Thursday, May 31, 2012

Looking East to Indonesia - Yudhoyono's interview with WSJ

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
Yesterday, I was reading Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's interview with Wall Street Journal. With a vision for progress, backed by solid record in economy Yudhoyono is one of the major leaders from South East Asia. For those who are still sceptical about Indonesia and her president let me remained you that Indonesia with a per capita income of $3000(per year) beat India in growth rate for the last two quarters, and expected to grow more than 6% this year. If things are going in this way, India will have to struggle very hard to recover the position of second fastest growing major economy in the world.

Some of the major points I like to point out form the interview are,

1. "I hope that the pro-growth, pro-poor, pro-job, and pro-environment strategy will create more tangible results. I also hope that Indonesia makes more progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals."

2. “Indonesia will need more products and services, including from other countries”.

3. “Our total trade value with the world continues to increase. To give some numbers, from 2010-2011, our export value has increased by 30% from $157.8 billion to $203.5 billion. Following such a trend, our import has increased by 31% during the same period, from $135.66 billion to $177.43 billion”

4. “Total inflow of foreign direct investment into Indonesia has increased quite significantly by 20% from 2010 to 2011, from US$16.21 billion to US$19.47 billion”.

5. “For our domestic industry, this trend of international trade has opened up new markets and export destinations for Indonesian abroad. Nevertheless, at the same time, it also opens up Indonesia for foreign products. This challenges our domestic industry to remain competitive by being innovative, creative, and efficient. They have to uplift their capabilities to be on par with other global players”. 

6. “Indonesia also endeavours to "make life easier for investors": I have told my officials that we can no longer do business as usual. We seek to create a more conducive investment climate and address the inefficiency. For that, Indonesia has taken some measures to conduct serious bureaucratic reforms and streamline the process to start business in the country”.

7. “My government is determined and committed to eradicate corruption in this country... more people brought to justice, and also more people being charged for their wrong doings. This is simply unprecedented. It is also noteworthy that in respecting the principle of equality before the law, even high-ranking government officials have been charged as they were proven guilty”.

8. “With regards to regulations in Indonesia, government officials are obliged to disseminate the regulations to the public and also provide information when being requested by the public. If there is any confusing regulation, companies should not hesitate to consult with the relevant government officials”.

9. “In the case of Indonesia, Islam and democracy can go hand-in-hand. Indonesia is the largest Muslim population in the world, but we are not an Islamic state. We have shown that Islam, democracy, and modernity can live together in harmony”. 

India really needs to look east. Instead of wasting time in never ending political gambles and other energy consuming activities we have to sit together and check where it went wrong in our economy? It’s not that we are not doing anything, but at the same time simply doing something won't take us anywhere.


For reading the full interview please visit WSJ - Yudhoyono: Still Lots to Do

Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia

Monday, May 28, 2012

Postal department's 6.5% discount on gold and Government's duty

From when gold became an essential commodity for the survival of human beings? There is no doubt that yellow metal holds a special place in Indian society. People often struggle to buy a piece of it at any cost. Yet, all these factors don't justify the decision of Postal depatment to sell gold at a special discount of 6.5%. That too at a time when rupee is accelerating its downward journey, petrol prices are flying over the head, budget deficits are jumping from hills to mountains.

Well this is the full news,

Government’s Press Release

"Delhi Postal Circle has announced a special discount on purchase of Gold Coins of any denomination in any quantity on the eve of "Guru Pushy Nakshtra" which falls on 26th May 2012. The gold coins are available through 31 Post Offices in National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi. Customers can walk into the nearest identified Post Offices to avail special discount of 6.5%. This discount is valid only for 26th May 2012.

This offer is available in Post Offices in Delhi identified for the sale of Gold coins. These Gold coins with unique logo of India Post are available in denominations of 0.5 gm, 1 gm, 5 gms, 8 gms, 10 gms, 20 gms, and 50 gms for sale across the counters at all the important Post Offices. These coins are of 24 carat 99.99% purity from Valcambi, under Swiss certification and are available in tamper proof packaging. These Gold Coins have the benefits like internationally recognized certification, low risk of duplication, quality packaging, product standardization and numbering with assayer certification"

Some questions

It’s a good idea to sell gold coins through post offices so that people can buy pure and certified gold through its branches. At the same the press release raises two important questions,

1. Why postal department is giving 6.5% off on price for a non-essential commodity like gold? That too at a time when the gold prices almost touches the shiny surface of moon.
2. Why only in NCT Delhi?

