Saturday, May 31, 2014

WTO needs China to lead; India growth disappoints; Millennials and social media mistakes

1 WTO needs China to lead (James Bacchus in The Wall Street Journal) Unless China does more soon to help lead the world toward freer trade, the global trading system may be in jeopardy. Although China has embraced its obligations as a member of the World Trade Organization, the continuing reluctance of Beijing to press for lower barriers to trade risks the very future of the WTO as the central forum and fulcrum for world trade.

Since joining the WTO in 2001, China has been a constructive WTO member. Always polite and patient, it has participated diligently in WTO proceedings. China has complied increasingly with WTO rules and consistently with WTO rulings. It has done everything it should do as a member—except show the leadership to help sustain the centrality of the global trading system overseen by the WTO.

At first, this was understandable. As a new member, China needed some time to learn how to work within the WTO. Now, however, China has climbed to the top of the trading world. With great economic power comes great economic responsibility. Granted, as China reminds us, hundreds of millions of Chinese are still mired in poverty. Nevertheless, the size and sway of China are such that, nothing the members of the WTO may wish to do multilaterally on a whole host of global commercial concerns can be done successfully without the full engagement and the final agreement of China.

There is also this for Chinese consideration. No other country in the world benefits more from membership in the WTO than China. Without the legal shelter of fundamental WTO rules of non-discrimination in world trade, China would surely have been singled out for widespread discrimination by other trading countries during the past dozen years of its economic rise. China would surely still be the target of such discrimination today if it were not a Member of the WTO.

China could make an important start by making a much better offer on information technology. The credibility gained by China could be its ticket into the current services negotiations. A breakthrough on services that included China could breathe new life into the moribund Doha Round of global trade negotiations where the potential payoff in added prosperity is greatest for China and for all.

2 India growth disappoints (BBC) India's economic growth has remained subdued, due largely to a slowdown in the manufacturing sector, official figures have shown. The economy grew at an annual rate of 4.6% between January and March, below analysts' forecasts and the same pace as the previous quarter. For the full 2013-14 financial year, growth was 4.7%, the second straight year of sub-5% expansion.

New Prime Minister Narendra Modi has pledged to boost growth. Asia's third-largest economy has been weighed down in recent years by high inflation, a weak currency and a fall in foreign investment.

Two years ago, India's growth rate stood at about 8%. This level of growth is needed to provide enough jobs for India's growing population - economists estimate 10 million jobs need to be created each year. The last government failed to meet that target - data shows that between 2004-05 and 2011-12, just 53 million jobs were created.

However, many economists are upbeat and expect growth to increase, and more jobs to be created, on the back of Mr Modi's election. Spending on infrastructure is expected to increase significantly in the coming months, a stimulus that should help boost growth towards in the end of the year, analysts say.

3 Millennials and social  media mistakes (Belo Cipriani in San Francisco Chronicle) With the national youth unemployment rate above 15 percent, it seems as though Millennials are struggling to lock in full-time employment. The sluggish economy is partly the blame. Misusing social media accounts is also seriously hurting Millennials.

The reality is that companies pay their employees to do a series of tasks. And unless those tasks involve managing the corporate social media accounts, there is no reason to be on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram during work hours. Sharing observations about company politics on social media is never a good idea and can have serious negative consequences.

Background checks no longer begin after a candidate receives a job offer; they begin when a candidate becomes a finalist for a position. Before starting a job search, Millennials need to update the security settings on their social media profiles. They should ensure only friends can see comments and pictures. They need to try to not get into any altercations with anyone on social media; hostile behavior in any form is off putting and will scare away any future employer.

The best reference can be diminished by a negative search result on the web. Aside from securing their social media accounts, Millennials need to put their name through an Internet query and go through the first ten pages of results. If negative information is found, contact the website’s administrator to have it removed. In some instances, legal assistance will be needed; it will all depend on how responsive the website manager is. Some sites will not remove information in any case.

Social media can be very addicting. It may help some Millennials to view each social media impulse as a craving; cravings last eight minutes, then fade. Taking time to consider how a video, picture or anecdote they are about to share may affect their future will keep them from losing out on an imminent opportunity.

Friday, May 30, 2014

US sees China as 'destablising force'; Siemens revamp to hit 11,600 jobs; Youth open to banking with Google, Apple, Amazon; Backlash in India over new rape outrages

1 US sees China as ‘destablising force’ (The Guardian) China is "destabilising" the South China Sea region by pursuing territorial disputes with other nations, US defence secretary Chuck Hagel has warned. Hagel said the US would "not look the other way" when nations such as China try to restrict navigation or ignore international rules and standards. "In recent months, China has undertaken destabilising, unilateral actions asserting its claims in the South China Sea," he said.

But China's president Xi Jinping played down the threat posed by China's running disputes in the area. "We will never stir up trouble, but will react in the necessary way to the provocations of countries involved," Xinhua news agency quoted Xi as saying.

