1 The Guardian on the Arab Spring and how a lost generation found its voice. A year to the day since Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation in a sleepy Tunisian town kicked off a year of revolt, the convulsions have spread further than could ever have been imagined: in the depths of a Russian winter activists are planning their next howl of protest at the Kremlin; in a north American city a nylon tent stands against a bitter wind; in a Syrian nightmare a soldier contemplates defection. Quietly, a lifetime of old power structures – political, social, ideological – have been dissolved and the certainties of one generation have been replaced by the messy unpredictability of another. But to view the activism of 2011 through a nationalist, ethnic or even class lens is to miss its unifying trait – 2011 was the year of a global youth revolt.
It is far more than material privation that underlies this year’s youth revolt, more than just a question of how to integrate into the globalised economy the talents and expectations of 80 million unemployed young people from the most well-educated generation in human history. “It’s the first time in American history that a generation came along and was told: ‘No, things are gonna be worse for you than they were for your parents’,” says Jesse LaGreca, a prominent Occupy Wall Street figure. In the US the current crop have been called the boomerang generation due to young people’s inability to flee their parents’ nest.
It is easy to dismiss the interconnectedness of 2011’s youth-driven resistance movements; and it is possible even to deny they amount to any kind of identifiable social phenomenon at all. The great revenge is this: the generation that grew up being told they were the heirs to Francis Fukuyama’s end of history and victory of a liberal capitalist society, is now working its damnedest to prove how untrue this is, not for the sake of utopian re-imagination but to resolve the very serious problems that very system has created.
2 BBC report on ADB downgrading East Asia growth forecast for 2012. The Asian Development Bank has again downgraded next year’s growth forecasts for emerging East Asia, warning of the impact of the European debt crisis. It now expects 14 economies in the region to grow by 7.2% in 2012, instead of the 7.5% it estimated in September. The bank defined emerging East Asia as Asean (Association of South East Asian Nations) countries plus China, Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan.
3 The Johannesburg Times on sex abuse charges against the Dutch Catholic Church. Tens of thousands of children have been victims of sexual abuse by the Roman Catholic Church in the Netherlands since 1945, an independent commission said on Friday, criticising what it called the church’s cover-up and cultural silence. The commission estimated that 10,000 to 20,000 minors were sexually abused while in the care of Catholic institutions such as orphanages, boarding schools and seminaries, between 1945 and 1981, with offences ranging from the very mild to the serious, including rape. After 1981 there were few church-run homes for minors.
It said sexual abuse was no more prevalent in Catholic institutions than in similar ones run by other groups. Abuse by Catholic priests, laymen and laywomen was systematically covered up by the church to protect its reputation, the commission said, adding that the church was guilty of “inadequate supervision” and “inadequate action”. The findings appear to paint a picture of wider abuse in the Netherlands even than in Ireland, in a scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church in Europe and the US and forced Pope Benedict to apologise to victims of sexual abuse by priests. Most of the cases involved mild to moderate abuse, such as touching, but it said that it estimated there were “several thousand” instances of rape.
4 The Dawn on India’s do-it-yourself Jhollywood. In one of India’s poorest, most violence-wracked states, being a movie star means doing your own make-up in a car mirror and then dancing to a soundtrack from a mobile phone. Los Angeles has Hollywood, Mumbai has Bollywood – and then there’s Jhollywood, a tiny but enthusiastic film industry in the eastern state of Jharkhand.
“This is the biggest problem of working in our movies, you have to do everything yourself… apply your own makeup, supply your own costumes,” Jhollywood’s leading female star Varsha Lakra grumbles with a smile. On a sunny Sunday morning in Ranchi, the scruffy state capital, Lakra, 24, is on location at her latest shoot. “Our films are made keeping our culture in mind and our culture is not that glamorous,” she admits. Jhollywood’s stars may have lives far different from Bollywood’s adored big-name screen legends, but they are hugely popular in the state. Filmmaking budgets are tiny, usually between 250,000 and 500,000 rupees (less than $6,000). The last few years have seen just three Jhollywood films released annually.
“There isn’t much money so sometimes you just have to make do with what you have,” Ranchi-based filmmaker Anil Sikdar told AFP. “It’s like you need an elephant for a sequence, but you can’t find one, so someone suggests getting a horse, but then you can’t find a horse, so what do you do? You use a dog,” he said, laughing.
5 The Wall Street Journal likening India rupee to an abandoned child. So, the Reserve Bank of India came to a gunfight carrying a knife. The effect of the RBI’s efforts late Thursday to support the rupee lasted less than 24 hours. The beleaguered currency appreciated slightly after the RBI’s technical moves aimed at reducing speculation. But by Friday afternoon, the rupee–which has fallen more than 18% against the dollar since April–was sliding back down. That’s hardly surprising. While the RBI’s measures will curb hoarding of dollars, the fundamental vulnerability that plagues the Indian currency remains. The rupee’s rapid decline stems from a combination of high inflation – at 9.1% in November – slowing economic growth and a sizable current-account deficit, expected to reach 3% to 3.5% of gross domestic product this year, up from 2.5% last year. New Delhi’s flat-footedness on critical economic reforms and heavy spending on populist schemes don’t instill confidence either.
