Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Sluggish growth for Indonesia; Tesla Motors two years ahead of production schedule; India's 27-million court case logjam

1 Sluggish growth for Indonesia (Chia Yan Min in Straits Times) Indonesia's economy logged disappointing growth in the first three months of the year amid weak commodity prices. Other Asian economies have also announced anaemic numbers, including Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea, due to lacklustre export growth across the region.

Analysts saw the latest data, which came in below expectations, as a setback to President Joko Widodo's efforts to implement reforms and rejuvenate the economy of South-east Asia's largest nation. Indonesia's economy grew 4.92 per cent in the first quarter compared with the same period last year, down from 5.04 per cent in the fourth quarter.

Economists said the weak showing was largely due to a slowdown in government spending and investment, and a decline in exports. The Indonesian economy grew 4.79 per cent last year, its slowest pace since 2009. Despite the disappointing data, some observers are optimistic that growth in the nation of 255 million people will pick up later in the year.

2 Tesla two years ahead of production schedule (BBC) Tesla Motors says it is on track to produce 500,000 vehicles in 2018, two years earlier than expected. On Wednesday, the electric carmaker reported a first quarter loss of $282m up from $154m last year.

The loss was in line with investors' expectations, and the announcement that it was increasing production sent its shares up 4% in after-hours trading. Tesla had been struggling to ramp up production of its cars including its newest Model X SUV. Production of the Model X rose from 507 in the fourth quarter of 2015 to 2,659 in the first quarter of 2016.

The company confirmed it was on track to deliver 80,000 to 90,000 electric vehicles this year. Tesla said it had seen demand rise across all its models, especially its Model 3 - the carmaker's first mass-market product. Deliveries of the Model 3 are due to hit the market in 2017 and the company received 325,000 orders for the car within a week of announcing it. This could result in $14bn in future sales.

To meet that demand Tesla has cut two years off its timeline for ramping up production. Tesla said its capital expenditure - money spent to grow the company - would probably increase by 50%. Some investors have been concerned about Tesla's cash flow. The company has been spending money to increase its manufacturing facilities. Though it has seen orders rise, the carmaker has yet to make a profit.

3 India’s 27-million court case logjam (Vidhi Joshi in The Guardian) More than 22 million cases are currently pending in India’s district courts. Six million of those have lasted longer than five years. Another 4.5 million are waiting to be heard in the high courts and more than 60,000 in the supreme court, according to the most recently available government data. These figures are increasing according to decennial reports.

Last week, Chief Justice of India’s supreme court, Tirath Singh Thakur broke down while addressing the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, blaming the government for inaction over judicial delays, particularly for failing to appoint enough judges to deal with the huge backlog of pending cases.

In the government’s budget for 2016, only 0.2% of the total budget was given to the Law Ministry, one of the lowest in the world. The number of cases, however, is only a part of the problem. Take a walk through any court building in India and you’ll see long queues of people waiting outside courtrooms without any guarantee of getting a complete hearing.

India has one of the world’s lowest judges to population ratios in the world, with only 13 judges per million people, compared to 50 in developed nations. As a result, judges hear scores of cases every day, which leads to a large number of adjournments, multiple judges passing cases between them, and increasingly long queues of people waiting outside courtrooms on the off chance that their case is heard.

Judges are paid little compared to lawyers, which has led to a steady decline in the quality of judges. To add to the burden, lawyers frequently use delaying tactics such as appealing verdicts endlessly, or saying they’re sick or failing to show up to court. The legal logjam has led to overcrowded prisons, with more than 68% of the prison population still under trial. Some prisons are over two or three times over capacity.

Attempts to improve the system have seen little success. After the horrific gang rape of a medical student in Delhi, a series of fast-track courts were set up to speed up cases concerning violence against women. It hasn’t made much of a difference. Over 93% of rape cases are still pending trial. Trivial matters hold up the case’s progress.

In the absence of speedy justice, vigilantism thrives. Groups defending women’s rights such as the Gulabi Gang or the Love Commandos are infamous for taking their revenge in cases of domestic violence and honour killings. Corruption too, is endemic. People would rather bribe a police officer or a judge than go through the lengthy hassle of a trial.

Meanwhile, the impunity that criminals may enjoy because of how slowly the legal system operates, is exemplified by India’s elected politicians. One of every three politicians currently sitting in the Indian parliament have criminal records, with the vast majority of those involved in serious cases such as rape, murder, or kidnapping.

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