How To Open A Boutique – Tips On Opening A Boutique

Here are top 11 tips on opening a boutique.

o Name your boutique suitable to what you sell. Opening a boutique with an attractive name surely attracts customers.

o Apply for small business license and other legal permits well in advance. This is crucial for getting power turned on when you start operating. Certain merchandisers also insist on legal permits. By opening a boutique with legal permits you would be able to buy your merchandise from suppliers who offer quality products at a low cost.

o Do a budgeting at the early stage itself. Estimate the startup cost and identify your financial resources well in advance. This will save you from financial pitfalls. Clearly know about the expenses and the resources from where the money would come from. If you try you can even find some investors to finance your boutique. You can even join hands with another partner who is interested in doing business together with you. Before opening a boutique complete financial planning and budgeting. This is the key to a successful start and a smooth running thereafter.

o Select a location where the foot traffic is more. You can even find a shop in a mall. When negotiating for lease, do not forget the duration.

o Fix your target market and cater to them. Before opening your boutique, decide whether you want to sell women's wear, men's apparel, kids wear or teenage stuff. Select a specialty clothes range and plan to sell them. Select from sports wear, formal wear, casual wear etc.

o Decide on the colors and sizes you intend to sell in your clothing store.

o Do not consider just one merchandiser. After analyzing a few suppliers and studying their terms settle for the best deal. You can buy your merchandise from more than one supplier if it is cost effective.

o Buy just the right amount of stock. This can be done by having an idea about market analysis and estimated sales.

o Decorate the interior of your boutique attractively. Attractive shops undoubtedly impress your customers. Be creative to design your window displays. Even just an onlooker should be tempted to step in your boutique. Opening a fashion boutique with an unimpressive and unattractive interior is a crime!

o Hire talented staffs. Your employees are the ones through which you communicate with your customers. So when opening a boutique, be sure to employ warm and friendly staff. Take a look at the past records of the employees and decide accordingly. You may also give some initial training to your staff to make them accommodate for your unique business. Also the staff should have knowledge about the fashion trends and have sense of style. They should be able to assist the customers on their selection of clothes.

o Grand opening is a must for a fashion boutique. Make an impressive and attractive start by spending freely on advertising. As far as your budget allows, you should give importance to initial advertising. Give creatively phrased advertisement of considerable size in local newspapers and magazines. This is how you would get to be known in the neighborhood.

That is all! You have opened your fashion boutique successfully. Good luck.

10 Myths Made To Make You Fear Lawyers

Lawyers and Attorneys consistently get a bad rap from public opinion. Why is that? Most Lawyers are just people with a profession like you that only want to make an honest buck. Just because a small portion represents huge corporate interests that are unpopular the general public has demonized them. I hope to provide you in this article some of the Myths about Lawyers that consistently get passed by word of mouth without any facts to back them up. Lawyers are one of the cornerstones of business, if we did not have them criminals would go free and innocents would be executed.

1. All Lawyers are Sharks – The truth is that they are in a very competitive business that requires heated debate as its hallmark. Some take this so far as to manipulate circumstances to appear as they wish or force higher settlements but that is a small group. There are thieves in America but do we assume all American's are thieves? Most lawyers are honest men and women trying to make a difference in the legal systems of their communities.

2. Lawyers are Overpaid – Often lawyers are actually far underpaid for their services. The average court case requires a lot more than what you see in the courtroom. Legal documentation can be some of the most tedious reading ever, they can take a long time to review and to make sure they missed nothing. Before ever stepping foot in the court they have to interview you, design a brief for the judge, outline their case and review all legal documentation and evidence. This amounts to hundreds of hours usually, even a burger flipper would get a few thousand dollars for that amount of time and effort.

3. Attorneys Try to Draw Out Cases – This is entirely on a person to person basis and exists in every industry, your mechanic does it, your employees do it etc. Most Attorneys have so many cases that resolving them all in a quick manner would be refreshing, often they have finished dozens of other cases before managing to put together a brief for a complicated one. The majority of the time this is not because of malice or avarice, it is because the case is very complex and requires many legal hoops to be jumped through.

4. All Good Lawyers are Loud & Boistrous – This is not always the case, a lot of the "magic" they perform is paperwork and hours of intense study. The news has sensationalized the image of the lawyer banging his fists and nearly committing contempt in order to achieve true justice. The true crusaders of the endless litigation battle do most of their work in the quiet of their offices. Often times they do not even get a half an hours worth of time to speak their case. Passion for justice and their client's cases is great, but it is not always exemplified by boisterous natures.

5. Lawyers All Hate Each other – Sometimes in the motions of a court hearing one of the lawyers gets succinctly defeated in a way that damages his reputation. This causes him to lose business and in turn revenue. This will cause animosity in any industry but it does not mean that all Lawyers burn their bridges, if that were true there would be no firms or partnerships. Often times the nature of the legal system causes many lawyers to work together in many scenarios and then face eachother as opposition the next year. There is a certain camaraderie between Lawyers in most larger cities. They are competitors in the same way sports stars are, when the games done most hold no hard feelings over who won or lost, it's the fans that get furious with eachother, just as clients do for Lawyers.

6. Every Attorney has About the Same Training – This is completely untrue and makes it seem as though only experience makes a lawyer competent. In reality the situation is far more complicated than it may seem, A Probate or Estate Attorney will not necessarily be a competent Defense Attorney. Also location and available resources dictate a lot of how well educated a Lawyer is when they leave law school. If they lived in an area with a large population and lots of seminars they are likely to be better trained than someone that practices in a small city. Also laws change so frequently that age may even cause an issue because they may work on the basis of old laws.

7. You Do not Need an Attorney – Wrong. The insurance industry wants us to believe that lawyers are an unnecessary bump in the legal system; they just want to keep more of your settlement money. They have entire divisions within their companies designed to cut payouts to the minimum necessary. Even outside of that some people think taking it upon themselves to run their own defense is intelligent. Do they honestly think that they know the legalities of our complicated system better than someone who deals with it on a daily basis? A lawyer is going to have resources and information that would not be easily available or apparent to the common citizen.

8. If I Already Have an Offer I Do not Want An Attorney – Some people find themselves not wanting to talk to a Lawyer once they see the sum of money they are being offered, afraid the Lawyer will take a large portion. The common fee is in excess of 1/3 after all, but with a Lawyer on your side you may find your settlement offer gets much larger. Often you will not make claims for items because you are unsure if you legally qualify, a good Personal Injury Attorney will be able to find those items you missed and most of the time makes the increased amount far greater than that of the original offer.

9. Insurance Rates Are Going Up Because of Lawsuits – This is being painted in a bad light, of course insurance rates are going up but that is not through fault of the Lawyer, it is the high profit margins the Insurance Industry demands that cause this ever increasing rate. Frivolous lawsuits are not caused by the Lawyers but by their clientele's demands and deceits. Insurance Companies will use any factor they can to increase rates justifiably and legal costs is an easy scapegoat.

