Thursday, January 18, 2018

Fact of the Day

 In 2009, 103 construction companies were fined a total of £130 million (US$176 million) for rigging bids to inflate the cost of major building projects in England, including publicly funded projects to build new schools and hospitals. 

Worryingly, since this case, successive UK governments’ efforts to “cut red tape” have actually decreased the state’s ability to detect corruption, such as when they abolished the Audit Commission, which was responsible for independently auditing local public bodies.

Growing debt for the poor

The poorest households are spending 25% of monthly income servicing debts. 

One in four of Britain’s poorest households are falling behind with debt payments or spending more than a quarter of their monthly income on repayments, according to a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies. The latest evidence is of mounting debt problems for some of the most vulnerable in society where borrowing on credit cards, loans and car finance deals are returning to levels unseen since before the 2008 financial crisis.
The poorest tenth of households are also more likely to be in net debt, owing more on plastic or on overdrafts and loans than they hold in savings. 
About a third of the poorest homes are in net debt, compared with only 10% of the highest-income tenth.
The IFS study found more than one in five people on low incomes have problem debts, compared with just one in 20 people at the top of the income scale. It found that on average the poorest fifth who are under pressure spend £457 a month on paying back their debts out of an income of £1,012.
For a household of two adults and two children aged between 30 and 44 to be in the poorest tenth, they would have a net annual income of up to £23,200. Young adults are much more likely to be in households in arrears or paying large chunks of their income to banks or credit card providers, the study found.
Debt problems for the poorest households can prove persistent and are of growing concern to the Financial Conduct Authority. Of the poorest fifth of households who were in arrears or spending more than a quarter of their income on debt repayments and charges in 2010, more than 40% were found to be stuck in a similar position two years later. Analysis by the Bank and the FCA published last week showed it was common for people to remain in debt even after paying off one of their credit cards, as they shift debts from one lender to another. The research found £9 out of every £10 of outstanding credit card debt in November 2016 was owed by people who were also in the red two years earlier. 
According to the Money Advice Service, there are now 8.3 million people in the UK with problem debts. Households are facing a year of static growth in real pay in 2018, as inflation outstrips wages as a result of the weak pound since the Brexit vote in June 2016, which may push people further into debt.
Helen Barnard, head of analysis at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “Low-income households are facing a difficult 2018, with rising prices, frozen benefits and a wage squeeze all putting further pressure on household incomes.”

Carillion - A Symptom of Capitalism

Efforts by the government to reassure thousands of staff employed by Carillion to work for private sector clients were called “flimsy”. Trade unions warned the promise would not provide sufficient reassurance and voiced fears that Carillion’s financial failure would spread further among suppliers, some of which have begun laying off staff.

The GMB trade union said a statement from the Insolvency Service “raises more questions than it answers”.
“Ensuring most workers get paid beyond today doesn’t go nearly far enough to give the reassurance our members need right now,” said general secretary Tim Roache. “We need proper guarantees that they will not be left in the lurch and unable to pay the bills within days due to a crisis they did not cause. Without assurances as to how long wages are secure for and who will be running these contracts given the company’s spectacular failure, this is not going to help Carillion workers sleep easier tonight.”
Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “The government has a moral duty to provide direct financial assistance as well as other support in order to ensure that subcontractors and suppliers don’t needlessly go to the wall, with thousands of workers potentially losing their jobs.”

Poverty is a crime under capitalism

Naima Sakande, women's justice advocate at the Centre for Criminal Appeals, said: "Poverty is not a crime and our judicial system needs to do more to acknowledge this."

Cardiff's High Court now ruled up to perhaps 18% of jailings for debt could be unlawfully given each year.

Barrister Cathryn McGahey QC, has estimated the number of unlawful committals to prison each year at a much higher figure of 52%.

The judgement said: "Ms McGahey appears to be right to condemn the relevant magistrates (and their legal advisers) as being ignorant of well-established law."

Naima Sakande, said: "The toll of being sent to prison unlawfully cannot be overstated and more must be done to protect society's most vulnerable from needlessly losing their liberty."

