Tuesday, February 28, 2006



Streamline the financial regulatory framework for God's sake!!

The Federal Reserve can and ought to take lead to bring about radical changes to the current regulatory framework. The current regulatory framework looks at the financial services market along major product lines; investments, banking and insurance services. Within each area, a separate agency tends to the functionally distinct components of any financial services business such as: the product offered providers, the marketplace, exchange mechanisms and delivery. This regulatory framework is turning out to be a bad foundation for a thriving financial services industry.

With financial innovation major product lines in financial services are blending. Banks, securities firms and insurance companies are replicating each other’s. Product-based regulation ignores these realities and is an especially artificial (and inefficient) construct for the regulation of highly integrated organizations that seek to deliver a variety of financial products and services on a seamless basis. Progressive institutions are striving to intermingle the delivery of financial products for the convenience of their customers. But the government insists on deconstructing the exercise for regulatory purposes. In some cases, this forces institutions to restructure their operations just to facilitate a regulatory theory.

Bernanke can make a big difference here. Although customers and providers are progressively less concerned with geographic and product boundaries, the regulatory system still revolves around them. Individual state licensing requirements still frustrate access to regional markets in many instances. The 50-state licensing process poses an entry barrier to the national market. The absence of a single licensing process in the United States curtails the ability of financial institutions to operate nationally. These restrictions no longer have any regulatory justification and the Federal Reserve should work with other agencies to remove them.

Establishing an umbrella license – one that would qualify a provider to offer investment products and insurance in all 50 states – is essential for full nationwide operability. Substantial uniformity must be introduced into the regulatory system if it is to become efficient. Banks, other financial services firms, their customers, shareholders, and the nation's economy as a whole will be deprived of the full benefits of financial modernization until the existing regulatory framework is revamped and Feds should and can contribute to this revamp.

The Federal Reserve has a major stake in the development and maintenance of a smoothly-functioning government securities market, as well as the overall development of the financial markets which can provide substantial benefits to the economy. This revamp and streamlining of regulation could potentially be something that Bernanke can be remembered by and also enable him to fulfill the Fed’s mandate...

Thursday, February 16, 2006

on working with people


It is all too easy to forget that what people publicly espouse publicly is often quite different from the views they privately harbor. In order to better understand the motives of people we work and live with we should us multiple formal and informal ways of gathering information and opinion.

This approach can make us more aware of how people feel, their stakes, the expectations they have to respond to and the politics of their situation. Since most often than not we aspire to create consensus decisions we should go out of our ways to actively solicit and surface every stake holder’s point of view. By being able to see across the board we can recognize common ground and conflicting interests across disparate pieces of information and viewpoints. This will enable us to distill complex signals into its key messages

Then we can take decisions that are balanced and hopefully that most people were happy to live with. I cannot overemphasize how important it is to listen actively, take the perspective of others, encourage the expression of diverse opinions and withhold judgment. An important lesson I have been learning is the power of developing both formal and informal relationships with people. In yahoo groups I have seen people often change their views and it is important to build a broad coalition of support.

By being able to empathize with people's vested stake makes it a lot easier to make our thinking clear to others. We can then be better able to persuade others to consider ideas and proposals that find favor to negotiate win-win solutions.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

GDP vs happiness index


I was struck by an index they seem to use in Bhutan called the 'happiness index'" . I suppose it stems from a strong Buddhist tradition. One can say it is a 'flawed' measure for it conveys 'nothing' that can be used as basis of planning., or resources allocation etc. But then one can say the same for other measures such as GDP which we all love to gobble up.

Why I say that is the GDP measure too is somewhat flawed .There are many other parameters of economic welfare that are not included in the GDP. Because these are omitted from the overcall contribution to national welfare they may understate the extent of the true well being of a country. Some of these are :

- the work that people in households do. This is not included as part of market transactions and is treated as Zero for purposes of GDP calculation

- sometimes GDP over adjusts for inflation. When we over estimate the rise in prices we may understate the extent of the increase in physical production.

-many economies have large amounts of ‘illegal’ activities which are not included in the GDP..India has a parallel economy almost

-qualitative factors such as the quality of social benefit, healthcare, education etc. are not included in the calculation of GDP. Another Thing that does not show up in GDP is leisure time. These improvements in life quality for an entire society do not show up in GDP calculations and may bias the GDP calculations downwards.I guess Bhutanese people may agree here with me ..tee heee

-developed countries are beginning to accord significant resources to maintain the environment, enhance safety standards and pay a high social costs. This investment ( or the pernicious effects of the lack of them) do not show up in GDP

I am struck that despite these shortcomings GDP remains as the most attainable compromise measure to reflect the overall degree of economic development in a nation. I guess it gives a good sense of changes in the business cycle – and measuring that relative change is important for policy makers.

Fluctuations in real GDP tell a lot about how the factors of production have been used, the state of unemployment and in general the overall health of an economy.But ofcourse GDP is not a measure of welfare of a society or its people. (it values a dollar spent on education the same as a dollar spent on alcohol.) Instead it provides the information needed to track the performance of the economy. Without this information, policy makers would not be able to adopt corrective economic activities.

So I cna live with GDP but i see more informational content in GDP changes than the absolute figure itself.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

On suicide


3 days ago a former classmate and a close friend committed suicide in S.America. She must have been in her late 30's. This is naturally very troubling for me.

Given our natural instinct for self preservation it requires courage and premption to arrive and execute this decision. So it is not a frivolous light decision or cowardice or escapism as some people think of suicide. My take on this is -if it is influenced by deep mental illness and instability then we have as a society the right to interfere and stop some one from committing suicde but NOT if the person is perfectly sane.

It is quite difficult for me to look at suicide in a value neutral way without bringing in my own moral judgment of behavior. I am confused at arriving at these judgements for part of me approves of suicide given certain circumstances ; these circumstances can be both societal or/than personal.

Socieital ; For example if by living a person will harm society then it might be ok for that person to decide to terminate his life.

Personal: Another part of me (catalyzed by utilitarian, personal liberty and freedom and pro choice drivers) endorses in the moral sense suicide. After all if one decides for oneself that one's own life is just not worth living one should be able to end it. When my religious beleifs come in the way and I think about 'the sanctity of life' and 'thou shalt not kill' I am tempted to question why certain types of killing are ok with God(in war/ to defend a just cause /self defence etc) and others such as suicide are not.

How can it be God's decision when we should live or die for some things but not for other things?Also why has God given us free will if God don’t want us to act on it and follow His/Her/Its natural laws?

This is very confusing.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Freedom of the press


