The policy of levying of user fees has impacted negatively upon access to public health facilities. With the sharp rise in healthcare costs, as the NHP acknowledges, medical expenditure has emerged as one of the leading causes of indebtedness.
March 27, 2006
The policy of levying of user fees has impacted negatively upon access to public health facilities. With the sharp rise in healthcare costs, as the NHP acknowledges, medical expenditure has emerged as one of the leading causes of indebtedness.
March 25, 2006
June 16, 2005
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is due to visit Washington in a few weeks, and editorialists and commentators have already started writing about the emerging economic power of India. New Delhi's decision to start liberalizing its economy in 1991 is touted as a seminal event in India's history, the moment when it threw off the shackles of Fabian socialism and embraced free markets. It is the stuff of myth -- and to a large extent, it is exactly that.
While part of India has benefited from being opened up to foreign products and influences, most of the country is still denied access to free markets and all the advantages they bring. India opened its markets in 1991 not because there was a political will to open the economy, but because of a balance-of-payments crisis that left it with few options. The liberalization was half-hearted and limited to a few sectors, and nowhere near as broad as it needed to be.
One would have expected India's growth to be driven by labor-intensive manufacturing but, almost by default, it instead came in the poorly licensed area of services exports. The manufacturing sector, ideally placed in terms of labor and raw material to compete with China, never took off. India's restrictive labor laws, a remnant of the socialist infrastructure that India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, put in place in the 1950s and 1960s, were politically impossible to reform. It remains excruciatingly difficult for most Indians to start a business or set up shop in India's cities.
This is painstakingly illustrated in "Law, Liberty and Livelihood," a new book edited by Parth Shah and Naveen Mandava of the Center for Civil Society in New Delhi, which documents the obstacles in the way of any Indian who wishes to start a business in one of India's big cities. Messrs. Shah and Mandava write: "Entrepreneurs can expect to go through 11 steps to launch a business over 89 days on average, at a cost equal to 49.5% of gross national income per capita." Contrast the figure of 89 days with two days for Australia, eight for Singapore and 24 for neighboring Pakistan.
But often, even this figure is just a notional one, and entrepreneurs find it next to impossible to get a legal permit to start a business at all. Street hawkers and shop owners in the cities often cannot get a license at all. (Even those who do have to comply with draconian regulations that offer so much discretion to the authorities that corruption is inevitable.) They survive by paying regular bribes to municipal authorities and policemen, which are generally fixed in such a way by this informal market that they can barely survive on what they earn, and cannot expand their business or build their savings. They are trapped in a cycle of enforced illegality and systematic extortion by authorities, which results in a tragic wastage of capital. It serves as a disincentive to entrepreneurship, as well as to urbanization, the driving force of growing economies.
Another disincentive to urbanization is how hard it is for poor people to get legal accommodation in the big cities. In Bombay, for example, an urban land ceiling act and a rent-control act make it virtually impossible for poor migrants to rent or buy homes, and they are forced into extralegal housing. The vast shantytowns of Bombay -- one of them, Dharavi, is the biggest slum in Asia -- hold, by some estimates, more than $2 billion of dead capital. For most of the migrants who live in these slums, India hasn't changed since 1991. As that phrase from India's pop culture goes, "same difference."
India's policymakers are aware of these anomalies, but it is an acute irony in India that any proposal to reform the bureaucracy has to first wind its way through the bureaucracy. Arun Shourie, a former disinvestment minister and a respected journalist, wrote in his recent book "Governance" that, "proposals for reforming [the] system are adopted from time to time, and decrees go out to implement the measures 'in a time-bound manner.' But in every case, the proposal is put through -- some would say, it has to be put through -- the same mill."
It is in the nature of bureaucracies, Mr. Shourie points out, to endlessly iterate. He charts how the apparently simple task of framing a model tender document took the government more than 13 years, as drafts of it circulated between different committees and ministries. Anything even slightly more complicated, and with pockets of political opposition to it, like economic reforms, becomes almost impossible to implement. Dismantling state controls is only possible if there is political will and a popular consensus. None of these exist. On the contrary, there is a popular belief that the economic inequalities in India are caused or exacerbated by free markets.