Postal department created and running by government money should make it more responsible towards needs of the citizens at the same time it should make profits to justify its existence. It’s not a hidden fact that postal is not a money minting machine for government. Especially at a time when the department is struggling to retain its market share and profits against private courier companies. So why department is giving 6.5% subsidy on gold? More interesting thing is why it is restricted to NCT Delhi? If postal department wants to do something like that then why it’s not an all India offer instead of restricting to 31 post offices in NCT Delhi? After all, all of us can't go to Delhi to buy gold with special discount!!!


It’s understandable when government empties is pocket to give subsidies on essential commodities. Government’s urging to give quality products to citizens is also understandable. But not 6.5% discount for a non-essential commodity like gold.


Photo Courtesy: IndiaPost, Government of India, later edited to suit this article

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Some thoughts on increasing petrol, diesel rates vs. Raspberry Pi

For those who didn’t hear about Raspberry Pi, let me explain what it is. Raspberry Pi is a single board skeleton computer running on Linux, developed by Raspberry Pi foundation. Aim of this small computer is to popularize computer science and programming among school kids. Cost of the system is just $25!!! Followed by Pi, Via technologies (Taiwan) released APC and Rikomagic (China) released MK802. These two are using Android system.

Technological innovations like Pi are not alone in its category. There are so many others - small and big but efficient devices which can do keyhole surgery to transporting humans to moon. Over the years these devices become smaller and more efficient. At the same time some devices and technologies wiped out from the face of the earth or replaced by more efficient ones. Unfortunately in the case of oil and gas, six decades back also we were fighting, and now also we are fighting for that!!!

Rising Oil Prises in India

The country's state-run oil firms announced a steep 11.5% increase in the price of petrol on Wednesday (March 23rd) to offset growing losses caused by subsidised rates, rises in the international oil price and a plunging rupee. Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) chairman R.S. Butola said the refiners had been forced to impose the price hike after sustaining losses of up to Rs 500mn ($9mn) a day since the start of the current financial year (2012) on April 1.

Why Oil and Gas?

Why we are feeling so helpless in front of oil and gas? Even after spending decades under the grip of oil shocks why we are unable to break this bond? It’s not that pumping oil is as easy as pumping water from a river. Over the years oil companies created such a highly sophisticated infrastructure and technology that now-a-days even the deep sea floors are not free from human intervention. However, all the countries are not blessed by this liquid money minting machine. Many countries are struggling to meet their domestic demand for oil and feeling total helplessness in the face of huge outflow of hard earned foreign exchange in the form of payment for oil and gas imports.

Is it because of our inability to find alternate fuel sources or our non-interest in finding one? Sometimes, I feel the second one is more correct. Consider the case of atom bomb; people didn’t know how to make it, there was not much idea on whether it was feasible or not. In spite of all these difficulties humans did it; that too in a short period of time. Why? Only to add another show piece to the list of achievements? No, because it was a war time emergency and countries were ready to their best of resources to develop it.


As the old proverb goes ‘if these is a will there is a way’. But do we have to wait for another world war to create a will? to find an answer for oil and gas? to run machines ranging from irrigation jet pumps to jet engines without fearing another oil shock? Can’t we take project of finding an alternate fuel source as a war time emergency? Economically viable alternate fuel sources are the alternative to escape from the ever increasing oil prices. Some Jetropha here some ethanol there and some hybrid cars in some other place won’t work in the long term, what we need to sustain our growth engine is an economy running on alternate fuel.

So next time when you will walk to the streets to protest against the rising oil prices or asking questions in parliament, make sure that you are not part of the problem but part of the solution. Raise the issue of inventing alternate fuel sources as a war time emergency instead of halting the entire country for another day...


