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5 Tips on Résumé Writing

By Marquis Codjia

For a job applicant, résumé writing can be a powerful tool to obtain the dream job. For active workers, it serves as a way to build and maintain their professional brand name – in other words, it epitomizes how they portray and where they position themselves in the job market.

Due to this significance, extensive care should be exercised in drafting a résumé. Job seekers who understand the importance of a well-written résumé – but are unable to pen one – usually resort to professional résumé writers or occupational coaches.  Although these specialists can provide invaluable advice in the job search process and produce a high-quality work, job applicants can also author excellent résumé if they strictly follow some simple rules.

Use proper grammar

A résumé provides an account of the relevant work experience and education.  It introduces the job seeker to a potential employer; it is thus critical that the first impression – the résumé – be a good one. Employers rarely offer interviews to applicants with error-filled résumés, unless the job is in a field where proper English and good spelling are priorities. (Those jobs are rare). Applicants should write, proofread and edit their résumés until they’re satisfied with the quality. It is advised to have a second person – and even a third – proofread the résumé before sending it out to potential employers. Avoid common mistakes (e.g.: it’s vs. its, you’re vs. your, two vs. too vs. to, they’re vs. their); they reflect poorly on your work and your personality.

Write in a concise, professional manner

The résumé is a professional document that describes work accomplishments, among many things. As such, it should be written in a professional manner. It should also be concise, dealing directly with the relevant aspects of one’s career or academic life. Aspects of one’s private life that do not relate directly to – or are not pertinent to – the job sought should be avoided.

Be truthful

Integrity is the cornerstone of everyday’s life, whether in politics, business, or society. Voters rarely elect individuals perceived as lacking honesty; companies seldom partner with unreliable institutions or individuals. Consequently, it is absolutely important that the résumé be truthful in all its aspects because this affects one’s reputation. Warren Buffet once said:  ‘It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it ‘.

Include only your major, relevant achievements

Sometimes it is tempting to include an exhaustive list of accomplishments on the résumé to impress a potential employer. However, this can be counter-productive because employers often have many résumés to sift through and won’t spend too much time on a lengthy, verbose résumé. It is more effective to include only the major achievements that relate to the position sought.

Use your résumé as a marketing tool

The résumé is your ultimate tool to manage your brand name, your professional positioning. At each stage in a career, the résumé can serve to differentiate top-caliber candidates from the rest of the pack. To stay in the top-caliber, it is critical to use all the tips already mentioned, but also maintain an extensive professional network where the résumé can be periodically exposed.

Beyond Greece, Eurozone Has Other Achilles’ Heels

April 29, 2010 14 comments

By Marquis Codjia

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The current brouhaha over Greece’s budgetary mischance and its alleged adverse effects on Europe are an epochal episode in the history of the emergent European economic zone, but these are not the decisive areas where decision-makers, including political leaders and financial markets participants, should pay heed.

Greece’s debt pains would ultimately be resolved, because Eurozone behemoth Germany will strategically come in line with its continental peers; also, supranational channels – such as the European Central Bank and the IMF – will be coerced into using their balance sheets to provide liquidity to cash-strapped Hellenes.

The real fear presently is contagion – avoiding that the ambient financial pandemonium metastasizes into other economically comatose countries within the union. If any of these countries, clustered under the unflattering acronym of P.I.G.S. (Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain), is downgraded by rating agencies – as was recently the case for Spain and Portugal who lost a few notches, the potential bailout costs and risk premia will rise stratospherically.

Eurozone leaders should swiftly settle Greece’s problems because of perception risks. No doubt the country is a financial and geostrategic dwarf (2% of Eurozone GDP and no major federal institution headquartered). Plus, other ‘weakest links’ such as Spain and Italy possess far greater self-financing capacities and have a different debt structure (domestically held vs. 95% of Greek debt held by foreigners). Notwithstanding, if trans-European perception is that Eurozone will not show geo-economic solidarity vis-à-vis its members in times of uncertainty, then the concept of political union loses its relevancy, and economic agents, including financial markets, will certainly reflect their despondency by driving the single currency lower.

