So much has happened since I last wrote. But in my mind all this had already happened and the only difference is that it has only now got reported in the news. Yes i know it all and I know it before it gets reported. My other name is Zeus, master of Gods, and I gave birth to Athena on a sunny day while sipping ouzo.

My favourite news is the crowning of G20 as the primary country grouping on economic and financial matters. G20 still has too much of Europe in it. Including EU and excluding UK it still has 4 seats. Also not sure what will happen when some new countries enter the top 20. Will countries be dropped off the grouping and what will that do to investor confidence in that country. G8 although will still discuss political and security issues, that is the role of the Security Council. G8 saw the writing on the wall in an ever-increasing font size, but to their credit they did chose to see now and not 5 years later. The latter strategy is now being employed by the Security council. Also there are still a lot of issues that the west leaders still dont see – unfair practices is one, immigration is another and climate change is the big daddy of them all. I could go on but Zeus is not known for ranting. He is prone to resolving issues with a discus throw or launching a thunderbolt. Neither of these I posses and so I will not compare myself with Zeus anymore.

Then within the G20 is the G2. I am highly amused with the headlines of how China is going to take over the world, 3 trillion of reserves, future of the communist party etc etc. I wonder how much of this surplus is because of American consumption and of its ‘allies’. On the other hand there is a relatively lack of Chinese consumption of American made stuff. If the Americans cant make anything that the Chinese want then that needs a serious rethink. Maybe the world has shifted from Americans trying to understand what Americans want and then trying to export it to the rest of the world (what americans want today, the world wants tomorrow) to Americans really trying to understand what the world wants. Maybe the American consumer is not a barometer of the world demand as it was before. A good start will be with America ceasing to look for signs of Chinese collapse. Every year there is some story of how the communist party is losing its grip on its people. Then next year and 1 trillion dollars later the old story is forgotten and a new one is cooked up.

Maybe Obama can move on from calling China ‘not a friend, not an enemy but a competitor’. Not sure what that means really. But even in recognising China as a competitor is an admission that the world is moving to bipolar and multipolar states. What does that mean for the countries that are on the margin, who are either openly against the US or only with the US because the other option is usually to be under sanctions of one form or the other. One example that comes to mind is Pakistan. Its ruling class (politicians, army, landholders) have been forced by the US to wage a war with the Taliban against their wishes. All this for a couple of billion dollars of aid a year. During the cold war they got much more with no questions and didn’t have to hear the US calling India its ‘strategic ally’. Soon to add to the music will be IMF which will probably ask Pakistan to expand its tax base, reform land ownership. It would rather pledge its soul to the new devil in town , also known as an all weather friend’. For some land and dams China will give Pakistan the money to keep the status quo. Pakistan can either take the money or use that threat against the US. It could still do it if it can survive for the next 10 years in its current condition.

But the bigger question is what will G2 mean to the world ? what does it mean to have a superpower rise? Most of the world’s population was too young or not born to see the early decades of the cold war. How will America respond to its waning influence ? One sign that is already visible is that it is clearly focussing more on Asia. It wants to be part of the proposed East Asia grouping. The other bit is ofcourse it will want the G2 to quickly become a G3 or a G4. There is no shortage of superpower ambition around the world and that only needs a little encouragement !


I sat through a G20 briefing today at work and it was pointed out that its all men , and one woman, around the table and discussion is on drab economic stuff. Its about fiscal stimulus, regulation and protectionism. Except this time the economic stuff is making rivetting front page headlines. There was also talk about all the bilateral summits that will happen along the sidelines of the summit. I am usually confused when so much is happening so quickly. But this time, as the summit approaches, i am clear on some things. For me in this group of 20 there are 2 big elephants in the room. That is US and China. Of these 2 elephants, one is older and slowing and that is the US and the other is young and raging and that is China. They are not necessarily competing but they are not the best of friends either. They are not at each others throats because they face 2 big common enemies. One is the economic recession which if continued unabated threatens to wipe out their economies built on free trade  and second is global warming. Global warming is not on the agenda because it doesn’t yet hit as hard as the recession. Of the 2 elephants, the US has shown most of its cards. Its put as much money as it can in the stimulus, it has micromanaged bankers and car companies, tweaked its trading regulations and even tried to tell the world what to do. China on the other hand has not shown its hand completely and the buzz at the summit is that may surprise everyone with a big stimulus. The world , including the one smart woman, is looking at China to do something. Boost domestic demand, revalue its currency, buy more US debt if possible etc. Whats even more interesting to me is when the elephants meet at the sidelines of the summit both of them will be aware of it.

This brings me nicely into what I really wanted to write about and that is China. China to me is another Africa. I know very little about it. For the most populous country in the world, 3rd largest economy and the winner of the most gold medals in the last Olympics, the country gets disproportionately little attention.Yes it doesn’t make it very easy for media companies to operate there. Even then I think more can be done. Here is a country that is going to dominate more and more of world stage and I know frustratingly little about it. I know more about Sarkozy’s views of the world than about some of the new ideas that are coming from China or what is China’s view on the war in Afghanistan. Which is not to say Sarkozy’s views are not important. But France is now part of NATO , so I might as well listen to Obama. Couldn’t resist that !

