All views / opinions are solely that of the author and no other individual, group of individuals or organization (including my employer) has any stake whatsoever in the same. While every possibile care is taken with respect to the correctness of the facts and figures given in the blog, some inadvertant errors may have crept in and are regretted. The author accepts absolutely no responsibility for any action taken [and any consequence thereof] by anyone on reading these posts.

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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Does India need an ADB loan now?

Just the other day came across this piece of news that ADB is going to grant a loan to India, to the tune of around Rs 4500 Cr. It is to help out with the agri-distress and will be disbursed through the co-operative banks. India will have to repay it in 15 years....
Now, I wonder whether this loan is indeed needed. We now have forex reserves in excess of $ 160 bn and our economy too, is clocking good growth rates (9.1% for the first half of 06-07 - news just trickling in), albeit agriculture being the laggard. I believe that we have enough domestic resources to meet all the needs of our poor farmers who are the victims of short-sighted and restrictive policies of the government (More on that in a later post). What we need is an efficient credit delivery system, along with policies that free agri-trade. Here, the problem, as I see it, is the involvement of co-operative banks. Anyone who has some idea of their functioning will testify that it's the place for the cronies and chamchas of corrupt politicians. All the money that will come from the ADB will simply vanish into their pockets! The intended beneficiaries will be left high and dry.
Any reform of agriculture will / should necessarily involve de-politicising the co-operative banks and bringing them under the direct control of the RBI. The dual control of urban co-op banks (1853 of them) - by Registrar of Co-op Societies and the RBI - in vogue today is doing no good.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Pre-IPO private placements

Just some two days back read a report that Cairn Energy's Indian arm which is planning an IPO soon, has got a portion of its to-be-issued shares placed privately, for a disclosed, of course, amount. A similar pre-IPO private placement was also there for the shares of Reliance Petroleum Ltd, with Chevron. Following this, there was also an update published in newspapers.....My doubt is, is this a really healthy trend? Coz, the price at which these placements are done is known to all (it should be) and doesn't it serve as a signal to the primary market players for the bid price in the book-building process? In other words, isn't the issuer indirectly signaling the price it wants?

Monday, November 13, 2006

SEZs - A new dimension

A totally new perspective on SEZs can be found in the Nov 13, 06 issue of BusinessWorld.

Friday, November 10, 2006

What this blog isn't

Since I've posted on the areas I'll explore on this blog, let me also lay down what you can't expect in my blog. Of course, this is not an inflexible list; some of this may change later. Here goes:
  • Pics, links and such other geeky things that have now come to be taken for granted in any blog. The reason is known to you: I'm not well-versed in HTML!
  • Scholarly advice. Coz, I'm no scholar!! The primary objective in my starting to blog was, and is, to hone my writing skills. And, that was for a greater purpose; something you can call by the name 'career objective' or something similar! Therefore, most of the things I post here may be repetition of what you've already read. But, for me, it's like testing my writing skills. Critical evaluation (esp. of current economic situation) will take some more time to make its appearance here. Please bear with it.....
Well, I started typing thinking that there will be so many entries in my 'negative list'. Thankfully, there are only two!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Save Vizhinjam Port!

