World View Hot Topics in Pivotal Markets
For the last two decades, India has had one of the world's fastest-growing economies. Even in recent years, when the global recession and complacent policymaking have slowed progress, growth has remained a healthy 5 percent to 6 percent.
Recent surveys of employment patterns in the workforce, though, point to the disturbing fact that rapid growth over the last decade hasn't been accompanied by a spurt in jobs. If anything, the word "jobless" needs to be used as a caveat prefacing the words "Indian growth story" to better understand the nature of this country's triumphs and failures.READ MORE
Read the popular press in the U.K. and Germany over the past months, and you would hold the following truths to be self-evident:
- That Romanians are toothless scroungers who want to steal your job, or failing that, they will steal from your country's social security system;
- That there is a flood of as many as 29 million of these people who are about to overwhelm Western Europe (if you bundle in the equally hapless and evil Bulgarians);
- And that unless politicians act now, the U.K. and other countries face, according to the Daily Mail newspaper, a “potentially huge political and social disaster.”
None of this has much to do with reality. The recession can explain some of the hysteria, but there is also a strong whiff of anti-Roma racism in much of the debate -- Romania is home to Europe's largest Roma population, still known to some as Gypsies.READ MORE
Talk about the fox guarding the chicken coop: The Russian parliament’s chief corruption fighter has been accused of failing to declare a $3 million apartment in Moscow. It’s the latest in a series of “outings” by Russia’s anarchic opposition, bizarrely coinciding with President Vladimir Putin’s own anti-corruption campaign.
On March 11, the anti-Putin weekly New Times reported that Irina Yarovaya, head of the parliament’s Security and Corruption Fighting Committee, was living in an apartment worth $2,898,000, registered in the name of her 17-year-old daughter. The condo, expensive even by the standards of Moscow’s overheated property market, never appeared on the parliament member’s obligatory declarations. Neither Yarovaya nor her businessman husband have ever declared income that would have allowed them to buy prime real estate in Russia’s capital.READ MORE
There are worse things than learning, as the residents of Shanghai did this week, that the source of the water for your morning shower and tea was contaminated by at least 5,916 dead pigs. You might find out that lamb you ate for dinner was duck soaked in toxic chemicals. That those dumplings you had as a late-night snack were fried in oil recovered from a gutter running beside an open sewer. Or worse yet, that the baby formula you’ve fed your newborn is laced with a plasticizer that damages kidneys.
For Shanghai’s 20 million residents, and indeed for China’s entire population, these recurring food-safety nightmares form the backdrop to their daily lives. Social media platforms are home to never-ending discussions of food scandals. State- and Communist Party-owned newspapers report the incidents with diligence and frequency. After a while it becomes a disgusting blur, the culinary equivalent of the ever-present smog that has rendered blue skies rare events.READ MORE
Narendra Modi, 62, has been the chief minister of the Indian state of Gujarat for almost 12 years, and will almost certainly run for prime minister in next year's general elections.
It was an incident of no small consequence, then, when Modi's invitation to deliver, via videoconference, the keynote address at the University of Pennsylvania's annual Wharton India Economic Forum was abruptly rescinded earlier this week, after Indian-American academics circulated a petition criticizing his human-rights record.READ MORE
Moscow police may be getting to the bottom of a mystery that has rocked the Russian cultural scene: Who and what were behind a sulphuric-acid attack on the artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet?
In January, an unknown assailant splashed the acid on the face of the director, Sergei Filin, as he was about to enter his Moscow apartment building. The attack seriously damaged the 42- year-old dancer’s eyesight. He has undergone repeated surgeries in Moscow and Germany.READ MORE
February 2013 might have been the worst month ever to be an employee of an airline flying in or out of China. Blame, however, can’t be laid at the feet (or landing gears) of the airlines that seek to exploit one of the world’s fastest growing air-travel markets. This state of affairs must be pinned on an ornery cast of Chinese passengers.
The lowlights are noteworthy:READ MORE
The Swiss have approved a “fat-cat referendum" to limit executive pay by a crushing 68 percent to 32 percent, no great surprise perhaps given the current mood on bankers and other superrich around the globe. Yet this is Switzerland, not Greece, Italy or Spain and the vote isn't the end of it. Switzerland is unhappy, and it is changing.
The referendum was the brainchild of Thomas Minder. The independent legislator began his struggle to give shareholders in Swiss-listed companies the right to control the pay of executives and board members in 2006. The anger that turned him into the man many Swiss see as an avenging angel was sparked as long ago as 2001, when Swissair, the national airline, went bankrupt.READ MORE
The five main players in Indian domestic aviation braced for a strong challenge last week after the thriving low-cost airline AirAsia Bhd. announced that it was entering the market. AirAsia hopes to start operations later this year in a joint venture with two Indian partners, including the behemoth Tata Group.
In September 2012, in a bid to attract investment, the Indian government relaxed restrictions on the entry of foreign capital. Aviation was one of the sectors opened up, with the government allowing foreign airlines to invest up to 49 percent in domestic carriers. But it took five months before the first move was made by Tony Fernandes, the chief executive officer of AirAsia.READ MORE
Russians are among the heaviest smokers on the planet. Oddly, they’re also quite amenable to the efforts of two notable non-smokers -- President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev -- to make them stop.
On Feb. 25, Putin signed into effect a tough anti-tobacco law that phases out smoking in most public areas by the summer of 2014. The measure is a big move in a country where, according to the 2013 OECD Factbook, 55 percent of men and 16 percent of women smoke every day, compared with only 17 percent and 13 percent in the United States.READ MORE
The Oscars began at 9:30 a.m. on Monday in China. By 10 a.m., “Oscars” was the top trending topic on Sina Weibo, China’s most popular Twitter-like microblog. And by lunchtime, a mild controversy emerged.
