World
Lee Kuan Yew and the Asian miracle
Lee's leadership was able to raise the standard of living of Singaporeans from a Third World country to a First World one within a generation
 
On March 23, 2015 Lee Kuan Yew breathed his last. Lee was one of the tallest leaders in the past century, not only in Asia but elsewhere. His call for Asian values and an Asian model of capitalism had an impact on rising China. For a country of Singapore’s size, its achievements over the past 50 years have been nothing short of exemplary.
 
Lee’s influence on the history of economic development in the Asian region is profound. His leadership was able to raise the standard of living of Singaporeans from a Third World country to a First World one within a generation. William Gibson labeled his model of economic prosperity with a tight authoritarian rule as Disneyland with the Death Penalty. His tight curbs with respect to free speech and media and a strong sense of duty as opposed to freedom essentially went against the traditional Western thinking on liberty and capitalism
 
With a per capita GDP close to $500 in 1965, Lee took the challenge upon himself to improve governance and the standard of living of people in his country. It shows his true test of leadership that he transformed Singapore’s without possessing any significant natural resources. During the initial years, the focus was on improving public infrastructure, drawing investments and building housing for residents. Lee was able to raise the per capita GDP’s considerably to $14,000 in 1991, a middle-income country by the time he retired as prime minister. Lee managed to pull off an economic miracle as he realized that the country had distinct positives.
 
First, were its hard working, multicultural and disciplined people. The country leveraged them during the period and grew to become a truly competitive economy. Singapore also saw a large influx of migrant workers that came from the nearby economies for a better aspirational life. Second was its strategic location with respect to economic geography. Singapore had a port that became the busiest during the 1980s, as this had been a main port on the Europe-Far East shipping route. It has been extremely important trading port ever since. 
 
Another positive was the ability of Singapore to foster clusters with international support and collaboration. The country leveraged and modernized its strong clusters in various domains most importantly petrochemicals (with its biggest refining complex at that time), financial services, transportation, and communication. The country also believed in trust and cooperation with neighbors. The ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) formed in 1967 aimed at accelerating the export-led model of economic growth and social progress. 
 
The period of Lee’s prime ministership also saw him suing opposition leaders for defamation and causing some of their bankruptcies. In addition, conventional wisdom was turned on its head when Lee was able to prove that governments are not essentially economically inefficient. Evidence of it was that the government-owned companies were the largest employer by the time Lee vacated his office and accounted for astounding 20 percent of Singapore’s GDP. 
 
Post the 1990s Lee became a ‘senior minister’ in the cabinet and in 2004 became a ‘minister mentor’ but his influence on Singapore and the city state’s rise continued. Lee resigned in 2011 from the government at the age of 87. The country in 2013 had a per capita GDP of $55,000 - better than most of the developed nations. The city-state has been ranked 1st by the Ease of Doing Business Report 2015 by the World Bank group and the 2nd by the Global Competitiveness Report 2014-15 of the World Economic Forum. 
 
Lee’s greatness is that his influence was not just restricted to the domestic sphere, but he was considered to be a great geopolitical strategist. The most prominent of his impact can be seen in the recent Chinese economy. The period post the rise of Deng in China in 1978 has his strong influence. Deng was visibly impressed with Singapore. He is quoted as having said: "Singapore’s social order is good. Its leaders exert strict management. We should learn from their experience, and we should do a better job than they do." 
 
There is much in this India - not necessarily on social order but essentially on nurturing talent, providing better governance, boosting international relations and improving India’s economic performance. 

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Germanwings crash: The cost of not following basics
Germanwings, the low-cost subsidiary of Germany's Lufthansa did not follow basics of a two-person, at all-time cockpit team management regime. This resulted in the co-pilot crashing the plane and killing all 150 people on board
 
The Germanwings air-murder over the French Alps has once again brought into focus the varying standards for aviation safety and security worldwide. It is easy to say that safety and security standards are lax in some of the lesser developed countries. However, it comes as a total shock that the low-cost subsidiary of Germany's Lufthansa did not follow the basics of a two-person at all-time cockpit team management regime.
 