Freedom of Speech and nasty cartoons
I saw this O’reilly factor on Fox News yesterday where this issue in Washington post about an American soldier with arms and legs amputated and Rumsfeld talking to him. The Joint Chiefs of Staff 'admonished ' the post .I found it so distasteful personally. Still it should trigger thoughts:
When faced with dilemma with adherence to "western" principles of freedom of the press and environment of ‘constructive’ media role what should a guy do?
-How a free press reconciles conflicting claims from realities will be a product of state constraints, constraints imposed by its ownership, and market constraints.
-Yet media is after all, primarily a business. It has to think about the bottom-line figure in its balance sheets and operating statements. I mean you can’t live without advertisements. But a newspaper can yet make a stand for press freedom
-In most countries a free-speech corner has been provided by government. Or so they claim. And those who believe otherwise say NO given their outlook and because of that this free speech corner that govt claims it 'gives' can often remain largely unused.
Let us think about common stuff in the press. :) there is a ban on the use of microphones and music; speakers have to have their topics officially approved first. Our media is nit free the mantra goes! The freedom of speech and expression, taken for granted in the "West" ( as if they are the harbingers of fucking freedom) as a basic civil and political rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are subject to restrictions because, there are ‘peculiar sensitivities’ due to the countries history and heritage and there is need ‘to protect certain key values’ such as survival and progress. This differing view on the right to speech carries over to the matter of the freedom of the press and of broader media.
Subsequently building on this theme pronouncements by censorship boards would say that the conception of media’s role in society should be ‘constructive’ rather than ‘adversarial’ in nature. Local media in many countries is seen as having a unique nation-building role’ in multi-racial and multi-religious nation-states. What crap!
-By communicating government message across to people, it is claimed, support has been mustered for policies that brought progress and prosperity . And true enough, there will always be facts and stats to support this.
Still architects of an engineered society, as all society out to be if it pays engineers, should recognize the importance of media early on as a major social institution and use it without compunction to set in motion a different idea of how society works. In many countries I see media as an emasculated (oops) institution which does not have the sustained capacity to contribute and respond.
-Upon examination, related freedoms can be of two parts: the first part being the right to impart information, to hold and express opinions without interference; the second part to seek, and receive information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
Some guys instrumental justification of the freedom of speech focuses on the interests of the audience receiving the messages. And they would contend that this is to society’s benefit in the longer term because people, made aware of all possible arguments, will fully value the truth -- which will tend to emerge from contending outlooks on an issue. I personally subscribe to that.
-But more importantly, in terms of governance, this will result in an informed citizenry, encourage debate and participation and enrich the quality of democracy. For these reasons, many will most probably be in favor of a press divided along partisan political lines. By giving voice to a democratically elected opposition party, a more open press will help in discovering and shaping alternatives and keep the government on its toes.
-It does not follow that an adversarial process should end in total discord and disarray. Truth, or conformity with fact and reality, imbues stronger mandate to building consensus than half-truths and propaganda. But in allowing for this process, we need to see things in the political context of a nation and recognize the historical fragile nature of emerging countries where the institutions are not well formed.
-My take on it is that society will benefit from a moderately adversarial press in the future. The reason why I say 'moderately adversarial' is that granted that the current government’s r not wholly totalitarian there is always a danger of a future regime, which may act differently. The press would have an important role in countering totalitarianism.
-Many governments are of the view that the press (and other media) shapes perceptions in society and because of the nation-building project, it makes it legitimate for them to seek to influence how the press, media and the performing arts do (or not do) this. Still it perturbs me that to date publishing permits have to be renewed annually. Sexual content and scenes showing drug use are routinely removed from films
When u see the flicks coming out of Bombay and Cairo tight controls have somehow boomeranged The order of the global challenge is to find a new balance that ‘does not stifle creativity’. Yet this lighter stance towards media is less of a response to the clamor for more freedom of expression as a civil-political right than to economic imperatives.
-Many countries that see a component of their gdp accrue from entertainment feel that controlled media has prevented the entertainment industries from developing as rapidly as they should and has been discouraging content creators to base operations in their nations.
-Media may be gossipy, sensationalist and may purvey nonsense but it is a personal right to decide for oneself what opinions to convey to and receive from others
-Government is not something faceless and abstract. It is made up of politicians and bureaucrats who are as mortal, who harbor opinions and prejudices as anyone else. It is for the press to explore, probe and agree or disagree in its editorial page with policy. This will allow people to form their own opinions. It is for government to influence those opinions but it is not for government to tell people what their opinions 'ought' to be in the first place.
Both the readers of popular dailies as well as the government have the right to express their opinion in a civilized democratic manner. Issues get played out in the Parliament and in society. Contrary to many leaders suggestions I feel that democratically elected politicians do not have exclusive preserve on what people should want and neither does the press. In any vibrant democracy the press and the government and public opinion should get formed dynamically. However, the dangers of government influencing public opinion through sanctioning the press and other forms of media are too great. Influence and control are very different things.
-There is virtual monopoly by a few media companies in many countries
-In most things in life there are natural boundaries and limits. The press should not harm innocent people, undermine the moral authority of leaders, or damage regard for institutions. And in this context where is the frontier? Absolute rights of expression, while at the heart of freedom do not contribute to making the task of running a nation state easier. The government needs to strike the right balance to do justice to very different constituencies. And its stance on an issue will always be suboptimal from a certain vantage point.
-How free a press should be ought to be a function of the state of literacy in a country. press should be held accountable for misstating facts. There is little to be said for accountability of opinion. Indeed one should not be held 'accountable' for opinion. I would opine that a society that is highly literate would be able to tolerate greater levels of dissent in opinion and contradictory view points. Perhaps that is why the Western press is more open and free without any obvious mis consequences.:))

Solving social security shortfall

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I am going to solve this social security shortfall problem today.

Yawwwwwwn..... 2006 is almost here and I am going to solve this social security shortfall problem today. The more I read about this social security shortfall issue the more confused i seem it get. Why do they have to make it so complicated?
My way of looking at it is that we can be solve this problem using a) Benefits Reduction or b) Revenue Increases or c) a mix of the two approaches complemented by an increase in d) Investment Income.
a) Benefits reduction: Since life expectancy is increasing and people are living healtheir lives it would make sense to increase the retirement age to 67-68.It also makes sense to reduce the cost of living adjustment. Future retirees must not take their benefits for a given. This will be politically difficult to achieve of course but a small cut of 5% will set the stage for future generations to make it more palatable. This who already enjoy a high income say > 65,000$ ought to be able to share the burden of those below poverty line. By increasing wages subject to social security tax we can have the rich subsidize the very poor. So we can 1) Accelerate increase in retirement age to 67 and index thereafter. 2) Reduce cost-of-living adjustment by say 1 or 1/2 percentage points. 3 ) Reduce benefits by 5-10% for future retirees. 4) Reduce benefits for those whose total retirement income exceeds $65,000 per year. I've pulled out these magic numbers from my hat:)
The other way is by Revenue Increases
b) Revenue Increases: By raising payroll taxes by a modest 1/2 percentage one can contribute in a large way to the long term problem of deficit. By eliminating the cap on wages subject to Social Security tax for example . So we can 1) do the above AND 2) Raise payroll tax on workers and employers by 1/2 percentage points each 2) Increase wages subject to Social Security tax 3) Tax Social Security benefits like pension benefits
In reality the issues will have to be addressed taking political consideration , government will as well as a mix of benefits reduction, revenue increase and investment income gains through better asset allocation with defined risk adjusted return characteristics that are palatable. Thats where it gets messy..sighhh

10 commandments: Systemic Risk

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my 10 commandments on systemic risk

I watched John Thain's address today and was struck with some stuff he spoke about on regulation issues. The fact that the equities and the cash markets are regulated separately- this to me sounds like good and bad for it has the makings of for and against a systemic crisis...

The securities market, unlike banks, has been less susceptible to contagious transmission of shock. Policy discussions should explicitly worry about the once-in-a-few-years events where market integrity is tested.
The design of regulatory mechanisms based only on individual bank risk could be suboptimal in a multiple bank /Universal Bank context, and may well have the unintended effect of accentuating systemic risk. Optimal regulation should be collective in nature and should involve the joint failure risk of banks as well as their individual failure risk. The Lord appeared to me in a dream last night and told me that tthe challenges facing our financial markets for the next 2 years are :
Issue 1: Protecting institutional investors:
Institutional investors, increasingly large participants in Hedge Funds and proprietary money management firms should be given additional rights to compel management to disclose more relevant data, value at risk as well as more specific information on risk return profiles. Government should encourage the development of rating agencies to examine and rate large Hedge Funds with high institutional investments in them. It is particularly important that managers of investment firms give extensive information and are closely supervised. SEC ought to bring these firms within the ambit of regulation.I see some development happening here and this is good.
Issue 2: Strengthening takeover regulation:
Minority shareholders have begun to play an increasing part in the post bubble economy. Regulation should be strengthened to protect minority shareholders and further protect exploitation by majority holders. Lack of minority shareholder protection severely restricts the ability of firms to raise capital. Legal changes are needed to strengthen protection and take over codes. This issue is pretty bad in emerging markets and with the markets being increasingly integrated i worry..
Issue 3: Fall in efficiency given the fast pace of innovation:
Regulation needs to be strengthened to improve the informational efficiency of markets through better disclosure and price signaling mechanisms. The ban on insider trading should be reexamined of there is a case that insider trading improves overall market efficiency but must be balanced against its costs (benefiting at the expense of the uninformed and this reduces the willingness of uninformed investors to participate). Given the increasing esoteric nature of newly designed securities instruments manipulation will potentially cause significant misallocation of resources. A lack of confidence in the transparency of the securities market will reduce the total amount of investment that is undertaken. Specific steps that help to strengthen the aforesaid and improve market efficiency is absolutely critical to counter the effects of financial innovation.
Issue 4 : Risks posed by asset volatility:
In order to reveal information, prices have to fluctuate with changes in underlying information; but price fluctuations themselves are costly to the extent that they impose risk of uninsured changes in wealth on investors. There is therefore a trade-off between allocative efficiency and risk sharing. Asset volatility has been very high in some markets . While regulation should not interfere in free market functioning there is need to ensure that the securities markets are not out of synch with those for indexed products and derivatives. Regulation for integrative management of these linked instruments should be enacted to be more effective.
Issue 5: Intra Bank Risk:
Securities Regulation has traditionally placed a very limited emphasis on the prevention of systemic risk since most of the regulation is towards regulation of the individual firm itself. Additional regulation needs to be passed to ensure that securities firms continue to segregate customer funds from the firms’ own funds and disclose leverage in proprietary trading strategies. There is a risk that Banks will fund in-house securities business and separate regulators will lack an integrated picture of the firm's consolidated position. Regulation aiming to create Chinese walls will make it easier that when a securities firm fails, it will be easy to transfer the assets of that firm to another firm .Security firms have access to large value payment systems and there is need to beef up regulation of the clearing corporation.
Issue 6 : Internationalization:
Leading securities firms have become increasingly international. They operate through a complex structure of affiliates in many different countries with differing bankruptcy regimes. The effect of international bankruptcy laws on the fate of a domestic securities form needs to be studied. Cases such as the collapse of Barings Bank, BCCI and others are examples of what has happened in the past. Regulation then needs to be enacted to respond to the risks of international bankruptcy.
Issue 7:Growth in size:
Securities firms and banks have consolidated to form larger and larger entities. Partly this is because the formation of financial conglomerates has often involved mergers and acquisitions. Although it is possible that larger financial firms will be less likely to fail, the occurrence of failure is more likely to be associated with systemic risk since the spillover effects on the rest of the financial system are bound to be greater. New Regulation should be enacted that treats the largest firms differently from the small securities firms.
Issue 8: Over-the-counter derivatives:
The growth in the OTC market as well as the concentration of activity in a few large firms brings corresponding increasing concentration of risk. They pose risks to the system through a combination of size and market illiquidity. Capping the size of financial entities through regulation would help address the first, improving market liquidity would address the next. OTC derivatives markets span national borders and are subject to a wide range of regulatory regimes. Such firms are likely to be managed in an integrated fashion along lines of business without regard for legal entities, national borders, or functional regulatory domains and with substantial intra-group transactions that would be difficult to disentangle in a crisis. Although the laws that govern bankruptcy procedures correspond to the legal entity or the regulated entity, these may no longer correspond to coherent part of the global firm. There is need to encourage the intrinsic strengths of exchange-traded derivatives when compared with off-exchange derivatives and these should be regulated more.
Issue 9: Bankruptcy laws for derivatives transactions:
The ability to closeout all derivatives contracts with the failed firm, net them and liquidate the collateral eliminates the degradation of collateral that could occur during lengthy bankruptcy procedures and enables counterparties to settle other transactions that may have been linked to the positions with the failed firm. When a failed firm such as LTCM has taken positions that are large enough to move Prices, however, these procedures may disrupt markets and exacerbate losses to counterparties and other investors with positions similar to those of the failed firm. In such cases, the simultaneous closing out the failed firms positions and attempts to liquidate illiquid collateral could cause the market to crash directly causing losses to the counterparties and other investors with similar positions. This could lead to additional defaults and additional pressure on illiquid markets as additional collateral is liquidated. The benefits of the current derivatives laws for securities need to be reexamined given the potential for systematic risks
Systems are only tested in times of market volatility; short track--records of functioning under normal conditions should not generate confidence. The best designed regulatory framework will fail to generate safety if it is not backed by effective enforcement and there is need to beef up enforcement in the next two years.
Issue 10: ???? I bet this one's gonna take us down:(( What is the 10th commandment??:(( Anyone knows??

