The Guardian view on political dark money: thinktanks must come clean

For decades now, rightwing thinktanks have demonstrated an impact far beyond Westminster. They have been allowed to sow doubt into areas of settled scholarship, undermine academic expertise and camouflage outlandish free-market ideas. By incubating first Thatcherism and then Britain’s decision to leave the EU, they can lay claim to have helped decisively recast British politics twice in half a century. They have been able to do so because, instead of being engaged in scholarly research into social problems, they are the artillery in a long war of ideas. Such organisations, which rank among the most opaque over their funding, often act as business lobbyists.

It is clear that thinktanks that favour rightwing solutions, rather than leftwing ones, is where the dark money goes. In fact, so much has been documented on the subject that it is hard to see them as anything other than fronts for vested interests, concealed under a veneer of mock-academia and a questionable charitable status. The latest corroboration of such a thesis can be found in today’s Observer. It has an important story outlining why a network of pro-market thinktanks conceded liability for the “extreme public vilification” of a whistleblower who revealed unlawful overspending in the Brexit referendum campaign. They would rather admit these things than be forced to say who funds them in court.

The state has endorsed this behaviour in two main ways: one by failing to challenge thinktanks that say they are charities to show they are truly non-partisan. The second is to let them hide their funders – unlike the majority of UK research institutions. This has to stop. Under the law, anybody can set up a thinktank and pump in cash to produce studies to influence public perceptions. Just as Britain is getting ready to negotiate Brexit terms, foreign donors spent £1m, it is reported, to influence policy under the Adam Smith Institute brand. The best way of assessing whether they are corporate shills or not is to force thinktanks to show where their money comes from. Then they can participate in public debate effectively. In a democracy, it is only by bringing secrets into the light of the day that they can be examined.

Brexit has changed the atmosphere of political debate in profoundly damaging ways. Significantly for the newly aggressive leave vanguard, represented by a clutch of thinktanks, it has legitimised their dangerous heresy and redefined the previous orthodoxy as being biased and an out-of-touch remain, liberal worldview. The Brexit vote suggests Britain needs a more pluralistic intellectual climate. But this does not mean that partisan voices would create “balance” based on dubious research and deceiving the public about important issues in which their backers had financial interests. There is a good argument for the BBC to stop reporting on “studies” produced by, or promoting experts associated with, thinktanks that fail to voluntarily disclose their funding in detail on their websites. The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, is quite right to say that in the interests of “openness and accountability” the BBC must distinguish lobbyists from thinktanks.

Thinktanks may argue that they advocate certain policies not because they benefit their funders, but because they are the right policy choice for the country. That’s fine – so they should list their donors. Thinktanks have no electoral mandate. Nor are they mass membership organisations. The legitimacy of their voice in democratic debates rests largely on their intellectual independence. They ought to demonstrate this by revealing who funds them.


Notes Ban Sent Money In “Bedroom, Bathroom” To Banks: M Venkaiah Naidu

Notes Ban Sent Money In 'Bedroom, Bathroom' To Banks: M Venkaiah NaiduGABORONE, BOTSWANA: 

Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu has hailed the notes ban saying the move has led to money stashed in “the bedroom, bathroom and under the pillows” coming into the banks.

Mr Naidu, who is in Botswana on an official visit, said the southern African country is also following India’s efforts to curb black money.

He said reformative measures like demonetisation “may be painful but are meant for public good”.

Paisa joh bedroom, bathroom aur pillow ke neeche tha, woh bank mein pahunch gaya. Pata ke saath, pita ke saath aur pati ke saath (The money that was in the bedroom, bathroom and under the pillows reached banks due to demonetisation),” the vice president said.

Interacting with the Indian community in Botswana on Thursday night, he said measures like demonetisation were “temporary pain for long term gain”.

“Now how much (of this money) is white, how much is tax-paid money that will be known. It is the duty of the Reserve Bank of India and income tax people to verify and see to it that everybody falls in line,” the vice president said.