Broadly, other systemic inefficiencies continue to thwart progress within the Eurozone.

First is the lack of a clear political structure in the federation. European leaders, particularly those from prominent countries (UK, Germany, France), seem at this point more content with a federal hierarchy replete with political figures (preferably from minor countries) who pose no leadership threat to them, and a plethora of bureaucratic institutions filled with functionaries picked on an unwritten pro-rata rule to satisfy member states. This strategic stance of an elusive political union grounded in an economic zone is antithetical to the very concept of federation that subtended the initial EU agreement.

To illustrate this, let’s consider a simple example: whom would current U.S. President Barack Obama or China Premier Wen Jiabao negotiate a strategic partnership with if either leader needs a European counterpart? Would they call upon the current President of the European Commission José Manuel Durão Barroso? Or the current President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy? Or the current (6-month rotating) President of the Council of the European Union José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero? Or EU heavyweights French President Nicolas Sarkozy or German Chancellor Angela Merkel? Or a combination of all of these leaders?

Second, the lack of a clear, single political leadership begets an absence of a uniform socio-economic agenda in the union. It seems as though European leaders want the pros of economic integration, but abhor its cons altogether without attempting to minimize or obliterate them. EU citizens must define what the Eurozone stands for: is it a free-trade area, similar to NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) or ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), where partner countries retain their political, economic and social independence, and can compete against each other? Or is it a political and economic union steered by broadly uniform national social policies, similarly to a single country? Or is it, rather, something in between, or neither?

Third, European Central Bank’s powers must be broadened beyond price stability. Unlike the U.S. Fed, the bank’s only primary mandate at the moment is to keep inflation low, with other objectives subordinate to it. The ECB should intervene further in the regional economy, and help avoid systemic disequilibria if need be. In sum, the institution should be allowed to use its gigantic reserves to calm jittery markets in times of uncertainty, among other roles.

Fourth, Eurozone membership should be reviewed; this includes not only the admission process, but also membership conditions and stipulations for exclusion. Understandably, the political undertones of this process call for some diplomatic verbiage, but overall, countries seeking membership in the privileged “Club Euro” must meet stringent criteria, and such criteria should be thoroughly enforced. The current Stability and Growth Pact, which aims to limit budget deficits and debts, is a good start but the ineffective control scheme around it permitted the kind of statistical fraud that Greece authored when seeking admission nearly a decade ago. In sum, sound economic fundamentals and strict governance rule, in addition to geography, should be the rationale for co-opting new members into the Eurozone.

Finally, the EU enlargement process should pay special attention to two key dossiers: U.K. and Turkey. The argument here is not in favor of a quick admission (in Turkey’s case), but for a clearer acceptance framework, more effective than the current 31-chapter “Acquis Process”.

Both dossiers are complex and politically charged, but their quick resolution will do more good than harm to the EU. Turkey has many woes (human rights concerns, Cyprus dispute, perception of Islamism despite the country’s secularism, business regulation, etc.), but its advantages are also interesting. It is 16th largest GDP in the world – per IMF’s 2009 ranking, outpaced in the Eurozone only by Germany, U.K., France, Italy and Spain. This means that, out of the current 27 EU members, it ranks 6th on GDP measurement. The country is geographically larger than any EU member and its ca. 73 million citizens are outnumbered only by Germany’s ca. 82 million; this may open up potential new markets for growth-seeking EU businesses. Politically, Ankara is an important geostrategic ally of the West and a member of such key organizations as G-20, OECD and NATO.

As for the U.K., a current EU member that opted out of the Eurozone, its Labor Party-led government defined in the late 1990s five economic tests that must be met prior to adopting the Euro as national currency, either via parliamentary ratification or referendum. Euro adoption remains a domestic hot button issue and thus may not be addressed for many years. But, it’d be interesting to see how politicians and business leaders will react once the euro reaches parity with, or gradually outpaces, the pound sterling. So far, the euro has risen 65% vs. the pound, from a low of 57 cents in 2000 to 94 cents a decade later, briefly nearing parity late in 2008 (.98 in December 2008).

