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WHAT CHINA MAY LEARN FROM RUSSIAN ERRORS IN UKRAINE

PLA is all eyes and ears when it comes to scooping up lessons to be learned from ‘battle lab’ Ukraine

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WHAT CHINA MAY LEARN FROM RUSSIAN ERRORS IN UKRAINE
Many were shocked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 this year, but not so by government and military officials in China and the US. Indeed, more than six months on from President Vladimir Putin’s greatest – and riskiest – gambit, China’s military has had plenty of time to digest lessons on how not to conduct an invasion of a neighbouring country.

This is critical because China has nefarious intentions for Taiwan, and what it learns from the Ukrainian “battle lab” could help it succeed where Russia has failed. Senior Colonel Wu Qian, a Chinese Ministry of National Defence spokesman, said back in March that “Taiwan is not Ukraine” and that the underpinnings are quite different.

This is because, “Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory, and the Taiwan question is purely Chin’s internal affair with zero-tolerance of external interference,” he claimed.

However, Ian Easton, a research fellow at ‘Project 2049 Institute’ in US, correctly pointed out that, instead, “Taiwan is an independent and sovereign country that has never been part of the territory ruled by the People’s Republic of China.”

Nevertheless, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) officer Wu insisted, “The two sides across the Taiwan Strait must be and will be reunified. It is the trend of history that can never be stopped by anyone or any force.”

Easton responded by saying, “Peaceful unification’ is a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) euphemism that refers to the subversion and coerced annexation of Taiwan’s government. It’s a seemingly benign phrase that, in reality, describes the destruction of a nation-state that is ranked among the top ten democracies in the world.”

Wu further stated: “It is perfectly justified for China to safeguard its national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and allow no external interference… The Chinese PLA stands ready to take all necessary measures to resolutely respond to any provocative actions that endanger China’s core interests or undermine the peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”

Unfortunately, Beijing’s arrogant claim to all of Taiwan, and its global isolation and ostracism of the peace-loving democracy, are backed up by a willingness to use both covert and overt measures to change the status quo and take control of Taiwan.

Alarmingly, Easton warned, “The PRC is engaged in the largest peacetime military build-up undertaken by any country in over a century. Chinese military officers writing in authoritative documents describe the United States as their main enemy and portray the conquest of Taiwan as their number one mission.”

Naturally, the PLA is all eyes and ears when it comes to scooping up lessons to be learned from Ukraine. Until now, it is mostly how not to conduct a war, as the Russian assault has turned into a debacle of the highest order.

Currently, the front in northeast Ukraine has crumbled, and Russian troops have fled in panic. The latest reports state that Ukrainian troops had driven all the way to the border with Russia in Kharkiv Oblast. After being forced to retreat from Kyiv early on in the conflict, Russian troops have also fled in disarray from places like Izyum in the northeast. This spectacular failure of Russia’s “special military operation” will provide lessons for years to come.

Dr Joel Wuthnow, a Senior Research Fellow at Centre for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs, at the Institute for National Strategic Studies of the National Defence University in Washington DC, has explored lessons that China and PLA might pick up as it contemplates a future invasion of Taiwan.

In a report entitled “Rightsizing Chinese Military lessons from Ukraine”, Wuthnow noted that PLA writings and research have been almost non-existent on the topic so far. Of course, the PLA must distance itself from the mistakes that Russia made, and come up with solutions to the strategy, tactics and weapons that Ukraine is employing. Wuthnow made three assumptions. The first is that PLA decision-makers are teachable.

This might be true, as seen in the force’s reaction after the USA and allies decimated Iraq in the 1990-91 Gulf War. However, today’s PLA commanders might be less flexible or open to change than their predecessors. Wuthnow proffered several arguments for this possibility, such as the Ukraine scenario being very different to a Taiwan one.

Another is that the PLA may be more arrogant now and more confident in its capabilities. A third is “cognitive dissonance”, where the PLA’s approach over the past three decades may have inadvertently produced intellectual blinders that harm its ability to adapt.

The Central Military Commission’s make-up will change after the 20th National Party Congress later this year, and it is likely to have members that have no combat experience whatsoever.