10. Trial Attorneys Charge Hourly – Some Attorneys do charge an hourly rate but this is far from standard practice, there is a precedent that was made only decades after the founding of our country that made it so anyone could obtain representation by paying a percentage of their award at the end of trial. They do this at great risk, they could end up spending months fighting a case that their client lied about to them and they make no money for their hard work.

One industry or another designed these myths, they benefit from you being afraid to approach a Lawyer. These industries see huge profits from cutting legal fees out of their budgeting, if they can get you to fear a lawyer then when they tell you that they think you do not need one you will listen. The worst thing you can possibly do is decide not to seek legal representation, your opponents will not be so foolish, though many industries tell you not to get a Lawyer they will always use a Lawyer's services for themselves. Attorneys are just normal people with a complicated profession, no different from many professions. They are providing a valuable service and I for one do not want to have to read up on all the articles of law regarding breaking my ankle on a college campus if such a situation were to happen. So do not fear them, consult them for sagely advise as you would any expert of any particular field.

Budgeting: Consider a Less Labor Intensive Approach

For those of us that are in the personal finance business, the thought of putting a budget together, while not terribly exciting, is probably not considered a large task nor is it considered intimidating. We know what has to be done and most of us, I suspect, use the traditional method of determining expenses, line by line, and socking away the appropriate amount of money each month to make good on each of these expenses. Time consuming, no doubt, but not a problem for those of us that live in this world.

However, for those that have never budgeted or have a fear of detailed numbers or have a fear of what a structured budget might do to their lifestyle, the thought of creating a budget may be viewed as ominous or, at a minimum, restrictive. So, rather than engage in a practice which they know is probably good for them, they avoid "facing the music", if you will, and fail to budget altogether.

In our ideal world, we financial counselors would have each of our clients working from a traditional detailed budget; showing expenses, due dates, allocated funds, accounting for fixed and variable expenses, etc., but, unfortunately, this methodology will not work for everyone. Some people just can not live with the structure of a traditional budget or do not have the necessary discipline (many would admit to this I'm sure) to log expenses on a routine basis and monitor their budget activity. So how else might we sell budgeting to those that are unwilling to adhere to a traditional budget?

A Plan B method for budgeting

Before entering into a budget, financial counselors would typically suggest that clients have goals established; short-term, possibly medium-term goals, and long-term goals. In doing so, of course, we would ask our clients to put away the funds necessary to achieve these goals via their budgets. In other words, there would be a line item in the budget that would indicate X number of dollars are being assigned to short-term goals this month and X number of dollars are being assigned to long-term goals such as retirement.

For the individual or partnership that finds the structure of a formal, documented budget to be overwhelming or impractical due to time constraints or where they lack interest in maintaining such a plan or they simply do not have the discipline to manage a formal budget, there is hope in Plan B.

The Plan B budget involves two basic steps:

1) Goals are established and the cost to attain those goals is determined and money is put aside regularly to achieve these goals.

2) Expenses are determined and the appropriate amount of money is put aside regularly to ensure expenses are paid on time every time. Plan B budgeters are encouraged to pay bills no later than the budget due date via a bank billpay system.

The fundamental difference between the traditional budget and the Plan B budget I'm describing here, is that after I determine goals and expenses in Plan B, I do not keep a running record of expenses and payments via a formal budget plan. While, as a personal finance professional, I do not consider this the preferred way of budgeting, I view it as a reasonable alternative for those that do not want to take the time to create and live by a traditional budget or are afraid of the structure and discipline that goes along with a traditional budget.

You and I may see a budget as putting oneself in a position to spend freely after expenses are paid and goals are funded. Oftentimes, clients will view a budget as inhibiting and something to be avoided, because of the perceived negative impact on their lifestyles.

A Plan B budgeter may determine that a reasonable long-term retirement goal is $ 1 million dollars in assets by age 65. The budgeter, in this instance, will set the amount of money aside each month that is necessary to reach this long-term goal . Since the budgeter may have avoided the traditional budget due to a shortage of knowledge and discipline where financial matters are concerned, hopefully this Plan B budgeter now puts retirement savings on automatic pilot and has the required dollars taken out of his / her paycheck each month and put against the pre-established $ 1 million dollar retirement goal.

What's left over after the contribution to retirement and other pre-established goals will be put against pre-determined fixed and variable expenses; no record necessary. Clearly, the key to success here is ensuring that the calculations for goals and expenses are reasonably accurate and the income needed to meet both goals and expenses is available, not unlike traditional budgeting – just no paperwork.

Like a traditional budget, I would expect the Plan B'ers to review their goals at a minimum of once per year and adjust their goal contributions and expenses accordingly.

Again, Plan B is not the preferred method of budgeting, but if it will get the client to the same end as the traditional budgeter; the end being the achievement of goals and regularly paid expenses, consider this less labor intensive alternative to traditional budgeting.

Augmenting Your Family Income

Trying to augment your monthly income becomes a necessity as the cost of living spirals. For mothers who wish to be at home with their kids it becomes increasingly difficult to bring in an extra income. There are ways and means of bringing in extra money if you are satisfied with earning small amounts from various sources. There are many ways of earning extra cash online. This method of earning a living is very common and people no longer need to fear not being paid after they have completed a job.

1) Companies pay people to read their emails. The amount is very small per email, but considering how little time it actually takes to read an email the cents will quickly add up. Every dollar you make is a dollar you would not have had.

2) In conjunction with this, do surveys for companies. Many of them pay in cash or with vouchers and freebies. Concentrate on the cash ones, and see how many companies you can add to your list. It is not difficult to participate in surveys – just think of it as being paid for giving your opinion.

3) You might enjoy blogging, which can become lucrative if you find yourself working for someone who has a regular influx of work. It is great fun researching and then writing articles about various subjects. You could even get assignments to write e-books – very interesting if you enjoy writing. It could become quite lucrative to become a professional writer online.

4) Now that doing business online has become as common as going to the office everyday, try your hand at being a virtual assistant. You might wonder how you become one – it is much the same as being a personal assistant to someone in your office situation, the only difference being that you are the "unseen" assistant.

5) Many business people prefer to pay for jobs as they get done, rather than have someone permanently on their payroll. The tasks you will be given by various clients could be very varied and this would make your day far more interesting.

6) The fact is that whatever you have to do, whether it is typing a report for someone or arranging a function you are still at home with your kids and being paid for what you do. By doing a good job for a client will result in your services being used more often and could also result in referrals.

7) To start out as a virtual assistance you will have to set up a website on which to advertise your services. Give your qualifications, capabilities and a price list for anything you are prepared to do. It might take a little time to get your business going very well, but by doing a good job you will soon be getting referrals that could result in you getting a couple of very good clients.

Remember that all the small amounts of money will add up at the end of the month.

It might sound tedious to do these jobs, but think of it this way, I would rather be spending a few hours doing something boring and knowing that I am there for my kids than to have to leave them in daycare and be working for a boss all day.