That gloomy picture has seen outflows from foreign institutional investors amount to a net $173 million, compared with last year’s inward surge of nearly $29 billion. This is critical to India, which is a net importer and relies heavily on foreign capital inflows to finance its balance of payments. Meanwhile, India’s weak fundamentals are unlikely to change soon. Until they do, a rebound in the rupee is implausible.
6 The Huffington Post on transgenders as flight attendants. A Thai airline that hired ladyboys to serve as cabin crew has taken to the skies. PC Air, which operates routes across Asia out of Bankok’s Suvarnabhumi airport, had initially planned to only hire male and female staff. But the airline received more than 100 applications from transsexuals and decided to hire four. They join 19 female and seven male flight attendants on the airlines fleet of planes. “Today, we are ready to embark on the new journey and we would like to introduce our four transsexual angels,” PC Air president Peter Can told the passengers before take off.
7 The Times of India on 90% of income tax arrears in India being owed by just a dozen people. The Comptroller and Auditor General has said 90% of the country’s income tax (I-T) arrears are owed by just a dozen individuals, led by Pune-based stud farm owner Hasan Ali Khan. Government auditor CAG also noted in a report that these demands are “unrealisable 100%”. Khan, with a tax arrear demand of Rs 503bn is followed by Chandrika Tapuriah, wife of his associate Kashi Nath Tapuria, with an outstanding of Rs 205bn, while late stock broker Harshad Mehta owes Rs 159bn in arrears.
“The demand against individuals is highly skewed, with 12 individuals (4.3 per cent of the total cases) accounting for 90% of the arrear demand. One individual, Hasan Ali, accounts for 43% of the total arrear demand. Interestingly all of this demand is categorised as unrealisable,” CAG said in the report tabled in Parliament. Apart from Hasan Ali and Harshad Mehta, the list includes Kashinath Tapuriah (Rs 6bn), AD Narrotam (Rs 58bn), Hiten P Dalal (Rs 42bn), Jyoti H Mehta (Rs 17bn), Ashwin S Mehta (Rs 16bn), B C Dalal (15bn), S Ramaswamy (Rs 11bn) and Uday M Acharya (Rs 7bn).
8 The Financial Chronicle quoting MD Mallya, chairman of Indian Banks’ Association and chairman and managing director of Bank of Baroda: There is a significant increase in the number of accounts being referred to for corporate debt restructuring with us and also with individual banks.
9 Sidin Vadukut in Mint, about how a Twitter approach can revolutionise the workplace. Why not subject the entire cubicle experience to the 140-character treatment? What if all office communication—letters, presentations, circulars, announcements, suggestions, rules, policies, Blackberry Allocation Directives From The Supreme Politburo Of Administration—had to be communicated in 140 characters or less? Imagine the time, space and energy that would save.
It is no secret our modern workplaces sag and sigh under the weight of bloated communication. Look at this line from a research report on ERP by a major Indian software company: “It is also imperative to spend enough time on deriving the optimal to-be process design model. Also, it is important to baseline a core process framework that should drive the detailed process modelling on the ERP package and use a combination of top-down and bottom-up approaches for arriving at the to-be requirements set.” I wish I was making that up. But I am not. Imagine if the author of that report had to compress everything into a 140-character tweet. I suppose it would be something like this: ‘ERP is awesome. But you will definitely screw it up. So give us a call. Don’t make us send you our white paper. Thanks. #twarketing.’ Resignation letters, under this new Twitter communication paradigm, will no longer have to be written with the veiled passive aggression popular today. Instead you keep could keep it short, sweet and straight: ‘Hey @Boss, I quit. Low pay. Stupid coworkers. Terrible coffee. Relieve immediately. Prolonged notice period drama will lead to staggering drop in productivity. Open to counter-offer. Check DM for details. cc @HRManager.’
10 Business Standard’s TN Ninan about poor farm productivity. The bald truth is that half of India’s workforce toils in the fields to generate one-sixth of GDP. Since the other half produces the remaining five-sixths, non-agricultural incomes are typically five times agricultural incomes. The way to even out the imbalance is to get people off the land, and into non-agricultural occupations. But urbanisation and the growth of non-agricultural employment have been slow in India, an important reason being the stifling of industries that can provide entry-level, low-value work. The answer to the problems of high inflation and slowing growth, and low farm incomes, would lie in addressing the basic reforms that India is still to attempt – like labour laws. Instead, we have a food security Bill that will create irrational incentives which end up threatening agriculture itself. Talk of committing hara-kiri.
11 The Deepika reporting on Air India’s financial crisis. Federal civil aviation minister Vayalar Ravi said Air India’s financial obligations were to the tune of Rs 430 billion. Ajith Singh is taking over as the new aviation minister on Sunday. (Has he got work to do!)