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On this Canada Day, Canadians face calls for change — and economic historians have been trying to adjust –



This week’s deadly heat wave, with its new record temperatures, is just one example of how the country’s economy seems to be embroiled in change this Canada Day.

Urgent plans to speed the switch to electric cars and the painful process of moving away from Canada’s dependence on carbon-producing fuels are part of a longer list of economic earthquakes.

The country is currently adapting to a string of extraordinary events:

  • A recession caused by a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.
  • The return of inflation after a decades-long absence that some expect will lead to a rise in interest rates.
  • Government intervention in the economy not seen since the decades after World War II. 

But as difficult as it is to be sure of the country’s economic future in such changing times, historians are struggling to re-examine Canada’s economic past.

As former economic heroes, such as Henry Dundas, Egerton Ryerson and John A. Macdonald, are knocked off their pedestals, the discovery of Indigenous children’s unmarked graves and the past year’s Black Lives Matter movement are opening people’s eyes to long-standing economic injustices.

The founding narrative

One of the leaders of that re-examination is Angela Redish, an economic historian and a professor at the University of British Columbia, who, like most who studied Canada’s economic history in past decades, was educated almost exclusively on “the founding narrative” of the European extraction of Canada’s resources through the St. Lawrence and its role in creating a powerful industrial economy. 

But as Redish began doing her own research, she also began to realize what the economic history texts had left out.

“Everybody knew about the Treaty of Paris and what that meant for the Canadian economy,” said Redish, referring to the 1763 agreement that turned a big chunk of North America over to Britain.

“All the treaties of the Indigenous nations weren’t even in the books,” she said.

The deaths of children at Canada’s residential school is a tragic reminder of another side of Canada’s economic history. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Canadians weaned on the heroic narrative of explorers discovering abundant empty lands and building a rich country from sea to sea to sea may have been shocked by recent revelations that Indigenous children were abused and died here.

But the brutal displacement of the land’s original people by European settlers is well known to historians. It is a process now being described by the Canadian Historical Society as genocide

That simply hasn’t been the focus of the traditional story, said Kris Inwood, an economic historian at the University of Guelph.

“It’s unfortunate that it takes the kind of spectacular spectacle of unmarked graves being discovered to bring it to people’s attention,” Inwood said in an interview this week. “But it’s clearly a good thing for people to have their awareness drawn to, by our standards today, how horribly people behaved in the past.”

In 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, author Charles Mann describes a densely populated Indigenous North America devastated by the spread of European diseases first introduced by Spanish colonizers, leaving the continent appearing far less populated than it had once been.

The extent of that disease effect, though, is still being disputed by economic historians.

As Inwood points out, death rates in Canada were high for everyone in the 1800s and children suffered the most, but no one began collecting mortality data until the 1920s.

Recent research by University of Victoria economic historians Donna Feir, Rob Gillezeau and Maggie Jones disputes the idea that Indigenous people were weakened before Europeans came to the Great Plains and killed off the bison.

World’s tallest people

“Once the tallest people in the world, the generations of bison-reliant people born after the slaughter were among the shortest,” they wrote in a much-quoted paper on the plains inhabitants.

Not only that, but being deprived of the means of their economic success had a long-lasting effect.

“Today, formerly bison-reliant societies have between 20 to 40 per cent less income per capita than the average Native American nation,” says the paper.

As one of the authors of the popular textbook A History of the Canadian Economy, Herb Emery has an intimate view of how changing perspectives can alter the understanding Canadians have about their economic history.

“The stories we tell are about the importance of property rights and legal systems to ensure an efficient and successful capitalist economy,” said Emery in an email. “The blind spot is in the initial expropriation.”

Before Europeans came and killed off the bison, the Indigenous people of the Great Plains were among the tallest in the world. After the slaughter, they were the shortest. (Three Lions/Getty Images)

As Feir points out, while the system of declaring ownership may have been different and was sometimes disputed in border conflicts, Indigenous groups had well-established title to agricultural or hunting lands. When the Europeans arrived with their much celebrated property rights, they simply ignored the existing property rights.

