The world desperately needs bright leaders, who deliver, across institutions. Chasers of sinecure assignments will be squeezed out. The new diktat in governments across the world will be “Deliver or ship out”
In 2012, Patricia and I plan to replace our dilapidated old car. High inflation in 2011 even in basic items like onions and tomatoes, threw our budgets out of gear. In 2012, we will skip our long-awaited holiday. Patricia is unhappy.
Elsewhere, Obama is very ardent to get a second term as president. Apart from the “got you” Osama bin Laden expedition, his report card reads poor for the last four years. Americans want jobs, prosperity and a return to the “good old times.” Mr Obama cannot deliver these. He may not win his job, in the second round. It is a touch-and-go scenario. So, he will be timid in dealing with economic and corporate disciplining. Stuck in the sinking sands of ensuing elections and an ailing economy, he will continue to be ineffective. Oratory will not rescue him. Audacity could.
America’s debt now towers at $14 trillion, i.e. size of the gross domestic product (GDP). Americans will have to tighten their belts, stop relying on credit cards and commence local manufacture to salvage their economy. American save an average 3%-4%, so frugality is in order. And, Americans need to commence local manufacture. No large economy can survive indefinitely by outsourcing production. Factories and mills create ancillaries and generate jobs. This is simple economics. How can the US ignore this axiom? It is distressing to see a global power gasp for growth.
The US and European thinkers will ponder whether globalisation benefits them. There will be talk of commencing manufacture in many countries to generate jobs. Perhaps politicians need to go back to school for mandatory classes in economic growth.
Europe will clobber together despite heart-burnings and quarrels between the UK and France, to rescue wobbling Greece. England will sparkle as it hosts the Olympics in London, the only silver lining in a dull 2012. Expect the British to put the best foot forward to welcome tourists. They are brilliant global event managers. The Royal family, music extravaganzas, theatre, parks will be hyped up to pander to visitors.
Russia’s Mr Putin will complete his elegant coup by becoming president, again in 2012. He should collar the oligarchies that mismanage the country and curb kleptocracy. Graft and kickbacks on a wide scale in Russia, will erode his popularity. Young girls will no longer be charmed by the czar’s face on their T-shirts or his photos riding bare-chest on strong horses. Greed rejoices, ideals languish in Mr Putin’s Russia. Perhaps, a “Russian Spring” lurks at a corner.
China will continue to rock. Its middle classes will shop Rolex watches and Mercedes cars. Its political ideologies will thwart global leadership aspirations.
The rejuvenation amongst Arab youngsters and middle classes will remain supple. Monarchs will continue to have sleepless nights, worried about the ramifications of the Arab Spring. If young Arabs seek more bread and jobs, the monarchs can deliver. If they seek democracy, then who will deliver? Expect more Arab dilemmas to surface in 2012.
Many eyes will be on Iraq, to see if peace holds on, as American troops sail home. Afghanistan, too, will have to gear up to the day the Americans depart.
Pakistan will continue to the global migraine, beset with terrorism, poor growth and self-seeking leaders. The country is becoming a valueless pit.
Hopefully Israel and Palestinians will continue talking and resolve problems, knot by knot. Painful it is, but it is the only way to peace in olive land. Retired presidents and prime ministers can only pave the way.
India will wallow in the sludge of corruption and greed. The hatred for corruption will become fanatical. In yesteryears, the most abhorred terms India were smugglers and the underworld. Politicians are replacing both these categories. The government will be haunted by unaccounted monies in foreign banks. 2012 could see the names of these account holders, tumble out of the closets. The revelations could spark unprecedented anger and violence amongst India’s poor. Anna Hazare’s biceps will become stronger, as the lone ranger battles a corrupt establishment.
India will drift rudderless. Mama Sonia will push sonny Rahul for prime minister, subtly and covertly. The incumbent PM, Manmohan Singh is safe, until his term expires. Mama Sonia dare not trust anyone else to keep the seat warm for Rahul. If the son does get anointed, with no other qualification except a family surname, he will usher a renewed era of mediocrity in India. Senior party leaders fume privately, but most of them are date-expired at the ages of 70 to 80. Over the years, the Congress party has little agenda left in it. It has become a family business of the Nehru-Indira Gandhi dynasty. In a country riddled with massive illiteracy and ignorance, old brands matter. In India, the Nehru-Indira Gandhi brand name is one of the oldest ubiquitous brands, even in rural markets.
