Thoughts on economics and liberty

Category: Current Affairs

Is a stench of corruption arising from the Academy that trains IAS officers?

My father brought to my attention the following case (probably related to one of my close relatives, but the issue is generic and we should all be concerned). It appears that the place where IAS officers are taught the principles of integrity and good governance, is now perhaps itself involved in corruption.

These are the facts (through a formal RTI request, complete notings in the file have been obtained, so the position outlined below is based on direct knowledge):

1) LBSNAA invited tenders for a particular urgent work for its library.  

2) The concerned officers, after technical evaluation, recommended that contract be awarded to the Lowest tenderer (L-1).

3) Notings in the file took U-turn and suddenly Director agreed to cancel the tender and invite fresh tender. 

4) This time the tender introduced two conditions that specifically made L-1 ineligible:

a) Having known that L-1 has done similar work of automation of Library using RFID (Radio Frequency ID) in three major Libraries of India, the revised tender introduced a condition that only those who have done such work in five or more libraries are now eligible.

b) As a double precaution one more clause was added that only specified Software of a paticular company should be used. 

This made it effectively a single tender suiting ONLY the favoured party. L-1 was disqualified despite a demonstrated, tremendous capability (if it is the person I think it was, then that person is an IIT alumni – one of the few who didn't migrate outside India in order to serve the country), and cheaper price. [Btw, from this person, I have heard innumerable stories of corruption in government offices]

5) LBSNAA thereafter closed the matter by responding that the matter "has approval of the Competent Authority and no further correspondence can be obtained".
 
I do hope there was a genuine reason for forcing the Indian taxpayer to pay a HIGHER price for work that could have been successfully completed at a cheaper price. Without such genuine reason this behaviour is very suspicious.
 
Indeed, if there was a genuine reason to look for a particular software or for someone who had already done RFID work in five libraries, that should have been reflected in the original tender. And why was a particular software sought? We should specify outcomes, not the means.
 
Therefore the cancellation of tender to specifically exclude the lowest party is VERY FISHY!!! 
 

Independent investigation needed

I would like to request the Director of the Academy to IMMEDIATELY STOP WORK ON THIS PROJECT AND INVESTIGATE THROUGH AN INDEPENDENT PARTY (since he was directly involved in cancelling the first tender).
 
Once he is satisfied about the facts of the case, he should issue a detailed clarification on this blog so I can assure the public of India (and the world) that THE IAS ACADEMY HAS NOT ITSELF BECOME A DEN OF CORRUPTION!
 
Till such clarification is received, the reputation of the Academy is no longer clean, at least in my eyes
 
I suggest that it is NOT GOING TO BE POSSIBLE TO TEACH IAS OFFICERS ABOUT INTEGRITY IF THE ACADEMY'S REPUTATION IS SO DAMAGED. 
 
We were taught (at the Academy) in our days that not only must we be clean but we must APPEAR to be clean. This case DOES NOT give the appearance of integrity.
 
Indeed, why not have this issue investigated by Officer Trainees, and let their report be published? Let them use this as a case study on corruption/ allegations about corruption.
Continue Reading

What was India thinking – being friendly with Gaddafi!?

India has apparently been trying to be friendly with Gaddafi over the last few years!

Thus, "Datta-Ray writes that in 2007, Qadhafi was proclaiming that the sky was the limit when it came to cooperation between the two [India and Libya]. Not to be outdone, India’s finance minister was waxing eloquent about India’s “unlimited interest” in broadening ties between the two countries." (Source)

But this man is a total monster – the representation of pure evil on earth. I wish I had known this (Sadek's story, below) earlier, but surely India would have known it. And yet, India tried to be friendly with this monster?!

I know the current situation in Libya is beyond my control, and but I do hope that India does the right thing this time – by supporting the people of Libya against Gaddafi – and never supports such monsters in the future.

SADEK SHWEHDI'S STORY (NOT FOR THOSE WITH A WEAK STOMACH)

[Source]

Sadek was a student who had been educated in the US but returned to Libya to complete postgraduate studies. While qualifying as an aeronautical engineer at university in Oklahoma, he arranged forums about the direction of Libya under Colonel Gaddafi. Libya's secret police had obviously been monitoring him, and soon after his return he was detained.

On the morning of June 6, 1984, about 6000 students ranging from six-year-old primary school children to university students were told they were being taken to see Colonel Gaddafi make a speech.

Dozens of buses took them to the major venue in Libya's second city, Benghazi, the Suliman al-Darat Sports Hall.

As they walked into the massive stadium, they saw in the middle of the basketball court a long, thin curtain hanging from the roof.

Finally, at 4pm, the show started, broadcast live on state television. Seven judges appeared and announced they were putting Sadek Shwehdi on trial.

As the students watched, the judges asked: Are you Sadek Shwehdi? He was, he answered.

Had he been disloyal to Muammar Gaddafi? He had not, he said.

The judges said they had evidence he had been – and declared he had been found guilty.

