1 If economists have failed us, where are the fresh voices? (The Guardian) At the start of the banking crisis, the air was thick with the sound of lachrymose economists. How did they miss the biggest crash since 1929? Professors at the LSE were asked that very question by the Queen – and were too tongue-tied to reply. So have the non-economists grasped their moment? Have they hell. Look at the academic conferences held over the past few weeks, at which the latest and most promising research in each discipline is presented, and it’s as if Lehman Brothers never fell over.
Britain’s top political scientists met in Belfast a couple of weeks ago, and you’d have thought there’d be plenty in the crisis for them to discuss. But no: over the course of three days, they held exactly one discussion of Britain’s political economy. Perhaps you have more faith in the sociologists. Take a peek at the website for the British Sociological Association. Scroll through the press-released research, and you will not come across anything that deals with the banking crash. Instead in April 2010, amid the biggest sociological event in decades, the BSA put out a notice titled: “Older bodybuilders can change young people’s view of the over-60s, research says.”
When an entire discipline does what the sociologists did at their conference last week and devotes as much time to discussing the holistic massage industry “using a Foucauldian lens” as to analysing financiers, they’re never going to challenge the dominance of mainstream economics. And it’s hard to believe they really want to.
2 India threatened by Maoists (BBC) India’s internal security remains a major challenge and the threat from Maoist rebels requires constant attention, PM Manmohan Singh has said. He told a key meeting of state chief ministers that “terrorism, religious fundamentalism and ethnic violence” needed to be tackled firmly. “The so-called ‘protracted people’s war’ waged by the left-wing extremists against the state and society continues to target civilians and security forces, and economic infrastructure such as railways, mobile communications and power networks,” Mr Singh said. The prime minister also warned that “terrorist groups are today more nimble, more lethal than ever and increasingly networked across frontiers”.
Home Minister P Chidambaram, who addressed the meeting before the prime minister, described the left-wing extremism of Maoist rebels as “the most formidable security challenge facing the country” even as the traditional insurgencies in Indian-administered Kashmir and the north-east have declined. Mr Chidambaram said the fight against the Maoists in at least nine states was hampered by a lack of resources. The Maoist insurgency which began in the late 1960s has been described in the past by the prime minister as India’s “greatest internal security challenge”. The rebels say they are fighting for the poor and landless peasants. They are active across the states of Jharkhand, West Bengal, Orissa, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and also parts of Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka. More than 6,000 people have died in the rebels’ fight for communist rule in these states.
3 Why Indian Premier (cricket) League is floundering (BBC) Are cricket fans turning their backs on the ongoing fifth edition of the IPL? TV ratings were down 18.7% in the first six games – a time when interest in the tournament traditionally peaks – compared with the same period last year. Why is the thrill gone this year – at least in the early stages of the tournament? After all, this is the tournament which combines the sublime (sledgehammer batting, close finishes) and the ridiculous (Bollywood entertainment, cheerleaders, “strategic time outs” in the middle of the games to facilitate advertising breaks). Indians love tamasha (entertainment), and the IPL is still the best tamasha on offer.
Indian stars are the league’s biggest draw, and most of them have been performing indifferently or are absent in the ongoing edition. Tendulkar is hurt after the first game, and Sehwag and Dhoni, two big hitters, haven’t fired yet. VVS Laxman isn’t playing this season. Yuvraj Singh is recovering from cancer and is out of the game for a while. Saurav Ganguly’s batting is past its sell-by date. Rahul Dravid is playing a post-retirement nostalgia gig. Yusuf Pathan, a Twenty20 star, has fizzled out. When the stars are largely down and out, fans stay away.But authorities simply cannot afford to let the IPL crash. Listen to cricket writer Sharda Ugra, and you know why. “The IPL has now become a key component of world cricket’s economy. If it falters and fails because it is not alert to the audience climate around it, the domino effect around the cricket world will be damaging. Cricket’s superstar status in many parts of its empire will be downgraded from club class to cattle class – all holy cows included.”
4 Sudan declares war on South Sudan (Johannesburg Times) Sudan’s parliament has voted unanimously to brand the government of South Sudan an enemy after southern troops invaded the north’s main oilfield. After the vote, parliamentary speaker Ahmed Ibrahim el-Tahir called for the overthrow of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, which rules the South. World powers urged restraint after fighting began with waves of aerial bombardment hitting the South, whose troops last week seized Khartoum’s main Heglig oil region from Khartoum’s army. It is the most serious clash since South Sudan became independent in July. When the South broke away, Khartoum lost about 75% of its oil production and billions in revenue, leaving the Heglig area as its main oil centre.
5 Remote India state struggles for identity (Dawn) Promoted in official brochures as the “jewel of India’, the tiny state of Manipur seems closed to an ignored family heirloom than a proudly coveted gem. For many Manipuris, the concept of being “of India” in any meaningful sense is one they find difficult to entertain. Its relative isolation is not just geographical, but also ethnic, linguistic, economic and political. One of India’s smallest states with a population of just 2.7 million inhabitants, Manipur borders Myanmar and its people have always tended to look eastwards in their search for cultural links.