India’s growth rate could sputter and fall to 5%. Millions of Indians toil hard in inhuman conditions daily, struggling to improve their lives in urban ghettos. Their enterprise and entrepreneurship will keep India afloat, despite the subversive corruption of spineless political leaders.
Greece’s debts could deepen the recession in Europe. Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Spain and Ireland will continue to stumble. Hopefully, they will bulldoze austerity measures. Bitter medicines are necessary. Currencies like the dollar, euro and yen will continue to be volatile. The US dollar survives as the universal peg for many nations, but wobbles.
In a fractured world, there will be little focus on Africa or global warming. If Aung San Su Kyi, starts running Burma, faith will be restored in human values in 2012. Alas, the wish is far-fetched.
Global economy will plod at 3%-4% in 2012. Developed economies will scrape growth at 1.5% to 2%. Emerging economies will bail out the world by growing at 6%-7%. Hopefully, we will recede from the edge of another recessionary crater.
Many in the world will continue to sleep hungry. About 25,000 people die every day of hunger and hunger-related causes, i.e. one person every 3.5 seconds, according to the UN. About 1.3 billion people will yet live below the poverty line of R. 60 ($1.25) per day for food, clothing and shelter. Another billion people are deprived of clean drinking water. The world waits patiently for remedies to two Frankensteins—cancer and HIV Aids. AIDS kills over 1.5 million people a year, i.e. a person every 20 seconds. We have moneys for guns and bombs, not for research and remedies.
Oil prices will hover between $80-$100 per barrel. There will be no surprise escalations, in a dreary global economy. Food will cost us more in 2012. In October 2011, the global population increased to 7 billion. There are mouths chasing food now. Expect wheat, rice and sugar to cost more by 8% to 12% despite better harvests. The poor will be under severe pressure, as usual.
Increasing rates of global unemployment threaten political stability across countries. The global unemployment rate according to ILO hovers around 6%. Amongst the young, 12% search for a job. Growing corruption and inflation, with poor governance and unemployment are recipes for violence and revolutions. There will be mounting anger against the rich elite, which manipulates the global financial machines. It emerges unscathed from every crisis, after creating it.
Invest in property. The global population touched 7 billion in 2011, and will spiral to 9 billion by 2050. Everyone needs a place to stay. So, land will increasingly get scarce. Buy it; then hold.
Stock markets could continue dipping. They are eroding credibility, have become backyards of greedy manipulators. So, invest in metals like gold and silver. Expect gold to cross $2,400 per ounce, from the current $1,700/$1,750 per ounce. Gold prices have risen by 550% in the last decade.
India is becoming a high-price economy. It will lose its competitive advantage in cheap skilled labour. Inflation in prices of daily living like onions and tomatoes will wound the poor.
Julian Assange of Wiki Leaks may raise the money to continue to expose shallow, pompous politicians. Hopefully, Tom Cruise, Matt Demon and Scarlet Johnson will shine in some sensitive movies. Expect a few films on the Arab Spring, particularly on Libya’s Gaddafi. Stars like Madonna, Britney have lost lustre. The stage awaits fresh, vibrant talent. Bollywood will dish escapist balderdash and indulge in extravagant shallow launches.
Tiger Woods and Roger Federer will battle to recover their lost thrones. Adoring fans will spur them. Cricket lovers breathlessly await Tendulkar scoring more centuries.
The world faces a desperate paucity of leaders who can pull our lives out of the current economic and political sludge. Recollect the global grief at the passing away of Steve Jobs, in an era where few political leaders are inspiring. Steve received global mass adulation because he added value to our lives through his “magical products”.
The world desperately needs bright leaders, who deliver, across institutions. Chasers of sinecure assignments will be squeezed out. The new diktat in governments across the world will be “Deliver or ship out”. Rightfully so.
Thus, the US and Europe will continue to be plagued by frail growth. The young will revolt against global inequalities and gold prices could rise tantalizingly; but the world will be rudderless. We desperately need new, brilliant leaders, who deliver growth amidst mounting expectations.
Back home, I will live frugally in 2012. I will use the savings to take Patricia to Rio de Janeiro. That will enchant her. Perhaps then, she will bestow a smile on me. Then 2012 will be happy for me.
Happy New Year to you also!
