The Saudis, like the former Shah of Iran and others historically, have tried to buy economic development ("Inside Saudi Arabia," Special Report, Nov. 26). They have all failed. Isn't it time to brush the dust off of Jane Jacobs' books, especially The Economy of Cities and Cities and the Wealth of Nations, and learn that economic development cannot be bought or ordained? It must be done--and done by people in cities capable of replacing imports. Transplanted or imported factories and projects will never be able to do the job.
Macroeconomic theorists should come down from the sky and observe development and life in the real world. It is not nations that create wealth; it is cities.
The impartial observer, after reading Stanley Reed's article, might conclude that Israel was the source of the only difference that the U.S. has with the kingdom. As a prominent Saudi businessman is quoted as saying: "If we solve the Palestinian problem, what other issues are there between us?"
How about democracy, civil rights, women's rights, corruption, and a few other matters? Israel has no differences with the U.S. on any of these, but then Israel has no oil. Is Saudi oil really worth it?
Ramat Hasharon, Israel
The circumstances that led to Osama bin Laden's fame and appeal for most Muslims are orchestrated by the American intelligence and diplomacy in the Middle East crisis by dealing unjustly with the issue of Palestine and intifada. In the Arab world, we all agree that America is the culprit in strengthening Israel and making sure that Israel should always have the upper hand [including] using the veto in several sessions in the U.N. Security Council and other U.N. units. These actions create hatred and disgust toward America and feed the growing dislike among the educated [in the Middle East]. Crown Prince Abdullah continually writes and phones President George W. Bush to explain this situation and ask for a just peace deal in the Middle East.
President Bush has promised a peace deal that would recognize a state of Palestine. Now let us see if he can walk the talk!
Arab Administrative Development Organization
Cairo "Germany" (Europe's Future, Nov. 19) did not mention a feature of German economic life that is causing growing resentment here: the privileged status of German public employees--teachers, post office workers, government clerks, etc. Their jobs carry lifetime tenure. (Public employees cannot be fired.) These workers also receive inflation-linked pensions for which they do not pay a cent. (Public employees are exempt from pension contributions.)
In Germany, your position in the economic system is determined by the lobbying power of the group representing you--not by socialist equality or by capitalist supply and demand. As politicians are themselves public employees, it is not surprising that German public employees are a pampered elite.
Cologne "A bank star implodes" (European Business, Nov. 12) interested me especially because I had just been hired as a financial planner in Bipop-Carire's branch office in Paris. I was absolutely dumbfounded by what I saw. First, I had to enroll my family and friends as Bipop customers to prove that I was the right candidate for the job--and manage these assets in hope that I would reach my targeted figure.
Second, the financial-planners-in-training were in most cases people with no previous education or background in finance. Bipop's concept of financial planning and management seemed to be restricted to one simple calculation of valuing the customer's performance and a couple of leaflets about the products. Obviously, private banking has become a little more sophisticated than that.
Gujan Mestras, France For years, CPA firms have mainly adopted a stance as confidant to their audit clients rather than as independent auditor ("Confused about earnings?" Finance, Nov. 26). With the advent of "tort reform," CPA firms no longer face stiff penalties when their mistakes contribute to investor losses. CPAs have lost the professionalism that Congress intended them to have when it granted them a monopoly franchise to perform truly independent audits.
Curtis C. Verschoor, CPA
Audits should be removed from public companies' discretion and mad subject to a lottery-type selection under the auspices of the Office of Chief Accountant of the Securities & Exchange Commission. An audit "rotation" system of SEC companies would ensure independence of the auditor and a direct line to report on questionable practices.
Jerome B. Gordon
Richard Gaumer, CPA
Congratulations on a timely story about earnings reports that are often obfuscating--sometimes intentionally so. Your proposals left out one group crucial in determining the quality of reported earnings: the audit committee of the board of directors. Analysts and investors should consider the performance of the audit committee in providing credible financial information a key element in evaluating investment risk.
Washington As a babyboomer who owns two BMWs (1976 3.0Si and 1996 740iL), when I saw "BMW: Speeding into a tight turn" (European Business, Oct. 29), I had to read it first. But my feelings of pride were dashed in the last paragraph by Karl-Heinz Kalbfells' statement about brand loyalty. We repeat buyers are rewarded by paying 10% to 30% more than we would for comparable models. I experienced feelings of rage and foolishness. Perhaps I am alone in this notion, but shouldn't "loyal" customers be rewarded and cherished? I know mine are. I will keep this information available for when it is time to purchase another vehicle.
John A. Sciabarrasi Jr.
Fitchburg, Mass. In today's state-of-the-art cell phones, most of the space is occupied by the LCD, battery, and keyboard ("What's needed for teensy-weensy cell phones," Developments to Watch, Nov. 5). I am wondering how Clark T.C. Nguyen will power and operate his watch- or ring-like cell phone. It would be very inconvenient to talk and listen to someone over a "ring-cell-phone" with a battery lifetime of one to two hours and probably two to three minutes talking time. That's why such teensy-weensy cell phones most likely will never become popular even should it be possible to shrink them to the size of a ring.
Hermann F.M. Moos