It has been almost a week, since the Barcelona to Düsseldorf flight crashed into a rocky ravine at 700km per hour, in the French Alps, killing all 150 people on board. Prosecutors in France and Germany have suggested that the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, deliberately crashed the plane. The suicide-mass murder theory is based on the cockpit voice recorder retrieved from the crash site near the village of Le Vernet, say media reports.
 
In case people are not aware, airlines operating in India are required by law to have at least two persons physically present in the cockpit at all times, come what may, when the airplane is operational. Very often this means a young trainee, a senior pilot on check or refresher, an otherwise eligible to ride in cockpit person with proper certifications and compliances, or in worst case scenarios, an able-bodied member of the cabin crew at the very least. This is In addition to the basics of a pilot and a co-pilot.
 
The fundamental concept behind this is simple - if for any reason one person left inside cannot or will not open the security door, then the additional person can do that at the very least. Reasons can be many - from momentary blackouts to disability to sheer suicidal tendencies. In an airline like Lufthansa going through very disruptive labour troubles caused by pilots over working conditions, it may even have made sense to carry armed guards in the cockpit - this used to be standard operating procedure on ships operating in and around Germany even in the '70s.
 
That this sort of pilot suicide is not something new, though never been so conclusively established, can be inferred from previous cases like Malaysian-370 and Helios-522. Incidentally, the Pilot in Charge of Helios 522, which crashed over Greece due to reported incapacitation of the cockpit crew behind locked doors was also a German national. There was always an allegation that an Air India Boeing 747 crash off Bandra in Mumbai was also due to something like this.
 
People may have forgotten, but cockpit crew used to be a minimum of three and often four people, two pilots, a flight engineer and a navigator. Even today, an airplane's cockpit can take three and often four people on the flight deck. As a matter of interest, as mentioned earlier, foreign ships plying in German waters even as far back as the '70s would have in addition to the ship's crew on the Bridge, a German navigating officer as an additional "pilot" and armed police for contingencies.
 
The other larger issue facing the world of airline transport is what is known as subliminal mind control - something that is no longer science fiction. At its simplest, this is technology, which enables electronic gadgets to take control of a human mind and then instruct it to do something, like with a hypnotised person. That this will not be easy to do for two people at the same time, in a small area like a cockpit, is also a known fact. Mind control is difficult, but it is not impossible, and it is becoming sharper every day. From "rat-men" to highly tech-tools and neurally networked machinery, making a human being a controlled being is not in the realm of fiction anymore.
 
And then there are the very human elements of anger, frustration, depression, and more, including revenge.
 
Speaking with friends in aviation circles, including pilots with decades of flying experience, what emerges is that almost all of them have had episodes of what they would call momentary lapses of reason while working, especially during late night or very early pre-dawn flights. This is in addition to hallucinations, which many of us who have sailed on ships will also agree is not an unknown phenomenon.
 
When all this is known, for an airline like Lufthansa's GermanWings, to leave a human being alone inside a cockpit is not just criminal, but possibly can be put in the same league as co-conspirators. The man in the cockpit could have gone mad and done what he did, for whatever reason, but money was not one of them. However, the people in the boardroom did what they had to do only for monetary reasons.
 
Always, always, follow the money.
 
(Veeresh Malik started and sold a couple of companies, is now back to his first love—writing. He is also involved in helping small and midsize family-run businesses re-invent themselves.)
 

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COMMENTS

Senior Citizen

3 years ago

Insurance companies will give very tough times to Lufthansa to settle the claims since they were clearly negligent in not acting on disclosed medical facts of their employee. If it is fought in US Court then damages could be unlimited. Further Lufthansa will have to face resistance from passengers.

US uses 'Intel Inside' model to push GM crops
The 'Intel Inside' model has become the template for deploying agricultural biotechnology from American publicly-funded research institutions and private corporations to farmers in developing countries.
 
Just as the combination of Microsoft's Windows software and Intel's assurance of ever-increasing computing power drove the growth of the personal computer industry, genetically-modified disease, insect and stress tolerant traits developed for philanthropy or profit in the United States are being tailored for regional requirements by national partners for cultivation by farmers, says Vijay K. Vijayaraghavan, chairman of the Hyderabad-based Sathguru Management Consultants.
 