(The author is the managing director of a consulting group. He worked for Unilever in emerging markets in Latin America, Africa and Asia. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Force is with us, the people of India. Our overpowering hunger for an end to corruption is our greatest strength and, supported by the Force, we can only win in the end
It would be worth everybody’s while to revisit the first three movies of the ‘Star Wars’ series made in the late seventies and early eighties—Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi.
The Force (the Life Force that pervades the Universe) is with us, as ObiwanKenobie and Luke Skywalker and other heroes in the films keep repeating to their followers. The Force is with us, the people of India. Our overpowering hunger for an end to corruption is our greatest strength and, supported by the Force, we can only win in the end.
And the politicians have made the hazy battle lines clear. They have lined themselves with and identified themselves as the people on the Dark Side of the Force, which supports and buoys up the villains in the Star Wars series.
Our friend Ricken Patel, founder of Avaaz, the worldwide organization, sent me an email today, an email which also went to hundreds of thousands of activists all over the world. Mr Patel said in the email:
“Something big is happening. From Tahrir Square to Wall Street, from staggeringly brave Avaaz citizen journalists in Syria to millions of citizens winning campaign after campaign online, democracy is stirring. Not the media circus, corrupt, vote-every-five-years democracy of the past. Something much, much deeper. Deep within ourselves, we are realizing our own power to build the world we all dream of.”
“We don’t have a lot of time to do it. Our planet is threatened by multiple crises—a climate crisis, food crisis, financial crisis, proliferation crisis... These crises could split us apart like never before, or bring us together like never before. It’s the challenge of our time, and the outcome will determine whether our children face a darker world or one thriving in greater human harmony.”
Ricken Patel did not mention the endemic, epidemic corruption that has crept into the body of India like the viruses that weaken, maim and even kill people. Corruption is our prime concern, though the other crises that Ricken mentions are equally important.
So, people of India, let us prepare ourselves for a long battle against corruption. The Mahabharata war ended in 18 days; our war might last 18 decades and our children’s children and their grandchildren will be fighting it long after we are gone. But the Force is with us. The people of India will win.
I must admit I was one of those cynics who thought nothing much would come of the Congress promise to introduce a strong Lokpal Bill, giving life the “sense of the house” which emerged when Parliament discussed the Lokpal idea.
But even I am appalled at the transparent plots and conspiracies that torpedoed the already weakened Lokpal Bill.
I now throw a gauntlet to all political parties. The ruling coalition ducked voting in the RajyaSabha since the Lokpal Bill had been scuttled by poor floor management and the stabs in the back by coalition partners and the opposition.
Though I am not sure what the technical position is, this amounts to a moral defeat of the government. If he is an honest man, and he is touted all over as being one, prime minister Manmohan Singh has no choice but to submit the resignation of his government to the president and call for a mid-term general election, with the main issue being corruption.
The politicians will be against a mid-term election on the excuse that there isn’t enough money to fund an election within three years of the previous election.
If money were the only hurdle to a mid-term election, there is no problem: Let them bring out all the black money earned through bribes and kickbacks, the money stashed away in foreign bank accounts and use it for the elections.
At least, part of the money squeezed out of an unwilling people will go back to some of the people.
Social media like Facebook, Twitter and others helped topple three governments in 2011. And when countries wait on the verge of a second coming, the digital space now appears more potent
It was a whirlwind year on the digital front. But there is one thing that defined 2011 the rampage of the social media such as Facebook, Twitter and several other such sites. We have been hearing that social media has arrived, but this was during 2011 when it took the world by storm; literally. From Tahrir Square in Egypt to the heart of Beijing, revolutions spread via Facebook and Twitter. Three governments have been toppled, and now, when countries wait on the verge of a second coming, the digital space now appears more potent.
Let us re-live the story. On 18 December 2010, a man in Tunisia, Mohamed Bouazizi, set himself on fire, protesting against police atrocities. A spark had been ignited. Stirrings were visible in Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Yemen; the war spread online: video evidence of the state’s repression appeared, along with suppressed facts. Revolutionaries, who thought they were alone, perceived and made friends.
Then, one day the Tunisian President fled (with a large chunk of the nation’s wealth). The wave had struck. Its might have manifested in the form of an unprecedented gathering at Tahrir Square in Egypt followed by similar protests in Yemen and Libya. Victory came to Egyptian citizens when in February its President of 30 years, Hosni Mubarak stepped down. What followed was unthought-of. In Yemen, Jordan, Iraq and Sudan, governments were sacked, and leaders announced they are going to step down. A new era had begun.