South Wales Branch 

Monday, 12 February 
7:30pm - 9:00pm
Unitarian Church, 
High Street, 
Swansea SA1 1NZ

The Poverty of the Roma in Ireland

More than half the Roma people in Ireland are living in consistent poverty, a study has found. An estimated 5,000 Roma live in Ireland with the largest communities located in Leinster and MunsterDespite many living here for several years, 49 per cent of households with children were unable to satisfy the habitual residency condition, whereby they must prove a long-term link to Ireland, to get social welfare payments. Many, even those with children in school, were not entitled to receive child benefit or other welfare payments.
Many Roma households have no income other than through begging, with some experiencing such deep poverty they do not send their children to school for fear of them being taken into care.
The report, Roma In Ireland: A National Needs Assessment, was commissioned by the Department of Justice and conducted by Roma peer-researchers trained and supervised by the Traveller and Roma support organisation, Pavee Point.
It found almost half of Roma households (45 per cent) lived in severely overcrowded housing, often without gas, electricity, running water or sufficient food. Some 12 per cent did not have a kitchen, 10 per cent did not have anywhere to cook and 13.5 per cent had no fridge.
Researchers noted “malnutrition among Roma children” and “over half of respondents (52 per cent) reported someone in the household has gone to bed hungry”.
“Service providers identified newborn babies living in houses with no heat, food or basic supplies; 37 per cent of respondents reported they did not have adequate supplies for the baby after birth.
“These findings reveal a depth of poverty that means Roma families affected are focused on surviving from day-to-day . . . the poverty can only be described as extreme and it is placing children’s welfare at risk,” the report says.
“I am feeling hopeless and helpless that I cannot provide for my family. I wish things can be better for my children,” Stoica Rostas said. Despite the profound poverty his family lives in, he says life is better here for Roma people than in RomaniaHe and his wife fear their two children will be removed if the authorities become aware of their living conditions. The family shares a room in Dublin’s north inner city with Mr Rostas’s parents and brothers. Eight people share two beds and the heating does not work.

India's Cities and Ghettoisation

"Our cities were always quite unequal because of wealth, and divisions on the lines of caste and ethnicity. Now, caste and religion are even bigger markers, ghettoisation has increased and the segmentation looks set to get worse," said Anasua Chatterjee, a researcher at the Delhi University "The city government is complicit in the reorganisation of urban space along the lines of religion, resulting in closed and restricted neighbourhoods for Muslims," said Chatterjee, who has written a book on Muslim neighbourhoods in Kolkata city. The ghettoisation exacerbates their poverty and alienation, with even job applications and requests for bank loans often rejected because of where they live, Chatterjee said. "Even those who have the means to move from these neighbourhoods usually find it hard to get a place because of their religion," she said. "Whether the confinement is imposed directly or indirectly, it deepens the divide between Muslims and Hindus," she said. Sensitive urban planning could be a way to reduce the impact of segregation, but powerful real estate developers often lobby against integrating neighbourhoods, said Chatterjee.
"They do not just segregate themselves: cities are hubs of capital accumulation and profit making, so the poor are discriminated against. Muslims are among the poorest," said Ghazala Jamil, an assistant professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi. "There is no intervention by the state to end the segregation, as it is a mode of governance, a way to manage inequality," said Jamil, citing data from her recent book on Muslim neighbourhoods in Delhi. "Urban neighbourhoods are a manifestation of labour markets, so it is a sort of economic exploitation and containment of the poorest communities including Muslims," said Jamil. "They are often limited to the dirtiest, lowest paid jobs, and don't have much bargaining power or the ability to move elsewhere," she said.
About a third of India's population of 1.25 billion lives in cities, with tens of thousands leaving their villages every year in search of better economic opportunities, largely as construction workers, domestic helpers and security guards. In Mumbai, India's financial hub, more than half the population lives in slums and informal settlements. Most residents are Muslims and lower-caste Hindus. Muslims, who make up 13 percent of India's population, face bias when buying or renting properties, analysts say. The deep-rooted biases are eroding the multi-cultural nature of India's booming cities, creating neighbourhoods which perpetuate the communal divide. Some states like Gujarat, which witnessed some of the worst communal riots in the country in 2002, even have laws that restrict Muslims and Hindus from selling property to each other. In Mumbai, the divide in the city grew after bloody Hindu-Muslim riots in 1992-93. But it is also true of smaller cities such as Meerut, where Hindu residents recently forced a Muslim family to give up a house they had bought in a predominantly Hindu neighbourhood, according to local news reports.
In time, the dominant communities begin to stereotype and turn the culture of minority communities into a commodity, with these neighbourhoods even marketed as tourist attractions for their distinct cuisine or type of architecture, said Jamil. "Going to eat or shop in the Walled City in Delhi or the Old City in Hyderabad may seem cool, but it is perpetuating the division," she said. "As long as cities continue to be centres of capital accumulation, we will see dispossession of the poor and the powerless, who will continue to be pushed to the margin."

