Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Teji ma time nathi, mandi ma mood nathi

Hilarious article in the Economic Times (trust the ToI group to find something titilating in the global recession)!

Also made me think - what a wonderful thing to be a researcher! And even more, a sexologist. I wonder what a sexologist does(Apart from researching such profound topics, that is)

A Painful Comparison

For me, today's joke of the day was this: our esteemed Finance Minister thinks all is hunky dory with the Indian economy, and we will grow at 9% next year. This very same gentleman was, till a few days ago, parrotting the phrase that Indian GDP will grow at 8%+ in FY09. And we all know just how unlikely that is.

The small matter that his boss, the Prime Minister, publicly keeps saying that growth would be in the range of 7%-7.5% in FY09 did not deter him in the least. Nor the fact that industrial growth in the 1st half of FY09 has been HALF that of last year. Or that exports have actually DECLINED year on year in October, and this trend is not likely to change anytime soon. Or that tax collections have DIPPED from last year in October. Someone should explain to the esteemed Finance Minister of India that talking does not equal doing. Or that wasted opportunities / regressive policies DO come back to haunt the nation (but who cares - its the next government's problem, I can hear the FM smirk!!)

I cannot help but compare the painfully slow response of our policymakers to worldwide recession to that of US policymakers. The US Fed had been easing liquidity long before the current liquidity crunch, they had approved a fiscal stimulus before recession became a reality (the point is not that these measures were not enough - the point is that someone was trying to be ahead of the curve and trying to keep on top of things). Contrast that with our country where the FM behaves like an ostrich and the government takes action (or takes NO action) after the fact. Or compare this with China where policymakers used good times to build a vast treasure chest of cash, which they will now deploy for building more infrastructure (they are already much ahead of India in this aspect, and it certainly looks like they will get even further ahead).

Our government has frittered away strong tax collections of the last 5 years to a) increase wasteful subsidies - the farm loan waiver? b) increase wasteful expenditure - the Employment Guarantee Scheme? c) Implement regressive policies - administered pricing of petrol / cement / steel / etc etc. As a result, we are running a fiscal deficit close to 8% of GDP, and have been caught out when the times are turning bad. Our central bank actually INCREASED interest rates as recently as July, saying that growth is a given, and inflation must be contained.

Looks like our policymakers are indulging in rear-view driving. Painful!!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Catch 22

I knew I was truly affected by the fear in the capital markets when I found myself questioning the need for this!! Or this!!

ICICI Bank offering 11-12% yields on 1-2.5 year fixed deposits? Is their credit risk so high, that they are offering higher returns to compensate? Poor ICICI Bank - they are damned if they do, and damned if they dont!

Reminds me of Catch 22: A pilot could be excused from a suicide bombing mission only on grounds of unsound mind. However, the fact that the pilot wanted to be excused from the suicide mission proved that he could NOT be of unsound mind!! Joseph Heller lives on! (though I thought Closing Time - the sequel to Catch 22, was vastly inferior)

Monday, November 03, 2008

Birds of a feather...

PS: Click on pictures to enlarge and make out details better!

The wife and I decided to give vent to the nature-loving beings hidden within each of us, and took off on a weekend trip to the Bharatpur bird sanctuary one cool October Saturday. The 190km drive from Delhi was a breeze, with the NH2 allowing us to cruise along at >100kmph quite easily.

The Bharatpur bird sanctuary is spread over an area of 29 sq km, most of it marshland. For the past 5 years, little rain had almost dried the place up, with the result that most migratory birds had given the place a miss, but good rain in June this year ensured a record turnout from our feathered friends (some of them flying in all the way from Egypt!). Aug-Oct is usually peak season for Indian birds in Bharatpur, and Oct-Jan for foreign birds, so October was witness to a happy confluence of both types.

We had booked ourselves into the ITDC resort within the sanctuary, and it was quite good, reasonable, clean and with good service. We set off at 6am sharp, armed somewhat inadequately with a toy binoculars that the wife had dug out from her childhood treasures, but with hardy cameras. One can walk, bike, boat or take an electric car within the sanctuary.

We saw a plethora of very very pretty birds (some of which can be seen in the photos here - check out captions for description). My personal favourites were the woodpecker (persistent and amazingly strong for its size), the kingfisher (extremely colorful and beautiful), the sarus crane (for its lifelong fidelity to its partner), the snake bird (for being an expert underwater swimmer), and the spotted owl (for being huge - over 4 feet large - and extremely owlish :-)

At the end of the visit, which took all of 2 days from beginning to end, we determined that we should do this much more often!

can you spot the colorful woodpecker?Immensely friendly whistling bird
all the painted storks nest at the top of treesA pair of egretsThe bluejay is supposed to bring one luck - extremely rare bird apparently!
Gayatri on the trail