Confronting The Entitlement Conundrum – Why Social Security May Be America’s Financial Weapon of Mass Destruction

April 18, 2010 67 comments

By Marquis Codjia

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Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor and long-time Chairman of conglomerate colossus Berkshire Hathaway, emphatically stated in 2002 that derivatives were “time bombs, both for the parties that deal in them and the economic system”. Given the deleterious role these securities had in the recent economic crisis, the “Oracle of Omaha” certainly evinces prescience in addition to his mythic business acumen.

Yet, what will likely choke off economic growth in the U.S., and by percolation, usher in global economic disequilibria, is managing mammoth entitlement benefits due to – or rather, promised to – millions of Americans over not only a year or two, but decades in their lifetimes, once they face thorny existential episodes such as illness, old age, disability, or loss of employment.

Of all government-steered social schemes, Social Security – the federal Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) program – is the largest, claiming 20% of the national budget in 2009 or $678 billion, right after defense (23%). Other known schemes are unemployment benefits, Medicare and Medicaid.

A conceptual understanding of Social Security is helpful to gauge the dynamics at work in the entitlement debate. Simply explained, Social Security allows retirees to earn pension income from contributions made by current workers – via specific payroll taxes. Understandably, the system remains balanced if contributions made exceed benefits paid – as is currently the case.

However, current projections posit a funding gap starting in 2016 – in other words, expenses will outrun revenues, thus coercing the country into seeking external funds (from new loans or cuts in other programs). Worse, successive governments have borrowed and used up over the years cumulative surpluses held in the Social Security Trust Fund.

The funding deficit is caused by a panoply of factors, the most important of which are the increase in life expectancy, the lowering birth rate, and aging baby-boomers (resulting in fewer workers paying for more retirees).

What’s flummoxing is that the current political elite – like their forerunners in both parties – seem to be voluntarily embroiled in partisan ramblings, and gladly enjoying esoteric rhetoric that renders the populace obtuse, and discredits the urgency and criticality of the social security debate. Consequently, our most intellectually dynamic citizens do not give this topic the socio-economic import it deserves.

The ensuing status quo threatens to turn a tractable conundrum into a veritable crisis – a “time bomb” into a “financial weapon of mass destruction” against America’s social fabric. Former and current Fed chairmen, fortunately, fathom the essence of the matter; thus, Alan Greenspan advocates a mix of measures to bring entitlement programs under control and ensure long-term economic prosperity, while Ben Bernanke warns that “Americans may have to accept higher taxes or changes in entitlements… to avoid staggering budget deficits.”

Several elements form the disquieting body of thoughts that justifies the hyperbolic, or apocalyptic, formulation used in this analysis.

First, the absence of a real, serious forum to gauge the merits of viewpoints engaged in the Social Security overhaul disputation. As noted earlier, this status quo seems to be furthered, at the very least, by consecutive administrations for the past three decades, because either the issue is thorny and politically unpalatable to constituents or elected officials deem it of lower priority. In sum, they dare not venture topics that may derail re-election prospects.

To fill the rhetorical void, snippets of partisan parlance are interjected here and there, mainly to polarize citizens and eschew a thorough debate. One such snippet is the notion that Social Security should be privatized and entrusted with professional portfolio managers because the government should let free-market decide and any form of public management of the behemoth fund is a type of communist intervention intolerable in capitalist America. In this article, the pros and cons of this argument cannot be evaluated with granularity but factual observations reveal the latter’s practical limits. It’s easy to wonder what financial devastation the country would have suffered had the Fund been invested in the stock market before the recent mini-crash. It’s also easy to observe how effective a manager the government can be by analyzing operational results at the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), the Army Medical Department, Medicare, and Medicaid, all of which remain sound programs.

Second, the much needed overhaul of the IRS and the country’s tax collection scheme is taking longer to occur, and this delay, coupled to the ongoing government waste at the federal, state, and legislative levels, annihilates any serious endeavour to cut budget deficits.

