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The Triumvirate of Technology, Education and Employability – Solving the Policy Riddle

I has the privilege to speak at the ACCA Asia Pacific Future Education Summit in Beijing earlier this month (January 2016).

 

Slide1

During the course of my presentation I touched on the changing trends in learning, the impact of technology on learning and jobs and ACCA’s response to these global changes.

Below are my thoughts on this critical triumvirate of technology, education and employability and how it will help resolve some of our major policy issues and challenges of the day.

 

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Young people today are three times as likely as their parents to be out of work.

I have been considering this very urgent issue of employability and the growing ‘employability gap’: the fact that the skills students have as they leave our educational institutions aren’t meeting the expectations of employers, and that employers also want wider, softer skills as well as demonstration of knowledge and hard competencies.

It is also my view that technology is often woefully underexploited when it comes to giving students the opportunity to develop their professional skills.

 

Slide4

Globally 75 million young people are out of employment. The issue of employability is not one limited to a certain geography or country. Below are some of the main challenges across some of the major nations/regions of the world.

INDIA

According to a survey conducted by the Singapore Management University (SMU) in conjunction with Indian partners, it was felt that the employability of Indian graduates is low due to skill and geographical mismatch.

The survey also concluded that this gap can be bridged by digitisation of learning.

It is worth noting that the employability ratio of management graduates was only 15 per cent, engineering (20 per cent), law (14 per cent) and medical graduates (32 per cent).

JAPAN

An estimated 700,000 young people, known as hikikomori, have withdrawn from society and rarely leave home. These individuals have collectively withdrawn from the economic population of the country as a result of employability and the subsequent marginalisation.

EUROPE

Across the 28 countries of the European Union, unemployment among 15- to 24-year-olds was 22 percent in 2014/2015. The lack of prospects in the job market for young people is a serious problem in large parts of the EU. The highest unemployment rates are found in the south of Europe.Spain has the highest rate, with half of 15- to 24-year-olds out of work. In Portugal, Cyprus, Italy, Croatia and Greece a little more than one in three people in this age group are out of work.

CHINA

According to a study by McKinsey, the number of students graduating each year from university or vocational school has risen from 1 million a year in 2000 to 6.1 million in 2011. This stunning increase means that the number of new graduates exceeds demand for their services in many areas of the country, resulting in an unemployment rate of 16.4 percent for college graduates.

McKinsey also estimate that by 2020, Chinese employers will demand 142 million more high-skilled workers—those with university degrees or vocational training—or about 24 million more than the country will likely supply. Companies could fill this high-skilled labor gap with less-skilled workers, but this would result in productivity losses or poorer quality products and services. Other companies may leave roles unfilled, delaying the decision to grow or expand.

The study estimates that if China does not bridge this gap by 2020, the opportunity cost could reach some $250 billion (about 2.3 percent of GDP)—which is almost the same as that of Singapore or Malaysia’s GDP! That’s a very large amount of money to put at risk – not to mention the impact on social welfare and harmony.

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There are a few reasons as to why this employability gap exists.

The first reason is a difference in what employers want from graduates and what they are getting. Surveys of employers consistently show that they are not satisfied with the skill levels of their new tertiary hires, whether these are graduates of universities or vocational schools. The main complaints, according to McKinsey research (and a wealth of anecdotal evidence), are lack of technical training, inadequate English, and deficient soft skills, such as the ability to work in teams, critical thinking, and innovative flair. For instance in China, in 2013, more than a third of employers in China surveyed said they struggled to recruit skilled workers, with 61 percent of these companies attributing this to a shortage of general employability skills.

A second mismatch has to do with the knowledge requirements of the future and the structural makeup of the workforce. As countries’ evolve their underlying economic models, their labour needs shift as well and the resultant demand for higher skilled talent is not met by the status-quo educational systems.

Thirdly is one of a geographic mismatch. There are instances where the universities in certain countries tend to be concentrated in an area and this leads to a distribution problem as there are other areas where there are not enough universities to support the demand.

There is also a large question about how the education and training system also operates in. In a number of countries, there is growing concern—among parents, employers, and policymakers alike—that the system’s emphasis on rote learning and focus solely on exam performance does not foster the mental agility and innovative flair that the modern work place requires.

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Therefore as you see, employability is a very real and serious issue that has serious economic and social consequences.

But before we proceed, it may be useful to have a brief view of what we mean by employability skills.

I have here a list which is not meant to be exhaustive but provides a flavour for some of the skill sets and capabilities we need to consider when talking about employability.

  1. Communication skills that contribute to productive and harmonious relations between employees and customers.
  2. Team work skills that contribute to productive working relationships and outcomes both within teams, the organisation and with external parties.
  3. Problem-solving skills that contribute to productive outcomes and with a commitment to finding solutions.
  4. Initiative and enterprise skills that contribute to innovative outcomes and driving stronger business performance
  5. Planning and organising skills that contribute to long-term and short-term strategic planning and building the processes to achieve desired outcomes
  6. Self-management skills that contribute to employee satisfaction and growth and ensuring they contribute to their organisation’s well-being in the process.
  7. Learning skills that contribute to ongoing development.
  8. Technology skills that the modern workplace requires.

Slide7

Institutions and organisations tackle student employability in a number of ways, including through for example through professional experience requirements,  and employability modules, careers services, work-placements and experiences, work-based mentors, volunteering and increasingly through looking at employability awards. We know there is already some excellent practice, particularly in vocational and professional disciplines where notions of ‘what it is to be professional’ are embedded in the curriculum, but for others this is less apparent. Few use technology really effectively in an integrated way to support student employability, although some are exploring this.

There is evidence of an ‘employability gap’ in the skills that students are actually starting with on day one of employment and the skills that employers are expecting from them. However, there is an increasing appreciation that ’technology for employability’ can provide many potential benefits to students, institutions and employers

Digitally savvy graduates are essential for shaping tomorrow’s entrepreneurial activities, but digital literacies aren’t well articulated.

Slide8

The nature of knowledge is changing and, in this digital age, our definition of basic literacy urgently needs expanding. The notion of digital literacy – those capabilities that equip an individual for living, learning and working in a digital society – is one that needs to be taken seriously by education providers and consider how it can be an enabler for employability.

Technology acts as an enabler in supporting employability in the following ways:

  • ensuring that opportunities are provided throughout the curriculum in a scaffolded and supported way for learners to reflect, plan, and articulate and showcase their knowledge and skills in an integrated way
  • embedding digital literacy skills more broadly across the learning
  • ensuring that assessments and learning are ‘authentic’, and more closely aligned to the workplace and real-world tasks
  • using a principles-based approach to change which places the importance of developing self-aware, independent learners (which some argue is the main purpose of education at the heart of institutional strategy, policy and practice
  • Supporting tutors through better management tools to help their students. By using technology as a tool for learner management, teachers can develop and execute individual learning plans and track the progress being made by the learner in relation to the employability skills.
  • empowering students as agents of change, which evidence shows benefits all stakeholders including students in the development of wider employability skills. Students and learners can also document their employability skills and self-assessment notes as evidence of their competency and knowledge levels.

