26.03.2008

  • Who is great? A diplomat or a barista?
    • Do you know the country where the job of a barista is preferred over the job of a diplomat? It is Norway.
    • A barista is a person who prepares and presents the brew to suit the individual customer’s preference in fine coffee cafes.
  • Regulating higher education in India
    • At present, the higher education system in our country is regulated by seven central ministries and 13 councils. As a result, there is over-regulation and under-governance.
    • Hence the NKC – National Knowledge Commission is proposing to set up an Independent Regulatory Authority for Higher Education (IRAHE).
  • Some more salient features of the pay award announced by the Sixth Pay Commission
    • It has liberalised the conditions relating to pension payment. So far, only when a service of not less than 33 years is put up by an employee, is he eligible for full pension. Now the Commission recommended that soon after 20 years of service, the employee will be entitled for full pension.
    • It has increased the limit on gratuity payment also from Rs. 3.5 lakh to Rs. 10 lakhs.
    • These recommendations are expected to benefit about 38.41 lakh pensioners. The increased payment to pensioners will result in an additional expenditure of Rs. 1,365 crores per annum.
  • If you are asked to mention some criteria for judging the pay panel reports, what would you state?
    • Today’s ET editorial lists out three. They are good.
    • One, are new salaries commensurate with the service rendered?
    • Two, are government salaries comparable to salaries in the private sector? This is essential if government is to attract and retain talent.
    • Three, can the taxpayers bear the burden of higher pay and allowances?
  • India’s diamond business
    • India’s imports of rough diamonds during 2007-08 are expected to touch $10 bn while exports are expected to be about $14 bn.
    • India is the world’s largest importer of rough and exporter of cut and polished diamonds with over 90% market share.
    • Botswana is the largest producer of diamonds in the world accounting for over 25% of the production followed by Russia (22%), Canada (12%), South Africa (12%), Angola (10%) and Namibia (6%).
  • India’s new irradiation facility for mangoes
    • BARC has opened a new facility at Vashi, Navi Mumbai. It is awaiting the approval of the US department of agriculture.
    • The other irradiation facility for mangoes is at Lasalgaon in Nashik District.
    • These facilities are required to overcome the phyto-sanitary issues relating to export of mangoes to the US.
    • India started exporting mangoes to the US only last year, following President Bush’s green signal.
  • Frantz Fanon
    • Frantz Fanon (July 20, 1925 – December 6, 1961) was an author from Martinique (a Caribbean island, which was then a French colony and now a French d├ępartement), essayist, psychoanalyst, and revolutionary. He was perhaps the preeminent thinker of the 20th century on the issue of decolonization and the psychopathology of colonization. His works have inspired anti-colonial liberation movements for more than four decades.
    • Do you remember the phrase "The Wretched of the Earth"? It is one of his very popular works.
  • Is the US recession, a solution and not a problem?
    • You need people like Swaminathan Anklesaria Aiyar to pick up (or rake up) arguments like these. Some excerpts for us:
    • The underlying problem is that US households have for years been spending more than their income. The macroeconomic consequence is a huge current account deficit of $700 billion/year, financed by borrowing from abroad. Burdened now with trillions of dollars of debt, even the richest and most creditworthy country in the world is now suffering a falling currency, causing pain through inflation. US overspending is not sustainable, and will at some point have to be reduced drastically, if not eliminated.
    • Seen in this light, a recession is a solution to US overspending, not a problem. A recession reduces spending and borrowing, and thus helps restore economic equilibrium. The world economy will inevitably slow down along with the US. But countries like India will still be able to attain GDP growth of 7%, lower than the 8.8% of the last four years, but still extremely high by historical standards.
    • In sum, Indian investors should not get euphoric about the latest actions of the US Fed and Congress to unfreeze markets and stimulate the economy. Any success on their part is likely to be partial, and short-lived. The era of mammoth US trade deficits fuelling record growth round the world — including in India is coming to an end. We need to adjust to this new reality.
  • How does short selling help?
    • Remember the SEBI regulations that are set to allow short selling in a month from now? How do short sales help a market?
    • By empowering institutions (both foreign and domestic) to short sell, policymakers hope that the process of price discovery will be more efficient. These large institutional investors control nearly a fourth of the market capitalisation, and are increasingly becoming key constituents of the market. There are also some who feel that the data from the stock lending and borrowing window will serve as a valuable tool for traders to take technical or short-term calls on stocks. The quantum of shares, which have been borrowed, the investment behaviour of foreign portfolio investors and the level of retail participation can offer valuable clues to gauge the mood of the market.
  • RBI lets Singapore banks to open branches in India
    • We have covered in detail about the issue with Singapore on CECA (Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement) in our blogs over the last year and a half. Now both the countries have reached some amicable settlement over the contentious issues.
    • A recap of the issue is worth our attention. I consider this one of the most important (or shall I say likely?) questions in the interview.
    • Read this article that appeared in today’s ET.

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