Obama could attend the WEF meet in Davos next year!

The newly minted President of the United States of America, Barack Hussein Obama, is not being served well by his economic advisers. There is a much better debate under way at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. The solution to the current economic crisis lies somewhere in Davos, Switzerland, certainly not in Washington DC. It was not possible for President Obama to attend the 2009 meeting but he would be served well if he decides to take time off in January 2010 and attend the next session as a private citizen. Obama has every right to take some personal time off and listen to some of the finest brains for 5 straight days. He is too smart to be fooled for too long by his current economic advisers! Just THINK about it.

America would remain the leader of the free-world and not so free world in the foreseeable future. Whether it leads or not is up to the new administration. So for the Barack Obama administration has not shown any global initiative by not sending a strong team to Davos, Switzerland. People in the United States like to talk about FDR (Franklin D Roosevelt) without understanding his global vision. It was FDR who was responsible for the creation of a new economic infrastructure for the twentieth century. Barack Obama is expected to help create the next global financial system for the twenty first century. Then why would he not send the right signals to the current World Economic Forum in Davos? If his economic team did not find it important enough, he does not need this team to solve the current economic crisis. This is the most inward looking crop of economists that America has seen since the days of Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover. World awaits a strong leadership!

The Global Economic Outlook

Indian political choice, bad to worst?

The NDA (National Democratic Alliance) government proclaimed, “India Shining” in 2004 and called for general elections. They got a drubbing at the hustling. Obviously a majority of the population did not agree with NDA’s assessment. As a result the Congress Party managed to form another coalition under UPA (United Progressive Alliance) and formed the government on May 13, 2004. After nearly 5 years, people feel cheated by a weak central government and are eager to see it defeated. The question is what are their options? The emerging Hindutva demagogue?

People in India had great regard and affection for Atal Bihari Vajpayee personally but not much for his Bharatiya Janata Party. The voters also felt safe with people like Jaswant Singh and Yashwant Sinha but not necessarily Lal Krishna Advani. Something similar is the situation with Indian National Congress. Indians consider Dr Manmohan Singh as good and decent man and a competent economist. They are also confident with people like P Chidambaram and Kamal Nath but not with Pranab Mukherjee, Lalu Prasad Yadav, A K Anthony and Sharad Pawar. People certainly do not want the Left Front to be a part of any Central Government in India.

India is the largest bottoms-up democracy in the world and therefore the middle class has no representation in the political process. The rural vote banks overwhelm the urban minority and you have leaders like Mayawati and Lalu Yadav controlling all the political power in the states and the national parliament. To correct this balance, we first need to define the ‘Middle Class’ in India. Conventional wisdom is that India has as large as 300 million strong, middle class in the country. My observation is that this number is over stated and misrepresents the definition of middle-class. A better way to define the middle class is not only the level of education and material worth but to quantify the social skills as well. You need to THINK about it!

India is the second largest “English Speaking” country in the world, after the United States of America. More than 10% of the population conducts its business and communicates in English language. This might seem a small percentage but the absolute number is huge. You are talking about a group of more than 100 million people. Can you imagine what a vote bank of hundred million people achieve in a country like India? If this group of English speaking people is represented by a new party called the ‘Middle Class Party of India’, it would dictate the politics of India!

$819 billion high-cholesterol pork for a frail congressional heart?

The Wall Street Journal headlines, “House Passes Stimulus Package”. Do you buy this pronouncement? I don’t! This $819 billion pork is going to stimulate nothing and the beauty is that everyone knows it. I do not believe for a moment that either Democrats or Republicans honestly consider this as a solution to anything. Then why do some people pretend that it is going to stop the free-fall of this economy? They are not stupid, I hope not! Then why nobody is willing to tell the truth? My hunch is that the administration and the legislators are scared of a potential backlash.

President Jimmy Carter tried to tell Americans between 1977 and 1980 that there were problems with their lifestyles. Americans were spending more than they were earning and their savings were declining. This was resulting in the lack of capital formation for productive investments. People rejected his advice and instead elected Ronald Reagan, a Hollywood Cowboy, to replace him as their President. Before I go further let me admit that in my opinion Jimmy Carter was the worst President since Harry Truman but that is beside the point. On this particular issue of deteriorating economy, Carter was right and Americans should have listened to him instead.

