Monday, June 30, 2003

George Stigler and the Nobel 

I came across this one tonight. I havent been able to verify whether its apocryphal or not. I can only hope Stigler did actually say it :)

"George Stigler, Nobel laureate and a leader of Chicago School was asked why there were no Nobel Prizes awarded in the other social sciences, sociology, psychology, history, etc. "Don't worry", Stigler said, "they have already have a Nobel Prize in ...Literature"

BBC and the British govt 

Hugo Young writes in the Guardian on the ongoing scrap between Alastair Campbell and the BBC over the WMD allegations in Iraq. I have always maintained that the war in Iraq was probably justified, but for a different set of reasons than the ones proferred by messrs Blair and Bush, i.e. for the set of reasons that I'd like to see Mugabe and Taylor overthrown. I am glad the BBC is sticking to its guns unlike the jokers in the American media who seem to think that patriotism trumps all forms of objective reporting.

The BBC lives off a textured public understanding of this that took decades to embed in the national culture. No one else has reproduced it. In the US, Murdoch's Fox News sent wave after wave of bombers live into Baghdad accompanied by the national anthem. Patriotism before truth was the networks' guiding star, and even the panjandrums of the print were scared to crack it.

Gen. Wesley Clark in 2004? 

Gen. Wesley Clark has not yet announced whether or not he will run for the presidency in 2004. As attractive as he is as a candidate, especially in these troubled times in the Unted States, I think he should desist for now because his lack of experience in the political arena will prove a serious impediment, despite Eisenhower having pulled it off post-Columbia University and WWII with very little political experience. However, I think he would make a phenomenal vice-presidential candidate with any of the leading Democratic contenders. In fact, I think the only way the Democrats can win is by having someone like Gen Clark on the ticket, unless the fact that he is from Little Rock is held against him, like it was held against someone else we know. In the meanwhile, Ralph Nader, not content with the damage he did in 2000, is apparently considering a re-run for president. By some bizarre logic, he seems to think his presence will lead to more Democrats winning House and Senate seats. All the respect I once had for this man is pretty much gone now and will probably dissapear entirely if he decides to run again.

Vijay Mallya and politics 

I am extremely intrigued by Vijay Mallya's entry into politics. I really dont know what to make of it, though I did suspect he had some kind of political ambitions ever since I knew of his bankrolling the Asian Age's Bangalore edition. In a way, its very good news, especially if he manages to shake up the establishment a bit. I just wish he'd actually float a new political outfit rather than align himself with the tired old Janata Party. I have been strongly come around to the point-of-view that the time is right in India now to float an urban-centric, truly liberal, free market party -- socially liberal and fiscally conservative. Yes, it will not be a national alternative, but will have enough power from its ability to swing a coalition. And yes, I do believe that a party of this nature stands a chance simply because it will be ideologically articulate and honest. Maybe expecting Mallya to do this is asking for a bit much?

FDI revisions 

As I had mentioned in earlier post, the Indian government has adopted a new methodology to calculate FDI inflows, a methodology thats more in line with international practice. Accordingly the numbers have been revised for 2000-01 and 2001-02 and the new numbers are $4.03 billion and $6.13 billion respectively, an increase of $1.68 billion and $2.22 billion, according to the Financial Express. Impressive, but I'd still say far below potential.

Sunday, June 29, 2003

Richard Bernstein 

Just finished "Ultimate Journey" by Richard Bernstein. Bernstein traces the journey of Hsuan Tsang to India in search of spiritual enlightenment. I have been intrigued by Tsang since I read about him in Class VII history or some such. As I remember it, he provided a highly informative account of India at the time, something the Indians of the time didnt really bother doing. To that extent it was a good book, though I wish Bernstein would decide whether he was a spiritual junky or a travel writer instead of being a mish-mash of both. Moreover, he makes a lot of silly errors like calling Matunga Patunga and so on, which could easily have been avoided by him or a more attentive editor. William Dalrymple he is not, but a good read nevertheless.

Calculating GDP 

I have posed this questions to lots of people -- how much of income is under-reported in developing countries? Consequently, how much of the official GDP numbers are understated? Or does the government take into account this under-reporting and inflate the official numbers accordingly? What would the under-reporting be like? 20%? 25%? Where does the black/grey market fit? How about hoarded gold? Maybe I should pose this question to a macro-economist who works on this sort of thing rather than blog it.

