Politics & the Nation
  • Congress does need allies
    • A very well written editorial piece in today's ET argues that Congress should not be taken in by grandiose ambitions.  It urges caution on the part of the GOP (Grand Old Party) in formation of the government and in running the country.  Worth a read.  Sane advice.
  • Once in a way we can treat ourselves to some funny political commentary.  Look at this excerpt:
    • Chennaites remembered how the octogenarian CM had gone on an indefinite fast on April 27 with the stated objective of protecting the lives of thousands of Tamil civilians trapped in the fighting in Sri Lanka. As things turned out, the fast lasted just a few hours and was called off once the Sri Lankan army promised not to use heavy weaponry like shells or rocket-launchers. Which was interpreted as a cease-fire! Karunanidhi’s political opponents quipped that the CM had gone on a post-breakfast, pre-lunch fast in order to win a majority of the Lok Sabha seats from TN and thus ensure that his son, daughter and grand-nephew were all rewarded with weighty portfolios in the new Cabinet! 
  • Today is anti-terrorism day
    • Anti-terrorism day is being observed throughout the country on the occasion of the 18th death anniversary of former PM Rajiv Gandhi, who fell prey to the designs of terrorists.
    • The Day is being observed to generate awareness in the country among all sections of people, about the danger of terrorism, violence and its evil effect on the people, society and the country as a whole.
    • The objective behind observance of the Day is to wean away the youth from the terrorist/violence cult by highlighting the suffering of the common people and showing how it is prejudicial to the national interest.
Finance & Economy
  • Most of the gains recorded in stock markets in the last two trading days is attributed to 'remorse buying.' What does it mean?
    • It means is that investors / fund managers are trying to put idle funds to good use, so as not to underperform the market. 
  • Know what is street financing?  
    • It is a method of money laundering -- converting black money into accounted money.
    • This is how Street Financing works: a person makes a draft payable in the name of another person from any particular bank for an amount less than Rs 49,000. This person on whose name the draft is made further endorses it in the name of another in lieu of payment for purchase of goods or services. However, the chain doesn’t end here and the draft is used as a payment check, without real money changing hands. In the end, there is a clique, who deposit these drafts in their bank accounts and take a commission of 1-2% to encash them. 
  • A very good commentary on the reasons for the global financial crisis coming from Benjamin Cohen.
    • Benjamin Cohen is the Louis G. Lancaster professor of international political economy at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of a dozen books, including The Geography of Money(1998) and The Future of Money(2004). His latest book, International Political Economy: An Intellectual History,was published in 2008.
    • Explaining the reasons for current global crisis he says:
    • "I regard the lax regulatory environment to be one of the two principle causes of the crisis–the other being an excess of liquidity. In the US, the regulatory framework failed to keep up with innovation in financial markets. And the result was that whole segments of the financial sector were totally outside the regulatory framework–be it hedge funds, private equity firms, or the ‘shadow banking system.’ Most classes of derivatives were not directly regulated by anybody. Compounding this was the so-called Washington consensus or neo-liberalism that emphasised reducing regulatory controls–which actually happened during the 1990s. The result was an environment in which innovations were allowed to go well beyond threshold risk...So by 2007, some 42% of corporate profits in the US was coming from the financial sector. As recently as 2000, the figure was 7%. There is no question that these profits were inflated by certain activities that are now going to be restricted or prohibited and so there maybe much lower profits–what may be considered ‘normal profits’– in the financial sector."
    • This is the kind of stuff that you can use in your interviews and GDs.
  • About NREGS funding
    • The National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), which promises 100 days of work to every rural household with an adult volunteer, received Rs 34,000 crore last year, including the previous years’ unspent balance. 
    • Of this, only Rs 24,000 crore has been spent. The balance Rs, 10,000 crore would be the opening balance for the NREGS this financial year. 
    • The interim budget had allocated Rs 31,000 crore for the current year, which is expected to be substantially raised in the full budget, given the ballooning unemployment due to the economic slowdown. As the funds were carried over from last year, the money ready for spending this year would be more than what would be allocated in the full budget documents.
  • Want to get a feel of a Black Swan event?
    • This term, popularised by a former Wall Street trader and author, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, is an extreme event that cannot be predicted by the complex mathematical models used for trading by these banks.
    • The recent surge in Indian stock markets following the UPA victory proved to be one such Black Swan for some foreign banks' trading desks. Read this story in full.  You will understand what we are trying to say.
  • India becomes the 15th largest investor in US treasuries
    • According to the latest data shared by the US Treasury Department, India’s outstanding exposure to US government bonds rose to $38.2 billion in March 2009 from $18.3 billion in October 2008. The latest tranche of investment into treasuries has made India the fourth-largest creditor to the US after China, Japan and Russia during this period. 
    • Look at this graphic to get a picture of the largest investors in US treasuries.
Language lessons
  • dirigisme: Noun
    • Economic and social control by the state
    • eg: If the government is serious about walking the tight rope between another stimulus package and steadily worsening public finances, it must shed its earlier dirigisme, especially in the context of disinvestment.
    • You will find it interesting to read about this word in Wikipedia.  Do so here.
  • intrepid: Adjective
    • Invulnerable to fear or intimidation
    • eg: A number of intrepid theories have been floated to explain the dollar's continuing strength.
  • incipient: Adjective
    • Only partly in existence; imperfectly formed
    • eg: The SEC (Securities Exchange Commission) is blamed for missing the incipient financial crisis and failing to detect Bernard Madoff’s $65 billion Ponzi scheme.