Photo courtesy - Wikipedia, later edited to suit this article

Thursday, May 24, 2012

From License Raj to Clearance Raj – Doing business in India

We often did the indigestible, but right things, when we were boxed to a corner without any escape route. Government put an end to License Raj at the highest point of balance of payment crisis. In those days we were able to bring in many reforms, which may not see the light of the day in ordinary times. But is it obligatory to convert this behaviour in to a custom?

Belatedly the voices coming from PM Office indicates that, even though we are not ready to cure the illness when it starts to show the symptoms, we are atleast ready to take medicines before it reaches the chronic stage.

The issue here is the Clearance Raj - the successor of License Raj. According to an estimate from Government, in order to set up a power project, companies required around 58 clearances from various centre/state/local ministries and departments. You can imagine how many months (if not years) are needed for acquiring all these licenses (in case it ever happens)!!!

Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV)

In this situation the decision to create a separate SPV and shifting the entire clearance issues to it is an ideal way to go forward. If clearances are secured before the project is up for auction, then it will really take the burden off from the heads of private companies. But, like many other ideal decisions will this also end up as another clearance agency?

Ease of doing business in India

As per 9th report entitled ‘Doing Business 2012’, of World Bank, India ranks a pathetic 132 out of 183 participating countries (Of course we registered an improvement of 7 points from 2011 report). It’s not that we are not doing anything to provide a friendly single window for business and investment.

We have policies like MCA-21, Investment Policy liberalization, Single Window Systems by State Governments, Single window for payment of income tax and corporate tax, ICE-Gate for online filing of custom and exercise documents, Right to Information Act 2005 and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Act 2006 etc are some of the right steps in this path.

In addition, the Government has initiated the implementation of the eBiz Project - to provide an online single window to investors & businesses for registrations, filing, approvals, clearances etc. Here all business and investment related regulatory services across Central, State and Local governments will be available on a single portal.

A salary linked request tracking system is the need of time

Will these agencies help in making the real progress without a radical change in organizational culture? We often boast that our economy is a service economy, at the same time fail to implement something which our service companies done successfully in customers care - The escalation Matrix.

Government should start an electronic system of Issue/Request logs. Each request by the common man or corporate entity should be registered in the system as a Request to the government. If the customer is not getting any response within a certain period of time request should be escalated to senior officers, if they are also sleeping on the request then it should be escalated to next higher level.

It may be a good idea, but this won’t work unless there are come incentives to do it. So performance linked pay (over the normal or as part of normal salary) should be introduced for government employees. This will allow the file to move fast without the push by Gandhian notes.


As a start SPV may a good idea but if are not making someone responsible for execution in a time bound manner, companies may have to seek one more clearance in the future - from SPV - making the total tally to 59 (in power sector).


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

60 years of Indian Parliament and the resolution to uphold the dignity and sanity

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, R. K. Shanmukham Chetty, Syama Prasad Mookerjee – all have something in common. All of them were members in the first cabinet of Independent India headed by J.Nehu; at the same time they were not congress men. Nehru took them to the cabinet even though they didn’t subscribe congress policies. That's the way Indian parliament worked in her early days.

From there we reached a stage were election commission had to reschedule the polls to RajyaSabha over the allegation of money power and horse trading. Adjourning LS and RS happens so often that, it will be great wonder if parliament can complete a full session without any walkout or forced adjournment.

In these days, can we imagine any ruling party giving 3 cabinet births to opposition members based on their merit? Now-a-days from deciding candidates name for elections to the final formation of ministry parties will calculate all the caste, religion permutations and combinations to find out the chance for them - all in the name of democracy!!! It’s not a rare incident to see the photos of candidates visiting the religious leaders before elections in the newspapers!!! What more, one CM even gave away his home portfolio to another minister to console all the communities and keep the religious ratios intact.

Even the numbers of people getting elected to parliament with criminal records are not coming down. Another worrisome matter is the role money in elections. How many of you saw 1 lakh INR in hard cash at a place? Now-a-days we are hearing about the seizure of crores of rupees from abandoned as well as moving cars and other vehicles before elections!!!

In a way it is interesting to see that the LS had to pass a resolution to uphold the dignity and sanity of the institution!!! Even now the hopes are not over. The beauty of democracy is whatever the representatives’ do; they have to come to the people’s court at least once in 5 years. And the election commission is doing everything they can do to make the elections free and fair. Apart from that we also have a good number of politicians with unyielding integrity occupying both houses cutting across party lines.

