Waiting to be Trumped ?

(A Perspective on India and Africa with emphasis on future of initiatives in ENERGY privatization)

This may be the first time that a US presidential oath taking, on noon of January 20, 2017 by IST, is being followed as if it were D-day here in New Delhi. I cannot believe that cafes in Hauz Khas (per newspapers) are inspired to prepare for a celebration with big screens and all the pomp once reserved for big cricket matches only. I guess it has to do with the tourist season and time when NRI’s find best season to visit Delhi at its coldest.

In December it seemed like global warming was on when we said it is a weak winter, but snow like always in Simla since the New Year rang in, has changed all that and all of the woolen that remained inside until now, are finally out. So global warming sans the photography and videos from the melting Arctic seems to take backseat whenever here in Delhi the winter chill shows it’s delayed spurts.

We know for one that Merryl Streep and some of the glitterati may even boycott the grand presidential ball and invites to other festivities but as for those with eye on global energy investments from the USA, they are ones debating on Trump ideology, as it has been widely mentioned that he will go gung-ho back to fossil oil/coal and nuclear that have hitherto made USA the power to reckon. As world would have it, it is the intellectuals, the philosophizers, the sympathizers, the artisans, the educated elite who see the world in a certain perspective who normally crusade for ‘climate change’, environment and future of society.

With Obamacare health already on the chopping block, what will be the fate of Obama’s Lighting Africa and other initiatives for Africa and the developing world at large, none of which have instilled much inspiration anyway, even as Renewable Energy is considered more a democratic idea, less macho, more idealistic than practical by many who have held any kind of important ‘Energy’ portfolio in past decades. The capitalists can afford to keep changing stance the direction winds blow and corporate professionals shall keep falling like Humpty Dumpty to any such ideology, soon as the words ‘profit’ and ‘KRA’ come in during year endings and budget sessions.

With every elected government in developing world in recent years was enforced to give proof of combating corruption, fueling of economy with tax retrievals, the US had a very different agenda this presidential transformation. The whole differential strongly rests on the Payee and Payer division with regards to balance of payments, vis-à-vis, world bank and donor funding where African countries especially, owe billions of dollars to China, US, EU and Japan (donor countries) in particular. The sword of taxation hangs on private sector, which was already looking at their respective governments with feeble trust to enter infrastructure, energy et al to put their own money at stake.

Also no country has had a brave PM like we in India do; that’s the popular view in India at large it seems. Like USA, we too find our people with mixed emotions of late but there are positives and negatives to perspectives in context of Energy and renewables per se.

In India the retrieval on taxes and money out of circulation may have been challenged in part by demonetization; but the PM has taken huge strides to solar-power the nation and this is what I want to leave you as the reader with on the possibility of renewable energy (as against fossils) being trumped (with some comparisons for African countries):

  1. Funding of Renewables under Obama’s programs, especially Lighting Africa has raised more eyebrows and seeing a dismal growth and even worse, the interest of private sector; the oil-rich African countries might just welcome a reversal. It might even create a revival in oil exploration now on hold on east coast, but that is a long shot until the oil pricing shows a definitive trend. So push for renewables will still need a push from governments and regional treaties, with growth ensured.
  2. The private sector renewal business in India particularly will rest with the big fifteen or so who have gained from power projects in thermal coal and are already way ahead with mega solar; even as rural electrification from solar is widely dismal but in mega solar there is optimism from the new guidelines for the (just tendered) 250MW Rewa in Madhya Pradesh have made 3 big attractions for investors – i) lowest tariff of 5.9 Cents (Rs. 4) per unit (ii) state government guarantees with inter-state open access with 25% to Delhi metro rail (iii) deemed generation for grid availability
  3. “Pay-as-you-go” models by mobile companies in Africa, with Kenya showing the way; as also in far east (Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, etc.) are gaining success and India too has started with ADB $6 million support as over 60,000 rural households are in process to be electrified by off-grid solar by a company “Simpa Networks” and others like Reliance will be in fray whereas Adanis have put up the largest of solar mega farms already. However, still much remains to happen in the urban (rooftop) context as electricity woes are diminishing per reports.

In summary, a ‘Trumping’ of Renewables is highly unlikely as the pie for USA dependency is way too small to interest the man who shall build a wall around Mexico. Also, the African & developing country support has sustained Congressional blessings for more important reasons; China for one which practically leads in Africa by miles.

Yet, it would be unwise to say that India will be inert to whatever changes do take place in USA will not impact world population at large. So we can once again sharpen our business instincts and world vision by re-evaluating global equations that will impact business, profession and our general well being, since this is how the world is slowly becoming.

So the better thing will be to question “whether Modiji would find an ally in Trump for real to counter China or will Pakistan (which voices it’s nuclear muscle whenever under threat), offer reasons for a shift even as Hindu temples lighted ‘hawan’ piers in prayers for US to have Donald Trump win the election”.

For sure, the euphoria itself will be exciting for globalized professionals and I am looking forward to get ‘in there’ yet again and with more vigor, but with fingers crossed as the “change” scenario is getting way too dynamic and regular – but sure as hell, we have learnt and that’s what we as professionals must keep believing and keep contributing.

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