The Week Ahead: Concerns over Omicron, GDP numbers to come

The government’s expert panel, National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, is likely to meet sometime next week to take up key issues regarding Covid-19 vaccination, including the matter of immunising children against Covid-19 and a policy on administering booster doses
A health worker collects swab samples at Dadar Station in Mumbai. (Bhushan Koyande/HT Photo)
A health worker collects swab samples at Dadar Station in Mumbai. (Bhushan Koyande/HT Photo)
Published on Nov 28, 2021 11:46 PM IST
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BySachin Kalbag, New Delhi

The Omicron conversation has just begun, and the big question that everyone is asking is, will the new variant — first reported by South African scientists to the World Health Organization (WHO) — create as much havoc as the Delta variant. It is quite likely that just as it happened on Saturday and Sunday, the discussion over Omicron and its possible effects on India will be discussed this week too. Meanwhile, India has another major question to tackle regarding Covid-19.

The government’s expert panel, National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, is likely to meet sometime next week to take up key issues regarding Covid-19 vaccination, including the matter of immunising children against Covid-19, a policy on administering booster dose, etc. This week is not going to be easy for public health policy experts and all those that are involved in creating the mechanism for India’s fight against the latest variant.

The first and second waves saw the economy – and hence, the GDP – take a massive hit. Just when the numbers were showing a recovery, it is hoped that Omicron does not rock the boat. Data on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the July-September quarter, the central government’s monthly accounts and the index of eight core industries for October will be released on November 30. Goods and Services Tax (GST) collection figures for November – which correspond to transactions in October – will be released on December 1. November’s data on Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) for manufacturing will also be released on December 1 and that for services will be released on December 3.

GDP grew 20.1% in the June quarter. This has to be read with the fact that there was a 24.4% contraction in the June 2020 quarter because of a lockdown imposed to curb Covid-19 infections. June 2021 GDP was still below the pre-pandemic level: 9.2% less than the June 2019 quarter. Growth figures for the September quarter will similarly have to be read with the caveat that there was a 7.4% contraction in September 2020.

The GDP data will show how India’s economy was recovering in the immediate aftermath of the second wave of the pandemic in the country. The rest of the indicators are of higher frequency and will show a more recent picture.

Data from the Controller General of Accounts (CGA) showed that both revenue and capital expenditure of the central government had picked up pace in September. Year-on-year growth in revenue and capital expenditure was 45.7% and 83.1% in September. The corresponding numbers for the April-September period were 6.3% and 38.3%. GST collections were 1.3 lakh crore in October, the second highest since the tax was rolled out in 2017.

Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) numbers similarly show recovery continuing. The PMI for manufacturing grew for the second consecutive month in October. It was 52.3 in August, 53.7 in September, and 55.9 in October. A PMI value above 50 signifies expansion in economic activity compared to the month before. Services PMI was 58.4 in October, the highest since July 2011.

The index of eight core industries has however been moderating after July. In May, when the second wave peaked, it was 125.4, but increased to 134.7 by July. It had decreased to 126.7 in September. Year-on-year growth in the index was 4.4% in September compared to 11.5% in August.

The states, too, are going to be busy. Kerala will move the Supreme Court this week questioning new RBI directives to regulate co-operative banks. It is another blow on federal structure, said CM Pinarayi Vijayan. The High Court is expected to take up Kerala education minister V Sivankutty and five others’ plea on Dec 2 pleading to discharge them from the assembly violence case. Election for lone RS seat on Monday and with ruling LDF enjoying brute majority in the assembly it would be cakewalk for Jose K Mani.

Union home minister Amit Shah will visit Jaipur on December 5. Shah will address party‘s working committee meeting, and thereafter a mass gathering of elected representatives. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot is expected to appoint close to a dozen parliamentary secretaries and also a list of political appointments.

On November 30, Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma will inaugurate construction work of crucial Jorhat-Majuli bridge over the Brahmaputra river. Another important day for Assam will be when the regional committees to study border disputes between Assam and Meghalaya at six points along the interstate boundary to submit their reports.

This week will see the anniversary of India’s worst ever industrial accident – Bhopal Gas Tragedy. The bigger tragedy? It’s been 37 years since the gas leak, but the survivors are waiting for their long-pending demand to be heard.

In West Bengal, the BJP had moved a petition before the Calcutta high court demanding simultaneous civic polls across Bengal. The state election commission has gone ahead and declared polls in Kolkata on December 19. The High Court will take up the matter on Monday, November 29. All political parties will start campaigning for the Kolkata civic polls in the coming week with the BJP planning to declare its list of candidates on Sunday.

Southwards, Tamil Nadu is preparing for another round of heavy rains as the IMD has forecast another low pressure to form on November 29. The principal opposition the AIAMDK will hold its executive committee meeting, a key decision-making body of the party. This meeting is likely to discuss the ensuing local body polls as well as the factor V K Sasikala who is continuing to be politically active in the state.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2022