G20 is being held at the Excel centre in London docklands. My only visit there was last year for the Chinese dragon boat race festival. It is only apt that G20 is being held there because for me the event will signal that the Chinese dragon is inching ahead of all the other boats.

Everyday I try to listen or read the news and current affairs in some form or the other. Some day the news is good, some days it is not so good. Some days i am surprised and sometimes I even say a silent ‘ I told you so’ !  But today I thought the news was exceptionally bad. And with all the G groupings the image in my head is of the world, the humanity hanging off a thin G string. The image is not titillating, far from it, it is very depressing.

First there is talk of the upcoming G20 summit. The G20 summit has been pitched to do all sorts of things. Its been called as the new Bretton Woods which will shape the economic architecture of the 21st century. To put this responsibility on the door of this group of countries some of which are still learning to work with each other is asking for too much. Worse the news today was of a caste system emerging in this where countries are being divided into tier 1 and tier 2. Even within the countries which should have learned to work together by now there are rumblings on how to deal with the crisis. The US has finally woken up to the fact that this crisis needs a global economic stimulus and in typical style wants to set the standard for the world to follow. The EU has moved on from the stimulus and wants to instead focus on the regulatory environment at the G20 summit. The UK is playing the classic tight rope walk between the continent and the US. More importantly Gordon Brown sees this as his final chance to shine on a world stage before deflation hits his and labour’s election prospects. I really don’t expect anything out of the G20 except some statement which captures the views from all sides without really meaning anything.

I was also thinking who is going to be the main winner in this economic crisis. Every crisis to me presents its share of winners and losers. Who the losers are is quite obvious, but the only apparent winner to me is China. I think if China plays it cards well, and as the real cost of the bailouts becomes clear, it could come out much stronger simply because the other countries are much weaker economically than before the crisis.  But this is only natural and this has been predicted by many people. The only difference is that it is coming sooner than imagined and in a more dramatic fashion. Time now to learn Mandarin? Or maybe invest in a fund which invests in Mandarin language schools ?

Guess what else is coming sooner ? Its global warming ! The news on global warming which has now sort of shifted out of the news agenda unless it is some news like Maldives deciding to go carbon neutral by 2020 which is even better than Norway’s target by 2030. Maldives will probably be the first ones affected by rise in sea levels and I guess this move is more to attract the world’s attention to this problem before the Copenhagen summit later this year. I even heard a new term today, ‘ environmental refugees’ !

Then there is the continued crisis in South Asia. India for all its craziness seems to be an oasis of calm as countries around her break into chaos. Whether its the politicians in Pakistan continuing to score points of each other, exactly what is happening to that country ? Its 20 years since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and has the wheel has come a full circle ? Or the BDR mutiny in Bangladesh and its repercussions on the country, or the civil war in SL where the end game will probably never end and finally there is the curious case of the ex king of Nepal in Delhi.

How soon before the Gstring finally unravels ?

Some years ago when I was offered my current job , I decided to ask my boss to be about my bonus. I have never asked that question before from a potential employer but this time it was the first question i asked. I think it was partly because my head was full of tips from job hunting sites on how to negotiate a better pay package and partly because I was now going to work in the ‘City’ and if there was anywhere I was going to get a bonus it was here. So I asked and the response I got was it would probably not be enough to buy a yacht but enough to rent one ! So with fantasies of me on a yacht within kissing distance of sun kissed beaches I signed up to my job. I also looked up the web for yacht rental rates and they cost quite a bit for a day. So I joined, I worked hard for a year ( i think !) and when the time came for my bonus the amount was not even enough to rent the yacht chef forget about the yacht. I almost went to my boss and asked him to find me a yacht to rent for that sum of money. But now when I look back, it was all a good laugh, and I patiently wait for a yet to be built yacht which I can rent with my bonus.

This year I’ve just been told that bonus will also disappear. As much as I love my employer, I wonder how do I now motivate myself to get out of bed and go to work. Especially since the main reason for not giving the bonus is not lack of money or my performance, but public perception. How do I motivate myself to go do the extra bit. The oft quoted thing that I should be lucky to have a job in the current climate doesn’t work for me one bit. No matter how deep the recession there will always be more people employed than unemployed and I would be rather unlucky to be unemployed for too long. Should I take sadistic comfort in the fact that my more illustrious contemporaries in the City are also not going to get any bonus at all and theirs is a much higher fall. If I can’t take comfort on their high bonuses, how can I in their zero bonuses. I am in no way a beneficiary to their will.

I have mixed feelings when I see headlines around banks giving big bonuses to their staff. At one level I feel bad for them because this has been part of their culture for many years if not decades. This is why they are in this business, for the compensation and not because they love banking. To tell them suddenly to give up something they feel is their inherent right , is like telling a tiger to go off meat. At another level, I sort of associate with the politicians trying to stop the banks from giving bonuses because those bonuses may be undeserved and that cash could be put to better use.  To add to this is my personal gripe against them, that it is because of them my little bonus has also vanished.

On the positive side, yacht rentals are coming down.