Pakistan to deport Afghan Refugees

Pakistan has given millions of Afghan refugees in the country until the end of this month to return to their homeland. But refugees say the short deadline and no prospects for the future make their return difficult.Everybody understands, Jalili stated, that deporting over two million Afghan refugees in less than a month will not be possible, but the deadline is still set to create a mechanism for all Afghans to return.  For the past several decades, millions of Afghans have fled their conflict-stricken country to neighboring Pakistan in search of a safer and better life. There are now an estimated 2.7 million registered and undocumented Afghan refugees in Pakistan. They are now a fixture in the local communities and many have even set up businesses. Most Afghans in Pakistan have been able to join schools and universities as well as open businesses. They are also able to travel relatively easily between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Afghanistan's failure so far to emerge as a stable and peaceful country means there is no safe place for these refugees to return to. The number of armed clashes with militants was also the highest in the past decade. The Afghan government is fighting a resilient insurgency and efforts to reach a peace deal with the Taliban - the main insurgent group - have come to naught. Furthermore, the self-styled "Islamic State” (IS) terror outfit has been attempting to expand its presence in Afghanistan. IS has killed hundreds of Afghans in multiple attacks across the country since it first emerged in the region in 2014. It dramatically escalated its attacks in Kabul, adding to the dangers already faced by civilians in the city, which the UN cites as one of the deadliest places in the country. The worsening state of security has prompted many Afghan returnees to once again flee their homeland and seek safety elsewhere. 

Pakistan-based Afghan refugee Jamil Khan Azizi told DW, "Only if all sides keep their promises will Afghan refugees be able to return to their homeland. Otherwise, I don't think it's possible for us to return,” Azizi was referring to promises made by the Kabul government that it would provide land and financial aid to Afghan refugees returning to the country voluntarily. In many cases, he said, these promises haven't been kept. Azizi, who has spent most of his life in Pakistan, stressed that returning to Afghanistan would be "like a new migration" all over again, as most of the Afghans living in Pakistan have been residing in that country for decades.

Combined with insecurity, the lack of economic prospects has been a reason why most Afghan refugees are hesitant to return home.  Even many of those who have returned hoping for a fresh start have become disillusioned with the country's political, economic and security situation, and are considering fleeing again either to neighboring countries like Pakistan and Iran or even to places as far as Europe. Many people have regretted their decision to return to Afghanistan. 

Notwithstanding the insecurity, the Pakistani government wants to accelerate refugee repatriation. At the start of January, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi's cabinet decided to extend Afghan refugees' stay in the country only for 30 days.  Pakistani argues that economy "has carried the burden of hosting Afghan refugees since long and in the present circumstances cannot sustain it further."

Life for Afghans residing in Pakistan is not easy, and Islamabad's government agencies frequently face criticism from rights groups about the way they treat refugees. A report released by Human Rights Watch last year detailed the means used by Pakistan's government agencies to push out Afghan refugees. These included an insecure legal status, threatening to deport the asylum seekers in winter, arbitrary detention and nocturnal police raids.  Despite the problems, many acknowledge that Afghan refugees are living in far better conditions in Pakistan than in other countries like Iran, which is also home to millions of Afghans.

Hungary's Nationalists Tighten the Noose


A new law to being proposed by Hungary's  right-wing nationalist government

The law would, among other things, put a 25 percent tax on civic migrant aid organizations that receive more than half of their funding from abroad. The organisations would also be required to register with Hungarian courts and their foreign employees could face expulsion if the government should determine that they have aided "illegal" migration. Groups that fail to register would also face fines.

