Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Czech Republic Pays for Immigrants to Go Home: Global Immigrant backlash?

Last week there was news that Japan would pay immigrants, especially second generation Latin American immigrants to go "home." Wall Street Journal now reports that Czech Republic is following suit (The Czech Republic Pays for Immigrants to Go Home)
Questions: One wonders if this is the beginning of a global Immigrant backlash? Is this the beginning of a trend where Western countries ask Legal permanent residents and immigrants to voluntarily leave for their "home countries"? (Surely the policy makers in the Land of Immigrants - USA, Canada, Australia, UK - are watching?!)
Wonder what would happen when the tide turns and the economic climate improves: will the same governments again issue immigrant visas and one-way tickets inviting immigrants back "home"? And Speaking of Home, where is a "home" for immigrants like Trin Van Pham, the Vietnamese immigrant featured in the WSJ story who took on $11,000 in debts to get to his new home?

Other blogs on the topic:

Trackbacks: 1

Monday, April 27, 2009

Global Swine Flu threat: How does it impact those in Global businesses?

Anybody watching the global news is probably getting an updated image of the Swine Flue pandemic and doesn`t need to read a blog entry to get updates. The media - CNN, BBC et al - are certainly playing a role in generating awareness, and sometimes overwhelming us with a minute-by-minute update that borders on hysteria.

While the panic was restricted to the US, it seems to have global in the past two days.
Yesterday WHO Raised the global Threat Level. Washington Post reports that "E.U. Issues Conflicting Warnings on Travel as First Cases Outside N. America Are Confirmed" However, others are reporting that EU warns against non-essential travel to Mexico & US "The European Union's health commissioner urged Europeans on Monday to postpone nonessential travel to the United States or Mexico due to swine flu."

A few additional perspectives from the blogsphere:

  • Bruce blogs on Economics of Swine Flu: Scaring the Economy to Death? “The initial reaction to the outbreak of the flu has been to, “stay at home and watch TV”. The effects are noticeable. Some restaurants have closed due to lack of customers. The retailers have yet another thing to worry about. There is less traffic on the roads this morning.”
  • Man’s Worst Enemies: A History Of Animal-Borne Epidemics The blog has a set of pictures on epidemics from the past including plagues, Ebola and Mad Cow diseases. I wouldn’t go to the blog while having my dinner.
  • Richard Walden blogs on Huffington Post on Swine Flu Outbreak Precautions Begin. Richard takes a pragmatic look at the preparedness in the US "This may sound highly dramatic but in reality this type of preparedness activity is beginning to unfold across the USA and in many other countries.” And voices a cautiously optimistic note “We do not yet know the lethality of this particular strain or mix of animal and human viruses, but it appears at first glance less deadly than the "bird flu" virus which caused over 250 deaths in Asia over the past 5 years and decimated tens of millions of chickens and ducks in Asian countries where they are an important part of the food supply. That virus rarely "jumped species" from animal to man and it was never airborne."
  • Swine flu update: Europe and the bottom of the world
  • H1N1 Swine Flu (Google Maps): Interesting Web 2.0 mashup of the flu. Trust the techies to capatilize on any interesting trend. . . and provide innovative "solutions"

Footnote: For those of us in the business of Globalization, such epidemics certainly a cause for concern. This said,

  • In the short run the pandamic will certainly impact trade and business as people get hesitant to get on a plane, travel and attend critical meetings. Companies, especially multinationals may send out travel advisories based on their individual corporate risk assessments. More governments may issue travel advisories. Cross-continental and international travellers may have to undergo additional screening.
  • In the mid-term, say next few weeks: one should be watching with caution, use common sense while travelling and of course have confidence that the authorities around the world are going to do their best to contain the epidemic. Of course, HR departments, corporate security groups and governments are perhaps doing a quick scan of lessons learnt from that the SARS era. Note to self: there is an irony that the SARS scare also came at a time of global slowdown (in the tech sector)
  • In the long run, things will settle back into a pattern. Most of us in the business of globalization remember SARS virus scare that had a similar short-term impact on global trade . . . but was soon forgotten.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Musing on Immigration and work visas

