Politics & the Nation
  • Cyclone 'Phyan' fizzles out; leaving Mumbai breathing easy. But insurance companies are poorer by Rs. 10 crore for the abandoned cricket match
    • It scared the city literally out of its workplaces, but ended up as a calamity that never happened. The cyclonic storm ‘Phyan’, which threatened to hit Mumbai on Wednesday afternoon, crossed the western coast close to Mumbai, but spared the metropolis and weakened without causing any major damage.
    • But it sure drills a hole in insurers' pockets. Take a look at this story to know how.
  • Internet for India's masses
    • Come February 2010, millions of non-English speaking Indians will be able to type .bharat in devnagari while accessing popular websites.
    • The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names & Numbers (ICANN), the global body which sets the standards for the Internet, decided to make addresses available in non-Latin scripts on October 27. The move was in response to requests from a number of countries, including Japan, Korea, India and China.
Finance & Economy
  • Air India suffers huge loss
    • National carrier Air India on Wednesday announced that it has incurred a loss of Rs 5,548 crore in 2008-09 due to global economic slowdown but hoped to post better operating performance this year.
    • Total revenue fell to Rs 13,479 crore in FY09 from Rs 15,252 crore in FY08, the airline said in a statement. However, last year’s financial performance was better than the previous year’s when Air India had suffered a net loss of Rs 7,200 crore.
  • On Copenhagen meet
    • We keep reading quite a bit about it in newspapers. After some time, we are reduced to a stage wherein we know largely the positions of countries either individually or collectively and are at a loss as to whether something concrete can come out of such attempts. We are sure that the Copenhagen meet will not be able to deliver anything concrete, as things stand today.
    • But is that reason enough to stop wracking our brains about it? Should the search for solutions to the pollution conundrum be put an end to? Common sense tells that it should not. But a logjam seems to be staring us in our face. In such situations, a whiff of fresh air in the form of off-tangent thoughts does bring in some great relief.
    • Take a look at today's op-ed by Mukul Sanwal. It does look at things differently. Worth a read. You can even keep it for reference. Will do you a lot good in articulating your views on the subject in interviews.
  • On the benefits of disinvestment in PSUs (Excerpts from an article written by TT Ram Mohan in today's ET)
    • Is it true that there will be fiscal benefits on disinvestment in PSUs?
      • Though this is one of the reasons cited for proceeding ahead with disinvestment, the benefits are largely illusory.
      • First, the planned disinvestment won’t happen overnight. So there is no immediate relief to the fisc by way of large inflows.
      • Secondly, when the government sells its equity in a PSU, it is only realising upfront the value of dividends it would realise over the life of the PSU. Any gain to the fisc in the short-term is offset by a loss of the stream of dividends over a longer period.
    • Can disinvestment in PSUs be an instrument for improving their performance?
      • Government firms become subject to greater market discipline as the stock price is watched daily. The existence of retail and institutional shareholders acts as a check on political interference that would adversely impact the stock price. Management becomes more focused on commercial performance when subject to continuous monitoring by analysts and comparison with peers. This explains the trend towards convergence in performance between PSUs and private firms in the post-reforms period, as several studies have shown.
    • PSUs are largely seen as having some inherent strengths: For instance, it is felt that the Satyam type of scams are less likely to occur in PSUs, because of the elaborate system of checks and balances that is put in place in PSUs. Then, the mechanism of independent directors can work better in PSUs than in private sector, because they don't owe their existence to the management but to government. Can you throw some suggestions on how to leverage these inherent strengths to gain a governance edge over the private sector?
      • Include representatives of workers, institutional shareholders and minority shareholders on boards.
      • Improve on the present compensation levels for independent directors without erring on the side of excess.
      • Create a system for evaluating board performance.
      • Devise a mechanism whereby independent directors who perform can graduate from the lesser PSUs to the more prestigious ones.
  • SC wonders whether it can usurp Parliament’s powers
    • Questioning one of its own earlier directions to rein in unruly students union activities, the Supreme Court on Wednesday referred to a constitution bench a crucial question as to whether courts can frame laws, a role reserved for the legislature. A bench of Justices Markandeya Katju and Asok Kumar Ganguly maintained that even though they too were concerned over rising prices and unemployment, courts cannot be expected to pass orders to government on such issues as they are in the exclusive domain of the legislature. “...We do not have the expertise though we are also affected by the price rise,” the bench observed.
Language lessons
  • presage: Verb
    • Indicate by signs
    • eg: The founding family of India’s largest real estate company has reached a deal with DE Shaw to buy out the hedge fund’s stake in DLF Asset (DAL), an important step presaging transactions that could lead to a Singapore listing for the DLF affiliate in the first quarter of 2010.
  • feisty: Adjective
    • Showing courage; Quick to take offence
    • eg: IWAS raised as a pretty poor farm girl in Wisconsin and always thought of upgrading myself. So I over-achieved! I was lucky...” A characteristically short bio from Carol Ann Bartz, the feisty chief executive of the $7.2 billion internet company Yahoo! ...
  • stupor: Noun
    • The feeling of distress and disbelief that you have when something bad happens accidentally; Marginal consciousness
    • eg: "someone stole his wallet while he was in a drunken stupor"
  • tedium:
    • The feeling of being bored by something tedious; Dullness owing to length or slowness
    • eg: The tedium of her golf handicap improving only from 40 to 28 and days filled with gardening, photography and reading were only partly responsible.
  • suss: Verb
    • Examine so as to determine accuracy, quality, or condition
    • eg: And that trait manifests itself not only in her love for reading up on subjects as diverse as the cleverness of crows to weird everyday events, but also to her practice of taking prospective team members out for a meal to suss them out.
  • noblesse oblige: Noun
    • The obligation of those of high rank to be honourable and generous (often used ironically)
    • eg: In this era of intense scrutiny, a touchy-feely gambit can backfire on politicians if they are not temperamentally inclined towards it, due to which the public perceives the gesture as noblesse oblige instead.