September 30, 2005

Online Brokers Are Still Hungry

Faced with weak trading volume and excess capacity, e-brokers have been scurrying down the altar in recent years as a quick and easy way to prop up profits. The No. 3 player, Ameritrade Holding, has bought seven competitors in the past four years. Its eighth acquisition, TD Waterhouse, should close by early next year.


September 29, 2005

Planning to be homeless

The only way Japan's birthrate is going up is if the government(local and national) really buck up and provide some strong financial incentives. The catch is, they cannot afford to provide the kinds of incentives they really need to. Did you know that in Japan people have to pay for the delivery of their babies? The typical cost would be between 300,000 yen and 600,000 yen. If there are complications the price can easily double. Congratuations new Mom and Dad, you owe us 10 grand! The government really needs all the money that parents fork over, ward tax, national tax, all kinds of school fees, puchases on all the stuff kids need. You can't really lower tax to the very people who you are trying to get your tax revenue from in the first place without someplace to make up the difference. With a 10% consumption tax looming just a couple of years off, I expect Japan's birth rate will decline even more.

Will the Next Elections Save Japanese Democracy?

But if any opposition candidates told the public that Koizumi and those who had remained loyal to his plan were not offering a policy at all, their voices were drowned by the din created by the media in which "reform", "reform", "reform" echoed from all sides. Anything they tried to get across about genuine policy, and about Japan's real problems was also lost in the frenzy created by Koizumi and his election tacticians; a frenzy that was supposed to reflect the Japanese public's deep desire for reform. In forty years of watching Japanese elections I have seen many funny as well as disturbing things, but found that Japanese voters usually have some sense of balance and common sense. Last Sunday's must have been the most nonsensical postwar election ever to have taken place in this country. Mostly due to the incredibly superficial imagery on TV and the strange Japanese enchantment with the term "reform".


The great thrift shift

These shifts have been large and complicated, and they have had important and unusual consequences. The first is that capital now flows primarily from poor countries to rich countries. In 2004, emerging economies, including the newly industrialised economies of East Asia, sent almost $350 billion to rich countries. Yet according to the economic textbooks, capital seeking the highest returns should flow from rich (and capital-intensive) countries to poorer ones that have less of it.

The second consequence is that outside China, less saving by households rather than investment by firms has become the engine of global economic growth. The world economy continues to hum because consumers, particularly American ones, are content to become ever more indebted. That willingness appears closely related to the rapid rise in house prices across much of the globe.

These patterns are a long way from historical norms. Can they last? In the long term, the answer is clearly no. Household saving cannot keep on falling, and America's foreign borrowing cannot keep on rising. The question is when and how the tide might turn.

September 28, 2005

Japan's trade surplus

Japanese companies are not just talking about alternative fuel sources, they're doing something about it -- everything from solar cells to wind turbines. Taisei Corporation announced recently that it will start building an ethanol plant in Osaka, which will be capable of producing about 1,300 kiloliters annually when it opens in January 2006, and 4,000 kiloliters by 2008. The ethanol is added 3% to gasoline, for cleaner, richer burning fuel. Whereas in the USA, ethanol typically comes from corn, Taisei's ethanol will uniquely come from 48,000 tons of recycled wood from building demolitions.

Reduction in consumption. In the early 80's, long after the impetus provided by the second oil shock, Japan consumed about 250 million kiloliters of imported fuel and 85 terawatt hours of electricity, a bit over half what it consumes now. And yet, 20 years ago, Japan did more manufacturing at home than it does today.

Little recovery seen for rural Japan's land prices

Japan's 127.7 million population is forecast to peak in the next year or so and to decline by around 20 per cent by 2050.

The population is also expected to concentrate increasingly in major cities. Some 100,000 people move to the Tokyo area each year from the countryside, according to government data.

But economists said the shift of people and businesses to cities, and the resulting slide in land prices in the countryside, was not necessarily bad as Japan tries to makes its economy more efficient. "As the population declines, it is more natural for people and businesses to concentrate in certain areas and for land prices to reflect that," said Azusa Kato, an economist at BNP Paribas.

Economically, there was no need for populations to be spread out evenly, she said.

"For example, it's more difficult to provide good social services if people are too spread out," she said. "A major problem in Japan's fiscal policy has been a system that spent a lot everywhere." Heavy public works spending has been credited for helping to distribute wealth evenly in Japan's postwar economy, but it also left the country with the highest debt in the industrial world.

While moving factories to China and other parts of Asia may hurt the countryside in coming years, economists say, Japan needs to move on to more service-based and technologically advanced businesses anyway.

"With a shrinking population, the key issue is how to improve productivity," said Naoki Iizuka, chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute.

Japan, China to Hold East China Sea Talks Next Week

China and Japan have been discussing disputed rights to energy reserves that may include as much as 200 billion cubic meters of gas.


Why So Many of Us Are Getting Diabetes

To the dismay of health experts, diabetes is becoming a global problem. In the next couple of decades, the prevalence of diabetes is expected to triple in Africa, the eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, to double in the western Pacific and to nearly double in Europe. With an estimated 33 million cases, India has the most people with diabetes; China has 23 million.

Lots of doctors will tell you that the reason for the explosion is obvious: Americans are eating too much and exercising too little, and much of the world is following our bad example. There is no question that excessive weight increases your risk of becoming diabetic. But that explains only part of the problem. Diabetes has a strong genetic component, and scientists are beginning to suspect that certain evolutionary factors, as well as your mother's metabolic or nutritional status during pregnancy, may predispose you to develop diabetes. That may explain why Indians from the subcontinent often become diabetic after gaining just a few pounds and why the consequences of obesity seem far more devastating for Americans of African, as opposed to European, descent.

September 26, 2005

The East in the West

Turkey's aspiration to the E.U., its adjustment to the global economy, its booming tourist trade and, now, the first signs of mass immigration - all of these make the country a more porous place than it has been for the past century. But the treatment of Armenians, Greeks, Jews and others remains a sensitive subject. Turkey has been mostly free of the anti-Semitism that is widespread in all other Muslim countries of the Middle East. But "Mein Kampf" is now a best-seller, on sale in at least a half-dozen low-price Turkish-language editions. The "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" is also for sale, and its theses are trumpeted regularly in Vakit, the large-circulation Islamist daily.


In California, Agriculture Takes Center Stage in Pollution Debate

 On a clear day, San Joaquin looks like a bucolic farming community, complete with almond groves, cornfields and orange trees. But most of the time the valley -- trapped between the Sierra Nevada and the Coast Ranges, with two major highways running north to south through it -- is smoggy, filled with air that has fostered widespread respiratory disease.