The socialist left, a natural proponent of such views, believes that free markets are the problem and not the solution. India's communist parties have blocked labor reform, opposed foreign investment and prevented privatization of public-sector units. They naturally have a vested interest in the "license-permit-quota raj," as the web of statist controls is called. On all these issues they are supported, surprise surprise, by the religious right.
The Hindu right wing, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party and collectively known as the Sangh Parivar, also fears globalization. Its sustenance comes from identity politics, the impact of which is diluted by the opening up of the cultural mindspace to "foreign influences." If people are busy chasing prosperity and gaining Western liberal values, they will naturally have less time to focus on "the Hindu identity," and suchlike. Rabble rousers need the masses to be disaffected.
In between the socialist left and the religious right is the Congress, a party which occupies the center of the political space almost by default. Its position on issues is always malleable, and although it is currently the party of government, it leads a coalition that depends on the left for survival. The pace of reforms has not increased since it came to power last year, and is not likely to do so anytime soon. While the world focuses on the metaphorical bright lights of Bangalore, most of the country -- indeed, much of Bangalore itself, which has been plagued by power and infrastructure problems recently -- remains in darkness.
Mr. Varma is based in Bombay and writes India Uncut, a popular Indian blog (http://www.indiauncut.com).
at 9:59 PM
March 24, 2006
The typical Wal-Mart entry-level worker stays on the job less than a yearnot nearly long enough to qualify for the profit sharing that helped cement the loyalty of earlier generations of employees. While many longtime "associates" (as employees are known in Wal-speak) still believe devoutly in the Wal-Mart Way and tend to break spontaneously into the company cheer at the annual meeting or other large company gathering, their numbers have dwindled sharply at a company that hires new workers at the unheard-of rate of nearly 800,000 a year.
Today, the typical Wal-Mart associate...is someone like Jonnie Monroe, a 22-year-old rock musician who went to a Wal-Mart store in Olympia, Wash., to buy a can of spray paint one day and applied for a job instead, intending to work only long enough to buy an amplifier for her band. She sailed through two interviews and a drug test and was hired in February 2004, as a full-time cashier making $7.91 an hour. Her training consisted of shadowing another cashier and watching a video that included scenes of a sinister-looking union organizer working a parking lot. "It was weird, like an after-school special," said Monroe, whose supervisor made her cover up the small tattoo on her arm after a customer complained.
Monroe soon made friends with a co-worker, but within a few weeks the Customer Service Managers, or CSMs, separated them, making sure they worked in different sections of the store and eventually on different shifts. Wal-Mart discourages associates from forming friendships with the people around them, apparently because it both fears such fraternization will result in lost productivity and because there is a greater chance such bonds will facilitate unionization. If Monroe made even the smallest computation error, she had to call a CSM to fix it while customers waited impatiently. "Customers scream at you and there's nothing you can do," she said. Monroe was told not to joke around with her fellow workers or to make political comments, even on her breaks. Monroe came to particularly dread the "opening ceremony," otherwise known as the Wal-Mart cheer: "You guys treat me like crap, you won't let me switch shifts, you won't let me dress like myself, won't let me act like myself, and now you want me to be, like, 'Yay, Wal-Mart'?" Monroe quit on the spot after 11 months when her boss refused to allow her time off to attend her brother's wedding in Chicago.
Every worker soon learns there are two unforgivable sins at Wal-Mart: stealing from the company and consorting with a union.
at 3:33 AM
March 23, 2006
March 23, 2006; Page A16
At places like Davos and Harvard, the world's sages rarely stop fretting about the dangers of a too powerful America. Well, if you want to know what the world looks like without U.S. leadership, Exhibit A is Darfur in Sudan.
Today's leading authority on Darfur is the political philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who prophesied a world "nasty, brutish and short." At least 200,000 civilians have been killed in the past three years and two million more have become refugees. The source of the problem is the Arab rulers in Khartoum, who have pursued an ethnic cleansing campaign against black Muslims in western Sudan. They've equipped the Janjaweed Arab tribesmen to do the dirty work, and that militia is now attacking civilians across the border in Chad, creating 20,000 more refugees.
