Narendra Modi set twitter records
Prime minister (PM) Narendra Modi is now acknowledged as a master communicator.
His massive electoral victory was a powerful and carefully choreographed multi-dimensional effort, but his big initial breakthrough was in bypassing a hostile mainstream media and reaching out to people directly through social media.
The PM is now using the very same tools to win friends and followers globally with spectacular results, so much so that his tweets to heads of State or the people of Japan (in Japanese) are rewriting the rule book for diplomacy.
After his 100 days in office, Twitter put out a blog post noting some of the new records set by Mr Modi. It says, @narendramodi is the second most followed politician in the world after US President Barak Obama on Twitter. Mr Modi’s election victory tweet, “India has won” (in Hindi and English) is the most re-tweeted tweet (70,620 times) of all times from India.
Today, following @narendramodi and @PMOIndia has become a necessity for diplomats, journalists, companies and policy-makers, since Twitter remains the primary communication tool of India’s prime minister. Given India’s population and the continuous accretion to the number of people acquiring smart phones, mobile connectivity and access to social media, it is only a matter of time before Narendra Modi becomes the most followed politician in the world.
Will it stop wilful default this time?
The notification of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI)—that individuals and companies who fail to honour guarantees provided to wilful defaulters can also be charged with ‘wilful default’—is welcome and long overdue. Especially since the notification says that the ‘group concept’ will come into play when persons, or entities, do not honour guarantees to companies within a group. This is a huge step forward. For the 30 years that we have been reporting on business and finance, there has been endless debate about applying the ‘group concept’ to bad loans, especially when there is deliberate mismanagement of companies in a group. After all, corporates grow when new entities in a group (sister companies and subsidiaries) piggy-back on the parent’s goodwill to raise funds.
But RBI has also said that the new norms would apply prospectively; this means that all the games companies played in the past will have no consequences. In India, corporate guarantees, including personal guarantees of well-known industrialists, had a magical way of disappearing from loan conditions after fund-raising needs were met, or the going got tough. Some of the most respected corporate groups in India have used this trick to evade responsibility for loss-making entities.
The change in loan conditions could not have happened without the active collusion of lenders which means that RBI’s new norms will also work only if the regulator puts in place a system to monitor crucial changes in loan conditions. Vijay Mallya, recently declared a wilful defaulter by United Bank of India (UBI) in connection with Kingfisher Airlines, also escapes the new provisions. While most industrialists used to keep room to wiggle out of the personal guarantee, the flamboyant Mr Mallya wanted to be different. He went to court to fight for the right to pay himself and UB Holdings a fat fee for the loan guarantees provided to Kingfisher. It is a mystery why lenders are still fighting shy to invoke that guarantee.
RBI governor, Dr Raghuram Rajan, recently said that the “wilful-defaulter tag is a powerful weapon in the hands of creditors for resolving distressed assets.” Indeed, it is; but a weapon is powerful only if used correctly and effectively.
One recalls that RBI, bankers and government officials were just as gung-ho about the SARFAESI Act (Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act) 2002 which was touted as the ultimate statute to end the bad loan problem by giving banks a powerful recovery mechanism.
Strangely, RBI has never been called to explain why the monumental failure of SARFAESI was not anticipated or how just 50 corporates have run up a combined default of about Rs40,000 crore under its watch. If 33 debt recovery tribunals (DRTs) under SARFAESI failed to deliver (as of March 2012, there were 67,000 cases involving over Rs1,36,000 crore pending before the DRTs), will the new norms make a difference? After all, companies will still misuse the judicial system to delay any recovery action.
The US attack south-west of Baghdad was the first strike and destroyed six IS vehicles near Sinjar and an IS fighting position southwest of Baghdad that had been firing on Iraqi forces
The warplanes from US carried out their first air strike on the Islamic State near Baghdad, as world diplomats pledged to support Iraq in its fight against the militants.
Early last month, the US began air strikes against IS positions in northern Iraq, but Monday's announcement that the campaign had targeted the jihadists near the Iraqi capital marks an escalation in the scope of the mission.
It comes less than a week after US President Barack Obama, in a prime-time television address to the nation, ordered a "relentless" war against the Islamic State, including air strikes in Syria and expanded operations in Iraq to "destroy" the marauding jihadist army.
"US military forces continued to attack ISIL (IS) terrorists in Iraq, employing attack and fighter aircraft to conduct two air strikes Sunday and Monday in support of Iraqi security forces near Sinjar and southwest of Baghdad," US Central Command said in a statement.
"The air strike southwest of Baghdad was the first strike taken as part of our expanded efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions to hit ISIL targets as Iraqi forces go on offense, as outlined in the president's speech last Wednesday."
The strikes destroyed six IS vehicles near Sinjar and an IS fighting position south-west of Baghdad that had been firing on Iraqi forces.
They bring the number of US air strikes across Iraq to 162.
It came as representatives from about 30 countries and international organisations, including the United States, Russia and China, met in Paris to discuss the crisis triggered when IS overran large areas of Iraq and Syria, carrying out beheadings and forced religious conversions.
The savage beheading at the weekend of a Briton, the third Western hostage to be executed on camera, raised the stakes in the battle against the jihadists, who have declared a caliphate and have as many as 31,500 fighters, according to the CIA.
In a joint statement, diplomats vowed to support Baghdad "by any means necessary, including appropriate military assistance, in line with the needs expressed by the Iraqi authorities, in accordance with international law and without jeopardising civilian security.