Next, the systemic spectre of a vicious cycle looms. If the ratio of retirees to active workers grows excessively, there will be fewer contributions to pay pension benefits, and such a reduced purchasing power will yield lower private consumption. Companies will then be forced to cut their workforce if sales are lethargic, and the smaller remaining workforce will contribute even less to the Social Security Fund, and so forth.

Fourth, the Fed – as the lender of last resort – can lend to the U.S. Treasury should public finances deteriorate but it can’t sustainably keep printing money via its quantitative easing tactic lest the dollar tumble on defiance from capital markets and heightened inflation.

Fifth, the country’s incapacity to lower its trade deficits will likely not be solved in the near future because the American industrial complex is currently unable or disinclined to produce superior goods affordably, and opening up U.S. markets to foreign suppliers serve as geostrategic levers in international discussions.

In the end, entitlement specialists and those well-versed in the Social Security issue ask the following: why aren’t authorities implementing the Social Security Trust Fund’s proposal (2009 Report) to marginally raise the tax rate or the salary cap on payroll tax in order to fix the funding gap? For example, raising the payroll tax rate to 14.4% in 2009 (from 12.4%) or cutting benefits by 13.3% would fix the program’s gap indefinitely, while these amounts increase to ca.16% and 24% if no changes are made until 2037.

Risks and Rewards of Using Facebook and How They Affect Corporate E-Commerce Tactics

April 7, 2010 31 comments

By Marquis Codjia

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The estimated half-billion Facebook current users form a gigantic market for global business and a chief barometer in other sectors, including politics, mass media, sports and charitable undertakings. Given its user diversity and geographical expansion, the leading social portal constitutes a digital populace akin to a global organization.

In fact, Facebook has morphed lately into an “online United Nations” – if nothing else, when factoring the fraction of the world’s population that is computer-literate.

Facebook users can be cross-analyzed in multiple ways, based on the aim of the analysis; however, for the sake of simplicity, two areas can be retained to depict the membership diversity.

The first area is anthropological, and is indissolubly tied to basic human gregarious instincts. Members can register as individuals and invite friends – and friends of friends – to create and maintain their own social groupuscules, or networks. With other fans, they share their admiration for a company, a brand, a product, or an individual. They show their commitment for a cause by joining groups or forums. If they feel playful, they indulge in games, quizzes or other entertainment conduits available on the website.

Second area is socio-economics. Members can identify as individuals – that is, consumers, or the demand side – or organizations – that is, producers, or the supply side. The latter group can be further divided into businesses, non-profits, politicians and entertainers.

To individual users, Facebook offers many an advantage. Users can search for new or old friends, interact with them, and expand their networks to other individuals who share their likes and dislikes – via friends of their friends or groups in which they maintain membership.
They access helpful information that otherwise may be unavailable to them – academic work, research papers, web premieres of electronic products, etc. Members can also share pictures, video and audio content, and in that process, use the portal as a powerful dating or matrimonial agency.

Such intermingling is useful because it allows users to fearlessly communicate with acquaintances as well as strangers, and provides an empirical illustration of the six-degrees of separation theory.

The six-degrees of separation theory – also called the “Human Web” theory – explains that everyone is at most six steps away from any other person on Earth, because each person is one step away from another person they know and two steps away from each person who is known by one of the people they know.

Disadvantages to Facebook individual users relate mainly to privacy and productivity.

Unmistakably, the risk of public exposure is inherent in any online presence, be it social portals or other forums; Facebook members thus relinquish part of their privacy simply by registering and posting status updates on their “walls”, since no one knows with a high degree of certainty how member data is managed. This privacy breach is compounded by inadequate privacy settings that most users, especially minors and the elderly, have in their accounts, leaving them vulnerable to online predators and other mischievous acts. Members – unwillingly and unbeknownst to them – can be tagged in pictures and writings that provide an uncanny or inaccurate depiction of their personality, views or interests.

Simply put, Facebook can erode or destroy one’s reputation over time unless a member controls strictly how their information is disseminated.