Today, let me call your attention to the one infrastructure project that can change the face of Keralam and India - Vizhinjam Port.
Vizhinjam is a coastal village near Thiruvananthapuram district. It's a place that has no parallels in the world. Why, you may wonder. Because:
  • It's the only harbour with a natural depth of 24 m - far in excess of the needs of today's biggest tankers!
  • It's an all-weather port
  • It does not need any dredging anytime during its life.
  • It's as near as near can be to international shipping channels.
Thus, you can see that the Vizhinjam port has a competitive advantage over all other ports in India and the world. If it is commissioned, it will dwarf ports like Dubai, Singapore and Colombo. And, this is the reason, in my reckoning, why this project has been hanging fire for so long! Then there are the parochialist politicians of neighbouring states (read: Tamil Nadu) who will go to any end to scuttle any project that will benefit Keralam. Just a few months ago, the project seemed all set to be implemented with a consortium involving a Chinese company being awarded the contract and then the Central Govt raised the bogey of 'security concerns' and have withheld green signal for the project.
What next? The spineless, self-serving politicians of Keralam came out with some 'empty talk' and now everyone seems to have forgotten it. Now FRAT (Federation of Residents' Associations in Trivandrum) is running a signature campaign to get the project moving. Last heard, businessmen like Anil Ambani and Rajeev Chadrashekhar have evinced interest in the project. It's now up to the State Govt to come out with an alternative plan to get this implemented. In my view, the PPP model a la the Cochin International Airports Ltd. is the way out. The SEZ option should also be checked out.
I hope some action will unfold in the coming days......I hope.....and pray.

Friday, November 03, 2006

My music and movie favs

I love music and movies.
This is what I'd written in my profile on Orkut.com. Thought I'd remove it from there and put it here...
A R Rahman - One and Only!!!
And, all fusion music artists
And, if time permits (strictly in this order), Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Vishal-Shekhar, Shantanu Moitra, Ilaiyaraja, Deepak Dev, Sandeep Chowta, Harris Jayaraj, Raveendran, RD Burman, MG Radhakrishnan, Himesh Reshammiya,  Salim-Suleiman, and Pritam Chakrabarti.
Generally, all those with good cinematography and quality story, screenplay and suitable CGs;
  1. All those with AR Rahman's music
  2. All those with cinematography by Ravi K Chandran, Santosh Sivan or RD Rajasekhar
  3. All those starring Aamir Khan, Ajay Devgan, Akshay Kumar, John Abraham, Preity Zinta, Rani Mukherji, Suriya, R Madhavan, Vikram, Kamal Hassan, Mohanlal, Dileep and Meera Jasmine
  4. All those directed by Mani Ratnam, Ashutosh Gowarikar, Rakeysh Mehra, Rajkumar Santoshi, Farhan Akhthar, Rajeev Menon, Gautam Menon, Shankar, Priyadarshan and Fazil
  5. Any of the earlier films from RGV Film Factory - the contrarians
  6. None having anything to do with Mahesh Bhatt, David Dhawan, Yashraj films and Dharma Productions unless any of the conditions from 1 to 4 above is satisfied.
All-time favs (not in order) - The Titanic, The Matrix trilogy, Roja, Lagaan, Swades, Rang De Basanti, Dil Chahta Hai, Lakshya, The Legend of Bhagat Singh, Kaakha Kaakha, Yoddha and Manichitrathazhu.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Happy Birthday, Keralam!!

