US economy on the upswing, but India…?

Diwali, or Deepavali is the most celebrated festival by Indians not only in India, but now across the world wherever they have settled, especially the United Kingdom, United States Australia, New Zealand Hong Kong and Far East.

It is not out of place, if we mention, Java and Bali where Indians migrated nearly a thousand years ago, as merchants and then settled and gave Hinduism a kaleidoscopic ambience, as reflected in the architectural monuments left by them in the form of gigantic Angkor Vat in Cambodia and Borobudur in Indonesia. They did leave behind them many cultural and civilizational milieu and the impressions of their contributions to the local way of life. As a result remnants of Diwali and Dashera are still obvious in their traditional life-style.

As the legends have it, the references to the celebration of light, which subsequently came to be known as Diwali began with the lighting of the “Diyas” by the denizens of Ayodhya at the return of Rama after spending fourteen years in exile. Lighting-up their houses has in fact become a cultural expression, as such instances are found in the traditions of Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs also as a process of common cultural heritage of Indians.

On the eve of Diwali and onset of the New Samvant Year, India Post keeping up with its tradition, asked a number of prominent Indians their views about the state of Economy in India and the USA. The consensus was that the USA would surge economically while India has to put up with short term setbacks.

Things for India would definitely improve, most of the Indians surveyed, opined if there is an end to endemic corruption and there is clear cut mandate to any one political party for the Federal; government. Khichdi government and pulls from pressure groups need to end – sooner the better.

bharat baraiDr Bharat Barai, an eminent oncologist from Indiana and a front ranking community activist, was not sanguine about Indian economy in the coming year for the simple reason of endemic corruption, demoralization of the administration and recent unfavorable business decisions.

He said that corruption hits investments as the money either goes”under the mat” or in Swiss bank. Secondly, it hurts administration which also gets clouded with considerations other than pushing up the economy. Barai also said that recent government indulging in smear campaign against industrialists like Kumar Mangalam Birla and its move to tax corporations retrospectively would not be conducive to business growth.

Inflation is another factor and so is the stagnant job market. “What we need is a strong Center which can take bold decisions without placating different interest groups and that is possible if the electorate returns a single parity in majority. BJP stands a good chance but what is needed is the electorate awakening and ending of pampering politics,” he observed.

Dr Barai felt that the US economy is on its way up and it is likely to grow further up that way. However, the pace of growth is unlikely to quicken again in the light of the fact that the corporate sector is not convinced about the sustained growth or high level of improvement.
The most favorable factor is the cut in energy cost of late and this should be a great boost factor. “The only thing needed is the government active help in cashing on this favorable development,” he added

AjitAjit Gandhi, a financial advisor in Chicagoland, observed that “while one should be optimistic, and also be wishing, that Indians in India and even outside the country should experience lot of joy and happiness in all areas of human activities next year. However, all indicators make one nervous about so many things. “Even politically, while it appears that BJP will ride the bandwagon of NaMo, it will be highly premature to draw such a big conclusion right now. A hung parliament is quite likely with a coalition government continuing with changed components,” he said.

The US economy should show improvement, due mainly to the increasing domestic oil production, but such improvement will be only marginal because of so many other factors.

Political tug of war will continue because the Tea Party is actually gaining some respect and acceptance in some quarters. These folks are playing hard ball and will not stop. “Hence, in my opinion, only marginal economic improvement will be noticed in the US,” he said.

Arjun&BGB. G. Dhake, Chairman and CEO of Dhake Industries in Plymouth MI said that basically he is an optimist and that he would feel that the growth in India stunted right now, will be a short term affair

He felt that the fundamentals with India are good – huge reservoir of skilled manpower, improving infrastructure and investment friendly policies of the government should result in higher growth in the near future. He conceded that corruption was a big issue and hoped that elections in the coming year will have this problem addressed effectively.

He was more optimistic about the US economy. The recession is now over and this is reflected in the changing scenario with the banking sector, auto industries and the housing market. “I am really looking for a good number of years of growth and prosperity in this part of the world,” he said

BadnaliBadri Ali Godhrawala CEO & President of Commercial Capital Investment Inc, said that India is a great country with rich culture and grand ambience. After independence in 1947 India has marched relentlessly. The great leaders of India have laid the foundation of progress and prosperity which needs to be taken farther.