Italy, Less Competitive Than Botswana, Shuns Economic Shakeup

Italian companies have been reluctant to expand partly because of a labor law, known as Article 18, that makes it virtually impossible for firms with more than 15 employees to cut the workforce because of an economic slowdown.

Under the law, any employee can seek an immediate recourse to an independent tribunal to decide if there was ``just cause'' for the dismissal. If the court rules in favor of the worker, he or she is reinstated and given backdated pay.

The government's attempt to scrap Article 18 in April 2002 triggered Italy's first general strike in eight years. The government abandoned the effort.

Berlusconi now promises to scrap a regional levy that is added on top of the established corporate tax rate of 33 percent. The tax, known as Irap, is charged against the value of a company's products. That leads some executives to condemn it as a disincentive to growth. Introduced in 1998, the tax is 4.25 percent and Italy's 20 regions can add an additional 1 percentage point.

September 25, 2005

Myths and realities as the dragon's roar gets louder

Myth Number 2 is that China’s exports are all T-shirts, trainers and other low-tech (with apologies to Nike) products. Lehman Brothers points out that while textiles have been one of the drivers of the trade surplus, so increasingly have high-tech goods such as telecommunications equipment and computers. A fifth of the trade surplus is accounted for by such items, a reminder to the world of the competitive threat China represents up and down the value chain.

The third myth is perhaps the most enduring. It is that China is essentially just a low-cost location for assembling products for the rest of the world’s consumers. The trade surplus is therefore the logical result of this. In fact, as Hedrick-Wong points out, China is neither particularly dependent on exports nor on foreign direct investment. While exports are large, about 36% of gross domestic product, so are imports, 34%. The difference puts China in a very different position to, say, Japan during its phase of dramatic export-led growth two to three decades ago.


Israel Launches Airstrikes Against Hamas

Hamas called Abbas' position "a stab in the back of the martyrs" and a blow to efforts to work out differences between the factions. Abbas has been trying to co-opt Hamas and has rejected calls by Israel and the international community to confront and disarm the militants.

On Saturday afternoon, Israeli aircraft fired five missiles at two cars carrying Hamas militants in Gaza City, killing two Hamas militants and wounding nine other people, officials said. Earlier, officials put the death toll at four. Officials blamed confusion at the scene for the discrepancy.

Germany's world turns upside down

CHAOS, gridlock, lunacy – those were just some of the more printable nouns used by a shell-shocked German business community last week to describe the farcical outcome of their country’s general election. Left-wing parties grabbed the majority of the vote last Sunday and conservative challenger Angela Merkel was robbed of an outright victory, triggering a hung parliament, a full-blown political crisis and prompting internaAtional financial institutions to wonder whether Germany will ever be capable of pulling itself out of its slow decline.

China's Leader, Ex-Rival at Side, Solidifies Power

In the summer of 2004, Mr. Jiang, who had retained control over China's military after handing off his other titles to Mr. Hu, was viewed as competing with Mr. Hu for influence and creating a potentially dangerous rift in the power structure.

In one version of what followed, Mr. Zeng suggested to Mr. Jiang that he offer to resign ahead of the party's annual planning session that September. He implied that the resignation offer, which he suggested would be rejected by Mr. Jiang's loyalists on the Politburo, could clear the air and give Mr. Jiang a fresh mandate to retain his control over the military.

Mr. Jiang did something similar two years earlier, before an important party congress, and the tactic worked.

This time it did not. Mr. Hu, acting as vice chairman of the military commission, circulated Mr. Jiang's resignation among the military brass instead of the Politburo. Many military officers wanted to see the leadership transition completed and rallied around Mr. Hu as their new civilian leader. Mr. Jiang's resignation was then presented to the Politburo as a fait accompli.

Mr. Jiang, sidelined at his retreat in the Fragrant Hills outside Beijing, was described as furious and tearful when he realized he had been out-maneuvered.


In May, Mr. Hu and Mr. Zeng convened top officials to warn that just as governments in Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan had been toppled, the government in China could be, too. They argued that the United States had fostered social unrest in those places and had similar designs on China, said people who said they had been told about the speeches.

They have since forced nongovernment organizations that focus on the environment, legal aid, health and education to find government sponsors or shut down. Many groups are also under pressure to stop accepting money from the United States and other foreign countries.

The leadership has also fired editors at publications that defied orders from the party's Propaganda Department, including, most recently, the bosses of the elite Workers' Daily newspaper and its associated publishing house, party insiders said. They have also tightened rules on foreign investment in China's television industry.

September 23, 2005

Opiates of the Iranian People

For many young people in Iran, one reality of everyday life is powerful boredom. Though rules enforcing Muslim dress have been relaxed in the past three years, there is little to do, even in a city of about 10 million. The stillness of a Tehran street on a weekend day is almost sepulchral.

"People here can't have a drink in the pub. The young people can't go to a music club," said Bijan Nasirimanesh, director of Persepolis, a drop-in center for drug addicts. "You have the paradox in this country of, coming at you from inside, everything is totally religious, and from outside, MTV and Western culture."


September 22, 2005

Nuclear 'victory' exposes flaws in Iranian diplomacy

But the lingering crisis over Iran's nuclear programme playing out this week at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna offers a more revealing test of Iran's diplomacy.

In sweeping away most of the team that negotiated with the Europeans for two years over Iran's nuclear programme, Mr Ahmadi-Nejad has removed a lot of experience.

Hassan Rowhani, Cyrus Nasseri and Hossein Mousavian had won the grudging respect of their European counterparts. All three also talked to the international press, and were well capable of defending and explaining Iran's positions under questioning.

During June's presidential election, all candidates and senior figures denied that the nuclear programme was an issue. Policy was made, they said, by consensus in the "system", a word taken to mean the whole leadership including Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader. Events since Mr Ahmadi-Nejad took office in August, however, show that practice is not always in line with pronouncement.


This is stalemate and a recipe for drift. Iran has won a victory in that it is not being referred to the security council. But it hasn't won international recognition of its "right" to enrich uranium. And Tehran is unlikely to resume uranium enrichment as this would jeopardise current support from Russia and China in blocking referral.

Beijing's foreign ministry spokesman called on Thursday for EU-Iran talks to resume.

It is hardly a victory for Iran that Europe is far closer to the US than for years. And while the Europeans are unhappy Iran is converting raw uranium into gas, they can at least draw satisfaction from the fact that Tehran's uranium enrichment remains suspended.

Will Fab Become The Fad In India?