Birth pangs persist and with the West’s interference, things have become more complicated. But this time, the middle-eastern and African countries have made it clear that they will write their own history. The digital media, now, has become that weapon of self-assertion. Protests against the NATO bloodbath in Libya, including Gaddafi’s killing, existing and intended puppet governments are gathering force, and the digital media has become its herald.
Despite their failed attempt to overthrow the Red State with Jasmine Revolution, protestors in China have managed to find chinks in the government’s armour. If 2010 saw China’s bitter spat with Google about email addresses and internet transactions of human rights activists, this was the year when the people decided to take things in their own hands. When reports appeared that the high-speed bullet train project was about to bankrupt the country, the news was blocked out. But hackers made sure that it did not. While the censors worked overtime, another tragedy struck in the form of a recent train accident. Not only did activists publicise the incident on the internet, evidence of the authorities’ fault was also put up. The government has not been able to contain the damning content.
Another story raised hopes during 2011. Artist-activist Ai Weiwei has always been a vocal critic of Chinese government’s stance on democracy and human rights. Following his arrest in April, the Chinese regime got brickbats from all corners, including its own people, who took to the internet with a vengeance. After he was released from jail, Weiwei was slapped with a monumental 12 million yuan fine for tax evasion. But, within three days, online donations from citizens and fans worldwide provided a million yuans. The collection drive continues, and the government has withdrawn into silence, probably planning its next move.
However, 2011 also turned out to be apprehensive for cyber activists. Wikileaks suffered a big blow, when Mastercard, Paypal and other payment portals were blocked from its website, and donations were disabled. Julian Assange appeared more tensed during the press conference when he announced this than the day he was arrested.
The US however, did not have time to relish its triumph over Mr Assange. Soon after Mr Assange gave his interview, Mastercard suffered a breakdown in the hands of hacktivists who avenged blocking donations to Wikileaks. Thanks to groups Anonymous and Lulszec, the US was in for some other massive hacks, from which they are yet to recover and appear clueless about countering them. Individually, and teaming up on occasions, they hacked websites of FBI, US Senate, CIA, Sun newspaper, gaming and tourist websites; leaked military email addresses and snatched files from Viacom and Universal. But their biggest hit was the Sony Playstation website data theft, which not only left the authorities embarrassed, but also earned the latter scathing criticism for citizens for negligence. British authorities arrested Scottish hacker ‘Topiary’ of Lulszec, but nothing came out of it apart from a support campaign by Anonymous, which only garnered more sympathy for the hackers.
During 2011, internet search giant, Google also had to face some uncomfortable moments. Google+, the search giant’s answer to Facebook, began with a bang, but fizzled out soon. What followed was a hilarious blunder on their part, when a staff member’s personal post slamming Google for Google+ and pointing out their inability to do ‘platforms’ leaked online. However, taking a dignified stand, Google declared it would not censor any content, and refused to sack the engineer; because it was his right to express his views.
Google Zeitgest reveals that worldwide, last years pop-viral sensation, Rebecca Black (who also has the highest number of ‘dislikes’ on YouTube), was the most searched term, followed by Google+. Breakout singer Adele beat Fukushima nuclear plant and late Steve Jobs to appear at number seven slot.
In India, it was the celebrities’ triumph all the way. Anna Hazare had the fastest rising searches, while controversial model Poonam Pandey followed closely. However, Mr Hazare was beaten by Katrina Kaif as the most searched personality. Facebook, YouTube and Gmail were the top searches for India. IPL, despite the low TRPs it received, beat World Cup 2011 as the most searched event of the year.
In 2012, the most talked about issue will be the various internet censorship Bills that many governments are planning. In India, which has seen considerable action for the Lokpal movement via Facebook and Twitter, the government plans to bring in the law. But popular opinion is against any media censorship. India saw a 13% rise in number of internet users, Internet and Mobile Association of India reported, and by year end, the number is expected to stand at 121 million.
In the US, Congress wants to bring the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which is a gag order in disguise. However, much to the chagrin of most governments, Google issued a firm critique of the SOPA, and got the support of MasterCard and then revealed that most requests they get for blocking content come from the government who want all their misdeeds blocked out.
While efforts are made to push for similar gag orders throughout the world, activists are prepared to battle. With protests mounting in totalitarian states everywhere, 2012 will prove to be crucial for internet, which will probably see the beginning of clash between the democratic-digital domain and authorities.