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Stimulus Vs. BailoutEspecially over the last decade, the US became a bubble economy that needed unlimited credit to keep from collapsing. Our true wealth did not increase - the value of homes and stocks were inflated. And consumers enjoyed a high standard of living based on that illusion.
The bubble has now burst. The financial crisis is breaking habits that need to be broken.
By bailing out banks that went bankrupt through bad loans, bad behavior is being perpetuated. Banks received most of the first $350B bailout, yet few know what happened to that money. Banks are still reluctant to lend, worrying that they will be in worse shape if the economy deteriorates. So foreclosures are increasing and joblessness skyrockets. Indeed, no one really knows where bottom is.
Consider this: Credit is vital to an economy. Business loans lead to greater productivity. But consumer loans are simply wasted, because they only gratify immediate "wants". Leasing new cars and buying new homes became ways to demonstrate status which was fake. Financing consumer spending - and debt - is ridiculous. Now that reality is finally sinking in.
The acknowledged Recession moves towards the D-word and everyone is asking for bailouts. The auto-industry executives flew in their private jets to ask Congress for help. Popular NY Times' columnist Tom Friedman wrote:
The new President and Congress keep debating the $800B economic stimulus plan. ALL the money should be spent on stimulating productivity - NOT old consumerism. Let's repair old roads and bridges and build new ones; let's develop new energy resources and the green economy; let's modernize our health-care and education systems; let's consume less and produce more.
Let's swallow the medicine and work towards kicking the old bad habits. Let's return to a productive, value-based culture. You know what? I'm glad those "good old days" are over.
Softdel in Pune's CyberCityAbout 100 miles from Mumbai is Pune, one of India's techno-centers. During my recent visit, I spoke to about 150 attendees at the opening of the new offices of Softdel, in Cyber City at Magarpatta, transformed from an old farming village into a campus of high-tech leaders that rivals anything I've seen anywhere in the world.
The impressive entrance to Softdel's software center is all glass. Engraved on door is a stylized ">ision" and "inno>ation", setting the scene for a impressive hightech interior.
A giant plasma TV welcome screen flashed my name with as much panache as anything I've ever experienced. I was keynote speaker for the opening of Softdel's new CyberCity facilities, addressing about 150 people on the Global Future of Industrial Automation. Inspired by the Softdel surroundings, I proclaimed to the eager audience, "I have seen the Future, and it is here!"
A tour of Softdel is indeed impressive. The walls are decorated with large posters acclaiming Softdel's prowess in Factory & Process Automation Solutions Software. Inscribed on the walls are the inspiring words of the world's leading tech visionaries:
Softdel has a superb team of leaders. D Viswanath (DV) is CEO & President, with management experience at GE-Fanuc. DV's team of dynamic young executives includes Chirag Nanavathi (Marketing & Biz Development), Nishith Shah (Technology) and a cadre of talent which compares with the best.
If you're in automation development, with tight schedules, and even tighter budgets, try working with Softdel. Weblink below.
How I spent New Year's Eve 2009My sister, Dora Pinto, is a Catholic nun; her religious name is Sr. Loretta. She joined an educational order of Carmelites when she was 20. With a Ph.D in psychology, she has been a superior in her convent and a professor for most of her life in India. After several visits and US lecture tours, she has many close friends in this country. I'm one of her admirers.
About 11 years ago, after retirement from active teaching, Sr. Loretta joined the Universal Solidarity Movement (USM) as its first President. USM was founded by Fr. Varghese Alengaden, an articulate and inspirational Catholic priest, to promote peace and unity through pluralistic spirituality.
Armed with books (he has written several), CDs and his laptop, the fiery and fearless Alengaden lectures at schools and multi-religious groups all over India, spreading his message of peace and harmony.
Says Varghese, "We focus on the values, not the rituals of religions. We try to banish hatred and promote inter-religious interaction." His message is particularly potent midst the background of recent fundamentalist Hindu and Muslim violence in India.
Here are USM's "5 paths to personal transformation":
In December 2007 I spoke at the "Knit India" gathering at Anandwan (near Nagpur) founded by Baba Amte. I spoke with and touched the saintly man, who died at the age of 94, some 5 weeks later.
This year (Dec. 2008) I spoke again at "Knit India" in Anandwan, to a group of 300 high-school students and teachers. I opened the program with my theme: "You are the New India!" Gosh, you should have seen the kids' eyes sparkle with delight and empathy, the most electrifying group I have ever addressed.
On New Years' eve, we filed in a candlelight procession to gather around a large map of India, outlined with chalk in the sand, with symbols representing various religions. I led with my own Prayer for Peace, everyone repeating after me: "We are not Hindus; we are not Muslims; we are not Christians; we are not Sikhs; we are all Indians; we are the World!"
After the ceremony, it was 1 January, 2009 and I was wished warmly by 300 students. It was certainly one of the most inspiring moments of my life!