For the second year in a row, Hagel also used the podium at the Shangri-La conference to accuse China of cyberspying against the US. While this has been a persistent complaint by the US, his remark came less than two weeks after it charged five Chinese military officers with hacking into American companies to steal trade secrets. The Chinese, in response, suspended participation in a US-China cyber working group, and released a report that said the US was conducting unscrupulous cyber espionage.

In a string of remarks aimed directly at China, Hagel said the US opposes any nation's use of intimidation or threat of force to assert territorial claims. "All nations of the region, including China, have a choice: to unite, and recommit to a stable regional order, or, to walk away from that commitment and risk the peace and security that has benefited millions of people throughout the Asia-Pacific, and billions of people around the world," he said.

2 Siemens revamp to hit 11,600 jobs (BBC) German industrial giant Siemens plans a major reorganisation of its business, affecting 11,600 workers. The restructuring directly affects 7,600 jobs worldwide, with another 4,000 potentially affected as part of changes to its regional organisation. However a company spokesman said: "Removing jobs in one area does not necessarily have to mean job cuts."

The company is reorganising itself into nine divisions from its current 16. It intends to cut annual group costs by 1bn euros ($1.4bn) from 2016. The reorganisation follows a previous one that affected 15,000 posts. A Siemens spokesman said that the number of job losses from that revamp was 4,000. Siemens employs 360,000 staff worldwide, with about a third of these in Germany.

Earlier this month, Siemens said in its latest company report that it expected its markets "to remain challenging in fiscal 2014" with a recovery not expected until later in the year. Siemens is keen to buy part of France's Alstom. To do that, it will have to come up with a more attractive bid than US firm General Electric (GE), which is pushing hard to do a deal with the French industrial firm. To sweeten its approach, GE recently promised to create 1,000 jobs in France.

3 Youth open to banking with Google, Apple, Amazon (Kathleen Pender in San Francisco Chronicle) Almost 40 percent of North American consumers 18 to 34 would consider switching to an online-only bank and 30 to 40 percent would bank with a technology company if it offered such services, according to survey by Accenture. Not surprisingly, young consumers were far more likely to embrace non-traditional banks than older ones.

The survey comes at a time when non-banks are making inroads into banking with products such as prepaid debit cards that consumers can use to make purchases and pay bills. Among the younger crowd, 40 percent said they would consider banking with Google, 37 percent with and 34 percent with Apple.

As for switching to a bank without branches, 39 percent of the youngest group said they would consider it, compared with 29 percent of the middle-aged group and 16 percent of the over-55 crowd.

4 Backlash in India over new rape outrages (Johannesburg Times) Outrage has grown in India over two shocking rape cases as the new government said it was planning to set up a special crisis cell to ensure justice for victims of sex attacks. On Thursday it emerged that two teenagers from a low caste had been found hanging from a tree after being gang-raped in their village. A day later police said the father of the chief suspect in another rape case had savagely attacked the mother of his son's alleged victim.

Rights activists and politicians said that the cases highlighted that the authorities in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh were "not serious" about tackling sexual crimes. India revised its laws on sex attacks in the wake of the December 2012 gang-rape of a student on a bus in New Delhi which triggered outrage, but they have done little to stem the tide of sex attacks.

Police in Uttar Pradesh said three people, including a police constable, had been arrested in connection with a sex attack on the two girls in the village of Budaun earlier this week. The two cousins, aged 14 and 15, were found hanging from a mango tree on Wednesday morning, with subsequent tests showing that they had been the victim of multiple sexual assaults.

Mukul Goel, a senior police officer, told AFP that it had still not been determined whether the victims had committed suicide or been strung up as a way of silencing them after they were raped. Maneka Gandhi, who was appointed child welfare minister by India's new Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this week, said that every officer who had been involved in the case should be dismissed. Gandhi said that she planned to set up a "rape crisis cell" to ensure swift justice for victims of sex crime.

The two incidents have been seized upon by opponents of the local government in Uttar Pradesh which is run by the socialist Samajwadi Party. The party's leader Mulayam Singh Yadav -- whose son is the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh -- told an election rally lst month that he was opposed to the death penalty for gang rapists brought in after the December 2012 bus attack, saying "boys make mistakes".

Amnesty International said the gang rape of the cousins showed that women from lower castes "face multiple levels of discrimination and violence" despite "the existence of constitutional safeguards and special laws". There is a long history of women and girls from India's lower castes -- especially those who belong to the Dalit caste who were previously known as "untouchables" -- of being sexually abused by people from higher castes.

Japan inflation rises fastest in 23 years; India mulls 100% FDI in defence ventures; Importance of a T-shaped career

1 Japan inflation rises fastest in 23years (BBC) Consumer prices in Japan rose at their fastest pace in 23 years in April, following an increases in sales tax. Prices rose 3.2% compared with the same period last year, beating analysts' forecasts of a 3.1% jump. The government raised its sales tax rate from 5% to 8% on 1 April.