To his credit, Kofi Annan started shouting about the problem two years ago, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell labeled it "genocide" not long after that. The U.N.'s mighty peace-making machinery then started to roll and . . . nothing. The Chinese (who have close commercial ties to Khartoum) and Russians have blocked any serious intervention. Arab members of the Security Council have also opposed any attempt to single out Khartoum.
The Arab League -- so quick to denounce Danish cartoons -- has also stymied any global intervention to stop the murder of their fellow Muslims. Here's League Secretary General Amr Musa earlier this month: "In Sudan, there is a problem related to Darfur. We will listen to the Sudanese state minister to explain to us the developments in the issue of Darfur . . ." The League plans to hold its meeting next week -- in Khartoum.
The African Union has at least sent 7,000 troops to the region, but they are under-funded and under-equipped to enforce a truce that Sudan blatantly flouts. But the African failure is also political. In January the Union held its own summit in Khartoum, and next year it plans to award Sudan its presidency. The rule seems to be never to say a discouraging word about other African leaders, no matter how murderous.
As for Europe, France would be ideal to lead an intervention force. The French have military bases in neighboring Chad and could establish a no-fly zone to stop Janjaweed bombing. However, Paris is already occupied with another intervention in the Ivory Coast, and with its own business interests in Sudan isn't volunteering in any case.
Amid this global abdication, Mr. Annan finally decided last month to call in the American cavalry. He visited the White House and, with media fanfare, all but begged President Bush to do something. Despite U.S. obligations in Afghanistan, Iraq and many other places, Mr. Bush responded by proposing an expanded U.N. peacekeeping force under "NATO stewardship."
But Sudan President Omar al-Beshir quickly played to type and withdrew support for a U.N. force. He also threatened that "Darfur will become the graveyard for the United Nations and foreign intervention." And rather than stand up to such threats, U.N. envoy to Sudan Jan Pronk has wilted. He's now talking up intelligence about al Qaeda terrorists in Khartoum who could retaliate against U.N. peacekeepers. And he's warning against any NATO intervention without Security Council approval -- as if that would be forthcoming. All of this is a repeat of the same feckless U.N. pattern we've seen in Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq.
So that leaves . . . guess who? The cowboy President, the American unilateralists, the Yankee imperialists -- or, to put it another way, the only nation with the will and wallet to provide order in an otherwise Hobbesian world. However, that will and wallet are being stretched today in Iraq and elsewhere, and Mr. Bush is rightly wary of committing more American blood and treasure to a conflict in Sudan that the rest of the world doesn't seem serious about ending in any event. One lesson of Darfur is that there really are limits to American power, and in its absence the world's savages have freer reign.
at 6:58 PM
March 21, 2006
The right to assemble is a pillar of free society. But in France it's the only pillar its citizens seem to take seriously. So much so that any public debate of import gets conducted in the streets rather than through the ballot box or institutions of a purportedly mature democracy.
In less enlightened societies, as opposed to the birthplace of the Enlightenment, that's usually called mob rule. But the violent street demonstrations roiling France's cities today, and the unhappy career prospects of Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, are the latest symptoms of an ailing democracy.
The troubles began with student unhappiness about a new "First Job Contract" law, adopted by the National Assembly two weeks ago. They grew into a protest movement once the unions joined in. A nationwide strike has been called for next Tuesday. The merit of the new law isn't the issue here. One can hate the new law as well as the tactics employed by the mobs to kill it. The bill is designed to reduce the youth jobless rate of 23%. But if France wants to reverse a 30-year pattern of low growth and high unemployment, it needs to tear down labor law barriers across the board, not just for people under the age of 26.
Reasonable people could have had a spirited debate about this policy. So why didn't they before the jobs contract became the law of the land? Parliaments and elections exist so complicated issues can be digested and decisions calmly taken. France went from little discussion to protests in central Paris, blockades at the Sorbonne and a rampage through a McDonald's restaurant. That's "civic discourse"?