“So to talk about an abundance of land is bizarre,” she said.

In fact, as Gillezeau points out, the ejection from their traditional lands that provided a good living cannot be separated from Indigenous peoples’ ability to fight off European diseases.

Right up to today, poverty leads to negative health outcomes.

As shown with the plains bison hunters, Gillezeau said, the loss of the things that made them economically successful can have a lingering effect that’s been shown to last generations.

Improving the lives of many Indigenous people and other people of colour can be expensive and difficult.

Finding a shared narrative

While economists may differ on which events are most important, Gillezeau said he has not seen a backlash in Canada against the idea of expanding our concept of economic history. But the fact that the revisions are almost entirely being made by settler scholars may skew those decisions.

“The profession is not as diverse as it should be, and if you don’t have voices at the table, the conversation goes a lot more slowly,” said Gillezeau. “Having more Black economists is going to change the profession.” 

Redish has the same concern about the lack of Indigenous students in economics, something she is trying to rectify at UBC.

Contrary to the popular idea of history being a single and unchanging narrative, the economic historians I spoke to described it as a dynamic process that must take account of new developments, like climate change, new historical understandings and changing public values. It is a process that takes time.

“We should be working on a shared narrative,” said Redish. “I think that’s what we have to do. But it’s very challenging.”

Follow Don on Twitter: @don_pittis

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Two years of Kashmir unrest, political void and a sinking economy – Al Jazeera English



Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir – Two years after the Modi administration stripped Indian-administered Kashmir of its limited autonomy, political activity in the disputed region is in a deep freeze, businesses are struggling, while people’s rights are being suppressed through stringent laws.

On this day two years ago, India’s Hindu-nationalist government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi scrapped the region’s special status guaranteed by India’s constitution decades ago and turned the country’s only Muslim-majority state into a federally controlled territory.

The move included the removal of a ban on permanent settlement of non-Kashmiris in the region, a step that locals fear is aimed at bringing demographic changes in the region.

The right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government claimed the changes would result in a better development of the region and boost its economy.

But experts and political analysts say the situation has only deteriorated in the last two years.

Political void

The last state elections in Indian-administered Kashmir were held in 2015, when a regional pro-India party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), allied with the BJP to form the government.

The region has a group of political parties considered loyal to New Delhi. They contest regional and national elections, which are boycotted by the region’s separatist groups, who demand either a merger with neighbouring Pakistan or an independent nation.

In 2018, the BJP withdrew its support to the PDP, toppling the government and putting the state under the direct rule of New Delhi.

The next year, as the Modi government scrapped Articles 370 and 35A which granted Indian-administered Kashmir its autonomy, dozens of politicians from the region, including three former chief ministers belonging to pro-India parties, were arrested. Some of them continue to be in jails.

Meanwhile, the region was split into two federally controlled territories – Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh – and no legislative elections have been announced so far.

Between November to December last year, multi-phase local elections were held in the region to elect 280 district development councillors. Analysts said the polls were an attempt by New Delhi to show “normalcy” in the disputed Himalayan region, also claimed by Pakistan.

While the elected members of the district development councils have no powers to legislate or amend laws, many of them have been since confined to hotel rooms in different places and barred from visiting their constituencies due to “security threats”.

Many elected councillors, angry over the government’s treatment, have threatened to resign.

The region’s pro-India politicians say the government’s controversial decisions “have damaged the very bond of our relationship with the union of India”.

“There is no political space left for anyone,” Mohammed Yousuf Tarigami, a former minister and four-time legislator from the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM), told Al Jazeera.

Tarigami is convener and spokesman of the People’s Alliance of Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), a coalition of six parties demanding the restoration of the region’s autonomy and statehood.

He said a fallout of the BJP government’s 2019 decision has been “a process of throttling  of democracy and democratic rights, which have resulted in a forced silence” in the region.

