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October 2005

Trade Unions and Left only care about workers in organized sector

Link: The Indian Economy Blog.

On September 30th, the day after Communist-affiliated trade unions had brought his capital, Kolkata to a halt, he could scarcely conceal his exasperation. He told The Economist that the trade unions—and many of his party comrades—had become “one-dimensional”, representing only the interests of the 30m or so workers in India’s “organised” sector. Mr Bhattarcharjee concedes that some of his colleagues in Delhi do not seem to grasp that economic reform could benefit a much bigger number of workers than those who belong to unions. If they do, they perhaps see political benefits in ignoring it. But “Here, we are running a government. We have to fulfil the aspirations of the people.”

Coming from such a senior Communist leader, it is highly revealing, isn't it?

Natwar Singh and Congress party named as beneficiaries by the Volcker Report on the Oil-for-Food Scandal

Link: The Hindu : Front Page : Volcker Report names Natwar Singh and Congress Party as "beneficiaries".

New Delhi: K. Natwar Singh, India's External Affairs Minister, as well as the Congress Party are listed in the recently released report of the Volcker Committee as "non-contractual beneficiaries" of Iraqi oil sales in 2001 under the United Nations Oil-for-Food Programme. The contracting company in both cases is named as Masefield AG.

The fifth and final report of the Independent Inquiry Committee, appointed by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan in April 2004 to investigate the administration and management of the Oil-for-Food Programme, is available at

Mr. Singh is shown in Table 3 of the Report as the non-contractual "beneficiary" in connection with 4 million barrels of oil allotted to Masefield AG, the contracting company, which actually lifted 1.936 million barrels out of this. The phase in which the oil was allocated is shown as 9.

In addition, the Congress Party is listed in the same table as the non-contractual "beneficiary" in connection with 4 million barrels allotted in phases 10, 11, 12 and 13. Out of this allocation, 1.001 million barrels were lifted. In this case, Masefield AG is shown as the contracting company in phase 10 (during which the 1.001 million barrels were lifted), but no name of the contracting company is mentioned for the subsequent phases.

The table also lists Reliance Petroleum Limited as a "beneficiary" from an allocation of 19 million barrels of oil to Alcon Petroleum Limited, the contracting company, which lifted 15.780 million barrels in phases 9, 10 and 11.

A yet to be identified Bhim Singh from India is also listed in the table as a "beneficiary," with no contracting company mentioned by name. In Bhim Singh's case, 7.300 million barrels were allocated but nothing of this was lifted, according to the table.

You can read the Volcker Report here! So much for No War for Oil! Remember it was considered bad for a company to lobby for Iraq Reconstruction contract and to profit from the war. Many of us knew that much of the opposition to liberation of Iraq was rifed with hypocrisy but the extent of corruption is coming to light only now. Looks like the removal of Saddam Hussein destroyed a whole ecosystem.

United Nations and India

Via -, this update on oil-for-food scam at the UN:

The United States and its allies should threaten to cut the budget of the United Nations if it fails to end corruption and adopt badly needed reforms, the man who led the probe into the U.N. oil-for-food scandal said yesterday.

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul A. Volcker told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that he opposed a unilateral U.S. withholding of U.N. dues, but that a "de facto alliance" of nations demanding reform could cut through the world body's "culture of inaction."

The message, he said, should be: "Look, if the organization isn't ready to reform itself, that has budgetary implications."

The Iraq oil-for-food program has proven to be the biggest financial scandal in U.N. history, tarnishing the reputation of Secretary-General Kofi Annan and other top U.N. officials and fueling calls for a complete overhaul of the body's internal oversight and personnel practices.

India is trying to a get a permanent seat at the Security Council of UN. While it is a worthwhile endeavour, I don't understand why India is not demanding accountability at the UN! What's the point of gaining a veto power at a dysfunctional world body, anyway?

IIPM vs Blogosphere

The Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM) is after bloggers Gaurav Sabnis and Rashmi Bansal for exposing their lies. IIPM made some bizzare threats against IBM, the employer of Gaurav Sabnis, leading to the voluntary resignation of Gaurav from his job. The threats included burning of IBM laptops in protest in front of IBM office in Delhi. This is truly horrible and I really applaud Gaurav's courage here in deciding to continue to speak truth. You can read more about the issue on this post: DesiPundit � IIPM Blog Wars Redux.

IIPM is showing their true colors by behaving in this terrible manner. Imagine the pressure journalists must be facing when writing something that might offend their advertisers! Indian media hasn't really done a good job in exposing the exaggerated claims made by institutes like IIPM.