cross sector intersection

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1/4/06; 1:11:53 PM -

cross sectoral intersection & balanced decision making

It ain't easy blogging every day. Jeeez this is going to be a hard act to sustain.Well here goes...
Perhaps someday I will be able to take decisions that are more balanced by factoring in shareholder, customer, employee and societal considerations simultaneously....It will be good to be a player at the intersection set of business, governemnt, politics and civil society. To deal with investment promotion boards, capital market institutions, industry groups, senior bureaucrats, labor unions and the media.....But how does one get to stop being a general manager and be a deep generalist???
I believe that the Private Sector needs to work hand in hand with Public Authority to shape policy making and develop appropriate norms for the economic development of the country. While Government is still responsible for creating the right frameworks in regulation, tax policy and market based initiatives to support Business's efforts, folk's in Business, can in turn contribute crucial financial, technical and managerial resources to meet the country's challenges. So how can one contribute in full measure to formulate 'true' Private Public sector partnerships??.
Even though I am no stranger to the relationship between Government and Business I do feel that my knowledge of Government and the Public Sector is relatively limited. The distinctions between the Private and the Public sector are fast morphing . I bet people are often required to make strategic and financial decisions where they need to weigh externalities, manage State intervention, represent Industry viewpoint and influence changes in Government policy. It is becoming increasingly critical for us in the Private Sector to develop a deeper understanding of Government and the functioning of the Public Sector.
How can one influence India's Private Sector to redefine its role in the neglected process of nation building. Given the enormity of challenges our country faces and the paucity of resources and talent in Government these days, I am beginning to see an expansive view of what Business and Government can together achieve. In doing so, I advocate a broader and more proactive social economic political role for business leadership.
How can one acquire insights that will enhance one's abilities to build greater collaboration and consensus on complex issues between India's elected Politicians, Regulators, Public Sector leaders and people in the Private Sector??. These days, I truly believe, scale can only be achieved and economic exclusion addressed through an 'enabling environment' in which Government of India, international and domestic institutions, the political leadership and business people play their respective vital roles.How does one synchronize all these players to play in tandem?
I am still looking for a platform to become more cognizant of my ethical, managerial, community related as well as economic responsibilities as a business leader. I am still trying to develop theoretical, analytical and more importantly real world insights into the interplay between politics, institutions, policy formulation frameworks and governance in general. Time is fleeting...To win the hearts and respect of those around me and provide leadership I myself need to learn more. How can I provide the leadership needed to change organizations, cultures and people??. What will equip me with the tools, methods and frameworks to dig deeper to understand, preempt and respond to the forces that influence business, politics and society?? Are these just my own demons?
In 2006 I intend to focus more attention to ongoing activities in the area of Privatization and Divestment including (a) quantitative and qualitative analysis and policy oriented studies on the role of regulation, deregulation and privatization in the context of economic reforms in emerging economies such as India's (b) studies on the role of the firm, creation of efficient markets and issues that arise from incidence of market failure and (c) approaches to bringing structural improvements in small and medium enterprises as well as the organization of Industry at a national level.
After that? Well life is a state of striving:)

Reco. to Federal Reserve

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no more risky business after this:my feedback to the Federal reserve

With this posting I will put this risk business behind me forever and move on to newer pastures.It will bring closure to my posting of 2 days ago and I wont ever think about it ever:) And what good is thinking about it if you cant change one damn thing? "The philosophers have only interpreted the world- the point however is to change it":)).Am i a philosopher or a change agent or neither:))

With Bernanke coming on board he needs to in addition to the much touted interest rates business also worry about some of the more pressing issues in the supervision and regulation of banks and other institutions.

Safeguard against systemic risk: The Federal Reserve needs to safeguard against systemic risk deriving from concentrated fast growing sections of the financial market, such as those for OTC derivatives which are increasingly confined to just a few large dealers. Another source of short term systemic risk arises from the fact that the entire government securities clearing segment as well as the housing mortgage segment is dominated by a handful of institutions which increases vulnerabilities for systemic crisis. A new risky trend, given the increasing trend investing in unregulated vehicles such as Hedge Funds, increases the role the Federal Reserve will have to play in the next 2 years in protecting investors from opportunistic behavior.
Interagency Regulation: The Federal Reserve needs to put immediate plans in place to take lead in steering interagency regulation. It has an important intermediate role in enhancing the efficiency of the financial system, and achieving a broad range of social objectives.

Banking Regulation: The high concentration of consumer assets with a few large (top 20) banks should be of concern to the Federal Reserve over the next few years. It must continue to exercise oversight of the affairs of banking institutions in the form of inspection and examination of the institutions for compliance with a broad set of safety and soundness standards. It must reexamine the role that deposit insurance has played to provide protection against losses for small depositors and investors. It needs to reexamine its existing policies as banker of last resort and provider of emergency liquidity facility as well as existing capital adequacy standards in the light of

On the banking supervision front there is a pressing need to strengthen credit risk-management practices in financing of commercial real estate and has been the highest category of loan growths. Such concentrations in exposure have resulted in crisis in the past and there is need to strengthen oversight. The Federal Reserve needs to continue to implement the interagency recommendations of sound practices for Financial Markets.

Given the war on terror and the dangers of another terrorist attack it needs to focus on business continuity services in emergencies for recovery and ensure resumption of clearance and settlement activities in wholesale financial markets. Going beyond business continuity the Fed must insist on more risk-sensitive measure of capital adequacy for the largest 20 banks and apply the new guidelines. The Fed should require and encourage Banks to report their exposures to risk in terms of the market value of their assets, liabilities and off-balance-sheet positions. This will enable customers, creditors and shareholders to evaluate their prospects and react accordingly. They should also be required to report on the risk management and risk control systems in place. The development and use of rating agencies should be encouraged by the Federal Reserve. A major task for the Federal Reserve in public policy will be to ensure that financial regulation does not distort or stifle rapid and beneficial innovation, while responding appropriately to the challenges that financial innovation will pose

Budget deficit: On a non institutional front the weak job growth and a ballooning budget deficit are important problems facing the economy . With consumer debts rising in relation to household income, a further rise in interest rates would increase household debt service burdens and could push financially strapped families over the edge into bankruptcy (especially if unemployment stays as high as it is now). The Fed needs to balance consumer spending, which is good for the economy, with the potentially ill effects of rising debt.Unless the economy expands drastically in the next two years, and that appears unlikely, tax revenue will not increase and unless discretionary spending is cut there is a risk of budget deficits further increasing. Keeping a balanced budget would be a short to intermediate term concern but the Fed would not be able to influence programs for Government spending. It is important that it is able to bring about a more balanced budget. Unrestricted increases in government spending will crowd out the market for private investment and result in overall rise in long term interest rates. This will adversely affect investment decisions for the future. Bernanke should use his office to encourage congress to bring about spending cuts.