There is an interesting article in Forbes this week titled "Your Alpaca For A Visa" The basic question that the author seems to wonder: Why the slowdown in the west and the continued resilience of Chinese economy has not diminished the eagerness to migrate to the land of honey-and-milk, America?
The author hypnotizes "The going rate for a full-service visa package, including fake documents, coaching for your visa interview and help landing a job once you're in the U.S., is as much as $15,000 to $17,500, and for that, a customer may end up as, say, a cook in a Chinese restaurant, working 70 to 80 hours a week for less than $2,000 a month. Who wants to go to that kind of trouble to seek that kind of opportunity? . . . What about their backgrounds made them want to go to the U.S.? We may never know, but the most likely answer is the most obvious one, that they believed there would be more attractive economic opportunities abroad than at home"
There was another similar essay by John Tamny, in Forbes a while ago "Markets Solve The Immigration 'Problem'" John says how a decline in foreign migrants is a bad sign for any economy. "So if it's established that the somewhat natural ups and downs of our economy serve as a natural, market-driven regulator of worker inflows into the states, this reality should cause us to rethink policies meant to keep immigrants from reaching the U.S. altogether. As the aforementioned downturn has revealed, worker demand, or lack thereof, does a good job in that regard."

While the debate on H1-work visas continues in the US, Mark Kobayashi-Hillary is perhaps trying to see if a similar debate will be rekindled in United kingdom. Mark blogs "IT firms working in the UK with global resource are just getting used to their newly found freedom, where the government trusts them to follow the guidelines and supervision is minimal. Will the weight of the ‘British jobs for British workers’ debate mean the work visa system is overhauled again before the ink is dry on the last revision?"

Debate on work visas go beyond the fundamental hypothesis of division of labor: in The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith used a pin factory to show the wonders of the division of labor. In modern world it is about high-skilled workers, programmers and analysts who are a part of the global economy, willing to travel and migrate where opportunities (and need) exist, but may sometimes be restricted by protectionist immigration and visa regulations.

Bloggers and authors seem to be missing a basic driver here: Immigrants, and those looking to migrate to foreign lands to live and work are taking a "big picture" perspective, looking beyond the boom-and-bust cycles. For many, moving and living in the US (or even UK) is a the persuit of the “American Dream” And it is perhaps not just about the ability to earn in Dollars or Pounds (though that is certainly a factor too)
Trackback to blogs Mark

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Recent Viewpoints : United Nations (UN), Racism and Globalization

I am reflecting on two interesting views on Globalization, both pertaining to the United Nations (UN).
The first is the much hyped boycott of the United Nations racism conference in Geneva by western governments lead by the US. Media also played up Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's triad in Geneva. All this, however, underscores the racism that most of us come across in our lives. Though the world around us continues to globalize, the prevalence of pockets of racism is sure to send out red-flags. While leaders, Presidents and Prime Ministers talk about this issue, you and I have to watch, and sometimes see it rear its ugly form in our daily lives. A few blogger responses:

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke at a colloquium at Princeton University, US, on “The Imperative for a New Multilateralism,” in which he proposed focusing on securing global public goods, including global financial and economic stability, a major push against poverty, restoring peace and stability, addressing climate change, advancing global health, countering terrorism, and ensuring disarmament and non-proliferation.

The Daily Princetonian gives more details of the talk. It is interesting how the thought leaders are beginning to weave the big picture issues together in the context of globalization. “The worldwide economic crisis has vividly underscored how the world has indeed shrunk and its people are so interconnected” This quote in the article makes one reflect on the interconnected nature of our lives and globalization.

Bottomline is that while the thought leaders profess their viewpoints at invited conferences and sessions, you and I get some additional food for thought. All doing its bit to answer the question: what does this all mean to me? Bloggers views on this talk:

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Globalization and Election Season in India

Much of the western media is covering aspects of the Indian election as the “worlds largest democracy” conducts a month long poll covering a population of over 700 million voters.
While there are several fascinating stories and anecdotes on elections, one that caught my attention was Shashi Tharoor’s bid at becoming a Member of Parliament.
Tharoor’s background is fascinating to say the least, his website put together for his parliamentary bid summarizes "Author, peace-keeper, refugee worker, human rights activist and now a political candidate for the Indian parliament, Dr. Shashi Tharoor straddles several worlds of experience. He was India’s candidate to succeed United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2006, and finished a close second out of seven contenders. An internationally known speaker and writer on India's recent socio-economic transformations, the impact and reach of globalization, issues related to freedom of press, human rights, literacy, Indian culture and India’s present and potential influence in world politics, Shashi Tharoor’s eleven books and newspaper columns have made him one of India’s best-known voices worldwide"