Challenges of Local Government Institutions in Bangladesh

1. Ideas and practices of local government:

Most people consider public representatives as local guardians who work with them, and with whom they can share all sorts of personal, social, religious and political thoughts and beliefs. With the increase in power and volume of activities of the government, the responsibility and duty of the local government has also been increased by several times. Around the world most challenges people face are local. So, the best way to solve them is through local initiatives and local leadership by awakening and mobilizing people. Authorities closest to the citizen or rather citizens themselves by getting directly involved can greatly contribute in solving public problems. This is how the local government takes its shape. Local government brings decision-making closer to the people. A strong local government system can ensure good governance through transparency, accountability, effective participation and equal opportunities for all. Most importantly, this system can ensure development at the grassroots level. Strong local government institutions strengthen democracy, ensure good governance, and at the same time quicken the pace of political and socioeconomic development of the country.

1.1. New view of local government:

Local government is based on community governance, and focused on citizen-centered local governance. It is the primary agent for the citizens and leader and gatekeeper for shared rule, is responsive and accountable to local voters. It is purchaser of local services, and facilitator of network mechanisms of local governance, coordinator of government providers and entities beyond government, mediator of conflicts, and developer of social capital. It is externally focused and competitive; ardent practitioner of alternative service delivery framework; open, quick, and flexible, innovative. It is risk taker within limits, autonomous in taxing, spending, regulatory, and administrative decisions. It has managerial flexibility and accountability for results. It is participatory; and works to strengthen citizen voice and exit options through direct democracy provisions, citizens' charters, and performance budgeting. It is focused on earning trust, creating space for civic dialogue, serving the citizens, and improving social outcomes. It is fiscally prudent; works better and costs less, inclusive and participatory. It overcomes market and government failures. Local government is connected in a globalized and localized world

1.2. Citizen-centered local governance:

Reforming the institutions of local governance requires agreement on basic principles. Three basic principles are advanced to initiate such a discussion:

* Responsive governance: This principle aims for governments to do the right things-that is, to deliver services consistent with citizen preferences.
* Responsible governance: The government should also do it right-that is, manage its fiscal resources prudently. It should earn the trust of residents by working better and costing less and by managing fiscal and social risks for the community. It should strive to improve the quality and quantity of and access to public services. To do so, it needs to benchmark its performance with the best-performing local government.
* Accountable governance: A local government should be accountable to its electorate. It should adhere to appropriate safeguards to ensure that it serves the public interest with integrity. Legal and institutional reforms may be needed to enable local governments to deal with accountability between elections-reforms such as a citizen's charter and a provision for recall of public officials.

The distinguishing features of citizen-centered governance are the following:

* Citizen empowerment through a rights-based approach (direct democracy provisions, citizens' charter);
* Bottom-up accountability for results;
* Evaluation of government performance as the facilitator of a network of providers by citizens as governors, taxpayers, and consumers of public services.

1.3. Local government as an institution to advance self-interest: The public choice approach:

The approach has conceptualized four models of local government:

* A local government that assumes it knows best and acts to maximize the welfare of its residents conforms to the benevolent despot model.
* A local government that provides services consistent with local residents' willingness to pay conforms to the fiscal exchange model.
* A local government that focuses on public service provision to advance social objectives conforms to the fiscal transfer model.
* A local government that is captured by self-interested bureaucrats and politicians conforms to the leviathan model, which is consistent with the public choice perspectives.

1.4. Local government as an independent facilitator of creating public value: new public management (NPM) perspectives:

Two interrelated criteria have emerged from the NPM literature in recent years determining, first, what local governments should do and, second, how they should do it better. In discussing the first criterion, the literature assumes that citizens are the principals but have multiple roles as governors (owner-authorizers, voters, taxpayers, community members); activist-producers (providers of services, co-producers, self-helpers obliging others to act); and consumers (clients and beneficiaries). In this context, significant emphasis is placed on the government as an agent of the people to serve public interest and create public value. This concept is directly relevant to local and municipal services, for which it is feasible to measure such improvements and have some sense of attribution. The concept is useful in evaluating conflicting and perplexing choices in the use of local resources. The concept is also helpful in defining the role of government, especially local governments. It frames the debate between those who argue that the public sector crowds out private sector investments and those who argue that the public sector creates an enabling environment for the private sector to succeed, in addition to providing basic municipal and social services.

2. History of Local Government Institutions in Bangladesh:

Bangladesh shares its history with the undivided Indian subcontinent. The British in India in fact gave local government a legal shape with municipal administration system for the first time in 1793. But, prior to that, an identical system of local village society did exist in India, where Gram Panchayet (local government village tier) had a significant role. In the gradual development of the system, the Bengal Act 1842 and Municipal Act 1850 were introduced. The local government system got a stronger foundation when 118 Municipal Boards were formed in Bengal in 1947 after inclusion of provisions relating to a newer system of social arbitrations, conservancy activities and appointment of choukidars (guards) for maintaining security in villages and towns. In 1972, the local government system got a newer magnitude in independent Bangladesh.

After independence of Bangladesh in 1971, the Constitution of Bangladesh emphasizes the need for establishing local government with a representative character (Chapter 3, Article 59). Article 59 mandates the creation of elected local bodies at each administrative unit- District, Upazila (sub-district) and Union (currently lowest tier of local government). To put it simply, these bodies are for the management of local affairs by locally elected persons. Local government, by definition, is democratic self-governance and so accountable to the people.

There are two types of local government settings in Bangladesh, rural and urban. At the rural level the existing system provides a three-tier structure, which is Zila (district) Parishad (office), Upazila Parishad, and Union Parishad (UP). At the urban level the six largest cities have City Corporation status, while the rest are known as Pourashavas or Municipalities. These bodies are entrusted with a large number of functions and responsibilities relating to civic and community welfare as well as local development.

The UP is responsible for executing 48 duties. Among them 38 are optional and 10 mandatory. These responsibilities are divided into four categories. These are civic duties (building roads, bridges etc), tax collection, maintaining law and order, and lastly development work. In spite of the importance and potential of local government institutions, they remain weak in Bangladesh. The past few years show they have become even weaker.

3. Challenges of Local Government Institutions in Bangladesh:

3.1. Attitude of public administrators toward local governments:

Bureaucracies resist changes out of the fear of alteration or disturbance of the status quo and their resistance primarily grows out of fear of disrupting organizational communication. According to Henry Frank Goodnow says, bureaucracy is a two-edged sword, which can be a force for good or for evil. It may prompt democracy or totalitarianism. It may be feared or respected or merely accepted. Joseph La Palomba comments, the presence of a strong bureaucracy in many of the new states tends to inhibit the growth of strong executives, political parties, legislatures, voluntary associations and other political institutions essential to viable democratic government.

Warren Bennis summarizes some of the deficiencies in bureaucracies, which adequately suit the characteristics of bureaucracies in Bangladesh as well:

* Bureaucracy does not adequately allow for personal growth and the development of mature personalities.
* It does not take into account the "informal organization" and the emergent unanticipated problems.
* Its systems of control and authority are hopelessly outdated.
* It has no judicial process.
* It does not possess adequate means for resolving difference and conflicts between ranks, and most particularly, between functional groups.
* Communication (and innovative ideas) are thwarted or distorted due to hierarchical decisions.
* The full human resources of bureaucracy are not being utilized due to mistrust, fear or reprisals, etc.
* It can not assimilate the influx of new technology or scientists entering the organization.