Americans have been living beyond their means for the past 30 years. It is time they tighten their belts and start saving for the bad times as well as long term investments. Americans are also not the chosen ones by the ‘God Almighty’; they are no different than everyone else on this planet. If your political leaders tell you otherwise, they are lying to you to get your votes. The days of conspicuous consumption are over and will never come back, stimulus or not! This global contraction should bring not only the Americans but the whole world to its senses. The old fashioned work ethics of genuine hard work for reasonable compensation is the only way to long term stability

Dhoni is the Obama of Indian Cricket!

Mahindra Singh Dhoni has transformed Indian Cricket the way Barack Obama has transformed American politics. This 27 years old young man from Ranchi, Bihar is as cool as Barack Obama under pressure. He is a rare all-rounder that Indian cricket has seldom seen. Kapil Dev is the only other Indian cricketer that comes to mind. But here is the big difference, Dhoni is a wicket-keeper and has a much better sense of the situation than Kapil Dev ever had being a bowler-batsman. But the bigger implication is Dhoni’s personal background. Kapil Dev came from a relatively affluent background and a much richer state. Mahindra Singh Dhoni was born in Bihar, the poorest state of India and with least amount of sports infrastructure. To compound the problem Ranchi became a part of Jharkhand State an even poorer entity.

When Kapil Dev led the team-India, it was an urban sport dominated by Bombay-Delhi cricketers. Dhoni has inspired the rural youth of India with his unpretentious small-town disposition. I have never been to Bihar or Jharkhand but still it is not difficult to imagine the boost that Dhoni’s elevation as the captain of the Indian Cricket Team must have provided to the youth in those states. Bihar, Orissa and now Jharkhand have not produced too many national cricketers since the Indian Independence. It is not the people’s fault that their political leadership has ignored the development of these and many other North-Indian States. Every Dhoni and Mohammad Kaif would become a development symbol of their respective state in the time to come. Dhoni is an unusually aggressive cricketer because of his State.

Not so shy Dhoni in a Pepsi Ad

Lee Hamilton and friends deserve a very long vacation…

Former Representative Lee Hamilton, now President of Woodrow Wilson International Center, had a conversation with Charlie Rose on January 26, 2009. They primarily discussed the new President Barack Obama and his foreign policy. If Lee Hamilton is giving any advice to President Obama we would see the return of Jimmy Carter in the White House! The Carters and the Hamiltons of America have invested tens of billions of dollars in Pakistan besides incalculable assets of the US State Department during the past 60 years. What do these less than bright leaders have to show for? A failed state and a safe haven for terror? On the flip side the erstwhile Soviet Union invested much less in India and they have an emerging democratic power on display. It is time the United States should acknowledge their failure and redefine their misguided foreign policy. To achieve a new and pragmatic direction in US-Pakistan relations, it is important for the Obama administration to urge Lee Hamilton and his types to take a long, or a very very long, vacation in the Himalayas. Just THINK about it!

During the conversation with Charlie Rose last night, Hamilton sprinkled his pearls of wisdom. He believes that United States should help Pakistan not only militarily but socially as well. My question to Hamilton Sahib would be, “What the hell have you been doing for the past 60 freaking years?” Hamilton also concludes that US must help India-Pakistan resolve the long-standing Kashmir dispute. Let me again ask the know-all Shri Hamilton, “What is the Kashmir dispute and what is the solution?” If Hamilton Sahib wants Kashmir to be an independent country, Osama bin Laden would be the legally elected President of Kashmir, just like Hamas in Gaza. Do you really want that Mr Hamilton? Afghanistan would then look like a paradise in comparison! Alternatively, the Indian Kashmir is handed over to Pakistan and it joins the PoK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir), would that make Lee Hamilton and his friends happy? Well, you need to go and see the condition of PoK first before you advocate an Armageddon. The PoK is controlled by 30 terrorist organizations, Lashkar-e-Taiba being one of them. Pakistan has absolutely no control over PoK and a united Kashmir would be as good as FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas), would that make “Hamilton the Great” happy? Are there any other bright ideas that the American intelligentsia has for Kashmir? It is time India called the American bluff. The so-called Kashmir resolution could potentially create 9/11 an annual event in America!

Bill Buzenberg interviews Lee H. Hamilton


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