Politics & the Nation

  • The papers have reported the usual sound bites about the ongoing investigations and moves concerning the terrorirsts involved in the Mumbai attacks
    • The US, Pakistan and India authorities have been sticking to their well known positions. India, it appears is bringing in considerable pressure.
    • Whether this will lead to something concrete or it will also go down the public memory lane, the way the earlier efforts have gone, remains to be seen.
  • World Human Rights Day observed
    • Nations around the world observed the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10th December, i.e., yesterday.
    • The 30-point document was adopted by the UN in the aftermath of World War II and emphasises rights and freedoms that are held to apply to everyone in the world.
    • The Declaration has come to form the basis of much of international law and has provided moral and legal backing for UN action against human rights violators.
    • The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Navanethem Pillay
Finance & Economics
  • More IT jobs likely to come India's way
    • This is one news item that appears like a silver lining in an otherwise bleak scenario. A study by PwC (PriceWaterhouseCoopers) says that more US companies are likely to offshore work to India while demanding more favourable terms at the same time.
  • Options route to FDI being examined by the government
    • So far, FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) was allowed only in the form of share/stock acquisition. But the government is reportedly considering allowing the options route to FDI.
    • Options, as you might know, give the holder the right to acquire stocks/shares but not the obligation, to engage in a future transaction on a security.
    • The government's move is likely to widen the doors for FDI.
    • In this context, it would be very interesting to get a picture of the global cross-country capital flows. Courtesy McKinsey.
  • Private PFs and Superannuation funds' equity returns to be made tax free?
    • What's the big deal about this measure?
    • This is expected to encourage them into investing in equities, which offer better returns over longer periods. This is what conventional wisdom says. But in the current downturn, it is being witnessed that this is getting turned upside down.
    • In August this year, the limit for these entities' investments in equities has been increased from 5% to 15% of their corpus. Income tax rule 67 is the rule governing taxation on this.
  • Realization is now slowly dawning on everybody that good corporate governance is about risk management.
    • But, the high and mighty in the corporate ladder confined 'risk management' to esoteric financial models, which supposedly were comprehensible only to the high priests from IITs, IIMs, Harvard and the like. They could get away with those models, because nobody else could point out holes in them. So, in spite of there being flawed models, the high priests got away with them and landed all in trouble. TT Ram Mohan did a neat job of explaining to us as to what risk management should and should not encompass. A worthy read.
  • Illinois Governor arraigned on corruption charges
    • Democrat Governor Rod Blagojevich was charged by the US Federal authorities with trying to sell Barack Obama's Senate seat. He was produced before a Court and had to come out on a $4,500 bail.
    • It is not the first time that a Governor from Illinois was charged with corruption. His predecessor George Ryan, was convicted in April 2006 on racketeering and fraud charges. Ryan reported to a federal prison in Wisconsin in November 2007 to serve a 6½-year sentence.
  • Google taunted with accusations of paying less for Internet usage
    • A study estimated that Google has used 16.5% of all US consumer internet traffic this year and it is estimated to grow to 25% in 2009 and 37% in 2010.
    • However, the company's payment to fund the US consumer broadband internet segment is estimated at $344 million for 2008, which is just 0.8% of the US consumer's flat-rate monthly internet access costs of $44 billion.
    • Thus, Google's 16.5% share of all 2008 US consumer bandwidth usage is about 21 times greater than Google's 0.8% share of US consumer bandwidth costs -- an implicit subsidy of about $6.9 billion by US consumers, says the study.
    • Shouldn't you be surprised at the way people conduct research? Should Google's usage of Internet bandwidth be anybody's concern? As long as it is paying the bills raised on it by its service providers, why should this bother anybody?
  • Nobel prizes for 2008 handed over yesterday
    • The prizes - including a 10 million kronor ($1.2 million) purse, a diploma and a gold medal - are always handed out on Dec. 10, the anniversary of Nobel's death in 1896. The Swedish industrialist and inventor of dynamite died in San Remo (Italy), a link that the Italian city marks by sending flowers to decorate the annual ceremony in Stockholm.
  • Lord Swraj Paul
    • Leading NRI entrepreneur Lord Swraj Paul has scripted history by becoming the first Asian deputy speaker of the UK's House of Lords.
    • He is the founder of the UK-based multinational Caparo, a steel and engineering group with an annual turnover of £1.5 billion.
  • Bangladesh to have its own Taj Mahal
    • Ahsanullah Moni, a Bangladeshi film maker's five year effort to have a true replica of the original Taj built in Sonargaon, a small town in Bangladeshi countryside, appears to have neared its realization. It has reportedly cost him close to $58 mn to have the replica constructed. Most of the construction is reportedly over and it will be open for public shortly.
    • The 17th Century Taj was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a tomb for his beloved queen, Mumtaz Mahal.
    • The emperor is buried next to his queen in the monument in the northern Indian city of Agra, which is visited by millions every year.