Monday, March 20, 2006
"SAVING IS SIN, SPENDING IS VIRTUE" “Japanese save a lot. They do not spend much. Also Japan exports far more than it imports. Has an annual trade surplus of over $100 billions. Yet Japanese economy is considered weak, even collapsing. Americans spend, save little. Also US imports more than it exports, and has an annual trade deficit of over $400 billion. Yet, the American economy is considered strong and trusted to get stronger. But where from do Americans get money to spend? They borrow from Japan, China and even India. Virtually others save for the US to spend. Global savings are mostly invested in US, in dollars. India itself keeps its foreign currency assets of over $50 billions in US securities. China has sunk over $160 billion in US securities. Japan's stakes in US securities is in trillions. Result: The US has taken over $5 trillion from the world. So, as the world saves for the US, Americans spend freely. Today, to keep the US consumption going, that is for the US economy to work, other countries have to remit $180 billion every quarter, which is $2 billion a day, to the US! Otherwise, the US economy would go for a six. So will the global economy. The result will be no different if US consumers begin consuming less. A Chinese economist asked a neat question. Who has invested more, US in China, or China in US? The US has invested in China less than half of what China has invested in US. The same is the case with India. We have invested in US over $50 billion. However, the US has invested less than $20 billion in India. Why the world is after US? The secret lies in the American spending, that they hardly save. In fact they use their credit cards to spend their future income. That the US spends is what makes it attractive to export to the US. So US imports more than what it exports year after year. The result: The world is dependent on US consumption for its growth. By its deepening culture of consumption, the US has habituated the world to feed on US consumption. But as the US needs money to finance its consumption, the world provides the money. It's like a shopkeeper providing the money to a customer so that the customer keeps buying from the shop. If the customer will not buy, the shop won't have business, unless the shopkeeper funds him. The US is like the lucky customer. And the world is like the helpless shopkeeper financier. Who is America's biggest shopkeeper financier? Japan of course. Yet it is Japan, which is regarded as weak. Modern economists complain that Japanese do not spend, so they do not grow. To force the Japanese to spend, the Japanese government exerted it self, reduced the savings rates, even charged the savers. Even then the Japanese did not spend (habits don't change, even with taxes,do they?). Their traditional postal savings alone is over $1.2 trillions, about three times the Indian GDP. Thus, savings, far from being the strength of Japan, has become its pain. Hence, what is the lesson? That is, a nation cannot grow unless the people spend, not save. Not just spend, but borrow and spend. Dr. Jagdish Bhagwati, the famous Indian-born economist in the US, told Manmohan Singh that Indians wastefully save. Ask them to spend, on imported cars and, seriously, even on cosmetics! This will put India on a growth curve. "Saving is sin, and spending is virtue." Before you follow this neo economics, get some fools to save so that you can borrow from them and spend. This is what US has successfully done in last few decades."
Friday, March 10, 2006
This is the question that people ask if woman's day be celebrated. Some show solidarity and some comment about giving undue priveleges to women. Some feel it only encourages sex discrimination. I myself ain’t any feminist but I still feel that the situation has not changed much in India in 21st century. When I came across with blank noise project,which has taken the cudgel to create awareness about exploitation of women, it gave me a grim reminder of problems encountered in my life as a woman.Harassment of women happens everywhere in villages, towns, cities, metros and not to leave our capital state. These rumblings are related to the problems I faced coz of gender not that I am ashamed of being a woman. When I was 12 year old, it was for the first time, I realized to my horror about molestation. I had developed camaraderie with an old man who was on a short visit to his daughter. I was looking for help for an elocution contest and he being a retired professor, came to my rescue. He introduced me to the concept of pen friends. I used to write regularly to him for a year. When he came for another visit to his daughter, he came down to my place. When he bade me goodbye, I was surprised about the kiss on my lips instead of cheek. I did not protest, as I never quite understood the situation. My parents were only in the next room. I just figured out that something was not right. When I related the incident to my mom, she was quite distraught and then she patiently explained me about a male touch which is bad and I was quite confused about how can a touch be bad. Anyway i learned my first lesson in quite the hard way, that a woman should not easily trust men, age no