Tobacco – a colonial addiction
Six companies and sundry State monopolies drive global cigarette consumption. These six companies derive more than US$100 billion dollars in revenues, globally. For many years they were advertising industries largest customers.These six companies are headquartered at former European imperial powers (UK, France, Spain), USA and Japan.
In recent years, dozens of cigarette manufacturing companies have consolidated under four major private corporations: Altria/Philip Morris, British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco International, and Imperial Tobacco. State monopolies are also major cigarette manufacturers. The largest state monopoly is China National Tobacco Corporation, with a global cigarette market share that exceeds that of any private company. Because the European Union intends to restrict further mergers and acquisitions that increase a tobacco company’s market-share dominance, industry consolidation trends may have peaked.
The tobacco industry includes some of the most powerful transnational corporate entities in the world. Tobacco conglomerates have diversified into many other industries, such as financial services, food and beverages, pharmaceuticals, real estate, hotels, restaurants, communications, and apparel, among others. The tobacco industry is expected to continue increasing in size and power.
The global tobacco market, valued at $378 billion, grew by 4.6 percent in 2007. By the year 2012, the value of the global tobacco market is projected to increase another 23 percent, reaching $464.4 billion. If Big Tobacco were a country, it would have the 23rd-largest gross domestic product in the world, surpassing the GDP of countries like Norway and Saudi Arabia. (via Tobacco Atlas Online – Tobacco Companies.).
India’s small production base is a combination of two aspects. Indian social inertia against addictive substances and the Government on the other. Indian cigarette business, small as it is, was put in Indian hands during Indira Gandhi’s socialist days. BAT lost control of ITC, which was placed in the hands of professional Indian managers.
Chinese State Tobacco monopoly
Or Western powers pushing opium in China in the nineteenth century. After the opium experience of the Chinese, when Western trading houses, under State protection, using the garb of ‘free trade’, made China into the largest consumer of opium.
The Chinese Govt. has replaced opium with tobacco.
The second secret of the tobacco business is to be dominant in purchasing and cornering tobacco stock. For cornering tobacco stocks, Big Tobacco depends on Central Banks’ support – aka State support. For instance, ITC (and other major global tobacco purchasers) in India has a major presence in Guntur, where Indian tobacco trade is headquartered.
ITC’s over-sized chequebook buys it market dominance.
The Indian tobacco profile
India is the third largest producer of tobacco – after China and USA. India ranks 6th as a tobacco exporting nation, as most of tobacco in India is consumed by domestic consumers. Tobacco consumption in India follows traditional patterns, as a non-industrial product – spanning chewing tobacco, bidis (tobacco rolled in leaves), hookah, clay pipes and snuff. Indian traditional tobacco usage consumes between 75%-85% of total tobacco cultivation.
Indian tobacco consumption and control follows consumption patterns of psychotropic drugs. All the major drugs in the world came of India – opium is afeem, khus-khus पोस्त; cannabis is charas, ganja, marijuana, hashish. Heroin is a derivative of opium. Even, as Indians are significant (legal) producers, they are not high on consumption lists.
However, drugs never became a big problem in India. Unlike in China, or in Medieval Middle East (when drug crazed criminals called hashishis became assassins). All these drugs were introduced to the world by India – with records going back to 1000 BC. Similarly family and peer pressure plays an important role in controlling the less dangerous form of traditional tobacco usage in India. In modern times, Indian gold smuggling was funded by carriage and export of drugs.
Cigarette production consumes less than one-fourth of India’s tobacco production.
Until two years ago, non-filter cigarettes comprised 30% of the total cigarette consumption. But with an increase in excise duty on non-filter cigarettes from Rs 168 to Rs 819 per thousand from March 1, 2008, the demand for low-priced filter cigarettes has risen At present, the excise duty on a pack of 10 filter cigarettes is Rs 8.19, and VAT Rs 1.05. Thus, taxes total Rs 10 per pack. Illicit cigarettes are sold for less than this amount, leading the government to believe that either registered cigarette units are evading duty or foreign-made cigarettes are flooding the market from Myanmar and the UK The business of low-cost cigarettes is big in the country, especially in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Punjab. (via Article Window).
The expansion of manufacturing in cigarettes globally (see chart) is much like the housing scam in US and Europe. Banks made huge advances, created a bubble, and are now busy foreclosing these loans. The modern myth of Republic Democracy at work.
How maya works in real life.
