The four-week expose of President Pratibha Patil “land grabbing” for her post retirement bungalow in Pune made waves on the Internet and social media finally compelled the President to give up the land. Team Anna could use this example and take up one issue at a time to see its logical end
Social activist Anna Hazare has been spearheading the campaign for a strong Lokpal Bill, an end to corruption within the government and the bureaucracy and a host of other issues. However, his struggle has not yielded the desired results. On the other hand, the four-week expose of President Pratibha Patil “land grabbing” for her post retirement bungalow in Pune made waves on the Internet and social media am finally compelled the President to give up the land.
Mr Hazare could use this example and take up one issue at a time to see its logical end. Yes, it could be a long-drawn struggle, but ultimately truth will prevail. Columnist R Vijayaraghavan writes an open letter to the Mr Hazare asking him to look at the path taken by Moneylife and the crusaders to get back the defence land, which was handed for purposes other than the needs of the armed forces.
Dear Shri Anna Hazareji,
I begin with two quotations.
The first is from Swami Vivekananda: “Awake, arise, the Motherland is in danger”.
The second is from Ayn Rand, an American novelist: “When you see that money is flowing to those who deal not in goods but in favours, when you see that men get rich more easily by graft rather than by work, and your laws no longer protect you against them but protect them against you, you know that your society is doomed.”
Two years ago, Team Anna awoke, arose and fought for the Motherland. But only briefly: the dirty tricks departments of all the political parties got together and sent you back to sleep. Now you have to awake, arise and surge forward again.
The way ahead is clear. The victory of Moneylife and the armed forces activists in forcing President Pratibha Patil to return the 2.6 lakh square feet of Pune cantonment land which she had illegally grabbed for her retirement home shows you the broad highway that you have to follow.
The mightiest citizen in the land has been forced accept her mistake and bow to the law. This the victory of courage, accurate information derived from deep research, persistence, honesty and integrity of Col Suresh Patil, Comm Ravindra Pathak and Anoop Awasthi.
The mainstream media ignored them, but Vinita Deshmukh took up their cause with a series of seven articles and Moneylife gave them the platform from which they were seen and heard. And Moneylife’s canny use of Facebook and Twitter sent the story viral till it shook Rashtrapati Bhavan.
We need to convert the goodwill garnered by the Moneylife victory before it simmers down into the issues of day to day life. There may be mud-slinging also, but that is part of the course.
The virtues that brought this victory are honesty, persistence, the gathering of accurate information through deep research, courage and integrity .The same virtues will serve Team Anna reach its original goal of ending corruption in the land over whatever number of years it takes. Team Anna has to expose corruption and hold up mirror to their vileness so all the world can see it.
In this effort, the focus has to be on the following areas:
Start taking concrete action to expose corruption case by case e.g. the Mumbai land grabs by four successive chief ministers, Air India, Coalgate, stock market and financial market scams
At present we do not need the Lokpal and Lokayuktas in all states. There are equally powerful weapons at our disposal: Public interest litigation, section 420, 408 and other sections of the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Indian Penal Code, the anti-corruption legislation, the vigilance organisations at the Centre and in the states. The power in the hands of the people is immense. We have to start using that power.
One successful prosecution will electrify the entire movement. This is our test by fire
A caveat: The press and the electronic media should not be privy to your internal discussions which will include debate, sometimes fiery. A whiff of this and the media will go to town: more than half of them are servants of the dirty tricks departments of the political parties.
And like Moneylife did, team Anna should make full use of Facebook, Twitter and any other media device available on the Internet.
Team Anna’s control should be such that the media can report only on the corruption cases, the progress of the prosecutions and the judgements.
(Part II will deal with Team Anna developing a professional support organisation)
(R Vijayaraghavan has been a professional journalist for more than four decades, specialising in finance, business and politics. He conceived and helped to launch Business Line, the financial daily of The Hindu group. He can be contacted at [email protected].)
Health issues and accidents are part of work. Co-operation of the staff and a good health policy helped tackle these issues. The 27th part of a series describing the unknown triumphs and travails of doing international business
As a matter of government policy in the Gulf, medical benefit was free to all people in the country. In fact, even if a transit passenger in the airport fell sick, all medical facilities were extended to him/her by the government. We were living in an ideal society.