bar,education no bar. Next time I realized about my gender was when I was preparing for IIT. My teacher who used to teach me at school did not quite like the idea of a girl bunking her classes and preparing for IIT. My tuition mates for the IIT classes were all boys and the treatment meted out was like for a downtrodden class. I had to prove myself every time painfully that a girl is not as bad as you think. She has some goddamn brain. While in my final year in engineering college, I found how some boys did not quite like women getting placed before them. They have a theory that when a girl honed with BTech degree is going to get a good catch (husband), what is the point in wasting a precious seat of the professional college. They are infact ruining the life of some guy who could have got that job and support his family and future wife. There was another incident,during my graduation which I still remember vividly. I was on my way to my granny’s place and so I boarded a train for Mahe. There is no separate ladies compartment in Kerala and I was pathetically alone. While climbing overboard along with a huge crowd, I felt someone grabbing my stomach from behind. I got so agitated and scared that I literally scratched some parallel lines on that hand with my sharp nails. Throughout the journey of two hours, I was painfully aware that someone in that train would avenge for the terrible pain. I was luckily spared but the moral of the story is that definitely long nails come handy for girls. I still feel very content on teaching that pervert a good lesson. While I was working alone in Delhi, I remember how my parents used to live on the edge. On one edition of Times of India, when Delhi was declared unsafe for women,my dad hit the ceiling. It was so difficult convincing my dad that I want to chase my dream and I will be safe.While I used to return from north campus to south campus on bus, it was scary when there were no women and some men curiously watching you. I used to keep my finger on the mobile or in some situation act as if talking to someone on mobile. Huh! On top of it, you have to prove repeatedly that you are not “that type of girl”. Don’t ask me the definition of “that type of girl.” Bombay is comparatively better than Delhi in that respect. Buses in Mumbai are much safer than Delhi’s yellow line or blue line. Thankfully, there is ladies compartment which definitely makes life easier. Talk about getting accomodation for single woman in mumbai, it is like looking for needle in hay stack. The building society will infact ask you to prove virginity and grill thorougly on your personal details .The fact still holds true that life for a single woman is tough. She needs a father, brother, boyfriend or boys to take care of her otherwise all her energy is chanelled on defending her everywhere and everytime.
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Ayn Rand’s “we the living” is yet another beautiful story about men and issues of freedom versus dictatorship. The protagonist Kira Argounova is born in Russia and the story revolves around Russia in nineties-twenties. It is about communism and their ideals that men must exist for the states, how a man is robbed of his dreams and aspirations made incapable to think and transformed into a degenerated being. Ayn Rand draws the point that not only the communist methods are loathsome even the ideals. The ideas, which harps, on men must live for the state, destroying the self, which distinguishes men from fellow men, sacrificing the few talented ones for the masses who are supposed to think collectively and chew on the thoughts put into their brains by state. Men are not equal in ability and hence they should not be treated in the same way. The plot is set during the rise of communism in Russia, the birth of U.S.S.R. Against the panorama of political revolution and personal revolt, the writer shows what the theory of socialism means in practice. Kira Argounova is a strong character who dreams of building bridges, towers and never succumbs until the end, struggling for her existence behind the red banners and slogans of communism. She is a fighter who fights until the end. The other character portrayed is Leo Kovalensky and Andrei Taganov. Leo is an egotist, an individualist, a man who lives for his values. His life under the rule of physical force become endurable for him and his beliefs are crushed. He retaliates by drowning his mind and thereby losing the ability to care any longer what is done to him. Andrei by contrast, is explicitly committed to opposite ideas; he accepts the principle of selflessness and collectivism as his moral idea and even spills blood for them but deep sub conscious he is at war with his actions. When he discovers that his whole life was a lie, he commits suicide. The rise and fall of Soviet communism is one of the most amazing stories in human history. The principal figure in the genesis of Russian communism was the radical socialist Vladimir Lenin. Like Marx, Lenin believed in the necessity of political revolution to achieve communism. He urged Russia’s Marxists to build a party of professional revolutionaries that would shape the consciousness of the masses and fight