Saturday, February 27, 2010

Pronab Da zindabad!!

In my humble opinion, the Union budget 2010-11 has its head and heart firmly in place.

For one, the budget does the right thing by reducing direct taxation and increasing indirect taxation. This increases compliance, because the poor overtaxed salaried guy (aside - this is not anecdotal - India has one of the highest personal and corporate tax regimes globally. Scandinavian and developed countries have higher overall tax rates, but they more than compensate in the form of social security benefits. Most Asian countries have tax rates closer to 16-20%. Not surprisingly, compliance is abysmal - close to a pathetic 12-15% from the figures I remember seeing most recently) gets relief; and the smirking tax-stealing business guy pays up more indirectly for all the conspicuous consumption. Reduced direct taxation also stimulates the economy by incentivizing greater consumption - we are a unique country which does not depend on exports for growth, and we should try our damnedest to keep it that way.

Secondly, the budget signals a return to fiscal prudence by targeting a lower fiscal deficit (through lower 'non-productive' non-plan expenditure) and makes a case for transparent and proper reporting of the deficit. No more hiding subsidies 'below the line' by issuing oil bonds and all other kinds of instruments designed to win votes today but burden our children and grandchildren for all time. Additionally, the budget firmly puts disinvestment as a revenue source. Less government is good government.
For all the hoo-haa the short sighted scaremongers in the BJP and the perennially stick-up-my-ass communists are making about petrol price hikes, I think it is a good thing. Petrol prices need to be deregulated - normal laws of economics (demand drops on rising prices) need to be allowed to work. For the economy as well as for the environment.

If anything, the budget should have firmly introduced fuel price decontrol, the direct tax code as well as the GST tax regime. But overall, I look at the budget as a glass slightly more than half-full.

And the hypocritical opposition can shout themselves hoarse.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Kenyes versus ... (err... who is on the other side?)

While our day to day lives are relatively humdrum and routine, we are in the midst of a ferocious worldwide war. The (small) problem is that there is no other side in the war.

The war against the biggest recession globally in the last 60 odd years is being fought as per the principles of John Maynard Keynes, who famously advocated massive deficit spending to work one's way out of a recession. In tandem, central banks globally are printing massive amounts of currency, increasing government spending and increasing government roles in business. The general theory is that debt will be inflated away, savers will be punished, currencies depreciated, and consumers incentivised to 'shop till they drop'.

I'm no expert, but somehow I don't see why this should work. The reason for the recession (as I see it) was too much debt and excessive leverage, leading to asset price inflation in US residential homes. When the bubble burst, people's wealth (equity in their homes) was wiped out, leading to reduced spending, de-growth, mass unemployment, and further wealth erosion - a vicious cycle started. The risk in Keynesian medicine is that it stokes the very fires that led to the problem - artificial floors to asset prices could lead to massive stagflation if consumption does not respond to fiscal stimulus.

Maybe I am old fashioned, but I think it is better to take the bitter medicine today (like Paul Volcker advocated in 1971-72 by massively raising inflation rates. The economy staggered for 3-4 years, but inflation was gone for good, and the next 20 years of excellent growth followed in the US). The problem is that everyone these days is a Keynesian. Where are the monetarists, the Volckers? How will we know who wins this fight if there is no other example to counter the recession? Where is the alter-ego to 'helicopter' Ben Bernanke?

I think (fear) we will keep seeing events like Dubai / Greece / Portugal for the next few years, where nations with excessive debt will keep being unable to pay off their dues. And the Keynesians will declare themselves winners, whether they win or lose.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Increase GDP - buy alarm time pieces!!

I am generally sceptical of the numbers our esteemed government churns out. Having served a large government entity in my previous career avatar, I can imagine how un-robust the data collection process in a large and totally un-automated organization must be.

Even so, this news article takes the cake - the headlines scream that the index of industrial production index (IIP) in December was up almost 17%, or the most in more than a decade. The truth is that 7% (or approximately 40% of this growth comes from (believe it or not!!) 'alarm time pieces'!!!! These esteemed articles, which in my considered opinion no one uses anymore, have a weightage of ~0.3% in the IIP index, and the government would have us believe that growth in this category was 2500% (25x of production a year ago). The mind boggles at this stupendous statistic.

So I know now how India can overtake China in the economic growth sweepstakes! Every urban person just needs to buy a ruddy alarm clock!!!

Saturday, February 06, 2010


Speaking of Ishqiya, here is another part of the movie I loved... this song plays in the background when Babban is 'having fun'

I agree totally with Calvin

I demand euphoria!!

Friday, February 05, 2010


Saw the movie today, and liked it quite a lot. The wife hated it, though. No matter - she did not like The Dark Knight either (shudder....)

Good timepass movie, very grounded. Fantastic performances (esp Khalujaan and Mushtaq Bhai), fantastic songs and music, but best of all:

1) Ch**ium sulphate! I can almost see myself scream this from my car window the next time someone honks needlessly or cuts into my lane
2) Nandu (and his bantering with Babban): worth many many smiles

$104 million! For this!!!! Gulp...

This thing (I can not think of a better word for it) sold for $104 million today! I'm speechless...

Thursday, February 04, 2010

What do bankers really do to earn their millions???

Now we know :-) The action starts 1 minute into the video - a must see!!