Amit Paranjape’s Blog

The Clueless Global Financial Leadership?

Posted in Current Affairs, Financial Markets/Economics by Amit Paranjape on October 10, 2008

  

 

 Rarely has one seen the entire global leadership of the financial world, so utterly clueless. The leadership comprising of the elected officials, finance/treasury heads, central banking heads, regulatory heads, Company Board of Directors and CEOs – all seem completely lost!

 

They say one thing, do another…talk about being globally coordinated, then do things in isolation…swear by ‘free market’ principles, only to violate them the next day, they agree to vote on a plan…and then reject it, only to approve it later…,bailout one bank, but not the other. In the mean time, the markets keep tumbling…trillions of dollars worth of market cap is just vanishing in thin air!

 

Everyday, there are parallels being drawn to the ‘Great Depression’. Everyone, including the leadership is in denial…This was not supposed to happen! Over the past seven decades, we have seen a World War, a Cold War, Oil Shocks, 9-11, and on and on. Over this period mankind has survived one great crisis after another, including the possibility of M.A.D. (Mutually Assured Destruction – that doomsday scenario so commonly speculated; especially at the height of the Cold War). Even during these darkest of dark times, it felt that someone had some control. We may have not liked the direction of that control, but at least someone was affecting it.

 

This current financial mess was not supposed to happen! But it did…The modern world was supposed to have a robust system of monitoring, checks and balances. There were safety factors, reserve ratios, rate cut options, liquidity injections, and an array of other weapons in the armory of the leadership to combat such problem. The CEOs having precipitated this crisis, by amongst other things their ‘greed’ and ‘aggressive business practices’, had many options to limit the damage…but either they were embroiled in their own stubbornness, or just totally oblivious?!

 

One thing is for sure – right now ‘we the global population’ are losing this battle; and losing it badly! We had lessons learnt from the ‘Great Depression’, the 1980s crash, the Asian crisis of the 1990s, the dotcom crash and the WorldCom/Enron saga. And yet we got completely blind sighted. We have probably the most qualified US Treasury Secretary and yet he seems as lost as everyone else! Just recently we had a comprehensive Sarbanes-Oxley regulation that was supposed to force ‘companies’ to disclose their risks & exposures in a proactive fashion. European banks (which haven’t been immune to this problem) had spent years coming with BASEL II regulations to do a better job of ‘risk management’ and yet we end up with this? Has the ‘system’ failed so miserably? Or the companies creating this mess were so terrific at ‘hiding’ their actions? Or the ‘system’ was so utterly totally incompetent?

 

The current scenario is more like a global pandemic – the kind of massive epidemics that use to ravage cities prior to the 20th century. So called ‘experts’ and doctors use to try various things, but to little avail. Often times, their ad hoc methods (in those days, detailed causes of many of these problems were not known…) creating more damage.

  

How did this happen? That is going to be a multi-trillion dollar question! But who knows where the ‘Dollar’ will be after all this is over? And where will be the Euro and the Yen be? It might be safe idea to now refer to everything in gm/kg of Gold (Ounces/Pounds for those who prefer not to use the metric system). ‘Experts’ and ‘Pundits’ of the modern capitalist system have discussed ad nauseam the current problem and the only thing I can gather is that they are as confused as the leadership and everyone else.

 

Maybe some day, we will know what happened! Clearly that day is nowhere near! Till that day, all we can do is wait and wonder…what exactly happened? And why?

 

[You might want to read these related posts, 'The Illiterate 21st Century Consumer' and 'US Financial Crisis - Who Is To Be Blamed' ]

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Spice Island – Restaurant Review

Posted in Hotels & Restaurants, Pune by Amit Paranjape on October 10, 2008

 

Looks like my search for a great Thai place in Pune is finally over! This past week, I got a chance to visit Hotel Le Meridien’s ‘Spice Island’ restaurant. It specializes in Chinese and Thai cuisine.

 

As you enter the restaurant, you notice an exquisite setting and ambiance. I cannot think of many restaurants in Pune with this level of table spacing and sitting comfort & privacy. The decor is nice and simple. It was natural to compare the Spice Island with ‘Whispering Bamboo’ (A similar restaurant in Hotel Taj Blue Diamond). Spice Island clearly beats its chief rival as far as all these initial preference criteria are concerned.

 

The wine list is pretty decent and so is the bar selection. The main menu provides a good selection of the standard as well as the hard to find Chinese and Thai dishes. For appetizers, we tried the Chicken Satays and Fried Vegetable Wontons. The Satays were excellent; the best I have had in Pune. The Wontons were average.

 

As we discussed the main course and browsed further through the menu, an interesting fact appealed to us. Many of the popular dishes are available in ‘Half Order’ sizes. The half order portions are also pretty decent. They are priced at about 60% of the regular dishes. This is very convenient when you are dining in a small group and still want to sample multiple different choices.

 

For dinner, we ordered the Green Curry Vegetables and Kung Pao Chicken. The Green Curry was perfect. The right consistency, the right spice level…just perfect. Ditto as far as the Kung Pao Chicken was concerned. I would highly recommend both these dishes. Both these preparations reminded me of the great Thai and Chinese food I was used to, in good US restaurants.

 

The service was discrete and attentive. Oh…and did I mention the great live music?! When we were having our dinner, a couple of American Software Executives were really enjoying the band’s performance and kept providing a series of good song requests – popular songs, primarily in the soft rock and country music genres.

 

A dinner for two at the Spice Island would run into Rs. 1000 – Rs. 1500, without drinks. It is a little pricey, but in my opinion totally worth it. We had a great experience. The only place I would compare this with would be the aforementioned Whispering Bamboo, which is comparable on food, but scores lower on sitting ambiance and price. I would highly recommend Spice Island for anyone wanting to try out excellent Thai and Chinese cuisine in Pune.

 

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