Privacy infringement can also occur via the portal’s plethora of applications; these tools are formidable marketing conduits to collect valuable information – including emails – about members, which can then be monetized with legitimate businesses or illegal organizations (e.g. spammers). For example, think about a quiz like “What will your wedding dress look like?” and how respondents, credulous that they’re partaking in a game, can unawares provide useful data to a vast number of players in the wedding planning industry.

On the productivity front, Facebook usage favors a climate of procrastination and addiction that comes with the various features (e.g.: games) existing on the portal. This behavior is however excellent for the company because the more time users spend on the site the better.

For organizations and celebrities, including politicians, a Facebook presence offers many rewards and relatively few, if any, negligible risks. This absence of detriment is a consequence of the sophistication of risk management and brand promotion techniques that these entities use, and the built-in features available on the site. Since corporate persons have full control of their accounts, they view their Facebook pages as natural extensions to their websites or intranets.

The rewards to this group relate primarily to the enhancement of their brand appeal and their online commercial strategy. A Facebook presence furthers a paradigm shift in e-commerce tactics. Organizations can gauge their “online market share” and popularity level by their number of fans vis-à-vis the competition, and slice it demographically into desired niches or strata, even though such number may arguably not be reflective of actual market size and characteristics, and may not translate necessarily into real consumers.

Having admirers listed on their pages or related groups is precious because businesses and celebrities have at their disposal a free and valuable database of potential, loyal customers to whom they can pitch their new products or services. Newsletters, quizzes, and applications from Facebook offer a direct way to conduct market research cheaply and collect firsthand consumer feedback. For example, a firm may test a new concept with Facebook fans, or a representative portion thereof, prior to advancing its R&D process and launching a new product.

Formal announcements can also be directly disseminated, in real-time, to vast swathes of the clientele. Other interesting features are Facebook Ads, a service that allows sponsors to target specific demographics, and Marketplace, a digital market where products can be marketed directly to patrons.

Obamanomics vs. Reaganomics – Which Can Save the Economy?

April 2, 2010 70 comments

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By Marquis Codjia

President Reagan in the Oval Office delivering his Tax Reduction televised address in July 1981 (Photo courtesy of the Reagan Library, Official government record)

In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan asserted emphatically that “government is not a solution to our problem,” but rather, “government is the problem.” Nowadays, many specialists revisit the soundness of such avowal in light of the mammoth government-engineered bailouts that questionably helped safeguard the global economic fabric.

Those experts are not alone. The current White House chief denizen, who uttered openly during the 2008 presidential campaign his admiration for Reagan’s political persona – much to the ire of some diehard Democrats – , has so far spearheaded policies overmuch adversative to Reaganomics.

Many Americans remember President Reagan for his debonair, articulate and Hollywoodian public posture; yet, the former leader had developed a sophistication in economic analysis that served him throughout the recession that hallmarked his presidency.

Faced with a dysfunctional economy at the onset of his mandate, President Reagan ingrained his policies in supply-side economics, advocating a quartet of measures that revolutionized America’s social dynamics and reignited its growth machine.

First, he proposed vast tax cuts on labor and capital to incentivize corporations and entrepreneurs to invest and innovate, whereas citizens, freshly cash awash due to increased savings, were heartened to spend. Next, deregulation in targeted economic sectors aimed at eschewing unnecessary costs to investors. Third, he steered a package of major budget cuts approximating – from 1981 onwards – a 5% reduction in government expenses (circa $150 billion today). Fourth, Reagan sought to tighten monetary policy to combat inflation.

The late president’s plan delivered mixed results.

Inflation experienced a spectacular fourfold decrease from 1980 to 1983 (13.2% vs. 3.2%), federal receipts grew higher than outlays (at an average rate of 8.2% vs. 7.1%), and the 16 million new jobs created helped shrink unemployment by 3 points (to 7.5% from a 1982 peak of 10.8%). Other accolades from the Cato Institute, a libertarian think thank, include a real median family income rise of $4,000 and a higher productivity.