I wholeheartedly support Indian blogosphere's effort to speak out against IIPM. I am not sure, however, if this is about preserving our freedom of speech. It is more about our choice to speak the truth at a cost of our reputation because of some bizzare tactics used by IIPM. Nobody is physically threatening us from speaking out. And as far as I know IIPM hasn't broken any laws in threatening to burn IBM laptops in protest.

HealthCare costs and Comparative Advantage

I came across this gem:
Link: Comparative Advantage - From the Economic Strategy Institute � Blog Archive � Health Care Costs Cripple US Manufacturers.

The other American automakers are in the same boat. In 2002, Ford spent $2.5 billion on health care benefits, and DaimlerChrysler spent $1.4 billion. In Japan and Europe, national health care plans mean that corporations pay little or nothing to maintain a healthy work force. Health care costs are thus the source of a significant competitive disadvantage for the American auto industry and manufacturers generally.

Does that mean corporations in Japan and Europe don't even have to pay taxes? Jeez, may be the doctors, nurses, medical equipments and drugs literally grow on trees in Japan and Europe. Looks like it's Christmas throughout the year in the Japan and Europe!

What's so special about govt, anyway?

While arguing over the role of government in sports here, prompted by my original post on sports, I realized that a lot of people simply take it granted that government needs to get involved. You question that assumption and people call you selfish. They think you are being stingy. They say you are being insensitive to sportspersons (or anybody else for that matter) in need. Well, here is my response to them, originally made as a comment (edited to make context clear):

Alright, the dispute is really about the government role here.

I believe government should not spend money as if it is a charity. Pure and simple. If sportspersons are in bad condition that is not a government's problem. If I wanted to help these people I will help them directly.

What I don't understand is why government is supposed to help these and other sportspersons? You don't expect other organizations, such as, Red Cross, Church, VHP, RSS, Labor Unions, etc., to help these sportspersons. Why? Because these organizations have a specific purpose and it does not fit within their agenda to help them. That doesn't make you selfish.

The same way I feel it is not government's role to help anybody. It is tasked with protecting the country and also protecting its citizens from criminals. It is supposed to maintain law and order. Where in the Constitution does it say that government is a charity organization and it is supposed to help sportsperson? The reason why people expect government to help everybody is because government has easy access to taxpayers money (hey, running out of cash? Just raise the taxes) or soverign credit. Those who ask government to help somebody do not have bear the burden of that charity directly. Hence, all the noise about being self-less. There is nothing self-less about asking government to spend money as long as you are not paying it. You want to act self-less. Spend your own money.

Nobody is stopping you and others to help these sportsperson. I may help some sportspersons if I am interested in their sports. By watching their game, by buying the products they advertise, by buying their books, sending my kids to camps organized by them, and so on. But sorry, I won't do charity. It is below their dignity to ask for such thing and I wouldn't insult them. If they are really good at what they do, they will earn. If not, its too bad. World is full of people who think they work hard and deserve something but they fail to persuade others. Nobody is oblige to help them.

New York Times and corrections

This is getting interesting day by day. See this post Tim Worstall: New York Times Corrections Policy on some very embarassing errors made by various NY Times columinists:

2) Calame was most insistent that corrections must be appended to the specific column in which the error occured. Only in this manner will those using (those few) search engines and archives which carry the Times be able to see it. An errors policy which puts it on a later page, or one that puts the corrections box elsewhere in the paper will not do.

Shouldn't Lexis Nexis and DJ Factiva database demand from NY Times that any corrections be appended to the digital versions of the original articles instead of leaving it to the discretion of NY Times? Even search engines, such as google, can also demand the same thing from NY Times and other sources. Or maybe, google can put an extra tab, "Search in Corrections" on their home page.

$100 laptop may not be such a good idea

Via Emergic: October 1, 2005 Archives, from The Economist:

The idea is as audacious as it altruistic: provide a personal laptop computer to every schoolchild—particularly in the poorest parts of the world. The first step to making that happen is whittling the price down to $100. And that is the goal of a group of American techno-gurus led by Nicholas Negroponte, the founder of the fabled MIT Media Lab. When he unveiled the idea at the World Economic Forum in January it seemed wildly ambitious. But surprisingly, it is starting to become a reality. Mr Negroponte plans to display the first prototype in November at a UN summit. Five countries—China, Brazil, Egypt, Thailand and South Africa—have said they will buy over 1m units each. Production is due to start in late 2006.

If countries (meaning their governments) are going to make a buying decision then it is going to be a sure waste. I will bet that Dell or some other manufacturer will come with a very low cost small PC/laptop or a totally new innovation while providing millions of jobs to third world people if only these same countries will allow investment and freedom to trade and contract.