- Australia takes on tobacco giants over packaging (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Big Tobacco’s Been Busy (fool.com)
- Philip Morris Int’l buys rights to nicotine system (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- The unstoppable march of the tobacco giants (independent.co.uk)
- Tobacco giant BAT admits funding retailers’ campaign against ban on cigarette displays (guardian.co.uk)
- Yes, smoking kills – but not everyone wants to be saved | Tanya Gold (guardian.co.uk)
- FDA takes action against illegal marketing of tobacco products (gloucestercitynews.net)
- Why Gas Stations Love Cigarettes (MO, RAI, LO) (businessinsider.com)
- Smokers ignore health warnings, research shows (guardian.co.uk)
- World’s toughest antismoking laws set to pass in Australian parliament (telegraph.co.uk)
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton traveled halfway around the world Friday for several hours of meetings with Pakistani leaders. Clinton’s brief visit — she arrived just after breakfast and was headed home by early afternoon — was part of the Obama administration’s efforts in recent weeks to leverage bin Laden’s killing during a secret raid by U.S. commandos into closer ties with Pakistan, rather than risk it finally severing the always-fragile partnership.
Administration officials also said they listened to Pakistan’s complaints about the slow delivery of promised military assistance and its desire for other forms of assistance that “they can show as proof of this relationship” to the Pakistani public. “We committed to look at that,” one official said.
Responding to recent reports that Pakistan has tried to solidify its ties with China and other traditional friends as a hedge against troubles with the United States, Clinton said that Americans provide Pakistan with “more support than Saudi Arabia, China and everybody else combined. . . . I’m not sure many Pakistanis know that.”
It was far from the first time the United States has announced an attempted reset. But administration officials traveling with Clinton said that the seriousness of the current crisis had forced both sides to confront the possible consequences of an irreconcilable breach and that the talks were marked by a new level of frankness.
After her news conference at the U.S. Embassy, she was whisked back to her plane and gone before most Pakistanis were even aware she was here.(via Clinton visits Pakistan to firm up new ties – The Washington Post; parts excised /reordered for brevity and continuity).
She expressed Washington’s “strong commitment” to relations with Pakistan. Mrs Clinton said that the US had “absolutely no evidence that anyone at the highest level of the Pakistani government” knew where Bin Laden was and said she would return to Washington “ever more committed” to the relationship. In what correspondents say was perhaps an attempt to smooth ruffled Pakistani feathers over the killing, Mrs Clinton acknowledged the ”sacrifices made every single day by the men and women Pakistan’s military and its citizens”.
Mrs Clinton was accompanied on her visit by the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm Mike Mullen. The pair held meetings with senior Pakistani politicians and army officers to plead for greater co-operation in the war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Having all of Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership in one room was unusual, perhaps an effort to get them talking to each other more.
It is the first such high-level visit to Pakistan since the killing of Bin Laden on 2 May. (via BBC News – Clinton exonerates Pakistan over Osama Bin Laden; parts excised /reordered for brevity and continuity).
Pakistan is preparing for further deterioration, building its non-U.S. alliances and options. For Pakistanis, the Abbottabad raid that killed Osama bin Laden was a vivid demonstration that America does not respect its sovereignty and territorial integrity. The presence of American drones flying into Pakistan’s airspace underscores this all the time. For Americans, the fact that bin Laden was hiding for years in a major Pakistani garrison town surrounded by Pakistani army cantonments and retired officers’ homes confirmed the U.S. view that the country engages in a complex double game of patronizing some terrorists while fighting others. Both sides are right about the other.
Pakistan has seen the United States cut off aid many ties before in the last half century. It knows Washington is capricious. So it is strengthening its alternatives east and west. China is Pakistan’s reliable “all weather” ally. Both Pakistan’s civilian and military leaders travel often to Beijing to ensure close cooperation. Chinese engineers are building highways to link Tibet to the Arabian Sea through Pakistan. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are key Muslim allies to the west. Pakistan has been the kingdom’s largest recipient of aid for decades and Saudi Prince Bandar just visited Islamabad to secure promises of Pakistani troops if the Arab Spring threatens to erupt in the gulf monarchies. A battalion of Pakistani troops is in Bahrain backing up the Saudi and Emirati forces that intervened there this year to crush the Shia protest movement.(via America’s Menacing Pakistan Problem – Brookings Institution; parts excised /reordered for brevity and continuity).
- Clinton defends Pakistan leaders on bin Laden (alternet.org)
- US-Pakistan relations ‘at turning point’ after killing of Bin Laden, warns Clinton – The Guardian (news.google.com)
- Washington Post: Pakistan Has Allowed The CIA to Search The Villa Where He Lived Osama Bin Laden (socyberty.com)
- Hillary Clinton pledges US ‘commitment’ to Pakistan – BBC News (news.google.com)
- Hillary Clinton and Mike Mullen on America’s Problems With Pakistan (thedailybeast.com)
- At tense time for US-Pakistan ties, Hillary Clinton swings velvet hammer (csmonitor.com)
- Osama Bin Laden Raid A Watershed Moment For Pakistan, Says Clinton (huffingtonpost.com)
- Clinton: Bin Laden raid a watershed for Pakistan (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- US-Pakistan ties at a crossroads, Clinton says – San Francisco Chronicle (news.google.com)
Global alarm about Pakistan, is triggered by a new and disruptive player, who has joined the power-grab game. Meet the mullah-madrasa-mujahhid combine.