We know however that although there is a lot of excellent practice, it is not widespread. Technology can support all of the aims above, but further work is needed to ensure that good practice is shared and teams dedicated to developing learners are supported in maximising opportunities offered by technology, and in exploring how existing employability opportunities can harness technology to best effect.

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According to research conducted by Cleary, Flynn and Thomasson (2006), it is recommended that for effective employability skills development; the design of an overall active teaching and learning and assessment strategy adheres to the following four adult learning principles:

  1. Responsible learning – learners take responsibility for their learning. Responsible learning emphasises self-management and initiative and enterprise as learners work independently to develop new knowledge and activities in the interest of furthering their skills.”
  2. Experiential learning – learners learn from experience. This “emphasises ‘learning to do’ and ‘learning from doing’. Authentic learning occurs when learners have an opportunity to apply their skills and knowledge in authentic work environments or in contexts which attempt to simulate the real.
  3. Cooperative learning – learners learn with and through others. This form of learning “encourages learners to learn from each other, share learning tasks and learn from a range of people including colleagues, mentors, coaches, supervisors, trainers, and others.
  1. Reflective learning – learners reflect on and learn from their experience. This can be introspective, where learners are encouraged to examine changes in their own perceptions, goals, confidences and motivations. It addresses: developing critical thinking skills, learning to learn and developing attitudes that promote lifelong learning. Reflective learning can be useful in directly addressing problem solving, initiative and enterprise and self-management skills

Digital or e-learning can foster these four types of learning and the development of all of the employability skills.

Slide10

Universities and colleges have a responsibility to develop students into individuals who can thrive in an era of digital information and communication – those who are digitally literate are more likely to be economically secure and these skills are especially important in higher education given that graduate white collar jobs are almost entirely performed on computers and portable devices.

But it’s not just about employability – increasingly digital literacy is vital for learning itself. Digital tools such as virtual learning environments, e-portfolios and social networking software for peer mentoring are now common within further and higher education and students without the skills to navigate them risk suffering an inferior student experience at best, and being left completely behind at worst. It goes beyond IT skills, a complete culture change is required to live fully within the modern digital society, from understanding how to communicate ideas effectively in a range of media to managing digital reputation and history.

Slide19

There are a number of success factors that will be critical as organisations consider an effective use of digital learning to support employability of their students.

They include the following and it is worth bearing in mind that this is an iterative and progressive process which will in turn drive better outcomes.

CONCEPT AND ROLE

  1. Develop the employability skills based on a strategic and structured approach that links the employability skills to each other
  2. Recognise the value of the employability skills in all aspects of life in addition to their employability role, and include recognition of prior developments in these skills in learning and assessment strategies.

PEDAGOGICIAL ASPECTS

  1. Use e-learning in blended learning strategies to cater for a range of learning styles and encourage individualised, self-directed learning.
  2. Adopt active learning strategies such as role plays, real work and simulated work environments, and incorporate e-learning.
  3. Recognise the centrality of learning skills as the foundation for addressing all of the other employability skills.
  4. Break the learning skills into four types: responsible; experiential; cooperative; and reflective learning.
  5. Implement an upfront induction/orientation program to develop awareness and understanding of the employability skills and the e-learning role using a conceptual structure that shows the linkages between these skills.
  6. Link remedial education for basic skills, such as literacy, and development of the employability skills in integrated strategies that harness e-learning.

ASSESSMENT AND REPORTING

  1. Use e-portfolios as a tool for student reflective learning as well as a tool for reporting and assessing learner progress in the employability skills.
  2. Pay attention to the different levels of application and performance of the learners and aid them through the journey,

MANAGEMENT ASPECTS

  1. Use a technology-based learning management system to support individual learning plans, tracking of learner progress and achievement, and the efficient use of teaching resources.
  2. Adopt whole of institution strategies, effectively coordinated and supported by staff development activities in both employability skills and e-learning and particularly e-learning facilitation skills to enhance cooperative learning opportunities.

KEY AREAS FOR FURTHER DEVELOPMENT

  1. Recognise that further innovations and improvements will be required to further strengthen the education framework and support learners and students.

Slide20

There are some efforts we can do to help bridge the employability gap.

We need to make a better case for using technology to develop employability. We need to raise digital aspirations of employers, universities, learning partners and professional bodies such as ACCA and develop students as ‘digital entrepreneurs’ that can go on to act as agents of change for business. Digital literacy often isn’t related to employability skills, and we need to see this change to make a clear link.

We need to work in partnership with employers to understand needs better

We must not forget about those youth that are outside the formal education system, or are otherwise marginalized due to disabilities or their gender. Many youth are employed in the informal sector, and may not be able to access traditional schooling or have access to schools in their regiosn. Offering alternative, non-formal models of relevant education are crucial.

Without these strategies, there is a risk that students leave university or college equipped with the right qualifications for their chosen career but without the tools and understanding they need to thrive in the connected, globalised digital world of today.

Slide21

Overall, I would like to conclude that digital learning and the employability skills should be seen as two of the dynamic influences whose interaction is likely to have a significant impact on shaping the evolving approach to l education and training now and into the future. There is much work to be done but finding effective solutions in this closely interlinked areas of technology, education and employability will help resolve some of the major economic and social issues of our time.

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The tragedy of the Sinti and Roma

I have been reflecting over the last few months over the persecution and murders of defenceless Yazidis and Christians in ISIS-controlled territory; over the rising intolerance towards minorities in India; Islamophobic political commentary being delivered by far right segments of the political spectrum, be they in Europe or in North America. The age of immediate transmission of wanton murders, genocide and hateful rhetoric has a multiplier effect in terms of how the news is consumed and acted upon.

I was in Berlin last week and as I made my way towards the Reichstag (or the German Parliament) from the Brandenburg Gate, I walked past an unassuming little garden with a small plaque that read, “Memorial to the Sinti and Roma of Europe murdered under the National Socialist (Nazi) regime.”

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Entrance to the Memorial to the Sinta and Roma of Europe at Tiergarten, Berlin.

Against the backdrop of a haunting violin music played by Romeo Franz, a German Sinti, I learnt about the fate of the Sinti and the Roma people, who were part of the “gypsy” community that was systematically murdered by the Nazis.

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A reflection of the German Reichstag upon the Memorial pool.

A brief history of the Sinta and Roma.

The Sinti and Roma people have lived in Europe for over six hundred years and are believed to have travelled from India through Iran. Their languages are rooted in Sanskrit but have lived a nomadic lifestyle in Europe and were commonly referred to as gypsies. They also generally had slightly darker coloured skin, hair and eyes.