This said, Reaganomics and its no holds-barred canons structurally devastated parts of America’s socio-economic fabric: fiscal cuts coupled with a surge in Cold War military spending created a yawning abyss in the nation’s finances (e.g.: large budget deficits, trade deficit expansion). In addition, some culpability can be attributed to the Republican leader vis-à-vis the 1987 stock market crash and the Savings and Loans crisis, merely because, at a minimum, both pandemonia occurred under his watch. In order to cover budget shortages, the administration then embarked on a borrowing spree that catapulted the national debt to $3 trillion from $700 billion, part of which (circa $125 billion) subsidized an S&L industry crippled by the failure of 747 thrifts.

The portmanteau Obamanomics – used to depict economic policies espoused by current U.S. President Barack Obama – is a new concept, which understandably needs more time to develop before a studious analysis can be conducted on its merits.

Clearly, the current administration – also faced with a chaotic economy – has so far adopted, or is envisaging, policies diametrically opposed to Reagan’s precepts: higher taxes, increased regulation, more spending, and a loose monetary policy.

President Obama’s plan to save banks was the correct initiative for two reasons: decrepitude in capital markets would have metastasized into a more costly, general chaos, and the fact that banks are now relatively stable attests to the program’s effectiveness, notwithstanding the remaining work to be accomplished in the bank bailout’s scheme.

Even if the current economic recovery plan will take a while to reach its desired goals, preliminary results so far are altogether mixed: banks are loath to lend, the mortgage sector is still lethargic, the lackluster private consumption is hampering corporate investments and the global economic productivity. The economy is gradually adding thousands of jobs but the unemployment rate still stands at 9.7%.

So, which of Reaganomics or Obamanomics can save the economy today?

The answer is none.

No economy policy ingrained in political partisanship can save the economy; to be efficient, authorities must use a combination of ideologies, extirpating the best areas of each and amalgamating them into a coherent plan deep-rooted in sound economics.

First, the government must balance its budget by reining in bureaucratic waste at the federal and state levels, seeking higher efficiency in its social programs and maintaining a tax base able to provide sufficient inflows. The recent nomination of Jeffrey Zients as U.S. Chief Performance Officer is a welcome decision.

Second, the government and the legislative branch must agree to suppress or significantly reduce pork-barrel spending; even if some of the projects subsidized are valid, the lack of transparency and the fact that too much power lies in the hands of one lawmaker are troubling. Citizens Against Government Waste, a private, nonpartisan watchdog, estimated in its latest report that 2009 pork-barrel spending amounted to $19.6 billion, up from $17.2 billion the previous year.

Third, the government must invest in education, sciences, health, and recreation services to assure a productive labor force and educated populace. Every citizen appreciates a good local school system, an efficient police, and functional social services. Fourth, a gradual and well-balanced regulatory framework for critical sectors is needed to level the playing field for all economic agents and eschew the negative effects of systemic risks.

Finally, the tax code should be more efficient and easier to understand so more revenues are collected. Currently, it is estimated that it costs the IRS between 25 and 30 cents for every tax dollar collected, without counting the billions spent by citizens in tax compliance and planning. We have a simplified property tax code in our cities; why can’t we engineer a similar scheme at the federal level?

Can Google Live Without China?

March 25, 2010 72 comments

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By Marquis Codjia

Op-eds in prominent newspapers around the world are discussing profusely the latest decision by Google to disengage from China in a move that epitomizes the search engine’s level of camaraderie with communist censors.

While few viewpoints offer a holistic examination of a complex issue that goes beyond the business sphere, the majority applaud Google’s shift as salutary to enhancing democracy in the Asian country.

The query nowadays in the western hemisphere is whether China can live without Google.

Many respond by the negative, citing, among others, the infancy of the country’s technology infrastructure and its limited number of qualified engineers; some even posit metaphorically that Beijing will be “in the darkness” after such exit.

Truth be told, China needs Google far less than the opposite. Hence, to the inverse question – can Google live without China? – the reasonable answer becomes yes.

