Saturday, December 18, 2010

New York Mayor or US President?

I read a recent news report, of the New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg saying that he won’t be a contender for the US Presidential race of 2012, with a bit of special interest.

When I was in US this summer, in August 2010, I was travelling on a train from Penn station in New York City to Metuchen in New Jersey. On this reasonably long ride, I got chatting with an articulate fellow passenger who turned out to be the owner of a Jewish Deli, near Times Square, offering what he said was delicious kosher and non-kosher food to a busy weekend crowd. It was way past mid-night, about 2.00 am, and we were, perhaps, on the last train on that Saturday night.

He asked me ‘You know why I am travelling to New Jersey when I have my little restaurant in New York City, at this time of the night? I asked why. And he said “It’s because I can’t afford to live here by paying the rents of New York. Since the time this Mayor Bloomberg took over, the rents in the busiest places have risen higher by almost three times! I am paying thrice what I used to pay as my restaurant rent, and I had no choice but to move my residence out of New York.” When I asked how Bloomberg compares with Rudi Guiliani, he became livid. “No comparison”, he said. “Bloomberg is way down low! And I am saying this knowing very well that he is a fellow Jew”!

Whatever the truth in his story, I seem to understand that Bloomberg doesn’t have a very healthy support from his own community, let alone from the city, state or country, to attempt to become the President of USA.

As the 10th richest person in the United States, having a net worth of US$18 billion in 2010, he may be the founder and 88% owner of Bloomberg L.P., the financial news and information services media company, but he probably has to just concentrate on making NYC as efficient as he can make it. He seems to be getting quite successful at that, even if by angering some. Being the Mayor of the biggest city in the world is job enough!

Friday, November 26, 2010

SAP to pay Oracle

I found this news-item, SAP to pay $1.3bn to Oracle for theft, really attention-grabbing (Daily Tribune, 25-Nov). Mainly because, we all know that both these companies are among the superpowers of the software world. So, even if SAP is going to appeal the verdict, this highest ever verdict on copyright is going to send signals to all about the importance of protecting intellectual property rights, especially in software.

But I feel there are billions of dollars that software companies are losing not because of their competitors, but because of normal, innocent-looking, individuals who copy software, or download it, without paying anything to the copyright owner.

I understand that many software companies are actually pricing the products high because they know that once the original is out – with no matter how strong their embedded anti-duplication locks are – people will rip them, copy them, and do not give back anything to the company, the real genius, behind the making of the product. So, obviously, companies are wanting to earn as much revenue as possible with the launch sale.

My suggestion to these software companies is to reduce the prices of their original products to the lowest extent possible, so that people can be attracted to buy the originals and avoid copies.

But I believe the tactic of lowering prices could help. Then, hopefully, all across the planet, we shall see more legal copies, whether of simple Microsoft Office, or of complex ERP from SAP.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

INDIA - MYANMAR Balancing Act

When US President Obama addressed the Indian Parlaiment last week, and said that India should not shy away from criticising some countries, he was very obviously referring to Indian Foreign Policy on Myanmar. Because, at about the same time, controversial elections were being held in the military-run Myanmar.

What he failed to see is this - Indian strategic interests in this large neighbouring country necessitate India to take a very careful diplomatic stance. The growing Chinese presence in Myanmar must be countered, and huge Indian investments in Myanmar must be protected. Also, there are deeper ties because Myanmar, then Burma, was a former province of India. And, India must watch what it says. Its not called shyness, but diplomacy.

Furthermore, India is Burma’s 4th largest trading partner after Thailand, China and Singapore. And India is the largest market for Burmese exports. Indo-Myanmar bilateral trade figures are staggering.

So, the engagement of US and other countries with Myanmar cannot be seen as being the same as that of India’s. And Obama must note that.

He seems to have forgotten that US had to deal with a military-run Pakistan, before the elections were announced by Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who had made a hostile takeover of a democratic country. US had in fact provided enormous support funds to this Musharraf government.

So, is it ok for US to deal with non-democratic governments, but it is not ok for India?? He must know that what's good for the goose is good for the gander.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Haitian Rice and Economic Sense

Haiti's rice farmers are unable to compete with US imports of rice. This is what I heard on a BBC Radio, driving home a couple of days ago.

And why are they unable to compete? It was soon revealed that US is actually dumping rice at extremely low prices, in Haiti. And, obviously, the local farmer cannot compete against the lower prices of this US import which they call, ‘Miami rice’. When he can’t sell it, why would he produce it?

It begs another question - how come US rice is sold at such low prices here? The answer is simple. It is because the US farmers can afford it. They are getting government subsidies!
Not just me, but anyone listening to the programme would have cried, ‘unfair’! And quite rightly so.

Haiti is a poor country struggling to rise up after that devastating earthquake, and the big nations like US are selling Haiti the same food stuff, that Haiti should be encouraged to grow domestically. In fact they are killing the local market by under-cutting on prices of imports. What kind of justice is this?

On reaching home, after a bit of googling, I discovered a few more shocking truths. Haiti’s rice production had actually plummeted over the last twenty years or so, thanks to imports.

In 1980, Haiti was virtually self sufficient, on rice. But today, it actually imports 80% of its rice! Why? It is because western countries forced it to liberalize its economy in 1994. And it had to cut taxes on imports. And quickly, rice imports went up. Local rice production went down. Way, down.