A stunned Sadek was walked over to the centre of the basketball court and the curtain dropped away revealing a noose.

At this point, says Ibrahim, there were sounds of horror from the audience. Some shouted "No!"

The noose was put around Sadek's neck, at which point he began crying and, although 30 years of age, shouted: "I want to see my mother."

The rope was pulled up until he was hanging. But without the usual trapdoor and sudden fall, it was too slow to kill him.

One of Colonel Gaddafi's supporters in Benghazi, a woman called Hoda Benamer, rushed over and began swinging on Sadek's legs, trying to finish him off.

He would not die. So he was lowered to the floor and taken to Hawari Hospital, where five doctors examined him before one injected him with poison.

Still they could not kill him. So one of the doctors filled a sock with sand and pushed it down his throat. They held his nose so he couldn't breathe. Finally, he died.

Far from hiding his regime's brutality – and incompetence – Colonel Gaddafi insisted the botched hanging be replayed on television three times a day.

Colonel Gaddafi appointed Ms Benamer, the woman who hung from Sadek's legs, mayor of Benghazi. She is now one of the wealthiest women in the country.

Continue Reading

The world WILL produce enough food for 9 billion people

The Economist, in a special report of 26 February 2011 has provided an excellent summary about the world's food situation and future prospects.

The world population is expected to peak at 9 billion in 40 years. Prospects for feeding this huge population are very positive despite the many challenges that lie ahead. If trade is freed, technology encouraged, and prices allowed to move freely (including rise) in response to demand, there will be NO PROBLEM IN increasing global food production over the next 40 years – without harming the environment. Market signals are crucial in order to allow resources to be redirected appropriately. Julian Simon was right. The human mind is the greatest resource.

Some direct quotes from The Economist:

Food supply is well in excess of need

the world produces more than just enough to go round. Allowing for all the food that could be eaten but is turned into biofuels, and the staggering amounts wasted on the way, farmers are already producing much more than is required—more than twice the minimum nutritional needs by some measures. If there is a food problem, it does not look like a technical or biological one.

Meat demand is going to soar

In 2000, 56% of all the calories consumed in developing countries were provided by cereals and 20% by meat, dairy and vegetable oils. By 2050, the FAO thinks, the contribution of cereals will have dropped to 46% and that of meat, dairy and fats will have risen to 29%. [I'll discuss this next in a separate blog post]

Significant opportunities for reducing waste/ increasing production

50% increase through use of CURRENT technology: the best current technologies could perhaps increase yields by 50%—still a lot, but not as spectacular as the earlier improvements

20% increase through WASTE REDUCTION: In poor countries most food is wasted on or near the farm. Rats, mice and locusts eat the crops in the field or in storage. Milk and vegetables spoil in transit. These might be considered losses rather than waste. Kanayo Nwanze, the head of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, reckons that such losses could be reduced by half. That would be the equivalent of a rise in output of 15-25%, which would go a long way to providing the extra food needed by 2050.

Rich countries waste about the same amount of food as poor ones, up to half of what is produced, but in quite different ways. Studies in America and Britain find that a quarter of food from shops goes straight into the rubbish bin or is thrown away by shops and restaurants. Top of the list come salads, about half of which are chucked away. A third of all bread, a quarter of fruit and a fifth of vegetables—all are thrown out uneaten.

Western waste could be halved and the food distributed to those who need it, the problem of feeding 9 billion people would vanish. But it can’t. Western spoilage is a result of personal habit and law. Education or exhortation might make a difference, but the extent of waste is partly a reflection of prices: food is cheap enough for consumers not to worry about chucking it out, and prices seem unlikely to rise by enough to change that attitude.

total factor productivity in world agriculture—a measure which includes capital, labour and other inputs—is still rising at a healthy 1.4% a year. This reflects a more efficient use of resources.

Yet when all is said and done, the world is at the start of a new agricultural revolution that could, for the first time ever, feed all mankind adequately. The genomes of most major crops have been sequenced and the benefits of that are starting to appear. Countries from Brazil to Vietnam have shown that, given the right technology, sensible policies and a bit of luck, they can transform themselves from basket cases to bread baskets. That, surely, is cause for optimism.
Continue Reading

The uncertainties in doing business in India

Came across this piece by Jennifer Hewett in The Austarlian (Rocky road to becoming an economic powerhouse). Particularly illuminating was this story about an Indian who quit his business in England and returned to India seven years ago:

One Indian-born, English-raised executive says shutting down his business manufacturing top-end shoes in Britain and moving to India seven years ago on the ground of cost was the biggest mistake he has ever made. He has to constantly pay off a variety of people to ensure his business is not buried alive by surprise new taxes, changed customs rules or dubious labour charges. There is no prospect of appeal in a legal system, which is another bad joke.

"In England, you go to work to run a business and know more or less what to expect during a day," he says. "In India, you have no idea what can go wrong next."

Continue Reading