Test of Political leadership
What do you say about a leadership that has two of the world’s super-powers, USA and China, swearing friendship and loyalty – at least once, every week.
Must be a rich, hi-tech country.
No. We are not talking of Saudi Arabia or Japan.
How about describing a leadership that gets economic and military aid – on its own terms, after flouting every previous conditionality imposed on it by the aid-givers?
Is it some super-power? Or a very poor country.
Even Haiti, Cuba, Congo, Ethiopia have to live with very strict conditionalities, imposed on them.
In your words describe a country that shelters and protects half of the world’s most wanted fugitives?
A-ha! We are talking of tax-evaders.
Sorry. Switzerland, it ain’t.
This country has also become a de facto nuclear power – and liberally auctioned nuclear technology, to anyone willing to pay for it.
Israel is not who we are talking of.
One hint. They have been doing this for 60 years.
All this – and more
Has India hurt Pakistan
Bal Thackeray: Why should I bother? Let them go to hell. I don’t want to know.
Going for broke
- You: Pak fuelling anti-India terror: alleges India (nation.com.pk)
- Saudi Bid to Curb Iran Worries U.S. (online.wsj.com)
- Clinton Urges Pakistan to Act Decisively Against Militancy – Voice of America (news.google.com)
- China ‘asks USA to respect Pak sovereignty’ / China has “warned in unequivocal terms that any attack on Pakistan would be construed as an attack on China” (theboldcorsicanflame.wordpress.com)
- You: Pak-US relations at turning point: Clinton (nation.com.pk)
- ‘India must demonstrate that it is capable of making things difficult’ (wired.com)
- You: Improved US ties with Pak good for India: Napolitano (nation.com.pk)
- You: Pak, India talks from March 28: FO (nation.com.pk)
- Pakistan – Blackmail as State Policy (quicktake.wordpress.com)
- Bad bargains with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan fostered 9/11 (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- U.S. cannot solve Pakistan’s problems, says Hillary (hindu.com)
- Saudi Bid for Anti-Iranian Alliance Worries U.S. (foxnews.com)
- Saudi Arabia Urged To Halt Beheadings After Spike In Executions: Amnesty International (huffingtonpost.com)
- Beheadings increase in Saudi Arabia (cbsnews.com)
- Pakistani diplomacy – a tour de force (quicktake.wordpress.com)
A sputtering economy with a strong yuan is not the same China anymore. How should India deal with a hesitant China.
- On China by Henry Kissinger: review (telegraph.co.uk)
- Mao Zedong (time.com)
- The Fundamental Difference Between The Soviet Union And China (businessinsider.com)
- Liberalism under attack in China: Boundlessly loyal to the great monster (economist.com)
- A Diplomat Looks East (online.wsj.com)
- WATCH: After Being Followed Around By Chinese Government Agents, This Reporter Confronts Them And All Hell Breaks Loose (businessinsider.com)
- China Tops India as Asian Economy Best Placed For Growth (businessweek.com)
- SocGen: “The China Domino Has Fallen!”, Big-Time Inflation Coming All Around The World (businessinsider.com)
- At China’s New Museum, History Toes Party Line (nytimes.com)
- Sex, Drugs and Mao Zedong (time.com)
- Kissinger fails to answer key question – Jasper Becker (chinaherald.net)
- On China by Henry Kissinger – review (guardian.co.uk)
- Dr. K’s Rx for China (thedailybeast.com)
- The China syndrome (boston.com)
- Henry Kissinger on China (nytimes.com)
- America and China: No go (economist.com)
Gunmen in USA have attempted and killed more people and US Presidents than gunmen in Pakistan. American Government has made guns cheap and accessible in – both in USA and Pakistan.
