Thursday, 12 December 2019

Bargaining in flea markets

Bargaining is an art that can help you bring down the price of a product in direct proportion to your skills. Connecting well with people and having a psychological advantage over salespeople also result in a good negotiation and can fetch you a better price than you had bargained for.
  • It's foolish not to bargain at a flea market. 
  • Bargaining is the accepted and expected method of finding a compromise between the merchant and the customer.
  • Prices can vary drastically among vendors at the same flea market. If prices aren't marked, assume there's a double price standard: one for locals and one for you. 
  • Watch to see what others would be charged. 
  • Usually traders raise the price to sometimes double the original cost. Ideally, one should bargain up to 20-30% of the quoted price.
  • Marked prices can distort your idea of an item's true worth. Many people think that if they can cut the price by 50% they are doing great. So the merchant quadruples his prices and the customer happily pays double the fair value. The best way to deal with crazy price tags is to ignore them. 
  • Before you even find out the price, determine the item's value to you, considering the hassles involved in packing it or shipping it home.
  • Merchants hate to lose a sale. Work the cost down, but if it doesn't match with the price you have in mind, walk away. That last amount the merchant hollers out is often the best price you'll get. If that price is right, go back and buy. Prices often drop at the end of the day, when merchants are about to pack up.
  • Keep a poker face and don't settle for the first counter-offer.
  • Cash speaks volumes at a flea market. Offer to pay cash instead of credit cards. They're often more willing to strike a deal if you pay cash, since they save on credit-card fees. Often, vendors don’t even accept another form of payment.
  • Look for defects. Inspect your item and point out the flaws prior to asking for a discount. If defects doesn't bother you much, you can bargain for additional discount too.
  • Don't hurry. Bargaining is rarely rushed. Make sure you are dealing with someone who has the authority to bend a price downward. Bid respectfully. If a merchant accepts your price, you must buy the item.
  • Don't show up in your designer duds and jewels and expect to get a discount. 
  • Remember to ask respectfully. Don't be too petty by haggling over small amounts. If your item is priced at Rs.1000 then don’t be stingy and offer Rs.50. The vendor needs to make money too. But make your offer a little lower than you are willing to pay so there is room for negotiation. A few rupees is worth more to the shopkeeper than to you.
  • Bargaining applies to goods, not to food sold at stands or outdoor produce markets. 
  • As in all areas of life, kindness matters at the flea market too.
  • Caution: If you buy an item (which you really don't need) at 40% discount, you haven't saved 40% but lost 60%. Buy only what you really need.

After retirement, I realized that while shops in malls, prices and discounts are fixed where we end up paying huge amounts not only for the higher quality goods but also for the ambiance, packaging and services. Similar goods, usually little lower in quality, are significantly cheaper and at times taxes not loaded in smaller shops. Hence I decided to buy most items from small street shops (rather than in malls) and never to indulge in tough bargain in flea markets but to just leave if I suspect prices are exorbitant.

Thursday, 28 November 2019

India’s ominous future: too little water, or far too much

The monsoon is central to Indian life and lore. It shapes the fortunes of millions of farmers who rely on the rains to nourish their fields. It governs what you eat. 
  • Climate change is now messing with the monsoon, making seasonal rains more intense and less predictable. Decades of short-sighted government policies are leaving millions of Indians defenseless in the age of climate disruptions, especially the poor.
  • The lakes that once held the rains in the bursting city of Bangalore are clogged with plastic and sewage. 
  • The rains are more erratic today. Extreme rainfall is more common and more extreme. The number of days with very heavy rains has increased, with longer dry spells in between. Less common are the sure and steady rains that can reliably penetrate the soil. This is ruinous for a country that gets the vast share of its water from the clouds.
  • Global warming has destroyed the concept of the monsoon. 
  • India’s insurance policy against droughts, the Himalayas, is at risk, too. The majestic mountains are projected to lose a third of their ice by the end of the century if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at their current pace.
  • Climate change isn’t the only culprit to blame for India’s water woes. Decades of greed and mismanagement are far more culpable. The lush forests that help to hold the rains continue to be cleared. Developers are given the green light to pave over creeks and lakes. Government subsidies encourage the over-extraction of groundwater. Groundwater is drawn faster than nature can replenish it.
  • By 2050, the World Bank estimates, erratic rainfall, combined with rising temperatures, stand to “depress the living standards of nearly half the country’s population.”
  • Since 1950, annual rainfall has declined by 15% in Marathwada. In that same period, cloudbursts have shot up threefold. But during that same period, Marathwada, along with the rest of India, has seen a boom in the production of one of thirstiest crops on earth: sugar cane.
  • In India, one of the most water-stressed countries in the world, the government subsidizes electricity, encouraging farmers to pump groundwater for their fields, as well as fertilizers, which are used in vast quantities. State-owned banks offer cheap loans, which are sometimes written off.

Saturday, 23 November 2019

Ayodhya verdict - Reminiscences

Nearly 3 decades ago, on December 6, 1992, a long-running dispute between Hindus and Muslims over a religious site in the northern city of Ayodhya took a dramatic turn (Babri Masjid demolished) and changed the course of Indian politics forever. Religious riots erupted, and 900 people, both Muslims and Hindus, were killed in Mumbai. And on March 12, 1993, 13 blasts ripped through the Mumbai city in retaliation for the mosque’s demolition, killing 317. Now, a verdict from the Supreme Court (on Nov 9, 2019) has legally closed the most divisive religious conflict and paved the way for the construction of a Hindu temple at the site. The court has insisted that a mosque also be built, but on an alternative plot of land.  This SC decision will allow the BJP and Modi government to bolster its political fortunes further by construction of a grand Ram temple just ahead of elections in Uttar Pradesh due in March 2022.
  • Real closure of the conflict will depend on how, going forward, India treats its more than 175 million Muslim citizens. Anything other than equitable justice will only leave deep scars and gaping wounds.
  • Since there has been no violence and protests, we should not mistake this for indifference. But this doesn't entail Muslims accepting the construction of a Ram temple at the site. The court has said that the demolition of the mosque was “a serious violation of the rule of law” and that “it is necessary to provide restitution to the Muslim community for the unlawful destruction of their place of worship.”  Justice in the Babri masjid demolition case is critical to Indian democracy’s promise of fair play and equality.
  • In the 2019 election, BJP fielded only seven Muslim candidates. In the 2017 assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, where the temple will be built and has 19.3% Muslims (about 4.40 crores), the BJP did not field any Muslim candidates. India owes it to Muslim citizens to address this sense of political marginalization.
  • It was the Muslims who suffered the razing of their place of worship; they were also the victims of the violence which followed. The community sought redressal and placed its faith in the institutions for justice. The Supreme Court ruling is riddled with contradictions but its biggest problem is the loss of faith it has triggered among Muslims about the possibility of justice. What can be worse for a democracy when its largest minority group does not hope for justice but fearfully settles for a verdict that they know is no less than injustice to them? -- Arfa Khanum Sherwani writes in
  • Whatever the provocation from Pakistan and whatever the indignities and horrors inflicted on non-Muslims there, we have to deal with this minority [India’s Muslims] in a civilized manner. If we fail to do so, we shall have a festering sore. -- Jawaharlal Nehru
If Babri Masjid was still standing, would SC have had it demolished? 
-- Justice A.K. Ganguly (Retd Judge of Supreme Court)

The PM Modi's appeal for harmony, on the eve of the Ayodhya verdict, and warning against seeing the outcome as a victory or defeat for either side casts doubts about his prior knowledge and influencing the judgement. Muslims may grudgingly and helplessly accept this verdict with a pinch of salt but in the reverse scenario, Hindu groups (RSS, VHP etc) would definitely have pressurized central government to promulgate ordinance allotting Babri Masjid plot for Ram Janmabhoomi temple construction.