It was after a long time, the ministry of health made a nominal charge when a person went to get medical attention; the medicines were always supplied free.
It did not matter if X-rays had to be taken, surgeries done or the patient had to be hospitalized. All these were taken care by the government.
However, in order to ensure all the legal residents were getting this benefit, the government introduced an ID card system and an annual payment, of something like $70; an entrance or admission fee for each registration was imposed, and other medical benefits were given free, as a result. This was introduced so as to apprehend the “illegals”, who had somehow managed to enter the country. Some of these illegal immigrants were caught in this process, but they were given the medical attention that was required and deported once the recovery took place.
Prior to this, during the time of Gulf Industries, a few months earlier, we had our own company doctor visiting the plant and taking care of the sick. But, a few months later, after we began our operations at Finetex, the ministry through the Free Zone gave a special ID to all employees for a fee of Dh100 ($30) with all other conditions remaining the same. They opened a clinical facility in the Jebel Ali area itself, which was about 10 minutes drive from our plant. Of course, in case the patient required special attention or surgery, etc, they had to be taken to Dubai city, some 50 km away.
Fortunately, we did not face any such major trouble, except one day, just as I had come into the office and was on my inspection round the plant, I heard a huge cry of pain and commotion. I rushed to the spot, only to realize that the girl doing the snap pins for the denim coats we were making, had the tack pin in her fingers and there was blood all over the place!
In less than a minute we had her carried to my car with a couple of girls, including a supervisor, and we rushed to the main gate, where we had to stop for inspection of our car boot. All of them knew me and without literally stopping (we had speed breakers there), I slowed down, gave them a shout “emergency run for hospital” and rushed through, and without waiting I picked up my speed. As I passed a cruising police vehicle on the opposite lane, I shouted ‘mustashfa’ (meaning hospital), and had no difficulty in reaching the main hospital in about 30-35 minutes. Perera had already given them a call that an injured girl was on the way!
An hour later, after getting the medical attention, required stitches, etc, I took them for lunch in Karamah before returning back to the hospital a little after 2 pm. The girl took rest in the canteen, which had resting facilities for sick girls (our sick bay), and later on went to the camp. She was back to work couple of days later and was assigned a lighter job, for the time being.
On another occasion, in Muscat I had a different rescue mission to perform in course of my duty. It was a Sunday and some of the girls who wanted to go to the church were getting ready and our van would make a couple of trips for this purpose. I was relaxing in my study, from where I could hear the driver honking, presumably to rush up the balance of the girls to hurry up. They would be back after about an hour and half in two or three lots.
I think it was Kumari or Chandra, who came running down and knocked my door to say, “We have an accident in the floor”. When I ran after her, we found a girl unconscious. She had got up from her bunker bed and had been hit by the fan on her head; there was blood tricking down her face! Francisca was already holding the girl.
We carried her on to my car and drove through the city to the emergency section of the main hospital, which was about 9-10 km from our plant. Nanayakara, the supervisor in charge of production had already called the hospital and explained to them about the head injury.
I think we had to stay for about two hours; there was a gash, not a deep wound, and I believe they had to stitch her up and cut her hair up. After the treatment when we returned back I realized that this was one fan that somehow had escaped the attention of the electrical contractors.
Fortunately in our group, except for the above two instances, we did not have any other incidents affecting the health of our staff. They took care of themselves, worked long hours and kept themselves active throughout their stay. Most of them renewed their contracts; a few of them got married, took couple of months off, but returned back on duty.
There was only major problem we faced in our plant. Our supplies of heavy duty jackets for winter use in Canada had been well received and we had received large contract from a leading importer named Monarch. While this was under production, we had an outbreak of mumps and chickenpox in the area, and a large number of' our staff were under heavy weather, When we reported this matter to them. It was in good spirit they extended the L/C, saying “We are used to snow storms and floods, but your chicken beat us this time...” In spite of this situation, we managed to ship the goods, practically on the last date of the original L/C.
All this was possible due to the high morale and the teamwork displayed by our staff.
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce and was associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts. From being the advisor to exporters, he took over the mantle of a trader, travelled far and wide, and switched over to setting up garment factories and then worked in the US. He can be contacted at [email protected].)
