Thursday, January 24, 2008

Preparing for a thirsty future

In an earlier post I had written about the interlinked resources of the planet .

Here's a view from Kalus Schwab and Peter Brabeck-Letmathe about the importance of water in the modern day world economy . An important perspective . I urge all readers to pl read the complete article. As a consumers and citizens of the world we can make our contribution to secure and enhance the future of the planet . Those in business have the opportunity (and responsibility ) to make a bigger contribution .

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Friday, January 18, 2008

Good should get better..not worse

Came across the requirements for a Japanese visa (clicking on this link will take you to the page with various sections. See the section single entry visa for temporary visitors ) . What used to be a simple process is now complex beyond comprehension . Makes the US visa process look customer friendly in comparision.
Among other things the visa process requires that the Japanese company issuing the invitation letter should send it by courier ( cost , energy wastage in transporting a document across the globe when it can be received digitally via email in a secure way ) . Multiple entry visas will be issued only if either the applicant or inviting company is listed on the stock exchange of their respective country . What possible connection can that have to the need for a multiple entry visa ? And as a criteria for a visa - what purpose does a stock exchange listing serve ?
Quite odd that Japan chose to make it's visa regulations into a barrier . Already Japan is a challenging market for most nations . It's language and culture already pose a Wall of China..correction Great Wall of Japan. The visa documentation is so complex that it would be a challenge for the inviting company to prepare the necessary documents . Not to mention the problems for the applicant .
In it's quest to expand trade with the world Japan could make a small start in reforming it's visa procedures .

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Made a trip to South Bombay from my abode in the suburbs . The trip took 2 hours each way . Total 4 hours on the road . Thankfully I do this type of a trip once in few months . There are folks in Bombay for whom a 3-4 hour commute (by car or any means of transport ) is unavoidable . The sheer man hours across the planet lost stuck in traffic is mind boggling .
Expanding and seriously revamping the public transport system in Bombay (and every other part of India ) would go a long way in easing the traffic conditions and improving the 'quality of life' of it's residents . In the Indian context the public transport in Bombay is considered to be one of the best . But as the saying goes ' in the land of the blind the one-eyed is king ' .
Video conferencing is marketed as an alternative to travel . This is now valid for intra-city travel too . It seems easier (and faster !) to travel to other cities and countries than to commute within Bombay.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Reward points for taxes

Governments could learn a thing or two from business .
The tax authorities spend efforts , money (on ads) to remind , motivate , induce fear in citizens to pay taxes . At least in India the concern of every tax paying citizen (and rightfully so) is that the tax money does not translate into benefits which they can tangibly experience e.g as infrastructure of any sort . Roads have potholes , cities look like extended garbage dumps , public transportation quality is erratic to non-existent depending on which part of India you happen to be in , public sanitation - non existent and so on . And to top it all we get to read every quarter about the crores of money pumped into incompetent companies like Air-India to fund the losses .
What does a tax payer get for his/her hard-earned money ? Value that hovers around zero is the answer if you are a tax paying Indian citizen .
While there is no substitute for the tax money to be translated into robust and efficient infrastructure and services - there are few things that the government can additionally do...
Adopt a system of Reward points for taxes paid . Anyway , every tax payer is allotted a PAN number . Use the PAN number to award points based on tax paid by the individual . Like airlines they should devise categories - blue , silver , gold , platinum , life time platinum (once tax received exceeds a certain value ) etc . These points can then be redeemed against/qualify the taxpayer for a variety of benefits e.g
1. Reduced interest rates for loans . These could be for loans from nationalised banks . It would have the indirect impact of helping the nationalised banks garner business ( soon private banks would follow suit )
2. Fast track clearance , processing for any government related matter e.g passport , settling of Income tax refunds etc
3. Reduced premium for insurance from government backed institutions
This list of possible benefits can be creatively and meaningfully expanded .
Basically translate the taxes paid into recognition and benefits that the tax-payer can experience as an individual . Raise the value for the tax-payer from the current near zero level to something significant . And in the process incentivise tax payments .