Thursday, 31 October 2019


The Constitution vests a lot of power and certain amount of immunity in judges. Fairness and impartiality are the fundamental qualities to be possessed by a judge. Once it appears to the judge that he cannot deliver justice in an impartial manner, ethically he is expected to recuse. The right to recuse is given to the discretion of the judges. But the question that arises is whether such choices of significance be left to the prerogative of the individual judges. 
  • Judges recuse themselves when they take no part in deciding cases that they would otherwise help decide. The judges to recuse themselves from cases where the judge has a financial interest in the case's outcome or where there is otherwise a strong possibility that the judge's decision will be biased. 
  • Any party in a lawsuit may request that a judge recuse him or herself.
  • This question is the pondering of circumstances where an act of recusal becomes a contravention to that judge’s legal responsibility and moral duty to hear a matter and deliver unprejudiced justice.
  • Also, are the judges accountable for explaining the reasons for recusal to the concerned parties?
  • The professional ethics behind recusal of a judge has to do with the opacity about the reasons as to which the recusal has happened. Since India is a liberal democracy, the citizens expect accountability from public servants. By not giving reasons to recusal the judge is putting herself under speculation by the public. 
  • If a judge finds out that his brother/ sister judge recused for a specific reason, there could be an inclination from the new judge to give a favorable verdict for the party in whose favor the other judge recused.
  • Recusal is not an instance where the judiciary is under threat as the aggrieved party would like to know why a judge has recused.
  • Judges must give their reasons in writing for recusing themselves from specific cases.
  • There has to be a requirement of statutory obligation on the judges to inform the litigants as to why there is a decision to recuse from hearing. Recusal should be used sparingly like the emergency provision in the Indian Constitution.
In a 1980 appeal against Shell and BP, in England, in which “the registrar of civil appeals was unable to assemble three judges who had no shares in either defendant.” Invariably, therefore, when a judge owns shares in one of the litigants what we expect is disclosure of the fact, and if neither party objects one might think it’s acceptable for the judge to hear the case. But in the absence of a well-defined rule that helps establish a basic standard, a decision of this kind can prove troubling somewhere down the line.

Independence and impartiality are the twin pillars without which justice cannot stand,
and the purpose of recusal is to underpin them - 
Sir Stephen Sedley

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Indian economic recession

In the budget, the FM Nirmala Sitharaman claimed that India’s economy would hit $5 trillion by 2025. In the weeks that followed, GDP growth rater fell to a six-year low of 5%; the RBI made a surplus transfer of Rs 1.76 lakh crore to the union government; and the government announced the merger of ten public-sector banks into four combinations. These announcements came against the backdrop of the precarious state of the Indian economy. The country is witnessing an economic slowdown that has spread from the auto sector to all other segments, the unemployment rate is at a 45-year high and the tax collections from the previous fiscal year presented an estimated shortfall of Rs 1.67 lakh crore from the revenue expected by the BJP government. The going seems difficult for both Sitharaman and the Indian economy.
  • The RBI has lowered India's growth forecast for FY20 to 6.1% from 6.9% it projected earlier. The World Bank has cut India's GDP growth forecast from 7.5% to 6% this year.
  • India is a consumption-driven economy. When consumers buy goods and services, the wheels of the economy turn. That has not been happening for several quarters and for various reasons.
  • Fewer jobs (at 6.1% in 2017-18, unemployment was the highest in 45 years), a freeze in salary hikes and bonuses, layoffs and uncertainty in businesses are making people cut down on spending.
  • Incomes and wages in rural India, where 67% of India's population lives, have been hit because of low food prices. Agriculture GDP grew just 2% in the first quarter of the current fiscal, compared to 5.1% in the same quarter of the previous fiscal.
  • Consequently growth in private consumption expenditure is down to an 18-quarter low of 3.1% in June 2019. Savings declined to an all-time low because of static or falling incomes.
  • Construction, which is a big employment generator, is decelerating because of the slump in real estate. Exports fell 6.57% in Sept 2019 compared to a year ago. Discoms are groaning under a combined debt of over Rs 2.4 lakh crore. Corporate sector revenue growth fell to an 11-quarter low and investments plunged to a 15-year low.
  • The banking and financial services sector is in a mess. There is liquidity, but no loans are being given. Banks are tottering under a mountain of NPA's of close to 10% of their total assets. They are fearful of giving fresh loans in case they add to their woes. Non-banking financial companies, which are a major source of consumer loans, are in a mess of their own and unable to extend credit. And the string of collapsing financial institutions has further sapped consumer confidence in the system.
  • The government's rescue acts like slashing corporate tax rates and unprecedented interest rate cuts by the RBI seem to be yielding no results in the short term.
  • These are exceptional times and they call for exceptional measures. Indian government could take cue from the US Federal Reserve spent nearly 800 billion dollars to pre-empt an imminent economic meltdown in 2008.
The Indian economy is in a vicious downward spiral and the Modi government needs to stop worrying about the fiscal deficit & inflation etc and start pouring money into the economy to stimulate growth. They need to put money in people's pockets in every way they can. This appears to be the only way to get the jammed wheels of the economy moving again.

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

N.Ambika, DCP North, Mumbai - The real story

N.Ambika, DCP North, Mumbai

N Ambika was just 14 years old when she got married to one of the Police constable at Dindikal, Tamilnadu, even she was a victim of Child Marriage. But she didn’t blame the system for her marriage. At the age of 18 she blessed with a 2 daughters Aigan and Niharika.
Ambika’s husband works as a Police Constable in TN Government, one fine day he leaves his home early to attend a Parade program and the guest were followed by the IG and DG of the respective locality. Ambika was curious about the honouring and respect given for the DG and IG, and the same day when her husband arrives back home, she questions him about the DC and IG, when her husband says that he is the rank 1 officer for our department, a dream arises in the Ambika’s mind that even she wants to become that level of officer.
But Ambika was married at a very small age, she couldn’t even complete her SSLC, but her husband supports her dream, and advices her to take the external SSLC, later she even completes external PUC and Degree. She requests with her husband that she want to move to Chennai for the IPS coaching, can he make a arrangement of the PG facility, Ambika’s husband was very cooperative for all her works and he used to support her in all the ways. He makes a PG facility for her in Chennai and makes all other facility for her IPS Coaching.
Even after lot of efforts, Ambika fails to clear IPS in 3 attempts, her husband comes back to her and advise her that come back to his place and also says that government has given me know Accommodation facility and by the time I get retire even I will be having 2 stars on my shoulder.
Ambika listens patiently to her husband words and replies give me one-year time, if I wouldn’t pass, I will come back and after this much struggle at least i could work as a Teacher in some school. In the fourth Attempt, Ambika clears IPS prelims, Mains and Interview.
After clearing IPS in 2008, she gets into training provided by the Department, In training she was a Batchmet of Ravi D Chennanavar DCP Bangalore, he used to say about her in the camps, how attentive and brave she was in the training moment.
Ambika now works as a DCP North 4 division in Mumbai. If Ambika would blame her parents on that day for child marriage then she wouldn’t become DCP today. So instead of blaming the system or people, make an attempt to come outside of that system and try to change the system.
By this today Ambika has become a role model for many and there are many Ambika hidden who are reading this story, be brave and start the journey towards your destiny.