The second assumption that Wuthnow made is that the PLA possesses a rational strategic planning process. This will determine whether any lessons drawn from the Ukraine conflict will actually alter how the PLA trains or operates. PLA is highly hierarchal and resistant to change, which is why Chairman Xi Jinping had to take it by the scruff of the neck and enforce structural changes.

There is a danger that each PLA service will simply focus on lessons that reinforce what it already believes. The PLA Air Force, for example, might argue that it needs more funding to suppress enemy air defences, or the ground forces might demand more troops after Xi cut numbers by 3,00,000. The third assumption is that adaptation will influence China’s decision-making calculus.

This is connected to the CCP’s appetite for risk. Even if the PLA modifies its doctrine or force posture, would China’s leaders still be keen to attack Taiwan?

In the short term, Xi might take fewer risks until the lessons of Ukraine are fully understood. In the longer term, he might be more confident if the PLA shows itself to have absorbed vital lessons. China knows that conflict will greatly impact its economy, even as it struggles with social and economic issues at home.

China shows no sign of backing off, however. In the wake of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, China has normalized military aircraft crossings over the Taiwan Strait median line. That tacit demarcation had served as a buffer against provocation or accident for decades, but now China has deliberately abandoned it.

With the CCP remaining so opaque, Wuthnow rightly warned: “In sum, while the PLA is observing Russian operations in Ukraine, its ability to distil and act on lessons from that conflict depends on internal variables such as perceptions, processes and leadership priorities. Analysts should thus be careful about making predictions, even if the lessons seem logical for China, and look for signs that their assumptions are correct.”

Specific lessons that China is learning from Russia’s murderous escapade may be divided into two broad categories of reinforcing lessons and pivotal lessons, according to Wuthnow. The former confirms what the PLA is already doing and planning, while the latter is items that may require the PLA to move in a new direction.

As for reinforcing lessons, the most common takeaway that foreign experts highlight as being important for the PLA is perfecting joint operations. The PLA knows their importance, as typified by the move to five joint theatre commands in 2015, even if it has a long way to go and it is very difficult to achieve on a contested battlefield.

Furthermore, it is expected that China will conduct nuclear signalling (e.g. perform launch exercises, and raise alert levels) to prevent the USA from intervening in any PLA assault on Taiwan. Moscow prevented the USA from putting troops on the ground in Ukraine, but regardless the USA has provided copious amounts of equipment.

China also wishes to achieve the “three dominances”, superiority in the information, air and sea domains, before beginning amphibious landings. Russia was using unencrypted communications, failed to electronically degrade Ukrainian command and control, and inadequate missile stockpiles, and the PLA looks poorly on such a lack of professionalism.

Nor could Russia silence President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Ukraine, so Beijing will want to decapitate and remove Taiwan’s leadership at the outset of its war. This would also help reduce foreign aid. China already has a mock-up of Taipei’s presidential palace for PLA training.

Morale is critical too. Russian soldiers, many of them conscripts, simply do not want to fight in Ukraine. The CCP will therefore redouble political work to indoctrinate PLA soldiers into the necessity of conquering Taiwan. Unlike Russia, China will surely be more successful in controlling social media and any anti-war sentiments too.

Another lesson for China is the importance of skilled military leaders in the enlisted ranks and officer corps. Also important is ensuring logistics and maintenance support. This will be far more challenging for the PLA than for Russia, as it must support troops fighting up to 180 km away across the Taiwan Strait. The second aforementioned category for the PLA to learn from Ukraine is pivotal lessons. Wuthnow suggests three potential lessons here, “A re-examination of whether the ground forces’ brigade and battalion model is suitable for high-intensity conflict against a committed adversary; Chinese attempts to learn from Russia’s failure to mask preparations for conflict and therefore degrade foreign indications and warnings; and the re-examination of assumptions that a regional conflict, especially over Taiwan, could be limited in duration and scale, and thus potentially necessitate preparation for protracted conflict.”