- Pakistan: The Hidden Chapter (quicktake.wordpress.com)
- Soft Power: Dragon on the dance floor (quicktake.wordpress.com)
- Egypt raids on US NGOs (2ndlook.wordpress.com)
- Taliban storm Pakistan naval base – ABC Online (news.google.com)
- China Admits Its Technicians Were Held in Pakistan Base Attack (nytimes.com)
- Pakistan’s Nuclear Arsenal At Risk? (businessinsider.com)
- Power cuts darken mood in Pakistan (ft.com)
- Cameron: No time to turn away from Pakistan (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- The headache that is Pakistan (quicktake.wordpress.com)
- Insurgents get away after U.S. tips to Pakistan (sfgate.com)
- In Islamabad – Panetta lands in Pakistan (politico.com)
- You: ‘US military drawdown in Pakistan completed’ (nation.com.pk)
- Pakistan played vital role in elimination of Osama: minister (dawn.com)
- Pentagon: Tons of Weapons Stuck in Pakistan (news.antiwar.com)
- Ex-CIA contractor pleads not guilty in fight (miamiherald.com)
- White House Defends Drone Campaign (newser.com)
- Land of the Free … Home of the Brave (behind2ndlook.wordpress.com)
Of mice and men
While the US dollar is weakening, by design, Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain are being bankrupted by a deliberately overvalued Euro.
an unexpected $7.3 billion trade deficit, the biggest in seven years. The nation’s (China’s) exports rose at the slowest pace since November 2009.
For Europe, the grand prix is to replace the dollar as the currency of international trade – especially oil trade. Euro as a international trade-currency-of-choice, will give the Euro region access to more than 1 trillion euros in zero-cost floating balances.
China is expecting the yuan to play a similar role. Such are plans made by mice and men.
Monsieur Murphy says
What can go wrong with these plans? Plenty.
The eternal enemy of currency manipulation – gold. As a million bureaucrats work on the mechanics of their plans,
Sales of gold coins are on track for the best month in a year amid the worst commodities rout since 2008, a sign that bullion’s longest bull market in nine decades has further to run, if history is a guide.
The U.S. Mint sold 85,000 ounces of American Eagle coins since May 1 as the Standard & Poor’s GSCI Index of 24 raw materials fell 9.9 percent. The last time sales reached that level, bullion rose 21 percent in the next year. Gold will advance 17 percent to a record $1,750 an ounce by Dec. 31 and keep gaining in 2012, the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of 31 analysts, traders and investors shows.
UBS AG, Switzerland’s biggest bank, had its second-best day this year for physical sales on May 9, according to a report the following day. The bank’s sales to India, the world’s top bullion consumer, are more than 10 percent higher than in 2010. (via Gold Coins Show Bull Market Unbowed in Commodities Decline – Bloomberg).
You take free advice …?
Back in late January, as the world’s important people rubbed elbows in Davos, billionaire investor George Soros had some rather definitive thoughts to offer on gold, which he called “the ultimate asset bubble,” according to reports.
However, he neglected to mention that his hedge fund had been buying.
Another report points out that the liquidation (by people like Soros) of investments in public investment vehicles may be replaced by private investments.
The new filings from funds “may show that big names exited ETPs and this news may cause prices to slip in the very short term,” said Bayram Dincer, an analyst at LGT Capital Management in Pfaeffikon, Switzerland. Some funds switched to holding gold directly so they wouldn’t have to announce it publicly, he said.
Is gold a bubble?
A rather disbelieving journalist writes of the situation in the West
Gold is in a bubble. Anyone will tell you that. They’ve been saying it since gold was about, oh, $500 an ounce. But it’s a funny kind of a bubble. It’s the only one I’ve encountered where so few people seem to own the asset in question.
During the dot-com bubble, you met lots of people with tech stocks. Taxi drivers told you what dot-coms they owned. During the housing bubble you met normal, ordinary people who were trading up to expensive homes using adjustable-rate mortgages, buying new condos off plan to flip, and cashing out their fictional “equity” through a refinance mortgage.
But who actually owns gold? I keep hearing about the gold bubble, but every time I ask people if they own any themselves, they say, “no, no, of course not, it’s a bubble.”
Central banks around the world are printing more dollars, euros, pounds and yen. Gold may simply be a less awful currency than all the others. Banks can’t print any more of it, so its price should probably rise while other currencies fall.
For this year, the question in India seems to be, “Will gold cross Rs.25000, by 2011 Diwali?”
- Gold Coins Show Bull Market Unbowed in Commodities Decline (businessweek.com)
- Soros Sells Most of Gold ETP Holdings During First Quarter (businessweek.com)
- A closer look at George Soros’ big quarter of selling gold (financialpost.com)
- Why is George Soros selling gold, but John Paulson not? (theglobeandmail.com)
- China Is Now Top Gold Bug (online.wsj.com)
- Gold Investment Demand in China (lonerangersilver.wordpress.com)
- Chinese set new standard in buying gold (ft.com)
- Gold grand prix – The Chinese challenge (quicktake.wordpress.com)
- Shanghai Planning Gold Exchange-Traded Funds as Demand Jumps (businessweek.com)
- Oil, gold back in demand (news.theage.com.au)