Nepal’s Chinese conundrum: The imbalance and debt trap.
The Rasuwagadhi-Kerung border point between Nepal and China reopened on Thursday after it remained closed for around three weeks due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a senior customs official said here.
The border point, which is one of the key trade routes between the two country, was closed after a Nepali worker tested positive for the novel coronavirus, reports Xinhua news agency.
Earlier, it reopened in early July after it was closed for nearly six months firstly due to snowfall in the bordering Chinese region and later because of the Covid-19 outbreak.
“Two containers of medical goods entered into Nepal after the reopening of border point on Wednesday,” senior customs officer at Rasuwagadhi, Punya Bikram Khadka told Xinhua.
“Now, we hope the movement of goods will take place normally.”
According to the officer, there has been a restricted flow of goods through this border as both countries have adopted zero human-to-human contact policy between the two sides until the pandemic is over.
The Tatopani-Zhangmu, another border point, which reopened in late March after closing in January, has also remained shut for the last few months.
Thums Up for Coke India as brand inches towards pre-Covid offtake levels
Beverages major Coca-Cola India continues to see improvement in operations along with offtake on the back of accelerated demand for its leading offering Thums Up.
Accordingly, not only the Indian subsidiary’s leadership, but also the global one has recognised the role of the cola brand in putting back the ‘Thunder’ in Coke India’s performance.
Considered by many, as the true cola brand of India, Thums Up, a market leader, was recently mentioned by Coca-Cola company’s CEO James Quincey.
At the company’s recently announced quarterly results, he said: “China is on its way to emerge stronger through solid performance in sparkling soft drinks and recovery efforts in India and Japan continue and we have seen meaningful improvement in the face of ongoing restrictions.
“Across our channels and regions our brand portfolio is working hard to return to pre-Covid levels of growth and we have made progress in the quarter,” he said adding that “local champions” such as Thums Up in India saw growth in the third quarter.
Not surprisingly, the total beverage maker is making all out effort to reach pre-Covid levels on the back of local offerings such Thums Up.
The brand was introduced in India at the time of Coke’s departure in 1977. It was bought by Coca-Cola India in 1993, after it made the re-entry into the country post economic liberalisation.
Under its hyper-local strategy, the beverage major has launched several products including ‘Spiced Buttermilk’, under its dairy brand ‘VIO’.
The company intends to gain more market share in India by developing region-specific localised products that suit the majority’s palate.
Consequently, the company has ramped up its focus on product innovation with an aim to build a localised consumer-centric portfolio.”
Besides introducing desi brands, the company has increased its use of regional languages and platforms to market products.
Recently, West Bengal became the first Indian state where the entire portfolio and marketing initiatives of Coca-Cola’s brands have been hyper-localised with the use of Bengali language.
In terms of new segments, Coke India entered into the nascent immunity-boosting beverages category in India.
Accordingly, the company under its master brand Minute Maid, introduced two new products which claim to deliver some of the daily essential nutrition requirements, extracted from fruits grown by the Indian farmers.
Furthermore, the beverage major is expected to complete the earlier announced $5 billion investment this year for creation of retail infrastructure, bottling plants and introduction of new products, amongst others.
Since its re-entry into India in 1993 till 2011, Coca-Cola had invested $2 billion in the country.
Additionally, the company has committed an investment of $1.7 billion towards creating a ‘Fruit Circular Economy’ to aid the Indian agri-ecosystem till 2023.
At present, the company offers a range of beverages, including Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Thums Up, Fanta, Limca and Sprite, amongst others.
In addition, the Coca-Cola India system provides direct employment to 25,000 people and indirect employment to more than 1,50,000 people.
Weak demand from power sector pushes up CIL’s e-auction of coal
With weak demand from the power sector in the wake of Covid-19 disruptions, the country’s largest coal producer Coal India Ltd shifted its attention to the non-power sector to see around six-fold increase in the sales of the dry fuel.
In the first half of the current fiscal (FY21), CIL’s fuel allocation under the exclusive e-auction scheme for the non-power sector rose close to six times at 13.44 million tonnes as against a mere 2.31 million tonne during the same period of previous year.
Lockdown in various parts of the country and continuing sluggish economic conditions dried up demand for the dry fuel pushing CIL to explore new avenues for growth.
The government had earlier asked state-run power companies such as NTPC to reduce coal imports needed for blending purpose and look more at the domestic sources.
The CIL has also set up various washeries to supply good quality coal that could replace imports.
‘China on solid path of economic recovery from pandemic shock’
The Chinese economy is staging impressive recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic shock, bolstered by the country’s effective control of the novel coronavirus, a renowned US economist said.
“The third quarter GDP was encouraging,” which does show that “China is on a solid path of economic recovery following the Covid-19 shock in the early months of this year,” Stephen Roach, senior fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, told Xinhua .
“The encouraging pieces of it have to do with the contribution to economic growth made by Chinese consumers, who clearly were most adversely impacted by the lockdown early this year,” said Roach, who was formerly chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia and chief economist at Morgan Stanley, a New York-based investment bank.
China’s gross domestic product (GDP) expanded 4.9 per cent year on year in Q3, faster than the 3.2-per cent growth seen in Q2, showed official data earlier this week.
Also, in the latest World Economic Outlook report released earlier this month, the International Monetary Fund projected China’s economy to grow by 1.9 per cent in 2020, 0.9 percentage points above the IMF’s June forecast, making it the only major economy that will see positive growth this year.
“The most impressive aspect of the economy’s performance is that the highest priority was given to containing the outbreak of Covid-19,” said Roach.
“China’s approach to public health is strict, it’s disciplined,” which is “a model of what can be done to contain the impacts of a disease outbreak in a major economy,” he said, adding that “it’s a model that the rest of the world needs to take very seriously as an example of what is missing today and what they could do.”
A shock like a pandemic does not just go away, instead, it takes very rigorous, focused and disciplined public health actions to curtail the spread and bring the disease under control, said the famed Yale scholar.
“The lesson from China is (that) they addressed the shock first of all and that was the principal focus of the government’s efforts in the early months of 2020. And then by containing the shock, they were able to utilize policy tools, fiscal and monetary, to then stimulate the aggregate demand after the shock had been controlled,” said Roach.
“That’s an important lesson for other economies around the world,” as “massive fiscal and monetary stimulus could be undermined if you don’t have effective control over the disease,” he noted.
The economist said he expects China to see “further progress in economic growth in the fourth quarter,” and “it will be a positive number” for the year as a whole.
Meanwhile, he cautioned that challenges remain, especially given the complexity and uncertainty of the pandemic.
Further efforts in public health, health security and the social safety net, and continuing down the road of reforms, are among the aspects in which China could continue their endeavor so as to maintain the economic momentum and build up resilience, according to Roach.
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