The PLA has already streamlined its ground forces, with combined-arms brigades replacing divisions. Russia relies on battalion tactical groups, very similar to Chinese combined-arms battalions, but these have been found wanting. Problems in these smaller manoeuvre units such as overwhelmed commanders, insufficient specialist staff, inadequate air defence coordination and limited logistics all reared their heads in Ukraine.

Russia gathered its troops along Ukraine’s borders under the pretext of an exercise, but China will have to execute far better than that if it is to disguise an invasion of Taiwan. It will be more difficult for China given the amount of aircraft and ships needed.

Deception is important, and the PLA would also have to decide how long an extended missile bombardment is needed to sufficiently degrade the enemy, or whether a barrage would be simultaneous with an ongoing “exercise” to delay political decisions in Taipei and Washington DC. Although it had numerical and material superiority, Russia failed to achieve a swift victory.

China would always hope for a rapid conquest of Taiwan so as to reduce military and economic costs, and to prevent a coalition of support from forming. Yet Taiwan is a mountainous country and the PLA would find it difficult to conquer the ground. The PLA might have to rethink things in light of Ukraine’s robust defence as people fight for their homeland.

Politically, China might also have to rethink its belief that European and Asian countries would remain neutral. Ukraine has shown that this might not be the case.

Wuthnow concluded, “…In at least a few areas, there is a chance that China will learn pivotal lessons that will allow it to avoid Russia’s mistakes. These would include ground force reforms to reduce the vulnerability of combined-arms battalions to withering strikes, sophisticated deception plans integrated into a landing campaign, and different assumptions and planning for a conflict that neither ends in a short timeframe nor involves only a minimal number of opponents.”

“Such lessons could improve China’s capabilities as well as its confidence and complicate some of the tools that were available to the defence in countering Russian operations in Ukraine, such as effective use of Javelins…, declassification of intelligence for use in information operations, and efforts to expand the conflict beyond the aggressor’s capacity and comfort level.

“PLA adaptation, if it does occur, will take time, thus offering the United States, its allies and Taiwan an opportunity to make improvements to retain advantages for the defence that existed in Ukraine,” he added. •ANI

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Post 370, investment climate brightens in J&K

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Post 370, investment climate brightens in J&K

After witnessing decades of violence, the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed tremendous changes in economic activities after the abrogation of Article 370.

After Article 370 was repealed, Jammu and Kashmir became subject to 890 central laws, while 250 unfair state legislation were eliminated. Additional 130 state legislation have undergone changes. The elimination of certain hurdles has led to a conducive business atmosphere. Due to the country’s strong leadership and increased stability in the region, foreign businesses are considering investment opportunities here.

The Lulu Group, Apollo, EMAAR, and Jindal are among the few commercial organizations that have investments in Jammu and Kashmir. The UT has inked five more Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) with Al Maya Group, MATU Investments LLC, GL Employment Brokerage LLC, Century Financial, and Noon E-commerce, respectively. Magna Waves Pvt. Ltd. and Emaar Group, and Lulu International have also signed a single Letter of Intent.

In 2021, the Union Territory attracted investments of USD 2.5 billion, showcasing the region’s vast opportunities and business potential.

Even Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with delegates from the United Arab Emirates seeking business opportunities in Jammu and Kashmir, noting that private investment bids in the Union Territory have topped Rs 38,000 crore.

The government is fully aware that investments play a crucial role in economic development because they lead to the accumulation of public wealth as well as advancements in science and technology. As a result, a framework for increasing the region’s manufacturing viability and economic growth is established.

The Jammu and Kashmir government established a five-person committee on June 23 to communicate with the Minister of External Affairs regarding the G20 meetings. India is starting to get ready for the big event.

In order to promote fresh investment and bring industrial development to the block level, the J&K administration introduced a new industrial development scheme with an outlay of Rs 28,400 crore in January of last year. The new regulation, valid until 2037, also made it possible for more prominent investors to invest in J-K.

Before the repealing of Article 370, there were not many investments in Jammu and Kashmir.

The Indian government is aware that investments play a key role in the economic development of any region. Hence, it is no letting stone unturned to establish a framework for increasing the region’s manufacturing viability and economic growth.

Infrastructure development in the Union Territory got a big push after the abrogation of Article 370.