Another aspect of the proposed law that has caused concern among rights groups is the government's stated desire to issue restraining orders barring citizens suspected of "organising illegal migration" from getting closer than eight kilometers (4.97 miles) to any of Hungary's Schengen borders

The law would be part of the government's so-called "Stop Soros Plan." George Soros has been a vocal critic of the prime minister, Victor Orban and has been the target of a fierce propaganda campaign by Orban, who blames Soros for personally helping "illegal immigrants flood Europe," robbing it of its "Christian and national identities." Orban has never offered any evidence to substantiate his claim.

Last year, Hungary passed a law requiring all organizations receiving more than €24,000 ($29,400) annually to register with Hungarian courts. Moreover, the law also requires such groups to prominently display the words "foreign organization" on all of their publications. That law is currently the subject of a breach of contract dispute between Hungary and the European Union.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Price of Babies

It’s nearly impossible to put a price tag on giving birth in America, since costs vary dramatically by state and hospital. But one 2013 study by the the advocacy group Childbirth Connection found that, on average, hospitals charged $32,093 for an uncomplicated vaginal birth and newborn care, and $51,125 for a standard caesarean section and newborn care.

Another estimate from the International Federation of Health Plans put the average amount insurers paid for a vaginal birth in the US at $10,808 in 2015. That is quintuple the IFHP estimate for another industrialized nation, Spain, where it costs $1,950 to deliver a child. (The amount insurers pay for births in America is lower than the amount billed by hospitals because insurers negotiate lower prices)

According to Hsia’s 2013 study, a “California woman could be charged as little as $3,296 or as much as $37,227 for a vaginal delivery, and $8,312 to $70,908 for a caesarean section, depending on which hospital she was admitted to.”

But spare a thought for Stella Apo Osae-Twum and her husband. They went to a hospital covered by insurance, saw an obstetrician in their plan, but when her three sons – triplets – were born prematurely, bills started rolling in. The hospital charged her family $877,000 in total.  Private insurance covered most of the $877,000 bill, but her family was responsible for $51,000.

There are few studies that estimate the number of families who go bankrupt from this type of unexpected expense. One of the best estimates is now outdated – conducted 10 years ago. But one of the authors of that research, Dr Steffie Woolhandler, estimates as many as 56,000 families each year still go bankrupt from adding a new family member through birth or adoption.

America is the most expensive nation in the world to give birth. When things go wrong – – from pre-eclampsia to premature birth – costs can quickly spiral. Despite these high costs, the US consistently ranks poorly in health outcomes for mothers and infants. The US rate of infant mortality is 6.1 for every 1,000 live births, higher than Slovakia and Hungary, and nearly three times the rate of Japan and Finland. The US also has the worst rate of maternal mortality in the developed world. That means America is simultaneously the most expensive and one of the riskiest industrialized nations in which to have children. In 2015, Norway ranked as the best-performing country in the world in terms of healthcare for new mothers, according to Save the Children, and was found to have an infant mortality rate below two percent, compared with the U.S. rate of 7.9 percent.

American families rarely shoulder the full costs of childbirth on their own – but still pay far more than in other industrialized nations. Nearly half of American mothers are covered by Medicaid, a program available to low income households that covers nearly all birth costs. But people with private insurance still regularly pay thousands of dollars in co-pays, deductibles and partially reimbursed services when they give birth. Childbirth Connection put the average out of pocket childbirth costs for mothers with insurance at $3,400 in 2013, more than the total cost of childbirth in other countries including Spain and South Africa.

Fact of the Day

A survey found that one-third of working Brits did not use up their annual leave in 2017, losing an average of four days each, and 69% of Brits did not take a two-week holiday.

The Immigration Police State

Immigrants are being “driven underground” by the legislation.

One domestic worker died because she was too afraid to see a doctor out of fear that her immigration status would be shared with the Home Office. The coordinator for charity Voices of Domestic Worker, Marissa Begonia, told the committee most of the women she works with choose not to access the NHS when they have medical problems. Campaign groups have argued the data-sharing arrangement violates patient's’ right to privacy under the Human Rights Act and that it cannot pass the considerable public interest test required to breach the doctor-patient relationship. 

The Department of Health reported that the Home Office made 8,127 requests for data in the first 11 months of 2016, which led to 5,854 people being traced by immigration enforcement teams. But figures show that less than 3 per cent of these led to a change of action by the Home Office. 

Doctors of the World, which runs clinics for undocumented migrants, victims of trafficking and asylum seekers, has also publicly condemned the data-sharing legislation, urging that it requires them to act as “border guards” for the Home Office’s immigration enforcement.