3.2. Participation by the people:

The Constitution of Bangladesh implies direct participation of the people in forming the local bodies and in managing the affairs of such bodies. There are different levels of participation, participation in decision-making, participation in implementation, participation in benefits, and participation in evaluation.

But in reality, the spirit of people's participation in local bodies has not always been adequately maintained. The society of Bangladesh is basically a hierarchic system based on a person's social position, caste, status, educational background, seniority, and gender. The principle of hierarchy in interpersonal relationship, is, and for hundreds of years has been accepted as necessary and morally right in rural Bangladesh, even among the Muslims. In a hierarchic system, roles and duties in relation to others are defined in details. If these are not followed, chaos and conflict are expected to result.

A patron-client relationship binds group members with specific norms and values. These norms determine role definition and role expectation, ie, the role of a patron and a client. The concept of obedience and deference to patrons by a client is an important value in a hierarchic society like Bangladesh. Patterns of rights and duties maintain both order and balance in our society. Superiors in the society are supposed to give orders and advice to those with a lower status. People having low ranks are treated as children and they enjoy little opportunities. The patron-client or parent-child relationship developed over centuries has taught the superiors to be harsh and commanding towards the subordinates, and has taught the subordinates to be respectful to afraid of the superiors of the society. Due to power distance in the society, the subordinates seek direction and guidance from the superiors. Subordinates or those with lower rank in the society feel dejected when they do not receive favor from the superiors. In practice, the people being loyal to the superiors are bestowed with favors (even undue), and those who do not are distanced and discriminated.

This dynamics of social belief and behavior inhibits the common mass in participating in decision making process of the local government institutions, or holding them accountable for their activities.

3.3. Structural defects:

Decentralization of political and administrative authority at the local government level that has the potential to de-concentrate decision-making and bring people closer to public governance have the merit of weakening abuse of power, strengthening accountability and combating corruption convincingly. This is revealed through a recent UN survey that demonstrates that introduction of elaborate audit systems, corruption commissions etc. without due regard to the rule of law, independence of judiciary, civil liberties, economic and political decentralization make little or no impact on corruption. Corruption resells in loss of confidence in local government among the people. Funds for projects like Food for Work or disaster relief are all too often misused by local leaders; even VGF (Vulnerable Group Feeding) cards go to their relatives and friends rather than those who really need it.

The extent and quality of people's participation have been variable. The most direct participation is the opportunity of casting votes during the election to local bodies. But elections are not held at regular intervals. Since Independence in 1971, successive governments have tried to use the local government system for their own political interests. The party or regime in power wanted to make the local government representatives their power base and manipulated the system to this end.

Regarding the structural or constitutional defects in local government, it can be said that the country is being governed through a constitutional, democratic system, while local government is being run through a presidential system. In local government all the powers centre around one person. This unchallenged power of an individual is giving rise to corruption and autocracy in local government bodies, where a chairman of a UP or municipality, or the mayor of a city corporation, enjoys all the power. Members of a UP and the ward commissioners of municipalities or city corporations hardly have any role in the implementation of any development project or program in the locality.

They fear local administrations might be rendered ineffective and law makers might end up lording over Upazila Parishads, running the risk of letting corruption creep into the system, if MPs (Members of Parliament) are allowed to have their previous controlling authority over the elected local governments .

Recently National Institute of Local Government (NILG) and Volunteer Service Overseas (VSO) Bangladesh jointly conducted a study titled "Exploring the challenges and potentials of UP standing committees", which was intended to explore the role of standing committees in the decision making process at the UPs. The study report published on 6 May 2009 says that 60% of the committees are not functioning, and it identifies some major reasons for non-functioning of the standing committees, such as, apathy of UP chairmen, ignorance of members and lack of resources and proper monitoring system. The report says the UP chairmen dominate while taking decisions and do not think that the committees are very important in this regard.

3.4. lack of fund and influence in fund utilization:

UP receives a major portion of the funds from the Annual Development Programme (ADP). This funding system is full of loopholes creating serious setbacks in development activities. Funding by ADP is paid in installments, which are called block grants. This block grant does not flow to the UP directly; rather it is channeled through the Upazila. At the Upazila level interference from the administration usually slows down the flow and hampers the development plan. The criteria for allocation include on population, size of an area and the level of backwardness. As the administration controls the distribution process, it tends to be biased.

The allocation is also prone to political interference. The interference by MPs in the UP affairs, particularly in development activities, has weakened the UPs' independence. The MPs often dictate the development activities to be undertaken, most of the times without consulting with the local elected representatives or assessing actual needs. Ruling party MPs tend to intrude more in the UPs' development planning. Even if there is no ruling party MP in the area the local leaders of the ruling party meddle in the process.

Moreover, the UP authorities usually have no idea how much money they are about to receive, which makes planning for future development work impractical. The development projects get stalled if the installments do not arrive on time, which is often the case. Most UPs receive the installments when the fiscal year is about to end.

ADP allocation to UP is less than 2 per cent of the annual budget. For development activities, this amount is considered inadequate. The maximum amount in implementing a development project is only Tk 50,000 which is also insufficient. Furthermore, this fund is not released unless bribes are paid, as local UP members claimed.

3.5. Political government's willful stance on local government institutions:

The new Upazila Pashishad Act passed by the current Awami League government provides that the Members of Parliament would be advisers to the Upazila Parishads. According to the law, no development plans can be taken or no programs can be implemented by the Upazila Parishads without the advice of the concerned MPs, and even any communication between Upazilas and the government must be informed to the MPs. This act explicitly contradicts the notion of modern government with its three branches – legislative, executive and judiciary – being mutually interdependent. While the voice gets stronger for separation of powers among its branches in order to ensure checks and balances, the government rather tends to merge the branches into one. In principle, the legislators are supposed to enact laws, make budgetary allocations, debate policy issues, approve foreign treaties, and most importantly exercise parliamentary oversight over the executive actions through standing committees. This act is in contradiction with Article 59 of the Constitution, which empowers the locally elected persons to run local affairs. In the name of advice, the MPs will obviously exert their authority to control the affairs of the local bodies, which denounces the democratic spirit of representative local bodies.

A judgment in 2008 by Justices ABM Khairul Haque and ATM Fazle Kabir states that "The Local Government Bodies in every administrative units of the Republic are charged with the functions relating to administration and the work of public officers in the local area, the maintenance of local order and other nation-building development activities there. Neither the Ministers nor the members of Parliament can abdicate the functions of the elected members of the Local Government Bodies in respect of their functions in the concerned administrative units. " It further says, "While the Executive Government under chapter-II would run the administration, development and other ancillary matters for the entire country as a whole, but at the same time the people at the grass-root level should also be made responsible for the development of their own respective areas, on the formation of local government bodies, in order to bring the development and also administration to their door steps so that they can be responsible as well as self-reliant and also become part of the over-all nation building process. "

In another judgment in 1992, the Supreme Court holds that "Parliament is not free to legislate on local government ignoring Articles 59 and 60." It further states about the functions of local government bodies … "local elections, procedure for public accountability, independent and substantial sources of income, clear areas of independent action and certainty of powers and duties and the conditions under which they would be exercised. "

As per the law, at least theoretically, the Upazila Parishads have lost their characteristics of local government bodies, since in the name of advice, the MPs are authorized to control the activities of the bodies.