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Climate action

You have stolen my dreams and my childhood. People are suffering, people are dying, entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you?
- Greta Thunberg at the UN on 23-Sep-2019. 

  • This is her best speech.  It captures the anxiety of a generation and those living on the front lines of famines, heat waves, droughts, and sea level rise.
  • They whispered to her, “you cannot withstand the storm”. She whispered back, “I am the storm”!  You go girl.
  • Why is Trump there? He doesn't believe in Climate Change. 
  • On 26-Nov-2018 asked about the findings in a report warning of devastating effects of climate change that unchecked global warming would wreak havoc on the US economy, US President Donald Trump said: "I don't believe it." 
  • I feel no need to meet President Trump. My message to President Trump is just listen to science, and he obviously doesn't do that. - Greta Thunberg
  • Pro-tip: Yielding to the demands of a catastrophizing 16 year-old who has no experience with unintended consequences is a bad idea. We are not beginning a mass extinction. Both mankind and nature can and will adapt to the modest increases in temps. Don't fall for the drama. - Doug Sheridan
  • We have taken planet stability for granted and our stable, reliable planet no longer exists. What we do in the next few years, will determine the next few thousand years. - David Attenborough. 
  • She is amazing. The only reason people can make fun of this statement is because they still feel safe and their bellies are full. In about 20 years nothing will be funny anymore. The older people will die but millennial's have the possibility of horror.
  • Greta has done more in 16 years to raise climate awareness than you or I have in our lifetime.
  • Rich people will be ok. Poor people will not.
  • We have to look for a solution, because she is right - people are dying and ultimately the planet will die if we don’t do something fast.
  • The earth will fix itself by killing off as many humans as it can. That’s the only way balance will be restored.
  • Everyone, can fight, climate change every day,  just by making the right choice of food.
  • No one is willing to live without modern luxury and necessities to deal with it.

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Financially supporting adult children

It is not uncommon in India for adult children to live with parents. There is both convenience and complaint about this practice. In the west, independence at the age of 18 was the norm. But parental financial support to adult children even in these societies is common. Parents may pay off education loans of grown-up children; fund a holiday or a birthday party; take on payment of bills, EMIs and insurance; bail out credit card dues and defaulted loans; volunteer down payment for the house or car; offer a monthly allowance; or subsidize health costs. Growing up is about making choices and facing the consequences of those choices. What drives parents to continue to support adult children who should be responsible for their own lives? By offering to “help”, parents actively impede their adult children from being responsible for their own actions. There can be serious consequences.
  • Parents could be jeopardizing their finances by enabling adult children. They may be putting their health and retirement at risk; liquidating their assets at unfair valuations; unevenly dividing their wealth or compromising on goals. Financially supporting a grown-up child while imperiling one’s future is not wise.
  • Child centric family structures make parents believe they exist for the well-being of their children and therefore, have do what it takes. 
  • The earlier primitive societies were driven by the basic instinct to reproduce and further the species.
  • The modern society has made a child a completely emotion-driven cohesive family unit; the craving for being loved, needed and validated; the compulsions of succeeding and doing better than one’s cohorts; and the burden it places on parents to hold themselves responsible for their child’s success, happiness and progress in life.
  • This obsession has triggered a generation of helicopter parents who have to know and solve every one of their children’s problems, shielding them from the adverse consequences all their lives. Even if these arose from conscious choices the adult child willingly made.
  • Think about politicians and business people who accumulate wealth for many future generations. There are children who do not take their adult lives seriously, making careless choices, blaming everyone but themselves for their situation.
  • It is tough to see merit in this system of extended subsidy. What can parents and children do to keep the financial transactions sane and sensible? It is important for both parents to agree that they need to limit their support to children. Financial support that is finite, measured and clearly defined is less burdensome on the provider. Do not get into arrangements that are tough to discontinue. 
Reinforce the power you wield on your assets and money that you have earned and you have the right to spend it in a manner you see fit. You may want to give it away in charity; create a fund for your grandchildren’s future rather than let your children spend it; you may need it for your own retirement and use. You have to express these needs clearly to prioritize how to use your money. Whenever an adult child asks for a favor the standard answer should be: “let me think about it and come back to you.” Do not force yourself to agree immediately. Buying time will reduce the burden and provide the space to say no if you have to. 

Monday, 9 September 2019

Donate money to charities, not to beggars

We all want people to work, not beg. Working is productive; begging is at best neutral and often a burden and a nuisance. There is no guarantee that the beggar who receives the money will spend it in ways that increase the quality of his life. He might well spend the money on alcohol or drugs.
  • Few coins that we give to a beggar, doesn't make begging a lucrative activity and promotes laziness.
  • Giving money to beggars, you are helping the wrong people.
  • Think in social context: if I don’t help the beggar, who will? 
  • You are likely to give your money to the beggars who already get the most from other givers. Like everyone else, you are also likely to give the most money to the ones with the locations, looks, and tricks that prompt people to give.
  • If you give money to beggars on impulse, chances are that you end up giving to wrong people but not to the poor men and women whose appearances have less power to elicit sympathy and guilt in passers by and who occupy less favorable spots in the city.
  • The vast majority of beggars living in the developed world have a quality of life that millions in the developing world can only dream of. 
  • If our aim is to benefit ourselves, then giving money to beggars is sub optimal. If our aim is to benefit others, then giving money to beggars is also sub optimal. Either way, giving money to beggars is wasteful.
In seeking to help others, we should not merely give to those who are geographically close to us and whose appearance elicits our sympathy. Rather, we should give to those who are the worst off, who can be helped the most, and who are the least responsible for the situation that they’re in. To achieve this, we should (i) consciously decide how much of our money we are willing to spend on helping others, (ii) find the most efficient charity, (iii) donate money to that charity, and (iv) say no the next time a beggar asks if we can spare a dime.

Aid should go where it will help most.

Beggars are very unfortunate lot deprived of wealth, health, nutritious food, shelter, clothes, education and almost everything we are blessed with. Expecting from the beggars things which we and our friends doesn't follow in day to day living is height of hypocrisy and speaks poorly about our empathetic abilities. Dropping coin into the beggar's bowl and expecting divine results is stupidity. Dropping few coins in beggars bowl neither makes receiver rich nor impoverishes the giver. Hence dropping coin in beggars bowl must not be analysed too much. Just give and forget. By dropping few coins, we are not doing any great thing or any reason for the beggar to be grateful. Beggars have no right to create any kind of public nuisance.