The gypsies identified themselves by the various groups they belonged to, including the Sinti, Roma, Lallere, Lovari or Manouche. The Sinti and Roma were the largest groups and numbered in the hundreds of thousands.

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Roma boys in the Warsaw ghetto (1941)

The Sinta and Roma people were indeed persecuted even before the National Socialists took over. They were singled out and discriminated by not only the Germans, but indeed across Europe for centuries.

SintiRomaMemorialFlowerStone
The triangular stone in the centre of the pool symbolises the badges that were work by the concentration camp prisoners. The stone is retractable and fresh flowers are placed upon it daily.

 

 The Nazi atrocities

The Nazis however took the persecution to a horrific level and it was a very steep descent into hell for the Sinti and the Roma.

As part of their racist and puritan ideologies, they sought the active annihilation of these minorities as they were considered racially inferior. These poor and defenceless people were first subject to internment, then forced sterilisation and were all subject to forced labour. Men, women and children were seized and taken away or murdered in their hometowns, ghettos or concentration camps or killing centres.

A decree was issued in 1936, as part of the Nuremberg laws on race and citizenship, where the gypsies and Jewish people were formally defined as “Alien Races” and were forbidden to marry, have children and excluded from most professions and jobs.

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Senta and Sonja Birkenfelder, deported from Ludwigshafen to Poland in 1940 with other Sinta and Roma children (Photo probably taken in the Radom Ghetto in 1941)

Two years later, over 2000 Sinti and Roma people were taken away to various concentration camps across the country as the Chief of the German Police, Heinrich Himmler, sought the “final solution to the Gypsy question.”  In 1940, entire families were deported from Germany to occupied Poland and to various other concentration camps. In the camps, they were all required to wear an armband bearing the letter, ‘Z’ which stood for ‘Zigeuner’ or ‘gypsy’ in German.

 

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Lodz Ghetto 1941/42: Assembly point at Krawiecka Street. Waiting for transport, probably to the Chelmno (Kulmhof) extermination camp. (Photo from the Jewish Memorial in Berlin)

The systematic mass murder of the Roma started in occupied Soviet Union in 1942 by a mobile killing unit (or ‘Einsatzgruppe’of the Security Police and Security Services of the SS). More were gassed to death in specially equipped vans at the Kulmhof killing centres.

More forced mass deportations of the gypsies from across Europe to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Thousands died due to hunger, disease or horrific cruelty by the Nazis.

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Warsaw Ghetto, August 1941 (Photo from the Jewish Memorial, Berlin)

It is estimated that as many as 500,000 people identified as ‘gypsies’ were murdered under the Nazi regime. There is no way of ever determining the final number.

Reflections

The memorial site was a source of immense pain, solitude and remembrance.

As I reflected on the atrocities meted out to these poor people, whose only crimes were that they were born into a different creed and caste, I thought about the people of our times going through the same horrors. A truly strong society looks after its most vulnerable and helpless, not oppress them further.

Particularly over the last couple of years, I have been getting increasingly worried about the rise of far-right extremism across the spectrum. The savagery exhibited by terrorist death cults such as the IS is well-known. However, to see politicians such as Donald Trump voice out hateful ideology is frightening. In Singapore, an ex-nominated member of parliament, Calvin Cheng, suggested all children of terrorists ought to be killed along with their parents, as a preventative measure.

It is already terrible that there has always remained within the fringes of society, a segment that feeds off hate and rancour. These groups of lunatics have either been outlawed or are regularly derided. To see this same hate and extremism enter its ugly head into the mainstream is tragic and has the potential to rupture the very delicate fabric of our society.

Humanity as a whole cannot afford to let this state of affairs continue. Lest we think that it is improbable that the world will witness another genocidal event, it is worth remembering the words of Primo Levi, a Holocaust survivor:

Each and every one of us, whether we be Christians, Muslims, Jewish, Hindus Buddhist, Bahais or atheists, has a responsibility for the safety, fair-treatment and dignity y our fellow women, men and children, regardless of their beliefs, customs or creed.

I pray that the light of our collective humanity overcomes the darkness of hate that some attempt to it hit on us all.

Below is a poem by an Italian Roma, Santino Spinelli at this most poignant of memorials which conveys more eloquently than I ever could, the sentiments I felt at the memorial.

 

 

Sunken in face

extinguished eyes

cold lips

silence

a torn heart

without breath

without words

no tears

 

 

 

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The origins of Coca Cola

DSC_0023_13In 1869, a wounded veteran of the American Civil War turned up in Atlanta to make a fortune. He had little cash and had little means and chose to live in a  crammed hostel with may others who had big dreams but small bank balances.

The man was John Pemberton. Despite his limited means, he set up an impressing sounding, “Pemberton Chemical Company,” and the principal business of the company to create beverages like Dr Pepper which were becoming increasingly popular in Atlanta and across the United States.

Pemberton spent many years concocting different drinks, using different formulas and compositions, but each one of the drinks failed. His already limited funds were drying up and things were looking desperate and bleak.

He decided that he would give it one last shot and try mixing soda water and cola syrup and this combination  found a small but growing customer base. The years of failures were not in vain, and he finally began to find some hope!

Seven years after coming to Atlanta, he successfully convinced a small group of investors to support his business.

He also realised that he needed to have a brand proposition that stood out from the many other alternatives that were slowly creeping into the marketplace. It was at this time that his accountant and business advisor, Frank Robinson, suggested that his new drink be called ‘Coca-Cola.’

Frank Robinson went one step further and also decided to design and wrote out the logo in his own inimitable handwriting. The world can thank an accountant for the birth of what is now a global icon, instantly recognisable the world over!

In Coca-Cola’s first year of business, they made a loss of $26 – the revenues were only $40! Pemberton lost hope and with little hope of improvement, he decided to sell his business for $2,300 to ASA Candler in 1888 (incidentally when Celtic Football Club – the world’s greatest football club was formed!).

Candler decided that Coca Cola should be available to every single state across the United States of America and also transformed the business model by not relying solely on selling the beverage to soda fountains. It was Candler who stabled a franchisee model to develop bottling networks across the country which in turn allowed for people to buy a bottle of Coca Cola and rink it wherever they wanted to, whenever they wanted it.

This was what set Coca Cola off in their journey to becoming the world’s most dominant soft drink.

 

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Ähren

Make hay while the sun shines: Lessons for businesses in emerging markets from the world of farmers.

“The great cities rest upon our broad and fertile prairies. Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic; but destroy our farms, and grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country.”

                                                                – William Jenning Bryan, Nebraska Congressman, 1896

 

Introduction

Very often, business leaders responsible for the growth and development of emerging markets units turn to the words and deeds of management gurus, industry leaders, governments, business titans and sometimes even politicians (!) to seek a way to best capitalise on the potential and to frame their actions in order to achieve success in their markets.

