Thursday, February 24, 2011

China's increasing economic clout will shuffle the present order and ruffle a few feathers, says Gyanendra Kashyap

IIPM BBA MBA Institute: Student Notice Board

Japan, once hailed as the 'economic miracle', an ascendant juggernaut on its way to rivaling the US, today finds itself in the midst of a political upheaval, increasing national debt and an aging population, producing a downward spiral. Given the difficulty in managing its economy, Japan was perhaps readying itself for the day when it would be eclipsed economically by China.

The uninterrupted economic ascent, that lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, saw China overtake Britain and France in 2005 and then Germany in 2007. Recently it has overtaken Japan to become the world's second-largest economy, thanks to the dynamism unleashed by Deng's reform. The Chinese economy expanded 11.1 per cent in the first half of the current year and is likely to log a growth of more than nine per cent for the whole year. If the estimates provided by the World Bank and Goldman Sachs are any indicator, then China is on its course to overtake the US and vault into the numero uno spot sometime around 2025. In the same time span, the number of households with an annual disposable income above $10,000 (in nominal terms) will almost quadruple from 57.1 million in 2010 to 222 million. The question to be pondered upon is whether the growing economic might of Beijing will bring to an end the existing global economic order. What will be the possible ramifications in the arenas of trade and diplomacy and military power? Does this imply that China is going to be a threat to the US economy?

Craig K Elwell, Marc Labonte and Wayne M Morrison of Congressional Research Service in their report prepared for the members and committees of Congress argue that from an economic standpoint, 'describing China's economic rise or its economic policies as an economic threat to the United States fails to reflect that China's growth poses both challenges and opportunities for the US.' Nevertheless, there are others who see China's rise as America's relative decline. Their concern ' the accumulation of US Treasury securities by China and the ever widening trade deficit. While some in the West fret about 'China price' and its impact on Western economies, there are some firms in the Western economies which will benefit from the increasing division of labour and so will those who have a stake in these firms. Ellen H Palanca, Director, Chinese Studies Program, Ateneo deManila University, mentions in paper China's Economic Growth: Implications to the ASEAN states that China's economic growth has presented market opportunities to the ASEAN countries instead of impediments to their economic growth. One can only hope that the positivity spreads to other economic blocks as well. It is logical that without economic, structural and political adjustments in the rest of the world to China's ascent, there will be political tensions that will inevitably frustrate (though not prevent) the redistribution of power in the global economy. From Beijing's point of view the larger question would be if such a fast growth can be sustained.

China's rise in terms of economic might has produced glaring contradictions. The economic disparity between an elite who profited the most from three decades of reform and its poor majority is so wide that China has dozens of billionaires while average income for the rest of its people is among the world's lowest. There are problems ranging from bad loans to an under-funded pension insurance scheme, the lack of rural health care system and bankrupt local governments.

China's rise as the number two economic powerhouse thrusts on it the mantle of increasing responsibilities in global affairs, requiring it to contribute positively to global stability, progress and prosperity through cooperation with other players in the global economic system. Will it live up to the expectations?

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Shahid Husain tries to interview President Obama but fails. However, he claims that he has not given up as yet


The other day, I sent an e-mail to Tim Kennedy whom I knew since my Daily Times days. He was a participant at IDEAS, a defence conference. I wrote: 'Tim do you remember me? I interviewed you in Karachi when I worked for Daily Times. I would love to meet you.' Tim replied instantly: 'Of course Shahid! I remember you!'

We met at a caf' over a cup of coffee. We talked for nearly two hours and exchanged ideas. I told him I was writing a book in Urdu based on my memoirs/ diaries, and a book in English entitled: 'Nature and Homosapiens.' I explained that I was very good at mathematics and literature when I was in school but my parents wanted me to become a doctor. But circumstances made me a journalist.

Tim asked me to read Old Walden Pond by Henry David Thoreaux, a 19th century writer who believed that humans become whole by returning to nature.

Also sent an e-mail to Clausane, an American scholar whom I interviewed in Karachi for my paper The News. He teaches at the American University, Washington. He was in Brazil and sent a message from there that he would be returning on July 29 and then we could fix an appointment.

I also requested President Obama for an interview. The President must be busy but if Dawn's Anwer can interview him, why can't I? Friends encouraged me not to give up. I always had a theory: Learn from your kids! Long ago in 1986, I wrote a piece in Urdu titled 'Ankhein' (Eyes) and showed it to Professor Haroon Ahmed, Pakistan's top psychiatrist. I used to talk to my daughter, Zoya, then three, and now a doctor who got married last year and lives happily in Dubai with her husband Mustafa, an engineer. Zoya would paint, write poetry, short stories, participate in debates and was also a very good student.

Dr. Haroon suggested that I should write in Urdu: 'Aap Urdu mein likha karein (You should write in Urdu!)," I remember his words. But, thought I, how was I going to sustain my family if I wrote in Urdu. The pay is meagre in Urdu papers and publications.

In the meanwhile, I have almost completed my book in Urdu. Some of my friends thought I was crazy. I ignored them. Writing has always been a passion for me and if work is a passion, one never gets tired of it.

Also received a message from Whitney, secretary to Taylor, president of an American life sciences association, that he would be available on August 10. He had shown keen interest in my theory on Nature.

Meanwhile, I have confirmed my ticket to Karachi for August 14. Many friends have become sad that I am going home instead of staying here. Immigration has allowed me to stay till December but I miss my family and feel lonely.

