The second installment of the Hunger Games series is a fitting follow-up to the first movie. Even though the director changed, the movies are stylistically similar. This is quite unlike the big difference between the second and third Harry Potter movies. For a second movie in a row in this series, the film is remarkably in line with the book. Even the spoken lines (if my memory serves me well) seem taken out of the book.
The Hunger Games are held every year to keep the population of the various districts under check by forcing them to send a male and female tribute to the Games where only one can survive.
There are possible spoilers below. Take care.
ISRO has put the Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft in Earth orbit today. This is a significant mission. If successful, India will be the fourth to reach Mars (Russia, NASA and ESA have had Mars missions). The lift off was at 1438 local time (0908 GMT). The spacecraft separation was achieved at T+45 minutes and the solar panels were successfully deployed at T+97 minutes.
The launch vehicle was a 4-stage PSLV-XL rocket with 6 boosters. Alternate stages (2nd and 4th) are liquid fueled. There was a 28 minute coasting phase between the 3rd and 4th stages, including a period of over 10 minutes of “radio silence” when the vehicle was out of communication with ground (actually ships placed along the launch trajectory up to New Zealand).
The full status of the launch can be seen here at spaceflightnow.com
Some interesting facts:
The mission cost about INR 4.5 billion (under USD 70 million). Compare that to the film Gravity, which cost over USD 100 million to make….
… or indeed to NASA’s MAVEN mission which is scheduled to take off later this month, and cost USD 485 million (about 7 times as expensive).
The craft will take close to 300 days and cover over 400 million kilometers on the way to the red planet. That is 1.3 million km per day at an average speed of over 55,000 kmph. The cost per kilometer is about INR 11 (18 US cents) – which is the equivalent of rickshaw fare.
The payload weighs only 15 kilograms in terms of scientific equipment compared to 1.35 tons for the spacecraft (over 800 kilos is just the fuel) and over 350 tons for the rocket. The scientific payload is 0.004% of the lift-off weight.
There have been a lot of reviews of this movie around. Take a look at IMDB or Metacritic. Still…
This is one of the few (really rare) movies that must be seen in 3D. I believe it is only released in 3D. In IMAX format, it is absolutely brilliant. Spoilers ahead, you have been warned.
- You win Miss Universe
- You get to visit the Taj Mahal
- You do a photo shoot at the Taj Mahal
- You get arrested “for an unauthorized fashion shoot at the Taj Mahal”
Helpful pictures from the above news websites:
Yesterday was the 144th birth anniversary of MK Gandhi (is “gross years” an acceptable form of usage of gross as a measure?). Gandhi’s legacy is talked about a lot, but a couple of his ideas have had a significant long-term impact on the Indian psyche and politics. We all know about his stance on non-violence, his idealization of the village life (spinning wheel, etc.), his stance against untouchability and so on. There are two particular ideas of Gandhi that I want to talk about.
1. Civil disobedience / non-cooperation movement
In the 1920′s as the leader of the Congress party, he started his campaign for swaraj (self-rule). This idea was expanded to a general civil disobedience movement. In particular there was a boycott of British goods and an anti-Rowlatt Act movement (this was enacted around the time of the First World War – a sort of “emergency”; incidentally the Jalianwalabagh assembly was held to protest this Act). The idea was to protest oppressive acts of an illegitimate government. This became a core idea of the independence movement.
Indians have taken this to heart. If we see a sign that prohibits a U-turn, motorists will make a U-turn even if they do not necessarily want to turn around. If we see signs that say “no honking” near hospitals, we will honk more. The general destruction of public property, emergence of slums on public foot paths and roads – oh, I could go on for ever – are all in my opinion related to this. Laws are only obeyed if there is someone watching. Even then bribery is the route often taken to bypass rules.
There is a general feeling that patriotism includes law-breaking.