However, there is a segment of society that offers businesses an enormous amount of wisdom, knowledge and insight that leaders can benefit from – farmers. Now farmers are, for the most part, an unseen and unheard segment of society. We don’t hear much about them, we don’t see much of them and we don’t know much of how they go about conducting their business. The implications and impacts though which farmers have on society are profound. The food we eat, the clothes we wear and the security we seek for our sustenance come from farmers. Without them, society, as we know it, would not function.

Agriculture is a sector that contributes to roughly 3.8 percent of the world’s total GDP which equates to an industry that is worth over US$2.9 trillion at current prices. If farmers of the world united, they would represent the fifth largest country in the world in terms of total GDP!

Business leaders have an opportunity to use farming as the basis and blueprint for success. Over the last half decade of austerity and uncertainty, the one certain thing for most major organisations is that emerging markets represent more than just a passing phenomenon or a rising force – they are the main elements and pillars of sustained economic growth.

However it is important to note that these emerging markets (even amongst themselves) differ fundamentally from more mature markets. This means that the skill sets and capabilities that help emerging markets business leaders in not only establishing operations but to also flourish are unique. We may need to consider the lessons and experiences from farmers, given that the challenges and opportunities are similar. This is the context upon which the rest of this article is based on.

 

The wisdom of farmers

A book published in 1726 titled, ‘The Country Gentleman’s and Farmer’s Monthly Director,’ by Professor Bradley of Cambridge introduces the role of a farmer as follows: “I consider a Farmer as a Person whose Business depends more upon the Labour of the Brain than of the Hands.”

Almost a century later, Sir John Sinclair, founder of the Board of Agriculture highlighted that, “Agriculture, though in general capable of being reduce to simple principles, yet requires on the whole a greater variety of knowledge than any other art.”

The sentiments above remain true two centuries later. Farming and agriculture has been an outstanding, if not neglected, successful endeavour of human society. In the last century, it has succeeded in feeding an ever-increasing global population, a diverse range of produce and goods more efficiently and at lower prices. It can be argued that farmers have been an integral pillar supporting modern economic growth.

Agriculture is not an industry on the periphery of modern civilisation and the world of business. It is a fundamental element of human society from which businesses can gain significant insight and, if applied appropriately, will lead to success in emerging markets and beyond.

 

A common approach to investment

Established businesses looking to develop and sell their product and service offerings must fundamentally treat the way they consider investment in an emerging market or sector differently to their business as usual sectors. A number of organisations make the error of setting performance objectives and deliverables for an emerging market in the same way they would for an established business resulting in unwanted consequences of de-motivated managers on their emerging front lines.

My argument is that businesses looking to establish an emerging markets operation should consider their investment the same way a farmer approaches his investment in his agricultural practice.

To illustrate this further, let us consider an example of a multinational organisation that supplies professional consultancy services across a range of markets. In an instance such as this, we can expect the organisation to have very clear monthly or even weekly targets for their sales performance as they have an established business model, a recognised brand name and the people on the ground who have the experience and the networks to deliver performance to targets. They key factors of production are within control and output therefore is also more easily controlled. Therefore, makes sense to have monthly (or even weekly) targets, forecasts and delivery and indeed performance should be measured with the same frequency.

If the organisation decides to subsequently enter an emerging market where it has no established presence, a brand name that is not recognised and a team that is relatively new, they will need to alter the way they view performance and the way targets are set. Adopting a monthly or weekly target approach will prove to be unfeasible particularly as conditions in emerging markets are not always entirely stable. This is where businesses in emerging markets can consider the way of the farmers.

Farmers have a different system for targets and performance. Farmers do have seasonal targets and objectives but given that the nature of farming is such that it is impossible to predict all the various factors of production. Factors such as the weather and climate, the nature of seeds used, the crop yield, the animal production, amongst other things, can only be managed and not controlled.

A farmer has to deal with many uncertainties, for instance a cold weather snap will destroy ground crops, affect lambing, cause ewes to abort, which all affect the yield for the farmer.

A farmer also needs to deal with farming regulations, subsidies, and changes in government practices or policies (e.g. the structural changes that happened in the farming community upon the adoption of the Common Agricultural by the EU Commission). As Gary Libecap, Professor at the University of California explains, “Agriculture is the most regulated sectors of the American economy. The production and sale of almost all of its commodities are affected by some government policy through a complex mix of programmes.”

It is this enormous ability of farmers to navigate through uncertainties and their overall resilience to rapidly changing underlying conditions and factors that prove most instructive to leaders of emerging markets businesses.

An emerging markets business leader has to remain nimble and agile to the dynamic and sometimes unstable political and regulatory conditions in emerging markets. Even seemingly straight-forward tasks of setting up a legal entity in an emerging market may become a highly tenuous affair and an emerging market business leader has to retain the patience and the will to deliver through the bureaucratic obstacles. It is this patience and perseverance which successful farmers have  in abundance which allows for their ongoing success and growth.

A successful farmer and a successful leader of a business in emerging markets have more in common than we have assumed before.

 

Of growth and harvesting – the shared goals of farming and emerging markets

The objectives of both the farmer and an emerging market business leader are congruent in many respects. The average farmer is a skilled diplomat, a human resource leader, an effective delegator, a scientist, a chemist, a negotiator, a commercial leader, an innovative marketeer and sometimes even auctioneer. He has to possess exceptional skill and energy to carry out the above roles and tasks and ensure that his agricultural endeavour is a successful one.

An emerging market business leader is similar and has to be able to navigate through sometimes sensitive commercial negotiations in the face of vastly evolving regulatory changes and has to be able to engage both his teams as well as key stakeholders such as regulators, government leaders and suppliers in a diplomatic manner that allows him to achieve his business objectives.

Farmers have always been very adept in ensuring that they adopt relevant approaches to farming based on their location and underlying conditions. This is not a modern phenomenon but one that is as old as agriculture itself. For example, the indigenous Ifgugaos in the Philippines realised two thousand years ago that their mountainous and hilly terrain meant that crop cultivation was going to be challenging and sought to change the underlying condition and created what is now known as the Banaue Rice Terraces. These terraces were built with little tools and water was sourced from the forests which were above the terraces through a unique and ancient irrigation system.

To further illustrate this point, in the northern hemisphere, wheat must ripen in late spring or early summer to get as much sunshine as possible. To grow it, one has first to plough the ground, then sow, harrow (to get rid of the weeds), and eventually harvest. Any anticipation or delay of any of these operations entails losses, which can become serious. For example, ripe wheat, if not cut, would fall on the ground and soon become worthless. In Burkino Faso, land has to be ploughed within days of rain or the land becomes too hard to plough.