Japan has been battling deflation, or falling prices, for best part of the past two decades, and policymakers have said that ending that cycle is key to reviving the country's economy. Falling consumer prices hurt domestic demand as consumers and businesses tend to put off purchases in the hope of getting a cheaper deal later on.

The Japanese government has taken various steps over the past few months to try and reverse this trend, and have set a target of a 2% inflation rate. The measures, which include boosting the country's money supply, have started to have an impact and consumer prices in the country have now risen for 11 months in a row.

But there have been some concerns that higher inflation may trigger a decline in spending. Data released on Friday showed that household spending fell 4.6% in April, compared to a year earlier. That follows a 4.4% decline in retail sales during the month. However, analysts said the decline in spending was in part due to consumers rushing to make purchases ahead of the tax rise.

2 India mulls 100% FDI in defence ventures (Santanu Choudhury & Rajesh Roy in The Wall Street Journal) India's Trade Ministry has proposed opening the country's defense industry to more foreign investment, a senior ministry official said. The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion has circulated a note among ministries which recommends allowing 100% foreign ownership in defense ventures in India. Foreign companies are currently permitted to own only up to 26% stakes in defense companies.

"The rationale behind this proposal is to give a boost to the manufacturing sector," said the official, who asked not to be named. Under the proposal, foreign defense companies would only be allowed full ownership of ventures in India if they promised "full transfer of technology and state-of-the-art technologies".
After discussion among ministries, including defense and finance, the proposal will be modified or rejected. If accepted, it will be sent to the cabinet for approval.

3 Importance of a T-shaped career (Kim Thompson in San Francisco Chronicle) T-Shaped skills is not a new concept in the marketplace. The idea was first mentioned by David Guest in the early ’90s when talking about the future of computer jobs. It was Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO design firm, however, who successfully brought the T-shaped hypothesis to the hiring process.

A T-shaped skill description is a metaphor for visualizing a person’s skills using the vertical stem as the depth of their expertise and the horizontal cross bar as their ability to effectively collaborate with others across the board. According to Brown, collaboration skills are key in bringing interdisciplinary teams together to create new ideas.

For example, when Brown interviews candidates, he listens to how they describe their collaboration skills in working with others, “If all the candidate talks about is what they have done, that’s a problem. The right person for us will talk about how other people have helped them do what they have done.”

The reason why T-shaped skills are so crucial to your career path is because the link between constant changes in the business market and diverse work teams. The new hiring strategies are based on skills that represent the depth and breadth of the value you bring to the organization. Decision-makers are looking for well-rounded candidates who possess both technical and soft skills.

Employers are facing hiring challenges every day because the marketplace is demanding cross functional skill sets with a broad scope of abilities. Universities know this as well. The Stanford Technology Ventures Program teaches entrepreneurial skills to its science and engineering students.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

US opts for soft-power foreign policy; China's tumult within; Google axes the steering wheel, Samsung makes watch smarter; When instant gratification comes to banking

1 Obama opts for soft-power foreign policy (David Nakamura in The Washington Post) President Obama has laid out his vision for a comprehensive post-9/11 foreign policy after more than a decade of war overseas, arguing for a new form of American leadership that strikes a balance between interventionism and “foreign entanglements.”

Obama stressed the importance of nonmilitary options in addressing the world’s challenges, as well as collective international action. Coming more than six years into a presidency devoted to winding down the wars, the speech featured a firm defense of his administration’s handling of foreign crises — including those in Nigeria, Syria and Ukraine — and a suggestion that many critics are out of step with a nation tired from 13 years of war.

“Here’s my bottom line: America must always lead,” Obama said. “If we don’t, no one else will. The military that you have joined is and always will be the backbone of that leadership. But US military action cannot be the only — or even the primary — component of our leadership in every instance.”

Obama acknowledged that the odds of a nuclear deal with Iran “are still long,” but he said there remained “a very real chance of a breakthrough agreement” for the first time in a decade, “one that is more effective and durable than what we could have achieved through the use of force.” The point, Obama added, “is this is American leadership. This is American strength.”  

2 China’s tumult within (Khaleej Times) At least 180 people have been killed in attacks across China over the past year as the Communist Party of China’s seniormost committees warned that separatist groups in Xinjiang are seeking to form their own state, called East Turkestan. Xinjiang is a resource-rich region bordering central Asia, whose Uighur Muslim minority speak a Turkic language and several of whose constituents have complained of discrimination.

At a time when the People’s Republic is facing increasing tensions on its maritime frontiers and waters the ethnic smouldering in Xinjiang has forced Beijing to look in all directions at once. For Beijing, at this time China is facing a dual pressure — internally concerning political security and social stability, and externally on national sovereignty, state security, and its interests in development.

In the Party’s own words, China’s state security has its “domestic and foreign elements that are more complicated than at any other period in history”. Given China’s long and turbulent history, this is an assessment of unusual gravity that China’s neighbours must study in equal measure.

