Nokia’s woes cast doubt over Finnish model

Just as Nokia’s sure touch with well-designed, consumer-friendly products seems to have deserted it, fears are growing that Finland, whose reputation for innovation rested largely on the handset maker's success, may be losing its competitive edge.

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Nokia’s new cheap models bet on games, web access

Nokia patched up its ailing basic phones offering on Tuesday with two models offering access to games, applications and the Internet, hoping to regain its footing in emerging markets.

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Life Exclusive
Can Obama do a FDR?

The Republicans claim that Mitt Romney created more jobs during his governorship in Massachusetts than Obama has done in all of the US during his presidency. Romney realizes that unemployment is President Obama’s Achilles heel. Question is can Obama do an FDR?

Saying “It’s  still about the economy, and, we are not stupid” in New Hampshire after a victory in five states including New York with which Mitt Romney became the Republican challenger to President Obama as Newt Gingrich dropped out, the governor threw the gauntlet to the President. But he may have put it over broadly because while the main issue of the election actually may be the economy, it is more precisely unemployment. Over 13 million Americans are out of jobs with more than 4 million of them not having employment for a period of more than one year (which means that their chance for getting employed becomes minimum), an employment rate of over 8.2%, 3% higher than the post-war average and as the New Yorker puts it, “the percentage of working Americans is as low as it has been in almost thirty years”.

The economic recovery has now lasted nearly three years, but for millions of American it seems as if it has not yet begun. And the situation is not pretty. The unemployment rates in groups such as college graduates may be even higher. And that creates an excellent opportunity for Mitt Romney who was a successful businessman and the Governor of Massachusetts because no president has won a re-election (since arguably America’s greatest president) Franklin Delano Roosevelt with an unemployment rate of more than 8%. And for that we have to go back all the way to the 1940s, a period less than five years after the Great Depression, with a comparable unemployment rate. Romney’s record as the President of Bain Capital, a highly successful private firm equity, should stand him in good stead; after all venture capital firms are built to nurture businesses and that should translate into employment.

But Mitt Romney has come in for withering criticism during the Republican primaries for being a “Vulture Capitalist” rather than  a “Venture Capitalist” and President Obama has picked up where the Republicans left off with a series of blistering advertisement this week making Mitt Romney’s record as the President of Bain Capital as the focus of his attack.

In the Republican primaries it was blunted by a huge money advantage that Gov Mitt Romney had. He does not have a similar money advantage over President Obama. However, the President may well find that attacking private equity is a little disingenuous in America because private equity is at the heart of capitalism and it is the basic tenet of survival of the fittest. What private equity tries to do is to buy firms or invest in them, nurture them, turn them around and sell them for a profit. As can he imagined, this works sometimes and at other times it does not work but that is the way the cookie crumbles. The Obama Ad shows workers complaining that their steel mill was taken from health to bankruptcy, they were laid off, and despite that Bain Capital made a profit. Gov Romney immediately fired back with an ad about another steel mill which no one was willing to touch which Bain Capital bought a stake and turned around and now is a prosperous steel mill with over 6000 workers.

The early sparring on the issue of employment is an understanding on both sides that there is a risk for President Obama on the employment issue and a potential advantage to Gov Romney. Both sides are trying to define the other before the voters make up their mind. The centrality of the issue for Gov Romney can all be seen by his reluctance to take his eye off the ball as far as unemployment goes.

When President Obama made his announcement about his support for gay marriage Mitt Romney’s response was unusually low-key—he just reacted and moved on. He did not want it to detract from the main issue and that is employment. Similarly when President Obama spoke to the students at Bernard College about the gender gap and the Republicans role in it, Mitt Romney gently reminded them as to how difficult the employment market was for recent graduates. It is also interesting that it is Gov Romney’s record at Bain Capital which has come under the fire rather than his record as the Governor of Massachusetts.

The competing narrative about his record as Governor goes like this. The Democrats say that for employment numbers Mitt Romney took Massachusetts from No.36 when he was governor to No. 47 when he left governorship. The Republicans, on the other hand, claim that he created more jobs during his governorship in Massachusetts than President Obama has done in all of the United States during his presidency. Which narrative is correct? One can only guess.   
        
So the battle lines are drawn. Mitt Romney realizes that unemployment is President Obama’s Achilles heel. Question is can Obama do an FDR?

(Harsh Desai has done his BA in Political Science from St Xavier's College & Elphinstone College, Bombay and has done his Master's in Law from Columbia University in the city of New York. He is a practicing advocate at the Bombay High Court.)

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