“You are aware that Government of India has launched several flagship schemes for making India a skilled and knowledge society and manufacturing hub. Measures like the introduction of Goods and Services Tax (GST) have also been taken to make it a transparent and integrated market with greater ease of doing business,” he said.

India has taken a major leap towards financial inclusion by encouraging 330 million people to open bank accounts, Mr Naidu said. The tax base has widened by 26 per cent in the last one year with nearly 68 million tax payers paying taxes, he said.

Mr Naidu termed Botswana as a land of god-gifted serenity and natural beauty.

He asked Indians everywhere not to forget their mother tongue and motherland. “I am not against other languages. One must learn as many languages as possible, but should not forget the mother tongue,” he said.

“I know that many of you have been living here for several decades and have made Botswana your second home. The Indian diaspora in Botswana has not only well-integrated into its pluralistic, free and democratic society, but, also have immensely contributed to the economy of Botswana,” he said.

“I am glad that you have contributed hugely to the successful story of Botswana’s economic growth,” he said.

He thanked the Indian community in Botswana for contributing to flood relief in Kerala.

Mr Naidu, who is on an official trip to the African nations of Botswana, Zimbabwe and Malawi, said India is changing rapidly.

“The business environment is changing for the better. The archaic regulations are being dismantled. Seamless processes are being introduced,” he added.

If the talented enterprising Indian diaspora can lend its active support, the pace and quality of transformation in India can be considerably enhanced, he said.

Mr Naidu hoped that Indians abroad will continue to cherish their Indian roots and nourish the socio-economic and cultural life of Botswana and other countries with which they are connected.

“You are India’s cultural ambassadors and the world sees you as the representatives of Indian values and way of life,” he said.

Mr Naidu also expressed satisfaction that the Swachh Bharat initiative, launched when he was union urban development minister, has become a people’s movement. Four crore toilets have been built under the scheme, he said.


Explainer | The key bone of contention between govt and RBI – money

There are several contentious issues underlying the tussle between the government and the Reserve Bank of India. The government wants the central bank to relax rules for weak banks, to dilute disclosure norms for defaults, open a liquidity window for NBFCs and pay the government a higher dividend. The last of these issues –the surplus the RBI generates or the amount of capital it has in its balance sheet – is perhaps the most important as it can weaken the central bank.

Here’s a short explainer around the issues involved.

How does RBI generate a profit?

The RBI earns an income from interest on holding of securities, the net interest it earns from its liquidity operations, interest from deposits held with foreign banks etc. The central bank deducts its expenditure – mainly for printing currency notes, and maintaining its operations – to generate a surplus. This surplus is generally transferred to the government as a dividend.

In some years, it also sets aside money for a so-called contingency fund. This has the effect of decreasing its surplus, and thus the dividend transferred to the government. In recent years, the RBI’s dividend transfer to the government has fallen short of government expectations – because of transfers to the contingency fund –  leading the Centre to demand more from the central bank.

What is the contingency fund and why is it important?

The contingency fund is meant for meeting unexpected and unforeseen contingencies such as a rapid depreciation in the value of securities the RBI holds, risks from exchange rate policy operations etc, or risks from an unexpected event like demonetisation. The contingency fund, along with other RBI reserves such as asset development fund, and currency and gold revaluation reserve form an important part of the RBI balance sheet. They add to the RBI’s arsenal to meet unexpected disruptions and provide comfort and confidence to global investors.

So, what’s government upset about?

It has been the government’s contention that the RBI holds excessive capital, that it need not hold so much money in its reserves. It is upset that the RBI chose to transfer money to the contingency fund in the last two years even when other expenses such as printing costs have been high and thus reduce the dividend it gets. There have been questions raised about the need for such transfers. Former Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian said RBI is one of the most highly capitalised banks in the world and these excess reserves can be used to recapitalise public sector banks.

How does one decide whether the RBI has excessive capital?