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Public sector banks merger is not a reform

On 30-8-2019 Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a mega plan to merge 10 public sector banks into four as part of plans to create fewer and stronger global-sized lenders as it looks to boost economic growth from a six-year low. After the mergers, the country will have 12 public sector banks, including State Bank of India and Bank of Baroda.
  • Except PNB, all anchor banks had exposures of over 10% of their loan book to NBFCs.
  • Merging of two weak banks into another weak bank is a decent  idea, under normal economic conditions. But to pass it off as a major reform on a day when the economy hit a six-year-low in growth (~5%) rings hollow.
  • Given the limited flexibility on restructuring and rationalization, meaningful cost synergies from PSU bank mergers are unlikely. Core profitability for these banks is likely to remain weak and hence they will continue to depend on external infusions.
  • Until the year 1995, the best candidates from IITs and the best universities wrote IAS exams, State Bank entrance exams and the national recruitment exams of the PSBs. But after the liberalization of the Indian economy in 1991, private sector companies grew aggressively and  attracted away the cream of the talent. 
  • In the face of this competition, the PSBs with their moribund processes and stagnant salaries have attracted mediocre talent. Any bright spark, despite these service conditions was usually poached by private banks and NBFCs.
  • In 1992,  the government realized it doesn’t have the money to capitalize them and started listing them so that they may raise funds from the capital market. But the design of the Act is still intended to serve government goals and not compete on commercial lines.
  • True reform will require what financial sector giants like YV Reddy and PJ Nayak have long recommended: Abolish the Banking Companies Act, bring PSBs under the Companies Act, so that clauses like section 49 (ensuring truly independent directors) apply to PSBs as well. This will fix governance somewhat. Then as soon as the capital markets permit, government stake in these PSBs needs to be brought below 50%. This will enable them to recruit competitively and run on market-based principles.  That’s what you call reform.
  • For now the PSBs are going to be completely immersed in their integration issues. Past experience showed deep gashes in the merged banks for few quarters after merger. The merging banks have barely recognized the bad loans created before 2013, when a new wave of bad loans created after 2014 started emerging. Instead of tackling  this continued onslaught, every senior banker in the merging PSB will be more worried about what will be his or her place in the new hierarchy. Each branch manager will worry about how to tackle customers of the erstwhile competing bank. They will worry about  repainting their billboards and printing new stationary. 
  • And all this chaos with no change at all in governance standards. And at a time when the best PSBs have a net NPA of 6% and capital that just makes it to Basel grade. And at a time when the economy is giving you that sinking feeling.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019


The inequality generated by decades of neoliberalism and the resentment it has caused across the world have in recent times led to uncertainties that only intensify the fear of recession.
  • Growth is decelerating worldwide, including United States which is experiencing 50-year low unemployment rate. China lost momentum with industrial growth at a 17-year low. Prospects for the third quarter are gloomy as well.
  • The performance of major economies affects the rest of the world economy. For example, depressed Chinese demand caused the fall in Thailand’s second quarter growth rate to the lowest since 2014. 
  • Scattered talk has given way to widely expressed fears of an impending recession affecting financial investment behavior, with investors dumping stocks and shifting to government bonds, resulting in a slump in stock markets.
  • The deeper malaise is the depressed demand due to extreme inequality in assets and incomes that has resulted from decades of neoliberal growth across the developed world. Globalization moved productive activities to cheap labor locations had depressed wages across countries with large profits for a few and tax concessions for the rich have accentuated inequality.
  • Incomes in the top percentile have exploded, those in the middle and lower ranges have  stagnated sapping consumption demand. Growth came by finding ways of stimulating demand not depending on current income, but driven by credit. That, beyond a point, is not sustainable and the fear of another recession is likely.
  • The USA-China trade war and other countries responding with similar measures, the world is faced with a proliferation of beggar-thy-neighbor policies that makes a bad situation worse. The unknown consequences of Brexit cannot be anything but adverse. These uncertainties intensifies the fear of recession.
  • The challenge for capitalism was finding an alternative way of reviving demand depressed by underlying inequality. In the past the states used to step in to lift economies out of recession with their spending for a short a time. With neoliberalism that has shrunk the revenues of the state and public spending being is mostly debt-financed, this option was shunned. The only way to drive private demand is with credit in the form of near zero interest rates and getting central banks to hugely increase liquidity in the economy.
  • Capitalism’s current predicament arises because this policy has not worked, though it has been experimented with very low interest rates and in some countries even have turned negative. While this policy has not delivered growth, it has encouraged speculation financed with cheap credit. This has led to accumulation of corporate debt as firms borrowed mainly to speculate in financial markets and pay off their rich shareholders with costly share buybacks resulting in asset price inflation and financial fragility. But with low growth central banks were compelled to continue this policy regime.
  • But as the threat of recession looms, erstwhile advocates of fiscal prudence and austerity such as the IMF are calling for adding fiscal stimuli to the policy mix. Infrastructure upgrades, expanding public housing stocks and targeted tax cuts should all be considered. This is the recipe for a return to more robust growth and inflation.
The recession threat is immediate and policy is likely to respond too slowly. If the recession does set in, it can be devastating. In 2008 China, Germany and India were affected less and this time they are among the countries whose performance could drive the recession. Corporate debt often denominated in foreign currencies at high levels, a recession would find many debtors defaulting on payments and forced to sell assets. That could result in asset price deflation and will have reverberations in an over-committed financial sector. Only a set of freak occurrences can prevent another recession.

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Corrupt anti-corruption campaigns - Kaushik Basu

The Amazon rainforest has been burning for weeks. Yet Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, mobilized the armed forces to help contain the fires only in the last few days – in the face of European leaders’ threat to suspend a major trade deal and the possibility of a far-reaching boycott of Brazilian products. 
  • Bolsonaro government’s weak enforcement of laws protecting the Amazon are root causes of the crisis, encouraging ranchers to set fires to clear land for agriculture.
  • The crisis in the Amazon is a stark example of the damage that can be done when governments bow unequivocally to business interests. It also highlights the cynical manipulation of anti-corruption efforts to undermine democracy and advance an authoritarian political agenda.
  • Some conservative economists argue that corruption can be beneficial, as it enables economic actors to bypass regulations, thereby enabling markets to function more effectively. The truth is that corruption corrodes markets, protects incumbents from competitive challenges by impeding the entry of new actors, destroys the moral fabric of society, and stunts economic development. There is a strong inverse correlation between development and corruption.
  • The world’s least corrupt countries are Denmark and New Zealand. Both have achieved high standards of living. The world’s most corrupt countries are Somalia, South Sudan, and Syria – all poor and mired in conflict. Ranked from least to most corrupt, the United States is 22 of 180 and, India is 78th, China is 87th and Brazil is 105th.
  • The connection between corruption management and democratic compromise is complex. This is the reason why many leaders who have come to power with a genuine interest in controlling corruption have ended up nurturing cronyism and damaging democracy instead.
  • Some political leaders launch a corruption “purge” that targets rivals or critics for prosecution. In countries that are rife with high-level corruption, leaders can simply begin by taking aim at those who challenge their authority. What starts as an anti-corruption drive ends up as an instrument of cronyism and media control. And by creating a safe zone for loyalists, it often ends up exacerbating corruption.
  • Corruption can implicate even those who would prefer to operate according to the law.