Dr Lucinda Hiam said an Eritrean woman who had been kept as a slave and subjected to sexual violence for seven years in the UK had not felt able to go to her GP.  

Citing evidence showed that a third of vulnerable migrants requiring medical treatment, such as those who are pregnant or seriously ill, had been deterred from seeking timely healthcare over concerns their information would be shared with the Home Office she said, "Confidentially is the cornerstone of the doctor/patient relationship. With that broken, I don’t think you can continue to have such a good relationship. I don’t think it has considered enough the damages to public trust it has done.”

Yusef Azad, director of strategy at National AIDS Trust, told the Committee the data-sharing requirement put GPs in a” very difficult position”. He said: “Patients believe doctors will look after their data and keep it confidential. Few people would argue that in cases of rape murder of manslaughter it wouldn’t be right to pass the information on, but as soon as you apply it to immigration offences you get different points of view and you lose the trust in the NHS – it’s a very dangerous direction of travel."

Dr Joanne Bailey, member of the advisory panel for the National Data Guardian, said,  “All the public guidance makes it clear that all data held by doctors and the health service is held with duty of confidence and that informs public expectations. It’s longstanding that it is confidential data. The weighting is not being balanced correctly between the immigration control and trust in the public health service.”

Irish Inequality

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has warned of “a growing wage gap that will inevitably lead to a rise in wider inequality” following the publication of its annual survey of executive pay levels in the private sector. 

In some instances, the study suggests it would take people on average earnings up to 270 years to earn what the CEO of some companies make in one year.

The report also reveals pay increases for some chief executives of up to 100%, between 2015 and 2016 and along with a near doubling of cash bonuses for some.

A copy of ’Because We’re Worth It’ can be downloaded here

India's Divide

India primarily consists of small and marginal farmers defined as having landholding below two hectares (Ha). India’s 85 per cent of landholdings are below 2 Ha.
Let’s look at the income equality among various landholding groups. According to the Committee on Doubling of Farmers’ Income, the average annual earning of a small and marginal farmer household was Rs 79,779 in 2015-16. Now compare this with the earning of large farmers having a landholding above 10 Ha. Such farmers earned seven-and-a-half times more than a small and marginal farmer, or to be specific Rs 605,393 each year. A medium and semi-medium farmer’s household earned Rs 201,083 or two-and-a-half times more than a small and marginal farmer’s household. 
It means 85 per cent of farmer households earn 9 per cent of total income while the rest (15%) earn 91 per cent

Neglected Diseases

More than 1 billion people worldwide are infected with diseases of poverty. These conditions disproportionately afflict the world’s poorest, either in the developing world, or in developed countries with extreme inequality.

well-known conditions such as HIV/AIDS and malaria are considered diseases of poverty, many of the other illnesses that primarily strike the world’s poorest are lesser-known and frequently misunderstood. The World Health Organization has designated about 20 of these conditions as “neglected tropical diseases.” This diverse array of conditions ― such as leprosy, dengue, Chagas, and elephantiasis, to name a few ― don’t attract the global media attention or funding that certain wide-ranging tropical diseases, such as malaria, have garnered in recent years.

HIV and malaria can be fatal, but many diseases of poverty aren’t. In fact, the neglected diseases that kill ― Chagas, sleeping sickness, and rabies, for example ― account for 170,000 deaths globally, a relatively small number. More often, diseases of poverty cause extreme pain and can even disfigure or disable victims for life. Because they’re not big killers, these diseases don’t attract a lot of funding.

Dr. W. Evan Secor, a microbiologist in the Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, explained  “People either pay attention to diseases that will kill many, or diseases that are funded heavily.” The neglected tropical diseases can be found in 149 countries across the world, predominantly sickening extremely poor people who live in developing or remote areas. “Poor people living in rural areas in developing countries tend not to have a lot of advocates,” Dr. Secor said. “They also don’t have a very developed health infrastructure around them to deal with these cases, so their access to medicine is often limited.” 