The masses on the streets reply that this is the only way to fight a sclerotic political system, and the claim isn't without merit. MPs and the president face voters only every five years. The National Assembly is notoriously unresponsive to voter concerns, though the chicken-and-egg problem is that citizens don't bother even to try to sway their representatives. The jobs bill was pushed through using a special procedure that allowed for little debate or amendment. It is the brainchild of Mr. de Villepin, an official chosen by party rule and heir apparent to deeply unpopular Jacques Chirac.
The roots of the problem go back further. The French have never shied away from guillotining aloof rulers, from Louis XVI to, more figuratively, Charles de Gaulle. Lesser men have fallen to nationwide protests, and Mr. de Villepin may be next. All these small revolutions were inspired by the French Revolution, but France never managed to establish a political system both durable and flexible.
How instructive it would be to send Alexis de Tocqueville through France today. He'd find dependence on the state and the absence of individualism, symbolized by the low levels of private charity and civic engagement. He would not find the bounty of groups and lobbies of healthier democracies. "In every case, at the head of any new undertaking, where in France you would find the government," Tocqueville's "Democracy in America" asserts, "in the United States you are sure to find an association."
Yes, the banners of student groups add color to the street demonstrations. But look closer. The force with real bite is the public-sector employee unions. Blue-collar workers long ago abandoned the union movement, leaving civil servants who, like Charles de Gaulle once said of France's cosseted farmers, are desperate to hold on to their "mediocre but secure" posts.
The government workforce -- one-quarter of the population -- can terrorize the majority by stopping the trains or turning off the electricity. In other words, the state funds its own opposition, which torpedoes even modest efforts to modernize France. By marching with the public-sector unions to defend this status quo, the boys and girls of the Sorbonne are saying they want to be "mediocre but secure," too. What a dream for a 20-year-old. And a useful warning to Americans about the danger of giving public-sector unions too much power as well.
In its post-Revolutionary history, France has been characterized simultaneously by instability and immobility. In the 217 years that America has lived under a single Constitutional order, France has been ruled by 10 different regimes. Yet the France of de Gaulle's "Fifth Republic" has had fewer leaders -- five -- than the Soviet Union did by the time of its dissolution in 1991. Stability and dynamism are surely a better formula for a successful state. And the only proven way to get there is a stronger democracy.
Nicolas Sarkozy, a presidential candidate, wants to make the president more directly accountable by removing the rule against his speaking before the Assembly. Others are calling for a new constitution to replace the current one, which was designed in the troubled days of 1958. A real parliament would help. France's growing protests make the case for a constitutional rethink. When the thousands on the street assert the right to make laws for the millions, a country loses its right to call itself a "democratic republic."
at 4:12 PM
March 18, 2006
Hem In Development Sites;
A Potent Political Force
March 17, 2006; Page A1
MUMBAI When Pushpa Ramesh Pawar moved to the teeming Vakola Pipeline slum on the edge of Mumbai's airport in 1989, she spent most of her time fighting off snakes, insects and disease in a makeshift plastic tent.
Today, her struggle to avoid eviction from her illegal dwelling represents one of the central challenges facing India's booming economy: How does the world's biggest democracy bulldoze the homes of voters who are squatting squarely in the way of progress?
Pushpa Ramesh Pawar and her son, Mahesh, above, stand in front of the Mithi River, which serves as the garbage dump for her slum's residents.
An urgently needed upgrade to Mumbai's moldy airport threatens to uproot the precarious life the 49-year-old has built only 100 feet from a runway. For four sweltering days in February, the normally unassuming Mrs. Pawar joined 3,500 fellow airport employees -- many illegal slum-dwellers like her -- in a strike opposing the sale of the airport to private investors.
As violence flared, a policeman pulled her to the ground by the hair. She returned the next day even more determined. "My job and my house could disappear," she said, as union leaders with bullhorns denounced the selloff to a crowd including hundreds of women in sky-blue sari uniforms. "We'd lose everything."
The standoff highlights the tension between India's go-go growth and the hundreds of millions of citizens on the margins who feel left behind. They have the power to derail the best-laid plans of investors and the government with votes, protests and the courts. India desperately needs to fix its archaic infrastructure -- potholed roads, rundown airports and decrepit power plants -- if it wants to seriously compete with China for investment. Yet getting it done often runs counter to the interests of those just beginning to share in the new prosperity.