The inadvertent perpetrator was Ang Lee, the Taiwanese- American director of “Life of Pi.” Upon receiving his second best-director award (he first won in 2005 for “Brokeback Mountain”), Lee offered what in Hollywood must have sounded like an innocuous acceptance speech, but in China and Taiwan it held deeper meaning. He thanked everyone from the “movie god” to his producers. Then he added:READ MORE
Beppe Grillo, the Italian comedian-politician, told you this was coming, but maybe you didn't take him seriously or still disdain the power of Twitter: Italy’s elections have produced deadlock, the news media are calling their country ungovernable, and the true victors are Grillo and his Five Star Movement.
His political tsunami has shaken Italian politics to the core and left the country facing months of instability and perhaps new elections, too.READ MORE
In a little more than 15 years, the Indian education guru Arindam Chaudhuri, 41, has channeled a spectacular ambition and talent for self-promotion into the construction of a massive empire, rooted in management education. It has expanded year by year into corporate workshops, film production, magazines and journals, joint ventures and tie-ups, and philanthropic projects.
Chaudhuri sees himself, not without basis, as the face of an ambitious new India, as someone not bound by old pieties and class hierarchies, jostling and provoking the old order and bringing in revolution with every move. His own website, which describes him as an economist, "management guru," author, speaker and "transformational leader," also has his motto prominently posted on the home page. Part Zig Ziglar, part Paulo Coelho, it goes, "if you think you can, you are right." It's the old "dare to dream," reworked into something more gratifying and more slippery.READ MORE
No one covers European horse meat quite like China Central Television, the state-owned and operated news media and entertainment juggernaut.
For the past week and a half, CCTV newscasts just haven’t been complete without the most up-to-date information on the deceit that led to horse meat being sold as beef across Europe. Indeed, horse meat fever runs so hot at CCTV that, as of the afternoon of Feb. 19 in China, a search for “horse meat” on the network’s official website produced 313 video results, with only a handful predating Feb. 11.READ MORE
If I had to choose a single word to describe the dominant attitude in Russian society, it would be “mistrust.” The meteor, or possibly small asteroid, that exploded over the Ural Mountains city of Chelyabinsk on Feb. 15 illustrated this as few other events could.
The world saw the meteor thanks to the dashboard cameras that are so common in Russian cars. U.S. publications from the New Yorker to Wired delighted in writing about the dash cam phenomenon, unheard of in the U.S. or Europe. Russians use the devices because they cannot trust police, judges, insurance companies or witnesses in case of a fender bender. A camera providing incontrovertible evidence pays for itself even if the accident is relatively minor. According to the government-owned newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, in 2011 Russians bought 300,000 dash cams, and in 2012 the market probably more than doubled.READ MORE
You couldn't make this up: Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic recently acknowledged meeting an accused drug smuggler nicknamed Misha Banana, but said that he had no idea the man was a criminal suspect because the police had failed to tell him.
A few days before that admission, Dacic was the object of a fake TV interview that aired on "Mission Impossible," the Serbian equivalent of "Candid Camera," in which the interviewer flashed her private parts at him on camera. The prime minister's smile, as she imitated Sharon Stone in "Basic Instinct," has been viewed on YouTube 9 million times -- more than the sum of Serbia's population.READ MORE
Is China really ready to go to war over a pile of rocks? Six months ago, it certainly felt that way. Now, not quite as much.
Back in August and September, anti-Japanese riots were springing up around China, catalyzed by competing claims over what the Chinese call the Diaoyu Islands and the Japanese call the Senkaku Islands. The small archipelago (five islets and three rocks), located 90 miles northeast of Taiwan, is notable only for the oil, minerals and fish that allegedly lie beneath it and the intense emotions and claims that surround it.READ MORE
For the second time in three months, the Indian state applied the death penalty last week with the execution of Mohammed Afzal Guru, one of the prime plotters of the armed attack on India's Parliament in 2001. In November, the state executed Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, the only surviving member of the Pakistani terrorist squad that entered Mumbai by sea in November 2008 and brazenly shot more than 160 people.
Although India is in a minority of nations that still have the death penalty on the books, the sentence is implemented far less often than it is handed down. Before Kasab's execution, there had been only two hangings in India in the last 17 years. Afzal Guru had been sentenced to death in 2002, and remained in jail for more than a decade before he was hanged Feb. 9.READ MORE
For President Vladimir Putin, an accomplished athlete, winning Russia’s bid for the 2014 Winter Olympics was a matter of personal as well as national prestige. As the date approaches, the event is also becoming a symbol of Russian officialdom’s capacity for profligacy, procrastination and intrigue.
Back in 2007, when Russia won the right to host the games in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi, the projected bill was 313.9 billion rubles ($12.2 billion at the July 2007 exchange rate). In 2010, Russia’s ministry of regional development estimated the cost at 950 billion rubles ($30.6 billion at the time). This month, when Putin inspected the huge construction site in Sochi, the official estimate had already passed the 1.5 trillion ruble mark (about $50 billion), making next year’s extravaganza the most expensive Olympics ever.READ MORE
It is said that there are several stages of grief, running from denial, to anger, to acceptance. The resignation announcement by Pope Benedict XVI has provoked something similar in Europe's media -- minus the denial or grief.
First there was surprise, followed by largely content-free instant reaction, and finally a parade of experts who sought to crystallize the meaning of Benedict's papacy and of his unusual decision to leave the Vatican alive.READ MORE