Social Security & Medicare: If the social security system is to survive in its current form, either real benefit must be curtailed, or real taxes increased. The Fed may not be able to solve this problem on its own but it should decidedly raise concern for Congress to have the political will to confront this issue. A primary cause of social security's funding imbalance stems from the fact that, until very recently, the payments into the social security trust accounts by the average employee, plus employer contributions and interest earned, were inadequate, at retirement, to fund the total of retirement benefits. This has started to change. Under the most recent revisions to the law, and presumably conservative economic and demographic assumptions, today's younger workers will be paying social security taxes over their working years that appear sufficient to fund their benefits during retirement. However, the huge unfunded liability for current retirees, as well as for much of the work force closer to retirement, leaves the system, as a whole, badly under funded. . Given President Bush’s public stance that existing retirees or those approaching retirement will not be adversely affected the Federal Reserve has a responsibility to frame this issue for Congress’s agenda.

Monetary Policy: Since the primary purpose of the Federal Reserve is to ensure sustained growth and stability by regulating the supply of money and credit to the economy it now faces the challenge to stop raising the real federal funds rate

Foreign Capital: The has become so dependent on foreign capital inflow that were such reversals, or even a significant slowdown, to take place it could set off a financial crisis leading to a recession. This is a source of risk The Fed also needs to be concerned at a stage that many governments have accumulated large amounts of dollar-denominated debt and they may be less willing to fund future current account deficits. Therefore the Fed needs to act to increase national savings and employ other fiscal tools to incentivate people to save more.

Payment Operations: The Fed's ability to conduct monetary policy and bank regulation has been accused of being compromised by the need to manage its nationwide payment operations. Technology is rapidly changing the way payments are made. Removing all responsibility for processing retail payments from the Fed would permit it to concentrate fully on performing its vital public functions. It must instead strengthen the role it plays as serving as the banker's bank, the government's bank, the regulator of financial institutions, and as the nation's money manager over the next 2 years

New forms of risks: There is also a need to push for deposit insurance reform so that free riding by banks through government guarantees is reduced and depositories are treated the same way. As financial services firms adopt new product lines, enter new markets and lose the protection of traditional industry barriers, managing risk has become a major concern. In today's financial markets, many firms offer products and services that cross what had once been traditional boundaries. As a result, they must now manage default, interest-rate and market risks as well as risks associated with liquidity and operations. The Federal Reserve must become itself more aware over the next 2 years of these categories of risks if it is to extend effective oversight

Over the coming few years’ market discipline will slowly substitute for prudential regulation. Having said this in the shorter term increasing emphasis must be placed on developing investor trust and proper market values throughout the regulatory process and improved disclosure. Another source of risk to the financial system is fraud. The last few years has seen an increase in governance, accounting, and legal compliance failings in publicly held companies and mutual funds. This is a bad trend that can adversely affect the financial markets. Innovation in risk transfer products brings new challenges to risk management issues. The Federal Reserve needs to work even more now than ever before with the banks they supervise to strengthen capacity in training its examiners to identify violations of non-banking laws, compliance with tax codes, independent legal or tax analysis of transactions etc. In many respects the infrastructure of any regulatory regime is the people that enforce and oversee regulations that have been put in place by the political process. In this changing financial sector, investments must be made in this infrastructure to insure that the regulatory staff is cognizant of global market trends and are capable of assuring the health of institutions under their regulatory mantle

An area of importance for example is the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act allowed banks to affiliate with insurance underwriters and insurance agencies. To date, about 630 bank holding companies have chosen to become financial holding companies. Federal Reserve has little expertise in supervising insurance companies and needs to augment is capacities over the next two years

i will email this post to him

Book: Real Leadership

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Real Leadership : Helping People and Organizations Face Their Toughest Challenges

I spent the better part of this afternoon to reread :
Real Leadership : Helping People and Organizations Face Their Toughest Challenges
by Dean Williams

"This book debunks popular leadership notions of the strong visionary charismatic individual who stands head and shoulders above others leading his followers to victory.
Dean William's premise is that at the end of the day a group of people themselves need to confront their reality and themselves contend with conflicting demands on their ingrained values, habits and practices. This is easier said than done of course. The role of someone exercising true leadership is to help the group analyze it's challenges (and it shows how to do so) and help them come to terms with attitudinal shifts they may have to make to respond to these challenges. It provides an excellent framework to analyze context specific leadership challenges as well as the tussle between a groups feeling, the barriers to progress in exercising leadership and potential rewards should progress be achieved.
It goes to the core of the leadership matter and explores issues with examples across the private enterprise, politics, non profits and the public sector. The book is replete with colorful anecdotes, topical and historical examples and news items which help to intuitively clarify the context and challenges of leadership. In order to illustrate concepts Williams examines characters and contexts from popular movies that many of us may have seen (Gandhi, Lawrence of Arabia, the Fog of War, The Last Samurai etc) through the prism of his framework. For me this helped to do away with much of the jargon one sees these days in the academic literature on leadership.
`Real Leadership' does not stop at just analysis and interpretation. It also provides valuable practical tools and strategies for one to actually do something about it.
Overall an excellent read and decidedly a book worth buying. "

Movie; The Fog of War

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The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara

My impression is that "the fog of war" was also about about creating a better world, engaging the hearts, mind and the gut of decision makers whose decisions affects the life and death of nations. The US govt. during Kennedy’s and LBJ’s administration faces many of the choices the current govt. faces albeit in another context.
The first lesson from McNamara’s talk was he puts the work back to us to develop a heightened awareness of the dangers posed by modern weapons and asks us to think about how we can contribute to reduce these weapons for our children’s sake. He encouraged people to read the Kennedy tapes. I was struck by how dangerous concentration in power and authority can be when he spoke about ‘one human being has the potential to launch weapons and destroy world. Such concentrated authority coupled with "human fallibility’ came so close to destroying the world. Leadership should recognize their own fallibilities and put a system of checks and balances (in his example hotline, test bans, permissive locks) etc. These are technical solutions and important ones at that another technical solution that will make the world a safer place is to reduce the number of weapons to around 20.
Leadership must also distinguish between moral deeds and immoral deeds. He was against the brutal bombings against Japan and commented that those same actions will be construed as immoral if the USA had lost the war. While one can argue that ‘to the victors goes the spoils of history’ I too am in favor that leadership lies in developing widely endorsed and accepted international standards in war and the development of judicial deterrent. Since leasers and authority figures are only human it is important that there exists a system to keep them in check from themselves.
This was further highlighted where a resolution gave LBJ complete authority from congress to go to war in Vietnam. When an authority figure has unchecked authority even if he is wrong he is able to get away by carrying his sense of righteousness in his mind. Bob was right when he said we often see incorrectly and further more we see what we want to believe. In war, in perceiving the ‘work’ belief and seeing are often wrong. Adaptive work is more complex than technical work and is similar to military operations and therefore mistakes happen. It makes sense for a leader to take time to be sure her decisions are correct and often when they are not correct to have the good sense and humility to recognize that she may be wrong.
The importance of empath cannot be to over emphasized. Bob says that they were able to put themselves in skin of soviets during the missile crisis which helped save the world. They did not do so in Vietnam where the Vietnamese saw it as civil war and the US saw it as cold war. Both sides did not empathize and this led to a complete breakdown. Leadership should have been about being more sensitive to the culture, the history, and the aspirations of the Vietnamese people. Deploying empathy can help a leader diffuse tense situations and it is important for a leader to surround him with people capable of empathy as Ambassador Thomson was. It makes me wonder why we as a nation are less empathetic now than 20 yrs ago.
Repeatedly we see unilaterism. Indeed it is a tool of foreign policy now and it makes sense when one nation has global hegemony. In most leadership situations this is not the case for every authority figure has to work with a team of people. The lesson for a leader is not to apply power unilaterally but to "persuade others with comparable values about the merits of your cause. If you cannot do that then u should reexamine your reasoning."
The fact of the matter is that since human affairs are so complex we are not able to comprehend all the "variables". It would be an uphill and fruitless battle many a time to try to change "human nature". Cold logic and reason has its limits when interacting with people or when leading them.
Of course one needs to couple powerful analytic arguments with emotional appeal, appeal to constituency stakes to force deliberation when people brush important issues aside. This takes leadership and guts (Not synonymous all the time of course).
My take away was we make mistakes and we should, when we experiment with exercising leadership, identify those mistakes, take corrective action and pass on the learning to others.