Kaushik Basu, former Chief Economist of the World Bank and former Chief Economic Adviser to the Government of India, is Professor of Economics at Cornell University and Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Like unicorns, the 'free market' doesn't exist

What we have is not capitalism, it’s corporatism. Under real capitalism, the free market would prevent the destruction of our environment. All our problems would be solved if we just returned to the good competitive capitalism. There never has been, is not and never will be a capitalist free market economy. 
  • Capitalism is meant to pivot around the free market. If the market were rid of government regulation then true competition would reign, with corporations battling it out to provide their goods and services to rational, all knowing consumers. This would provide stable and accurate prices and quality for goods and services as competition would aggregate supply, demand and pricing.
  • The success or failure of a company would be directly proportional to its ability to meet the needs of its consumer.
  • The recent failures – the bankers bailout, the corporatisation of government, the decline in social mobility – are because we do not have real capitalism. We are in fact in a post capitalist, state capitalist of fascist state. Whatever state we are in, it is as a direct and inevitable result of capitalism. 
  • Corporations themselves are rabidly anti-competition.
  • In Britain today, 97% of food purchased, is bought in supermarkets, with only four corporations making up 76% of those sales. In the US, 72% of food is purchased in supermarkets. As these figures continue an upward trend, we can see that monopolies are being created in food production.
  • If we take a look and test the theory that the consumer would benefit from this process of corporate battles. Since the 1950's, the percentage of the US household budget spent on food dropped from 32% to 7%. In the UK the proportion spent on food has dropped from 33% to 15%. With supermarkets making record profits, and household food budgets down, who is paying the price for our food? The answer is the farmer and the environment. 
  • Seventy years ago, there were nearly seven million American farmers, today there are two million. Now 75% of US produce comes from just 50,000 farming operations.
  • The free market has seen a few corporations rise to dominate the market, set their own prices and lead to negative social impacts. While some consumers might see a fall in the price of the food they are buying, they cannot be sure that they are comparing apples with apples and while perhaps benefiting as consumers, they are losing out as producers.
  • As seen above, it is not in the interest of the corporation to maintain a free market. The corporation has no reason to apply any kind of ethics whatsoever. Adidas employs child and sweatshop labor in the far east because it is cheaper than employing people on a living wage, with decent terms and condition.
  • Historically the government, the purported servant of the people has been the enforcer of rules necessary to restrain the ‘market’ from behaviors which from point of view of the corporation would lead to undesirable social outcomes.
  • In the US, by 2011 the largest thirty corporations spent more that year on lobbying government than they spent on taxes. 
  • In the UK, corporations with outstanding tax issues are currently in working groups with the to redraft the very tax rules they are doing their best to avoid. 
  • When corporations break the law, they are either not tried or given a fine which comes nowhere near the profits reaped by breaking the law.
  • Recently banks have instituted fraud on a global scale by simply making up the LIBOR rate, the base interest rate, at the cost of savers and pensioners and to the benefit of their traders who specialize in debt, not capital.
  • In 1950, corporate taxes made up 30% of federal revenues in the US. By 2012, this had fallen to just 7%. In the UK, Corporation Tax rates were cut from 52% to 35% over just two years between 1984-86 and has continued to be cut until it stands at just 21% today.
  • Corporations do not want any rules which stand in the way of making profit. Left unregulated, they would simply operate in ways which maximized their profits regardless of social outcomes. When we introduce a regulator, corporations seek to and succeed in compromising them. The issue is not to blame one or other of the players, but the game of capitalism itself.
  • The free market myth is nothing but a nonsense. It is a self serving nonsense propagandized by its beneficiaries.
In conclusion, not only is the market not free, but it never can be. It requires legislation to prevent rational corporate behavior which would undermine it, and any regulator (state or otherwise) will be corrupted by corporations seeking to influence them. The sooner we abandon this madness, the sooner we can answer the bigger question: how do we create a means of economic organisation which has the highest chance of meeting our social goals? We must abandon the myth of the free market, just as we gave up on Santa Claus and Unicorns – it is time to put away childish things so we can become grown up caretakers of ourselves, each other and the planet.

Friday, 2 August 2019

Start up business realities

While startup life seems glamorous at best when it comes to dizzying valuations, the truth of the matter remains that 70% of all businesses (with employees) fail within 10 years. Business failure is a harsh reality. While 80% will make it past that first-year mark, only about two-thirds of all businesses with employees are able to survive their second year. The fifth year? Just half. Ten years out? Just 30%. 

There are some specific reasons why these businesses are failing. 
  • You won't fail unless you entirely give up. 
  • If you don't put your customers first, the potential for failure skyrockets.
  • Regardless of your situation, find a good mentor who can help you navigate the stormy waters of any business in the current climate.
  • Focus on the long term. Do your best today.
  • Successful businesses deliver the most value. Find a way that you can under-promise but over-deliver. Always over-deliver. No matter what the situation. If you're looking for a fast buck or to get rich quick, you'll quickly find yourself at a dead end. 
  • If you can't connect with your target audience, your business will fail.
  • The truth is that it's hard to sell anything to straight cold traffic.
  • Businesses that lack authenticity and transparency will fail. 
  • Staying afloat is exponentially harder when competition is fierce.
  • It's easy to spend when the coffers are full. When the expenses spiral out of control, or a founder uses much of the company's money for personal or frivolous expenses, it's impossible for the business to survive.
  • When problems do arise navigating those murky waters becomes an impossible task for newcomers without real business world experience. Businesses need to build up their board of seasoned advisers, and founders need to find trusted mentors, if they're serious about longevity.
  • Your employee tribe and culture is crucial for long-term success.

When business starts to crumble ...

The feeling of riding the wave of a successful business career is so intoxicating, many wouldn’t image a time may come when things would go the other way round. This usually results in inexperienced entrepreneurs finding themselves in situations they’re not well prepared to face. Many entrepreneurs resort to making unwise decisions that only help them achieve brief relief and result in a worse situation. When you’re in that situation when things are not going as expected, decision making becomes critical. While a failed business is certainly not the end of the world, it is important to prevent the business from hitting the ground and stay afloat.

Here are some ways to react and handle things if you find your business is crumbling.
  • Keep your mind clear to enable you process your thoughts clearly.
  • Create new opportunities to get your business back on track by making new deals.
  • Accept temporary failures. 
  • Stay positive and look beyond your current situation. 
  • Focus on what drives you.
  • Ask for favors from others.
  • Think of the people you know that can help you and reach out to them.
  • Re-strategize your business plans.
  • Don’t keep anyone in the dark by pretending that everything is alright. 
  • Be bold and come out clean with everyone.
  • Treat your employees like your co-partners, and they would be glad to offer their help and contributions.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Walk 7,500 steps a day to live longer

10,000 steps a day has become the gold standard for many people. That number has sold many step-counting devices and inspired interoffice competitions. But it’s a big number that can be hard to reach. When people continue to not hit five digits, eventually some ditch the effort altogether.
  • 10,000 steps a day, the default figure that ingrained in our health consciousness, was a mere marketing tool by a step counter device maker.
  • Quantifying exercise by counting steps can feel more doable and less overwhelming.
  • If you’re sedentary, add 2,000 more daily steps so that you average at least 4,400 daily steps. It’s not necessary to walk it all at once. Instead, try to take extra steps over the course of each waking hour.
  • Sedentary women averaged 2,700 steps a day. Women who averaged 4,400 daily steps had a 41% reduction in mortality. 
  • Mortality rates progressively improved before leveling off at approximately 7,500 steps per day. There were about nine fewer deaths per 1,000 person-years in the most active group compared with the least active group.
  • Step intensity doesn't matter. But every step counts.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park at the first empty space you see, not the one closest to the entrance. Get off the bus one stop earlier than your destination. At home, make more than one trip to bring the dinner dishes into the kitchen, or when bringing groceries in from your car. 
  • Don’t be intimidated or dissuaded by the 10,000 number.