There should be no doubt regarding the prosperity and joy for India and Indians in the coming year. There is mass awakening with respect to India’s connection with rest of the world. The education/communications/scientific developments/ industrialization/ modern agriculture system and new technologies have brought India as a front state on the world platform.
The modern technology and prosperity has penetrated right from the elites of India to the poorest of Indians. Just see the mindset of the most poor of the country. He may carry a cellphone and is fully aware of what is going on in the world. This was a challenge before 20/30 years but now it is a dream come true.

There could be few deterring factors to this progress and prosperity such as immature political set up/ hung parliament/ too many small and regional and ethnical political parties inflicting more damage rather than good.
However the sanity is slowly prevailing as Indians are looking at other stable countries like USA, China, Korea and making them as their role model for future prosperity.

Today’s India is no more India of British Raj/ Mughal Raj/ Nawab Raj or Maratha Raj – it is India with more determination and awareness. Mera Bharat Mahan – Jai Hind.

The USA is a country with economic discipline. The recent recession seems to be a thing of the past as many special measures introduced in the wake of the economic tsunami swept Americans causing collateral damage to the world.
As said by one of the officials of the economic team of Obama – that there are no books for getting the remedy to such economic catastrophe – we need to act on experiments and trials. Very true, as in the absence of set of rules, the recovery is definitely slow. But now since the system has evolved, the research of exit from such trauma has been successful, the USA economy is back in track.

Also USA has realized the fact that expenditure incurred to act as world police was really a burden on the taxpayers bearing no fruit to their lives. Thus cutting superfluous expenditure will build the economic reserves which shall be diverted towards economic stability and recovery of the system.

dayalDr Dayal Meshri, CEO Advance Chemicals Tulsa OK, did not rate Indian economic prospects high if the political set up with Congressional dynasty rule persisting. “A change in political scenario with more responsible and cleaner government ushering in huge return of black money from abroad should be considered sine qua non for economic upsurge.

I feel more and more convinced that a leader like Narendra Modi at the helm of affairs could bring in this type of change and India could emerge as a big economic power,” he said

Also, it is incumbent that persistent fingering from “terror abetting” Pakistan is snubbed and it needs to be taught a lesson that it cannot trifle with a country like India and that both need to live in peace for transforming their economies.

Dr Meshri felt that the US economy would grow further in coming year as all economic indicators point to that direction. “Housing sector shows recovery, auto sales are up, service industries have looked and so also the financial institutions pulse with change for better,” he observed. The growth, he felt, could be fast with the administration getting more business friendly.
Dahyabhai Prajapati, a Trustee of Manav Seva Mandir and a leader in real estate field, said that the climate of corruption pervading at all levels in Indian society is the biggest stumbling block in economic progress.

Whoever comes to power has to tackle this issue first if the country has to notch economic development. Citing the Chinese example he observed that the Chinese authorities have woken up to this problem and are sending strong message across the Chinese society that “they mean business now and foreign corporations are not immune to their drive against corrupting elements.”
The economy there is showing signs of revival once again, he added. In the process he favored, a strong one party majority rule at the Federal level and an end to khichdi government with pressure groups pulling in different directions.
Dahyabhai is very optimistic that the US economy will grow in coming year. “The job market is improving, stocks are up, the hospitality industry was up by 8 percent last year and so is auto and tech industries. All these portend to a brighter future. The level of improvement may be conditioned by help from the government. And this context I am hopeful that the US electorate would elect Democrats so that they control the House too,” he said

harenderHarendra Mangrola, CEO Sumit Construction and former Chief of Indo American Democratic Organization (IADO), underlined the need for a change in political set up in India which has been instrumental in making corruption a pastime for the politicians and bureaucrats alike.

“Corruption is a cancer and it is eating up all the growth that the country makes. The responsibility for this state of affairs is with the ruling dynasty and its cronies. Indian electorate has a chance to usher in political sanity and stability, and it should elect only those who are not corrupt and do not follow divisive policies,” he said.
Mangrola was categorical in asserting that India could emerge a power to reckon with if the government is headed by honest and committed elements.