Movie: King Rat

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about King Rat

It is certainly nice to be able to stick to ones pledge and actually see all the movies one had seen before. 8 more to go from this list. I went through King Rat the 1965 japanese prisoner-of-war camp n Singapore movie.

The dynamics revolved around the formal authority the Military Police (and the senior officers in the chain of command and the informal authority King had. Everyone was subject to the formal authority and those that stood to benefit from what could provide to them gave King his informal authority – until he was no longer integral to satisfying their needs when the war came to an end.
The dynamics were open confrontational when formal authority imposed to ‘sucking up’ when King made demands. The group let him do what he wanted for he had embodied qualities that they did not have- qualities that had to do with ‘working the system ‘ and getting them cigarettes and rations. It was clear that the group had little love for King and he was their instrument to satiate their needs. He in turn needed them for he could not have done it all on his own. The group and King colluded – King got a sense of importance even though he was low down in the military hierarchy. The work of the group was to balance the need to keep law and order through self regulation with survival. The group handed over the responsibility to maintain the rules of the camp to the MP and a subsection of the group handed over responsibility for increasing their odds of survival to King. In both cases they shirked the responsibility of taking on the work of maintaining law and order as well as survival by delegating it to authority figures.
By doing so they did not have to come to terms with their reality. In many instances when the group knew that theft, fraudulent measures were used etc was happening they looked the other way. This enabled them to not confront their reality. Of course it is easier to say this when one is a detached observer but when the group was shut off from the world and has little chances of survival or hope for survival morale breaks and work takes second place. The danger is people will give you authority in groups to meet their aspirations and then take it away when those needs change. One can start to begin to believe, as indeed King did, that one is a natural leader and is destined to lead the group.in the final scenes when the war was over people changed and King felt so alone. He pined for the old days when he could satisfy their needs and they would have him king. He almost loathed the thought of leaving the camp for he had quite forgotten he was but a corporal- he had begun to think he was King.
The role of leadership in such situations is shaped by the needs of the group.It may have little, as in King’s case, to do with one’s innate leadership abilities to mould group hungers and channel them constructively to making the group see its purpose and take responsibility for its behavior and do its own work.

thoughts on Iraq: a US lens

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my thoughts on the iraq situation

Thinking aloud about Iraq as things stand in Jan 2006.Lets begin from first principals from an American perspective and our own lens

Issue: What and how much of it should we do for a stable transition to Iraqi self rule to ensure that we continue to protect our national interests and the reason why we fought the war with Iraq

US Interests: Vital – We ensure that Iraq’s existing and future 10 years capacity for developing WMD as well as harboring anti US terrorists is stopped. - We reaffirm our good standing with our traditional Arab allies through not being seen as occupiers of Iraq. - We continue to provide stability to Iraq’s oil rich OPEC neighbors and in particular Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, UAE to prevent disruption to oil supplies. Less Important: Create a stable peaceful democratic prosperous post war Iraq forever and ever.
Objectives: Put appropriate post withdrawal mechanisms in place to continually verify and audit Iraqi capacity to develop WMD or be a breeding ground for terrorists. We involve Iraq’s neighbors (sans Iran and Syria) to take on an increasing role in supporting Iraq’s future. We retain control and the right to intervene in future in Iraq’s military affairs through actively supporting secular/moderate political elements in Iraq and its current democratically elected leadership. Given the extremely high costs envisaged in: financial, domestic opinion, American lives, we publicly moderate and reduce US involvement in creating a sustained peaceful stable Government and let the Iraqi’s and international community (??) take greater ownership .
Discussion: Given the President’s publicly stated position in the past of helping Iraqi people build a stable prosperous democratic future would we be seen to be renege on our promise?
Option 1: Provide tacit support to install future moderate US friendly governments. Control "puppet" govt. by proxy and replace hardliner’s Pros: Will be able to defend US national interests at lower price than with active intervention. Cons: Interim period of chaos, civil strife, and wide resentment against the US as civil war drags on and costs mount
Option 2: Provide partial US military protection, link country building aid with predefined objectives, marshal international community, Iraq’s neighbors and UN to let Iraqis do their own adaptive work. Pros: Will be good for public opinion at home given the domestic mood, recall American troops, be seen as multilateral by the international community Cons: Absence of support for Iraq, less US future control in Iraq’s destiny, loss in international credibility
Recommendation: We go with option 2. We put the ball back on the Iraqi and the international community’s court having served our purpose of replacing Saddam, reducing Iraq’s capacity for developing WMD and threatening its neighbors and fertile breeding ground for terrorists,
Implementation: ??? How to to it?? Can't figure this part of it out:(

Public issues and morality:Cuomo

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public issues and morality

Its been ages since I wrote.It is important for a guy to stick to schedule. So here is visiting Cuomo once again....but this time in a public context..
Public officials should not base public decisions on their personal beliefs.. officials in a pluralistic democracy should engage only in such decision making as is based on shared values and modes of reasoning available to everyone. Other points of view including those of the private individual who comprise the "public" need to be evaluated in order to understand the complexities of the process that culminates in public decision.
Public officials in democracies are officers elected to act as representatives of the people – the public. Therefore public decisions are those that are "Of, concerning, or affecting the community or the people". (Webster Dictionary definition of the term Public). Complexities arise because "public" is not a homogenous mass but made up of individuals that live under a myriad of markers such as race, class, gender and religion – groups which make the individual similar to and different than others at various times. The public official is also an individual that is made up of the same markers and yet being in a position of authority needs to make choices on behalf of the people s/he represents forcing themselves to "wrestle with the problems"
At every decision making point, there are always a number of opinions to be considered. Each decision means some point of view being accepted and some another rejected. While the merits of each can be debated endlessly from a theoretical standpoint, practical reality needs to intervene and a decision needs to be made. In my opinion, public officials are in their positions of authority to represent voices of the community and they need to fulfill this function by speaking for this community.
Cuomo’s belief seems to be that of a practical relativist – he believes in Catholic principles and the Constitution and agrees that these two might not always work hand in hand. For e.g. while the Catholicism teaches pro-life, the constitution is pro-choice. However, there are some transcultural standards that help decisions on these "moral" issues such as helping the needy and universal belief and respect of "life". So his solution is to solve the underlying problems – e.g. poverty that seems to be a common thread in discussions on whether Medicaid should support abortion. I support this practicality in his relativist thinking. It opens the door to address issues that give rise to symptoms.
I differ from Cuomo when he contends that it is sometimes practical not to speak up and take sides. Fence sitting is in itself a position – in other words, silence speaks volumes as was in the case of Catholic Church silence for abolition of slavery before the Civil war in America. Practicality does not mean not taking sides – in this case the Catholic Church sided with the pro-slavery voices by being silent. To repeat myself – making a decision means choosing one side and NOT another.
The case of Muslims in France is interesting for yet another perspective in the public decision making process. While America believes in pluralism, France seemed to be steeped in uniform nationalism with "being French" at the heart of the notion. From a historical stand point it seems justified – faced with threats of diluting national identity, a nation needed to be fiercely "French". However, this rule does not continue to apply when the composition of a nation has changed as a result of wars, disintegrating colonies, movement of people and economic opportunities. Being French means different things to different people who constitute the public.
WE need to address not the symptom of whether to let female students in school wear headscarves or not, but to treat the cause – in this case, issue of minority identity in Modern day France, intertwined with the issue of economic standards that the minorities live in.
What is most interesting in all these cases are the symbols that are used to debate worldviews and perspectives. Headscarves, veils, shawls and abortions are the main points of discussion today – all symbols of how women’s lives can be dictated by men. The issues are complicated as they are and for a woman in a public space perhaps even more so. Can a woman really keep the personal belief out of a public policy in these cases? Should she? I think that the answer is complex – h/she will need to take a stand and in doing do agree with some thoughts and disagree with others.
The political space is a game of authority and power. Elected representatives need to be the voices of the "public" that they represent and not "individuals" with only their personal belief systems. It is a complex task to make decisions when there are multiple perspectives. However, in this power game the root cause of many symptoms are forgotten and stripped of their complexity, every multicultural issue can be reduced to the "damned shawl". Decisions have to be made in keeping with the public one represents and at every point making a decision means choosing one side and rejecting another.

Movie: One night the moon

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Monday, January 23, 2006
watching the same movies over and over again

One night the moon..oh such a sad movie..