I also intend to meet my old friend in Illinois. We established Young Writers' Forum in 1972 when National Students' Federation (NSF) was showing signs of disintegration. It was my idea. And we organised wonderful programmes, including one on Pablo Naruda and Salvador Allende that was also broadcast from Radio Moscow.

Distinguished writers such as Ismat Chugtai, Ali Sardar Jafri and Kaifi Azmi participated in our programmes besides anthropologist and historian Syed Sibte Hasan, poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Muneer Niazi, Himayat Ali Shair, Mohsin Bhopali, and Fahmida Riaz.

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Our representatives: Democracy in peril

Today's voter wants a piece of his MP in person and bothers little about the latter's official duties.
Raghu Thakur,
Socialist leader and thinker

If there has been a visible change in the style of working as well as the integrity of the elected representatives of the people, I consider two or three incidents as the basic reason behind this. The voters have raised their expectations vis-'-vis their elected representatives. But these expectations are less concerned with the issues for which these representatives have been elected and more with the personal issues of the voters.

Today, voters don't give two hoots about what Bills their representatives present in the House or what issues they raise. They are least interested in issues pertaining to national and human interest. They are more concerned whether the MP or MLA can participate in a wedding in his house. They expect them to be present in their house on every major family occasion. For them, it becomes a status symbol. And if the elected representative has done his bit by participating in a family event, he does not have to give much thought to other issues.

Elected representatives have taken this as a red herring. They have understood the demand of the people and have found out that long-term responsibility is one thing that does not figure in that list. I have seen these representatives drawing up what they call a 'source list'. These extensive lists have full details of social events that take place in the houses of influential persons in his constituency. The representatives participate in such functions almost religiously. This also helps them in other ways. It gives the impression that the representative is accessible and people-friendly. At times, when on a particular day, there is more than one such function, the family members of these elected representatives pitch in. Now a protocol list of sorts is prepared. It is obviously based on priority. The really important hosts are given top priority and the representative makes it a point to attend those functions personally. The lesser mortals get to host his wife and children. On any given day, the houses of these representatives appear unnaturally busy. One can see the cars running to and from their homes'not to fulfill that representative's responsibilities and obligations, but to attend these functions. My assessment is that an average elected representative has to dole out close to 20 lakh per year on attending such functions and bringing gifts. Now there is a catch there. Since he is an MP or an MLA, he'll have to carry a gift that suits his status. And for that, he needs money. Soon, it becomes a vicious cycle. But the purpose is fulfilled. The representative has successfully cultivated the image of an accessible representative. Who gives a damn about where the money for the gift came from.

The MPLAD funds are utilised in such largesse. It also acts as the capital fund for the subsequent elections. Similarly, the voters also expect direct monetary benefits from their representatives rather than developmental work. The representatives also dole out contracts to oblige them. There are very few representatives who don't take kickbacks or commissions in these tenders. If the prevailing kickback rate for an officer is 15 per cent, the corresponding figure for the elected representatives is close to 30 per cent. The voters have nourished this kickback system in such a way that it runs down to local bodies as well.

Also, for the voters, an accessible representative means one who can get their personal work done in jiffy. Even if that work concerns a lowly clerk at the block level, people want their representative's blessings to get the files moving. Representatives also don't think twice before shooting off a letter to them. They are neither concerned about their integrity and dignity nor worried about transgressing their jurisdiction. While shooting off these letters, they have a clear idea as to where their letter would get things moving and where it will be treated merely as a piece of paper. Also, there is a sort of understanding between these representatives, ministers and bureaucrats.

This sort of arrangement has evolved because of the changing nature of the expectations that voters have from their representatives. Parliament House has become the hub of brokering and liaison between these representatives and the government. Deals are struck in the chambers of the ministers. It is deplorable that both voters and their representatives have become corrupt. It is a warning bell for our democratic system.

But it was not like that always. Every party had a popular base then and they used to think about the entire society. Even with all its failings, the Congress workers used to care for the concerns of every social segment and not just the section that used to vote them. But today, the voters are polarised on caste and religious lines. That is why there are political parties that think of themselves as guardians of a particular caste or community.

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Left's Lalgarh dilemma: The communists and TC on collision course over rally


The Lalgarh rally is giving sleepless nights to the communists in West Bengal after Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee announced her plan to address a gathering on August 9 here. The Left government doesn't know how to tackle the issue.

It is showing apprehension in giving permission to TC and other social activists, including Swami Agnivesh and Medha Patkar, to hold such public meetings in the Naxal-hit Paschim Medinipur district. But Mamata is adamant and says: 'I am firm on going to Lalgarh on August 9. Let me see who stops me.'

Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee says the situation in the Maoist stronghold is not conducive for such rallies. Once again, the state government and TC are on collision course.

Swami and Medha are also planning to hold the rally on the same day under the aegis of 'Santras Birodhi Mancha' (Anti-terror Forum). Swami has been appointed by the Centre as the interlocutor for talks with the CPI (Maoists). The rally is being taken out to protect the rights of the locals in Lalgarh. For the last one year the region has been under Section 144 Criminal Penal Code. The section prohibits demonstrations, rallies, processions, carrying of arms and other lethal weapons and assembly of five or more people.

Mamata has charged the government with stalling democracy in Lalgarh, Salboni and Goaltore areas. But the government is least moved with these allegations. The authorities argue that they are only taking steps that could ensure peace in the disturbed area. The government claims that the situation in and around Lalgarh has improved after killings of some 'top level' Maoists. Some intellectuals say: if the situation has improved then why is the government stopping us from organising peaceful rally in the region.

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IIPM BBA MBA Institute: Student Notice Board