Expert Zone

Straight from the Specialists

Fukushima disaster report: relevance of cultural traits

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

The first report of the three major investigations commissioned by the Japanese government into the Fukushima nuclear disaster of March 2011 was released in Tokyo on Thursday. The findings of the investigation, chaired by Dr. Kiyoshi Kurokawa challenged the dominant assumption that this tragedy unfolded due to a confluence of natural calamities of tectonic proportion — namely a tsunami and an earthquake — and concluded that Fukushima was alas, ‘man-made’ and occurred due to “a multitude of errors and wilful negligence” that implicated the government, safety regulators and the operator of the nuclear plant.

While the Kurokawa report will no doubt be debated and contested widely within Japan and beyond, the sub-text of the findings also make reference to deeply ingrained cultural traits as being part of the causal cluster.

The observations add of the disaster: “Its fundamental causes are to be found in the ingrained conventions of Japanese culture: our reflexive obedience; our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to ‘sticking with the programme’; our groupism; and our insularity.”

No silver lining in this monsoon cloud

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

India’s monsoon rains have been delayed and were already 30 percent deficient by the end of June. There are doubts whether rains will pick up during the rest of the season. August and September are likely to be dry which will damage crops and reduce farm incomes.

Pakistan apology deal incidental to real problem of its support for terrorists

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

As Washington closed down for the Independence Day holiday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly apologised to Pakistan for the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers inadvertently killed by a NATO military strike along the Afghan border last November.

India Market Weekahead – PM’s call for “animal spirit” gets the bull raging

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

The last trading day of June brought back memories of a raging bull market with a single-day gain of over 2.5 pct while the month ended with a 6 pct gain. On taking over the finance portfolio, Manmohan Singh along with his ‘dream team’ seems determined to revive both domestic as well as institutional sentiment. It started off by mending announcements made by his predecessor, especially the general anti-avoidance rules (GAAR) which kept foreign investors away in the last few months.

Life insurance business remains almost stagnant

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

The life insurance industry in India is still struggling on the growth front while the general insurance industry seems to be doing well. The life insurance industry grew by a marginal 1.4 pct while the general insurance industry grew by 18.3 pct. This is based on data released by Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) for the first two months of the financial year.

RBI vs the govt: who will blink first?

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

At its mid-quarter monetary policy review on June 18, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) kept its rates unchanged despite expectations of a cut. To further augment liquidity and encourage banks to increase credit flow to the export sector, the RBI has increased the limit of export credit refinance from 15 percent of outstanding export credit of banks to 50 percent, which will potentially release additional liquidity of over 300 billion rupees, equivalent to about 50 basis points reduction in the CRR.

Foreign borrowing or foreign investment?

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

The market’s response to the currency measures announced on Monday was a dip in the Sensex. Much was expected after the announcement made over the weekend by the finance minister. What has been actually initiated cannot make much difference either to the rupee or to growth.

India Market Weekahead: Time to buy after a period of caution

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

Markets opened with a healthy dose of optimism last week. Two big events were expected to boost sentiment. On the global front, Greece election results eased fears of immediate global financial turmoil. Back home, expectations were high of an interest rate cut by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to boost the falling economy.

Can we provide more cover at lower costs?

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

When it comes to financial products, does the general rule “low cost = low quality” hold true? By quality, I mean the quality of experience and service levels that should be expected from a standardised product.

RBI makes the right policy call

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(Rajan Ghotgalkar is Managing Director of Principal Pnb Asset Management Company. The views expressed in this column are his own and do not represent those of either Principal Pnb or Reuters)

The Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) monetary policy states that “..it is relevant to assess as to what extent high interest rates are affecting economic growth. Estimates suggest that real effective bank lending interest rates, though positive, remain comparatively lower than the levels seen during the growth phase of 2003-08. This suggests that factors other than interest rates are contributing more significantly to the growth slowdown.”

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