And here’s another interesting tit-bit. Did you know that $434m paid in annual US rice subsidies is more than the total US aid to Haiti of $353 million?

No wonder, therefore, that Oxfam, the International Aid Agency is urging US to stop subsidies on rice to Haiti. According to Oxfam, agriculture must now be a priority for Haiti’s Reconstruction efforts. And it is asking international donors and developed countries to come forward and help Haiti recover. Especially, in contributing to Haiti’s new $772m agriculture plan.
For a start, US should begin promoting agricultural growth in Haiti. And stop its sale of agricultural produce if it can be locally grown by Haitian farmers. And the developed nations must assist Haiti in becoming self-sufficient.

Lao Tzu’s words, ‘Give a man a fish, and you will feed him for a day. But teach a man to fish and you will feed him for a life time’, suddenly ring true here.

So, for Haiti, is it indigenous rice? Or imported rice? Let’s hope that better economic sense will prevail. And not Miami Vice......I mean..... Miami rice.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Angels and Humans

Angels. This is what many are calling them. The rescue workers struggling to lift up the 33 miners trapped underground in Chile, are being viewed as nothing short of wonderful farishtaas.

And, rightly, so. They have just brightened what was a faint glimmer of hope, for all the families of the miners.

For nearly two months now, since the cave-in occurred, and since the world discovered that all 33 miners were safe, but utterly trapped, there were continuous prayers at the mouth of the mine.

Families waited and watched with helpless grief, as rescuers worked in a race against time. So, after 66 days, when the drill finally broke through to reach them, it is no wonder that the Chileans, as a nation, are celebrating with dancing and singing; with tears of hope and relief.

The miners’ survival for 66 days is itself an amazing feat, thanks to the small bore hole through which food and water was being passed on to them, and communication was maintained. Interestingly, one of the miners, Ticona, even saw the birth of his child on a video sent down that small hole!

Two weeks ago, I saw in the TIME magazine, the pictures of these miners and the scribbled drawings they sent up to the rescuers, explaining where they are trapped, and how they can be reached. I had shown these pictures, and was telling my daughters, how difficult it could be to rescue them.

Called as the world’s most complex mining rescue mission yet, this will be viewed with awe and wonder. One by one, as the miners are pulled up through a hole, not wider than a man’s shoulders - with the help of a cage-capsule called phoenix - it would be a daring and daunting test of minds and nerves.

Only on Wednesday will the actual rescue begin. But to have successfully drilled a 2,050 foot-long (625-metre) shaft over these 50 days or so, is itself, an act of astounding engineering marvel.

The depth is somewhat equal to putting the two towers of Bahrain Financial Harbour one atop another and also National Bank of Bahrain Building on top of them (each BFH tower is 260 m tall, and NBB Building is 140m). That gives an estimate of the depth.

But more than the depth of the physical hole that has been drilled, it is the strength of collective human endeavour to reach out to fellow humans, which should make us grasp the import of sensitivity, to others, in times of trouble.

To prevent accidental caving-in or collapsing, the walls of this drilled passage way, I heard, are being reinforced. And, around the world too, our faith in human beings is being reinforced.

Oh, what a fulfilment it is for the heart to know that, even if the task seems insurmountable, we as humans can rise up to great heights – or in this case, go down to great depths - in the honourable service of fellow humans. So, much so, that humans are called Angels.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Fidel Castro - Our Man in Havana

Only 11 minutes?

I am surprised that Fidel Castro gave - perhaps - the shortest speech ever. In his career, this week! News-item here.

Four-and-a-half hours. That was Fidel Castro's 1960 UN General Assembly speeech record. 4 1/2 hours!

So, 11 mins is a surprise. Age is taking its toll. And the length of the duration of your speech is, probably, inversely proportional to your age (Joel's theorem).

Did you know that he was already the President of Cuba by the time I was born? Infact, he continued to be the President of Cuba, until just four years ago.

Until, he handed over the reigns of the country to his brother, Raul. and the world thought that that was the end of it.

But he is back again. 'Alive and Kicking', is definitely the right phrase. He lambasted the world powers, for tottering on the brink of war. He chided the great governments, Especially, Obama's.

Many years ago, he also caused great fear to the government of Kennedy's.

Poor JFK had the toughest time, with entire world on the brink of a Nuclear War at that time, with the Cuban Crisis.

Wonder what crisis is brewing now. But it's small wonder that Our Man in Havana is giving a lot of impetus to the likes of Iran and Venezeula, and their overt display of anti-american sentiment.


Monday, February 15, 2010

Sunlight in Winter

Lovely morning.

Driving up to work on a long stretch of road as the bright sunlight streamed onto my face, was a wonderful feeling. After a few days of cold, it is a joy to feel the beautiful warm feeling this morning.

Sunshine is often given a lot of importance in the cold countries, and not in countries like Bahrain where avoiding heat is what we all want. But then, just wanted to record that sunshine is always good, after a cold time.....even in hot desert regions.

Btw, saw Star Screen Awards last night where Javed Akhtar got a Life Time Achievement award.

Cant forget one line from the song he penned. From '1942: A Love Story'. एक लड़की को देखा थो ... in that there is a line where he says 'जैसे सर्दी की धुप' ! jaise sardi ki dhoop is like the sunlight in winter। :-)

Also, cant help remembering that song from the Ad which Seef Cinema used to keep playing on and on... "aint no sunshine॥when you are gone'....

You can see an old post on this here