In China, the other billion-person economy struggling to square rapid growth with colossal infrastructure needs, illegal squatters like Mrs. Pawar are dealt with decisively and unceremoniously. One day they are there; the next they are not. Democratic India is a different story.
A Jet Airways plane flies over the river, which is flanked on both sides by slums, on its way to the Mumbai airport where Mrs. Pawar works as a cleaner.
In Mumbai, the city formerly known as Bombay, the paupers have real political clout. Slum-dwellers constitute half of Mumbai's 12 million citizens, and they are faithful voters. That makes them an important bloc for local politicians, most of whom promise to fight efforts to relocate them.
Last year, Sonia Gandhi, president of the Congress Party and the most powerful politician in India, grew wary of a voter backlash and intervened to stop demolitions in Mumbai. She reappeared early this year to check up on the situation. Mrs. Pawar always votes Congress, head of the coalition government, because she thinks it is the most slum-friendly party. "We are a very important vote-bank," she says. "People who live in the buildings don't vote; slum-dwellers do."
Even in the nation's capital, New Delhi, the provincial government recently had to back down in the face of protests against its demolition of slums to make way for wider roads. In Bangalore, the epicenter of India's world-class information-technology industry, slum-dwellers have taken the government to court to stop demolitions.
Moving Mrs. Pawar also promises to be tough. She came to Mumbai nearly three decades ago to escape the poverty in the rural village of Chanderi 130 miles away. There, as a low-caste Hindu she had few prospects for decent jobs. Today, the widow earns enough as a salaried government worker on a cleaning crew at Mumbai's international airport to educate her two children. She also built a concrete house where her tent -- little more than a tattered plastic tarpaulin -- once stood. As her living conditions have improved, those at the airport have deteriorated.
The Mumbai airport is bursting at the seams. Private airlines have blossomed and foreign carriers now have free access to the market. That's good for India's economy. But there's no space to park all the new aircraft. The airport needs to expand but is surrounded by 90,000 slum households that illegally occupy 160 acres of airport land that would otherwise be tarmac and hangars.
Waiting to Land
Planes routinely circle for 40 minutes before landing because there's only one main runway. Animals wander from the slums onto the tarmac. The airport dispatches special teams to shoot stray dogs. Children jump the fence to retrieve balls and kites, while adults forage for scrap metal near the hangars.
Failure to clear India's economic runway of this chaos will have important implications for the country's ability to sustain its strong growth rate, which is expected to hit 8% in the fiscal year ending March 31. "The Indian economy could be doing a whole lot better if we could get infrastructure going," Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of the Indian government's planning commission and a key architect of economic policy, told a conference in New Delhi recently.
The latest effort to bridge that gap is playing out on Mrs. Pawar's doorstep. Until recently a global laggard in aviation with fewer than 200 locally owned jetliners for its one billion citizens, India has thrown open its skies to private airlines and foreign carriers, boosting passenger volumes by about 20% a year for the past few years. Mumbai is India's commercial capital and its airport handles one-third of the nation's traffic.
When monsoon floods closed the airport for two days last July, slums were blamed for clogging up waterways with garbage. Flights were further delayed when a plane skidded off the runway while landing, blocking traffic for hours. Waters receded to reveal the single runway for international flights littered with boulders and dead water buffalo.
But change comes slowly in Mumbai. It took more than five years to shift some 10,000 shanty families away from the railway line that runs down Mumbai's spine. The shanties had so crowded the line that trains had to slow down, delaying service. The chief problem with moving the slums is that they're filled with people whose votes keep politicians in power.
"Slum votes are very crucial for any politician," says Suresh B. Thakur, a representative in Mumbai's municipal government whose ward consists entirely of shanties on land owned by the airport. Mr. Thakur has lived in one of them since leaving impoverished Bihar state in eastern India 40 years ago. He makes a decent living from his barber shop and a phone booth he owns and operates. He also pushed through a government project to build a public toilet for people at his slum, only yards from a new hangar for the country's biggest private carrier, Jet Airways.