3 Google axes the steering wheel, Samsung makes watch smarter (Stephanie M Lee & Associated Press in San Francisco Chronicle) Google CEO Sergey Brin has announced the next step in the company’s driverless car project. The new prototype has no steering wheel or driver pedals, it’s completely self-driving. And the prototype’s squat design of course inspired some to poke fun: Google is building a car without a steering wheel. Brin said Google will make 100 prototype cars that drive themselves — and therefore do not need a wheel. Or brake and gas pedals.

Instead, there are buttons for go and stop. A combination of sensors and computing power takes the driving from there. To date, Google has driven hundreds of thousands of miles on public roads with Lexus SUVs and Toyota Priuses outfitted with the special equipment. This prototype is the first Google will have built for itself. It won’t be for sale, and Google is unlikely to go deeply into auto manufacturing. In a blog post, the company emphasized partnering with other firms.

The Samsung watch: Electronics giant Samsung has taken its biggest step yet into the rapidly growing field of “wearable” health devices, unveiling a prototype for a smartwatch that can track key vital signs and a software platform that will allow researchers to analyze the massive amounts of data generated by wearers.

Samsung has introduced the Simband, a watch that isn’t for sale but an example, the company said, of products still to come. It can track key vital signs: heart rate, heart rate regularity, skin temperature, oxygen levels and carbon dioxide levels. And thanks to an attachable battery, the watch does not need to be taken off to be recharged, allowing it to monitor a user’s body 24/7.

4 When instant gratification comes to banking (Anne Perkins in The Guardian) Being greedy about the present is part of the human condition, and waiting for a better future can cut both ways. It might mean fairness and shared prosperity, but usually it is just another way of entrenching privilege.

What's for sure is that hope alone is not enough. But taking a risk – by regulating for fair markets now in order to get a more sustainable City operation in the future – is a harder case to make when the rules that used to constrain behaviour have been eroded by the ease with which most of us, most of the time, can get some degree of instant gratification; when getting what you want, when you want it, is the measure of success.

As governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney pointed out, most banks do now have codes of ethics and business principles, it's just that their traders don't observe them. It's like corporate social responsibility, a convenient myth behind which business can continue as usual.

But the behaviour of the bankers would be that bit harder for them to sustain – and the politicians might be a bit more eager to take action to curtail it – if the way they carry on was something other than an extreme example of the way most of us live now.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Banking reforms too slow, says IMF; Yahoo may launch YouTube rival; Five things about Ukraine's Chocolate baron-President; How economic crisis spurs obesity

1 Banking reforms too slow, says IMF (BBC) Banking reforms aimed at preventing another financial crisis have failed to make enough progress, the boss of the International Monetary Fund has warned. IMF managing director Christine Lagarde blamed a combination of the complexity involved, industry lobbying and "fatigue" for the delay. "The industry still prizes short-term profit over long-term prudence," Ms Lagarde said.

She said inequality was "an issue" too. Ms Lagarde said some of the biggest problems were with the so-called "too-big-to-fail firms", banks whose collapse would cause such a big knock-on effect on the wider economy that governments were still expected to rescue them. She said a recent IMF study indicated that such banks were still "major sources of systemic risk" and called for "tougher regulation and tighter supervision" to tackle the issue.

"Their implicit subsidy is still going strongly - amounting to about $70bn in the US, and up to $300bn in the euro area," she said. Ms Lagarde called for regulators worldwide to agree a framework to wind down big banks in trouble, as well as mutual recognition on rules for financial markets.

2 Yahoo may launch YouTube rival (Megan Rose Dickey in San Francisco Chronicle) Yahoo is reportedly unveiling a YouTube rival this summer. Yahoo's service will offer more generous revenue-sharing deals for creators, AdAge reports. Google's YouTube takes 45% of ad revenue, but Yahoo is expected to offer a split that tips more in favor of creators.

Yahoo intended to unveil the new service in April, but contract issues ultimately delayed the launch. One point of contention was around content ownership. Early drafts of the contract gave a video's ownership rights to Yahoo.

Similar to YouTube, Yahoo video creators will be able to have their own channels. Yahoo's video player will also be embeddable on other sites. Those Yahoo creators who sign a contract will also get a publishing dashboard so that they can distribute across Yahoo properties like its home page, as well as blogging service Tumblr.

3 Five things about Ukraine’s Chocolate baron-President (Ling Chang Hong in Straits Times) Chocolate baron Petro Poroshenko claimed a resounding victory on Sunday in Ukraine’s presidential election. Just who is Petro Poroshenko? Here are five things about him.

Wealth: The 48-year-old is known as the “Chocolate King” for his ownership of Ukraine’s largest confectionery manufacturer, Roshen. His vast empire also includes vehicle manufacturing and shipbuilding. He also owns 5 Kanal TV, the most popular news channel in Ukraine. Forbes estimated his wealth at $1.6 billion in 2013.