Strategically, there is a superfluity of arguments attesting that the Mountain View, California-based technology mammoth is following the wrong path in handling its Chinese conundrum. Some of these arguments are specifically endogenous to the firm, whereas others are more varied in nature and closely inherent to the macro-environment in which the firm evolves.

Google does not divulge the size nor the profitability of its China business but it can be inferred, from the country ca. 400 million internet users, that Google.cn – its local portal – contributes a hefty part of the overall bottom line.

Gauging the firm’s scope of business in Mao’s republic implies factoring not only core search revenues but also the ancillary business derived from joint-ventures in Asia and Google’s own commercial undertakings.

The firm cannot ignore the potential cash-cow that Chinese internet users represent and the competitive pre-eminence that a local presence can proffer. The recent announcement from Google to move its local servers from the mainland to Hong Kong and end its censorship of searches does a disservice to the firm’s core business strategy because Google needs to be in China to win in the Chinese market, irrespective of the notorious practices of the nation’s economic climate.

Therefore, Ed Burnette is accurate in reiterating this viewpoint.

It is very momentous to acknowledge that China’s economic practices are far from fair and its socio-political system may at times be antithetical to paradigms experienced in other parts of the world. That China is not a democracy is commonplace rhetoric, yet many, if not all, Fortune 100 companies are keen to put basic tenets about free speech into oblivion and open a Chinese subsidiary.

Geostrategic factors at the macro-economic level are those that Google should pay thorough attention to. The firm is a leader in its industry and possesses reliable friends within the Obama administration – Andrew McLaughlin, its former head of global public policy, is currently the Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer in the Executive Office of the President. Yet, a company by itself cannot represent a major strategic player in the much larger and complex continuum of US – China relations.

Politicians are very economical with the truth when it comes to China. While they occasionally resort to rhetorical dissent vis-à-vis Beijing’s transgressions on democracy and issues relating to free speech, they all keep legendarily mum when it comes to coupling business with ethics.

They shouldn’t be necessarily blamed because there’s a variety of sibylline elements that make up transnational relations, and bi- or multi-lateral issues are not always simplistic with crystal clear solutions.

If Google pulls out of the mainland, it stands to lose billions of dollars in core revenues and collateral business. It will lose its dominance in the regional search business and such economic void will attract other rivals, which in the end will cripple the firm’s global market share.

This doom scenario is far from a Hollywood sci-fi episode. If Google exits, locals (such as Baidu) and major rivals like Microsoft’s Bing and Yahoo will doubtless grab the manna. Alternatively, new entrants may easily imitate the firm’s search model and take advantage of local authorities’ reprimand and develop their business.

There is a long list of Western multinationals operating in the mainland despite repeated protests from human rights activists. Think McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, Carrefour, Citibank, etc.

Collateral losses for Google are already reflecting China’s angry reaction after the search engine made its announcement; news media reported so far that Chinese mobile phone companies will drop Google or Android, its new mobile operating system.

Did The Bank Bailout Work?

March 18, 2010 63 comments

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By Marquis Codjia

A few months ago, the crumbling global economy was atop the agenda of many G20 leaders. Social unrest, banking sector meltdown, global growth conundrum, and stock market yo-yos were the main discussion topics among the planetary leadership.

Governments the world over addressed the most imperative issue, the banking pandemonium, with massive cash inflows into a sector that hitherto epitomized capitalism at its best (and worst), with a modus operandi more akin to central intervention in communist economies.

The global tab ranges from 4 to 5 trillion US dollars according to the most optimistic estimates, but the overall costs may run higher in the future.

The financial rescue of the ailing banking sector, in principle, was the right course of action and various experts across the political spectrum saw eye to eye on its criticality, including the staunchest free-market theorizers who routinely treat as leftist energumens out of the antediluvian era those who dare buck conventional wisdom regarding the role of government in social economics.

It was flummoxing, however, to observe how lenient authorities were vis-à-vis banks throughout the bailout process on top of the very favorable terms under which funds were disbursed. Hence, financial institutions that benefited from state largesse were able to quickly use monies received to regain profitability and reimburse their respective governments.

