BUDGET 2008

Finance Minister will have myriad issues to address to in his last budget for the current government. Indian economy achieved an economy growth rate of 9.25% for the period 2006-07, incorporating measures for the sustenance of such growth in the coming fiscal would be a Herculean task given the slowdown cues in the world economy. For the current fiscal year there are many concerns like US slow down, rupee appreciation and forex reserve standing at 250 billion US dollars. Crude price hovering near to 100$ is indicating a higher inflation in the days to come. Fiscal deficit needs to be scaled down to 3% of the GDP.

Better infrastructure incentivizing measures coupled with revamps in direct tax rates and structure are expected from the FM. An excise of direct tax on corporate from 33.6% to 25% will incite the corporate world. A 45% growth in tax collection gives the FM leeway to ease tax slabs. Constant pestering from the corporate world about the FBT (Fringe Benefit Tax) can result in FM reviewing the FBT. Excise duty retrenchment is on the anvil as the duty is higher in India than the global benchmark for the duty. Banking and pension sector may attract more reforms. As a part of commitment of India towards Global Warming Reduction one can observe subsidies on equipments of alternative source of energy.

Being a minister cum politician cum an astute economist one can expect a very streamlined People’s budget from the Finance Department. Soft on the household taxes and subsidies for the agriculture sector might be the highlight of the budget. In Toto, a Soft Budget is on the radar as FM needs to safeguard the vote bank of his party.

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P.S. I LOVE YOU – BOOK REVIEW

“P.S. I LOVE YOU” by “Cecelia Ahern” is a novel targeted at a rather bohemian topic of bereavement process of a young widow. The novel is a homogeneous blend of romance and comedy. Protagonist of the story Holly Kennedy is sketched as a character whose sole aim was to care and to love Gerry her dying husband in the last few days of her husband’s life. Death of her husband leaves her with no objective to live for. She forgets that life goes on and dislikes/deters from making new experiences and memories in life.

But a parcel containing 10 letters from her dead husband channels new direction to her life. She comes to believe that “Sometimes it’s about living life one letter a time”. Each letter a month from her husband makes decisions about her life and she abides by them even though she dislikes many of the ideas. By the time she reads the last letter she understands that her husband’s intention behind the planned letters. She gets to know that life is to be celebrated and to be lead by free following of your heart.

Though some of the critics of the novel have carped about the little research done behind the writing by the young author, I would appreciate the deftness of the young author to present a grave issue combined with romance which eventually compensates for the little research. A sudden shift from a serious topic to a light comic issue can be observed in various conversations in the story. The novel is a good, intriguing and touching read.

A MIGHTY HEART – BOOK REVIEW

A MIGHTY HEART” by Mariane Pearl is an elaborative account of Daniel Pearl’s abduction, intense efforts to rescue him and the aftermath. Mariane and Daniel Pearl were two journalists who fell in love with each other and in love with journalism. Mariane and her rescue team’s courage and determination have been very well elucidated in the book. I would appreciate the book on three fronts:-1.Insights into Journalism – Author presents Daniel’s idea of journalism as a means to eradicate the hatred which reins in many hearts. Daniel in his professional sphere extends journalism beyond “news making” to “altruism”. He has also raised his concern about the hazards a journalist counters round the world.

2.Insights into Courage and Non-defiant spirit – Daniel the protagonist exhibits his courage to stand for truth even at the face of death. His courage and understanding of journalism principles makes him travel around the globe. Mariane, Daniel’s wife is also seen dauntlessly putting efforts to rescue Daniel. Even after his murder she fights to put journalism at the forefront of the fight against terrorism.

3.Insights into Terrorism – Mariane presents her experience with terrorism meticulously in the account. She believes that the invisible enemy “Hatred” in the form of terrorism is not just hazardous for America but for the whole world. Ignorance and poverty are some of the pillars on which the dais of terrorism stands. Simultaneously she presents next generation terrorists in a character named “Omar” who are educated and have bonds with the east and the west.

DIVISIVE POLITICS WILL FALL AND SHAKE THE EARTH

Divisive politics exploits   the fissures in the society for political mileage. Using divisive politics as the tool to generate favor among the voters has been an old methodology in India. Divisive politics has been constantly into play right from 1984’s Blue Star operation to recent clashes in Rajasthan. Recent verbal warfare accompanied by violent clashes in Maharashtra using regionalism as the framework to capture vote banks is one of the example of divisive politics.

India boasts of a secular state and an amalgamation of diverse cultures but do divisive politicians playing devil in the society portray an India which is a cross-cultural web (one which is sketched by tourism program ‘Incredible India’). Caste based reservations were fabricated in 1947 with an aim to bridge gaps between various strata of society but now has become a tool for divisive politicians to exploit the ignorance.  Indian society which easily absorbed the cultures of kings and colonies who conquered or transgressed in India now detests the differences among itself.  