After the abrogation of Article 370, the execution of new roads, tunnels and other basic Infrastructure has gained momentum to ensure the overall development of J&K.

Noting that roads are now being built at twice the speed as before, the Lt Governor of the Union Territory Manoj Sinha had said there has been a radical change in its progress under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana.

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Raise retirement age of SC, HC judges: BCI

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Raise retirement age of SC, HC judges: BCI

The Bar Council of India (BCI) in a joint meeting that was held last week has unanimously reached a conclusion that there should be an immediate amendment to the Constitution and the retirement age of Judges of Supreme Court and High Courts.

“There should be an immediate amendment in the Constitution and the retirement age of Judges of High Court should be enhanced from 62 to 65 years and the age of superannuation of the Judges of Supreme Court should be enhanced to 67 years,” stated BCI in a press statement. The copy of the resolution was decided to be communicated to the Prime Minister of India and Union Minister for Law and Justice for immediate action on the resolution, stated press statement by BCI.

Moreover, the joint meeting has also resolved to propose to the Parliament to consider to amend the various Statutes so that even the experienced advocates could be appointed as the Chairpersons of various commissions and other Forums.

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PM to hold bilateral talks with world leaders: MEA

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PM to hold bilateral talks with world leaders: MEA

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is looking forward to exchanging views on topical, regional and international issues at the 22nd Summit of the Council of Heads of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Member States (SCO-CoHS) to be held in Samarkand.

“At the SCO Summit, I look forward to exchanging views on topical, regional and international issues, the expansion of SCO and on further deepening of multifaceted and mutually beneficial cooperation within the Organization,” read Prime Minister’s Office departure statement ahead of his visit to Uzbekistan. PM Modi will attend the summit on Friday. He is expected to have bilateral meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Iranian President, Ebrahim Raisi and Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev on the sidelines of the SCO summit in Samarkand.

“I will be visiting Samarkand at the invitation of President of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev to attend the Meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO),” added the statement.

Under the Uzbek Chairship, a number of decisions for mutual cooperation are likely to be adopted in areas of trade, economy, culture and tourism.

“I also look forward to meeting President Mirziyoyev in Samarkand. I fondly recall his visit to India in 2018. He also graced the Vibrant Gujarat Summit as its Guest of Honour in 2019”.

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CENTRE INKS PEACE DEAL WITH 8 MILITANT OUTFITS

A new age of peace and harmony in state will undoubtedly begin with the signing of the pact, said Assam CM

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CENTRE INKS PEACE DEAL WITH 8 MILITANT OUTFITS

The Centre and Assam government on Thursday signed a tripartite peace accord with eight tribal militant outfits of Assam. The accord was signed in the presence of Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

The eight rebel groups include Birsa Commando Force (BCF), Adivasi People’s Army (APA), All Adivasi National Liberation Army (AANLA), Adivasi Cobra Military of Assam (ACMA) and Santhali Tiger Force (STF) and the remaining three outfits are splinter groups of BCF, AANLA and ACMA. The accord was signed 10 years after the peace process started. Birsa Commando Force (BCF), Adivasi People’s Army (APA), All Adivasi National Liberation Army (AANLA), Adivasi Cobra Military of Assam (ACMA) and Santhali Tiger Force (STF) have been in a ceasefire with the government since 2012 and since then the cadres of the militant outfits are staying in designated camps.

“I am sure signing of the agreement will usher in a new era of peace and harmony in Assam,” Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had said.

On January 27 this year, a total of 246 insurgents of two militant groups of the state laid down their arms and returned to the mainstream.

In an arms-laying ceremonial function held at Srimanta Sankardev Kalakshetra in Guwahati, 169 insurgents of the United Gorkha People’s Organisation (UGPO) and 77 insurgents of the Tiwa Liberation Army (TLA) laid down their arms before Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, Assam DGP Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta, Chief Executive Member of BTR Pramod Boro, CEM TAC Jibon Chandra Konwar.

Earlier, the Assam CM had held a meeting with rebel Adivasi groups regarding the final settlement which is currently under a ceasefire.