Wall Street Journal has an interesting blog, summarizing the makeover the international diplomat is having in his political attempt "And so that might explain why Mr. Tharoor appears on his very 21st century global web site dressed simply, in sandals and a white cotton cloth wrapped about his waist. As Indians, here, there and everywhere have learned, fitting in can be the first step to success." (In India, Globalization Surfaces in Election Season)

Given his pedigree, one wonders about the gameplan: Tharoor was quoted by WSJ "We have seen some of the tactics from campaigns like Obama, he says. Mr. Tharoor, remember, unsuccessfully tried to be secretary general of the United Nations."

One wonders if Mr. Tharoor going to use this as a back-door attempt: Member of Parliament – to Cabinet Minsiter – back to nomination as secretary general of UN, a la Ban Ki-moon : Homepage: successful politician-turned-statesman? Whichever way the attempt at globalizing Indian politics goes, it is sure to generate buzz among NRIs (Non-resident Indians)
Other interesting blogs about Mr Tharoor's attempt at globalization of Indian politics

  • SAJA: We don't usually write about contests for seats in India's parliament, but it's also not usual for a New Yorker of 20+ years to run for one.
  • Sepia Mitiny: Given Tharoor’s international stature, it’s hard to imagine this is anything other than a stepping-stone to a high level post in the next UPA government (if there is one, and if he wins). Obviously not Prime Minister (too soon for that); perhaps something else?
  • Sindh Today: Prominent politicians whose electoral fate was sealed

Friday, April 17, 2009

Globalization and Piracy: It is not just at sea

The heroes of the most recent piracy drama, the crew and captain of Mersk Alabama begin returning home. While the focus of the renewed debate on piracy is on Gulf of Aden and Horn of Africa nation of Somalia, it is perhaps time to reflect on the ugly scourge of piracy in our lives:
  • Software piracy: Creating a copy and/or selling it. This is the act that some people refer to as "software piracy". This is copyright infringement in most countries and is unlikely to be fair use or fair dealing if the work remains commercially available.
  • Digital piracy: This includes downloads of audio, video and other digital content. Mobility blogs "In what’s being described as a landmark verdict, four men responsible for assisting throngs of dubious internet users to download all sorts of copyrighted material are being ushered off to prison cells for twelve whole months. The Stockholm district court in Sweden found the defendants guilty not of hosting materially illegally, but of "providing a website with sophisticated search functions, simple download and storage capabilities, and a tracker linked to the website [that helped users commit copyright violations]." A portal to promote piracy also called Pirate Bay, how innovative?! Of course this verdict may not sway the masses "Consumers Want to Rip, Burn DVDs" or The Pirate Bay Operators: Heroes or Criminals?
  • Copying books and other printed publications: Copying books is certainly piracy, if it deprives authors of their due share of royalty. This includes photocopying for personal use or copying, reprinting and reselling. (The Birth of Book Pirates?)
  • Piracy of other intellectual property: Trademarks, patent infringements, trade secrets etc. While googling, I came across the following on US Govt. Copyright website: "Mr. Chairman, in the nearly forty years that I have worked in the Copyright Office, piracy, and especially global piracy, is probably the most enduring problem I have encountered. As with some other illegal activities, there will always be at least a small segment of any population who cannot be deterred from this theft of others' creativity. Thus, I fear that it is simply not realistic to speak of eliminating all piracy around the world, or even within the United States." .. It`s not possible to police the world, or eve the US. In that case we will just go after Somalis?
  • Plagiarism as piracy? Just yesterday there was an interesting article in WSJ (It's Not Theft, It's Pastiche) that talks about how college students plagiarize routinely, especially from the Internet.

Pervasiveness of wi-fi and broadband has made piracy a cottage industry. Many of us support or actively participate in piracy without even blinking. Here is a dipstick: Do you feel guilty about making copies of the latest music hit that your friend bought? (or the other way around) while doing so, you may not feel as sinister as a gang of Somalis taking the captain of Mersk Alabama hostage, it is still about the owner of the “rights” not getting their due share.