There are many studies that demonstrate that folks who walk 10,000 have at least a 50% reduction in all cause mortality verses those who are sedentary.

Saturday, 20 July 2019

Working long hours

Sometimes entrepreneurs and employees have to put in the long hours for an extended period of time but they have to sacrifice family time, social time, self time, self care etc. Although it is important to follow your dream and to be gainfully employed it makes for an unbalanced and unfulfilled life. And it is questionable as to whether working that many hours every day for weeks, months, years is efficient use of time, energy and brain power. The answer is big 'NO'.
  • Studies show that maximum productivity per week is attained at about 40 hours per week, more than that is counter-productive.
  • If you love what you are doing, would rather be doing that than anything else, and you don't have other responsibilities, then it might be worth it for you.
  • There is a multitude of evidence demonstrating that night shift workers suffer health effects much greater than the general population as a result of higher incidence of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other ailments.
  • Over sustained periods of time, night shift workers and long-hour workers live shorter lives.
  • Often people outspend their income and end up regretting 'selling their soul to the corporation' later when they don’t have much to show for it.
  • Rarely in life you are presented with a scalable career.  
  • The world is changing fast.  Employees need to be nimble and adjust to not only what’s hot, but what’s going to be hot.
  • You can’t control your luck, but what you can control is your work ethic. To get in first, and leave last shows initiative, and a hunger to learn. There’s always something new to grasp.
  • Talking about how many hours you work is not impressive. It will be seen as a professionally embarrassing sign that you have nothing else to boast about.
  • Working too much overtime is a bad idea because of diminishing returns, impaired judgment, not enough time to recharge, you look bad when it really matters and others will think you’re slacking if you slow down.
  • In the 1800s, it was common for people to work nearly 100 hours per week over six-day workweeks. By the early 1900s, many industries had adopted the eight-hour workday, six days a week. In 1926, Henry Ford removed one day of work from his employees’ schedules that resulted in eight-hour shifts for five days a week—what we now know as the 40-hour workweek. Ford found that his workers were actually more productive working 40 hours a week than they had been working 48 hours a week. His success with the change inspired manufacturing companies all over the country to adopt the 40-hour workweek.

Eight hours labor, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest - Robert Owen

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Winners are grinners, but how much competition is too much?

Competition is great. We all have been brought up hearing mantras like ‘survival of the fittest’, ‘winner are grinners’ and ‘may the best man win’.
  • In the workplace and on the sporting field winners are rewarded, whether it is with money, a medal, a promotion, or even just praise. Winners are celebrated. In recent years, there has been some backlash against this ‘win at all costs’ attitude.
  • There are times when we need to be more conventional and to follow orders without question. There are times when it is more productive to be relentlessly focused on moving forward, even to the point of being unforgiving of mistakes.
  • Competitiveness comes under the cluster of aggressive defensive behaviour. At the extreme end of this scale, individuals don’t just desire to win, they feel a compulsion to win at all costs. These are the people who are willing to risk everything in order to be right. They will put themselves, their teams and their families in precarious situations to avoid failure or the possibility of losing.
  • Many of the successful people we admire are driven and unrelenting, single-mindedly focused on reaching the top, sometimes to the point of forgetting the people around them. These people set the bar high and don’t let anyone take advantage of them. They can always be relied upon to be 100% focused on getting the job done.
  • If being competitive got us to where we are, is there such a thing as too much competition? And if so, how much is too much?
  • Competitiveness and the relentless need to win, to do better, to be better is causing us stress and is ultimately killing us. This need to win and be better is also not making us happy.
  • Stress puts strain on our health, our families, our children, our marriages and even our careers. Stress, a leading contributor to heart disease, is an inevitable result of continuously pushing ourselves to outdo each other in work and in life generally. With one Australian dying of cardiovascular disease every 12 minutes, removing stress from our lives is more important than ever.
  • Our children are pressured to be better students, to look more attractive, to get more likes, retweets and followers, to go viral. Much of the time, they are competing against people they have never even met. Plastic surgery is increasingly popular. For women alone, the rates of plastic surgery have grown 538% since 1997. This is directly related to the competitive desire to be skinnier, younger and prettier.
  • Divorce rates are also increasing because our spouses aren’t sexy, romantic, sensitive or fun enough. Social media suggests that everyone else has these amazing relationships, so we should too.
  • In the workplace, employee satisfaction is decreasing, in part because it has become less acceptable to be content with simply doing a good job. Instead we are supposed to be continually focused on the next promotion, the next role or that next big bonus.
  • This competitiveness means that we can’t be happy when a colleague does well; instead, we turn a critical eye on ourselves to work out why we aren’t doing as well, or we look outwards to others we might blame for our lack of success.
  • Employee tenure is dropping as all of us strive to be better than one another. More of us are looking for the next best thing. The grass is always greener, there is always someone to surpass, another promotion to get, another business to start or to buy.
  • Bigger cars, buffer bodies, more money… This non-stop drive to be and to have the best in everything is simply unsustainable. Something has to give.
  • How do we find the right balance? How much competition is enough and how much is too much? Now I know that what I saw as a strength – competitive nature – becomes a weakness when it is taken to its extreme. It causes stress, physical exhaustion and an inability to be proud of what I have achieved. I am always chasing the next milestone, the next challenge.
  • I also know that when I manage to balance my competitive drive it becomes the key to my success. Finding the balance isn’t easy but I recognize that it’s essential in order to be successful over the long-term, at the same time as maintaining my physical, emotional and mental health.
Each of us needs to find our own answer to how this necessary balance might look for us. So, how much competition is too much for you?