Which brings us to the second point:
2. Tax avoidance
Core to the civil disobedience movement was the Salt Satyagraha – protest against the tax on salt. Apparently over 8% of the British Indian government came from salt taxes. Gandhi started the Dandi march and this led to the manufacture and sale of illegal salt. Eventually this snowballed into a general boycott of British goods.
We have taken this to the core of our lives. Tax avoidance is so great that we only have 42,000 people in this country of over 1.2 billion who say that they have over Rs. 1 crores as taxable income (that is about $160,000). This in a country where luxury cars (the likes of Audi, BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes) sell about 29,000 units a year. Only those whose primary income is in the form of a salary reports their income to the tax authorities – mainly because they cannot avoid it.
Incidentally tax, civil disobedience and India played an important role in the American independence story. In the famous Boston Tea Party, the dispute was over the 25% tax on tea. The tea that was dumped into the sea belonged to the East India Company!
A couple of quick thoughts on the monetary policy and the market reaction. RBI did a split-personality policy, imagine a rate hike and rate cut in the same policy document! This is going to take more than one post. I am trying to marshal ideas here and will come back to some of these points later.
So with 0.25% higher repo rate, why are long bond yields up by almost 70 basis points?
The long bond yield has two components: what is the expected “average” overnight rate for the next 10 years, and a “term premium” reflecting the additional yield to account for uncertainties – regarding the overnight rate, liquidity, and other risks. If the long bond yield rose by a lot more than the increase in the overnight rate, it clearly means that the market expectation for the future of the overnight rate has gone up and/or the term premium has increased.
The expectation was that this period of extra-ordinary high interest rates (to defend the currency) would go away quickly. History suggests that these rate increases are unwound within 6 months. The expectation was that over the next few months, we would go back to the 7.25% operative rate from the 10.25% before the policy. That is the only explanation as to why the 10-year rate was at 8.2%. The 10-year rate can be lower than the overnight rate only if we expect the overnight rate to fall shortly. Once we got to 7.25%, the expectation was that with growth at 10-year lows and inflation well below last year’s levels (and indeed core wholesale price inflation plumbing new 4-year lows) we should resume rate cuts. Pre-policy it was clear that the RBI was targeting wholesale price inflation below 5% in the near term and below 3% in the medium term. See chart below, before the rise in the last couple of months, WPI inflation was at 5%. Core inflation has been below the RBI 3% target for some months now.
RBI has thrown both assumptions into question. Firstly even after unwinding of the currency defence, we would still end up at a higher rate than 7.25% (now 7.5%, possibly higher by December). Second the expectation that after normalization we can start reducing rates has been thrown into question. RBI seems to have shifted its policy variable away from wholesale to consumer inflation. Consequently, real interest rates are now sharply negative and to normalize rates, we need much higher overnight rates. We may be in for a period of rate hikes rather than the rate cuts we expected.
Where RBI has confused the market is that there is a new committee set up to identify which variable that RBI should target and what should be the operational stance, etc. Clearly with the policy the governor appears to have in some form pre-judged the outcome of the committee (moved to consumer price inflation instead of wholesale price inflation). Even if the indicator has shifted, there is no idea about the target. As stated above, RBI had clear targets about where they wanted wholesale inflation to be. They have never indicated any target for consumer inflation. So how much consumer inflation is ok? How much is too much? And if inflation is higher than acceptable, what will the RBI do? In an earlier policy document, RBI had said that the short term rate (overnight) needs to be higher than the inflation rate. This justified keeping the repo rate at 8-8.5% while WPI inflation was in that range. Now with CPI at 9.5%, where will the repo rate need to be?
Lastly, and a little more on the schizo-economics, there is recognition that the economy is slowing. The official stance is of a negative output gap (the economy is growing slower than it could). This will be disinflationary. Why the increase in interest rate then. I believe the RBI is doing the same squaring the circle I did in an earlier post and has concluded that potential growth is much lower than is believed and the negative output gap does not exist (or is much smaller than believed).