That’s a tricky question to answer. As former deputy governor Rakesh Mohan wrote recently, theoretically, a central bank can operate with below zero levels of capital. But in practice, it stands to lose credibility and risks missing its objectives with low capital levels. Currently, RBI holds around Rs 10 lakh crore as provisions (revaluation reserves, contingency fund and asset development reserves), which amounts to 28 percent of its balance sheet. This, according to Arvind Subramanian, is well above the average for central banks. However, the revaluation reserve is dependent on currency and gold movements and cannot be played with. As far as the contingency and asset development funds are concerned, are just 7 percent of RBI’s balance sheet compared to 9.2 percent in 2014.

What happens if the government forces the RBI to part with its reserves?

Experts say it would be an imprudent move. Firstly, it is a bad idea to use funds built over several years to be transferred to the government in one shot to help it meet the fiscal deficit target.

Secondly, how would this work? These reserves are a liability of the RBI. If it transfers money from the contingency fund to the government, it is in effect reducing its stock of government bond holding. That would reduce its interest income. As Rakesh Mohan points out, over time, there would be no new government revenue because of this fall in securities holding. Thirdly, it will erode the credibility of the central bank as well as its ability to meet contingencies. Fourthly, it also erodes the credibility of the government, especially its commitment to fiscal prudence. Fifth, even if the funds were used to recapitalise public sector banks directly, it could create a conflict of interest with RBI owing stakes in the entities it regulates

If the govt takes the capital, can’t it give it back?

Theoretically, the government can recapitalise RBI. But in a developing economy with an already high fiscal deficit, it would be difficult, as can be seen from the track record with public sector banks.


7 tried and tested tips that will make your blog earn money for you

I could not build a VC-backed startup despite having all the resources, like a product, a team, seed money and network of friends from the startup ecosystem. I began blogging in 2015 after failing at two startups and could not make any money from my blog in the first year. However, from the second year, I started making Rs 1 lakh a month from my blog. From then on, I have been able to keep making passive income from my blog.

I studied in Hindi medium and had average English skills. Now I make a living out of my writing. Here, I will share a few ways to make money from a blog. Every single method is so powerful that you can replace your full-time salary with a year of hard work.

Make money with your blog

1. Affiliate Marketing

This worked for me and it works for most people who want to earn at least 10 times more than what Adsense can pay you. Affiliate marketing does not work by filling up your website with lots of affiliate links.

  • Affiliate marketing works if you recommend a genuine product that can actually help your readers.
  • Affiliate marketing only works when your readers have buying intent.

2. Google Adsense

You might have heard bloggers make money by showing Google Advertisements. But Adsense is the least profitable way to make money from a blog. You won’t see any ads on my blog CashOverflow. Anyone can put up ads on his blog for the little money that Google pays. A big mistake many make is to fill up their blog with ads as it annoys readers.

Explore other ways to make money rather than relying on Google Adsense income.

3. Exclusive Partnerships

I say no to 90 percent partnership offers, and accept only 10 percent where there are mutual benefits. You can make more money from exclusive partnerships than regular affiliate marketing because then you can negotiate the commission. That does not mean you should accept whatever comes your way.

You can actually charge more when you work with fewer partners and help them increase their revenues.

I look for partners with whom I can work for the lifetime without worrying about what I can make in the short term. You should look for a partnership where your reader and partner can get value before you. Grab extra discounts for your audience and give valuable leads to your partners.

4. Content Writing (Sponsored Content)

Less than 0.5 percent of the content on my blog is sponsored by big companies. I don’t accept all sponsored content requests so that I can keep up the quality of the content on my blog.

Your blog may look spammy and promotional if you have more sponsored content than your own content. Yet, you can make good money by accepting sponsored content from the big companies.

Keep sponsored content at less than 10 percent because your readers would love to read non-promotional content.

5. Selling Information Products

You can make good money by selling e-books and courses on your blog. Selling informational products is a wonderful business because there is no additional cost for the product. Writing an e-book or recording a video course is a one-time effort. You can promote your courses through your blog, email marketing and even social media. You would keep making passive income if you automate all the marketing work because you don’t have to re-work the course content.

6. Consulting

You can make money through consulting if you are expert in any skill. You can start a blog in your area of expertise and attract clients. Infinite consulting options are available in the field of health and fitness, design, sales, marketing and hiring.