I tried watching this movie all over again after 2 years. This was a very sad movie and I could not bear to watch it towards the end. Stuck with a husband who allows his prejudice to stand in the way of finding their lost daughter, the mother goes to the aborigine tracker to help her track her child. But by then it is much too late. The father and mother were both deeply entrenched in his own racist values. The mother too was as racist as they come but she, in the interests of vested self interest, decided to use the aborigine trackers help.
It goes to show that we must listen to each other and in particular listen to those who sit at the fringes. Listening enough is not enough however. For people to genuinely change they need to be willfully conscious of what our harp strings are, the choices we face and whether we have the courage to exercise those choices. Once we have made our choices it is time to take a decision and then act on it. It is not enough for us to insist that someone or something is driving us to behave the way we do. In the movie the father was responsible for his biases which reflected in the way he treated others.
A major delusion the father faced was his extremely, almost arrogant belief, in his own abilities. He needed to acknowledge, after the initial tracking party was unsuccessful that he should reach out to the expert aborigine tracker and shed his own bias. If the father was self-responsible he would have worked to become aware of his own beliefs and values and reached out to people who see things differently.
Other people do not exist as means to your ends, any more than you live in service to their goals. People may choose to help one another -- voluntarily as the aborigine wanted to.
Racism is destructive. It disempowers people by devaluing their identity. It destroys community cohesion and creates divisions in society as i saw in the Australian farm in the movie. Racism is the result of a complex interplay of individual attitudes, social values and institutional practices that prevailed in Australia then. It is expressed in the actions of individuals and institutions and is promoted in the ideology of popular culture which at the early settlement days was to hate the aborigines.
It changes its form in response to social change. Racism has its roots in the belief that some people are superior because they belong to a particular race, ethnic or national group . The concept of race is a social construct, not a scientific one. Racist attitudes and beliefs are misconceptions about people based on perceived racial lines and are often founded on the fear of difference, including differences in customs, values, religion, physical appearance and ways of living and viewing the world. It is so easy to learn not to be a racist if one wants to consciously do that.

Corporate Governance thoughts

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

thoughts on corporate governance

A good Corporate Governance form must provide empowerment to the executive management of a company, and simultaneously create a mechanism of checks and balances . This ensures that the decision making powers vested in the executive management is not misused and fosters greater responsibility to meet stakeholder aspirations and societal expectations.
Flowing from this philosophy and core principles, Corporate Governance in a large company or a conglomerate can take place at three interlinked levels:
-Strategic supervision by the Board of Directors
-Strategic management by the Corporate Management Committee
-Executive managment by the Divisional Chief Executive assisted by the Divisional Management Committee
A company must have the right balance between freedom of management and accountability to shareholders. this can be achieved by segregating strategic supervision from strategic and executive management. The Board of Directors as trustees of the shareholders exercise strategic supervision through strategic direction and control, and seek accountability for effective strategic management from the Corporate Management Committee. The CMC has the freedom, within Board approved direction and framework, to focus its attention and energies on the strategic management of the Company. Divisional Chief Executives, assisted by the Divisional Management Committee, have adequate freedom to focus on the executive management of the divisional business.
a 3-tier governance structure thus ensures that :
(a) Strategic supervision (on behalf of the shareholders), being free from involvement in the task of strategic management of the Company, can be conducted by the Board with objectivity, thereby sharpening accountability of management.
(b) Strategic management of the Company, uncluttered by the day-to-day tasks of executive management, remains focused and energised; and
(c) Executive management of the divisional business, free from collective strategic responsibilities gets focused on enhancing the quality, efficiency and effectiveness of its business
Issues in Corporate Governance that would be useful for me to investigate this year
- Practical considerations in setting up effective governance structures. Stuff like how many people should be on the board, 'ideal composition', how many external vs internal directors etc. These are issues that all of us take as a given but don’t really delve into
-topical news issues that ican easily read about in magazine articles. Need to keep an eye out
-How can executives make the transition from management to becoming Board Members....

Business vs environment:my email

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

my email on: business vs environment:

Sometime back someone wanted to know if she ought to support a bunch of guys/NGO blocking the development of a business....the factory would 'harm the environment'. I dug this out as I delete all my old emails..rather than trash it I thought I'd put it up here..Atleast it will keep the momentum of maintaining a Blog going:)
My thoughts reproduced below (cut and paste from the email i sent her)

Hi Since you wanted to hear a multiplicity of perspective on the issue of Business/vs Environment I thought I would take some time and put the issue in a larger context.Nowadays, NGOs have gained more power and legitimacy, and business increasingly has to answer to them as stakeholders.These groups have gained varying legitimacy status. Despite varying legitimacy, many of them wield enormous power. Power without legitimacy can constitute a dangerous situation.I will NOT be protesting against Sterlite to save the biodiversity hotspot in Orissa based on the information that I have and I have my reasons. Lemme explain where I am coming from and why I behave the way I do:1. The traditional stockholder-oriented approach holds that the firm exists principally to maximize returns to owners.The role of business is economic. It is to create as much wealth as possible operating within the rules laid down by society. The unbridled exercise of power is constrained by Labor laws, commercial laws, comml.code, . When business tries to do MORE than that, when the accede to the demands of the crowd or the environmentalists in Orissa, they give legitimacy ot what amount of unlegislated 'taxes' are to be imposed on their shareholders and thus undermine their own legitimacy. This is often the path to poverty for a society2. On the other hand, the stakeholder approach asserts that the firm is responsible to, and should be run for the benefit of, a number of constituencies, i.e. employees, environment, customers blah blah....At the heart of the stakeholder model is the principle that all persons must be respected. They are ends in themselves and not a means to an end.Unlike the stockholder model, which dictates that all actions and decisions must be taken with a view to owners' interests, the stakeholder model offers few guidelines as to which stakeholder group gets priority.3. It would help if practising managers like ourselves appraise stakeholders in terms of their power, their legitimacy, and their urgency. Placing a stakeholder in the right category offers a pointer on how that stakeholder should be treated. I'll build on it:Power: What is usually meant by power is that one party has the means to get its way, even in the face of resistance by others. power of all kinds can be temporary and easily lost- we have seen arrogant companies like Nike and others bow to stakeholder pressure. Its happeneing in India too in the case of cocal cola etc. Power may be latent. That is, it is not exercised. We managers should be aware of stakeholders who are quiescent until their interests are awakened,as in the case of environmentalists in OrissaLegitimacy: A second way of classifying stakeholders is by their legitimacy. An obvious basis of legitimacy is that some relationship exists between the firm and the stakeholder, such as a contract, or the company may be significantly responsible for a stakeholder's well being. The presence ofrisk also may invoke legitimacy claims.A moral claim also constitutes legitimacy. This means that the stakeholder ( the environmentalist here) can benefit or be harmed, or have rights upheld or violated by corporate actions.Urgency: The third dimension in which to classify stakeholders is that of urgency.For example,setting up this plant will screw up the environment so badly that people wont be able to live there...4. While each of these three dimensions can grab the attention of managers, in combinations, they are likely to be even more salient.Of course, there may be disagreement about the extent of the attributes possessed by various stakeholders.Managers over- or underestimate the extent of stakeholderattributes at their peril.A mishandled stakeholder problem situation can deteriorate into a crisis. 5. There are some who advocate that a 'responsible' approach to business or an 'enlightened self interest' requires a shift in the purpose of business from shareholders to all stakeholders. My position on the issue is that the only thing business is good at , is well suited at is that it can maximise the material weel being of a society. The striving of each company to maximise the present net present value takes Adam Smiths 'invisible hand' out of its pocket and puts it to work by best allocating a company's resources. Now here is where the problem lies- maximising wealth for shareholders ( a very noble objective in itself) often conflicts with other stakeholders and in this case the environment.6. Much of the time, the business case coincides with the stakeholder case when powerful, legitimate urgent stakeholders are involved. But there are many stakeholders with no power, and even if much of the business world admits the legitimacy of these stakeholders, it is unwilling to grant them attention and see their plight as an urgent matter. And that's whats happening with these environmentalists in Orissa and they want to use us to enhance their power. I wont allow myself, as a rational guy, to be a pawn in their agenda.The ultimate purpose is advancing the human condition. I might agree that shareholder returns may be a means to that end, not the other way around. But I do not believe that blocking shareholder returns for the environment is a cause more 'worthy'.Thats why I wont be protesting :)

US Israel Palestine;with Hamas in power

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Friday, January 27, 2006

How to create a more constructive US role in advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace?

What good is democracy if guys elect a Hamas? The same thing ahd happened when Hitler was elected..