In the absence of health education and outreach programs, sufferers can live for years without proper diagnosis and treatment. If sufferers do have access to health care, the services available are often too weak and under-resourced to deal with the health burden these diseases present. Many people who are disfigured or disabled as a result of a neglected disease live in communities that may not acknowledge or understand the disease. Sufferers might be socially marginalized and may struggle to work or maintain relationships ― especially when the disease causes disability or disfigurement.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The war Boris forgot

In the war that the British Foreign Minister couldn't remember the name of the country, Unicef said that in Yemen 5000 children have been killed or injured another 400,000 severely malnourished and fighting for their lives. The casualties amounted to “an average of five children every day since March 2015”.

The UN agency said more than 11 million children – or “nearly every child in Yemen” – were in need of humanitarian assistance.

2 million Yemeni children were out of school, a quarter of them since the conflict escalated when a Saudi-led coalition intervened in March 2015.

More than 3 million children were born into the war and have been “scarred by years of violence, displacement, disease, poverty, undernutrition and a lack of access to basic services.” Meritxell Relano, Unicef representative in Yemen said “An entire generation of children in Yemen is growing up knowing nothing but violence. ” He added  Children in Yemen are suffering the devastating consequences of a war that is not of their making.  Malnutrition and disease are rampant as basic services collapse,” he said, adding: “Those who survive are likely to carry the physical and psychological scars of conflict for the rest of their lives.”

Urban Farming - Beyond the Allotment

 Urban agriculture, the researchers say, could help feed a world that may face future challenges in industrial agriculture as a result of climate change.

“We’ve known there are benefits to having these small plots of land in our cities, but we found that the benefits extend well beyond having fresh food in the hands of those who consume it,” explained lead author Nicholas Clinton of Google Inc.

A study by the National Science Foundation (NSF)Arizona State University (ASU) and Google researchers has used a data-driven approach to assesses the value of urban agriculture and quantify its benefits at a global scale.

“For the first time, we have a data-driven approach that quantifies the ecosystem benefits from urban agriculture,” said Matei Georgescu, a geographer at ASU and corresponding author of the paper. “Our estimates of ecosystem benefits show the potential for millions of tons of food production, thousands of tons of nitrogen sequestration, billions of kilowatt hours of energy savings, and billions of cubic meters of avoided storm runoff.”

“Analysis of the food-energy-water nexus sometimes leaves the impression that benefits are concentrated in one place and costs in another,” added Tom Torgersen, program director for NSF’s Water, Sustainability and Climate program, which supported the research. “But that’s not always the case. Urban agriculture is an underdeveloped industry that could sequester nitrogen in cities, generate energy savings, help moderate urban climate, reduce storm water runoff, and provide more nutritious foods.”

They projected an annual food production of 100 to 180 million tons, energy savings of 14 to 15 billion kilowatt hours (from insulation properties provided by rooftop urban agriculture), nitrogen sequestration between 100,000 and 170,000 tons, and avoided storm runoff of 45 to 57 billion cubic meters annually.

Looking toward the future, Clinton said that countries with the most incentives to encourage urban agriculture have two main characteristics — a large enough urban area to support agriculture, and a mixture of crops that lends itself to urban cultivation.

“Relatively temperate, developed or developing countries with the right mix of crops are expected to have the greatest incentives for urban agriculture,” he said. “That would include China, Japan, Germany and the U.S.”

Who is the war-monger?

 Obama signed a defense authorization bill of $725 billion for the 2011 fiscal year, more than $150 billion of which funded continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In contrast, Trump’s war budget expenditures were only $626 billion, of which only $66 billion were earmarked for foreign wars. Adjusted for inflation Obama’s spending compared to Trump’s would be greater still.

Two-tier Citizenship

India is the world’s largest exporter of migrant labor; 1 in 20 migrant workers worldwide are Indian-born — a number that has rapidly risen in the past 25 years. Indian émigrés sent home $69 billion in 2015, making their country the world’s top recipient of remittances. But many of those who travel, especially those who provide cheap, unskilled labor, are very vulnerable to exploitation. To protect workers, India requires unskilled migrants to get clearances from the Indian government before traveling to a number of countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Malaysia and Yemen. But people who have graduated high school, or the 2 percent of Indians who pay income tax, don’t need to get clearances for travel, as skilled or educated workers are less likely to be exploited abroad. Those who need emigration checks are identified on the last page of their passport.

India’s Foreign Ministry issued new rules saying that citizens who require emigration checks will now carry new orange passports, while those who don’t will carry blue ones. Critics argue that the orange and blue color coding could lead to discrimination against poor and illiterate workers and effectively render millions of Indians second-class citizens.