I don't think so. Not anytime in the near future. Just look at the recommendations. The government can't provide the damn infrastructure for bangalore, you think they'll provide power, roads, airports and Capital(!?) for fab ventures? Keep this as a record.
Not merely complex, semiconductor manufacturing is also one of the most expensive. A silicon chip on an average might sell for under Rs 450, but the manufacturing plant can cost a whopping Rs 14,000 crore and take three years and huge human talent to make it workable and viable.
Since any new industry that is capital intensive takes time to convince investors ? especially in a challenging market like India ? the government can play a very significant role in assuaging investor fears. Further, these multiple attempts will create an awareness among potential investors and fine-tuning of business models necessary to create financiallyviable enterprises. India is on the verge of becoming a player in the large-scale semiconductor manufacturing.



Government should immediately establish a high-level
task force comprising private and public industry experts to create a
blue-print for a Fabcity and drive it forward. The Fabcity will be a single-stop site for semiconductor or electronics manufacturing in India. Unlike the software industry, Fabcity will need to go beyond the traditional infrastructure of roads and land. It will need hundreds of megawatts of uninterrupted and glitch-free power; tens of millions of gallons of water a day; speedy customs clearance and transportation by air from the site in less than two hours; a complete ecosystem for supply of other materials like different types of gases and chemicals; and manufacturing of pure silicon wafers.


Both central and state governments should provide
at least Rs 10,000 crore to this task force to attract
global players to Fabcity. The investment might seem huge but the return on it will be high too if it helps create the Rs 450,000 crore industry. These financial incentives should be included in a single-stop licence scheme for semiconductor manufacturing.


The task force should also be mandated to come up with a Semiconductor Policy that will provide a set of tax and other tariff structures to promote semiconductor manufacturing in India.


Government should help create a system to promote local entrepreneurship by establishing and supporting seed
funding and venture capital funding.


Vijay Mallya found Bangalore’s infrastructure hopelessly inadequate. Do others feel the same?

GEETHA RAO Times News Network

IT’S depressing and hopelessly inadequate, said top industrialist Vijay Mallya. He was talking about Bangalore’s infrastructure. What induced the outburst? He had landed at Hong-Kong airport and read an international newspaper decrying the poor infrastructure in Bangalore. “Being a Bangalorean, I am pretty ashamed,” he said. But it’s not only infrastructure that shames other Bangaloreans. Traffic congestion bugs actor and politician Ananth Nag. He says he’d seen the present situation coming long ago when he was minister for development. “The congestion is because of population influx. I’d foreseen the current infrastructure crunch. That’s why I had suggested raising funds from the corporate bonds. The first year, it was to be Rs 125 crore, and each subsequent year, it was to be doubled to Rs 250 crore, 500 crore, 1,000 crore and likewise. By now we would have raised Rs 64,000 crore. But it was shelved.”
   Urban planner S Vishwanath says what bothers him is that the entry points to the city in all directions are catastrophic, because there is no planned disposal of garbage. This leads to soil and water pollution, and several related problems.
   Activist Ammu Joseph is ashamed of the fact that it takes the captains of IT and other industries to raise their voice and call the government’s attention to issues that affect the common man. She wonders, “Will the planning benefit the ordinary man, and I am not talking about the middle class?” 
All of Bangalore’s woes through a different perspective altogether. What really irks most is the attitude of Bangaloreans, their lack of discipline. “We defy or break every rule there is and then blame the other person for the result. Whether it’s traffic congestion or cleanliness, it’s our indiscipline that’s the problem. When on the roads, I notice no lane discipline. And that’s why at signal lights there are gridlocks. I am so full of rage when I go out. We don’t stand in a queue. I just saw a maid in our neighbourhood throw her garbage on the road. Now that will get strewn all over the place. We are terrible. We ought to blame ourselves.”

Koizumi Landslide: The China Factor

The danger ahead, then, is the momentum that an increasingly strong, bold, nationalistic premier would add to what seems like an increasingly possible collision course between China and Japan as they vie for the spot of East Asia's preeminent power. Despite increasing economic interdependence, Japan and China seem to be driven more by passion and animus than economic rationality. Status, prestige, and pride are proving dangerous bedfellows for two nations consecutively vying for more regional predominance and maritime control. Although the inevitability of such a collision is far from assured, the months and years ahead will prove to be formative ones not only on Japan's domestic political culture, but on the implications for East Asian stability, as well.

CEO Ghosn Declares Revival At Nissan 'Officially Finished'

The revival process of Nissan today is officially finished," said Mr. Ghosn, who is chief executive of both Nissan and affiliate Renault SA of France.

Boosting sales was a cornerstone of a plan called "Nissan 180" in which each digit – 1, 8, 0 – represented a target, or what Mr. Ghosn calls "commitments." By 2005, Mr. Ghosn promised Nissan would increase annual vehicle sales by one million units, raise operating-profit margins to 8% or more, and cut the car maker's long-term debt to zero.

Mr. Ghosn had succeeded in raising profit margins and reducing debt by 2004, early in the lifespan of the Nissan 180 plan. But the sales increase was considered a tougher challenge, and some critics doubted whether Mr. Ghosn and his senior managers could pull it off.

News of the plan's success is likely to bolster Mr. Ghosn's reputation as one of the most accomplished executives in the automobile industry. When Mr. Ghosn took the helm of Nissan in 1999, becoming one of the first few foreigners to run a Japanese company, Nissan was a deeply troubled company that many doubted would survive. Mr. Ghosn reduced the payroll, streamlined management and closed factories.

Today, Nissan is one of the most profitable car companies in the business. In April, Mr. Ghosn unveiled a new three-year plan called "value up," in which he promised to maintain hefty profit margins, to boost annual sales to 4.2 million vehicles by the fiscal year ending March 2009 and to earn an average of 20% on the capital it invests during the next three years.

Martha Stewart and P. Diddy

These days, she is game for anything - including rapping with Diddy while wearing $8 million worth of bling from Harry Winston. (What are the chances that between a rapper and a Westport, Conn., caterer, it's the caterer who has done time?)

60% of roads are terrible: BCC

The Bangalore city corporation has no choice now but admit it: Its own survey of the IT city’s roads has laid out in black and white that 60 per cent of arterial roads are either “deteriorated’’ or “poor.’’
   BCC, in tandem with two Bangalore University professors, undertook this survey of 250 km arterial roads a mere 25 days ago, to identify stretches to be taken up under the World Bank’s Karnataka Municipal Reforms Programme. And they have found figures to back IT industry’s infrastructure grouse: It is not one or two — of Silicon city’s 250 km arterial roads, 148 km or 60 per cent are in terrible shape.
   The survey found that a mere 28 km of repeatedly maintained roads like M G Road are “good.’’ But even a showcase road like Airport Road, always spruced up for VVIP travel, has “deteriorated.’’ As a BCC infrastructure expert defined it: “Deteriorated roads are worn down ones that need complete regradation. They need an overall treatment of bitumen and macadam plus mixed seal surface, covered up with slurry seal.’’
   In common parlance, this means the deteriorated roads — 84 km — have to be relaid, pronto. No question of small patch-ups and pothole filling, as they carry more than 50 per cent of the city traffic and defy every ‘management’ mantra being dreamed up by the government.
   The good news is: A plan of action for all the roads under different classifications has been worked upon, with a deadline of three months for completion. The trio used the methodology of Pavement Condition Index, PCI, to benchmark road quality. Calculated on a maximum index of 100, PCI is based on the weather-impacted state of road vis-a-vis quality of material used while laying it. It also takes into account daily vehicular density on the road.
   Three principal measures were considered before classifying the roads — number and kind of potholes, ravelling (weathering away of top surface) and cracks on surface. The best-laid roads have the right mix of bitumen, macadam and mastic (a high quality bitumen) like Queen’s Road, M G Road, some roads in Jayanagar.