With regard to the economic situation here, he felt that there is no chance that country would slide back to recession in coming years as all the economic pointers suggest growth. The oil boom and cut in energy costs could not have been timelier.
“Let us hope that growth is not tardy around 2 per cent and is much faster so that more and more people get jobs and feel more secure. The new construction and improving infrastructures are the key,” he added.

hasanHasan Merchant, CEO American Real Estate, said he is not despondent about Indian economy despite recently cropping roadblocks like inflation, drop in rupee value and political uncertainty in the wake of forthcoming 2014 elections.
“India has a resilient economy and I am optimistic that it would grow in the coming year although the pace may be slow,” he said

He was more optimistic about US economy since it is already showing signs of revival. The real estate market is up and so also are sales of consumer and durable goods. The job market has improved and Americans feel more upbeat about their near term future, he added.

kiran patelDr Kiran Patel, a former president of American Association of Physicans of Indian Origin (AAPI) and a great philanthropist from Florida, said that India has huge potential to be a Super Power. When the country as a whole wakes up and combats corruption, India will be a paradise. Unfortunately human greed and ignorance are the two great evils that will ensure this dream to be near impossible in the coming year and quite difficult to achieve in this generation.

The US economy, he said, had been so badly mauled in recent years that it had but no other direction than to get better and it did improve, albeit slowly. It has still a long way to go and as said earlier, it has now one way to go at least for the next few years. Sadly however, the growth that it has registered so far has really not percolated to average citizens “Not enough for many average citizens,” he lamented.

mafatbhaiMafat Patel, CEO Patel Bros and described often as “uncrowned King of Devon”, was not at all sanguine about Indian politics or economic conditions at least in the near future.

Enumerating number of hurdles, he said that the creeping inflation, deflation in rupee value, frustration among businessmen and the general public alike in the wake of political mudslinging, there is not much hope for getting the growth rate of seven eight percent as had been the case in recent past.

“The people should be happy if the rate of 4 and 4.5 percent is sustained, but this does not mean that things would not change. They would if there is a will among the ruling Junta. If we have a leader like Narendra Modi to guide the destiny of the country, the public could hope for improvement in their lot.

The powers that be, that is the voters at large, should rise above the communal, regional and narrow politics to achieve this,” he said.

Mafatbhai also was not exuding confidence or optimism as far as the US economy was concerned. “There is no doubt that the worst is over but that itself is no guarantee for a hefty rise in growth. We may continue with the same slow pace. Crawling, I mean. The administration should exercise lot of prudence in spending and tailor their expenses to match the revenue.
Borrowing or printing notes would not solve problem in the long run. Rather, that would compound the problem. The crux of the problem is creation of jobs with investment friendly steps and exercising caution while undertaking populist measures,” he said.

nerenNaren Patel, CEO MedStar Laboratories and National AIA official, said that the Indian economic growth is totally conditioned on the political climate next year and years after that. If the same old guard with its cronies continues at the helm of affairs, there is little chance of India progressing on the economic front.

The country needs a change for better in the political sphere at the Federal level so that new ideas could trigger confidence in the system, rooting out corruption and nepotism at practically all levels. This in turn will lead to growth so that benefits percolate to average citizens.

“I am not pining for any particular leader but I surely feel that those who dominated the political scene for years need to be replaced with new blood and that would be good for everybody. I have full faith in the people and their ability to deliver which they have done so far,” he said.
Naren Patel welcomed a change for better in the economic scene in USA but felt strongly that the growth as is touted by those in power may not be real. The job market has not improved as it should be and the policies like Obamacare would result in further burdening the economy.

He pointed out that more likely than not, the big pharmaceutical companies who charge heftily for their life saving medicines would benefit immensely by Obamacare. At the same time letting illegals come to the country and then getting them legalized for political consideration will also raise the burden on taxpayers. Inflation, which is at a low level now, may raise its ugly head again with the huge amount of money pumped into the economy causing imbalance in demand and supply. “However, for the coming year at least the economy is not likely to slid into recession, he said

sudhirDr Sudhir R. Brahmbhatt, President of Technology Services Inc. and Founder President of Center of Indian Cultural Education, St. Louis, MO said there are some grassroots issues in Indian politics. Corruption is like a cancer in society and the leaders put themselves first over the country. This concept needs to change in order to set in motion progress in right gear. Leaders should be public servants with the key goal of how to uplift the country.

“Based on my observation during last trip to India last May, I was very much disturbed by the fact that those responsible for enforcing the law do not discharge their duty at all and constantly look for ways to get money rather than doing the right thing. Even our religious leaders do not practice what they preach. The new blood groomed in this type of environment is not at all conducive to change anything because that is the norm for them.