Book - 'Imagining India' - By Nandan Nilekani of InfosysMy departure from India left me struggling with its two primary problems - Corruption (Black Money) and Garbage (piled up everywhere).
In the airport, I found this newly published book (to be released in the US in March 2009) by Nandan Nilekani of Infosys - there he was on the cover, staring at me. I spent a lot of time on the way back to San Diego, reading and re-reading chapters which invigorated and stimulated my thoughts about the promise of India.
Infosys is one of the largest software companies in the world - about 70,000 people, with revenues over $4B, Nasdaq market-cap about $ 15B (even in these depressed times). I visited the corporate headquarters in Bangalore, India in February 2007 and reported on my visit (weblink below).
Nandan Nilekani is a co-founder now the co-chairman of Infosys, and has actively participated in its growth and success. He was listed as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine in 2006 and was named Forbes Businessman of the Year in 2007. Tom Friedman credits him with sparking the idea for his book, "The World is Flat."
India's recent economic boom has triggered tremendous social, political, and cultural change. "Imagining India" is Nilekani's visionary look, offering definitive and original interpretations of the country's history, its present and future.
Says Tom Friedman on the cover, "What makes Nilekani unique? To me, it comes down to one phrase: great explainer..."
I'm still reading this book, enjoying it and abosrbing new ideas.
Global Automation PerspectivesMy column for Automation World, January 2009 was written in Bangalore, India - after having spent some time in Australia a few weeks before, then a couple of weeks in England, then South Africa and India. Perhaps this helped my global perspectives, which I shared from afar.
The assumption has been that the US and industrialized nations will keep leading in knowledge intensive industries, while underdeveloped and developing countries focus on lower skills and lower labor costs. That's changed. Many countries around the world now compete.
Through inexpensive, universal communications technology, knowledge work is migrating worldwide to the highest-quality, lowest-cost providers. Productivity has become a fierce, head-to-head competition between regions and nations. Whoever makes things better-faster-cheaper wins. The prize is wealth - a higher standard of living.
The human factor - "asymmetric motivation" - is forcing change. In advanced regions such as North America and Europe, salaries are high and the motivation to work long hours is limited to those few who have natural drive. By contrast, in developing countries, the push for upward mobility is intense, which results in huge productivity differences.
Innovation will be a key driver for growth. And that may come from virtually anywhere - not just the advanced first-world countries.
Within the next two decades, India will overtake China to become the world's most populous country. Both countries' middle-class populations are advancing quickly to produce and consume a vast amount of products, services and energy. Everyone's growth plans must take into account the markets in these and other major, advancing countries.
In a fragile financial environment, look for new automation leaders to emerge through acquisition, perhaps even from China or India. Look for BIG changes.
eFeedbackBob James [firstname.lastname@example.org] is uncomfortable with all the blame for the current crisis falling on homeowners:
"Blaming the victim is just wrong. Blaming the industry or lax government oversight is more appropriate, but offers no help for our economy that has collapsed under the weight of this greed-caused recession. If someone must be blamed, then blame the aggressive, commission-sucking mortgage brokers.
"What we need are people back at work, and truly believing that they will have a job next month and next year. If that takes some government assistance, then so be it.
"Come-on, we want our neighbor living in his house, paying his mortgage, educating his kids, and buying a new American made car. We don't need another vacant home and a ruined life to extract a pound of flesh, do we?
"Most managers are expected to focus on the next few weeks, next quarter, at most the next year. Company share price NOW is driving decisions. Few organizations look at the longer term, and the situation is getting worse.
"We even see this in engineering. Work to eliminate known potential plant failures is delayed for as long as possible. There's a culture of, 'Will it last another year or two? As long as it does not fail on MY watch, then I'll have a better bottom line by not spending the money'. The system awards this short-sightedness.
"Managers who are climbing up the corporate ladder are not held accountable for failures that might occur immediately after they move on, but which could or should have been recognized as risks when they were in charge. Too often a CEO extracts the maximum possible from a business, then departs with a bonus or golden handshake, only for the business to fall into a hole of his making.
"Corporate boards could and should do something about this - by spreading top executives remuneration over a number of years. Devising such a pay package would not be easy, but it would enable boards to motivate management to consider carefully the longer-term risks. Governments could encourage such salary packaging with tax incentives."
"It always sounds like they are describing Americans as somehow different from other people in the world. In my opinion, it is actually first-generation Americans (or even immigrants) - scientists, engineers, etc. - who are doing much of the work necessary to keep the US in the forefront.
"While our freedom is wonderful and makes it possible for us to excel, we are using our freedom to go around the world and undermine the efforts of other people to advance themselves. And since we refuse to provide decent education and health care for all of our citizens, we are the hole in the side of the swimming pool that prevents the pool from continuing to fill.
"That is my way of saying we are intentionally (and stupidly) creating a skewed playing field so that Western European countries actually find it harder to provide for their workers the way we should be.
"But then, what do I know? I used to be an engineer. Now I move furniture."
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