The good, the bad and the ugly

Good Roads: Chamarajpet 5th Main; AaNa Kru Road — National college circle to Hudson Road; Briand Square to Royan Circle; Primrose Road Fair Roads: Triveni Road, Yeshwanthpur; Chord Road; Coles Road; Yeshwanthpur Circle to IISc Poor Roads: HAL II stage 12th main road; Asseye Road; Jayanagar 4th main, South End Circle to 45th cross; NH4 Service Road MEI to Ring Road junction Deteriorated Roads: Airport Road; Jeevan Bima Nagar Main Road; Trinity Circle to Airport Road junction; Ring Road in Banashankari III Stage, Sultanpalya Main Road.

'Infrastructure concerns society as a whole'

A day before the all-important meet between the IT captains and the chief minister, ‘action’ and ‘implementation’ appear to be the buzzword.
   Speaking to The Times of India, industry leaders said they look forward to the government’s views on the manner in which projects will be implemented. The government will begin the meeting on Thursday with a presentation to provide an update on the projects being implemented. This will be followed by an interaction. Here’s what some industry leaders expect from the meeting:

No politicising please:

I want to
make it clear that this whole issue about infrastructure is not about IT and BT sectors. This concerns society as a whole. Let us not politicise the issue. It is a fact that IT has contributed a lot to the city. The key, meanwhile, is implementation. The only thing that needs to be done is to implement all plans that are on paper. — Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, chairperson, Biocon.

It’s embarrassing:

The roads in Yeshwantpur and Peenya, where nearly
50 per cent of the apparel export manufacturing sector in Bangalore is based, need to be immediately asphalted. We have so many foreign clients visiting these places, and it’s so embarrassing to take them there. The existing airport is also extremely inadequate. The new airport will take time, so HAL should be persuaded to allow construction of another terminal. — Rajendra Hinduja, director, Gokaldas Exports.

West Bengal is better:

I cannot but
vent my frustration at the collapsed infrastructure in Bangalore. On the other hand, infrastructure in West Bengal is becoming better and the state is a more attractive investment destination than before. — Vijay Mallya, chairman, UB Group (speaking in Kolkata)

How accountable are they:

just want the government to tell us how they will go about implementing various projects. We are committed to the city’s overall infrastructure and branding. Having seen the pro-activeness of the government in announcing projects, the industry is now keen to know their timelines and accountability. — R K Misra, vice-president, Flextronics

Same agenda:

We are following the
same agenda as last time (meeting with the chief secretary), focussing on the short-term and long-term plans. We have seen some in the last week which is a positive sign. — Anant Koppar, president, Bangalore Chamber of Industry and Commerce (BCIC)

And the man on the street says...

Give us space to park:

There is no parking space for autorickshaws. Despite being the lifeline of the city, the government has done nothing to provide us parking space. Also, there is shortage of gas; we have to wait for at least three to four hours to buy the same. All these issues must be addressed at the meeting. — Autorickshaw driver Shanmugham.

I face the music every day:

I go for school trips every day and then I follow the Mysore Road route. Imagine our plight as drivers; we have to face traffic jams for the entire day. Also we have schedules, which we have to follow — traffic or no traffic. People complain that we are rash drivers, but there is no lane discipline followed on the roads. The lanes that are exclusive for buses have all the traffic coming on them especially maxi cabs. Also autos stop in front of bus stops, forcing us to halt a ahead or before the stop. — Sampangiraj Urs, a driver with BMTC

September 21, 2005


The Chinese are here. Should Bangalore be concerned?

EDISON THOMAS Times News Network

IF techies in Bangalore have been taking it easy on the top of the IT world, it’s time they are reminded that uneasy rests the head that wears the crown. Going by recent developments in the last week, speculation is rife that the Chinese are not going to take too long to pip India at the IT post.
   Speaking in Chinese and making sense with a help of a translator, a Chinese official on a visit to India, last week, said, “We may not speak English, but our generation next does. In fact English is a compulsory second language in schools, and a large number of our students have even opted for it as a first language. English is not a problem.”
   That was enough to start alarm bells ringing. And, all those who thought that China was a decade away before they caught up with our Silicon City, formed creases on their brows. “We thought that by the time they get to where we are now, in 10 years time, we’ll be 20 years ahead, but going by the frenetic pace in which the Chinese are gathering themselves, we better think again,” says software engineer Rajiv Nair.
   To top this fear, a class of 26 Chinese students recently sat through a 72-hour long English lesson. Albeit for a record, but they sat through it all the same. And note, it was an English lesson, not Chinese.
   Their determination too is evident as they succeeded in breaking the previous record, held by a Polish school, of 66 hours.”
   Changes in the Chinese IT Industry have been phenomenal. According to reports, “The country is making remarkable improvement in increasing English-speaking software engineers to sustain IT offshoring projects. The Chinese government has also been making serious efforts to attract investors and widen its revenue from the IT sector. The transformation has been termed as the ‘Changing face of China’.” Says software developer, Prashant K, “The growth has left the leading IT outsourcing giants and the government of India tense.”
   And, going by the earnestness of a Chinese delegation visiting Bangalore last week, it would do well for IT czars in the city to take stock as they were here with a single objective — to learn how Bangalore and India made it in IT and teach the same to their countrymen. They are looking for the success formula. Only, they don’t want to do it in 20 years, but in five. “This definitely is cause for concern,” says Madhava V, VP engineering of an MNC company doing business in China. “The Chinese are an earnest and determined lot. Top that with the excellent infrastructure in their country, which is streets ahead of ours, and we have enough reason to worry. It won’t take them long to get better than us, because they have the base to support that kind of growth,” he says. If at all there’s any consolation for our laid back city, it is in the statement of university student Xie, who sat through the marathon English lesson. She said, “I can’t remember anything, even though it was just said several seconds ago. I will never do this again.” But, the Chinese IT race is not for mere records.