Squeezing the hope for effective local government:

As a matter of fact, what one has come to expect in Bangladesh is that after a party is overwhelmingly voted into power, they try and monopolize as much power as they can get, appoint loyal people to important posts and then seemingly do everything possible to tarnish their names. The current government has respected its own election pledges to strengthen local government, and has abused its mandate as well. There was a hope that the current government would provide further authority to the Upazila chairmen by changing the previous Upazila ordinances, but practically the government has abolished the local government commission.

The current law has already given rise to a row among Upazila chairmen and MPs, and it is likely that this discord will affect the chain of the party leadership, which will further destabilize the political arena of the country. The Parishads will face serious difficulties if the MPs are provided with offices in Upazila Parishad complexes, and it might also disrupt local development. Interference of MPs with the functioning of the local government has been blatant, they said alleging that lawmakers want to get involved in Upazila level development because an enormous amount of money is circulated through the local development circuit.

A group of newly elected representatives of Upazila Parishad in a view-exchange meeting at Jatiya (national) Press Club threatened to declare lawmakers persona-non-grata in Upazila Parishd complex areas if the Upazila Parishad Act 2009 is not cancelled immediately. They also formed a forum titled "Bangladesh Upazila Chairmen Forum". Around 250 UP representatives attended the meeting that decided to hold a council of the forum within three months. The chairmen at the meeting also threatened to launch a tough movement to realize their demand for scrapping the Upazila Parishad Act 2009 and ensure the democratic rights of UP representatives. They feared that taking advantage of the act's provisions, lawmakers might misuse their power and indulge in corruption. This act will create obstacles for local administrations to conducting development works freely, they added.

3.6. Election of honest and qualified people in a free and fair environment:

It is an important task for us to elect honest and competent people in the next election for the progress of the society. We have noticed how black money and muscle power have dominated in the elections in the last 15 years. What can we expect from those who are going to power through such a system? It is useless to expect anything good from them. Use of money was commonly seen in the local government elections to buy votes to go to power. Culture of accumulation of wealthy and influential members, irrespective of their criminal records, and creation of private army by providing illegal facilities and protection is predominantly existent in the society. That provides the look in a political structure of wealth and physical strength and carries more weight as regards its effectiveness in election and other political operations in the present day social context. Due to hierarchical social system and taboos, absence of equality, social justice and strict laws, and presence of muscle power and black money, and due to political pressure from above, we see time and again almost the same people, or people with same negative or not positive characters, being elected in local government institutions.

3.7. Intervention by central government:

Local government leadership and representation is now only equated with getting elected, with no meaningful mechanisms of representation or functionality. The local government bodies have virtually no power to plan and execute development actions or to formulate their budgets independently. The UP chair and members who are accountable to the voters soon realize the fact that they have practically no power to serve the people and work for local development. Vital services like education, health, and social welfare are centralized at the Upazila level. The leaders have almost no management role in these matters, rather the administration at the Upazila level control these services.

Here are few observations regarding local government by prominent people:

* The local government can not be strong enough in a country where the local government ministry is too strong and intends to control it. – Dr Mahabbat Khan, Professor of Dhaka University (DU)
* It seems that the local government institutions act like a front organization of the ruling party. They should be independent and a local government commission, not any ministry, should control them. – Prof Dr Salahuddin M. Alimuzzaman, DU
* According to the constitution, the government should encourage the local government institutions, not control them. But some local government institutions are run by administrative officials, which is a violation of the constitution. Although laws allow the local government institutions to realize holding taxes, we can not do it because of executive orders. – Advocate Azmatullah Khan, president of Municipality Association of Bangladesh
* "The people of Bangladesh were very shocked when the government increased the control of lawmakers over the local government against its pledge of strengthening the local government." – Shaheen Anam, executive director of Manusher Jonno
* The government does not want to keep the local government anymore as it wants to run the lower tier of the government with the lawmakers and own people. – Matiur Rahman Tapan, chairman of a UP, said in a roundtable
* It is not a struggle between the MPs and local representatives rather it is basically a problem of political culture. – Mahmudur Rahman Manna, Organizing Secretary of Awami League

3.8. Some core issues revealed by Prof Aminuzzaman:

* Lack of comprehensive planning for decentralization;
* Absence of wider consultation with people before devising decentralization strategies;
* Lack of mobilization of popular support in the reform process;
* Over-emphasis on deconcentration in the decentralization plans;
* Bureaucratic expansion in the name of decentralization;
* Bureaucratic dominance remained intact even after decentralization;
* Inadequate power and authority to people's representatives;

The tendency to cry out for decentralization in public and suffocating the sincere efforts in practice is still the order of the day in Bangladesh and most other developing countries. Though the perennial bureaucratic resistance is the principal culprit in this scam, collusive and docile political leaders can not deny their share.

Professor Dr. Tofael Ahmed (Professor, Chittagong University) and Professor Dr. Niaz Ahmed Khan, DU in Banglapedia (www.banglapedia.org) say, decentralization scenario in Bangladesh is little encouraging. In their words, evolution of decentralization in Bangladesh is characterized by: (a) domination by and complete dependence on central / national government; (B) unrepresentative character; (C) grossly inadequate mobilization of local resources; (D) limited or lack of participation of the rural poor in the decentralized bodies; (E) successive regimes' marginal and superficial commitment to devolution or decentralization in practice.

Prof Aminuzzaman further said, it seems that the local government institutions act like a front organization of the ruling party. They should be independent and a local government commission, not any ministry, should control them.

It is utterly unfortunate that Upazilla level of Bangladesh local government, which has the makings of being a strong local government body, is not being put into operation only because of resistance from the elected lawmakers afraid of losing their supremacy in their respective constituencies.

3.9. Power distance as an obstacle to local government:

Most importantly, and somewhat paradoxically, a culture of accountability springs from an interaction between civil society and appropriate institutions, which generally have to be created by a strong central political force. However, the evidence from Bangladesh is more ambiguous on this point, suggesting that while decentralization was a significant catalyst for associational activity, the prevailing servant-master relationships between villagers and bureaucrats and council representatives did not easily support the making of complaints about bad behavior or lack of accountability.