Political experience: A 10-year political veteran, Mr Poroshenko comes from the mainly Russian-speaking Odessa region in southern Ukraine, although his political stronghold is believed to be in the central Vinnytsya region, where he started his business and political career. He was foreign minister in Ms Yulia Tymoshenko’s government from 2009 to 2010, and briefly an economic development and trade minister in 2012. He was also one of the main figures of the Orange Revolution that brought Mr Viktor Yushchenko and Ms Tymoshenko to power in 2004.

Campaign promises: The main slogan of Mr Poroshenko’s election campaign was: "A new way of living". He portrays himself as a pragmatic politician who sees Ukraine’s future in Europe, but hopes to mend relations with Russia, using the diplomatic skills he developed as foreign minister.

Main challenges: Mr Poroshenko will inherit a country on the brink of economic collapse, with a separatist rebellion raging in its main industrial region, and a Russian neighbour that has annexed one part of the country. His main goal is to unite Ukraine. “The first steps of our entire team at the beginning of the presidency will concentrate on ending the war, ending the chaos, ending the disorder and bringing peace to Ukrainian soil, to a united, single Ukraine,” he said at a victory rally.

Quotable quotes: “No.” - When asked by a Ukrainian journalist at a post-election press conference whether he could guarantee the freedom of the press. "When I win." - He interrupted and corrected a question about what he would do if he wins the election.

4 How economic crisis spurs obesity (Katie Allen in The Guardian) The economic crisis could have intensified the obesity epidemic in rich nations as people switched to cheaper and less healthy foods, acccording to a report. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development also found that the drop in physical activity for those who lost their job was likely to have contributed to higher obesity rates in some places.

In an update to its work on the economics of obesity begun in 2010, the Paris-based thinktank found the epidemic had spread further in the past five years, although rates have been increasing at a slower pace than before. "Until 1980, fewer than one in 10 people were obese in OECD countries. In the following decades, rates doubled or tripled, and are continuing to grow," the report said, putting the obesity rate now at 18% of adults.

People with less education and lower socio-economic status are more likely to be obese, and the gap is generally larger in women, the research found. It highlighted the effect of financial hardship on food shopping habits. "In 2008, the world economy entered one of the most severe crises ever. Many families, especially in the hardest hit countries, have been forced to cut their food expenditures, and tighter food budgets have provided incentives for consumers to switch to lower-priced and less healthy foods," the OECD said.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Eurosceptic 'earthquake' and the future of EU; China scrapping 6m cars; India banks require expensive Modi fix; World's best 'cities of opportunity'

1 Eurosceptic ‘earthquake’ and the future of EU (Martin Jay in Khaleej Times) Voters across Europe who went to the polls have returned a staggering and unprecedented vote in both France and Britain. Eurosceptic and far-right parties seized ground in elections to the European parliament, in what France’s PM called a “political earthquake”.

The French National Front and UK Independence Party both performed strongly, while the three big centrist blocs in parliament all lost seats. The outcome means a greater say for those who want to cut back the EU’s powers, which have grown considerably in the last decade.

But the nightmare for the old elite in Brussels is not the rough time it will get on a daily basis from a growing minority of gadflies in the EU village. It’s more about how their own popularity has dwindled and whether the new sceptic parties will gain momentum for the next five years. If they do, it could mean the end of the EU altogether or at least it being replaced by a streamlined version which just manages a single trade block but leaves it to Member States themselves to take each other to court in the WTO when rules are breached.

In such a set up, an EU parliament would be redundant. In fact, it already is. A minor factoid. The European parliament is the only assembly in the world which is prevented from proposing any legislation — a body of 22,000 individuals, none of whom are elected but as an all-empowering administration more or less runs the entire EU machine. But the old guard in Brussels just doesn’t get it.

2 China scrapping 6m cars (BBC) China plans to remove six million vehicles, that do not meet exhaust emission standards, by the end of the year as a way of improving air quality. More than 300,000 vehicles will be decommissioned in the capital Beijing. Recent findings from the state's environmental agency showed that 31% of the air pollution in Beijing comes from vehicle exhaust fumes. Next year, the government plans to scrap up to five million vehicles from other regions.

Fighting pollution has emerged as a priority for China's leaders as they try to reverse damage done by decades of manufacturing-driven growth, which has sacrificed the nation's air, water and soil qualities. In Beijing, the municipal government has previously offered subsidies to car owners to voluntarily turn in their ageing vehicles to be scrapped.

In addition to removing vehicles which contribute to air pollution, experts are calling for quality upgrades in fuels, which can also help mitigate air pollution and smog. After years of denying the issue existed, the central government earlier this year accepted that pollution was of genuine concern. It now publishes figures for the air quality in China's major cities, and in 2013 promised $275bn to tackle the issue in the next five years, setting targets for air quality improvements.

3 India banks require expensive Modi fix (Abheek Bhattacharya in The Wall Street Journal) Even before Narendra Modi was sworn in as India's prime minister Monday, shares in its government banks have been Modi-fied. Investors betting on a broad economic revival have pushed shares of the biggest government-owned bank, State Bank of India, up more than 50% this year. Yet a real turn for lenders like SBI requires a commitment Mr. Modi hasn't made—a massive injection of state funds to shore up capital levels.