The wait for a Green Card just got longer

Process May Take Up To Nine Years; Pros Can’t Change Jobs

Girish Kuber and Candice Zachariahs

   THOUSANDS of Indians waiting for a Green Card under the employment-based immigrant visa category may be in for a rude shock. The US Department of State’s latest visa bulletin has effectively increased the waiting period for certain categories of applicants to between seven and nine years. Worse still, professionals will not be able to change jobs during this period as their applications may become invalid.
   This is the first time in many years that visas issued under the employment-based immigration scheme have become unavailable. A number of Indian workers, especially techies, now fear that they may be forced to leave the US if they fall out of status — that is, their current visas expire — during this time. A drive to mobilise support and bring the situation to the notice of the Indian authorities has already begun.
   Practically all immigrant visa categories to the US have numerical quotas, much like the ceiling on non-immigrant work visas under the H-1B category. Immigrant visas are allocated until these quotas are exhausted. Once this happens, the Department of State (DOS) issues a ‘cut-off date’, which indicates that the dates for visa availability of that particular category have ‘retrogressed’ or been pushed back.
   The cut-off date is taken to be the ‘priority date’ of the first visa applicant whose application could not be entertained because the cap has been reached. Depending on the employment-based visa category (EB1, 2 or 3), priority dates are either the date that the employment-based petition is filed or the date that the application for labour certification (from the Labour department) is filed.
   EB1 is available to individuals of extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers and multinational executives and managers. EB2 covers positions that require an advanced degree, while EB3 is for skilled workers and professionals.
   Visa numbers to the tune of 1,40,000 are available per year for employment-based immigration, of which each country has a 7% limit. So, India and China have about 10,000 visas each year under the scheme.
   The October ‘05 Visa Bulletin issued by the DOS shows that priority dates for India have been set at late ’02 for the EB1 category, late 1999 for EB2 category and early 1998 for EB3 category.
   This means that only cases with priority dates before those mentioned above can be filed and processed. Anyone with a priority date later than this will have to wait until new dates are announced and their priority dates become current.

Job change needs new filing of application

   ONLY cases with certain priority dates can be filed and processed. Anyone with a priority date later than this will have to wait until new dates are announced and their priority dates become current. Given these procedural delays, an applicant could effectively wait for up to seven years or more to be granted a Green Card.
   During this time, the applicants will have to remain in his or her ‘current employment’ if they wish to keep their place in line. “The moment you change employers from the one who has filed the Green Card application for you to another employer, your application is cancelled,” says Poorvi Chothani of LawQuest, correspondent to Cyrus D Mehta and Associates, a US immigration law firm. “In limited cases, you have portability if an adjustment of status application is pending for more than 180 days and the I-140 (employment-based Green Card petition) has been approved,” she adds. This, however, will not cover a majority of applicants. So, any change of job by the applicant will make his/her existing application null and void. Once this happens, he/she will have to start from scratch.
   In December ‘04, DOS announced retrogression under EB3 for workers from India, mainland China and the Philippines to January 1, ‘02. More recently, in its October bulletin, the DOS pushed these dates back further: January 1, 1998 for India; May 1, ‘00 for China and March 1, ‘01 for the Philippines.
   The bad news doesn’t stop there. The DOS has also announced cut-off dates for applicants under EB1 and EB2. In some cases, EB1 and EB2 applicants can file petitions themselves for a Green Card under the National Interest Waiver programme. However, those that require their employers to file a petition for them will find themselves in the same situation as EB3 applicants, tied to a job till their visas are approved.With the Katrina catastrophe is keeping the US authorities busy, it will take a while before the issue gets its due attention.


Bangalore’s gone bust. And people are losing patience over the government’s apathy. Will it ever do anything about it?

Times News Network

THE city’s crumbling. The roads are full of potholes; when it rains, the drains overflow; the traffic’s a nightmare. The World Bank report has slammed the city’s inadequate infrastructure. The governor too has said he’s worried about the state of infrastructure. Frustrated with the government’s inertia, Bangalore’s woes have triggered negative responses from all sections of society: IT czars have decided to boycott the forthcoming mega IT event; housewives in JP Nagar and Puttenahalli have stopped the CM’s cavalcade, demanding action. Is the government listening? Or sidestepping issues by playing the political card?

Is this government really going to do anything about infrastructure problems? BT asked those concerned about the city this question. The answers:

Bob Hoekstra, CEO Philips India Software:

I think without fundamental change in the governance of Bangalore, nothing much will happen on the infra
structure front. The World Bank report mentions improper planning and lack of coordination between agencies, among other key issues — this has to be looked into. The city needs strong, motivational leadership and a comprehensive co-ordinated effort between all the agencies associated with infrastructure. The problem is that all agencies here are doing their own thing — in the absence of an orchestrated effort by them, the outcome is something that sounds like a huge din, it’s discordant. Stability in leadership is also the need of the hour.
   However, one good thing is that the government is slightly changing its position. Earlier, when they first came into power, they would not even mention certain issues. Now, they’re at least looking at addressing them.

Kalpana Kar, former BATF member:

Any government needs to do two things — immediate, shortterm measures, and long-term
planning. The government is responding to long-term needs such as the Devanahalli airport and the Metro rail. But I don’t think the city has the patience for these. Citizens are frustrated because the government has come to a standstill with existing projects. Earlier, these projects had been carrying on with the people’s involvement, and the city had got used to being involved, not any more. Things were moving. Now people have to be pacified by meeting their immediate needs.

Prakash Gurbaxani, CEO TransWorks:

This is a constant issue, it’s been around for years, irrespective of the government in power. It would be unfair to blame this government alone, as this situation has come about after years of improper planning, lack of long-term strategies to tackle infrastructure problems and poor implementation. This government has been around just for a year, they don’t have a magic wand. However, the existing mess still has to be taken care of. The solution is not a band-aid approach but brain surgery. Those responsible must go back to the drawing board, re-strategise and see how things can be done differently to make our infrastructure better. These are problems
which any city can have, tackling the problem effectively is what can give us the edge.

Swati Ramanathan, co-founder, Janaagraha:

Will the government ever do anything about infrastructure problems? Certainly. I’d like to believe so. Otherwise all of us will suffer constantly from road rage, and all of us will be killed by cars and two-wheelers. Our productivity’s dipping because of traffic jams. The government must get its act together. But the infrastructure expenditure is huge — Rs 28,000 crore. And, planning must be longterm. Short-term solutions will quieten everybody, but the problem will get repetitive. So far, decision making has been unilateral. It must be consultative. I’m a die-hard optimist. Definitely, the government will do something, but it’s a question of political and bureaucratic leadership.

IT demands and solutions

Even as the IT sector began to reiterate its demands for better infrastructure in Bangalore, the Karnataka government responded strongly by asking the sector what contribution it has made to the state, and raked up the issue of jobs for Kannadigas. R. Raghavendra in turn posed these questions to J Veeraraghavan, managing director, Novell India, and who is also a member of Bangalore Forum for IT (BFIT) which boycotted this year’s edition of IT.In.