4. Ways Out:

* For strengthening local government bodies, the hegemony of MPs, particularly imposed by the recent Act, must be curtailed.
* To make the local government institutions more functional, we need a decentralization policy in the light of our Constitutions.
* The political governments should not enact any laws, which undermine the spirit of the Constitution, or violates any articles.
* For increasing income of the local government bodies, land transfer fees can be increased, the local government bodies can be authorized to use jetties, water bodies and khaslands (state owned lands) and impose tax on electric poles, mobile phone towers and bill boards , will significantly increase the income of the local government bodies.
* Strengthening local government is the primary objective of the upazila system. Thus, agriculture, land administration, health and family planning, primary education, rural electrification, poultry, fisheries, live stocks, horticulture, social forestry, milk production, cooperatives marketing, etc. should be transferred to the Upazila Parishad. There should be, in fact, more devolution of power and delegation of authority to the Upazila Parishad.
* Large allocation from the ADP can be given for meeting financial needs of the local government institutions, which will build their capacity and will ensure grassroots development.
* The UPs can be authorized to construct roads, culverts and bridges in their respective areas.
* Honorarium of elected chairmen and members need to be enhanced, and an environment can be created so that honest and competent people could be elected.
* The current Upazila Act should be amended immediately.
* Activation of the UP standing committees can be done through joint monitoring and supervision by both public agencies and civil society bodies.

5. Conclusion:

Experiences in other parts of the world show that the closer the authorities and resources are to the people, the greater the benefits they bring for society. In Bangladesh, local government structures remain weak, posing as a major obstacle in achieving the goal of poverty alleviation programs. Local government as a political institution to ensure development and public participation in development activities is far from being an efficient tool of governance in Bangladesh. Being mostly poor and illiterate, particularly at the grassroots, the people hardly go to bureaucrats with their problems because they are afraid to approach them. As such, they approach the local public representatives, whom they consider as local guardians well aware of their needs and feelings. But, no step was ever made to train them up. Elected local bodies in the administrative units in fact ensure effective participation of the people in decisions that affect them, and this participation is a prerequisite for creating a democratic polity at all levels, which will deepen its roots. If people's voices are heard, and their opportunities of participation are upheld, democracy can be strengthened. If local government bodies are not strong and well functioning, development at the grassroots level cannot be ensured. To materialize the dream of building a democratic Bangladesh free from poverty, building a strong local government is a must. As such, bringing about reforms in the local government is now the demand of the time. The Charter of Change or Vision 2021, to turn Bangladesh into a respectable nation with the transformation of political culture and making the society corruption free, will be difficult to achieve unless a strong, honest and dedicated local level governance system emerges to support the central government.

Every Farm Business, No Matter How Small, Needs PC-Based Record Keeping & Accounts Automation

The Reasons Some Business Owners Give Against Adopting Computers ACTUALLY Provide Perfect Justifications For Them To Do So!

The irony about most of the excuses these business owners give for not wanting to adopt computers, is that those reasons in themselves provide GREAT JUSTIFICATION for the owners to employ computer-aided monitoring of their business' performance. Among other benefits, such as time saving and increased human resources productivity, doing so facilitates better informed and timely decision making! This is because the use of computers (via software automation) enhances more COMPREHENSIVE analysis.

With proper planning, including use of standard manual data recording formats which subsequently serve as "source" documents for making computer entries, the perception of "difficulty" in the use of computer automation can be removed from the minds of many.

The use of computers DOES NOT have to cost you an arm and a leg. You do not for instance have to go about it in the manner a multinational would! I do ALL my work on a computer that I have now owned for four years. With a 256MB RAM, 40GB Hard Drive, and other standard features, it cost me less than N70,000 (N135 naira = $ 1.00 US Dollar approx as at time of writing this) to get it, and today would cost round about the same amount or possibly less, what with all the competition. Many business owners out here will probably find that THIS type of computer system specification I use will be just right for them.

So what does N70,000 over a four year period come to? Very little, when you think about what you will be able to do. Consider also that I STILL have no plans to replace the computer any time soon because I know I can get it upgraded to deliver higher performance, at a fraction of the cost of purchase.

Aside from the computer, you need nothing more than your hands (for typing your records); a spreadsheet application like MS Excel (to post your data into, for subsequent analysis); or you could use a custom spreadsheet software I can build for you to make posting your data for analysis and accounts preparation EVEN easier.

What we are talking about here is a LONG TERM solution that will pay for itself many times over by SAVING you hundreds of hours of effort / time PLUS it will eliminate the pain of having to worry about making sense of what's happening in your farm business.

For instance, some farm owners can not even be sure if they are making profits or running at a loss, because the thought of sitting down to do ALL the needed calculations is just too DAUNTING. That's a problem you are not likely to have if you adopt the SIMPLE computer based automation I have described above for YOUR farm business.

Computation Of Your Farm KPIs Will Take MUCH LESS Time & Effort When Automated

In order to really get maximum value from computing the five (5) Key indicators we describe as essential for monitoring your business' performance, the use of computer based automation can not be over-emphasised.

If you really want to operate your business in a manner that ensures you do not get overwhelmed by the day to day requirements, you MUST as a matter of priority incorporate computer based automation into your routine data recording, analysis and accounts preparation.

Just imagine how useful it would be, to be able to click your mouse and have displayed on your computer screen ALL the important financial data, especially the five (5) KPIs described here!

You would spend LESS of your time punching a calculator (or asking your operatives / manager to do it), LESS time wondering if ANY data was missed or if there was a wrong input or incorrect calculation method employed. Instead you would be able to focus MORE on thinking about the computed performance indicators against the background of farm management decisions / actions you took over the course of the period for which they were estimated.

What you learn as a result will guide you in taking future decisions – and over time you will be able to ensure MORE consistency in your farm business operations – leading to consistency in output, and by implication, income.

But You Do NOT Even Need To Own A Computer To Automate Your Farm Business Records Keeping / Accounts

YES – that's right, you do not! Let me explain why:

1. Not everyone who visits / uses cyber cafes and business centers owns a PC at home – especially here in Nigeria / Africa.

2. Yet most users of cafes and business centers will often produce letters, reports and other documents while in those places, which they will print for use in their work and / or businesses. Sometimes they email the finished documents to associates via the Internet. These are everyday people just like you and I. You probably do the same thing from time to time too!

3. In order to do the above ALL they need to have is MONEY as little as N150 to N200 (N135 = $ 1.00 US Dollar approx) to gain about ONE hour of access to an Internet connected PC or – one not online which they would use for typing / preparing their documents.

4. The only other thing they would want to own is some removable storage device (like a floppy disk or better still a flash drive etc) on which copies of the documents they produce at the end of their stay in the cafe or Business center can be stored – for retrieval at a later date.

Going by the above therefore, if you do not feel convinced enough to invest in a computer for your business today, it is obvious that THAT does not stop you from using computer-based software to automate your farm records keeping / analyses and accounts preparation .

I have seen people sit for upwards of four (4) hours at a stretch in a cyber cafe, typing handwritten data from a paper based spreadsheet source containing various tables into a computer-based Excel spreadsheet – adding formula generated totals and other summaries before emailing the completed document to a waiting party in some other geographical locations!

Hopefully those who choose to work this way would have done the maths and can justify having to work that way. It is however DEFINITELY better than having to depend on manual, paper-based and / or calculator-aided preparation of business records / accounts!

Summary – There Really Is No Justifiable Reason NOT To Automate Your Farm Business' Records & Accounts

You stand to gain MUCH more than you could possibly lose – both in the short and long term by adopting computer-based automation for your farm (and any other) business.