"Any bulldozer will have to pass through my body," he says. Slums provide the drivers, maids and mechanics that keep Mumbai running. The tough part is housing them all. Rent control and strict building codes make low-cost housing a high-risk, low-return business.
Passengers walk past Airports Authority of India employees in New Delhi during a February protest against government plans to privatize the country's two largest landing facilities.
With India's growing middle class buying homes, cars and cellphones like never before, developers need space for malls, apartments and parking lots. Land prices have jumped 40% in Mumbai during the past year. Developers are hungrily eyeing big tracts of slum land and are willing to put up millions of rupees to resettle inhabitants.
Getting them to move isn't easy. In 1996, the state government promised longtime slum-dwellers in various places across the city 225-square-foot homes, with bathrooms, kitchens and electricity. But India's bureaucracy never delivered.
The Slum Dwellers Association of India, a nonprofit advocacy group, opened a new residential block for slum-dwellers in Mumbai last month that has been hailed as an example of what should happen. But the intended residents had to wait 11 years in a transit camp before moving in. "Slum-dwellers know stories where people have been in transit camps for 20 years," says Vinit Mukhija, an assistant professor of urban planning at the University of California in Los Angeles. "Given that, how can they trust anybody?"
Praful Patel, India's civil aviation minister, is confident that slums can be cleared by the consortium chosen to upgrade Mumbai airport as part of a $1.5 billion redevelopment plan. A Mercedes-driving industrialist, Mr. Patel says slum-dwellers will be compensated. "If someone has been given alternative accommodations or has been paid, he has to go."
But the rising quality of slum life and booming cost of housing elsewhere is making residents dig in. An Indian government survey in 2002 found that 92% of slum-dwellers had electricity, compared with 75% a decade earlier, even though the slum population had grown by about eight million households nationally. Two-thirds of slum-dwellers had access to public toilets.
A policeman stands guard at the Mumbai airport during the strike.
The winding alleys of Mrs. Pawar's slum are freshly paved -- courtesy of the Congress Party -- and electricity is finally available all day. Mrs. Pawar gets up at 4 a.m. to stand in line for water that gushes from community taps for a few hours a day -- another service brought to the slum by doting politicians. Strapping teenage boys stroll to cricket practice in white uniforms.
Nearby, workmen erect a temple to the Hindu saint Sai Baba. The temple isn't only about faith. Peppering slums with temples is also a standard ploy to ensure that Hindu nationalists will rally to fight any threat of demolition.
Mrs. Pawar's struggle to attain a life of relative comfort illustrates how entrenched squatters have become throughout India's big cities, and how difficult they will be to uproot.
Seventeen years ago, when she first arrived at the Vakola Pipeline slum, named after a water pipeline, Mrs. Pawar knew she couldn't afford a regular apartment so she simply picked a vacant spot near the airport. For weeks she, her husband, Ramesh, and daughter, Gita, lived on open ground, finally scrounging enough money for some plastic sheeting and gathering sticks to make a tent.
She recalls weeping uncontrollably and being unable to sleep. She was sick much of the time, enduring monsoon rains that turned her dirt floor to fetid sludge. She also missed her young son, Mahesh, who was at a hostel for the deaf. "I felt like running away," she says.
A part-time cleaning job at the airport earned her a meager salary, but she had to borrow money just to eat. For light, the family burned oil lamps. Her husband, an ailing drunk, died soon after coming to Mumbai. She and her daughter lived in the tent for five years, during which time Mrs. Pawar started building a house with a small bank loan.
She supplemented her earnings by selling lentil and rice lunches to neighbors and washing their dishes. In the mid-1990s, she and her neighbors pooled their savings to get water piped to a community tap. She also signed up for a phone connection. Reliable electric service followed. These services were provided even though her dwelling is illegal.
Life really began to improve when she landed a permanent cleaning job nine years ago with the Airports Authority of India. Once on the government payroll, an Indian is usually there for life, backed by strong unions and traditions of civil service. Indeed, her salary quickly doubled and has been going up ever since. Today, she makes the equivalent of $285 a month -- well above what a bathroom cleaner working for a private company would make.