   What has IT sector given to the state which makes your demands valid?


IT has contributed directly to the state’s economy and has also played a key role in providing jobs across several ancillary industries. Indirectly, IT has had a positive impact on other sections of society where it has created more jobs. Besides the taxes the IT industry pays to the government, it has also generated wealth. Employees of this industry have largely contributed to the state’s economy, and this is the result of the wealth it has created.
   Besides job creation and wealth generation, how has IT contributed to society?
While it is true that Bangalore has grown as a result of IT, it is important to understand the ways in which this sector has also helped the city grow. The demand for better infrastructure is to make the lives of Bangaloreans easier. IT companies have a huge sense of corporate social responsibility and support various sections of society — spastic societies, under-privileged children, old age homes, tsunami fund raisers among others.
   What are your views on providing more jobs to Kannadigas in the IT sector?
MNCs worldwide are known as Equal Opportunity Employers. When a company sets up shop in any part of the world, it always hires the best-in-class talent. Hiring has always been on meritocracy and not on caste, colour or race. We have no problem in hiring Kannadigas, as long as they meet the requirements of the industry.
   Is this really a tussle between the IT sector and state government?
Our demands are not new. We are only trying to do something for the betterment of society. I personally feel this is being wrongly projected as an issue between the IT sector and state government. We are speaking on behalf of all the citizens of Bangalore.

Paper projects, these

Like the rise of a new constellation, a new equation is gaining momentum — the rise of RWAs (Residents’ Welfare Associations). In the last few months, they have turned on the flashlight on the yawning gap between the tax they cough up and the scarred surfaces they get as roads. ‘Infrastructure’ might have emerged the clarion call of residents for a year now, but ironically, it has been the BCC budget’s mainstay for the past five years. Yet here’s the mammoth task staring in the face — 4,000 km of roads need an immediate facelift, 275 km of drainage system needs to be regraded, 2,500 tonnes of garbage need to be disposed of effectively. S Kushala and Smitha Rao explore the infrastructure mess.

   When the Bangalore City Corporation (BCC) unveiled its ‘Bangalore Infrastructure Plan’, a vision document and action plan for Bangalore’s development in 2000 to be implemented by 2005, it set the ball rolling for the city’s makeover.
   Cut to the present: BCC has spent a little over Rs 1,000 crore in five years towards “projects, infrastructure and engineering works’’ which includes roads, storm water drains, construction of grade separators, markets and complexes.
   But the result is there for all of us to see today — far from being a benchmark for international urban success, the city does not have basic infrastructure. The outcome: frequent agitations by residents, industrialists and IT captains. And what’s more, even the World Bank’s latest study has given a thumbs-down to the city’s infrastructure.
   The BCC’s infrastructure plan had envisaged creation of a distinct “Bangalore identity’’ to attain international standards in public health, sanitation and infrastructure. And the key features were: 27 flyovers and underpasses to be built by June 2004, five ROBs, RUBs to be completed by March 2002, surface, off-street and conservancy parking by December 2000, six multistoried parking complexes by December 2003, 700 bus shelters, bays and terminals by April 2002.
   “Where has all the money gone? We don’t even have decent roads. The city gets flooded even under the slightest downpour when nearly Rs 150 crore is spent just on roads every year. The city, which was progressing at a fast pace, has suddenly come to ground zero,’’ point out urban planners.
   But flip through the budget books which makes tall promises about the projects. These are the projects that appear every year in the budget copies, with enhanced allocations.
   At regular intervals, BCC goes berserk about announcing mega-budget projects — be it the 23 grade separators in 2002-03 budget or last year’s resolution of 54 grade separators. The agenda is already set. But who will implement it? Any answers?

City infrastructure hopeless: Mallya

City infrastructure hopeless: Mallya

‘Karnataka Shows No Urgency; Centre Must Give More Funds’


Bangalore: Yet another top industrialist has lashed out at the Karnataka government over Bangalore’s crumbling infrastructure.
   UB Group chairman Vijay Mallya on Monday said: “It’s depressing and hopelessly inadequate. Being a Bangalorean, I am pretty ashamed.”
   “I think Bangalore needs a complete makeover. The Centre needs to allocate resources for improving the infrastructure here. Bangalore earns the country valuable foreign exchange, and cannot be neglected like this,” Mallya said.
   The Rajya Sabha member, known for his forthright comments, urged the state government to take erring officials to task. He said he was surprised to note that the state is showing no urgency in improving Bangalore’s infrastructure, which has become international news.
   When he landed at Hong Kong airport on September 14, Mallya said, he picked up an international newspaper that carried a front-page article damning the city’s infrastructure. “Such news can be a dampener not only for Bangalore but for the entire country.”
   “I am going to raise the city’s woes in the Upper House of Parliament,” he said. His comments came just days after information technology companies and the state government declared a truce following a war of words over infrastructure.
   The UB Group has sought “reimbursement” of about Rs 15 crore from the Karnataka government for the failure of the Elevated Light Rail Transit System that was sought to be promoted by a consortium led by UB.
   Mallya said the project was abandoned after the state government failed to come up with its share of the equity and necessary guarantees. The state government had imposed additional tax on vehicles, ostensibly to fund ELRTS. “We want the money back and have written to the state on this,” Mallya said.

September 14, 2005

PBS Wide Angle: 1-800-INDIA


Over the past decade, India has emerged as the leader in the rapidly growing global market for white-collar “outsourcing” jobs – a notable component of India’s rapid economic growth. It has been widely reported that up to half a million American jobs may have been “lost” to India in recent years through outsourcing, and some analysts project that the number will soon reach a million, as the Indian and Chinese back-office sectors expand by 30 percent a year. In 1-800-INDIA, Thirteen/WNET's Wide Angle reveals the transformation taking place inside India. Traveling to Gurgaon, a suburb of New Delhi and home to India’s first call center, 1-800-INDIA follows four women who work for GECIS, the nation’s largest BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) company, with over 13,000 employees. Profiling these young women working at well-paid, demanding jobs that require long hours, late-night shifts, and Westernized work habits, 1-800-INDIA reveals the personal and cultural impact of this sweeping global trend.

India's MBA Gold Rush

Few Indian schools -- excepting a handful that include the IIM campuses -- can offer the same breadth of B-school education that the top U.S. programs offer, says Shyam Sunder, the James L. Frank professor of accounting, economics, & finance at the Yale School of Management in New Haven, Conn. The MBA is just too new to them.