Leaders like Modi may have a strong desire to duplicate his success in the Gujarat State but he will face tremendous challenge in changing the country’s psyche as he may be surrounded by corrupt elements. When people visit China they see amazing progress in communist country in many areas. Thus, I pray to God that Indian economy fares better, but I have my doubts.
With regard to the US, he said that “once we get through the current gridlock of debt ceiling and budget issues, I believe that US economy will improve.” The changes that the present administration has implemented some time ago and anticipated potentially favorable changes will further speed up the development process.

At this time, some factions are gunning for their own gain and act as bottleneck to the country’s economic progress. “When the country has started reaping some benefits from recent changes, some extremists elements do not seem to let the current administration succeed for their personal gains. The beauty of US is that the rule of law is fully practiced in letter and spirit. Hopefully the people will pick the right choice to represent them in the future.

sunil shahSunil Shah, Founder President the Federation of Indian Associations (new) said that the coming year can bring luster and joy to India and India economically and politically provided that our country is free of corruption and righteous people come to power and take the reins of the country.

After a staggering fall, the Indian rupee has some what stabilized. The current GDP figures show that growth slowed to 4.4% from 4.8% in the preceding quarter. Several government policymakers are optimistic about double digit growth but it would not be possible without significant structural reform. It will also depend on several other key factors like India’s relationship with neighboring countries like China and Pakistan. One is unpredictable and the other not reliable at all, Shah observed.
The 2014 elections are going to play a crucial role. “We have on one side a very popular, charismatic and dynamic leader Narendrabhai Modi with a proven track record and on the other end Sonia Gandhi in ill health, Rahul Gandhi unable to connect to the electorate even in his historically “safe” constituency. The Nehru-Gandhi brand name is losing its appeal and the prospects for the Congress party in 2014 look bleak.

“Only the election outcome will tell whether it can survive. Thus, it is up to the Indian electorate to bring changes by getting rid of corrupt leaders which could bring glory and luster in their lives and eventually, put country on the path of progress. A clear verdict giving majority to any one political party would ensure the demise of khichdi government. A clear mandate whether it is for BJP, Congress or some other party is a must,” he said.

Turning to the US economy, Sunil Shah said that the recent economic growth was hampered, stunted and weighed down by the government shutdown. The economic growth in the 4th quarter of 2013 is expected to run at a 2% pace and to rise to 2.8% in the 1st quarter of 2014, as the fiscal drag from the Washington fades.

Stocks rose on anticipation that fed stimulus efforts would continue well in to 2014 and this has given hope and confidence to investors. The optimism is also in the air with an 11% annual rise in house prices and the revival in housing sector has powerful acceleratory effect in the economy.

Another noteworthy event recently happened when Moody’s upgraded its credit outlook for the entire US banking sector from negative to stable. Now banks have enough capital, thereby terms on commercial and industrial loans are loosening steadily.
So looks like 2014 should be year of greater cheer.

sohan joshi copySohan Joshi, president National Federation of Indian Associations, strongly pitched for ending khichdi government at the Center in India for economic development. “Too many cooks, and worse still incompetent ones, spoil the broth and Indian people are beset with not only many cooks but many crooks also. How can one show optimism when faced with this situation? And still I am not feeling despondent and the main reason is my undying faith in the Indian people, their resilience and their tenacity. God willing everything will work out for good soon and let us have the New Year start with prayer for better things in coming Samvant year,” he said.

Sohan Joshi was very optimistic while describing the US economy. “We have put recession behind us and we can surely look for upswing in coming year. The pace will be determined by Obama following growth policy and not pushing for policies that discourage new investment,” he observed.

thakarThakar Basati, a Sikh community activist and Independent Asscoiate Legal Shield, said that India and Indians will have better times in coming year economically and possibly, politically as more people are educated now and realize corruption hasn’t helped any one. They need to uplift themselves morally.

People want to change India’ political system. There will be more Anna Hazares coming out. People are already fighting political clout. Family political inheritance will be reduced. Justice system needs to come out from the influence of politicians.
The US economy will improve further in the coming year as it takes time to see the benefit of current changes. America will be totally different from what they have seen so far. It will dawn upon Americans that nothing is permanent as the world doesn’t wait for America to say yes for everything. There is life without America. Americans will be more open to world powers. Locally too immigrants are coming into policy making decisions with their world exposure.

Surendra Ullal, Ramesh Soparawala & Harish Rao

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