Deal collapse threatens future of WTO; How South Africa farms are dying; India’s Roy attempts a property deal from prison; Seven hiring mistakes to avoid

1 Deal collapse threatens WTO future (Katie Allen & Angela Monaghan in The Guardian) The future of the World Trade Organisation has been thrown into doubt after eleventh-hour attempts to salvage a global trade deal collapsed. Talks broke down after India’s refusal to back a deal unless it included concessions allowing developing countries freedom to subsidise and stockpile food.

An agreement on the deal, centred on loosening global customs rules, had been reached in Bali in December, with a deadline of midnight on Thursday to ratify it. But it was scuppered after the WTO’s 160 members failed to reach agreement over India’s demands. It would have been the first global trade deal reached by the Geneva-based institution since it was founded almost two decades ago.

The last-minute failure to reach agreement prompted questions over the very existence of the WTO and how it will survive the deadlock. Admitting defeat, Roberto Azevêdo, the director general, said: “What this means for the WTO will be in the hands of the members. I think we should take the time to reflect and come back in September.”

Created in 1995, the WTO was set up to help trade flow smoothly and freely around the world. It describes its main tasks as facilitating trade negotiations and handling trade disputes. But experts say failure on this key agreement risks consigning it to the status of a referee for disputes and could see it ceasing to exist as a forum for serious trade liberalisation talks.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/01/wto-future-doubt-india-blocks-deal

2 How South Africa farms are dying (Graeme Hosken in Johannesburg Times) Rural areas in South Africa are in a “death spiral”, with thousands of farmers abandoning their land. Of the 276, 000 farming units in Gauteng, including large-scale and small intensive farming units, 70% lie unused as farms – most standing idle or being used as scrapyards and second-hand car dealerships.

Emerging farmers are among the most squeezed, with hundreds quitting, and claiming that the government has “abandoned” them, with no skills and little access to markets. The revelations come at a time when Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti has published controversial proposals requiring commercial farmers to hand over half their land to farmworkers.

Agri-Gauteng CEO Derrick Hanekom said Gauteng was in big trouble with abandoned land. “Land carryover from old to new owners was done haphazardly… land was given to communities who are not farmers and who, because of a lack of skills, are unable to farm. President of the African Farmers Association of SA Mike Mlengana slammed the government. “Farms were and are viewed as weekend party destinations. The consequence is that farms that have the potential to produce vitally needed food are neglected. “The prevalence of abandonment is unbelievable, with some areas recording 100% abandonment.

Professor Johan Willemse of the University of the Free State agricultural economics department said the government’s agricultural policies needed urgent revising. “They are plunging the country’s rural towns into a death spiral with farms collapsing.” He said the implication of farm expansion and mechanisation was the collapse of rural towns, whose residents were heavily reliant on farms for jobs. Already South Africa imports half of its wheat requirement.

http://www.timeslive.co.za/thetimes/2014/08/01/farms-are-dying

3 India’s Roy attempts a property deal from prison (Aditi Malhotra & Saurabh Chaturvedi in The Wall Street Journal) How tough is it to do a billion-dollar deal from prison? India’s Sahara Group’s caged chairman, Subrata Roy, is about to find out. Indian courts have thrown Mr. Roy –one of India’s richest and most controversial businessmen – into New Delhi’s notorious Tihar Jail until he finds a way to pay the billions of dollars the group owes to bond holders.

An Indian court, which denied him temporary bail to do any deals, now says it will let him negotiate from prison. India’s Supreme Court asked Tihar Jail to facilitate online negotiations. Mr. Roy will be given a computer with a web camera and an Internet connection in a big conference room near the office of the director general of the prison.

Mr. Roy will be allowed to wear what he likes for the negotiations. It is unclear whether he will choose one of his signature black vests as he sits down with potential buyers and lenders. The Sahara group has said in court that it has been looking at various options, including a sale and mortgage of Grosvenor House hotel in London and the Plaza and Dream Downtown hotel in New York.

Mr. Roy and two directors of Sahara, which has business interests in sectors from financial services to media to retail, were sent to jail in March after the group failed to comply with a court order on repaying 174 billion rupees to bondholders. The Securities and Exchange Board of India says Sahara’s bond offerings didn’t follow rules. Sahara denies the charge.

http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2014/08/01/can-subrata-roy-do-a-deal-in-prison-without-getting-shanked/

4 Seven hiring mistakes to avoid (Jacquelyn Smith in San Francisco Chronicle) Hiring mistakes can be extremely costly. There are easy ways to avoid the seven most common hiring mistakes, says Mike Del Ponte, cofounder and “chief hydration officer” of Soma, an eco-friendly water filtration system.

Mistake 1: Over-valuing cultural fit. “Remember that the goal is to hire the most competent employee, not the most likeable,” he says. Mistake 2: Rushing the hiring process. “Typically, you need at least six weeks to attract and vet enough high-quality candidates.” Mistake 3: Not asking for enough references. It’s helpful to get references for peers and people who worked for the candidate, Del Ponte says.

Mistake 4: Not having a formal process. Lack of process can allow the hunt for candidates to go far too long or let bad candidates slip through the cracks. Mistake 5: Hiring generalists. Sometimes you need to hire generalists — especially if your company is young — “but you should quickly grow out of this phase and focus on only hiring specialists,” Del Ponte says.

Mistake 6: Not having clarity on the role that is being filled. If you do not have the fine details of the role, responsibilities, and milestones you desire, you’re not ready to start recruiting. Mistake 7: Relying on job posts. The best candidates are rarely looking for a job. “You need to work your network to get introductions to people who can accomplish your goals, even if they don’t yet know they want to work for you,” says Del Ponte. “Make a list of advocates who can help you grow your candidate pool.”

http://www.sfgate.com/technology/businessinsider/article/Here-s-How-To-Avoid-The-7-Worst-Hiring-Mistakes-5662686.php?cmpid=hp-hc-bustech

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About joesnewspicks

This blog captures interesting news items from around the world for those strained by information overload and yet need to stay updated on global events of significance. The news items displayed are not in order of merit. (The blog takes a weekly off — normally on Sundays — and does not appear when I am on vacation or busy.) I am a journalist for nearly three decades.
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