India Insight

from Global Investing:

Time to kick Russia out of the BRICs?

It may end up sounding like a famous ball-point pen maker, but an argument is being made that Goldman Sach's famous marketing device, the BRICs, should really be the BICs. Does Russia really deserve to be a BRIC, asks Anders Åslund, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, in an article for Foreign Policy.

Åslund, who is also co-author with Andrew Kuchins of "The Russian Balance Sheet", reckons the Russia of Putin and Medvedev is just not worthy of inclusion alongside Brazil, India and China  in the list of blue-chip economic powerhouses. He writes:

The country's economic performance has plummeted to such a dismal level that one must ask whether it is entitled to have any say at all on the global economy, compared with the other, more functional members of its cohort.

I have just returned from Moscow, which is always dreary around this season. But this year, the mood among the capital's eloquent liberal economists has hit a new low. For the last seven years, Russia has undertaken no significant economic reforms. Instead, the state has been living off oil and gas, like a lucky but undeserving rentier."

Economically, Åslund has the numbers on his side. The International Monetary Fund estimates that the Russian economic will contract by 6.7 percent this year, while China will grow 8.5 percent and India 5.4 percent. There is less of a case for Brazil, with a contraction of 0.7 percent projected, but it is still doing far better than Russia.

from MacroScope:

Victory for emerging BRICs?

Emerging market ministers, particularly those from the BRIC economies -- Brazil, Russia, India and China -- are painting this weekend's G20 meeting as a victory in dragging them out of the shadows of global policy-making.

The finance ministers' statement included the promise of more money for the International Monetary Fund and regional development banks, on whom struggling emerging economies rely for support.

It accelerated a review of IMF quotas by two years to 2011, which should give emerging economies more say in the running of the multilateral lender. It also suggested that the headship of IFIs -- international financial institutions -- would no longer be guaranteed to Americans or Europeans. 

from Global News Journal:

Giving in to Ali Baba

I once paid a cop 30 ringgit (about $10 then) for making an apparently illegal left-hand turn in Kuala Lumpur. Scores of drivers in front of me were also handing over their "instant fines", discreetly enclosed within the policeman's ticketing folder. It was days ahead of a major holiday and the cops were collecting their holiday bonus from the public.

Malaysia opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim holds a disc he says contains evidence of judge-fixing in Malaysia 

I felt bad about this, of course. What I was doing was illegal, immoral and perpetuating an insidious culture that goes by many names in the East -- "baksheesh" in India, "Ali Baba" (and his 40 thieves) in Malaysia, "swap" in Indonesia (means "to feed").  But the policeman pointed out I would have to take off the good part of a day to go to court and pay 10 times as much to the judge. So I rationalised: "When in Rome..."

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