India's numerous state banks control three-quarters of the lending market and are stuck in a bad-debt morass. Getting them out of it will be necessary for the moribund economy to really take off. Take SBI's case. If it had to write off the nonperforming loans it hasn't already set aside provisions for, plus loans restructured to ease terms for borrowers, it would wipe out 69% of common equity as of March.

To get banks lending again, Delhi needs to drum up big-time cash. To provide reserves for a reasonable 50% of problem loans from about 25% currently would cost $33 billion. Tack on requirements to meet global capital norms by 2019, and the banks need another $61 billion in order for loans to grow 20% a year, just below the past decade's average. According to Wall Street Journal calculations, that amounts to 4.7% of this year's estimated GDP. India's total budget deficit was around 4.6% of GDP last fiscal year.

4 World’s best ‘cities of opportunity’ (Julie Balise in San Francisco Chronicle) San Francisco is the second best city in America and fifth-best worldwide for business and cultural opportunity, according to a recent survey from PricewaterhouseCoopers. London took the top spot on the “Cities of Opportunity” report, followed by New York.

PwC ranked the 30 cities based on 10 key indicators: intellectual capital and innovation; technology readiness; city gateway; transportation and infrastructure; health, safety, and security; sustainability and the natural environment; demographics and livability; economic clout; ease of doing business; and cost.

The lowest-scoring cities were Nairobi, Jakarta, and Mumbai. PwC used data from global development organizations, like World Bank, national statistics organizations, like the U.S. Census Bureau, and commercial data providers. Data was collected during the third and fourth quarters of 2013.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Eurosceptic 'earthquake' in European parliament; Comparing Steve Jobs and Elon Musk; End of the road for India's Ambassador car

1 Eurosceptic ‘earthquake’ in European parliament (BBC) Eurosceptic and far-right parties have seized ground in elections to the European parliament, in what France's PM called a "political earthquake". While the French National Front and UK Independence Party both appear headed for first place, the three big centrist blocs in parliament all lost seats. The outcome means a greater say for those who want to cut back the EU's powers, or abolish it completely.

"The people have spoken loud and clear," a triumphant Marine Le Pen told cheering supporters at National Front (FN) party headquarters in Paris. "They no longer want to be led by those outside our borders, by EU commissioners and technocrats who are unelected. They want to be protected from globalisation and take back the reins of their destiny." Provisional results suggested the FN could win 25 European Parliament seats - a stunning increase on its three in 2009.

Across the board, the centre-right European People's Party was set to win 211 out of the 751 seats, with 28.1% across the bloc, according to estimated results issued by the European Parliament. That would make it the biggest group - but with more than 60 seats fewer than before. That put it ahead of the Socialist group with 193 seats (25.7%), Liberals with 74 (9.9%) and Greens 58 (7.7%).

UKIP leader Nigel Farage was predicting that his party would come first in Britain, saying: "The inevitability of European integration ends tonight." The anti-bailout hard-left group in parliament was set to make big gains, largely thanks to Syriza in Greece and United Left in Spain, gaining about 12 seats. Martin Schulz, the former Socialist president of the European Parliament - said of the FN victory: "It's a bad day for the European Union, when a party with a racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic programme gets 25% of the vote."

The election is the biggest exercise in multi-national democracy in the world. The vote will affect the lives of the EU's 500 million citizens. The parliament's powers have expanded since the last election in 2009, and it is hoping to have a decisive say in who gets the EU's top job, president of the European Commission.

2 Comparing Steve Jobs and Elon Musk (Alyson Shontell in San Francisco Chronicle) Steve Jobs introduced us to iPods, iPads, iPhones, iTunes and more. Two and a half years ago, Jobs passed away. Since then, people have asked, "Who will be the next Steve Jobs?"

Elon Musk is a common answer; some even think he's surpassed Steve Jobs. Musk helped create PayPal, a widely-used consumer product that changed the way people pay for things online. He also founded electric car company Tesla and rocket company SpaceX.

Dolly Singh has worked with Musk for more than five years. She joined him as Head of Talent Acquisition at SpaceX and calls Musk "brilliant, dynamic, charismatic" and "an exceptional freak of nature" on Quora. She also says this: "In my humble opinion, Mr. Jobs in all his greatness has nothing on Elon. Elon is Wernher von Braun, Howard Hughes, Henry Ford, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and every other badass all rolled into one."

Another answer with more than 3,800 up-votes on Quora lists all the ways Musk is not Steve Jobs (such as, "Steve Jobs patented everything; Musk hates patents") and concludes: "Elon Musk isn't the next Steve Jobs. He is far beyond and better than Steve Jobs ever was." Comparing Jobs and Musk is apples and oranges. Both are/were legendary leaders of different kinds.

3 End of the road for India’s Ambassador car (The Guardian) The maker of the Ambassador has halted production of the car, the choice of Indian officialdom, blaming weak demand and a lack of funds, and casting doubt on the future of a vehicle that has looked the same for nearly six decades. Hindustan Motors said it had suspended work at its Uttarpara plant, outside the eastern city of Kolkata, until further notice.