The state of Keralam [Kerala, for the international readers; and, 'Keral' for North Indians] turns 50 today. It was on Nov 1, 1956 that this state came into being, as a result of the reorganization of Indian states on linguistic basis by merging the princely states of Travancore-Cochin and the Malabar region. The language was Malayalam. When I look into the past, present and future of my home state, a few points are worth pondering over, I feel.
Swami Vivekananda had once described Keralam as a 'lunatic asylum' which pretty much summed up the social conditions prevailing then. It's a place where the most extreme forms of caste oppression prevailed. Yet, a few enlightened souls like 'Chattambi Swami', 'Sreenarayana Guru' and 'Mannathu Padmanabhan' were successful in reforming the system, of course with the active support of the royals, especially Travancore Kingdom. All these, coupled with the emergence of Communism has since ensured that all social ills were pretty much done away with, at least in the open.
Malayalees are well aware of the benefits education can confer on the individual and the society. The early work of the missionaries, the schools and colleges that were opened up to all by the royalty, and subsequently, by organizations like NSS and SNDP have all had a role in spreading this awareness. The govt.'s policy of letting the private sector into the primary education sector (whether or not by default) also helped. But, of late, this awareness has gone to the extreme levels, with everyone wanting to make their wards engineers / doctors. 'No other career is worth the while' is the general feeling. It does not stop there. All people who take up humanities / arts / commerce are looked down upon, not just by the common man, but even by the top faculty in the respective streams. Being a PG in commerce, this hurts and angers me no end.
Keralam has the unique status of being the first state where Communists came to power through the ballot. Yet, the question remains whether Communism has helped Keralam in a substantial manner? There has been a societal awakening, yes; but it has also resulted in economic backwardness. Communism made people aware of their rights, but none knew about their duties! This is the tragedy in Kerala society. Strikes and lock-outs became commonplace and today, no industry worth a name exists in Kerala. There is a Hindustan Latex and Travancore Titanium in Trivandrum, a FACT (now on the verge of downing shutters) and a Ship-building yard in Kochi.....what else?? Now IT is slowly becoming stronger, but the Communists are wavering on this. There was a time when Communists vehemently opposed computers, saying they led to loss of jobs! And that opposition cost Keralam dearly with neighboring states stealing march over it. Please, for God's sake, let this industry at least thrive on its own.
As for the agri-distress, here also I'll blame the Communists only. Land Reforms is touted as the major achievement of post-independent Kerala. What is the actual ground reality? It has turned the tables on the so-called upper castes. I dare say that the kind of feudalistic practices that still prevail in some other parts of India had been routed by the time Keralam was formed. The landlords here were far more lenient and generous. But, the govt. took their lands and distributed it to the farmers. The erstwhile landlords - 'Janmis', and that includes Brahmins and Nairs - became poor by the day. Not for them, things like reservation. They were left to fend for themselves in an increasingly hostile world around them. As for the people who got the land, for the majority, the holding was too small for viable cultivation. This fragmentation has ultimately led to Keralam being dependent on Tamil Nadu for its food grains and vegetables. Today, Wayanad is in the grip of a severe farm distress and the govt simply does nothing at all! I HATE COMMUNISTS FOR BEING THE PEOPLE BEHIND KERALA'S ECONOMIC BACKWARDNESS.
The decline in job opportunities, as outlined in the preceding para, for the educated youth - mostly upper caste - resulted in their migration to other states and countries. The professional got opportunities in the West. Similarly, the less-educated found a refuge in the Gulf. They have today earned a name for themselves. By God's grace, they have not forgotten their less-fortunate brethren back home. It's the money-orders and DDs that these overseas Mallus religiously send home that avert an economic disaster in Kerala. It's often commented that Malayalees work hard once out of Kerala. It's the flawed socio-economic model that has resulted in this sad state of affairs.
In terms of health-related parameters, Kerala has done a great job. But, there is the need to remove the sense of complacency here and work on the lifestyle diseases that are the new 'talking points' for the vainglorious. If not checked, there is an impending health disaster in terms of access costs and poverty. For personal reasons, I cannot elaborate more on this now.
When I look into the future, I see bright chances for Kerala. First and foremost is its educated youth that is raring to go places and make a mark of their own. The IT sector, if properly nourished, can do wonders. Another important area is the infrastructure sector. The Vizhinjam Port, if made a reality, can change the face of Keralam and India [More on this in another post]. Similarly, the Vallarpadam Terminal and Kannur airport are potential trailblazers. Tourism is another of Kerala's strengths. Its famed inland waterways can be revitalized and this will yield huge dividends [It's said that, in lieu of Palakkad region, the Kanyakumari region had to be given to Tamil Nadu. I still do not understand on what basis this decision was made. Had Kanyakumari been in Kerala, we could have developed it into a hygienic tourist destination. I emphasize 'hygienic' coz it's today one of the worst tourist spots in terms of cleanliness.]. There is an acute need for the right kind of political will to take Keralam to the big league. Will our political masters stop pandering to their own vested interests at least now? Let's pray for that......