As a public-sector employee, she gets free lunch, allowances for Hindu festival days, unlimited free medical care and a $15 monthly stipend for bus fare to work.
The changes enabled her to add a bedroom upstairs (she rents it out for $7 a month as a preschool for slum kids), white marble flooring downstairs and a bathing area out back. A color television with a DVD player recently replaced her old black-and-white.
She watches DVDs and Hindi soap operas on cable TV over the roar of planes taking off. Her favorite drama concerns a young woman named Kumkum who battles to keep her family together, which she says reminds her of her own life.
She has to wait in line to use the nearby public toilet; private toilets are rare in the slums. There is no garbage pickup. "We just toss it there," she says pointing to the fetid river near her home, which has been slowed to a trickle by millions of plastic bags.
Mrs. Pawar says she likes her job. But all the new passengers and the new management have her working harder and worrying more. "With more passengers there is more litter and more juice and tea spills everywhere," she says. "My boss keeps warning us that we could lose our job with privatization -- so stop sitting around."
Likewise, her grip on the home she has struggled to build is tenuous. When she first moved to the slum, she says, the airport made her sign a piece of paper authorizing it to evict her whenever it wants.
Paper or no paper, she's not going to go quietly.
at 6:13 PM
March 14, 2006
March 13, 2006
at 11:56 AM
March 12, 2006
Investors are sure to see some eye-popping numbers when states start forecasting their retiree health-care liabilities for the next 30 years.
at 4:50 AM
March 8, 2006
March 8, 2006; Page A20
The fifth pillar is a property boom: Dubai is the fastest-growing city in the world. Hundreds of new buildings are under construction, including what is planned to be the tallest building ever, the Burj Tower. Cynics point out that the capping of the world's highest property, from the Empire State Building to the Petronas Towers in Malaysia, has occasionally in the past coincided with economic crises. Reports suggest that the majority of new Dubai properties are being acquired for speculative purposes, with only small deposits put down. They are being flipped in the contemporary Miami manner.
The sixth pillar is market inefficiency: Financial information in the Gulf is totally inadequate. The Saudi megacap conglomerate Sabic attracts no domestic financial analysis, says Nomura's Mr. Fadlallah. Companies report their results in a rudimentary fashion. It is against the law to sell short overpriced stocks in the Saudi market. And foreigners' financial sophistication is absent since only Gulf nationals can purchase Saudi stocks. Instead, speculators operate in an information vacuum in markets reportedly dominated by insider trading and practiced manipulation.
The seventh pillar is the madness of crowds: Newspapers gleefully report stories of police called to protect banks from overeager IPO subscribers. A Saudi woman is said to have been divorced by her husband for no reason other than that he'd had lost money in the stock market. Up to two million of the 16 million Saudi population are said to be playing the market. Interest-free loans are commonly available. Saudi bank foyers are lined with LCD screens showing stock movements. A local TV station has started to provide stock market reports. The education minister has warned teachers to stop day-trading at schools. People are quitting their jobs to trade.
at 9:54 PM
March 6, 2006
at 8:00 PM
March 6, 2006; Page B1
TOKYO -- Ever since his college days in the early 1980s, Yoichi Wada knew he wanted to be a manager. In the U.S., he might have headed off to business school. But in Japan, Mr. Wada's options were more limited: There were only three business schools in the country at the time.
So Mr. Wada designed his own quirky management-training program during a 16-year stint at a big Japanese brokerage. He sold stocks, analyzed securities, worked as an investment banker, and got himself sent to Poland as a foreign ministry attache -- all the time studying basic bookkeeping and other skills on his own.
Now president of videogame maker Square Enix Co., the 46-year-old Mr. Wada says he's glad he opted for real-world experience over formal business education. "I figured I had to be on the front lines," he says. "I had to get rigorous training."
Mr. Wada's do-it-yourself approach highlights a big difference in the way managers have traditionally learned their craft in Japan versus the U.S. Even at world-leading companies like Toyota Motor Corp., few managers have formal training. Instead, Japanese companies tend to promote executives from their own ranks, valuing long service in the trenches over the latest biz-school smarts.