Now that Sharon is out and likely to remain out and Hamas seems to be coming to power with their 76/132 win in palestine what can the current US Administration do to continue to advance the Israeli Palestenian issue and reduce anti american feelings.. By putting onself in the shoes of a " hawkish "washington policy maker one can try to simulate the current thinking going forward. Here is a half baked attempt:)
How to create a more constructive US role in advancing an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement so as to remove Palestine as an anti American symbolism in the Islamic world. This engagement has to be balanced against the fragmentations in domestic Israeli politics now that Sharon is out as well as the US’s foreign policy objectives in the Middle East will change post Iraq.
Being seen as an honest broker through resolving in unbiased manner the Israeli Palestine conflict will improve our image in the Islamic world, reduce anti American sentiment that has been building up over the last 5 years and allow us to win regional influence on behalf of peace. This will strengthen American predominance in Middle East and set the stage for subsequent focus on greater democratization in GCC countries.
US National Interests:
Vital Interests: Repairing relationships with the Islamic world will enable us to continue the war on terror as Arab support for fight on terrorism, reducing threat from WMD (no body talks about it these days but to my mind the threat still exists - it is no apparition) would all be easier to achieve after Israeli-Palestinian peace. (High Threat)
Important Interests: a)Improve relationships with a portion of 1.3 B Muslim consumers (Low Threat) b)encouraging democracy and political reforms in Middle east (Medium Threat)
A two-state solution through negotiation, an end to Israeli occupation and enforceable security guarantees for Israel through:
- Palestinian terrorist infrastructure to be thoroughly dismantled and Hamas reformed.
- Israel to evacuate settlement outposts, freeze settlement activity and withdraw from reoccupied territory.
- Both sides to cease acts of provocation.
Given the historical failure of such well meaning intentions we need to be cognizance of Israeli and Palestinian skepticism. On the Israeli aspect we need to recognize the fragmentation of Israeli domestic politics where for the a) "No choice/national camp"; we need to weaken alliances and US support b) for the "Peace Camp"; we need to support Sharon’s past efforts through funding the development of modernizing programs, developing more secular values through reforming the education system, separation of religion and state, and integration of Jewish identity.
For the Hamas we need to encourage and incentives them to a) demonstrate peaceful coexistence with Israel b) it would not make sense to strengthen the new elected leadership and help em do their job . Arafat's passing away has been a boon PBUH but this Hamas business is from the frying pan to the fire. c) enact a constitution assuring the rule of law, independent judiciary, and respect for human rights d) take steps to bring transparent and accountable governance. This is one of the most important issues methinks
Option 1: Let Israel and Palestine continue the current negotiation as well as phased Israeli withdrawal and US to a) provide a third party security environment for Palestine b) manage the other constituencies . By this I mean :
a) Set an international NATO /UN/Palestine Authorities led security force, post phased Israeli withdrawal, in the West Bank and Gaza for maintaining peace and building security and policing capacity through training and support. After 9-12 months devolve authority and responsibility to Palestine with a UN monitoring role. Having a peace background will allow for a climate of negotiation on final boundaries, build trust for an eventual settlement in 2 years time. Set an international panel to monitor and judge Israeli and Palestine pre agreed milestones during interim period
b) Hold both Palestine govt. and Israel accountable for violations . No further Israeli support for expanding settlements. Send strong message to Syria and Iran that support for Hamas and terrorist nations will not be acceptable. Negotiate with Palestine that not all refugees can return to Israel for that will destabilize the demographics.
Pros: Provide a peaceful environment for negotiations to process and trust building
Cons: a) Fighting peace disruptors will be seen as fighting Palestinians and alienate Muslims b) Fighting/subduing settlers /casualties will be very unpopular in Israel c) Israel may not trust its defense to outsiders d)Israel and Palestine, left to themselves, will probably not be able to achieve peace
Option 2: Assist to create new Palestine leadership going forward if the current leadership falters and fails to marginalize radicals or fails to engage and win Israeli trust through successful action. After this is done make efforts to renew the peace process Alienate radicals, put pressure to reduce Palestine support for militant factions ( problem is Hamas itself is the Palestine Authority now) and marginalize radicals in 1 year’s time. Reform Palestine govt and build credible institutions and continue negotiations after this is done. Explicit monitoring for curbing Israeli excesses and Palestine terrorism in the interim period.
Pros: a) Will be better for Palestine for the long term. b) Israel will be more open and trusting and may give larger concessions c) Has potential to break stalemate of last decade
Cons: a) Will be seen as destabilizing and interfering in Palestine in the Islamic press b) No guarantees c) No guarantees that radical elements will not come to power and this has the risk to take the peace process back many years
Take option 1 while setting the stage for some elements of option 2 as described below in the implementation plan.
a) Press to set up a UN/NATO led police force with an explicit mandate to maintain law and order in West Bank, Gaza and other pre-agreed territories.
b) Influence outcome of negotiation by instilling need for making concessions in key areas:
(1) Palestine Authority to recognize that all of east Jerusalem as part of the new Palestine may not be a viable
(2) Transfer of 90% territory from West Bank, Gaza to Palestine Authority and putting pressure on Israel to compensate for territory withheld /make alternate arrangements, dismantle settlements
(3) Pressure on Palestine Authority that pre 1948 immigrant return would be unacceptable and seek a common date between 1948-1967
(4) Reiterate 2 state solution through negotiation
c) president/condi to announce in speech the implementation plan
d) Make available funds for the Appropriations Committee for refugee and migration needs. Work closely with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, the International Organization for Migration, and the International Committee of the Red Cross, as well as nongovernmental organizations.
e) Make available funds to develop institutions, further legal reforms in the West Bank and Gaza
f) Issue of Jerusalem to be resolved through negotiations
g) Continue US support
Sticks: Exports from Israeli settlements should not be treated as originating from Israel for congessional support. Further aid to Palestine to be tied to it making the phased transition from a liberation movement to a government that now exists. Strengthen the Palestinian Legislative Council’s role in matters of aid deployment.
Carrots: Provide funding to alleviate the humanitarian crisis, and thus reduce the appeal of extremist groups
This could be one set of ways to look at issues as they stand today- atleast as they are reported in the popular media. But none of these will work IF HAMAS comes to form a coalition government..Jeez whtat a mess!!

Ed Schein's career anchors

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Saturday, January 28, 2006

schein's career anchor

I took Schein's career anchor orientation inventory today. It more or less ratified what I have always thought was often true of my own inner reactions- autonomy and independence.
Having recognized this I still find it very difficult for me to come to terms with the ‘revelation’. I am tempted to attribute flaws in the questionnaire which prompted me to select a few dominant motives which magically then ‘characterize my career anchor’- on the other hand this anchor (autonomy) is certainly something that I would never consciously and given a choice trade.
My career, given my personal situation and circumstances, has not evolved in the classic sense of the word as Schein so eloquently describes. I wish it had. I had to take on General Management responsibilities very early in life – something that I abhorred but nevertheless accepted. I thought I did reasonably well in it too even though I never really liked it. Where I find cognitive dissonance is to recognize and come to terms with the fact that I will be ‘forced’ to do something for the rest of my life that I truly deep down don’t want to! As someone said ‘and pay you will the price of power’. Often we have to pay a very high personal price by compromising our inner beliefs, aspirations and transgress our comfort zones. I have this deep sense of uneasiness at the moment. It would take 3-4 hours to do justice to my innermost thoughts. Thoughts that I am still in the process of coming to terms with. I will write more later once I have been able to compose my thoughts and have a clearer sense of purpose , identity and self image.

About making decisions

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Sunday, January 29, 2006

About making decisions

All of us make decisions all the time. Some decisions are trivial and we make them ourselves, some that effect those beyond ourselves we make in consultation with our friends,family and colleagues and still others we let others make for us.
Decision making from a corporate "leader's" perspective is a tough exercise for it impacts the workplace, shareholders and employees. Also her decisions are being closely scrutinized by many people . It is important that leaders spend more effort than others in arriving at 'optimal' decisions. Having said that every decision from a particular vantage point will be suboptimal for it may not cater to a particular vested interest. It should be considered optimal if it seeks to advance the corporate charter without being too machiavellian (though some would disagree with me here)??.
Whatever the moralistic basis the mechanics of arriving at a decision is very important. It is important that a leader is not biased with his own gut feel or the initial inputs that he receives. Sometimes seeking for alternatives leads one to see things in a completely new perspective which may lead to a different decision. Therefore, in arriving at a decision that has company wide ramification it is important that we are not steeped completely in historical context. This inclination may distort objectivity in decision making. On the contrary good decisions are made when we go out of our way to seek newer options and alternatives, restate our original premises, back our decisions with quantitative data where possible and test our hypothesis. Given the uncertain environment that surrounds business, the quick pace of change and the need to often make adjustments to synchronize with the external world a decision, when made, should never be carved in stone. It should have options for modification.
I have found that while an objective decision making process is certainly very important in itself, equally importantis participants to buy into the decision - for they are the ones who would ultimately live by or implement the decision. This at times meant tireless campaigning, one to one sessions with people and other attempts towards building trust and emotional commitment around the decision. I found also found that my personal traits( as others saw them subjectively) such as my character, style, past actions and behaviour materially affected the degree of buy in I got. It is my belief that clear unambiguous open support for the decision from most quarters contributed in substantial measure towards the effectiveness of implementation effectiveness of the decision.

