Billionaires vs Billions

Courtesy - MoveOn.org
Image Courtesy - MoveOn.org

If History has taught us anything, it is that All empire’s will fall.

History also shows us that in hindsight the demise was obvious, power gets centralized and abused by a few while the masses suffer, till they can suffer no more and the system comes crumbling down once it loses the support of it’s foundation (the Masses).

The world’s oldest democracy is facing it’s biggest challenge yet. How to stop Billionaire’s from controlling government policies that enrich them while depriving millions of others of basic necessities. To follow the path that led the US to this point and to learn¬†if this scenario will play out the same way in other democracies around the world… Read on..

http://www.salon.com/2012/04/01/how_billionaires_destroy_democracy/

The great Indian Hoodwink

Outlook India - Pipe Dream - Alam Srinivas
Courtesy OutlookIndia.com

The Two Ambani brothers are among the 5 richest people in India, & in the top 10 around the world, a country of over 1 Billion.

Together the brothers are often monopolies in multiple sectors. From Petrochemicals (Reliance) to Energy distribution (ADAG), Pharmaceuticals (Reliance) to Hospitals (ADAG), SEZ’s (Special Economic Zones- Reliance) to Infrastructure (ADAG).

If one brother does petrochemicals the other does electricity, so literally the entire energy sector’s manufacture, delivery & pricing is controlled by them. This formulae plays out in multiple other related industries.

In any other country the judiciary would already have filed anti-trust & monopoly cases against the Ambani’s. But not in India, where the judiciary tends to do what the government says, and the government tends to be in bed with industrialists. But surely the WTO would have applied pressure in time.

So how did they get away with it? What did they do? They faked a break-up!

Anyone who’s seen Indian Movies knows that one of the most common story plots used is that of warring brothers. So why mess with a time tested formula. Using this as the storyline, the Ambani brothers managed to roll out the Perfect PR Decoy.

They started to war publicly in the media and presented the case, through they’re PR departments, that the differences between the brothers were irreconcilable.¬†Hence each had to go his own way & the company needed to be broken into 2 entities which would be completely independent of each other. The brothers even had a tacit agreement on which industries each brother would rule. Mukesh got all the old established Industries and Anil got a boat load of money (which was quite generous for warring brothers) to start companies in new Industries that Mukesh & Reliance Industries were’t already in.

Doesn’t this sound absurd?

All of Anil’s experience was gained working in those very industries with his father, Ambani Senior. Why would he abandon all his learnings to work in a new industry.

Wouldn’t you think Anil Ambani would want to prove something by beating his brother Mukesh Ambani at his own game, on the same playing field, in the same Industries using his skills to prove that he is the better manager.

But perhaps they really wanted nothing to do with each other and move on for good. Let’s see how the story fares on further inspection.

In order to believe the Ambani’s story one has to believe that the brothers & more importantly their businesses are now 2 different entities and that there is no collusion between them or their companies.

The brothers still live together in the same house. Which Billionaire does that? They were so offended with each other that it was morally acceptable for them to split their beloved father’s businesses but obviously not offended enough to move into separate houses!

Reliance Industries (Mukesh Ambani) & ADAG (Anil Ambani) have been broken up for under 10 years but already they are in business together on Infrastructure, Mining & a few other heavy investment sectors. Who knows how many businesses they will be in by 2020, I fear as many as they can get away with.

Break-up the Monopoly.

An Ode to Air India! or as it will known in the future: The Air India Scam.

I have a fondness for the Indian national carrier and am definitely biased towards it. My parents flew for Air India in the 70’s, they met & fell in love at their jobs and I am what is often referred to as an Air India baby. It helped introduce me to the world outside India and helped start a passion of travel that has defined my tastes and personality in profound ways.