There are some indications this is changing, as Japan emerges from a 15-year business slump. Companies such as Sanyo Electronics Co. are opting for outsiders to lead them through rough bouts of reorganization. The president of electronics giant Toshiba Corp., who was tapped from within last year, has said the company needs executives with expertise in managing, rather than operating specific business lines.
The soul-searching following Japan's "lost decade" of economic stagnation is spurring interest here in more-formal management training, resulting in an explosion of books teaching basic management skills and a boom in business schools, which have expanded to 45 from eight in 1990, according to Japanese business-school operator Globis Corp. That is still fewer than in the U.S., which has about 850 graduate business schools, according to the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, an accrediting group.
Japanese management trackers say the first wave of students to get MBAs abroad in the late 1980s are now ascending the executive ranks, meaning there will likely be a gradual shift to more professionally trained managers in the next several years. Yet even some Japanese experts who applaud the trend say the country will probably never become as hooked on MBAs as the U.S., and that the traditional hands-on approach is probably just as helpful in the end.
"If I had to do it again, I wouldn't go to business school," says Shinji Yamamoto, a partner at consultant Bain & Co. in Japan, who in 1985 was sent by the bank where he was working to get an MBA at the University of Chicago. Mr. Yamamoto says managers can learn the most valuable skills on their own; he's written several self-help books, including "Exercise the Work Muscle -- For People in Their Twenties."
The typical Japanese approach is illustrated by Toyota, which despite being the subject of countless business-school case studies, has only three MBAs among its 26 highest-ranking executives.
The company rarely hires outsiders for management posts in Japan. Every year, Toyota sends as many as five of its 65,000 Japanese employees to MBA programs abroad. The rest make do with the company's in-house training system: a mandatory two- or three-day session when they're first promoted to management, followed by optional seminars on topics like reading financial statements.
Mr. Wada's path to a management career started in 1984, when he joined Nomura Securities. At the time, Nomura was known for its ruthless insistence on performance and its relatively rapid promotion of talented young executives, a rarity in a land where an entrenched seniority system typically meant aspiring leaders had to wait decades to rise to the top.
Mr. Wada spent three years peddling stocks and bonds door to door in Hiroshima, learning about front-line sales under a quota system that demanded salesmen double their rivals' results. In his free time, he taught himself accounting and macroeconomics.
Mr. Wada caught the attention of Nomura executives when he proposed a training class for salesmen. They brought him to Tokyo for a three-year stint in the corporate-planning department, where Mr. Wada learned how a big company runs. He lobbied to be sent abroad, and in 1990 Nomura loaned him to the Foreign Ministry as a cultural attache to Poland. "I wanted to be in charge of a project from beginning to end," he explains, noting that such opportunities are rare inside a big organization. Mr. Wada got his wish: In an office with just a handful of staff, he was put in charge of a project to promote Japanese culture to a newly capitalist Poland.
Two years later, he returned to Nomura headquarters, where he worked as a securities analyst, then an investment banker advising companies on mergers and acquisitions, then as head of risk management in Nomura's global accounting office.
Mr. Wada says that practical experience has proved invaluable at Square Enix. He was hired as chief financial officer of its predecessor, Square Co., in 2000. Within a year, that company was foundering after a big-budget movie project flopped, costing it hundreds of millions of dollars and prompting the resignation of its two top executives.
At the end of 2001, Mr. Wada was named chief executive officer of Square Co. He quickly negotiated a much-needed investment from game-console maker Sony Corp. At the same time, he drew on his Nomura experience in crafting contracts to close a tricky deal with Sony rival Nintendo Co.
Mr. Wada's investment-banking chops also came in handy: In 2003, he orchestrated a merger with fellow game maker Enix Corp. Last year, Square Enix acquired game creator Taito.
Mr. Wada, who wears only suits to work to stress his role as a professional manager, says his Nomura experience analyzing companies helped him decide which firms would be a good fit with Square Enix. He has restored the company to profitability, and its shares on the Tokyo Stock Exchange are up roughly 31% since Mr. Wada took over as CEO.
So is there anything Mr. Wada would have learned in an American MBA program that he couldn't get on the job? "Yes," the Japanese executive replies instantly: "English."
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