“Unconscionable suppression of civil and democratic rights continues unabated. Indiscriminate arrests and harassment of all sections of our people, including government employees, on different pretexts continues.”

There are reports that the federal government has made future elections subservient to what is called delimitation, which means redrawing the region’s assembly constituencies. Residents fear the BJP aims to increase seats in the southern Jammu area of the region in order to reduce the representation of the Kashmir valley in the state assembly.

Suppression of civil rights

A 78-page report, titled Two Years of Lockdown: Human rights in Jammu and Kashmir, released by an Indian civil society group, Human Rights Forum Jammu and Kashmir, on Wednesday concluded that the security situation in the Himalayan region has worsened.

The report referred to rising cases of human rights violations including the crackdown on dissent, arrest of activists and use of draconian laws against journalists for doing their jobs.

“Indeed, new methods that endanger civilian security, political freedoms, government service, and media independence have been added. There appears to be little accountability for violations by the union government and security forces,” it said.

Indian security forces at the site of a rebel attack in Srinagar [File: Farooq Khan/EPA]

The report said close to 1,000 people are still in prison, including minors and elected legislators, some under stringent laws such as the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or UAPA.

Data from India’s National Crime Records Bureau shows 921 cases were registered in the region between 2014-2019, 500 of which were recorded in 2018 and 2019.

Lawyer and activist Habeel Iqbal told Al Jazeera that in the last two years, UAPA has been used in Indian-administered Kashmir as a “tool for tightening control over its population”.

“Apparently, it is done in the name of security concerns but the real motive seems to be political. People are detained for months without trial and the courts are being used to legitimise the police excesses and arbitrariness,” he said.

Soon after its 2019 decision, the BJP government closed down six semi-autonomous commissions in the region, including the State Human Rights Commission, Commission for Protection and Women and Child Rights, and Commission for Persons with Disabilities.

At the time of its closure, the region’s rights panel had at least 8,000 pending cases of torture , enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings and rapes. Thousands of families have been left without any hope for justice due to the closures.

Nearly a year after these commissions were shut, India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) raided the offices and residences of two top rights activists in the region: Parveena Ahanger, the head of the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, and Khurram Parvez, a member of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS).

After the raids, human rights activism in the region has been completely throttled.

JKCCS chairman Parvez Imroz told Al Jazeera that in the past two years, rights violations by India’s security forces have become more brazen in the restive region.

“[…] Because along with political impunity, they now enjoy moral impunity,” he said, adding that the “neutralisation of civil society and human rights groups” is against the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“Depriving people of their daily rights, using threats and intimidation to silence people … Whatever little agitation and protest victims used to have that space has been choked.”

A Kashmiri villager stands on the debris of a house destroyed in a gunfight in Pulwama, Indian-administered Kashmir [File: Dar Yasin/AP]

No end to violence

One of the arguments the BJP government had made while enforcing its 2019 decision was that the move will reduce the armed rebellion against the Indian rule in the region, which started more than 30 years ago.

But the records tell another story.

A local official, on condition of anonymity, told Al Jazeera that in the first seven months of 2021, at least 80 local youths have joined the rebellion. In 2020, 163 had joined, he said.

Last month, at least 31 armed rebels were killed in more than a dozen gun battles, with the trend showing there is no end to violence in the region.

Civilian fatalities have also risen. While 32 civilians were killed during protests or security operations last year, at least 19 civilians lost their lives in the first six months of 2021, report by a local civil society group says.

Yashwant Sinha, the former federal minister and member of Human Rights Forum Jammu and Kashmir, told Al Jazeera there is a lot of resentment among people because of what happened two years ago.

“The trust deficit has deepened. It is a sullen silence,” he said after his visit to the region last week.

“To tell you the truth, normalcy has not returned to the Kashmir valley. The fact that there is no stone-throwing in the streets and there are no demonstrations does not mean normalcy has returned.”