Poverty and ignorance are the two pillars on which the divisive politics fundamentals stands. Terrorists exploit the society on the basis of religion similarly divisive politicians divide the society exploiting the ignorance and poverty for political mileage. ‘Society Terrorists’ would not be a misnomer for divisive politicians. Divisive politicians today are creating an invisible enemy “Hatred” which would soil the harmony in India.

Weigh the Indian population welfare and the Indian vote bank on politicians’ weigh, you will find vote bank weighing more than welfare. Divisiveness is a huge tree deep rooted in the mindset of Indian population. When this tree will fall it will shake the earth.

USE OF COGNITIVE SCIENCE IN SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT (UCSD)

Cognitive science is most simply defined as the scientific study either of mind or of intelligence. It is an interdisciplinary study drawing from relevant fields including psychology, philosophy, neuroscience, linguistics, anthropology, computer science, and biology. 

Researches are being conducted on how to implement Cognitive Science in the UI design of software. It has been established that the design of UI will affect the performance of human using the software. The colors used in the UI, positioning of the buttons, text boxes etc on the screen will affect the human behavior and interaction.The role of cognition and computation in the development of state-of-the art technologies such as human computational interaction in aviation, air traffic control, medical diagnosis, robotics and tele-robotics, and the design and engineering of cognitive artifacts are the major arenas of work under this program.  Improvement of the efficiency of the users like pilots, astronauts etc using software systems under pressure conditions and real time situations are also a part of such studies.

As HASE (Human Aspect in Software Engineering) covers the tracking of software failure to human factors of the developers, UCSD covers the psychological impact of UI on the users of the system.

Reliance Power IPO- Poor Show

Capital Market is presently a very well fought battle between the BULLS and the BEARS hence you can observe a see-saw (VOLATILITY in market terms) very prominent in the INTRADAY charts. With global cues not looking positive and a recession impending in US as forecasted by many agencies BEARS are presently reining the Indian Stock Exchanges. IPO listing has been highly underweighted by agencies as of now as IPOs like Wochardt, EMAAR MGF had to withdraw themselves keeping the investors sentiment in consideration. Reliance Power was of no exception and faced the same brunt.Reliance Power can be attributed some of the blame for such a poor show of the IPO on the first day.

  • Many Brokerage houses and MFs consider the pricing to exorbitant. The company will start earning only after 2010 when it starts performing and is only on paper and is a dream as of now. So it does not pay to invest in a paper company as of now. Some of the experts have tagged it as a “EMOTIVE ISSUE” where investors have invested keeping the name of Group into consideration not the technicals.
  • Reliance spent 40 crores in the promotion of the IPO and was the biggest IPO to have ever hit the market. Such huge promotional strategies created frenzy in the minds of common man who does not know much about stock markets. This in turn lead to huge number of DEMAT account openings and huge applications for the IPO who intended to make money on the first day by squaring off their positions on the first day.

For all Reliance Power IPO, I wish all the Best.

Solutions to Indian Farmers’ Woes

This article is a proposed solution to suicides of farmers in Western Maharashtra which is reported in the TIMES OF INDIA 7-Feb-2008

Amazingly a large portion of suicides reported are from farmlands having good irrigation facilities. Farmers report that the suicides are because of the decline in the cooperative movement not because of the irrigation reasons. Condition of agriculture share is quiet pathetic in India as 70% of Indian population related to agriculture contribute only 20% of the Indian GDP. Following are the some of the solutions are I propose for the problem.

  • Public Private Partnership: PPP can go long ahead to solve rural problems. Financial institutes in collaboration with government agencies can percolate themselves to rural segment and educate them of the various microfinance schemes available. Such collaboration can save the private brands from getting tarnished by allegations like rural exploitation. As government agencies have deeper roots in rural society this would help private firms to reach people and needy easier. PPP can also be formed with fertilizer and farming equipments manufacturing companies who can educate the farmers of the new technologies that can be employed for better productivity. Grameen Bank of Bangladesh and SKS Finance are some of the examples working for rural segments. Financial PPPs can be a good substitute for Cooperative banks.

  • ALID (Agriculture Lead Industrialization and Development): ALID also stands as a major tool for emancipation of farmers. Read more about ALID in my post (INDIA VERSUS BHARAT).

  • Additional Source of Income: ALID advocates additional sources of income for farmers which can act as support for farmers under dire situations. Developing manufacturing units in rural areas can provide employments to farmers during non agricultural seasons.

  • Increasing Savings: A recent study stated that only 3% of households in India put their savings in small savings account, insurance related products and equities. A strong awareness needs to be spread about these financial instruments which can help households and farmers harvest growth on their savings which otherwise is stashed in corners of home. PPP, Financial Institutes and NGO need to educate farmers of such growth opportunities. Indian government has recently directed financial institutes to work towards ‘Inclusive Banking’ which targets absorbing rural areas in the gambit of banking. No Frills accounts directed towards rural section of society are some of the options available with banks. “How India Earns and Saves” study clearly indicates the preference of Indian households towards post offices as saving agents. Government can bank upon such preferences and sell equity linked saving schemes through them. Selling of IPO forms through post offices is an innovative initiative but it needs to substantiated with awareness.