Which makes one wonder if there such a thing as Harmless piracy? Perhaps the reason why some writers and bloggers are asking if “it time to stop using the word 'piracy'?” or Rename “Digital Piracy”?

Ps: I am not sure if watching the drama unfold on Cable and cyberspace is going to wean kids away from old folklore glorying the heroics of the Pirates of Caribbean, but I sure wish the Crew of Tintin, Captain Haddock and good old Snowy were around to come to our rescue.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Globalization and American hi-tech : H1 work visas

For American tech workers, managers and executives nothing personifies globalization more than H1 work visas that are used by American companies to bring in foreign-born workers. As the US government begins the application process for 2009-10 year in April, writers, analysts and bloggers continue to eagerly watch out for the quota of about 65,000 to be filled.

Quoting Ann All Already, the pace appears to have slowed. In 2007, the number of applications exceeded the available number of visas on the first day the government began accepting them. Citizenship and Immigration Services stopped accepting applications after two days, then used a lottery to award visas. The agency received 163,000 applications in the five days it accepted them in 2008. Of those, 131,800 were for standard H-1Bs, of which 65,000 are available under the current cap. The USCIS also got 31,200 applications for the 20,000 H-1Bs reserved for applicants with advanced degrees. Again, a lottery was used.”

A recent New York Times blog summarizes: "For the high-tech industries, particularly, foreign-born workers on temporary H-1B visas are an important labor pool. Many of these workers arrived in the United States as students and stay on through the H-1B program. Many also go on to become permanent residents and founders of startup firms. But there is longstanding criticism among some labor groups that workers on such visas suppress engineering salaries and actually make it easier for employers to move more jobs to low-cost countries like India." The blog has already attracted over 860 comments

Similarly Steve Hamm recently blogged on his Business Week entry "Today, I’m focusing on protectionism and its fallout. The New York Times published a Page 1 story this morning showing how protectionism is on the rise worldwide in response to global economic pressures. I picked up a piece of analysis over the weekend from economist and author Paul Collier’s book, The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It. He points out that the last period that the world went protectionist in a big way was the years 1914 to 1945. We can see what a raging success that was!" Steve`s entry also attracted hundreds of comments

One is left to wonder if the writers, bloggers and those commenting are merely expressing their views in a new medium or are they genuinly concerned about fixing a system that many agree is broken?- MB
Ps: Just for the record, I entered the US on H1 visa years ago before I applied for and became a permanent resident, a Green card holder

Monday, April 13, 2009

Globalization and Tech Mahindra’s buyout of Satyam

The news is out: Tech Mahindra is the Highest Bidder for Satyam With INR17.56B Offer ($351 million)
This is an extremely big deal by Indian standards. The implication on globalization is obvious: the Indian hi-tech industry that is a backbone of India’s global footprint had taken a beating after the Satyam scandal. Hopefully with a renewed integration of the two companies, there will be a positive perception of the Indian tech industry. A few interesting points:

  • The 50K+/- Satyam employees will heave a sigh of relief.
  • Satyam clients across the globe are also going to heave a sigh of relief
  • Other tech companies including leading companies – Infosys, Wipro, TCS and others will benefit from a more stable corporate governance among competitors
  • Tech Mahindra is a global firm, owned partly by British Telecom (BT holds 39% of the equity)

Obviously: This is not the last word on this

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Protests over Globalization and Economy

Globalization, along with capitalism seems to dominate the global news and are being seen as a catalyst for the current economic condition we find ourselves in. Protests in countries around the globe seem to be a way the common-man is venting his frustration. Just a small list:
Protesting is perhaps a way for people to vent their frustration and helplessness but that alone may/may-not lead to any direct outcome

Welcome to my new blog

As a corporate blogger, I have been penning viewpoints of offshoring IT, IT services and technology management on Infosysblogs for over 3 years. Though I enjoy considerable autonomy, a corporate blog also comes with some responsibility; a responsibility not to voice views on controversial and contentious topics where there may be a conflict of interest with one’s employer’s business.

In this blog and website, I will attempt to explore some of the topics on globalization, protectionism, free trade and immigration the way it impacts me (and us). These views, links and comments are obviously not that of my employer, colleagues others except where explicitly mentioned.