For example, I made Rs 12 lakh last year through content marketing consulting. A startup CEO pays me $150 per hour because he can take faster marketing decisions by leveraging my experience. He saves time and pays me for this.

7. Freelancing

If you need immediate money, work as a freelancer for someone. You can learn a lot of skills through blogging that you can use to grab freelance projects. You can expect someone to pay once you have strong skills in writing, WordPress management, design, SEO or social media.

Don’t expect training and money at the same time from your client. That’s not freelancing, that’s an apprenticeship. I made money through freelancing in my initial days when my blog was not making money.

Bonus Tips

  • Don’t work on increasing traffic if you can optimise your existing blog to make more money from the same traffic (Hint: Better CTR, Better payout)
  • Retarget your organic traffic on Facebook to sell something that people were looking for on your website.
  • Find a partner who can sell better than you – to your same audience
  • Replace the offers on your converting pages – to compare better revenue per click

You can also try selling physical products on your website. But it is a pain to maintain the inventory, manage logistics and returned products.

Remember that money will come in only when you will have relevant traffic, and when people want to buy something from you.

Keep working on your blogging business and keep making money.


Seniors Demanded Sex, Money for Desired Transfers: Gujarat Women Home Guards Allege Harassment

Image result for Seniors Demanded Sex, Money for Desired Transfers: Gujarat Women Home Guards Allege Harassment

As many as 25 women home guards in the Surat city of Gujarat have accused two senior officials of harassment and seeking sexual favours, prompting an inquiry.

The women approached city police commissioner Satish Sharma on Friday with a written complaint.

Sharma said a `local complaints committee’ set up under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act was looking into it.
The complaint named two senior home guard officials, alleging that the duo subjected women to “mental, physical, sexual, emotional and financial harassment”, and even asked sexual favours from some of them

The four-page complaint has also been sent to Minister of State for Home Pradipsinh Jadeja and Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, official sources said.

The two senior officers asked for money for transfer to desired places, the women alleged.

If the money was not paid, the women were transferred to far-off places and harassed, the complaint said.

One of the senior officers often touched women home guards inappropriately on the pretext of adjusting their uniform, the complaint alleged.

Some of the women were forced to work as domestic help for seniors, it added.

“We have referred the matter to the district local complaints committee headed by a deputy commissioner of police,” commissioner Sharma told reporters Saturday.

“Home guards have nothing to do with the police department, so we cannot take their complaints before the police’s internal committee. The local complaints committee has started an inquiry into it,” he said.


‘Less games, more money’ – Klopp pokes fun at Super League reports

Image result for 'Less games, more money' – Klopp pokes fun at Super League reports

The Liverpool manager joked he would be in favour of a European Super League because it would mean fewer games and more money

Jurgen Klopp laughed off the notion of a European ‘Super League’ by joking it would be a boost for his Liverpool team to play fewer games.

Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has suggested the Bundesliga champions could take legal action after a report in Der Spiegel alleged he and his club attempted to lead some of Europe’s leading clubs into a breakaway competition .

The German magazine’s allegation is based on documents it claims to have attained from whistleblowers ‘Football Leaks’. Both Bayern and Rummenigge issued a strenuous denial on Friday.

Der Spiegel named Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool among 11 clubs Bayern were allegedly hoping to lead away for the competition, the staging of which would present obvious problems for both the Champions League and domestic top-fight leagues in their current guises.

Speaking after Liverpool’s pulsating 1-1 draw against Arsenal on Saturday, Klopp batted away the hypothetical competition in typically jovial style.

“It sounds really nice because it sounds like much less games and much more money,” he said.

“I am completely fine with how the league football is at the moment. At least, it’s an idea [the ‘Super League’] that we don’t do immediately.”

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Klopp then went on to claim FIFA and UEFA’s approach to proposed competition revamps are flawed because they do not seek sufficient input from clubs and other stakeholders.

“I’m not even sure if somebody spoke about it, to be honest. It looks like all the other wonderful ideas of FIFA and UEFA,” he added.

“They do them immediately, they don’t ask. And then you see, ‘Oh, okay, we have 20 games more and not more money’.”