Fears of dispossession

After it tightened its grip over the region militarily, the federal government also introduced a series of policy decisions and abolished many historic land laws, which protected the land rights of the region’s natives for decades.

New Delhi on Tuesday released a 76-page document, Jammu and Kashmir: Marching to a new tune, highlighting the “achievements” of the government since August 5, 2019.

In the document, the government said it has issued four million domicile certificates issued to people to settle in Indian-administered Kashmir, including 55,931 certificates given to Hindu and Sikh refugees who came to the region in 1947 when the subcontinent was partitioned to form India and Pakistan.

The document further said that nearly 3,000 similar certificates were issued to members of the marginalised Valmiki community, who work as sanitation workers, and to hundreds of Gurkhas brought to Kashmir from Nepal. Until August 5, 2019, these individuals were not recognised as citizens of the erstwhile state.

However, the document is silent on the number of domicile certificates given to people from other Indian states, a silence that is heightening anxiety in the Muslim-majority region about New Delhi trying to alter its demography.

Besides, New Delhi has also thrown open other gates for the outsiders to settle in the region. Jobs earlier reserved for permanent residents of the region are now open to domicile certificate holders.

Moreover, in another disturbing trend, at least 11 government employees have been terminated from their jobs for “being a threat to the state”.

Local political analyst Sheikh Showkat Hussain told Al Jazeera the moves have created a fear of dispossession and loss of rights over jobs and land

“All the apprehensions people had about the status quo have proved true,” he said.

“They were apprehensive that if the status quo continues, they will be outnumbered by those who come from Indian states and they will be dispossessed of their land and identity. All of this has come true.”

Politician Tarigami said people of the region are “being ripped apart into smaller units, ripped off their jobs and rights over the natural resources that are theirs”.

Sinking economy

Perhaps the worst impact of the 2019 decision has been on the region’s economy, which traders and industrialists say has collapsed, with thousands of job losses and rising unemployment.

Sheikh Ashiq, the president of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry told Al Jazeera that  the region’s economy has suffered losses worth $7bn in two years of consecutive lockdowns, first due to the scrapping of the special status and later due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“When we were hoping to revive the trade after the 2019 lockdown, COVID-19 hit the region. We conveyed to the government the need for comprehensive support to revive the businesses,” Ashiq told Al Jazeera.

Ashiq said at least 500,000 Kashmiris have lost their jobs since 2019, including nearly 60,000 employed in the flagship tourism and horticulture sectors.

With the existing economy of the region on the verge of collapse, local businesses are not hopeful of new investments in the region.

“The businesses who have already invested their blood and money should be saved first,” said Ashiq.

Siddiq Wahid, the former vice-chancellor of the Islamic University of Science and Technology in the region, said New Delhi’s decisions have put even the BJP government “in a difficult position” by creating more trouble spots.

“It has worsened for Delhi,” he told Al Jazeera. “Now, it (government) has four trouble spots to control. The Jammu area feels economically deprived due to land rights that have been taken away from them. Ladakh is another spot as they are not happy with New Delhi because they were promised a union territory with powers of local authority which has not happened.”

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Indonesian economy grows for first time in five quarters – FRANCE 24



Issued on: 05/08/2021 – 09:24

Jakarta (AFP)

Indonesia’s economy bounced back in the second quarter to post its first growth in more than a year, but analysts warned the recovery might be short-lived as Covid-19 surges.

Southeast Asia’s largest economy grew by 7.07 percent in the April-to-June quarter compared with the same period last year, the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) said Thursday.

The figure is higher than a projection by the Central Bank of Indonesia, which predicted growth of 6.75 percent.

The expansion, the first positive figure in five quarters, was driven by a pick-up in exports and imports as Indonesia’s trading partners also saw greater activity.

“For the economy to keep growing, the key is how we manage the health sector, comply with health protocols and vaccinate people to reach herd immunity,” BPS head Margo Yuwono told a press conference.

Domestic consumption also contributed to the comeback with motorcycle and car sales jumping 2.5 and 7.5 percent respectively compared with the first quarter.