Saturday, June 28, 2003

Indus Valley discoveries 

Scientific American is carrying a long-ish story on the lost Indus cities in its current issue. I have always been intrigued by the second-class citizen treatment meted out to the Indus civilization, especially since the script has not yet been cracked to reveal any conclusive proof either way. One can always hope that a Rosetta Stone will be found with the keys to unlock the script. For myself, I cannot wait to head to the Met for the exhibit on the great cities of old, which includes Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro as I understand it.

Howard Dean 

Howard Dean has won the virtual Democratic primary, far ahead of Kerry, Edwards etc. I am not sure its indicative of any real trend, but I think the mere presence of Dean has exerted a left-wards lurch within the Democratic party. This lurch has led to the party standing for even less that before, beyond the usual pro-common man nonsense. I think the Democrats in the US and the Congress party in India are both in a similar situation -- not being able to define what on earth they stand for while their opponents make a stand about 3 things and make that much clear to the public. What an unfortunate situation for the Democrats, especially after the miracle Clinton had pulled off with the party in the nineties.

Lexington introduces us to Howard Dean in this week's Economist -- one part McCain, two parts McGovern, and the last thing the Democrats need.

FDI numbers? 

The FDI that India manages to attract is a source of considerable angst to most India-watchers. Now the government seems to have made a decision to alter its method of alculating FDI inflows. According to the IFC, after a change of computation methodology, FDI would represent 2% of GDP for China and 1.7% for India, a source of comfort I am sure for the mandarins of Delhi. An editorial in the Business Standard talks about this decision by the Indian government.

The decision to re-calculate the foreign direct investment (FDI) figures will help make the Indian government's data comparable with that of other countries. Currently, the government's FDI statistics do not include re-invested earnings, subordinated debt, overseas commercial borrowings, inter-company debt transactions, loans, voluntary grants, financial leasing and trade credits -- all included in other countries FDI statistics.

India V China through ASEAN eyes 

It has always been interesting to read about ASEAN's reaction to the emerging rivalry between India and China. Today's Manila Times is carrying a story about the rivalry and its likely impact on the ASEAN economies.

Will China and India drive everyone else out of business? Already their neighbors could see their most vulnerable industries being sucked away—lured by wages that in China average about 60 US cents an hour in manufacturing, and whose rise, despite growing productivity, is restrained by the supply of reserve labor. India’s labor-cost base in some industries is even lower. Even so, the experts say Asean need not fear China’s or India’s emergence into the global economy. Trade benefits buyers and sellers alike. In fact, Asean businesses could reasonably expect their higher-value exports to China to rise. Already China buys more from Malaysia and Thailand than it sells to them.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

American Nationalism 

I have never been much of a fan of nationalism and the nation state. And when I see nationalists in India co-opt what is fundamentally a European concept with astonishing fervour at a time when the Europeans are trying out a different experiment, I have to wonder whether historical context matters to anyone. I have also been struck by how nationalistic Americans are despite their best attempts to deny this. A recent article in Foreign Policy addresses this issue extremely well.

As befits a nation of immigrants, American nationalism is defined not by notions of ethnic superiority, but by a belief in the supremacy of U.S. democratic ideals. This disdain for Old World nationalism creates a dual paradox in the American psyche: First, although the United States is highly nationalistic, it doesn’t see itself as such. Second, despite this nationalistic fervor, U.S. policymakers generally fail to appreciate the power of nationalism abroad.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Crib II 

Another favourite crib of mine is finally getting some redressal thanks to Vajpayee's visit to China -- the complete ignorance in the West of the two huge economies of the East that are waking up literally after centuries of slumber. The Economist carried it as a cover story and now Foreign Policy is carrying a story about it as well. Would be interesting to know if there is going to be a sustained interest in the two countries or whether the news will simply revert to Laci Peterson and/or the massive telecoms markets of Luxembourg.

Crib I 

I have a crib about airplane safety drills, which I have discussed with some of my friends. Every time I get onto an aircraft and hear the part about emergency procedures in case of a landing on water, I have to laugh. When was the last time anyone heard of an aircraft that landed on water and stayed afloat, while the passengers escaped? So, why on earth do they make that announcement? Does anyone know?

RISC meetings 

Just returned from India after a series of meetings with the RISC team including Rajesh, Atanu and Vivek. It was highly productive and we're hoping we can take the RISC concept to test-bed stage sometime soon. I firmly believe RISC is a concept whose time has come and if it will work anyplace, it will work in India. Watch this space for more....


This is it. I have taken the plunge and decided to start up a blog of my mine after spending a very long while reading other blogs. Thanks mainly to Rajesh for egging me on. Hopefully, I'll be motivated enough to post stuff here often.

Zoo Station 

Am I ready? Am I ready for the laughing gas? Am I ready? Am I ready for what's next?