Sathguru is the South Asia coordinator for Agricultural Biotechnology Support Programme - II, a US government-funded initiative led by Cornell University to popularise GM crops. (ABSP II delicately calls itself an effort to enable farmers and consumers worldwide to make informed choices about bio-engineered products!).
 
In the case of insect-resistant Bt brinjal, whose release in India for commercial cultivation was stalled five years ago by then environment minister Jairam Ramesh, the gene, toxic to the fruit and shoot borer, was licensed by Monsanto, the US crop science company (2014 sales $15.85 billion) to Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company (Mahyco).
 
What was not heard in the din created by those opposed to the technology was that Mahyco had allowed Tamil Nadu Agriculture University, Varanasi's Indian Vegetable Research Institute and the University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad, to incorporate the gene in open pollinating varieties of brinjal, whose seed farmers could save and use for free. Mahyco reserved the right to sell hybrid seeds.
 
While India spurned the offer, the Bangladesh Agriculture Research institute (BARI), went ahead and released the Bt varieties in October 2013 under the same arrangement with Mahyco as in India.
 
Those opposing Bt cotton, the only GM crop approved in India, cite as a reason the high cost of hybrids which cannot be re-used (without loss of vigour). The seed is under price control; a packet of 450 grams cannot be sold for more than Rs 930 ($15). Farmers do not seem to mind as 95 percent of India's cotton acreage is now planted with the insect-resistant hybrids. They are possibly compensated by savings from reduction in pesticide sprays and crop damage.
 
Bt brinjal is being grown by 108 farmers in Bangladesh and the crop is now being harvested. Farmers have reported good gains from savings in pesticide sprays and higher prices as the fruits are unlikely to be damaged from inside.
 
Bharat Char, who leads biotechnology research at Mahyco, says savings can be as high as Rs.16,000 an acre.
 
Similarly, for late blight resistance in potatoes, the gene has been provided by the University of Wisconsin and Venganza, a private company. The potato incorporates modified bits of the late blight's own gene, through a technique called gene silencing, which enters the disease-causing microorganisms when they attack potatoes, causing them to self-destruct.
 
Venganza is Spanish for revenge. Local varieties incorporating the gene are being developed by the Central Potato Research Institute, Shimla, BARI and Icabiograd, Indonesia's institute for research in agricultural biotechnology.
 
Navigating the thicket of patents can be tricky. Vijayaraghavan explains in an article in the Journal of Intellectual Property Rights that scientists at Cornell University had found a naturally-occurring sugar called trehalose which helps plants cope with and recover from extreme stress. The university had patented a method to put the trait into rice varieties, but could not transfer it outside the US, as an MNC had secured protection for a similar technology.
 
A way out of the tangle was found by getting Greengene Biotech, a co-developer and co-patent applicant with Cornell, in South Korea (where the MNC did not have the patent) to make the technology available to India, with Sathguru securing the MNC's consent. The technology was transferred to Bangladesh by fulfilling the material transfer agreement guidelines and licensing obligations.
 
Evaluation of the transgenic seeds was done by the Directorate of Rice Research, Hyderabad, and Delhi's ICGEB, a non-profit research organization set up by Unido, a UN agency. The testing was undertaken by the Central Soil Salinity Research Institute, Karnal.
 
The Intel Inside model has been emulated by the Indo-Swiss Collaboration in Biotechnology to craft transgenic chickpea which is resistant to the pod borer and cowpea aphids. An agreement has been reached between Assam Agricultural University, Kolkata's Bose Institute and Swiss research organizations for the development of technologies, adherence to milestones, acquisition of relevant new skills and the regulation of intellectual property rights.
 
Based on the highest bid, the technology was transferred to Mahyco on a non-exclusive basis for development of pest resistant hybrids and conduct of biosafety trials.
 
Eight traits in 17 crops are being evaluated for safety by 32 institutions in the country. Field trials are allowed in only four states. The centre is coy about allowing commercial cultivation of GM crops. Intel Inside seems unable to overcome the opposition outside.

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