Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Foreign Affairs on India 

Foreign Affairs, the in-house magazine of the influential Council on Foreign Relations, is carrying a special on India -- The Rise of India -- in its current issue. The lead piece on the India model is by Gurcharan Das, followed by a terrific piece on India and the balance of power by C. Raja Mohan (preview only). The other two articles are by Ashton Carter on the U.S.-India strategic partnership and by Sumit Ganguly on whether Kashmir will derail India's rise (preview only). I would strongly recommend anyone with an interest in India take a an hour or two to read this special edition of FA.

PS: I presume most of you already know that Time is carrying a special section on India as well. Absolute fluff when compared with the Foreign Affairs piece.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Bombay Racks up Another First 

In addition to having the largest slum in the world and a whole host of other unpleasant firsts to its credit, Bombay has racked up yet another first to its name. The survey on common courtesy run by the Readers Digest has annointed Bombay to be the rudest city in the world (among those surveyed, of course). Of course, given how hard life is in Bombay, it will come as no surprise that the city is so rude, or so the conventional wisdom will dictate. The trouble is the second most courteous city in the world is Sao Paulo, which follows ermmm New York. So much for that excuse then.
The survey found that...the culture of extending help, expressing gratitude when helped and talking politely are not part of everyday life in Mumbai. The magazine sent its over 2,000 reporters to gauge the politeness level of leading cities in 35 countries where it publishes from. The survey used three tests to take stock of the politeness factor -- dropping papers in a busy street to see if anyone would help, checking how often shop assistants said "thank you", and counting how often someone held a door open.

Mumbai's count in the test was lower than even Bucharest, the rudest of European cities. Asia, in general, scored low on the chart, with every city on the continent, excepting Hong Kong, finding a place among the bottom 10. New York topped the chart with a score of 80 per cent whereas in Sao Paulo, even miscreants were found saying "thank you", the survey said.
Needless to say, we will not run a check on the survey methodology used and so on. The Readers Digest is the gospel, after all.

The Inequality Business 

One of the key problems opponents of economic liberalization everywhere point to is the growth of inequality in newly liberalized economies. Some of this is real, while some is imagined. For example, India's gini has not changed appreciably since the reforms of 1991. At the same time, China and the U.S. have seen a considerable increase in their gini in the last 15 years.

The fact is that gross inequality is generally bad news for both the wealthy and the poor and everyone in between. The question though is whether you can a perfectly equal society. I would say that's impossible, as witnessed by the failed experiments at doing so within the Soviet spheres of influence. So, if inequality is inevitable in society, especially with increasing economic growth, the question is what are the parameters beyond which it becomes unacceptable? The Economist addresses the issue in its current issue and I could not agree more with their take on it.
Inequality is not inherently wrong—as long as three conditions are met: first, society as a whole is getting richer; second, there is a safety net for the very poor; and third, everybody, regardless of class, race, creed or sex, has an opportunity to climb up through the system.

Comments? Assuming anyone is reading this very infrequently updated blog anymore :)

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The NYT misspells Gandhi 

And it's sad (see para 10).