Similarly, an emerging markets business leader will need to be swift and decisive in their strategic and market implementation. There needs to be ample planning and analysis in advance of delivery and once a common approach has been agreed, timing becomes critical and execution must take place within defined times to attain the defined aims and ambitions. Delaying or vacillating over decisions will lead to missed opportunities and potentially allow for rivals to take the lead in a potentially lucrative segment.

Farmers also need to be able to think strategically for the future in anticipation of global and local circumstances. Strategic management and optimal operational delivery is a way of life for modern farmers. They have to be able to factor all information, both historic and projected, which allows them to make appropriate and relevant decisions that allow them a sustainable farming business. The farming sector, supported by high commodity prices, has demonstrated enduring resilience during the last economic crisis in 2008. World Bank data shows that in 2009, agricultural value added at world level rose by 4 percent which can be contrasted to a 5 percent fall in global sector-wide GDP. This resilience was more pronounced in emerging economies, where agricultural GDP rose by 8 percent.

Likewise, an emerging markets business leader needs to be able to clearly define and articulate their propositions to their markets and customer segments. They will need to prepare adequately for their specific targets and estimate accurately the required resourced needed to achieve their outputs. In this regard, they can learn from farmers whose entire seasonal output and sometimes even survival depends on their ability to estimate accurately the required resources to achieve a given output.

Emerging markets leaders also need to be assess and understand their market terrain and environment. They need to ‘work the ground’ and understand the local feedback, context and factors that will have significant impacts on their output. The most successful farmers continuously identify their strengths and weaknesses relative to their local as well as international competitors who may be able to offer the same output at a lower cost. An example of how this has been done includes potato farmers in Tasmania who undertook extensive research to understand how lower-cost potato imports from the Netherlands and Belgium are undercutting their business and took steps to address these challenges. Similarly, emerging markets business leaders will need to conduct sufficient levels of quantitative and qualitative market research to ensure that their businesses remain resilient against competition, both local and international, and also achieve their growth targets.

 

Resilience and leadership

Farmers face a range of challenges and issues. The challenges range from external environmental factors outside their control such as climate change. Global economic pressures, livestock disease and climatic changes are the types of issues which farmers have to navigate through.  For instance, there is a loss of arable land due to climate change amounting to as much as a fifth of all agricultural land in South America and Africa.

Events and challenges such as this affects crop yield which in turn affects farmers’ incomes and cause them to become highly volatile. These mean that farmers need to be careful in how they manage their finances and funds in order to ensure that they are able to meet expenses and also correctly anticipate demand. Farmers fundamentally need to navigate through uncertainty and steer their operations and farms through competing pressures and noise to keep producing in a way that meets challenges.

Risk management is a central pillar in terms of how farmers manage their business. They are now being required to produce more food and other agricultural products on less land, with less pesticide and fertilisers, with less water and also manage a lower carbon footprint. Part of the risk management process of farmers has been to understand what their underlying risks and challenges are and to subsequently develop and implement the technologies and practices that counter environmental and land degradation and climate change to maintain sustainable and viable farms.

Examples of this include mixed cropping that have led to better usage of nutrients in soils and more effective pest management systems. In Zambia, for instance, crop rotations have reduced water requirements by up to 30 percent. They also use a new strain of maize which produces a yield which is 500 percent higher than the average yield for the rest of Africa.

The underlying risks have also been managed through a series of other initiatives such as skills development training across a wide range of relevant topics and generation of non-farm income (such as agri-tourism). They also deal with it through diversification into renewable energy technologies and by developing markets for novel and alternative cropping.

Businesses investing in emerging markets also need to ensure there is a sufficient level of risk management and due diligence conducted prior to entry into new markets. They will need to ensure that they have diversified their risks through investment across a wide portfolio of markets. They also need to be able to react appropriately to emerging regulation and underlying economic conditions by reviewing their business operations and investment accordingly.

Farmers globally seek to create viable and resource-efficient farms and agribusinesses that are able to meet demand and yet remain resilient to fluctuations in the business cycle or other natural causes without recourse to significant public intervention.

Initiatives such as the establishment of grain stores in Africa and the creation of dairy hubs in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan are helping farmers to cut costs, create greater income and reduce price volatility.

A successful farmer is a leader who does not micro-manage staff or instruct them to do something they cannot or will not do. The most effective farmers are inspiring (particularly when they are undergoing moments of extreme uncertainty); strategic (by having a good view of the changing conditions and consumer patterns which impact their sales); energetic (to rouse their teams into action towards peak performance); and possess a clarity of vision which can effect great change.

Likewise, a successful emerging markets business leader should have the ability to delegate effectively and provide enough support to their people and inspire confidence. They should also cultivate and nurture their teams towards peak performance and give them a sense of ownership and achievement. It is also vital that emerging markets business leaders ensure their teams have sufficient levels of training and development so that they are constantly building on their capabilities and can support business and corporate objectives even better.

Farmers also remain a source of emotional vitality in their communities and countries. Their critical importance to the well-being of their nations and their role in a profoundly rebalanced world mean that they provide the vigorous inspiration required for growth and development. Their leadership and resilience has led to the innovation, creativity and has the potential to inspire the social cohesion required in a world marked increasingly by differences.

 

Innovation as a key essence to success

Thomas Malthus predicted in the 18th century that there would come a time in the late 20th century where the world population would exceed food supply leading to widespread impoverishment and famine. This has not come to pass and indeed over the last fifty years, agricultural production has tripled and farmers have ensured that the world, for the most part, remains fed and clothed. This has happened due to the constant innovation in farming. Smallholder farmers (who account for almost half of the emerging world’s labour force) have overseen a rise in agricultural productivity.

Farming innovation can be broadly grouped into four categories: biological innovations (new strains of plants and animals); practices of cultivation; technical and technological innovation (including machinery, fertilisers and the increasing use of technology).

The ‘Green Revolution’ which saw India experiment with new varieties of rice and wheat in the 1960s helped to ensure that India averted the pains of starvation. Increasingly, new strains of rice and wheat that can withstand flooding and salinity are being developed that will ensure that the poor agricultural lands are converted to fertile plains.

Increasingly, innovative agricultural practices are also improving farmers’ yields and performance.  An example of this is the way fertilisers are spread to crops. Traditionally, rural farmers applied fertilisers by spreading them by hand.

However more rural farmers are now applying a practice widely known as ‘Fertiliser Deep Placement’ (FDP) which works by using a specialised fertiliser called a briquette about four inches underground which releases nitrogen gradually.

This prevents less nitrogen to be lost through run off. FDP is now being used widely by farmers across Burkino Faso and Nigeria and has helped increase their yields by almost a fifth of total production.

