How does this affect you?
If you are traveller, you can now take foreign tours and spend less than you expected. Your purchase power has dramatically boosted with stronger rupee.
If you are just a citizen, expect imported things to cost less and in the long run expect to save more.
If you are an investor avoid investing in any company that is exporting goods/services and doesnot have any mechanism to hedge against currency fultuations. Invest heavily in those companies, who do business locally and generate their revenues locally and who raise money abroad for further ramping/scaling up their productions and or services.
If you are a company based in India, it will now cost you less to outsource.
Like in the previous years, RBI didnot intervene and bought the dollars by releasing more Indian currency into the market. It is not doing so intentionally this time and is allowing the market to dictate the effective rate. Already there are so many industries who are crying foul for immediate RBI intervention as their margins are thinning dure to huge strength in rupee.
There may be a political decision not to intervene as this will allow the government to import goods that is costing more in the domestic market like cement. Cement industry has played hard ball with the government and did not cut prices. They have thrown age old supply/demand equation at the government and turned down their requests in bringing the prices down. Government now can import cement from neighbouring countries and sell in the domestic market.
In reality there is a supply/demand crunch in our country and government is worried about inflation and the costs the poor man has to bear. The strength in Rupee will allow the government to contain the prices and will also help them in debt servicing.

Let us see what happens in near term, but for future, the trend is likely to continue. so why stop the rupee rise?

The famed German magazine Der Spiegel (The Mirror) interviews Ratan Tata (via Bainite). I was happy to see his commitment to the safety of Indian families:

Again and again here in India, I see entire families riding a single scooter: The father drives with one child standing just in front of him, and the mother sits behind with a baby on her arm. I have seen that so often… even during rainstorms or at night. And each time, I think: Oh God, can’t we do something to help these families travel more safely? So we launched this project. Our goal is to develop an inexpensive and safe vehicle.

I found his cautious optimism prudent:

We live in a highly competitive world — and we Indians have to struggle to catch up. So modesty is necessary, even if there is also a need for a certain amount of national pride. When it comes down to it, we have managed our country’s economy poorly for long enough. There is really no reason to now think that we can conquer the world.

However, I found that his views on democracy are not very different from that of his uncle, JRD Tata:

The political system of the People’s Republic of China can make things easy. Decisions are made quickly and results come quickly, too. In our democracy, on the other hand, such things are extremely difficult. We like to say that India has the advantage of being a large market. We have provinces, we have the rule of law, we have a system of justice. But those are also weaknesses when compared with China. On the other hand, one of our strengths is that we are very individualistic, and as individuals we are very creative. But that, too, is a weakness, because it keeps us from working well together. Everyone thinks only about his own profit. India has probably lost its position to China as the world’s workshop. At the same time it has the power to be ahead of China when it comes to knowledge. Not that the Chinese are far behind. They will get there. But our challenge is to invest sufficiently in education.

A pity!

Blood bath on dalal street
As we already know, that appreciating rupee depreciates the earnings of our star companies like Infosys, TCS, wipro, Satyam etc. With Infosys earnings due on Friday the 13th, everybody is on the edge expecting Infosys to guide lower due to rising rupee. Friday the 13 is a bad number and day according Europians and also North Americans. 13 being an odd number is also a bad number according to most Indians. Will this bad omen be part of the reason for blood bath this coming friday when Infosys report their earnings?
There are several negative indicators already in the play, like rising inflation, tight monetary policy by our reserve bank, appreciating rupee etc. Already market tanked a bit when RBI raised their repo rates and CRR percentage unexpectedly. However, since then market recovered a bit, but people on the street are not convinced and are predicting that there will be a sharp pullback.
Could Infosys results be a trigger for that pullback?
Everybody is asking a bigger question. Which direction the market should go? Who and what should be the deciding factor for the market’s directionality? Most of them are just hoping that Infosys could give the market its needed direction. Down or up, only friday the 13th can tell us.
Here is what i am guessing, would happen after Infosys reports its earnings.
Competition is getting tougher and already we are seeing tightening of margins. With US slowdown and rising rupee the margin squeeze is much more stronger.
Longer term Rupee will only appreciate and Dollar has nowhere to go but depreciate. This is because of rising India and slowdown in United States. If this is any indicator than Infosys has noway but to guide lower for the year 2008 on which the market will tank.
Short term (next 6-8 months) Rupee may depericiate a bit due to RBI intervention and Infosys may guide higher based on conversion rate of RS 45 per Dollar for the year 2008. I don’t know if market will take that seriously.
Infosys and many other software firms have to come up with firm response to rising Rupee, if not, investors can safely stay away from IT companies.

Short Answer: Yes. It can be!

According to the Open Budget Index 2006 (pdf), while six countries (France, US, UK, New Zealand, South Africa and Slovenia) provide extensive information to citizens, and nine countries (Botswana, Brazil, Czech Republic, Norway, Peru, Poland, Romania, South Korea, and Sweden) provide significant information to citizens, India is among the countries which provide some information to its citizens. The International Budget Project (IBP) home page provides some more details; for example, the budget groups in India, and a page explaining participatory budgeting.

I ended up at the IBP homepage via this article in the latest issue of Economic and Political Weekly (pdf) which argues for a more transparent and participatory budget preparation for India. The article further notes that there is no evidence to indicate that a closed budget process is essential–on the contrary, there are some reports (I guess the references are to the reports available here and here) which show that such a closed budget preparation system actually leads to corruption, inefficiency and speculation.