Now, Indian agriculture is hugely inefficient. Middlemen take huge cuts, and because supply chains are inefficient, up to a third of farm products, vegetables for example, rot before they reach the market. So the Walmart model would transform India’s agriculture and its retail sectors. It would empower farmers, lower prices for consumers and create huge gains in productivity.But it was not to be. India’s opposition turned this into a story of the big guy fighting the little guy, Walmart versus the mom and pop. Parliament was gridlocked for days, and politicians mobilized mass demonstrations. Small stores across the country were kept closed in protest.So, what does the government do? Instead of standing firm, it backtracked and canceled plans to reform the retail sector altogether.This is a depressingly familiar pattern. For two years now, India’s government has done nothing, hanging on to power, presenting no plans to open up the economy, raise living standards, build infrastructure or attract new investment.
In the West, India’s leaders sell the story of a dynamic, «Incredible India.» But, at home, they pander to populist protectionist sentiment, dole out subsidies and do basically nothing. That paralysis is hurting the economy.India’s blessing and curse is that it has a messy, chaotic, decentralized democracy. Unlike China, it has no unified sense of direction. But the prevailing view has often been that when the going gets tough, New Delhi gets its act together. That’s what it did 20 years ago when it was on the brink of default and a balance of payments crisis. Well, once again, it’s time for urgent reform.New Delhi has for years expressed pride in being part of the BRICs. If it doesn’t get its act together, 10 years from now people might still be praising the BRICs, except that the «I» in BRIC might stand for Indonesia, not India.
There were three chilling moments for me during the third week of Viktor Bout’s trial—and they all had something to do with airplanes.Last Friday as I sat in the stately Manhattan courtroom and listened to the testimony of James Roberts, a pilot who worked for Viktor Bout in the late 1990’s, goose bumps suddenly crept up my arms. Roberts cavalierly explained how he and other aviators had ferried weapons and/or military personnel for their boss Bout throughout Central Africa.Next Charles Mokoto, the owner of an African aircraft company, spoke with ease about flying high-level African military personnel into battle action during the same period. When he left the witness stand, I shuddered and pulled my dark brown sweater tight across my chest to ward off the eerie chill as dark memories kicked in. FULL POST