It's too early to tell if Corporate America is losing out due to the number of Indian students choosing to go back home after garnering some experience in the U.S. But some India-based recruiters are concerned that they won't be able to afford to hire back talent that has been earning the significant pay typical of American MBAs. Starting salaries are upward of $80,000 in the U.S. and only $18,000 in India, although the cost of living is lower, says Rohtash Mal, CEO of AirTel, Bharti Televentures in New Delhi.


Global Aging

The rollback of pension promises is just one symptom of one of the greatest sociological shifts in history: The graying of the baby-boom generation. The ranks of 60-year-olds and older are growing 1.9% a year -- 60% faster than the overall world population. In 1950 there were 12 people aged 15 to 64 to support each one of retirement age. Now the global average is nine. It will be only four-to-one by mid-century, predicts the UN Population Div. By then the elderly will outnumber children for the first time. Some economists fear this will lead to bankrupt pensions and lower living standards.

That's why even more cutbacks in retirement benefits are likely. "I don't even want to think about my children's pensions," says Lina Iulita, 72, referring to Italy's hugely underfunded system. "There won't be enough money coming in." In Iulita's town of Dormeletto, on the shore of Lake Maggiore, coffee bars are jammed with seniors. The town's over-75 population has doubled since 1971, and there are one-third fewer children under 6. Local schools and gyms have closed, while senior citizens' clubs are flourishing.

Why the sudden attention to a demographic trend that has been obvious for decades? In part, it's because the future is already dawning in many nations. In South Korea and Japan, which have strong cultural aversions to immigration, small factories, construction companies, and health clinics are relying more on "temporary" workers from the Philippines, Bangladesh, and Vietnam. In reality they are becoming permanent second-class citizens. In China's northern industrial belt, state industries are struggling over how to lay off unneeded middle-age workers when there is no social safety net to support them.
Which brings me to the question- The graying of the Chinese after 2025.
Between 2000 and 2025 China’s median age is set to rise very substantially: from about 30 to around 39. According to unpd projections for 2025, in fact, China’s median age will be higher than America’s. The impending tempo of population aging in China is very nearly as rapid as anything history has yet seen. It will be far faster than what was recorded in the more developed regions over the past three decades and is exceeded only by Japan. There is a crucial difference, however, between Japan’s recent past and China’s prospective future. To put the matter bluntly, Japan became rich before it became old; China will do things the other way around. When Japan had the same proportion of population 65 and older as does China today (2000), its level of per capita output was three times higher than China’s is now. In 2025, 13.4 percent of China’s population is projected to be 65-plus; when Japan crossed the 13.4 percent threshold, its per capita gdp was approaching $20,000 a year (constant 1990 ppp dollars). One need not be a “Sino-pessimist” to suggest that China will be nowhere near that same economic marker 22 years from now.

Although China’s population will hardly be as elderly as Japan’s by 2025, its impending aging process promises to generate problems of a sort that Japan does not have to face. The first relates to its national pension system: Japan’s may be financially vulnerable, but China’s is nonexistent. Government or enterprise-based retirement programs cover only about one-sixth of the contemporary Chinese work force — and nearly all of the pieces in this haphazard patchwork are amazingly unsound in actuarial terms.10 Although Chinese leadership has been committed since 1997 to establishing a sturdy and universal social security system, actions to date have lagged far behind words and the system remains only in the planning stage.

For most aging Chinese today, the pension system is the family, and even with continuing national economic progress, Chinese families are likely to be placed under mounting pressure by the swelling ranks of seniors. By 2025, there will be nearly 300 million members of China’s 60-plus population, but, at the same time, the cohorts rising into that pool will be the same people who accounted for China’s sub-replacement fertility patterns in the early 1990s and thereafter. Absent a functioning nationwide pension program, unforgiving arithmetic suggests there may be something approaching a one-to-one ratio emerging between elderly parents and the children obliged to support them. Even worse, from the perspective of a Confucian culture, a sizable fraction — perhaps nearly one-fourth — of these older Chinese will have no living son on whom to rely for sustenance. One need not be a novelist to imagine the intense social tensions such conditions could engender (to say nothing of the personal and humanitarian tragedies).

Second, and no less important, there is no particular reason to expect that older people in China will be able to make the same sort of contributions to economic life as their counterparts in Japan. In low-income economies, the daily demands of ordinary work are more arduous than in rich countries: The employment structure is weighted toward categories more likely to require intense manual labor, and even ostensibly non-manual positions may require considerable physical stamina. According to official Chinese statistics, nearly half of the country’s current labor force toils in the fields, and another fifth is employed in mining and quarrying, manufacturing, construction, or transport — occupations generally not favoring the frail. Even with continuing structural transformations, regular work in 2025 is sure to be much more strenuous in China than in Japan. Moreover, China’s older population may not be as hardy as peers from affluent societies — people likely to have been better fed, housed, and doctored than China’s elderly throughout the course of their lives.
Data on the health status of older people in China and other countries tend to be spotty and problematic, and comparability of method can never be taken for granted. However, some of the survey data that are available through Réseau sur l’Espérance de Vie en Santé (reves), the international network of “health expectancy” researchers, are thought-provoking. According to a 1989–90 “health expectancy” study for Sichuan province, a person 60 years of age would spend less than half (48 percent) of his or her remaining years in passable health. By contrast, a study in West Germany for 1986 calculated that a 60-year-old woman could expect to spend 70 percent of her remaining time in “good health.” For men the fraction was 75 percent.11 Although one probably should not push those findings too far, they are certainly consistent with the proposition that China’s seniors are more brittle than older populations from more comfortable and prosperous locales.

Thus, China’s rapidly graying population appears to face a triple bind. Without a broad-coverage national pension system, and with only limited filial resources to fall back on, paid work will of necessity loom large as an option for economic security for many older Chinese. But employment in China, today and tomorrow, will be more physically punishing than in oecd countries, and China’s older cohorts are simply less likely to be up to the task. The aggregation of hundreds of millions of individual experiences with this triple bind over the coming generation will be a set of economic, social, and political constraints on Chinese development — and power augmentation — that have not as yet been fully appreciated in Beijing, much less overseas.

To-do list for re-elected Japanese PM Koizumi

1) Rewrite that Japan Post bill. Now that you're more powerful than ever, toss out that crock of a privatisation plan. Don't allow the four new companies you want to create to own shares in each other — such cosiness only allows them to regroup later on. Let the postal savings system make its own investment decisions. And why not accelerate things? A lot can change between now and 2017, when it's all supposed to be completed.

(2) Focus on other reforms, too. Japan Post is an example of all that's wrong with Japan; it's a multi-trillion-dollar piggybank politicians use to take care of supporters. Yet, it's hardly the only change needed in Japan's highly-regulated and uncompetitive economy.