Modern technological innovation is also being adopted by farmers and extended globally. VetAfrica is a mobile app which now allows for farmers to diagnose livestock illness and to apply appropriate remedies and drugs to treat diseases. In India, farmers now have access to various instructional support by the government’s agricultural agencies that provide both online and offline information to rural farmers and their communities.

This spirit of innovation will also place emerging markets leaders in good stead. Businesses that invest significantly in research and development and ensure their people are empowered to experiment and deliver innovative solutions will be better placed to create scalable and transferrable innovations that can support the wider business.

Farmers have remained at the forefront of innovation and have also been very enthusiastic adopters of new technology and solutions. This is despite the fact that agricultural innovation generally entails a high level of risk and many of them yield little or no financial reward to the inventor.

In an era of rising energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions, some researchers are questioning whether conventional agriculture’s reliance on chemical fertilisers is sustainable, and point to its negative effects: pesticide residues, soil erosion and reduced biodiversity. Switching to organic and resource-conserving methods of farming can improve smallholder crop yields, food security and income, a review study by the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability has found.

Likewise businesses that enter emerging markets should also consider their overall business practices and consider how the implementation of socially responsible practices can help reduce their overall costs and improve their bottom line in the markets they are operating in.

Farmers have also identified increasing demand from a more affluent customer base and have responded to it by shifting towards organic production and cultivation. The amount of land in organic production across Europe has grown by about five million hectares over the past decade, according to the European Union, and has grown by 13 percent annually over the last decade. A similar phenomenon is also observed in the United States of America according to a survey conducted by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). The number of USDA certified organic farms has quadrupled since 1990 and the area dedicated to organic farming has increased from 1 million acres of land in 1990 to over 4.1 million acres currently. Organic farming is also becoming increasingly popular across South Asia (particularly India) as farmers tap into the increased demand and are evolving their farming practices accordingly.

Similarly, there is significant scope for emerging markets business leaders to learn from the habits of the farmers. The approach to farmers in testing and innovating to arrive at the optimal farming solution (the way they test to see which crop rotations work best given the soil and land conditions for instance) will also help business leaders in emerging markets to test out product launches and to test it in a given market prior to a full-scale rollout. This allows them to obtain a clearer insight into consumer behaviours and the general market sentiment for their product which will allow them to make the necessary improvements or changes required before they invest in a full rollout. This experimentative approach to new markets will become increasingly important particularly as organisations become more risk averse and seek a higher level of returns on investment but within a defined risk framework.

 

Building a force for good and planting the seeds of hope

Farmers and agriculture are vital to the overall betterment of society as well. The Consultative Group on International Agricultural (CGIAR) certainly believe so and feel that agriculture will help nations meet the emerging UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – the successor to the UN Millennium Development Goals.

Despite the well publicised challenges and adversity faced by farmers and the struggle they undergo on a daily basis, their resilience and their hopeful outlook provides food for further though and reflection for emerging markets business leaders. This is a spiritual dimension that must be noted.

Likewise, an emerging market business leader has to remain cognisant of their responsibilities within the societies they operate. If they are representatives of larger multinational organisations, the general public will expect them to implement world class practices and behaviour. They will also be required to adapt to the culture-specific scenarios presented to them and act in an appropriate manner.

It is vital that emerging markets business leaders look beyond profitability and financial remuneration. They need to ensure that their organisations are acting in the public interest and whilst creating value for their businesses are also creating positive externalities and value for the communities in which they operate in. It is this that sets the framework for a fruitful and sustainable growth and development of both businesses and societies. This addresses both the social and economic dimensions of sustainability.

The final dimension of sustainability is that of environmental sustainability. It is well known that the natural world that agriculture relies on is exhaustible and the relationship with nature and the environment has been a distinctive and intractable feature of farmers.  This is true from the fertile padi fields of Java to the ranging prairies of the Midwest.

Emerging markets business leaders need to give sufficient consideration to environmental sustainability. This not only ensures that they are contributing in a positive manner to the society but also acts as an important license to operate across a number of countries.

In conclusion, farmers can be a powerful source of inspiration and guidance to business leaders in any market. A farmer needs to tend to his flock with loving care and the successful farmer is one who takes an active interest in the welfare of his farmhands, who cultivates and nurtures his crop and animals with passion and tenderness. A successful farmer also flows with the changes to the external environment and navigates them successfully. A farmer also continues new ideas (be it the type of seeds used, the type of farming, consider the impacts of automation and technology on his farms, the use of data to understand the changing crop yields, risk mitigation, etc) and constantly innovates. A successful farmer also has to negotiate effectively with other farmers, with government, with regulators. He has to manage finances effectively and think of new financing to make it through the lean times. All of these skills and qualities are also what contribute to effective and successful business leadership.

 

 

“The prosperity of other industries is not the basis of prosperity in agriculture, but the prosperity of agriculture is the basis of prosperity in other industries…Immense manufacturing plants and great transportation companies are dependent on agriculture for business and prosperity. Great standing armies and formidable navies may protect the farmer in common with other people of a nation but their support comes from the tillers of the soil.”

                                                    

                                                                     – Nahum J Bacheldar, 1908 (Leader of National Grange)

 

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10-future-apple-products-FSMdotCOM1

Can this be Apple’s future roadmap?

In a world where the lines between sovereign nationhood and corporations are increasingly being blurred (roughly half of the top 50 economies in the world belong to that of corporations!), I was keen to thinking about the future of the world where Apple is concerned.

Apple have remained the foremost innovators and designers, creating that ultimate blend of functionality, art, design and user experience that has allowed for a far greater take up of technology than previously envisaged. The ease of use of Apple products has democratised the usage of technology by people, of all backgrounds, ages and capabilities.

I started considering where Apple may be heading over the next decade and half and thinking about how Apple, both as a company and as a global corporate citizen of the world, may evolve.

The image below best describes my own thoughts on where I think Apple will head towards. I have also provided a brief narrative to provide greater context.

A possible roadmap of where Apple may be headed towards
A possible roadmap of where Apple may be headed towards

Some additional context

Apple started the creation of their wider ecosystem with the development of OS X in 2000. The iPod, iPhone and iPad (along with associated products such as the iPod Touch, etc) relied on the iOS, which formed part of the greater ecosystem for Apple users.

Apple’s launch of the Apple Watch was the start of Apple’s foray into wearable technology (following at least two years of speculation).

Apple have also introduced Apple Pay, Apple HealthKit, and Apple Music (which nicely ties in with their multi billion acquisition of Beats) over the past few months.

2016 – the year of maturing of new initiatives

My view is that in 2016, Apple will support the development of additional personal and wearable technology (including iRing, Apple Glasses, etc) and we will see further launch of similar products (alongside newly launched products such as the new Apple TV). We will also see a further maturing of the Apple Pay system and greater application development for Apple HealthKit, utilising the Apple Watch and other related wearable technology.

