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But, yes, based on holdings of US Dollars in its vaults, China has USD 847 billion (as of July, 2010) while Japan holds USD 821 billion and UK comes a distant third with USD 374 billion. Having said that, we are not sure if these statistics tell us who the super-power really is. Is it these countries for owning so much US Dollars, or is it the USA for fooling these countries into owning what could be worthless pieces of paper? Time will tell.
If "super-powership" is ranked based on the number of people in an army (including reserves), then the list would suggest that North Korea with 9.5 million people in its army is the real super power, just a shade ahead of its neighbour South Korea (8.7 million).
The Business Standard quotes a US report as ranking India as the third most powerful country in the world after USA and China. If the European Union was to be counted as one bloc, it would take over the third spot and India would be ranked as the 4th most powerful country in the world.
We are not sure what that US report measures as the criteria for its list, but it feels nice to see India in some such list.
Some rich, many poor
India also makes it to the rich lists that tend to be published. After all, we are living in a material world and all that money made because of the legendary friendships between our business houses and politicians has to show up somewhere. Forbes, which is famous for its ranking of people for their wealth - irrespective of how they earned it - has India ranked 5th as home to 49 billionaires when measured in US Dollars, ahead of its once colonial master, the UK with 29 billionaires. And possibly 20 of those 29 must be immigrants from South Asia!
And, the least publicised but probably intuitively known list of them all is the one that ranks countries based on their share of global poverty. India has a dominating lead in this list (41% of the world’s poor are in India) with China in a distant, but convincing, second place (22% of the world's poor are in China).
Hey, my stadium will last longer than yours
Sometimes nations like the glitz and the PR to show that they have arrived - or arriving - on the path to wealth.
------------------------------------ 'The Honest Truth' now in Hindi also ------------------------------------
आपके पसंदीदा लेख अब आपकी भाषा में भी.
क्या इस हिंदी अनुवाद में वही बात थी जो अजीत के मूल अंग्रेजी लेख में होती है?
इस हिंदी अनुवाद पर अपनी प्रतिक्रियाएं हमें ज़रूर बताएं.
So they bid to host The Olympics or The World Cup (for football).
Or, in the case of India, for the Commonwealth Games.
Most of the grandiose games end up saddling their local hosts with debt - or, worse still - debt and a decaying structure that is padlocked and chained so that the locals cannot use it once the Games are over.
In South Africa, they built or re-furbished 10 football stadiums for the 2010 World Cup for a cost of USD 2 billion. While some of the stadiums are being used for cricket matches now, the cost of maintaining such stadiums - some in poor towns - is expected to be a drain on the exchequer. Apparently, no one has worked out what it would cost to maintain these stadiums.
An acquaintance from Brazil mourned that his country was in for a double-hit: the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games. He expects corruption, a waste of public money, and eventual decay.
There are other countries, though, that don't really want to win any ranking game but do. Take the case of Switzerland. It is typically ranked as one of the best places to live and it is also ranked high on competitiveness. While there are many great Swiss companies (ABB, Nestle) the foundation of the Swiss economy for over fifty years has been its willingness - for a fee, of course - to hide money stashed away by dictators, politicians, and businessmen from every part of the world, including India according to media reports! With a zero cost of funds and job creation to look after the visitors who come to check their loot, the Swiss have had a great foundation to build on.
Super-powers in business
This race for "super-powership" can really get silly.
Sometimes it can extend to families and businesses.
Or, now that the bull market has finally caught the attention of the investing public, the investment bankers are adding their silliness to it.
Reportedly six investment banks are willing to help Coal India raise Rs 13,000 crore via an IPO for a fee of Rs 12,500. That is correct: Indian Rupees Twelve Thousand and Five Hundred Only.
I have a proposition for them: I will pay them ten times more from my pocket (Rs 125,000) if they help Quantum Long Term Equity Fund raise one-tenth of what they plan to raise Coal India: Rs 1,300 crore! (See, I am willing to pay distributors 100x more than the competition.J)
Or take the case of the fund managers of the pension system who won their mandates because they quoted management fees of 0.0001%. Since those same fund management houses also manage mutual funds, should they not charge those same low fees to investors in those mutual funds? Aha, how silly of me, they probably do charge 0.0001% as the management fee and they pass on the rest (2.2499%) to the distribution channels!
So while rankings and lists are fun, don't get bowled over by them.
Like John Lennon sang, "A pretty face may last a year or two, but pretty soon we'll see what you can do".
Maybe India should not spend its time building stadiums and foot bridges that may not stand the test of time (sometimes a week) and instead focus on the joy of being while humming away: Hum kaaley hain to kya, dil wale hain!
And that, too, at a set against the backdrop of a snow-capped Switzerland.
Suggested allocation in Quantum Mutual Funds (after keeping safe money aside)