The systematic rape of the airline and the constant barrage of accusations have forced me to speak up and inform people of what has been known for long in private but has not been made public.
Air India was nationalized by the Indian Government as it could not start an airline of it’s own but wished to have one.
Even during the closed economy days Air India bore the burden of the desires of elected officials, whether it be international travel or staying in local five stars.
The Centaur group of hotels were dismally loss making for over 20 years, to keep the hotels alive, Air India staff was forced to stay at centaur locations for inflated prices and forced to keep staff at the hotel for stand by.
Cabin Staff within Mumbai were put up in Centaur hotels for 8-12 hrs when they were on standby, whereas previously they stayed at their homes and were informed by phone and then picked up by a company transport. All of this was done to fill up rooms. This way the airlines revenues were diverted to centaur and lowered centaur’s losses while dragging Air India into the red.
Once the economy was opened up centaur was sold off in a hurry and most of the transactions had evidence of crony favoritism and outright corruption.
Now the good part: Politicians from across the spectrum have huge financial interests in private airlines.
The number of airlines allowed to fly a particular sector are limited and hence priority is given to older airlines. For newer players to get these often lucrative routes they need Air India (the older player) to give them up.
As a result Air India is being forced by it’s upper management which comprises of IAS officers chosen by the government to give up lucrative sectors such as JFK – Mumbai Non stop, Gulf Sectors, European Sectors, Asian Sectors so that private players can profit from the international game. Air India’s middle management which comprises of employees who have risen through the ranks, hence have far more to lose with Air India failing than upper management (Pensions, PF’s etc), have been unsuccessful in stopping this loss of lucrative sectors.
Air India has placed one of the largest aircraft orders in the world.
Air India will now be in the news for its losses and how it is financially unviable for the government to run. Losses will be ballooned with smoke and mirror accounting to make Air India seem like a financial time bomb.
Then when popular opinion has reached a critical mass and there is support for the sale of Air India it will be sold to private players, new aircrafts in tow, at stupidly low prices (similar to the centaur sale).
The private airlines, thanks to their political guardian angels, with get new aircrafts at bargain prices and the Indian taxpayer will be left paying the loan installments on the aircrafts for the next 60 Years.
This is how to siphon public funds 101.

The artificial scarcity of land in Mumbai (Bombay)!

The Mumbai Port Trust owns thousands of hectares of land in East Mumbai (Harbor Line), within close proximity of Mumbai city. it takes a mere 20 minutes on the new JJ flyover from Cotton Green to Nariman Point.

The Mumbai Port is defunct and unviable in the long run, it will remain a port for Military and Naval vessels but all commercial traffic prefers to use Nava Shiva (JNPT) cause of lower turnaround time and newer facilities.

The govt has permission to sell the land but is refraining from doing so because of the builder / politician nexus.

Opening up the port trust land will drop realty prices considerably as the artificial scarcity of space is lucrative and has driven up realty prices.

This artificial scarcity allows the builders and their silent political partners to charge higher prices and to over develop the pre-existing land.

Once the land has been completely over developed and sold they will release the east mumbai land and begin developing that.

It might sound like a good plan to develop in phases but due to this scarcity model there is no talk of parks and open spaces.

Recommendations for open green spaces (which do not make any money) are said to be unviable and the need for apartments and housing is glorified.

We should learn from the mistakes of Urban planners in Shanghai (where open spaces are non existent and traffic snarls, pollution and other side effects of over development are the norm) and instead look at the urban planners of cities that understood the importance of a balance between development and open green spaces.

Letting squatters live on government land earmarked for open spaces and then stating that they have a right to accommodation and the only way to achieve that is by selling the land to developers who will give them a flat in return and turn land meant for open spaces into buildings and towers, is the essence of this scam.

What ever happened to the open spaces the land was originally ear marked for?

Short term gains are trumping long term benefits, unless this nexus is exposed and the greed rooted out, life in Mumbai will prove to be exhausting and unsustainable in the long run.

If you’ve read this far, on the note of Land abuses, I am amazed at how politicians use all public land under their constituency as their own and to be used for their profit.
Some examples are:-
1. Letting squatters live on government land and become a loyal vote bank.
2. Illegal billboards glorifying and reminding residents of the accomplishments of their elected representatives, for reasons as unworthy of praise as aging by a year.
3. Setting up dummy development companies to give them the tenders for developing the same public land which was earmarked for open spaces and then squatted on.
4. Allowing squatters to put up 1 concrete wall per election till they have a concrete house and then allowing them to build one floor up and on and on.
5. Allowing religious functions to trump resident concerns in the desire for votes.