registered officers, shareholders, legal title without footprints, and much more. In other words, the tax haven has to function with absolute secrecy and confidentiality to enable the investor to not just secure his assets, but also control downstream business activities, and at the same time ensure that the services are provided at competitive prices. Here again, the Swiss have traditionally been a higher priced jurisdiction.
And then of course, the tax havens must also be in a position, as a sovereign nation, to resist the demands for enquiries or information that come their way from other nations. So, for example, if India asks the Isle of Man for details of Indian origin assets held by them, then the Isle of Man (or any other tax jurisdiction) must be in a position to deny this information with righteous indignation and in flowery English to boot, with the full strength of whatever legal system they follow supporting them. Tax havens, in short, work as ultra secret jurisdictions which have no compulsions in doing anything for anybody, as long as they see a profit in it for themselves, and to do that they have lock-ins and tie-ups with the best of banks, consultants, accounting firms and corporates globally.
WHAT IS A TAX HAVEN?
There is no single definition, but at its simplest, a tax haven is a territory (could be a house on a street, a part of a city, a city, a state, a country) where certain taxes are either not levied at all, or are levied at a very low rate. In addition, they offer total secrecy, as well as ample processes to achieve this. Tax havens are available for individuals, groups or corporates. A building in Cayman Islands, Ugland House in Georgetown, whose sole tenant is the international law firm Maples & Calder, has about 20,000 distinct corporate entities registered at this one address. Likewise, there are similar buildings in Wilmington, Delaware, USA, where thousands of companies stand registered at one address. Are these tax havens? You decide. However, unlike in other cases where multiple companies have their registered office at one address, in these cases the actual details of who really is the beneficiary owner of said companies usually remains hidden behind a cloak of absolute secrecy. That service, of providing not just a banking arrangement in a tax free environment, but also full corporate adherences is what a tax haven is. This also includes the option of slipping out of one tax haven into another, on a regular or “on-demand” basis, to further hide footprints. Minimum ticket size used to be around $50 million till a few years ago, but days are bad it seems, and agents are now willing to be of service for even a few crores.
Are Indians, and Indian companies’ clients, customers in such tax havens? Put it this way—there is hardly a foreign bank in India, and more than a couple of private banks too, who will not provide such services to their really high-roller clients. Likewise, there appears to be no dearth of companies, especially 100% wholly-owned subsidiaries registered in India, whose parent companies are registered in one or more of these tax havens.
The list of foreign banks which have set up non-retail banking operations in India is not just indicative, but very illuminating, in this context. What is the answer to the question? Yes, of course, Indian clients have been rated amongst the biggest. This is why any attempt to control the tax haven business in India is met by squeals of protests from a variety of impacted interests.
Tax havens are a complex subject, and a short article like this cannot even start doing justice, so it is better to go through the acres of material available on the subject online on the internet and in some wonderful books on the subject. One such book is TREASURE ISLANDS by Nicholas Shaxson. The mainstream media does tend to be a bit wary about the subject. This is because ownership and control of mainstream media is often routed through such tax havens. In my case, the interest really started way back in 1982, when while working on a ship, we tried to figure out WHO the owner really was—and came to a dead-end at something called “A Delaware Corporation”. A further exposure to ship-broking, commodities trading and payment processing brought more facts into play. It is a fascinating subject, once designed to provide the grease to international commerce, but now totally in control.
Which is, frightening, especially for countries like India, which have, time and again, as history shows, fallen to invaders with stronger not just military but economic might—and no wonder our prime minister appears to be taking this issue on so strongly.
(This is the concluding part of a two-part series)
You may also want to read...