Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Interesting readings

T. N. Ninan on the four groups at work on the creeping expansion of welfare programs in India.

In addition to Parth Shah's blog post The Right to Education Act: A critique, also see Opening school doors to India's poor in the Wall Street Journal and The wrong way to school in the Mint. Also see Gurcharan Das in the Business Standard and Ashok Desai in Business World.

An editorial in the Financial Express on one step towards India as a unified country. And, see M. Govinda Rao on the issues surrounding the `fiscal council' proposal of the 13th Finance Commission.

The living debt by Ila Patnaik in the Indian Express.

Benchmark Mutual Fund has written two interesting documents: The myth of eternal alpha and The myth of predictable alpha which have new insights on the performance of fund managers in India. A fascinating discussion on these sprang up as comments on this blog post.

The Indian Corporate Law blog points us to the very important prospectus of the Standard Chartered IDR on the SEBI website.

What India does right: the private equity industry doesn't particularly have people with parents in politics or government, when compared with what is going on in China.

Another thing that India does not have: outsized foreign exchange reserves. P. J. O'Rourke once said: Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to boys. Most policy economists are careful in this respect, in terms of asking for a small expenditure/GDP ratio, in asking for government to live within its means, and in asking for every government agency to be enveloped in strong accountability mechanisms.
In this entire framework, the large pools of assets in the form of foreign exchange reserves have got a free pass. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Cathy Holcombe brings some original ideas into the debate on how much foreign exchange reserves a country should hold. India has been doing well in this regard: reserves have dropped from a peak of $305 billion to a most-recent value of $255 billion, which is 20% of GDP. This is most likely too much, but it isn't a problem on the scale of China's reserves. On a related theme, see this blog post on an Indian sovereign wealth fund.

Tarun Ramadorai in the Financial Express on the Reinhart/Rogoff findings about sovereign default, and how to interpret their story.

Nomination for the worst website in GOI: http://www.dgciskol.nic.in. It seems to violate every single guideline that I can think of.

Exploring Bohemian Mumbai by Kavitha Rao in a travel blog on the New York Times website.

Technology Review magazine profiles the 20 most brilliant innovators in India below age 35. There is a sea change in store in India when the next generation takes over. Turning to scientists of all ages, the ISI Web of Knowledge shows 9 people from India in their list of highly cited scholars. For a comparison, China (including Hong Kong) has 24 such scholars, and little Israel has 49.

Cory Doctorow is not optimistic about the Apple iPad.

The Economist says it's time to go back to copyright being limited to 28 years.

Robots coming into the mainstream: a story by Tim Hornyak on Cnet.

On Marginal Revolution, the policy wonk's lament.

The children of the twentieth century know that political and military catastrophes are entirely possible. Ben Judah has a great first draft of history in Foreign Policy magazine, telling his story from two days in Kyrgyzstan.

The children of the twentieth century locate a recent plane crash in western Russia in its larger story. Lech Walesa is quoted in this story in the Wall Street Journal by Marc Champion and Marcin Sobczyk as saying: This is a tragedy that's second after Katyn. Liz Robbins on the New York Times blog tells the tragic historical setting which frames this crash. The movie, Katyn, by Andrzej Mularczyk, is searing and unforgettable. See some photographs at The Big Picture on boston.com, and read Timothy Garton Ash in the Guardian.

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