Doing business in emerging markets

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Monday, January 30, 2006

about doing biz in emerging markets- my 10 commandments

For 40 days and 40 nights he laboured. At the end of the 40th night realization dawned and he knew the truth..and the truth set him free. Free to do business in emerging markets!!:) These are my 10 commandments from personal experience
• Thou shat understand thy Joint Venture partner. Thou shalt maketh effort to understand mutual vested interests –explicitly stated and implicit- for ensuring thy sustained beneficial partnership
• Thou shalt befriend Government and local authorities in emerging markets and try to align thy stated goals, actions and plans with Govt. policies. Then the Government and the Lord shalt both support thee
• Thou shalt continually test thy assumptions with ground reality through discreet feedback from local authorities. This shalt prevent unpleasant surprises
• Thou shalt recognize the absence of proper laws, governance mechanisms and a general lack of transparency business situations and shalt frame thy consequent response. Often there are no precedents, and even when there are, they are no predictor and sometimes not applicable to the new situation.
• Thou shalt strip ‘Investment banking deal making’ of its hallowed veneer. It is much like good old plain salesmanship or strategic account management
• Thou shalt not try to con thy partner.Joint Ventures that favor only one party don’t last too long.
• Thou shalt read between the lines and examine the financial numbers and assumptions in great detail to uncover issues that may have a potential future impact. While the spirit of an agreement is certainly important it helps to have the letter echo it
• Thou shalt recognize that doing business in emerging markets is no magic. The ‘laws’ of doing business are very transportable apparently though small variant subtleties do exist
• Thou shalt ,during an IPO pay a lot of attention to classifying productive assets and have strict covenants (if that’s possible) on use of proceeds
• Thou shalt not practice black magic. There is no magic to deal making. At the end of the day it just boils down to common sense and purposefully considering all available information (and systematically searching for relevant unavailable information) to making informed , balanced and fair decisions.
Ofcourse when thou art visiting they JV partner thous shalt not covet his house, his wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass!

Culture in corporate organizations

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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Culture in corporate organization

I have found the aspects related to understanding and bringing about cultural change initiatives to be a very important part in creating systemic change in a company. I think that rational strategic design programs often fail because of an unappreciated understanding of underlying culture .Also political processes in a company evolve in response to or to make ‘capital’ of a company's culture.
Without understanding cultural issues many sensible programs such as those related to structural changes, TQM, re-engineering etc can easily be subverted. I recognize the potential causal role of culture in the success or failure of organization change and am for developing strategies and approaches for examining and redesigning cultural systems as an integrated aspect of change management.
When we think of "culture" we intuitively know what we are talking about but it becomes very difficult to capture and define. One should be able to look at 'culture' more meaningfully and deconstruct it to it artifacts, such as for example office layout, "who comes at what time to office and who rolls his sleeves" , rituals, stuff that we instinctively sense ,power equations, values, and behaviors coming together in a coherent holistic whole. Perhaps this complete view can be a starting point for us to look at organization culture?.
I believe, say for example, that while some companies celebrate individual contribution to an extreme ,however good one is as an individual it is important for companies to develop teamwork and team effectiveness. Now culture is what can make this possible. Cultural interventions through rewarding group productivity, Not celebrating the individual hero etc can over a period of time create an environment where teams flourish. I have seen scores of cases where individual actions, while very sensible, are often incongruent with company values. This always created problems for the individual and the organization too lost out by not absorbing the individual’s contribution. By purposefully aligning individual values with company values (as captured in its culture) I feel one can create greater workplace/employee value. I am not sure if I can extend this argument to shareholders and customers too but I suppose a company's culture does impact those dimensions too- perhaps in subtler ways.
When I take a walk down memory lane I can recollect many many instances when I did not understand the important underlying role that culture was playing. I blamed so many outcomes on "others", the "system" etc. My lack of understanding was expensive. Had I known better I would have facilitated both upward, downward and lateral communication about difficult issues, recognized political networks and coalitions.
A deeper recognition of culture can reveal mental models that are largely hidden from awareness, and usefully channel them to solving daily operational as well as more important issues.
I am a convert. I now recognize that once the issue of culture is addressed one needs to, with equal empathy, explore and reconcile political factors and strategic design. After all, dosen’t the Truth lie somewhere in between?


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Wednesday, February 1, 2006


In any environment where you have groups of people you'd see a number of underlying cultural rules play out. These will include things like people helping each other, people being respectful of each other’s feelings, everyone supportive of each other’s views and mutual respect.
There is however another element of culture- Groupism. People will tend to form tight groups based on language and regional factors. This may have its origins for.example in language issues where everyone is not comfortable in the common language a group is assigned to use etc. In extreme cases these groups will more or less function as self contained eco systems and make very little effort to invite people in or reach out to others. I go to the extent of saying that they do injustice to others and themselves by excluding others and themselves from others.
Another thing is, if you notice carefully, is that all is not well even within these groups. There is a lot of discord and turmoil beneath the surface. But that’s the thing- it is beneath the surface. And it rarely reaches the surface. So outsiders tend to see these as homogenous groups and communities:)
Why? I think it is because people here are much more willing to refrain from asserting their individual rights in favor of maintaining harmony. The welfare of the group outweighs the welfare of the individual in most cases. I think that many times this is taken to an unreasonable extreme.
And this is something that I have seen everywhere. Perhaps this is part of human nature. This ‘small-group’ nature perhaps constitutes a natural base for racism and all ethnocentrism. But if we recognize it in ourselves we can easily educate ourselves to rise above our small-group nature in order not to become ethnocentric or racist. People need to widen their perspectives from their own self-centered world to one that includes the people around them. Those who do not miss a wonderful life where we could potentially extend our own learning frontiers and experiences .

Developmental Policy-Indian States

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policy prescription/approach to development in north east indian states
In thinking through how one can bring development to the north east part of india or any other place I believe, more today than ever before, that the private sector,NGO's and educational institutions need to work hand in hand with public uthority toshape policy making and develop appropriate norms for the economic development of the north east part of the region.
While State Government is still responsible for creating the right frameworks in regulation, tax policy and market based initiatives to support business's efforts, people in business, can in turn contribute crucial financial, technical and managerial resources to meet the region's challenges. Given the enormity of challenges our country faces and the paucity of resources and talent in Sate Government these days, I am beginning to see an expansive view of what Business and Government can together achieve. In doing so, I advocate a broader and more proactive social economic political role for business leadership.
My broad observations:
• Building strong regional economies takes decades normally and North East India will be no different.
• Key influencing factors which need to be assessed separately for each state that will be a first step for any cohesive analysis will include assessing:
– Natural endowments
– Entrepreneurship
– Specialized assets
– Civic leadership
– State Government policy and actions and role of NEC
- Role of Multilateral agencies such as OFAD etc
• Development involves some inheritance and serendipity, but can also be strongly influenced by strategic choices
• Successful states will need to leverage their unique mix of assets to build specialized clusters
-Economic development is a collaborative process involving government at multiple levels, companies, teaching and research institutions,and institutions for collaboration .
Creating and Implementing a Regional Economic Strategy will require:
• A shared economic vision helps elicit broad support and coordinate activities
• Strong leadership is a necessary part of any successful economic development strategy
• An overarching organization for economic development helps coordinate and sustain the process
• Broad-based collaboration across actors is needed for development strategies to succeed
• Rigorous analysis to develop a fact base is a crucial early step in implementing a regional strategy
• An explicit process is needed to translate ideas into action
• Regions need to overcome transition points in the development of their economies, as past strategies run their course and the next stage of productivity growth is necessary
The region's economic growth and prosperity can be greatly enhanced
by a healthy regional economy. Why?
. Larger, inter state accessible markets for local firms
. Individual states become more attractive as places to invest if they create regional competitive clusters
. State's should try to grow only in those areas where they have unique strengths ( its more difficult than it sounds)
The states in the nort east will inevitably suffer if they are isolated or islands . Competitiveness can be greatly enhanced by regional coordination versus unilateral action. A sound macroeconomic, political, legal, and social context creates the potential for competitiveness, but is not sufficient . At the end of the day competitiveness ultimately depends on improving the microeconomic capability of the economy and the sophistication of local companies and local competition. So my feeling is that most of the responsibility for development should ultimately rest with local firms in North East India with government providing enabling environments. NGO's and groups and individuals such as us will be ultimately peripheral.