Other parts of the economy didn’t experience so swift a recovery. Unemployment is still high; the mortgage sector is still in a shambles. Banks have been reluctant to lend, creating an underperforming productive sector and a lethargic private consumption. The stock market may be up but, debatably, the “real economy” is still down.

Banks played a crucial role in the current economic malaise, but anti-bailout commentators were wrong to vilify them and to affirm that such guilt should have precluded public rescue. Financial intermediaries are an epochal pillar of our post-modern economies, and it would have been socio-economically ruinous and politically unpalatable to let them sink.

Admittedly, a majority of banks are today more cash awash and profitable than a year ago albeit some pockets of the industry are still comatose owing to the liquidity hemorrhage that has devastated them since the recession erupted.

Regrettably, nothing has changed. These institutions are resorting again to the erstwhile practices that wrought havoc to the economy in the first place, under the aegis of a regulatory body eerily blind, deaf and tongue-tied.

Banks, evidently, should be encouraged to pursue and make profits as any private concern. But when such a financial quest comes at the expense of an entire system or poses a systemic threat to the productive sector of the economy, the argument in favor of tougher regulation becomes of preeminent import.

Companies need to utilize hedging for exposure control; yet, speculators lately seem to use derivatives to bet against their very benefactors. Although outrageous to vast swaths of the populace, such practices are explicable if one considers that the speculating camp only furthers private interests of elites (their investors) who seldom factor morality into the profitability equation.

Case in point: Greece. The Hellenic government bailed out its banking sector with billions of dollars only to see their country downgraded a few months later because of a perceived default risk.

At this moment, elected officials and central bankers should ponder the following question: did the bailout work? Or, stated differently, did the mammoth cash infusion into banks and the associated supplemental initiatives reach the initial goals?

Seasoned economists and social scientists will grapple amply with issues regarding program effectiveness and efficiency in the future, but prominent experts currently believe the answers to such interrogations are negative. George Mason University economist Peter Boettke posited that bank bailouts have created a “cycle of debt, deficits and government expansion” that in the end “will be economically crippling” to major economies, whereas Barry Ritholtz, famed author of Bailout Nation and CEO of research firm FusionIQ, thinks the rescue programs could have been conducted better.

It can be argued that the initial rescue phase of the bailout program was effectual in that it helped avert a domestic and global banking hubbub. But, contrary to popular credence, that was the easiest part. The courageous headship of political leaders and regulators cannot be underrated in the process, but it is indisputably far facile for a powerful central bank, like the US Federal Reserve, to make journal entries to the credit of targeted institutions and replenish their corporate coffers via the much celebrated “quantitative easing”.

The Fed, just like other G8 central banks, is in an enviable position because it can create money ‘out of nothing’ by increasing the credit in its own bank account. Ask current Greek Central Bank governor George Provopoulous whether he’d like to have such latitude.

Regulation is where actual political bravery need be shown from authorities, and so far the lack of sweeping reforms in the financial sector may obliterate the latter’s plodding recovery.

At present, there are five distinct reasons explicating the mediocre results obtained so far from the bailout scheme.

First, the much needed financial overhaul is taking longer to move up the legislative ladder and reach US President Barack Obama’s desk because not only financial lobbies – such as the über-powerful American Bankers Association – are exerting strong pressure,  the political agenda is also crowded out with the pressing healthcare reform and the geostrategic concerns linked to conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The fact that Senate Banking chief Chris Dodd, D-Conn., wants to introduce reform in the sector will probably change little in the short-term.

Second, President Obama’s own senior level financial staff is composed of former Wall Street alumni and lobbyists, and many skeptics are incredulous that a clique so tied to financial interests can spearhead true reforms in an industry that was previously munificent to them.

The next two factors are endogenous to the banking industry. One is the past experience of regulation and deregulation cycles that usually make laws dissipate over time, and the other stems from the idiosyncratic ability of financial engineers and investment bankers to design new products and techniques to counter existing laws.

Finally, the regulatory endeavor should be global in scope, and the present lack of geographic cooperation and the practical difficulty to track systemic risk within the industry are currently handicapping further advances.