Amit Shah had in January 2020 also presided over the signing of a historic agreement between the Government of India, the Government of Assam and Bodo representatives in New Delhi to end the over 50-year-old Bodo crisis that has cost the region over 4,000 lives.

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AS XI STEPS OUT OF CHINA, POPULIST POLICIES LOOM

Modi is no political novice; he has his cards close to his chest and would not be cowered by dragon. If communism has steeled Xi, democracy has bolstered Modi

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AS XI STEPS OUT OF CHINA, POPULIST POLICIES LOOM

Chinese President Xi Jinping has stepped out of the country for the first time since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic that originated in his country in early 2020 and forced global lockdowns, clobbered large economies and caused death of thousands across the world, not to forget the millions who fell sick and escaped death but paid with lifetime of infirmities.

But, we won’t discuss the pandemic here even though any discussion in the world today is incomplete without mentioning the affliction that has acquired a universal character.

Xi, wearing a face mask, landed in Nur-Sultan, the capital of Kazakhstan, to a red carpet welcome by his Kazakh counterpart Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on Tuesday. The Central Asian republic is celebrating 30 years of the establishment of diplomatic relations with China.

Central Asian countries are of strategic interest to China not only because they can help the second largest economy deepen its economic footprint in the region but because they also provide a diplomatic perch to ride on as Beijing faces increasing isolation from the West.

Later in the evening, Xi flew to Samarkand in Uzbekistan where he will attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit from Thursday to Friday. Beyond the security implications of the meeting of the strategic group of eight countries, the spotlight on Samarkand this fall is on bilateral talks.

Though Xi is thousands of kilometres from home, his heart would be in Beijing as the Chinese leader who would be virtually crowned for the third term to lead the nation of 1.5 billion is just two months away from the grand event – the upcoming Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

Xi carries loads of baggage on his shoulders. The baggage is made of political pledges and expectations, declarations of social and cultural resuscitation of the nation and the promise of reuniting Taiwan with mainland China.

Xi is in Samarkand not only as the President of his country but as a reservoir of hope for the millions of Chinese of his generation who want to live by the ideals of communist leader Mao Zedong and believe in the revival of an ethos that the China of today may have strayed away from amid lapping waves of globalisation and the unnerving war cry of capitalism over communism.

AS XI STEPS OUT OF CHINA, POPULIST POLICIES LOOM

The presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the summit adds to the precariousness of Xi’s situation. While northern neighbour Russia is seen as a renegade by the West for attacking Ukraine and bringing the region to a military ferment, India has to speak its mind to Beijing that was behind the Galwan standoff which brought two nuclear powers quite close to a full-blown war.

A Xi-Putin summit will see the Chinese President trying to leverage the opportunity to buy more support from Moscow for its stance on Taiwan. President-for-life he may be, but nothing prevents Xi from catalysing more support from a country that again stands isolated among most nations of a community comprising mainstream international politics.

Ahead of the 20th CPC National Congress on October 16, Xi has to show his constituents (Chinese people) that he is capable of standing tall in the Great Hall of the People.

In Modi, Xi will find an adversary who straddles the eastern and western hemispheres with equal ease. In the summit with Modi, Xi will try his best to turn the tables on India over the spy ship Beijing sent to Sri Lanka or have the upper hand on border disputes with New Delhi. After all, the delegates at the 20th Congress need to see their leader unfazed.

But Modi is no political novice. He surely has his cards close to his chest and would not be cowered by the flaming dragon. If communism has steeled Xi, democracy has strengthened Modi.

“We should join hands to combat terrorism, separatism, extremism, drug trafficking and transnational organised crimes, and ensure the security of oil and gas pipelines and other large cooperation projects and their personnel. We should resolutely oppose interference by external forces and work together for lasting peace and long-term stability of our region,” Xi said in a signed article published on Tuesday in the Kazakhstanskaya Pravda.

If words were horses, all politicians would ride them. Let’s see which way the dragon sits and the elephant trumpets.

• IANS

China emerged as the world’s second-largest economy by registering exceptional growth in the last four decades but at the cost of widespread corruption, environmental degradation, food safety issues and income disparities.