Modelled on Britain's Morris Oxford, the Ambassador was the first car to be made in India, according to the company, and was once a status symbol. But it began losing its dominance in the mid-1980s when Maruti Suzuki introduced its cheaper 800 hatchback. It lost further cachet and market share when global carmakers began setting up shop in India in the mid-1990s, offering models with modern designs and technology.

The Ambassador has remained the recognisable choice of a dwindling share of bureaucrats and politicians, usually painted white with a red beacon on top and a chauffeur behind the wheel. The cars are still used as taxis in some Indian cities.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Tough job market for class of 2014; Need for gender equality at CEO level; Dos and don'ts of working from home

1 Tough job market for class of 2014 (Douglas Belkin & Mark Peters in The Wall Street Journal) As the class of 2014 enters the job market, graduates, particularly those with a liberal-arts degree, face a stubbornly high unemployment rate for recent graduates—8.3% last year, well above that of the past several decades. Those who have found employment aren't necessarily putting their degrees to use. In 2012, 44% college graduates aged 22 to 27 were working in jobs that didn't require a bachelor's degree, the highest level in nearly two decades, according to the latest data from a Federal Reserve Bank of New York study.

The elevated underemployment—skilled workers doing jobs that don't require their education level—has been blamed on the economy's slow recovery. And for recent graduates, the headwinds are growing. Jobs in which a bachelor's isn't needed tend to pay less and offer fewer hours than a generation ago. More graduates also are taking out heftier loans; their average debt size has more than doubled to $33,000 in the past two decades.

The transition from college to the workforce has long been bumpy. Underemployment has traditionally been higher among those in their 20s than college graduates as a whole. The percentage of recent graduates who aren't putting their degrees to use mirrors levels seen in the early 1990s. But five years out from the 1991 recession, the underemployment rate was starting to fall and eventually dipped to 34% by the early 2000s, according to the Federal Reserve study.

Federal data in recent months show the unemployment rate for young, bachelor's degree holders is moderating as overall joblessness falls. The question remains whether underemployment will follow: Some economists argue longer-term changes may be afoot and current rates of underemployment may be here to stay.

2 Need for gender equality at CEO level (Khaleej Times) All a female leader should have to do to be taken seriously is the same as should be expected of anyone: be earnest and competent, and take things seriously. Yet tales of the obstacles women face only keep coming – and they reach the highest levels of business.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has written in her book, Lean In, how often and easily women are labelled as “difficult”. In the past week, the high-profile sacking of New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson has furthered the debate. Former Sydney Morning Herald editor Amanda Wilson wrote in a column for the Guardian how female editors struggle with a lack of role models and a glut of doubt heaped on them. “It is, without doubt, different and much harder for women at the top,” Wilson said.

If you’re skeptical, the stats can speak for themselves. In America, just 4 per cent of CEOs are women. Among banks, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and Citigroup have no women among their top five executives. Even those who manage to climb the ladder aren’t equally welcomed, a new study out of the US suggests. About 67 per cent of women in CEO positions are forced out. Only 25 per cent of male CEOs are.

Despite the overwhelming evidence, too often the burden remains on the shoulders of women to push for change. Phrased another way, the senselessness should be clear: discrimination against women in business isn’t women’s fault. But for some men, it seems, even this can be hard to believe. If they’ve known a few women who didn’t dress or talk professionally, it’s enough to damn a whole gender.

Simply, there’s an ocean separating the experience of being one of the half that’s historically been dominant to being in the half that’s been considered subordinate. The onus is now on men to right the unfairness that has obstructed women in the workplace for so long. The steps to be taken are obvious and easy, and it’s about time.

3 Dos and don’ts of working from home (Belo Cipriani in San Francisco Chronicle) It’s unclear where it started, but there’s no doubt the working from home movement is thriving in the San Francisco Bay Area. Yet, the setup can create challenges for people who are new to working from home or don’t feel as productive as they do in the office. Here are some dos and don’ts of working from home.

When working from home, decide on an activity that will start your work day and stick to it. It may be powering your computer as you make coffee, walking into your home office and closing the door behind you, or creating a mental to do list after walking the dog. Ensure the activity is something that has to be done daily and only by you.

Take breaks. If possible, take your morning, lunch and afternoon breaks at the same time you would at the office. Doing so will not just help with building a routine, but it will help keep the mind fresh. For those who are parents and have small children at the house, use break times to socialize with them.

Let others know of your schedule. If you have roommates, a significant other, children, or teens at the house, tell them about your telecommuting schedule. Point out the times that you are free to chat or even invite them to share a meal during the carved-out lunch time. Informing others of the times you are free to chat or hang will reduce distractions.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Coup in Thailand 'to restore order'; HP to cut up to 16,000 more jobs; Backseat for ideology in India election

1 Coup in Thailand ‘to restore order’ (Kate Hodal in The Guardian) Thailand's army seized control of the country and suspended the constitution on Thursday after rival factions failed in talks to end six months of political turmoil, causing the nation's 19th coup in 82 years.

