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American Teflon, Indian Spice - Views on News from Equitymaster
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  • Dec 5, 2000

    American Teflon, Indian Spice

    By the looks of it contender Al Gore will have to relinquish his claim to the Presidency of the United States and allow Governor George Bush the honour of being officially classified as President elect. So, is the battle over? The Democrats, after having ruled the “greatest” nation in the world for 8 successive years, will now sit happily in the Opposition? Unlikely. This election, unlike any other in American history, was bitter, mean, and one of vengeance. One does not need to be a historian of the American election process to make that proposition. One merely needs to be aware of the changes in technology that have allowed this election to be the likely turning point of recent American domination.

    For nearly 7 years now, the United States of America has been the darling of the political, economic, and military world. Russia has been pre-occupied with its internal political fragmentation and economic turmoil, China was pre-occupied with the takeover of Hong Kong, internal political dissidents that suggested it may go the Soviet way, and with the shock waves of the Thai devaluation that nearly put its own currency and economy at risk. The Euro-zone economies were (and still are) trying to put in place a coherent and unified strategy for what is in reality a Babel of multiple countries and cultures. Japan is still trying to figure out what to copy. And the UK, well, they lost their dominance 100 years ago. All of this while USA was enjoying all the benefits of political stability in an increasingly unstable world, and reaping the benefits of a new technological revolution. Everything that the Americans did was gladly endorsed in a world where opinions are increasingly made in corporate boardrooms. The Nasdaq was worshipped, the US dollar sacred, and the capitalist model sponsored by America crowned as the king.

    But that may be yesterday’s story. This election has changed that. The same technology that has been a boon to USA has added to the likely tension that will prevail for years to come. For the past one-month hundreds of millions of Americans have been bombarded with sound-bytes and visuals of politicians and lawyers vying for control of the White House. It is safe to say that no election in American history was so widely covered and, hence, irrespective of whether the Bush-Gore election dogfight was the closest in American history or not, the exposure it got has stirred enough emotions on all sides of the political equation to ensure a mean and fractious government for the next few years. Add to this the recent return to reality of all the hype surrounding the Nasdaq valuations (and the great technology revolution that extended its influence to the way companies were valued by greedy analysts!) and you have a recipe for disillusionment over the “supremacy” of the US economy. Sprinkle that with some weakness in the US dollar as Europeans keep their money home and stop chasing the illusory Nasdaq valuations, and you have a reversal of gigantic proportions. A split polity, a bubble burst, and a weak currency that finally begins to punish the ostentatious consumption satisfied by imports, which are not the sort of stuff that makes countries the “greatest” and an icon for others to follow. If you are looking for tomorrow’s icon, follow the money-hounds of corporate boardrooms. Most likely you will end up in China.

    India, of course, will continue to take pride in the fact that not only have we won the Miss World crowns but also invented the number zero (that accounts for 50% of all software code written in the world) and have a better election practice than the United States. And the Indian stock markets: whom will they take their cue from? Well, China, of course. The only stocks that could have any kind of future will be those where the Chinese companies have a limited skill set. And, if the dumping allegations are to be believed, that probably means we need to get a listing for a “gilli-danda” company pretty quick.



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