unflinchingly for the revolution. In time, the Communist Party emerged as the real power behind government under leaders such as Vladimir Lenin, Nikita Khrushchev, and Mikhail Gorbachev. In theory, private enterprise did not exist under Soviet communism. However, in practice, it thrived, with the tacit approval of Party authorities.The government nationalized banks, insurance companies, railroads, and large factories, forbade most private commerce, and seized grain from the rural population, undermining peasant support for the regime. Under the rigors of War Communism, inflation soared, production plummeted, and millions of urban dwellers trekked to the countryside to feed themselves by working the land. Famine, disease, and deprivation became rampant, and much of the country’s infrastructure was destroyed. In total, an estimated 7 million to 8 million people died during the Russian Civil War, more than 5 million of whom were civilians. Thousands of intellectuals perished in the terror wave of the 1930s, and smaller numbers died in persecutions. The war promoted the centralization of Communist power and a preference for force over persuasion. The party had become increasingly coercive and authoritarian, and was now a bureaucratic apparatus beginning to be dominated by a ruling elite of senior officials. In addition, the economic situation in Russia was catastrophic. Under the notorious Josef Stalin, it created a society that was long on fear and repression and short on personal initiative and material goods. Under Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov, and Konstantin Chernenko, it established a system that seemed not to care about its citizens at all. It is amazing to know about the harsh truths of the soviet life as it was actually lived and later leading to the collapse of the entire soviet structure.
Thursday, March 02, 2006
Alone And Drinking Under The Moon Amongst the flowers I am alone with my pot of wine drinking by myself; then lifting my cup I asked the moon to drink with me, its reflection and mine in the wine cup, just the three of us; then I sigh for the moon cannot drink, and my shadow goes emptily along with me never saying a word; with no other friends here, I can but use these two for company; in the time of happiness, I too must be happy with all around me; I sit and sing and it is as if the moon accompanies me; then if I dance, it is my shadow that dances along with me; while still not drunk, I am glad to make the moon and my shadow into friends, but then when I have drunk too much, we all part; yet these are friends I can always count on these who have no emotion whatsoever; I hope that one day we three will meet again, deep in the Milky Way. A poem by Li Po.
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
Finally, the Coalition government presented its third Union Budget and did it make any difference to our way of life. I doubt. Surprisingly there was nothing unique about the budget. Seems like our Finance Minister did not wanted to take any chances with the Leftist or the critics. This time it seems he had done a prior consultation and maybe that is the reason that disinvestment was not mentioned anywhere. It was a mediocre budget. There was nothing new to steer the economy and no unpleasant surprises. When you have a competent team like Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Man Mohan Singh and P.Chidambaram, drafting it, the expectations runs high and people expect some out of the box thing. This budget comes in the wake of a booming economy. Sensex is creating new records everyday, rupee has become easily convertible and GDP is growing at a steady rate. The finance minister could have acted, as a catalyst in this emerging market by bringing in some bold initative to boost the GDP from 8 to 10%. The economy has anyway has become an autopilot. The coalition governments have hardly played any role in the growing of economy and it was infact good that the government does not affect the market but now our democracy has changed from passive to active state. The Govt should pitch in to bring new reforms and ensure that growth is trickling down to the whole mass. This year budget brings no new taxes and thankfully, there are no dampeners this year like FBT and tax on withdrawing money like last year. FM could have infact scrapped the fringe benefit tax rather than bringing it down to 5% from 20%. Levying tax on ATM’s is not a very good idea. It affects the low middle-income groups badly but looking into the brighter side, everyone can now purchase the cheaper cars, which has become cheaper and have lots of beverage, which has also become cheaper(pun intended). For me, the budget brings no new plans. I still have to pay the same tax where some tax is deducted at the source and the rest; I only worry when the last date of filing tax is announced. Thankfully, I do not have to go through the chores of filling the long application form, which anyway the company accountant fills it. The Government could have made filing returns little easier. I am still trying to figure out how much money i will be shelling as service tax. The service tax is still a mystery , dunno when and where money slips from finger.