2020 – The Apple Car zooms in

In about five years, we can expect to see the launch of the Apple Car. Possibly a completely electric car, with both driving and driverless functions, it will seek to revolutionise traffic control and movement. We can also expect to see financial aspects of the car, including insurance, leasing or hire purchase, supported by Apple Pay (or through connected bank accounts).

There could also be a potentially different model where Apple directly manage and maintain a fleet of driverless Apple cars, and passengers who seek transport can get in and by pre-booking through their Apple phones and/or other Apple products, can pay directly to Apple using Apple Pay (and taking on uber in the process).

Apple Insurance

We can also expect to see Apple providing direct insurance services to their consumers and users. Apple HealthKit can detect the health readings of an individual user and in the process price an appropriate insurance premium.

An individuals driving patterns can also provide data to help Apple price an appropriate auto/car insurance premium.

There could be a further maturing and take up of Apple Pay and related financing and banking products

2022 – Apple iBank is established

In the wake of the additional banking and insurance facilities provided directly by Apple, we can expect the iBank to be established which will allow for Apple to develop additional banking and finance capabilities, whilst also making better use of their cash hoard.

The iBank becomes the investment arm for Apple as Apple expands its product range into mortgages and fund management.

As Apple increasingly expands its portfolio of products, they start contemplating the development of Apple homes and flat

2025 – Apple the property developers and managers of societies

Apple starts producing smart iNtelligent homes to support increasing government demands for affordable, smart housing to meet the growing population demand.

The Apple Home becomes an all-encompassing home that is fitted with Apple sensors, that demands Apple usage by the users/residents and incorporates all other elements including mortgage, insurance, and electronics/appliances which syncs itself automatically with the user needs and demands.

Having a smoke at home – expect the Apple sensors to pick this up and send you an add-on to top up your health insurance with, for which you can make payment through Apple Pay – connected to your Apple iBank account.

Your fridge stacked with fizzy drinks, sugar-laden donuts and you are consistently frying food? Expect to receive a notification that your health insurance premium may be compromised and that you may need to top up!

2026 – Apple starts funding governments

As Apple Bank expands further, we can expect to see Apple Bank participating directly in funding campaigns led by the IMF, the AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank) and the World Bank, amongst other multilateral agencies. This participation may allow for Apple to obtain additional concessions to sell their products or services.

We can also expect to see Apple participating in various UN and international conferences to support their aims and ambitions

2030 – All hail the Apple Nation

In 2030, the first Apple Citizen is naturalised. The Apple Citizen received an Apple passport, which allows him to travel to a large number of countries (all of the visa requirements are pre-met through Apple’s existing data). Apple’s virtual citizenship is supported by a comprehensive and robust Apple foreign policy backed by a deep monetary policy (exercised by Apple’s iBank) which also means the launch of the iDollar (Apple’s virtual currency backed by the Apple Central Bank).

Apple’s predictive AI (artificial intelligence) also can predict individuals who may be about to engage in subversive activities and detains them for their own benefit and reduce crime and a state of lawlessness. It also forces health lifestyle habits.

Apple starts running lives and tells people how to dream and what to dream.

The era of Apple

This could be the era of Apple. Some may welcome it as it could lead to a more efficient world. Others will resist. The resistance will be led by the men and women wearing old school Casios and using Nokias!

A protester sports the word 'No' in Greek on his forehead as he waves a Greek flag during an anti-austerity demonstration in Syntagma Square in Athens, Greece July 3, 2015.  REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

Greece – Defiance in the wake of economic and policy waterboarding

The events overnight in Brussels have been nothing short of what can only be considered as a brutal attack against the Greek government and its people.

Watching the images of the embattled Tspiras and Tsakalotos, the new Greek Finance Minister, struggling in meetings with Merkel and the rest of Europe’s leadership, while doing their best by the people who elected them and also gave them a clear ‘No’ vote last weekend, was painful.

However, despite the struggles, I cannot but feel a deep respect for the Greek government who are trying valiantly to hold things together in the face of such steadfast adversity.

Germany and a raft of other nations are demanding that Greece pass a whole series of legislative reforms in the next 72 hours before they extend any credit lines. Some of the bills being demanded include:

  • VAT reforms
  • Changing the pension system
  • Implement spending cuts
  • Increasing the tax base
  • Establishing greater independence for the national statistics office
  • Privatising the electrical grid.
  • Return of the ECB, IMF and the European Commission to Athens

How this is meant to all be realistically debated, agreed and passed by the Greek Parliament in 72 hours is ludicrous. In essence, a gun is being held to Athen’s head and a series of demands are being made which, if not met, will lead to an economic and social collapse in the country. In circumstances such as these, what options do the Greeks really have?

Privatising national assets worth €50B

Amidst these changes, there is also a plan by the European Commission to privatise €50B worth of Greek national assets and use it as a trust to pay off their debt! Again, this is an example of a country that’s down being crushed in an absolute and merciless manner.

This call towards privatisation is worrying. If all basic services are privatised, who is going to buy over these national services and run them? The Greek people, already suffering from a 25% contraction of their economy over the last few years, massive unemployment and falling pensions, will be dealt with possibly higher prices and debt! How is this going to realistically alleviate the conditions of the Greeks?

The word ‘Europe’ is Greek

Where is the famed European solidarity? The European experiment was meant to be a showcase of unified achievement, progress and development. It was meant to highlight how Europe, as a whole, is greater than the sum of all its parts. However, tonight’s events have hardly been a ringing endorsement.

To their credit, Hollande and Dragi have been fighting Greece’s cause and maintain a united Europe, but it is a fight they are surely losing.

The IMF is also seeking to replace the Tspiras government with one that is more likely to carry out the painful reforms which are being demanded of Greece. If this does happen, it does make a shambles of the whole notion of democracy, ironically, in the birthplace of democracy as we know it!

What hope of espousing the values of democracy, fair-play and justice to the rest of the world which will see this and realise that in the end, the might of economic power will trample over the notions of decency and support every time.

It is no coincidence that #ThisIsACoup is trending on Twitter right now.

"Make in India" - but not for Indians' benefit?

The inequities of India’s proposed Land Acquisition Bill

The Indian government led by Modi has proposed a series of wide-ranging reforms to the Land Acquisition Bill which, in my personal view, will have a deleterious effect on the nation and her people.

The long and the short of this new Bill is that it will allow for the government to take over land from landowners without sufficient due diligence or understanding the social impacts in the name of ‘public interest’ whilst not actually defining what this ‘public interest’ may mean.

The proposed Land Acquisition Bill fails the most material principles of the Indian Constitution – that of democracy, welfare, justice and equality.

