Saturday, September 13, 2014

Global car makers eager to see reforms in India; Ten jobs threatened by tech; Fighting the Islamic state

1 Global car makers eager to see reforms in India (Khaleej Times) India must urgently improve its infrastructure and reform its tax, land acquisition and labour laws if it is to fulfil its ambition of becoming a leading international automotive manufacturing hub, global carmakers have said. New right-wing prime minister Narendra Modi invited investors last month to “Come, make in India” as part of a drive to create manufacturing jobs for a ballooning young population.

But automobile executives have warned that India must create a better business climate swiftly or risk losing out to emerging market rivals like China. “India has an opportunity to build a globally competitive (automotive) industry,” but to realise its full potential, the sector needs “a clear roadmap”, GM International president Stefan Jacoby said.

The country needs to streamline taxes that vary state-to-state, ease rigid hire-and-fire laws and set internationally harmonised fuel-emission, safety and other norms, speakers told the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (Siam). India must also modernise its creaking rail, port, road and other infrastructure and ease bureaucratic red tape.

“Logistics and infrastructure are a clear disadvantage of the country,” said Takashi Hata, senior vice-president of Japan’s Nissan Motor Co. Foreign automakers made a beeline for India in the last two decades, seeking to tap a vast market in the country of 1.25 billion people and leverage its low workforce costs to use the country as an export springboard. Just 17 out of every 1,000 Indians own a car, compared with 800 out of every 1,000 in the US, according to industry figures. But automakers have found India’s infamous red-tape and shabby infrastructure daunting.

2 Ten jobs threatened by tech (Dallas Morning News/San Francisco Chronicle) Technology killed the switchboard operator, the lamp lighter and the ice cutter. And it's a threat for workers in a variety of other fields, from flight attendants to drill press operators to lumberjacks.

Job-search website CareerCast published a report on what it says are the Top 10 endangered jobs. The report lists 10 jobs that could face the largest decline in workforce by 2022. The 10 jobs, which are declining for various reasons, are: letter carriers, farmers, meter readers, news reporters, travel agents, lumberjacks, flight attendants, drill press operators, printers and tax examiners/collectors.

However, many of those in the endangered professions love what they do. Baugh Farms has always been in the family. Don and Marla Baugh have taken over some of the same land in Canton, Texas, that Don's father farmed for 53 years. They even use some of the same old tractors. "It's just kind of in my blood," Don said. Yet a lot has changed. Among the challenges, he said, it's hard to find reliable help, and the cost of everything from the fertilizer to the equipment has gone up. They usually just break even.

3 Fighting the Islamic state (Munir Akram in Dawn) In exchange for American and Arab cooperation in degrading IS, which poses a threat to Iran’s allies in both Baghdad and Damascus, and a fair agreement regarding its nuclear programme, Tehran could help to ensure an inclusive government in Iraq, broker a political settlement between Assad and moderate insurgent groups in Syria, dampen the Shia opposition to the Sunni regimes in Bahrain and Yemen, restrain Hezbollah’s threat to Israel and end its support to Hamas.

It is possible that at least some aspects of such a ‘bargain’ have been discussed. Such discussions may have encouraged the Obama administration to launch the strategy against IS. To be successful, the strategy would also require the support of the major Arab states. Saudi Arabia’s initiative to convene a meeting of 10 Arab states and Turkey in Jeddah is significant.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE now consider the Muslim Brotherhood and related extremist groups a threat to their own stability and are determined to suppress them. A US strategy which both degrades IS and other Sunni extremist groups, including the Brotherhood, and secures Iran’s cooperation to contain Shia militias and insurgents across the region, would be doubly attractive. In turn, the contribution of these Arab powers would be essential to wean the Sunni tribes in Iraq away from IS and reach a political settlement in Syria.

A ‘grand bargain’ involving the US, Iran and Saudi Arabia and their respective allies and proxies would be obviously most difficult to construct and consummate. Proxies and puppets are not always easy to control. Unless a comprehensive strategy is pursued, the fight against IS is likely to prove frustrating. The legitimate grievances that attract its recruits will have to be addressed. Ultimately, eliminating extremism in the region will require the rapid generation of jobs and economic development.

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