But this is not enough. Election commission may be able to make the elections free and fair. But it is we, the people of India, have to cast our vote by judging the candidates above the narrow caste, religious etc outlooks. We should make ourselves so powerful that nobody should even dare influence our judgement by showing us the lollipop of caste, religion, money etc. After all we will get the representatives we deserve!!!

It’s nothing less than a miracle that against all the ill predictions, Indian democracy still remains as an upholder of the will of the people for more than 60 years. Thanks to the founding fathers for designing the constitution and the parliament system by taking all the possibilities in to consideration. But its only 60 years, which is a short blip in the history of humanity, remember many strong and powerful empires ruled India for hundreds of years and then faded away. One main solution to keep ourselves from fading away in to the pages of history is to strengthen our institutions. Let us remember this all the time...

Parliamentary Resolution on the occasion of 60th anniversary

Also hope that all the members will upholds the resolution passed by the parliament on the 60th anniversary – ‘“We, the members... do hereby solemnly reaffirm our total and abiding commitment to the ideals cherished by our founding fathers, and resolve: to uphold and maintain the dignity, sanctity and supremacy of Parliament; to make Parliament an effective instrument of change and to strengthen democratic values and principles. “To enhance the accountability of the government towards the people through the oversight of Parliament, and; to rededicate ourselves completely to the sacred task of nation-building.”’


EC seizes Rs. 7 crore in poll-bound A.P - The Hindu
Parliament resolves to uphold dignity, sanctity - The Hindu

Monday, May 21, 2012

Was it necessary for Sangma to say that “It’s tribal’s turn to become president?”

There is no doubt about the qualifications of P.A. Sangma for president’s post. He is a veteran politician, elected to LokSabha for 8 times, served as union minister, Loksabha speaker and Meghalaya Chief Minister. Apart from this he also holds a degree in law and a masters’ degree in International Relations.

Its tribal’s turn to become president says Sangma – The Hindu.

Even after all these qualifications it’s the above mentioned statement which concerns me. The question is political parties (its presidential elections) should support him for his qualifications or tribal tag? Why people are making themselves available for evaluation under something which is an accident? Did he decide his place of birth or anything related to that?

At the same time his experience in politics and educational qualifications are something which he earned. Why people – especially politicians – are not focussing on something which they earned rather than highlighting something which is an accident? Unfortunately this trend is now-a-days running its full stream in Indian politics.


Friday, May 4, 2012

Jhanda uncha rahei(n) humara...

Jhanda uncha rahei(n) humara is one of my earliest favorite song in Hindi. Written by Shyamlal Gupta `Parshad' in 1924 this beautiful song about our National Flag is also known as 'Junda Geet'

Jhanda uncha rahei(n) humara

Vijayi vishwa tiranga pyaara
Jhanda uncha rahei(n) humara

Sadaa shakti sarsaane waala,
Prem sudha barsaane waala,
Veero ko harshaane waala,
Maatru bhoomi ka tan-man saara,
Jhanda uncha rahei(n) humara.

Swatantra ke bheeshan run mein,
Lakhkar josh badhein
kshan-kshan mein,
Kaape shatru dekh kar man mein,
Mit jaye bhay sankat saara
Jhanda uncha rahei(n) humaara.

Is zande ke neeche nirbhay,
Rahei(n) swaadheen
hum avichal nishchay.
Bolo Bhaarat maata ki jay.
Swatantrata ho dhyey humara
Jhanda uncha rahei(n) humaara.

Aao, pyaare veero! Aao;
Desh- dharm par bali-bali jao
Ek saath sab mil kar gaao,
“Pyaara Bhaarat desh humaara,
Jhanda uncha rahei(n) humaara.

Iski shaan na jaane paaye,
Chaahei(n) jaan bhale hi jaye,
Vishwa vijay karke dikhlaaye,

Tab hove praan poorna humaara
Jhanda uncha rahei(n) humaara,
Vijayi vishwa tiranga pyaara.”


Lyrics Courtesy: From one of the question answer forums.