The context

Flawed analysis – leading to incorrect conclusions

The problems with the proposed amendments

Conclusion

Paddy Fields in India
Paddy field in India

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The context

For almost one hundred and twenty years, India’s land acquisition was governed by the Land Acquisition Act of 1894 which was a fundamentally exploitative, oppressive and inherently unjust piece of colonial legislation. Since Independence, over 50 million people have been displaced in the name of development. A large segment of the displaced includes entire scheduled tribal communities. The vast majority of the displaced have faced declines in the quality of life, received inadequate compensation and have ended up being marginalised in their own lands.

The Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Act of 2013 was subsequently passed with the official mandate to support the twin objectives of farmer welfare along with the strategic development of the country.

When Modi and his government took over, they decided that they wanted to amend a number of major aspects of the LARR as one of their core priorities. The proposed amendments have drawn widespread condemnation and flak, not just from the opposition, but from within the ruling party itself and more importantly the majority of the populace, particularly those within the rural community.
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Flawed analysis leading to incorrect conclusions

Part of the problem arises from the fact that current Indian administration’s economic analyses predicated on the notion that greater freedom by the State and large commercial interests in acquiring land and property will promote accelerated economic growth. Land acquisition is often cited as an impediment to India’s growth and India’s policymakers and a number of corporate-sponsored industry bodies would have us believe that having a draconian bill to confiscate land is the panacea to India’s economic ailments.

On the contrary, according to a Ministry of Finance-led Economic Survey of 2014/2015, it is less than 1% of projects that have stalled in India as a result of land acquisition issues.

India’s true obstacles to economic progress include corruption (which imposes a cost of between 1% to 3% of total GDP), tax evasion and ultimately a lack of a consistent and coherent economic policy.

Land grabs by the State actually have a huge cost, both economic and societal, for India. An unfair and unjust land acquisition campaign will only serve to further exacerbate the problem of rising income inequality and social disparity that remains a stain on India. The economic, social and environmental cost of displacement and conversion of forests/agricultural land towards industrial assets have never been truly understood or analysed by the government.

The ownership of land is a fundamental basis of livelihood and subsistence for a majority of Indians. Mere monetary compensation, without a resulting benefit in the form of employment will have devastating consequences for farmers, farmhands, artisans and other individuals whose livelihoods depend on agriculture and farming. Forest tribes, adivasis (large segments of tribal and aboriginal groups in India) and dalits (the most marginalised segments of the Indian population) who have been impacted as a result of past land acquisitions will in turn be even more marginalised and suffer even more inequity and exploitation.

The current Indian government is pushing for its “Make in India” slogan. There is no point making in India, if it does not benefit the majority of Indians and only serves to undermine and taint India.

“Make in India” – but not for Indians’ benefit?

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The problems with the proposed amendments

There are a number of serious problems with the amendments being proposed by the government.

1

First and foremost is the deletion of the clause to consider the social impact assessment of the land acquisition. Without the ability to assess the possible adverse impact a potential land acquisition has on people in an area, how can we truly understand the externalities (negative or otherwise) and make an informed judgement about the wisdom of acquiring the land. How will we be able to say, to a high degree of comfort, that the benefits of the land acquisition will indeed be substantively higher than the resultant costs and consequences and benefit a broader segment of society?

2

Secondly, agricultural land has to be viewed as strategic assets designed to support the development of the nation in order to preserve food security. We have seen countless nations, who in their rush to convert viable agricultural land into vast sweeping industrial or tourist outposts, have lost their ability to feed and serve their people and have had to resort to food import in order to sustain themselves. It can be argued that agricultural efficiencies have improved and that the same output can be delivered with a smaller land area – but in order for this to be truly understood, there has to be a clear understanding and assessment of impacts, which this government does not want to do either. India cannot surrender her independence in her ability to feed, serve and protect her people.

3

Thirdly, the previous Act had a provision which required the consent of 80% of affected individuals prior to the land acquisition. The amendments proposed will allow for the government to unilaterally acquire land without the permission of the people who depend on the land. The principles of democratic conventions are being violated here. Unlike a few other countries, India’s rule of law is not enforced by a dictatorship of some nature or under a command economy where all ownership belongs to the State. India is a democracy – a government of the people, by the people, for the people. With the proposed amendment, the state will be a government of a very small group of people, by the faceless/nameless corporates and industries, and certainly not for the people.

4

Fourthly, the amendments themselves are vague and, it appears, intentionally ambiguous. ‘Public purpose’ has not been clearly defined and no indicators are being proposed to indicate whether the nation benefits and aids the welfare of all. Five categories of projects are being proposed (national security and defence; rural infrastructure; affordable housing; industrial corridors; and infrastructure (including public-private partnership projects (PPPs)) which are being defined in the broadest possible way which will allow for the government and their industry and corporate partners to acquire/confiscate land without a robust case. It is the absence of a sufficiently strong check and balance that is the biggest cause for concern here.

As the law stands, if no development takes place on acquired land within five years, it has to be returned to the people. This has also now been amended and the land can be held on indefinitely from the time of purchase with no recourse made available to the people who are being impacted. Under the amendments, more land than is required can also be acquired by the government, including the purchase of an additional one kilometre of land on both sides of an industrial corridor – which again will have severe debilitating effects on farmers and small land owners. There is also no consideration of efficiency on the part of the industries and the state looking to acquire the land for their uses and it does not spur or promote more efficient use of the land and instead ends up subsidising the absence of efficiency improvements made by industries.

5

Finally and most fundamentally, the proposed amendments to the Land Acquisition Bill violate the principles of individual liberty and human rights. What this Bill does is redistribute land away from the poor and the most vulnerable to the richest and most privileged segments of society. The principles of prior consent and recognition of the societal and economic impacts on the people most directly impacted by any land acquisition is essentially a land grab by those who can from those who cannot do anything about it.


Land Grab

Conclusion

Land is not just a mere economic commodity or factor of production to a large number of people who will be affected by the proposed amendments of the Land Acquisition Bill. Land is a source of life, of sustenance, of faith and of hope. It is a function of the culture of the people who depend on it, be it the farmers, the forest tribes or the dalits. It is a source of livelihood, of dignity through employment and of a symbol of progress and growth.

India can only truly progress, economically and socially, if there is an improvement in the lives of all Indians and not just a select and privileged few.

A nation must be judged not just on what economic progress it has made but on how it has enhanced the welfare of its most vulnerable constituents.

The proposed amendments violate the principles of the Indian Constitution which dictate that India remains a sovereign, socialist, secular and a democratic republic. Socialism and democracy will be the first casualties if this Bill comes to pass – for how can a nation claim to be democratic when it tramples over the rights of its own people to own land without a proper recourse and safeguards.

The amendments to the Land Acquisition Bill must be opposed at all costs. At stake here is not just about India’s principles of fairness and equity for her people but about the future of a prosperous India which benefits all and not just a select few.

 

References:

http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-land-acquisition-bill-implies-deep-trouble-2072222 (Shivani Chaudhry)