Monday, 15 July 2019

The importance of English in India

India is a country with 22 official languages in different regions. English though not the most spoken language of India is the most understood language of India. English is the only language you will see across the length and breadth of the country. English is the mainstay of our country --  the language of the government, public administration, the legislature, law courts etc. English is used in many fields more than any other language. If one has to survive in today’s competitive world one should have a good command in English.
  • English is the third most spoken language in the world. Every third person can speak in English fluently. Most of the higher education books are printed in English. English is the unifying language. It acts both as a national and international link language.  
  • For proper mental development it is essential that we study the best literature. If we want to shed the feeling of false superiority and to broaden our minds, we must take the best from others. Hindi serves as a lingua franca - adopted as a common spoken language by those with different native languages.
  • Pandit Nehru said that "English is our major window on the modern world". It is only through English that we can establish social, economic, cultural and political relations with other countries of the world. 
  • Dr. S. Radha Krishnan, Head of The University Education Commission remarked: “English be studied in high school and universities in order that we may keep in touch with the stream of ever growing knowledge. This would prevent our isolation from the world and help us to take advantage of the wider reach of the English language. English is a language which is rich in literature, humanistic, scientific and technical. If under sentimental urges we give up English, we would cut ourselves off from the living stream of ever-growing knowledge.” 
  • English is the language of international politics, trade, commerce and industry. In the words of F.G. French, “By accidents of history and by the rapid spread of industrial development, science, technology, international trade, and by something like an explosion in the speed and ease of travel and by all the factors which have broken down frontiers and forced nations into closer inter-dependence, English has become a world language. It is the means of international communication; there is no other.”
  • In parliamentary debates members speaking in powerful English are far more effective than members debating in Hindi and other Indian languages.
  • On a global level, there has been an upward trend towards adopting English as the official language among companies and institutions and with this, it becomes imperative for individuals in India to embrace the language to order to compete in the job market.
  • One out of 10 persons in the world knows English, 75% of the world's mail, 50% of the world's newspapers, over 50% of the world's radio station and more than 50% of the world's scientific and technical periodicals use English as medium of expression. 
  • The corporate sector employs people who are confident and speak fluent English apart from the basic skills required for the job. If you desire a good and a well-paid job it’s very important to have a good command in English.
  • Most of the technologies that are used in India are received from English nations so to use technology well, English is important. It is too tough for a person to be a specialist in any line unless he has a good command over English language.
  • English must be studied as an important foreign language. It must also continue to be the medium of instruction, in science, technology, and in other subjects in higher classes. Knowing English is little about a foreign culture and all about your being part of every aspect of life as a modern person. At the same time, our national language Hindi & other regional languages should not be ignored.
People have understood the fact that good knowledge of English is the key factor for a good career, status in society and a huge advantage in knowledge and better communication in the entire world. If India has to progress then it cannot ignore the importance of the English language. David Graddol observed that throughout India, there is an extraordinary belief amongst all castes and classes, in both rural and urban areas, in the transformative power of English. English is seen not just as a useful skill, but as a symbol of a better life, a pathway out of poverty and oppression.  

English was the greatest gift of Goddess Saraswati to India - Rajaji

One language sets you in a corridor for life. 
Two languages open every door along the way - Frank Smith

English literature in quantity and quality is second to none - H Champion

Remember the old words from a teacher - When you go to USA as a student, to escape from paying fine talk in English, laugh in English, cry in English, etc... if not pay fine, every time you speak in something other than English.

Friday, 12 July 2019

It's immoral to be rich

Being extremely wealthy is impossible to justify in a world containing deprivation. There is a lot of public discussion about inequality, but there seems to be far less talk about just how patently shameful it is to be rich. There are plenty of people on this earth who die because they cannot afford to pay for medical care. There are elderly people who become homeless because they cannot afford rent. There are children living on streets, there are mothers who can’t afford diapers for their babies. And all of it could be ameliorated if people who had lots of money simply gave those other people their money. It’s deeply shameful to be rich. It’s not a morally defensible thing to be rich. 
  • White families in America have 16 times as much wealth on average as black families. This is indisputably because of slavery, which was very recent.
  • Larry Ellison of Oracle bought the island of Lanai. It’s kind of extraordinary that a single human being can just own the sixth-largest Hawaiian island, but that’s what concentrated wealth leads to.
  • Every dollar you have is a dollar you’re not giving to somebody else, the decision to retain wealth is a decision to deprive others.
  • It is sometimes claimed that CEOs get paid too much, or that the super-wealthy do not pay enough in taxes. There is no problem in CEOs getting paid as much as the company decides to pay them. And taxes are certainly a tyrannical form of legalized theft. But the question is of the morality of their retaining wealth after it is given to them.
  • The process by which those rich people attained their wealth is totally consensual. People on the right often defend wealth along these lines. I earned it, therefore it’s not unfair for me to have it. But the question is that regardless of how you have earned it, to what degree you are morally permitted to retain it? 
  • It’s one thing to argue that you got rich legitimately. It’s another to explain why you feel justified in spending your wealth upon houses and sculptures rather than helping some struggling people. There may be nothing unseemly about the process by which a basketball player earns his millions. But there’s certainly something unseemly about his having those millions. 
  • If the problem of inequality is systemic, and rich people do not really make choices but pursue their class interests, then asking them whether it is moral for wealthy people to retain their wealth is irrelevant and incoherent. 
  • Giving away wealth in the form of charity is actually bad, because it allows capitalism to look superficially generous without actually altering the balance of power in the society. “The worst slave owners were those who were kind to their slaves, because they prevented the core of the system from being realized by those who suffered from it,” as Oscar Wilde ludicrously put it.
  • Moral duty becomes greater the more wealth you have. The super-rich, the infamous millionaires and billionaires, are constantly squandering resources that could be used to create wonderful and humane things. If you’re a billionaire, you could literally open a hospital and make it free. You could help make sure no child ever had to go without lunch.
  • Everyone who earns anything beyond is obligated to give away the excess in its entirety. The refusal to do so means intentionally allowing others to suffer, a statement which is true regardless of whether you “earned” or “deserved” the income you were originally given. 
  • Wealthy people do give away money often in piecemeal and self-interested and foolish ways. They’ll donate to colleges with huge endowments to get needless buildings built and named after them. David Geffen will pay to open a school for the children of wealthy. Mark Zuckerberg will squander millions of dollars trying to fix Newark’s schools by hiring $1000-a-day-consultants. Brad Pitt will try to build homes for Katrina victims in New Orleans, but will insist that they’re architecturally cutting-edge and funky looking, instead of just trying to make as many simple houses as possible. Just as the rich can’t be trusted to spend their money well generally, they’re colossally terrible at giving it away. This is because so much is about self-aggrandizement, and “philanthropy” is far more about the donor than the donee. 
  • If you’re a multi-billionaire, giving away $1 billion is morally meaningless and you’re still incredibly wealthy, and thus still harming many people through your retention of wealth. You have to get rid of all of it, beyond the maximum moral income. 
It is not justifiable to retain vast wealth. This is because that wealth has the potential to help people who are suffering, and by not helping them you are letting them suffer. It does not make a difference whether you earned the vast wealth. The point is that you have it. We should acknowledge that it is immoral to be rich. 

I don’t hate capitalism, I just hate rich people.
If you are an egalitarian, how come you are so rich - GA Cohen 
Rich do not deserve their wealth - Robert Nozick 

