Monday, September 01, 2014

A Comprehensive War

In the book, Blair writes that he hoped that G...
In the book, Blair writes that he hoped that George W. Bush would win a second term as President of the United States in 2004. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Russia is unfinished business. Just like George W Bush prematurely declared Mission Accomplished after a few days of airstrikes in Iraq, it can be argued Bush Sr. did the same thing when the Soviet Union collapsed. It was a tectonic milestone, no doubt, but unless Russia becomes a democracy, it will keep causing trouble.

Suddenly there are two broad fronts. There is Russia. And there is ISIS, which is in a stronger shape than the Al Qaeda ever was, with the same ill intentions to match. It would not flinch to unleash a biological attack somewhere, it would detonate a dirty bomb if it could. The dangers are grave. Obama might have similarly prematurely declared the death of Al Qaeda with the death of Bin Laden.

I happen to think the top idea here is what Google has. Beam internet from the skies and flood the earth with cheap Android phones. Google already has the prototype. I think the US government should massively scale it. If Google is thinking one billion, the US government should pump in 100 billion into the same effort. That would go a long way to the spread of democracy.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Bihar, Microfinance, Entrepreneurship, Teachers

English: Bihar Districts
English: Bihar Districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Nitish did very well as Chief Minister. But he had his weaknesses. He exhibited a singular focus on law and order, and on roads and bridges. That alone gave the state impressive growth rates. But he could do more for entrepreneurs - especially those in the lower income brackets - and for teachers.

Instead of being jealous of corporate houses giving Modi money, Nitish should compete to woo them. It is not a zero sum game. Helping big entrepreneurs create wealth and jobs is not anti-poor.

Access to credit is "infrastructure" to entrepreneurs. And Bihar could opt to take the lead on microfinance. Say you start with a $100 million fund. The idea would be that the fund need not make profits. As long as it does not diminish in size is all that matters. The idea would be to entitle every poor person in the state to an annual $100 loan. As long as you keep making your monthly payments, you keep getting your loan. If you mess up your credit history, the loans stop. The fund should factor in writing off 5% of the loans. And it should charge a low interest rate, something like 5 per cent. Because the idea is not to make profits. The idea is to help the poor build businesses without diminishing the size of the fund. Use of mobile phones (think M-pesa in Kenya) would go a long way to doing it right.

Training and hiring teachers is as, if not more, important than building roads and bridges. There also Nitish fell a little short.