Prof Justin Yifu Lin, formerly senior vice-president and chief economist of the World Bank (2008-12), in an analysis explained the institutional price China paid for its economic success, reported Financial Post.

In 2018, China celebrated the 40th anniversary of its transition from a planned economy to a market economy. And it was an astounding success. In 1978, the country was closed and suspended to the world. It was a poor country, if not among the world’s poorest.

Its per capita was less than a third of even sub-Saharan African nations. Over 80 per cent of its people lived in rural areas, as many were living below the international poverty line and China had a closed economy where trade made less than 10 per cent of its GDP.

But in the last 40 years, the annual GDP growth rate was 9.4 per cent on average and trade grew at an average rate of 14.8 per cent. In no time, China was the world’s second-largest economy overtaking Japan. It was the largest exporter, beating Germany. It even surpassed the US to become the largest economy, measured by ‘purchasing power parity,’ and the largest trading economy.

But China paid a price for its unprecedented success. In addition to environmental degradation and food safety issues, which have attracted many public complaints and are the results of rapid industrialization and lack of appropriate regulations, the main issue during the transition is widespread corruption and the worsening of income disparities, said Prof Lin.

“Before 1978, China had a rather disciplined and clean bureaucratic system and an equalitarian society. According to the Corruption Perception Index published by Transparency International, China ranked No. 79 among all the 176 countries or territories in 2016,” added the professor.

The negatives are attributed by economics experts to China’s “dual-track transition strategy”. At one level, “the government provided transitory protection and subsidies to the nonviable state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in the old, capital-intensive sectors to maintain stability”.

At another, it “liberalized and facilitated the entry to the new, labour-intensive sectors which were consistent with China’s comparative advantages to achieve dynamic growth,” reported Financial Post. Prof Lin points out that one of the most essential “costs of investment and operation for the old capital-intensive sectors was the cost of capital”.

Before the transition in 1978, the “government used fiscal appropriation to pay for investments and cover working capital, so SOEs did not have to bear any cost for capital. After the transition, the fiscal appropriation was replaced by bank loans.”

The Chinese government set up four large state banks and a stock market to meet the capital needs of large enterprises and to “subsidize SOEs, the interest rates and capital costs were artificially repressed”.

The research shows, “When the transition started, almost all firms in China were state-owned. With the dual-track transition, private-owned firms grew and some of them become large enough to get access to bank loans or list in the equity market.”

“As interest rates and capital costs were artificially repressed, whoever could borrow from the banks or list in the stock market was therefore subsidized. These subsidies were paid for by the low returns to savings in the banks or in the stock market made by individual households. Those people providing the funds were poorer than the owners of the large firms they financed.”

“The subsidization of the operation of the rich’s firms by poorer people was one reason for increasing income disparities. Moreover, the access to bank loans and equity market generated rents, leading to bribery and corruption of the officials who control the access.”

The analysis argues that some natural monopoly industries, such as power and telecommunication, were operated by state-owned enterprises and the government “liberalized the entry to those industries gradually”, adding that “those monopoly rents were also sources of inequality and corruption,” reported Financial Post.

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EU to raise $140 bn with windfall swoop

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EU to raise $140 bn with windfall swoop

The European Union wants to raise $140 billion by tapping the windfall profits of some energy companies to help households and businesses pay eye-watering gas and electricity bills, media reports said.

On Wednesday, the European Commission proposed capping the profits of renewable and nuclear electricity producers, and taxing the windfall earnings of oil and gas companies, CNN reported.

Profits at power generators using wind, solar and nuclear energy have ballooned because their tariffs are linked to the wholesale price of natural gas, which soared to a record high in March after Russia invaded Ukraine, and now stands about 550 pert cent up on year-ago levels, the report said. Europe sanctioned Russian oil and coal exports after the invasion, prompting Moscow to slash supplies of gas in return.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday that the bloc would conduct a “deep and comprehensive reform” to decouple the cost of gas from the price of electricity.

“These companies are making revenues they never accounted for, they never even dreamt of,” she told EU lawmakers in a speech in Strasbourg, France.

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