Magazine

Memo to Harvard: Not All Teachers Are Heavy Hitters


Harvard University President Lawrence H. Summers is trying to do a makeover ("Harvard," Cover Story, Feb 18). I studied for an MBA at the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad, which received baptism from Harvard back in the '60s. We argued for a realignment of faculty to favor teaching over consulting and research way back in 1981. Sadly, things have remained the same.

Getting the faculty to spend more time with undergraduates is a big part of the debate. Fiscal considerations have pushed torch-bearer institutions such as Harvard toward more lucrative executive education. The motivation to coach aspiring managers at the undergrad level is rather low. Perhaps Summers would do well to implement a soccer-team configuration: some defenders and some scorers rather than an all-batter baseball set-up. After all, these universities gained their fame due to the quality of academic programs. Even today, Ivy League membership is a treasured goal of many. Good luck to Summers.

Shankar Balasubramanian

Singapore As Louis Lavelle wrote in "Unleashing the watchdogs" (American News, Feb. 18), the key to a successful audit lies in directors who ask the right questions. How can they, when accounting practices are so outdated? Organizations need to address today's wider group of stakeholder interests.

New analytical models would allow everyone to understand costs, spending, and associated activities across the business quickly and easily.

Neil Currie

Denmead, England As President Bush visits Beijing, Taiwan's leaders are happy to see mainland China and Washington working to improve relations, but they hope such improvements will not come at Taiwan's expense ("Three tough towns," Asian Business, Feb. 18.)

Taiwan's President, Chen Shui-bian, has repeatedly expressed his willingness to participate in negotiations. But Beijing demands that Taipei first declare its agreement with the "one China principle." The most serious obstacle to peace and stability in the region is the fact that Beijing is unwilling to renounce the use of force against Taiwan.

Taiwan supports the U.S.-led international cooperation that has taken place since September 11, as the world works to eliminate terrorism and rebuild Afghanistan. Bush can act in the cooperative spirit of the times and make sure that the concerns of the Taiwanese people are not ignored or dismissed in the Washington-Beijing dialogue.

Lee Kuo-jung

Taipei Economic & Cultural Office

New York "An economic state of emergency" (Asian Business, Feb. 11) overdramatizes the Indonesian situation. Following the downturn after September 11, exports from Indonesia started rising again by November, 2001. Most economists are not forecasting a decline in 2002: More likely, there will be a rise as the global economy improves.

Many businesses find rising costs problematic, but it should be remembered that most Indonesian businesses' major cost is that of debt. With a little restructuring of the balance sheet and some realism on this from business owners, their companies would in general be competitive, even following recent subsidy cuts.

The request to the Paris Club for a two-year reprieve on some payments on official debt has been anticipated for some time and is not a sudden response to any perceived "emergency."

Patrick M. Alexander

Jakarta When an astute and popular politician such as Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi pulls the boner he did--firing no-nonsense, blunt, muckraking Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka--it's clear he had no choice but to surrender to his party's powers that be ("Can Koizumi pull back from the brink?" Asian Business, Feb. 18). It hurts to realize that a country bristling with energy, talent, and education hasn't freed itself from its business-as-usual procrustean bed. What will it take to put Japan on the bullet train to reform and recovery? A dynamic, attractive, and forward-looking leader hasn't made a difference. What will? What can?

Michael G. Driver

Ichihara City, Japan In the past decade or so, investors of all sizes have come to regard quarter-by-quarter supergrowth of companies as an absolute requirement ("Five ways to avoid more Enrons" American News, Feb. 18). Growth for growth's sake is not a lasting strategy or a viable mission. Now that stock prices have been talked down to the point where they should have been all along, we are still punishing companies that do not show strong earnings growth. Let us investors get our desires in line with reality; that is the only way the stock market will remain a true reflection of the value of corporations.

Phillip Actor

Amsterdam "A talk with Jeff Immelt" (Management, Jan. 28) highlights a need for the review of "the corporation"--the business entity, that is, not specifically General Electric Co. Throughout your Jan. 28 issue, I read of Japan's experience, where dishonest business leaders take their lives in shame, and moved on to China, where the leader gets a death sentence by government dictate, and then to the U.S., where the business leaders (Enron and its auditor) will be reprimanded and go on to a rich retirement. "It's always an integrity issue of some kind," says Immelt. (His only loss is some sleep.)

Auditors and business leaders are only looking for the gaps in generally accepted accounting principles and not for violations of the spirit of the rule. I support the European auditing model. The corporation has moved too far from the shareholders and managers. The U.S. should show the way and return the capitalist corporation to being the "cooperation of humans and shareholders" living up to humane values.

Wikus Hanekom

Cape Town, South Africa "Don't bank on an export boom" (Finance, European Edition, Feb. 4) describes the economic hardship that Argentina is living today. It's regrettable that a country so rich in natural and human resources has to be in a situation like the one described in the article. Perhaps the Argentine government took a long time to devaluate its currency. We faced such a tough decision back in January, 1999, when the Brazilian currency was devalued. Today we agree that it was the right thing to do.

Jos? Thomaz Silva

Luiz Gonzaga de Ara?jo

Raideline Negreiros

Giovani Machado

Ouro Preto, Brazil


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