Nitin Pai, director of a Bangalore-based public policy think tank, criticized the new rules. “...the move to create different coloured passports for different kinds of travelers, it is wrong and must be reconsidered. Already officials treat citizens differently based on their class … different passport colors will worsen it,” he wrote.

Oomen Chandy, former chief minister of the southern state of Kerala, said, “If this becomes a reality, the moment an orange color passport holder lands in a foreign country, he will be treated with disdain, and it will have a telling impact on such people's character and individuality. This should not happen at all.”

India is one of the world's most unequal societies. Oxfam's India chief executive in 2017 said that just 57 billionaires control 70 percent of the nation's wealth.

The Claimant Fraud Witch-hunt

More than 280,000 "shop-a-scrounger"public tip-offs on benefit fraud in the past two years have resulted in no action being taken against a claimant due to lack of evidence, The Independent can disclose.
over the financial years 2015-16 and 2016-17, 332,850 cases were closed following reports by members of the public. Of these, 287,950 were found to have no or little evidence to substantiate the claim – or 87 per cent.

In March 2017, for example, out of 18,200 allegations from members of the public closed by the department, 16,050 led to a “no result outcome”. This means that around 88 per cent of the total allegations made in one single month had little or no evidence of benefit fraud having taken place and the cases were dropped.

The public are overestimating the issue of benefit fraud in Britain and that the Government’s policy of using tip-offs is much less effective than many are led to believe. 

According to Government data in 2017, fraud in the benefit system accounted for 1.2 per cent of the entire DWP budget, amounting to just over £2bn. 

Carillion Bosses Still Get Paid

The Institute of Directors, the main lobby group representing UK bosses criticised the “highly inappropriate” pay packets awarded to directors running the now-collapsed construction giant Carillion.

The Institute of Directors also accused directors and shareholders of the stricken firm of failing to provide “appropriate oversight” of the company, which is involved in a host of major government projects and vital public services and slumped into compulsory liquidation on Monday.
"The relaxation of clawback conditions for executive bonuses in 2016 appears in retrospect to be highly inappropriate. It does no good to the reputation of UK business when top managers appear to benefit in spite of the collapse of the organisations that they are responsible for.” Roger Barker, head of corporate governance at the Institute of Directors, said. His comments on clawback refer to a change in the company’s pay policy made in 2016 that limited the criteria under which the company could demand the repayment of executive bonuses. Previously the firm could ask for cash back if the business went bust but the revised policy said it could only do so in the event of gross misconduct or if the financial results had been misstated.

Richard Howson, Carillion’s former chief executive from 2012 until a shock profit warning last July resulted in his stepping down. Howson earned £1.5m in 2016, including £591,000 in bonuses. He continued to work for the firm until last autumn after stepping down as chief executive and is due to stay on the payroll, receiving his £660,000 salary and £28,000 benefits for another year, until October 2018.
Howson’s replacement, the interim chief executive, Keith Cochrane, was a Carillion non-executive director who joined the company in July 2015. He was due to step aside in favour of a new permanent chief executive next week – but Cochrane is also set to keep on receiving his £750,000 base salary until July.
The former finance director Zafar Khan, who stepped down last September from his £425,000 a year job, is also due be paid until July.

THE ‘FREE’ BREXITEERS! (weekly poem)

(Apologies to Alexandre Dumas)

Mrs May's decision to replace the existing red British passport
by a patriotic True-Blue one has brought cheers from Brexiteers.

I stroll through EU Customs now,
In the new 'slow-track' queue;
There's long delays, but I am thrilled,
My passport is True-Blue!

Of course now when I sail across,
To Europe's nearest shore;
The hold-ups at each border-post,
Are something of a chore.

But all this doesn't faze me 'cos,
I meet these foes with glee;
My Union Jack underwear,
Declares my sovereignty!

I'm proud now to be British as,
My world was one long void;
Although I cannot speak for all,
The extra unemployed.

Quite soon I'll be invited to,
A 'do' at Number Ten;
It's never happened up to now,
It's just a case of... when!

I'm patriotic to the core,
It fills life with romance;
As do our sweatshops who now make,
My 'Empire' underpants!

© Richard Layton