There is one problem with all of these earnings expectations and forecasts. Emerging markets are dependent upon other economies; so as one emerging market slows, so do they all
If there is one thing that gets investors, especially American investors, excited it is when CEOs announce with great fanfare that their companies are going international. Most investors view international expansion as the perfect solution for saturated markets in developed countries. They see vast potential in billions of prospective new customers who are equipped with all the amenities of the home market but are not sufficiently served. Without any meaningful competition the company can embark on a voyage of profitable conquest into this brave new world.
Recent examples would include the much hyped move of Netflix into Latin America. The stock hit a new high. There was only one slight little problem. Since most Latin American countries lack the high-speed Internet infrastructure, Netflix streaming technology is useless. Starbucks stock rose after the announcement of plans to expand in Germany and its intent to produce a home coffee machine capable of making espresso. Its main competitor is the giant Nestle which already has a well-established Nespresso machine. These are also established markets and there is not a single Starbucks store in all of Italy.
If CEOs really want to impress analysts and investors these days, all they have to do is to hint of expansion in China and other emerging markets. With dynamic economies, low debt and great demographics these markets are supposed to return consistent growth for the foreseeable future. Certainly this has been true in the recent past and it is certainly true in this earnings season.
For example Kimberly-Clark’s North America sales fell as consumers bought cheaper generic products. In contrast, sales were up by double digits in emerging markets. Chinese revenue increases were the highest at 45% with Latin America and Russia growing strongly at about 25% each. GE, Honeywell, Yum! Brands, McDonald’s and Coca-Cola, all had over double-digit growth in emerging markets and in some cases the growth was over 100% for GE in Russia.
Car companies are falling all over each other to build new capacity in China in hopes of strong growth. Nissan plans to invest over $400 million. Ford is investing $760 million. Volkswagen is building a $270 million plant in the western Chinese city of Urumqi and even Renault has just signed a letter of understanding with Dongfeng Automobile.
But there is one problem with all of these earnings expectations and forecasts. Emerging markets including China are slowing. For example although car sales in China grew by 35% in 2010, they only increased by 5.2% in 2011 and they actually fell by 3.4% in the first quarter of 2012, a real problem since the forecast was for a 8% to 10% growth for the year.
China’s growth while still rapid has fallen steadily from over 10% in 2010 to 8.1% in the most recent forecast. In line with some predictions, China has started to reinflate with increased bank loans. However with demand softening in its major markets in Europe and the US, the extra stimulus has nowhere to go and makes inflation worse.
And China’s slow down is hardly unique among emerging economies. All of them have growing problems. Brazil was once one of the stars of the emerging markets. It recovered rapidly after the crash as growth topped 7.5% by the end of 2010. Its market increased over 90% from the lows in November 2008. However its economy is now stagnating. Its growth rate in 2011 was 2.7% and its economy actually declined in January. The central bank cut Brazil’s Selic interest rate to 9%, the lowest level since April 2010 and only 25 basis points off its 15-year low of 8.75% despite inflation running at 5.5%.
India is also slowing. Its growth rate is still rather strong at 6.1% but this is a marked slowdown from two years ago when it was over 9%. Like Brazil the central bank recently cut interest rates by 50 basis points to 5.5%, but also like Brazil this could help reignite inflation currently running at over 9%. If inflation heats up; both countries could be forced to slow their economies further.
Part of the problem for emerging markets is that many are dependent upon other economies. Exports to China contribute 1% or greater to the GDP (gross domestic product) growth of Russia, Indonesia, Korea and Brazil and about 0.8% to Germany. China also is the export market for over 20% of the exports of Taiwan, Australia, Korea and Japan and 17.3 % of Brazilian exports. So as one emerging market slows, so do they all.
To the extent that we believe earnings forecasts by analysts and companies, record earnings are supposed to continue this year and next. With Europe’s problems far from solved, an anaemic American economy and now rapidly slowing emerging markets, the probability that these forecasts will be anywhere near accurate is zip.
(William Gamble is president of Emerging Market Strategies. An international lawyer and economist, he developed his theories beginning with his first hand experience and business dealings in the Russia starting in 1993. Mr Gamble holds two graduate law degrees. He was educated at Institute D'Etudes Politique, Trinity College, University of Miami School of Law, and University of Virginia Darden Graduate School of Business Administration. He was a member of the bar in three states, over four different federal courts and has spoken four languages. Mr Gamble can be contacted at [email protected] or [email protected]).