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

2000 watts society - Zurich’s path to sustainable energy use

On Nov 30, 2008, the people of Zurich voted, with a large majority (over 75%), in favor of (i) sustainable development, (ii) reduction of energy consumption to 2000 watts per  person, (iii) reducing its annual CO2 emissions to one tonne per person by 2050, (iv) promoting renewable energies and energy efficiency, and (v) not renewing its investments in nuclear power plantsAs a 2000-watt society, Zurich will be better equipped for times of scarce and expensive energy  resources. The idea behind the 2000-watt society is that a lighter life requires less energy is an ecological necessity and can also be a better life. Zurich cannot solve the climate crisis, nor the expected scarcity of oil, nor the uneven distribution of resources worldwide, but it can make its contribution – and in doing so, it will also benefit in its own right.
  • If the human race continues to consume natural resources, and particularly energy, at the same rate as it does today, we are headed towards drastic climate change. 
  • In the past, it was taken for granted that higher energy consumption brings more prosperity.  From 1970 onward, there was growing realization that energy consumption causes ecological and political problems.
  • We live in a culture of energy wastefulness. We only use a tiny fraction of the energy we consume and the rest disappears as waste heat. By using energy more efficiently, the energy required for each energy service could be reduced by over 80 to 85%.
  • Below the threshold of 1000 watts per person, people are better off if they can increase their energy consumption. However, once this threshold is reached, more energy does not improve the quality of life. 
  • Consuming more energy would be undesirable, even if the energy could be provided in a completely clean way. It is just that consuming an ever-increasing amount of energy does not make people happier.
  • Numerous authorities in Switzerland have committed to the goal of the 2000-watt society. Zurich is the first body to lay this down in its municipal code as a binding goal.
  • Global justice demands sufficiency that offers fair opportunities for all and everyone must also have access to a similar amount of energy. It is not possible for the poor countries to raise their energy consumption to the level of rich countries. If all people consumed as much energy as the rich countries, the worldwide energy consumption would be more than three times as high as it is today.
  • At present, the average European uses around 6,000 watts, compared to 12,000 watts in the United States, 1,500 watts in China, 900 watts in India and 300 watts in Bangladesh. Today, Zurich consumes around 5,000 watts of primary energy per resident. If the total grey energy is also taken into account, the consumption is considerably higher. The work performed by twenty workers, or three horses, working around the clock, amounts to 2000 watts. Anyone who burns one litre of petrol every six hours consumes 2000 watts.
  • One tonne of CO2 is produced upon combustion of 300 litres of petrol. This is enough to drive a car 4000 kms. Zurich residents cause 5.5 tonnes of CO2 emissions per person each year. This would be considerably more if the grey emissions are also taken into account.
  • Today’s material living standard in Switzerland could be maintained with 2000 watts per person if the energy were used more effectively. With consumption of 2000 watts per person, annual CO2 emissions reduction, caused by energy use, to less than one tonne per person is realistic. Also 2000 watts corresponds to the average energy consumption worldwide. According to the IPCC report, worldwide annual greenhouse gas emissions must drop to one tonne per person by 2050, so that climate warming can be limited to two degrees.
  • Although nuclear power does not directly contribute to climate change, it is not sustainable. It consumes the finite raw material uranium, the extraction of which severely harms the local environment. It leaves behind highly dangerous waste, for the disposal of which, no satisfactory solution has been found. Any accident is a tragedy for the people affected and renders large areas uninhabitable for long periods of time.
  • Buildings and infrastructures which essentially determine a society’s energy consumption cannot be changed overnight. In view of climate change and dwindling energy reserves, ambitious goals are necessary. The required reduction of CO2 emissions is only realistic in parallel with a significant reduction of energy consumption.
  • Cost efficiency and energy efficiency are central themes in renovation, conversion and new construction projects. 
  • Switzerland will not result in political, cultural and social factors that determine how it is used. Technological progress is not enough and must not cause us to oversleep and neglect the need for social change.
  • Mobility is responsible for 18 percent of energy consumption and 37 percent of CO2 emissions in the City of Zurich. However, without mobility, there is no urban life.
The 2000-watt society costs nothing, because all the measures pay for themselves. The 2000-watt society - the idea is that a lighter life has less impact on the environment and is also a better life. It means that we all consume considerably less energy and only cause CO2 emissions at a fraction of today’s level. It also means that with efficient energy use and renewable energies, we can abandon nuclear power, making Zurich environmentally friendly, climate-friendly and very well prepared for a future in which the scarcity of resources will play an increasingly major role. The 2000-watt society requires alongside the political will and also requires more renewable energies, energy-efficient buildings and a city in which people get around very well on foot, by bicycle or with public transport.

We should leave oil before it leaves us - Fatih Birol

Monday, 8 July 2019

Carbon footprint factsheet

A carbon footprint is the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused directly and indirectly by an individual, organization, event or product.




  • Fossil fuels and coal make up 67% of generated electricity. Besides electricity generation, transportation is the next big CO2 producer.
  • US carbon footprint is 16.5 tons per person, per year whereas EU’s per capita carbon footprint is 6.8 tons per year. The per capita average for the world as a whole is even lower at 5 tons of CO2e per year. India’s emissions are still very low – at only 1.8 tonnes of CO2 per capita.
  • One tonne of CO2 is produced upon combustion of 300 litres of petrol. This is enough to drive a car 4000 kilometres.
  • Your water has a high carbon footprint. You may think that your water comes from local lakes, rivers etc, the efforts to maintain and purify water takes up energy.
  • Similar to water, the use of paper contributes to carbon emissions, deforestation. Deforestation is responsible for more greenhouse-gas emissions than all the world’s cars, trucks, planes, and ships put together. The trees release the carbon they are storing into the atmosphere when they’re felled. 
  • Food production accounts for 83% of carbon emissions. Businesses that produce food contribute to emissions of carbon dioxide etc and the methane released by their livestock like sheep, cattle, and goats. Transporting food accounts for 11% of carbon emissions.
  • An estimated one-third of all food produced for human consumption in the world (~1.3 billion tonnes) is either lost or wasted each year. This food wastage represents not only a devastating misuse of natural resources, but also a bigger carbon footprint. 
  • Landfills are incredible sources of greenhouse gases and pollution. Every pound of organic materials in landfills you throw away, you’ll create one pound of greenhouse gases. As organic materials in landfills decays, it releases carbon dioxide and methane.
  • By driving two miles, 0.88 kilograms of CO2 is released into the air, but walking the same distance only releases 0.039 kilograms and riding a bicycle just 0.017 kilograms of carbon dioxide.
  • China accounted for 23 percent of greenhouse gas emissions associated with information technology. Increased emissions from this area are also experienced in Brazil, India, and Indonesia. These will increase 9 percent annually through 2020. 
  • A vegetarian typically has a smaller carbon footprint than a meat eater but the plant-based diet isn’t practical everywhere, especially for those who live in dry or cold places that cannot support the growth of most vegetable crops.
  • Approximately 1,800 gallons of water is needed per pound to raise a cow, the amount of water needed in order to successfully farm in desert-like climates can be huge and is unsustainable. 2000 - 3000 litres of water required to produced 1kg of rice.

  • Conserve water, especially at places with high carbon foot print.
  • Eat local, vegetarian, or organic foods.
  • Organic food requires 30-50% less energy during production but requires one-third more hours of human labor compared to typical farming practices, making it more expensive.
  • Walk, bike, carpool, use mass transit, or drive a best-in-class vehicle. Avoid unnecessary travel.
  • Avoid flying when possible, fly less frequently, and fly economy class. Prince William flies economy class and leads by example. Don’t fly on private jets.
  • Avoid taking vacations at far away places, and take more frequent and driveable staycations closer to home.
  • Increase your use of video-conferencing tools and reduce your work related air travel.
  • Smaller homes & apartments use less energy. 
  • Use a low-flow shower head. Setting the temperature to 50°C helps improve a hot water heater’s efficiency.
  • Turn off your TV, computer, and other electronics when not in use. Unplug unused electronics.
  • Choose energy-efficient lighting.
  • Recycle household waste.
  • Buy products with minimal packaging to reduce waste.
  • While shopping, purchase items with lower carbon footprint.

Everything we buy has a carbon footprint.

Everything we use has a carbon footprint. It is impossible to reduce the carbon emissions to zero, no matter how hard we try. There is a way to balance your emissions by purchasing carbon offsets. This is a practical and affordable way to do something about those remaining emissions and support the renewable energy projects that help our planet.