Iceland Woos America With Lamb and Skyr

"People are really screaming for more knowledge of where the food comes from," said Baldvin Jonsson, the pleasantly emphatic Iceland-born consultant who is leading the country's food invasion. "You tell them fish comes from the ocean, and they ask, 'What kind of ocean? Is it a very polluted ocean or is it from a third-world country where people aren't getting paid enough to live for fishing?' "

With the help of Icelandair's cheap fares to Europe and the country's mix of quirky nightlife, socialist sensibility and ancient culture, Iceland became a must-have passport stamp for hip travelers in the late 1990's. Four years ago, Icelandic tourism officials began a food festival, flying in chefs from around the world to cook for a week filled with wine and lamb.

Mr. Jonsson argues that Iceland was the first sustainable country in the world, and it remains one of the purest places from which to eat.

Certainly, the sheep stock hasn't been cross-bred or fed much differently from when Viking settlers first brought the animals to the island 1,100 years ago. The North Atlantic waters that feed the cod industry is free of industrial pollution, at least of any that has originated from Iceland's shores. Vegetables are grown in greenhouses warmed by volcanic vents and the country's biggest city is heated by geothermal energy.

Problems & solutions are right here

Industry is at its wits’ end with the state of city’s infrastructure. It sees an urgent need for somebody to ‘take charge’, take measures where agencies can work in cohesion, streamline traffic flows, fill up potholes properly and build roads that last.

Just look at the way the traffic system is handled. It is clear the traffic police cannot do much about it. Let us bring a prof e s s i o n a l who has designed and handled traffic systems abroad. The city’s code-writers seem to be doing enormous amount of work for streamlining traffic systems abroad. Why can’t we use this expertise in improving Bangalore’s systems?
Why can’t we get somebody like Infosys mentor Narayana Murthy to be the mayor of Bangalore? We need someone of that stature who will immediately command respect.
Today, Bangalore is an international destination but the government does not seem to realise this. Just take a look at the drainage system. There are no proper sewerages and there are open drains all over the place.
Let us try to emulate some of the systems put in place by cities like London, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. There is nothing wrong with it. Tried and tested methods are the need of the hour. Professional management can make a lot of difference.
The government is just not showing any urgency. And it is not just about IT. I keep seeing reports about the CM wanting to meet IT honchos. But the city is suffering as a whole, not just the IT crowd.
And what is KIADB doing? It has just become a real estate agency. It needs to provide companies with much more.
There has to be greater public-private partnership in developing infrastructure. A number of companies are interested in developing roads adjacent to their corporate offices, but they should be allowed to collect a toll fee.
Or at least they should be given tax incentives. But the government would not allow that. The state has to realise the corporate bodies cannot function like charitable organisations. TNN

Here and now, Mr CM

Problems & solutions are right here

Make Short-Term, Time-Bound Plans Industry captains offer two-pronged solution to the Karnataka government to prop up Bangalore’s crumbling infrastructure: Address the present needs on a war-footing, then strategise long-term measures.
By Mini Joseph Tejaswi/TNN

Bangalore: More than the big picture, look at the immediate, present needs. That’s the brief message — if terse, somewhat — the city industry mandarins turfed out to the powers-that-be. Upset that infrastructure problems have still not been addressed with Bangalore’s signature event closing in, the industry captains have made “immediate needs’’ the operative word in their charter of demands. Long-term projects like airport and Metro Rail are fine. But Bangalore’s redemption from traffic travails lies in forking out short-term and time-bound measures. In short, make Bangalore liveable. The industry behemoths have trotted out suggestions in good measure. The suggestions are as simple as they’re practicable: fill potholes, relay worn-out roads, clean up drains, stop water logging, draw up a “doable’’ comprehensive traffic management plan and push civic bodies to work in unison. According to them, the government has come short on drawing out projects, timebound execution, allocation of resources and process streamlining. Anant Koppar, president of Bangalore Chamber of Industry and Commerce (BCIC), says the government and civic bodies are looking at bigger solutions to solve infrastructure problems instead of ensuring that the available infrastructure such as power, water and roads is effectively utilised and maintained. Bangalore’s residents, he says, are tired of the pass-the-buck attitude of civic bodies. He gives an example: “BWSSB or KPTC digs up roads. When someone questions them, they start blaming other civic arms for ruining the road. This can be put an end to only by bringing these bodies under a single umbrella.’’ He says the government should look at improving the infrastructure facilities at the existing airport, and not merely talk of the new airport that will take close to another three years to become operational. The existing airport, he notes, still has just one X-ray machine at its international terminal to handle the huge traffic volume that the airport now sees. Is the industry willing to chip in with resources? Some are, provided the government can build “credibility’’ for itself and ensure the money is spent properly. Some are willing to contribute in terms of mindshare, ideas, project engineering and execution plans. But Koppar says: “Building and maintenance of infrastructure, ultimately, is the state’s responsibility. We are already creating immense economic value for city, enhancing the spending power of Bangaloreans and contributing to the exchequer.’’ During 2004-05, IT and ITeS employees were paid a salary of Rs 10,000 crore, of which 30 per cent has gone into the state coffers.

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, CMD, Biocon: Apoliticise the system. Our system of electing mayor is a joke. Why can’t we get somebody like Infosys chief mentor Narayana Murthy to be the mayor of Bangalore?
Bob Hoekstra, CEO, Philips Software: There’s none in the government who can stand up and do something concrete to improve the city. Babus and netas lack passion and love for the city. Development is the government’s business.

Infrastructure alarm goes off

Karnataka’s high-profile annual event Bangalore 2005 faces yet another major boycott threat, this time from the Bangalore Chamber of Industry & Commerce (BCIC), which has over 400 members, including 135 IT and ITeS companies. The reason is once again Bangalore’s deteriorating infrastructure.
   BCIC president Anant Koppar said: “This collective stand is in the wake of the government’s apathy towards infrastructure woes, particularly in terms of traffic congestion, power shortage and airport infrastructure. The state’s lack of concern has subdued not just the IT industry pace, but has affected all business verticals and the common man.’’
   “The Garden City and IT Capital of India will soon be seen as the pothole city of India.’’
   The government had been promising adequate measures to address these issues. But all these promises, he said, had turned out to be hollow. Year on year, infrastructure services are seen to have deteriorated in and around Bangalore, the city that has held tremendous technology promise. “Our intention is not to disrupt the event. However, the prevailing situation is real, intense, and certainly demands drastic measures.’’
   Earlier, the Bangalore Forum for IT, an organisation of 18 major IT companies, had announced a boycott of this premier event.
   Asked to comment, IT secretary Shankarlinge Gowda had this to say: “More than that of the state, is an industry event. It will only benefit the industry in terms of networking, exposure and business flow. I do not see any logic in a section of the industry resisting such a brand building opportunity.’’