And when we talk about the "long run", even the person visiting cafes and business centers to work, will eventually be forced to weigh the inconvenience of doing so, PLUS the attendant costs over time, against the many benefits derivable from working on his / her own computer without being under psychological pressure to finish on time so as to avoid having to pay for an extra hour!

In the long run therefore, owning a PC for your business – even if just ONE – will do you, and your business a whole lot of good.

BUT, you can always start by working from a cafe or business center – where using a custom software built for you can even help you work FASTER so you can finish in less time, and therefore PAY LESS to the cafe owner!

Or BETTER STILL, you could do your work in a friend's place (where you may be able to use a computer for FREE!). Any approach you adopt, so long as it helps you get started with using computer-based automation for your farm business records keeping / accounts, WILL work better than if you continued with manual / calculator-aided methods!

Careers In Herpetology And Herpetoculture

So you think you want to establish a career where you get to work with reptiles and amphibians. If that is the case, this article is for you. Why did I write an article about getting what seems to be an easy-to-obtain job? First, there are a lot of people who contact zoos, museums, and websites asking just that question. While there are some pamphlets available that briefly address the question (ASIH, no date; SSAR, 1985), there are few other published resources available (Barthel (2004); Sprackland and McKeown, 1995, 1997; Sprackland, 2000). There are some guides to entering the academic world of biology (ie, Janovy, 1985), but these generally focus on career paths in the university world, while the field of biology is far broader than herpetology or even organismal zoology. This article, then, gives professional colleagues a resource that may help them answer specific questions from their clients.

Second, many people do not consider a career in herpetology or zoology until they reach the stage where it has become obvious that their collections have outgrown their personal resources. They either wish to expand their contact with large reptiles in a zoological park setting or perhaps wish to engage in meaningful field or laboratory studies. Among the ranks of this group are many seasoned and competent herpetoculturists, and they form a significant group seeking information about how to "turn pro."

Career Options I: The Private Sector

There are probably more paying opportunities in the private sector than can be found among the zoological parks and academic markets combined, though it may also be safe to say relatively few private sector jobs will pay a living wage. Among the jobs that can be classified as "private sector" are those that receive funding as commercial, for-profit ventures. Typical jobs would include animal dealers, pet shop workers, breeders, lecturers, and writers. For most of these positions, success will be based largely on experience and knowledge-from whatever source you obtained it-and less so on formal academic training. Some notable herpetologists came from the ranks of the privately employed sector, including Lawrence Klauber, Constantine Ionides, E. Ross Allen, Steve Irwin, and Hans-Georg Horn, as well as many of the most knowledgeable contemporary reptile breeders.

Working in the private sector generally has two paths available to you. First, you may work for someone who owns a reptile-related business. Pay is variable in such situations, and may be based more on the financial condition of the business than on any experience you may bring. Perhaps the more financially rewarding route is to operate a business of your own. Many commercial breeders start by specializing in a single species (such as leopard geckos) or a genus (such as rat / corn snakes). From there you may branch out to handle other species, or you may remain a specialist dealer and supply your personal passion for exotic reptiles with a private collection.

There are also herpetological supply businesses, school lecturers, and reptile food suppliers, among other possibilities. The key to making any of these ventures work is to tackle them as serious business activities. Take some business classes, or buy some good books about writing a business plan (essential for getting loans) and operating a small business. Take advantage of free advisory services of friends in business or the US government's SCORE program (Service Corps Of Retired Executives), where experienced business people will review business plans and loan requests, discuss accounting and inventory control, and be available to help in a myriad of ways that will make you life easier and business more likely to succeed.

Career Options II: Zoological Parks

It was once true that if you were willing to clean cages and apprentice under an "old timer," you could get a position at even the most prestigious of zoos. By the last third of the 20th century, though, a variety of factors at zoological parks had changed drastically. Operating costs, including salaries and benefits, utilities, insurance, cost of animals, and greater competition for visitor's dollars all made it essential to streamline the operations and assure better-trained staff from their date of hire. People wishing to work in the animal care departments were routinely expected to have completed a two-year associate's degree in biology, animal husbandry, or zookeeper training. Now it is much more likely that a zoo will want new hires to possess a bachelor's degree and have a few years' experience as either a zoo volunteer or part-time worker. Moving into management may require you to have a master's degree as well.

Why all this focus on academic qualifications? There are several reasons, and we'll examine each in detail. First, of course, is that many employers see completion of a college degree as an indicator of your ability to take on a long term project, with all its ups and downs, and finish. An associate's degree program at one of the few community colleges that offers such a course of study will consist of far more hands-on (or "practical") time working in a small zoo that a student would get in a traditional university setting. The two-year course is vigorous, and potential zookeepers will be trained across the lines of the zoo world, being exposed to bird and large mammal care, administration and administrative duties associated with a broad spectrum of possible career positions. The more traditional and popular four-year university degree route may entail little practical zoo keeping experience, but provides a very broad range of classes that include English (good communication skills are expected of new hires), math, history, Western Civilization, philosophy, chemistry, physics, biology, and a variety of optional, or elective, courses. There is rather little focus on zoology during the four year program, so a candidate who can "tough it out" is seen as being a well-rounded individual with a solid background in sciences and who can complete a long-term project that appears to have little direct bearing on the final goal.

The second reason for wanting a strong college background in new zookeeper hires is because animals are becoming more expensive to acquire, maintain, and replace. Zoo managers rightly expect modern keepers to know considerably more about the anatomy, physiology, behavior, and diseases of the animals for which they will have responsibility. The keeper is the first line of action for keeping animals healthy and recognizing when something may be wrong, and the better trained the keeper, the better he or she should be at handling that responsibility. College teaches students how to do research, and the working zookeeper may have to use library, on-line, or professional contact sources to get information necessary to the well being of animals.

Breeding was once the rare and much-heralded accomplishment of few zoos, and then only for large, usually mammalian charges. The pre-1965 efforts were often on so-called "postage-stamp collections" of animals, where zoos would try to obtain one specimen each of as many species as possible. With the mid-1960s enforcement of the US Lacey Act, establishment of the Endangered Species Act and the beginning of CITES, zoos were limited in their abilities to acquire new animals. It quickly became fashionable, responsible, and fiscally necessary to learn to breed more species and use progeny to populate zoo collections. During the pioneering days of captive husbandry, zookeepers with a greater knowledge of physiology, reproductive biology, and the natural history of the animals in their care had a decided advantage over other keepers. Such staff members became crucial to the continued success of many zoo missions, helping drive the recruitment of new employees with a more solid and diverse background in the science of biology.

Third, many zoos have come under increased scrutiny both by the general public, wanting to be sure that the zoo's mission is actually being accomplished, and by groups who advocate against the keeping of any animals in captivity at all. Today's zookeeper needs to know how to educate the public to the needs of animals and the important roles played by well-run zoological parks. An indispensable part of being such a zookeeper is to have a broad view of the mission coupled with exceptional speaking and / or writing skills. Every keeper is also an ambassador for their zoo and the value of all zoos to the visiting public. Employers often equate your ability to handle these tasks with the training you received in university.