“We are virtually cut off from mainland India,” said Shyam Singh, a history professor in Imphal. “Culturally and socially, we identify ourselves more with the countries of Southeast Asia as they are closer to home.” One striking example is the massive popularity in Manipur of Korean movies, soap operas and pop music, which have filled the vacuum caused by a separatist-led boycott of Bollywood films. Manipur was incorporated into the Indian Union on October 15, 1949, two years after the country won independence from British rule. According to political analyst Sharat Chandra, the enormous problems India faced after partition meant its leaders neglected remote states like Manipur which were never properly integrated into the socio-political mainstream.
The disconnect with the rest of the country extends to sport. In the streets of the bazaar, young boys play a game of sepak takraw, or kick volleyball, a sport native to the Malay-Thai Peninsula, as opposed to cricket. The charge that Manipur has been neglected and marginalised by the Indian government has found a powerful symbol in the person of Irom Sharmila — a 40-year-old activist who has been labelled “the world’s longest hunger striker”. For more than 11 years, Sharmila has refused food and water to back her demand for the withdrawal of the special powers wielded by — and according to critics widely abused by — the security forces.
6 Defeating the economic crisis (Jonathan Power in Khaleej Times) What have these eleven countries in common — Finland, Norway, Canada, Japan, Poland, Turkey, Australia and, to a lesser extent, the US, Russia, Sweden and Denmark? They have not put themselves through the economic purge and their economies are growing at a reasonable rate. Not for them savage cuts in social services and public investment combined with lower wages. They have kept their economies purring. They are pro-Keynesian — a policy attributed to John Maynard Keynes, the most brilliant economist of the last century.
They have not given extra favours to the well-to-do at the expense of the lower middle class and the working class. Most of Europe has voluntarily partaken of the hemlock of deflation- cuts followed by more cuts. Yet the cutters are not moving towards their target — ending the purge and resuming economic growth. Spain has now moved into the severe crisis camp with rising bond prices and 50% unemployment among its youth. Keynes argued again and again, cuts that are indiscriminate mean that one is digging the hole even deeper. Cuts mean lower tax revenues, less trade and industrialists as well as foreign investors having less confidence and incentive to invest. Where does that lead? Keynes argued that it merely deepens a recession.
7 India slipping on spirituality (The Wall Street Journal) India is losing the spiritual qualities that enabled the Lotus Temple in Delhi to be built, according to the architect who designed what is now one of the nation’s most visited places of prayer. Fariborz Sahba completed the Lotus Temple, a Baha’i House of Worship near Nehru Place, 25 years ago. But the architect believes that the growth of the competitive economy, a rise in materialism and technological advances in India mean it would be harder to build the iconic temple here now. “I think [the] more we become commercial and competitive and more materialistic, we lose some of the qualities that built this building,” he said.
Diminishing interest in religion and its buildings as places of worship is often cited as the result of an increased reliance on material wealth for well-being and protection. Rampant consumerism, commercialization, and the rapid advance of technology are also blamed for shortened attention spans, an exclusive focus on financial gain, and the loss of traditional skills. Mr. Sahba said that 30 years ago in India he was able to find the attributes and attitudes necessary to build the Lotus Temple.
“Only in India could I get 400 carpenters to work six years with that kind of sincerity, that kind of devotion and respect for the building, because in the West you would have used technology that would have made the building very industrial,” he said. Work carried out by laborers who used “primitive technology” and who were aware of the spiritual significance of the building, made the Lotus Temple what it is, according to its designer. “Because of this spirituality, there is a real elegance in the building, which is so feminine,” Mr. Sahba says.
8 Just what is wrong at Infosys? (The Wall Street Journal) Analysts are debating the cause of malaise at Infosys Ltd. following a run of poor financial results and another weak outlook for revenue growth from the Indian software exporter. Most are convinced that Infosys is struggling to strike the right balance between growth and profitability, causing it to underperform over several quarters. The results and subdued outlook prompted several brokerages to downgrade Infosys. In a note to clients, JP Morgan said Infosys is “fighting for credibility.” The company’s repeated disappointing financial performance tells “the tale of a once-iconic company still losing the plot,” it says.
Some analysts, and Infosys itself, say the company’s struggles reflect a sector-wide slowdown as global economic volatility has undermined the confidence of clients and their ability to commit spending on projects. Many Infosys baiters have cited the guidance given by global technology giant Accenture as a reference point to strong outsourcing demand. But that outlook is now also a subject of debate.
Heart-wrencher of the day:
From Straits Times: Two days into intensive care in National University Hospital, it was clear Amy Nabel’la Juraimy, 13, was not going to make it. She was dying of bone cancer. Her mother, Madam Raba’ah Abdul Ghani, 39, told her in tears that her doctors could not do anything more for her. Amy, struggling to breathe, said to her mother: ‘But you always asked me to fight.’