Magazine

Bombay: Electric -- And Self-Governing?


As a resident of Bombay who travels extensively on business, I find that "Why Bombay has the blues" (Asian Business, Nov. 1) exaggerates Bombay's pains quite a bit. Bombay has phenomenal business spirit and energy comparable to Manhattan. The financial hub of Bandra-Kurla Complex and the residential hub of Hiranandani Gardens surrounding the Powai Lake compare with any modern city in the world. Power and water infrastructure in Bombay are among the best, despite the city's exploding population.

That Bombay happens to be part of the biggest democracy has its own dimensions. In that sense, the situation is more complex to manage than, say, Hong Kong or Singapore. The hutments and slums have also assumed a political dimension, since slum dwellers have voting rights and get to flex their muscles in elections.

It is true that the roads and transportation infrastructure have not kept up with the population explosion. New roads and sky-train projects seem to be in the works, but the authorities need to get their act together soon. In the past, business has not focused its attention on issues concerning the city. The city urgently requires an ace coordinator along the lines of New York's former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. The energy, professional work culture, ethical and cosmopolitan population, and the indomitable spirit of business will undoubtedly continue to attract business and investors, though a lot needs to be done to scale up the city to international standards.

Yadhunath Srinivasan

Bombay

A majority of Indians are rural, and the government should focus first on serving their needs: clean water, elementary education, primary health care, etc. However, revenue collections are limited because of the relatively small taxpayer base and the massive underground economy. And what little money is spent on rural development does not "deliver" -- because of the systemic and rampant corruption in government. The net result is that the tussle between urban and rural has become a zero-sum game.

One way to cut the Gordian knot is to make all urban centers self-governing -- Bangalore, Bombay, Madras, Calcutta, Hyderabad, Lucknow, etc. -- and move the state politicians and bureaucrats to smaller towns in the respective states that could then be named the capitals of those states. This would give the urban centers the power to solve their own problems and would provide a great incentive to the state officials and ministers to improve the lot of people in the countryside. We did this in America a long time ago and it worked -- ever wonder what Albany, N.Y., would have looked like otherwise?

Krishna Chivukula

Syracuse, N.Y.

"...But a harsh diagnosis for Europe" (European Business, Nov. 1) cites several ailments as responsible for Europe's decline: short workweeks, underfunded higher education, overgenerous welfare state benefits, and delays in privatization programs. One more factor, I believe, has contributed to the European Union's finding itself even further behind the U.S. in terms of productivity today than 2000: In relation to gross domestic product, Europe continues to invest much less in information technology. Technology has a leading role to play in making Europe competitive. Internet-based systems and emerging technologies such as grid computing can help organizations both public and private become more efficient and save billions.

My company saved a billion dollars using technology, and every day we help others achieve significant competitive advantage. By harnessing the latest innovations in information technology, we have an opportunity to accelerate the economic development of the EU. We must all sit up and face the reality that other regions are becoming much more competitive, and will be even more so tomorrow if we don't take collective action now.

Sergio Giacoletto

Executive Vice-President

Oracle Europe, Middle East, and Africa

Geneva

When will blue-collar worker finally understand what creates and stabilizes jobs ("Showdown in the Ruhr Valley," European Business, Nov. 1)? Companies like General Motors Corp. (GM) are global and have alternatives for work sites. Germany's socialism has resulted in unusually high wages to support the high taxes necessary for a cradle-to-grave safety net. The noncompetitiveness of the new German worker dictates that manufacturing go elsewhere. The alternative is automation, a concept equally distasteful.

I witnessed several plant closings here in my region. These happened because the union continued to dictate prohibitive wages, making the facility blatantly noncompetitive. At the same time, management was awarding huge executive bonuses. Now these workers are seeking other jobs that pay less than half of what they had before. Government cannot solve this problem, and people attacking government for the loss of jobs are seriously misguided. Union and company management must come to their senses.

Richard F. Wagner

Reading, Pa.

"The stalling of motor city" (Editorials, Nov. 1) got it right when it said managerial shortsightedness is why Detroit is again falling behind Japan in the competition for the next generation of cars. The reason for this shortsightedness is Wall Street. The Japanese have the ability to see past the next quarter. They are willing to do as American businesses once did -- before investing became a shortcut to wealth-building -- and that is invest for the future. This mind-set is driving the outsourcing and offshoring trends -- American businesses can no longer innovate, so they drive profits by relentless cost reduction. And U.S. research and development is losing more than even the beleaguered U.S. worker.

Eric Dalton

Germantown, Tenn.


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