Thursday, August 28, 2014

Bihar, Microfinance, Entrepreneurship, Teachers

English: Bihar Districts
English: Bihar Districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Nitish did very well as Chief Minister. But he had his weaknesses. He exhibited a singular focus on law and order, and on roads and bridges. That alone gave the state impressive growth rates. But he could do more for entrepreneurs - especially those in the lower income brackets - and for teachers.

Instead of being jealous of corporate houses giving Modi money, Nitish should compete to woo them. It is not a zero sum game. Helping big entrepreneurs create wealth and jobs is not anti-poor.

Access to credit is "infrastructure" to entrepreneurs. And Bihar could opt to take the lead on microfinance. Say you start with a $100 million fund. The idea would be that the fund need not make profits. As long as it does not diminish in size is all that matters. The idea would be to entitle every poor person in the state to an annual $100 loan. As long as you keep making your monthly payments, you keep getting your loan. If you mess up your credit history, the loans stop. The fund should factor in writing off 5% of the loans. And it should charge a low interest rate, something like 5 per cent. Because the idea is not to make profits. The idea is to help the poor build businesses without diminishing the size of the fund. Use of mobile phones (think M-pesa in Kenya) would go a long way to doing it right.

Training and hiring teachers is as, if not more, important than building roads and bridges. There also Nitish fell a little short.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Nitish, Bihar, And Development

English: Nitish Kumar
English: Nitish Kumar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Right now the two alliances are running neck and neck. That means it will be a close fight next year in Bihar, but it is advantage BJP. Right now Sushil Modi is running ahead. In Bihar it might be 50-50. But in Uttar Pradesh it will be a total sweep by the BJP also at the state level.

Bihar is one place that could give Modi something akin to an opposition. And Modi in Gujrat was known as a man who brooks no opposition. His China model is not only economic, it is also political. He does not like the idea of having much of an opposition. And so he is going to do all he can to put Bihar into Sushil Modi's lap. Sushil Modi is not a bad candidate. He was deputy to Nitish in Bihar's spectacular success story. So he can legitimately take some credit.

If Narendra Modi could sweep Bihar as merely a prime ministerial candidate, imagine what he could do as a performing PM.

Nitish has a tall task before him that has been made tougher by Lalu's mandal-kamandal talk. You can not beat Narendra Modi with that. The way to beat Narendra Modi is with development talk. Laloo was spectacular as Railway Minister, Nitish was the top performing Chief Minister in the country. It is not like they don't have it. But they are not talking development. That is problematic. Right now Nitish is all set to lose the elections next year.

Maybe the real story here is that his break up with the BJP was a bad move. Nitish was the first person to call Narendra Modi a future PM. That was back in 2003, I think. Looks like somewhere along the way he switched his position but has refused to play the role.

He could talk all development all the time and give Narendra Modi a run for the money. But he is not doing it. Puzzles me.

Amitabh In And As Yudh

This reminds me of Kevin Spacey's House Of Cards more than anything else. It is a similar experiment in hours of hours of cinematic drama.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

So Called War On Terror

English: The Ethnic composition of Muslims in ...
English: The Ethnic composition of Muslims in the United States, according to the United States Department of State based on the publication of Being Muslim in America as of March 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Cold War, War On Terror
Hillary's Drastic Move

The resolution to the War is when moderate Islam is the mainstream Islam across the Muslim world.

Every time white people have acted racist - I am thinking colonialism, apartheid, segregation - they have quoted from the Bible. Considering racism is not exactly past tense yet, I believe we are still awaiting the arrival of moderate Christianity.

To think your way is the only way is not tolerant, not moderate. And there are concrete repercussions.

There is an ideological angle to the War On Terror. And that ideological angle is no sideshow, it IS the biggest angle.

Surprisingly (or not) India is the way to that moderate Islam. It is the largest democracy. It is an unhappy truth that Muslims in India are like African Americans in America. Having a Muslim president in India, or a black president in America has not fundamentally changed that. India has a larger Muslim population than every Arab country. Indonesia might be the only country with more Muslims.

In that democracy you see a fermentation. The current ruling party in India is in a war of words as to why there is a separate civil code for Muslims. They argue for a uniform civil code for all citizens. What's that debate all about? Participating in that debate would be a good use of dollars.

But then you have an arms industry in America - Colombia specializes in drugs, America in arms - that needs to sell weapons. And so the country sees nails in every direction. And so you don't see American money spent on things that would truly make the difference in the War On Terror.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Cold War, War On Terror

Let's draw parallels. There was the Cold War. And now there is the War On Terror, for lack of a better phrase. It is a tussle between radical, violent Islamism and liberal democracy. The Cold War simmered for over four decades. The War On Terror has gone on for a decade and a half already.

Russia is still not a democracy. You can have elections and no democracy. Russia is a prime example. It is a waning power with a GDP smaller than that of India.

In a sense the Cold War is not exactly over. Communism has seen defeat, but Russia is not yet a democracy.

The War On Terror will not end with a defeat of Islam. Extremist Islam will not be defeated by Christianity, but by moderate Islam. Extremist Islam can be contained and miniaturized, but not eliminated. Extremist Christianity still persists. You have right wing militia.

That civil morphing and the preponderance of moderate Islam will primarily be a function of the democratic process.

Dictatorships will have to make way. Moderate Islam will have to be nurtured.

This is hard work. It will take time. It can be expedited, but only to an extent.

It is hard to argue that Bush was wrong and Obama has been right, or that Obama is wrong, and the next president will do it right. It is not that easy. No matter what, the process will take time.

America's top priority understandably is to prevent another 9/11 style attack. To that end the country will make any sacrifice, go to any end. But that firefighting is not the solution. It is band aid.

My personal bias is for all those non violent methods of spreading democracy. Beaming in wireless internet across the Arab world and flooding the region with super cheap Android phones would be my tool of choice. The US government is not involved with either. Google is.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Hillary's Drastic Move

Pete Souza, Official White House Photographer
Pete Souza, Official White House Photographer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This is like Al Gore breaking up with Bill Clinton in 1999. Bill Clinton's reaction was, I would not do those two things on one day. Al Gore denounced Bill Clinton (reference: Lewinsky) and announced he was running for president the same day.

Hillary has done the exact same thing. She has broken up with Barack Obama. And she also has basically announced she is running for president. This is positioning.

Barack Obama showed plenty of steel on Libya. And he is showing a ton of spine on Putin. So it is hard to throw mud on him on Syria. Syria simply is complex.

Hillary's words come as too strong. Also, were you not the Secretary of State? This is a Foreign Minister criticizing the president's foreign policy from when she was Foreign Minister! Go figure.

This is also a sign Hillary is feeling it that Iraq might end up the reason why she loses in 2016. Poll numbers from before you actually start contesting the primaries are not that relevant.

Without taking sides on Iraq (or thinking that I have a better solution) just on political terms, I think Hillary just made a bad move.
“The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad — there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle — the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled..... Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.”
With “respect to Syria,” said the president, the notion that arming the rebels would have made a difference has “always been a fantasy. This idea that we could provide some light arms or even more sophisticated arms to what was essentially an opposition made up of former doctors, farmers, pharmacists and so forth, and that they were going to be able to battle not only a well-armed state but also a well-armed state backed by Russia, backed by Iran, a battle-hardened Hezbollah, that was never in the cards.”
Hillary Clinton takes on Barack Obama
Hillary Clinton criticises Barack Obama's policy on Syria and Israel
Barack Obama rebukes Syrian ‘fantasy’
Hillary Clinton: 'Failure' to Help Syrian Rebels Led to the Rise of ISIS