Greater business activity and more public mobility as a result of pandemic restrictions being relaxed also contributed to the recovery, Yuwono added.

But analysts believe Indonesia will struggle to record continued growth as a virus surge triggered by the Delta variant wracks the country.

“Indonesia’s economy is struggling badly, with Q2 GDP data showing that the recovery lost some momentum even before the latest surge in virus cases,” Gareth Leather, a senior Asia economist for Capital Economics, said in a statement.

The archipelago has reported more than 3.5 million infections and over 100,000 deaths from Covid-19 though official figures are widely believed to be an underestimate.

It has never implemented a full lockdown but introduced restrictions in early July limiting travel and non-essential business activity.

Last year the country’s economy shrunk 2.07 percent as it entered its first recession since the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

The central bank recently cut its 2021 GDP growth forecast to between 3.5 percent and 4.3 percent.

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Chilean Circular Economy Pioneer Poised for Expansion – Triple Pundit



Pay for the product, not the packaging. Start filling bottles, not landfills. These are just a few of the value propositions Algramo, a Chile-based company, has introduce in recent years. In business for a decade, Algramo is a circular economy game-changer … and still very much on the rise.

Algramo provides a self-service, cashless way to buy big brand cleaning products in a more sustainable way. Algramo stations – which are smart dispensing systems, sort of like vending machines – are set up at retail locations, including Walmart, throughout Chile. The process is simple: users download an app, charge their account, bring their reusable bottle to an Algramo dispenser and then select how much of the cleaning product they wish to buy.

Having just secured $8.5 million in funding from Mexico’s Dalus Capital, with participation from Angel Ventures, FEMSA Ventures, Volta Ventures, Impact Assets, University Venture Fund, Century Oak Capital and Closed Loop Partners’ Ventures Group, Algramo says it will launch pilot stations around the world.

Projects are already underway with retailers and distributors in Mexico, Jakarta, London and in New York locations to set up new stations. Algramo’s supply chain management initiative requires careful handling to promote its sustainable, bulk-refilling solution while also not upending existing supplier-retailer relationships.

Algramo’s initiative and distribution model captured the attention – early on – of some consumer packaged goods (CPG) giants, like Unilever, Nestlé and Colgate-Palmolive. As reported in a recent TechCrunch article, Algramo, in its early stages, had to make the business case to the big retailers and consumer grands of the world to provide bulk products in refillable containers to help consumers, the planet and these companies’ bottom lines. Recently, these large corporations have started to listen and respond at a local level – and have partnered with other companies to launch similar services in the process.

In the interview with Techcrunch, Algramo CEO José Manuel Moller said, “…we’re integrating into their supply chains, working with the retailers and the brand[s] so they don’t disrupt existing relationships. And actually, ordering the product in bulk saves them about 60 percent of the space.”

In addition to saving space by offering reusable bottles, any packaging costs, which can range from 10 to 30 percent of the product cost, are removed.

The result is a scalable way to bring together big brands and big retailers while saving customers money and mitigating single-use plastic waste. When customers refill their “smart reusable packaging” at an Algramo dispenser, they are rewarded with increased savings.

To date, Algramo’s total funding amount has totaled $11 million. This invested capital is supporting three key socially responsible investment themes: Climate innovation through mitigating plastic waste; business productivity by offering a true circular economy solution; and improving consumer accessibility by promoting inclusion and enabling consumer access to better priced, big brand products.

Once the latest pilot stations launch and if they operate successfully, Algramo can will be able to prove that its circular economy model performs well – even within the well-established, albeit ripe for disruption, retail and CPG sectors. The success of these global stations will increase Algramo’s valuation and should help to attract significant addition funding in the near future. Then, perhaps within the next several years, Algramo stations will become more prevalent – making access to consumer products, while eliminating plastic waste in the process, far more accessible to more consumers. This could be a likely win for everyone involved.

Image credit: Algramo/Instagram

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