While General Prayuth Chan-ocha, head of the army and now acting prime minister, did not use the word "coup" in his televised announcement to the nation, he said the takeover was necessary "in order for the country to return to normality quickly, and for society to love and be at peace again".

The surprise announcement followed the unexpected, late-night, invocation of martial law on Tuesday, which the army said was not a coup but merely a peacekeeping move to "restore order" in a nation beleaguered by political in-fighting. US secretary of state, John Kerry, in a strongly worded statement warning that the takeover would "have negative implications for the US-Thai relationship", openly condemned Prayuth's move and said: "There is no justification for this military coup."

Various governments, including those of France and Germany, as well as human rights groups, have condemned the military's move – the 19th coup since absolute monarchy was abolished here in 1932. Observers say Thailand's next move will depend on just how well the various factions, and the public, respond to the military takeover.

2 HP to cut up to 16,000 more jobs (San Francisco Chronicle) Hewlett-Packard Co. said Thursday that it aims to cut another 11,000 to 16,000 jobs by October, bringing the total number of planned layoffs to a maximum of 50,000 and nearly doubling the largest payroll reduction ever for the 75-year-old technology giant.

HP's move revises upward a previous target of 34,000 job cuts. In May 2012, eight months after former eBay Inc. CEO Meg Whitman took the reins, HP unveiled the chief executive's initial restructuring plan, which called for a headcount reduction of 27,000. When the program was first announced, the company had nearly 350,000 employees. As of October, it had 317,500.

Whitman said the extra cuts are being made because the company sees further opportunity to cut costs, not because of a forecast decline in demand. "I would say I'm feeling more confident because we have seen a stabilization of revenue," she told analysts on a conference call. "The high single-digit declines are over."

The Palo Alto-based company said the reductions will save an extra $1 billion annually by the fiscal year through October 2016 and reap 2-3 cents per share of savings in the year through October 2014. Even so, analysts worry that the company's recent good fortune, especially in a recovering market for personal computers, might be short-lived. The company acknowledged that Microsoft Corp.'s end of support for its nearly 13-year-old Windows XP operating system in April had boosted corporate demand for PCs, especially in Japan.

3 Backseat for ideology in India election (N. Janardhan in Khaleej Times) For good or for bad (hopefully the former), the Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance recorded a resounding victory in India’s 16th parliamentary elections. The central argument here is that the poll results point to a probable weakening of ‘ideology’ — religious, social and political — among ordinary citizens, even if it is temporary. Instead, the emphasis appears to have been on pragmatism over idealism, expression of aspiration over apathy, stress on development over status quo, and a penchant for the unconventional over the usual, among others.

While this assertion can easily be identified in the drubbing that the 125-year-old Indian National Congress received, following are a few other parallels. First, majority of the people who voted for the BJP did not vote for the party and its ideology or its candidates per se — they voted for Modi, who campaigned to be the prime minister in a presidential-style election. By choosing the BJP through ‘decisive leader’ Modi, voters ensured the triumph of the development mantra over any ideology.

This is evident from the BJP’s vote share in its hitherto non-popular parts of the country — Kerala (10.3 %), Tamil Nadu (18.6% with allies), West Bengal (17%), Northeast (8 seats) and Jammu and Kashmir (32.4%), to name a few. Further evidence lies in the BJP getting 9% of total Muslim votes. Though the party has no elected Muslim MP, the Centre for Study of Developing Societies points out that 9% is a jump over the 5% Muslim votes that the BJP received in 1998, 6% in 1999, 7% in 2004, and a poor 4% in 2009.

Second, the performances of the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in Uttar Pradesh and the Janata Dal (United) and the Rashtriya Janata Party in Bihar point to dilution of caste-based politics. Third, the performance of Left parties poses a question mark on the relevance of communist ideology in India’s representative politics.

Fourth, a combination of enfranchisement of more voters and an actual rise in turnout meant that about 100 million extra people cast their ballot in 2014 compared to 2009. It appears that millions finally ditched their preferred ideology of political passivity to political positivity. Fifth, weakening ideology is also evident in the performance of the Aam Aadmi Party. Even its disappointing show points to a shift in people seeking to explore alternatives beyond established political parties.

These and the fact that corruption would continue to frustrate the ordinary people, irrespective of the government in power, mean that a ‘by-then-mature’ AAP would find its ‘lean and clean’ political ideology and practice appealing enough to form a government at the Centre.

Finally, the only letdown is the irony that the BJP — which won 283 seats with just 171 million or 31% of total votes polled — is capable of forming a government on its own. Sixty-nine percent voters not endorsing the BJP tells a story of its own about winners and losers in the first-past-the-post system of democratic politics that India follows. While we have seen a change of government with evidence of weakened ideology, will we ever see a transformation in the practice of what really constitutes political ‘majority’?