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Risks of crony capitalism

Should the government assist Indian banks and companies that have borrowed billions abroad, and suddenly find it difficult to repay maturing loans because the global financial crisis has frozen money markets? Russia and Mexico have thrown lifelines to their debt-laden companies. Korea has guaranteed $ 100 billion of foreign bank loans. Should India do something More >

Where McCain scores over Obama

Barack Obama looks certain to beat John McCain and become the next US President. Most Indians will be delighted. An Obama victory will symbolize the vanquishing of racism and the dismal Bush legacy. Besides, McCain is a military hawk, especially on Iraq. Obama is not exactly a dove, but is far less a military adventurer More >

Who murdered the financial system?

Leftists claim that the global financial crisis was caused by reckless deregulation and greed. Rightists blame half-baked financial regulations and perverse incentives. Actually, the financial sector is deeply regulated, with major roles for both the state and markets. It was not one or the other that failed but the combination. The best metaphor for the More >

Case against cutting petrol price

When oil cost $ 145/barrel in June and I predicted a price crash below $ 100/barrel, some jeered at my optimism. But oil crashed to just $ 65/barrel last week. Domestic prices of petrol and diesel are pegged to a global oil price of $ 61/barrel. If the world price falls below this—and some economists More >

What microfinance can teach Wall Street

Big financial institutions of all sorts are in dire straits across the globe. But one category remains unaffected—micro-finance. Even as the global financial system freezes and giants like Lehman Brothers collapse, micro-finance institutions (MFIs) are expanding unfazed. Famous financiers face defaults big enough to wipe them out, but MFIs report virtually zero default. This is More >

Pains of a slowing miracle economy

I am not usually a pessimist. But I predict that India will suffer a lot of pain in the next 18 months, as the economy slows down along with the current global slowdown. The US, Europe and Japan are sinking into recession together. Forget claims that India has decoupled from the US and can keep More >

The Perils of Inclusive Loans

Inclusive finance—giving loans to everybody, including the poor­­­—is desired by politicians in India, and in all democracies. Yet the current US financial crisis shows the perils of taking this goal too far. The crisis arose from the bursting of a housing bubble. That bubble was created, fundamentally, by government policies and institutions seeking home ownership More >

The End of the Beginning

The US government and Congress are creating a $ 700 b. rescue package to resolve the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Will it stabilize the US and world economies? For an answer, remember Winston Churchill’s words in 1942. “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But More >

Is America becoming socialist?

Socialists, like Hugo Chavez in Venezuela or Indira Gandhi in India, are famous for nationalising the biggest corporations. But the US governmenthas taken over three of its biggest corporations within two weeks. Has the US turned socialist? American right-wingers moan that this is indeed the case. Meanwhile, Indian leftists are stunned at nationalisation in a More >

Vouchers for social security

Indians know very little about Scandinavia–the four nations of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland in northern Europe. Some Indian males fantasize about glamorous Swedish blondes. Others lust over the latest Nokia phone from Finland. Geography enthusiasts know it as the place where the sun never sets in the summer. Old liberals like me remember Scandinavia More >

Mamata is next nuclear hurdle

Having overcome a series of obstacles ranging from Prakash Karat to the Nuclear Suppliers Group, India’s plans for a massive nuclear power programme now face an even more daunting obstacle – Mamata Banerjee. Having tasted blood at Nandigram and Singur, she will not sit by quietly and allow a huge nuclear power park to come More >

Mamata is next nuclear hurdle

Having overcome a series of obstacles ranging from Prakash Karat to the Nuclear Suppliers Group, India’s plans for a massive nuclear power progra mme now face an even more daunting obstacle – Mamata Banerjee. Having tasted blood at Nandigram and Singur, she will not sit by quietly and allow a huge nuclear power park to More >

Nuke-deal: Only a minor milestone

India has gone from nuclear pariah to recognised nuclear power. That is the upshot of the decision of the Nuclear Suppliers Group to bend its rules for India. Till now, the NSG recognised only two kinds of countries, the haves (the five traditional nuclear powers) and the have-nots. Now, a new category has been created More >

Singur’s lessons for solar power

Whether or not the Nuclear Suppliers Group approves the Indo-US nuclear deal — this is unclear as I write this column — many experts think India should focus on solar rather than nuclear power for the future. An excellent case for this was made recently in this newspaper by Anand Mahindra. However, events at Singur More >

Why Hinglish will beat Chinglish

Thanks to its English language advantage, India has become world leader in call centres and back office outsourcing. China cannot compete because very few Chinese speak English. To rectify this, China has made English compulsory in schools. Will it soon give India tough competition in outsourcing? I doubt it. I was asked once by a Chinese magazine More >