Career Options III: Academia

The academic world has much to offer, but also makes considerable demands. Careers under this heading include primarily university positions-almost all of which have teaching responsibilities as well as research-and the small number of museum curators. For an entry into any of these fields a candidate must certainly hold a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) degree, and most jobs now also require you to have held a postdoctoral position as well. There has been a fair amount of discussion since the middle 1990s to create a new post-Ph.D. degree, the chancellorate, but most critiques argue that by the time a student would attain that degree, they would be facing retirement age!

An academic herpetologist may have the greatest freedom to explore the topics of personal interest, especially in a museum setting, but even there the job will require expertise and skills that extend beyond studying reptiles. University and museum professionals enter the profession as assistant professors or assistant curators. They will be charged with setting up a research program that is funded by grants-which they must raise with limited institutional help. Earning a grant means having a solid research proposal, excellent writing and budgeting skills, and the resources that will guarantee the promised results if you are funded. Your employer will also expect a certain quantity of peer-reviewed publications (those that appear in the scientific or technical journals) from you. If, after three to seven years, depending on the employer, you meet these goals, you will probably be offered a promotion to associate professor or associate curator and tenure. Tenure means that, barring an extremely serious breach of responsibility, you have a job for life.

But it is not as easy as the previous paragraph describes to get tenure. You will also need to serve on committees, provide input on institutional projects, and establish some sort of interaction with the broader community. Each of these tasks is designed to give you the chance to be seen as an authority in your subject and prepare you for increased responsibilities in the future. Your success or failure will also weigh in on whether or not you earn tenure. On top of all this, university faculty are also expected to teach, which means that you will essentially be charged with two very distinct jobs.

College Preparation

College education is not for everyone, and with the increased competition for available entry slots in each year's classes coupled with ever increasing tuition and related expenses, it should be a well-planned and carefully considered step (Sprackland, 1990). For those of you still in high school-or for parents whose children want to prepare for a career in herpetology-I shall offer some basic advice on how to prepare for college. The sooner you can start your efforts, the better, because you will need three solid years of the right kinds of high school courses in order to be seriously considered for admission to a good university. Opt for the college-prep route, and take three or more years of math (algebra, geometry, algebra II, and calculus), three of laboratory-based science (biology, chemistry, and physics), and work to excel in English, particularly composition. By the junior year of high school you should be researching colleges. Find out which schools offer degrees and courses of interest; not all schools offer zoology paths, and of those that do, not all offer courses in herpetology. Start reading one of the major scientific journals (Copeia, Herpetologica, and Journal of Herpetology) and study where the authors are who have interests that coincide with yours. Each scientific paper includes the author's address and, almost universally, e-mail address.
When you find authors you wish to contact, do so. Write a brief polite letter introducing yourself and expressing interest in studying herpetology. Ask for information about the author's university, its courses, degree offerings, and admission requirements. Plan early, because entry requirements vary somewhat among universities.

If you choose to go the community or junior college route, there are some differences in your procedure from what you would do to get into a four-year school. You do not need the same rigorous high school course load to enter a community college, and entry requirements vary from none to minor. There is little difference to the student between the first two years of college whether at community or four-year colleges, and in many cases the former is a better educational deal. Post why? Because unlike four-year colleges, community colleges do not employ graduate students to teach. Faculty almost universally have at least a master's degree plus several years' experience as instructors, providing a considerable potential edge over the graduate student teacher.

Once enrolled at community college, you must meet two objectives if you wish to eventually earn a solid bachelor's or higher degree. First, be sure to register in courses that will transfer credit to the four-year school you plan to attend. If this is not possible-some universities do not recognize some community college courses as adequate-then have an alternative university to aim for or go directly to the four-year school of your choice. Second, take every course as seriously as you can. Work to earn an A average, especially in science, math, and English composition courses. Do not waste your time at community college, assuming it is the easy alternative to a four-year school; this is rarely the case. Many community college instructors are leaders in their respective fields. The late Albert Schwartz was a herpetologist who probably did more than any other zoologist to study and document the herpetofauna of the Caribbean islands, and he is still extremely highly regarded by his peer community. Yet for his entire career, Schwartz taught only at a community college. Several distinguished herpetologists are doing just that even today.

When enrolling at university should you sign up for the bachelor of arts or bachelor of science program? There is a small difference, though few students (or graduates) know what it is. In the bachelor of science (BS) track, you have almost all of your courses determined by a university-set plan. You are required to take specific classes and have very few elective options. The bachelor of arts (BA) is more liberal; it still has a considerable number of required courses, but you have far more latitude in elective class choices. Because my interests were so broad in my undergraduate days, wanting to study paleontology, Latin, and philosophy as well as zoology, I opted for the BA program. Had I taken a BS route, I could not have taken such a range of classes and still graduated in four years.

Graduate School and Post Graduate Options

Graduate school is definitely not for everyone, though it is absolutely essential if you wish to obtain an academic career or a position as a senior zoo employee. Collections managers and zoo keepers typically opt for a master's degree, which provides advanced coursework and a chance to engage in some project or activity that has a direct bearing on the requirements of an advanced career path. A doctoral degree is a research degree, meaning the recipient has been trained to conduct original studies. This is the degree needed for professorial and curatorial positions. The vast majority of people who plan to earn a doctorate do not need to earn a master's degree en route.

Master's programs take from 18 months to three years of full-time effort, and include a large number of courses, some research or work as research assistant in a lab, and often require a written thesis based on library or research work. Some master's programs will require you to either work as a research assistant or as a teaching assistant, supervising laboratory sessions. Doctoral programs in the United States start off similar to the master's route, and with classes, lab or teaching duties. Upon completing a set of qualifying examinations, the student becomes a candidate for the degree and begins working on an original research project, which will eventually be written up as a thesis. If the thesis passes faculty scrutiny, the Ph.D. It is awarded. US doctoral programs typically span five to seven years of full-time effort, after which the herpetologically oriented graduate faces a daunting job market. If you want a Ph.D., go ahead and earn it, but do not assume it is a guarantee of an academic job. During the particularly tight job market of the 1980s and 1990s, my contemporaries joked that Ph.D. stood for "Pizza Hut Delivery." (This seemed somewhat appropriate given that we survived graduate school by ordering astronomical numbers of Pizza Hut pizzas to our labs; now "the hut" could pay our salaries!)

If you decide to enter graduate school, begin your job hunt no later than a year before you plan to get a master's degree, or two-and-a-half years before a Ph.D. Once again, read the journals, attend conferences, and find out where people are with whom you would be compatible as a new colleague. Whose research could complement yours and help you on the road to tenure? Make those contacts early and make sure you have people who will vouch for you when those precious jobs become available.

CAREER OPTIONS IV: MISCELLANEOUS

Perhaps none of the previous categories applies to your interests. That still leaves a considerable number of possible careers that will allow at least some work with reptiles. Most require a bachelor's degree, though a job announcement will often claim "master's degree preferred." Among the choices are-

Government biologist-Positions with federal and state wildlife agencies sometimes allow study of herpetofauna. Among the obvious agencies are fish and wildlife, game, and environmental services. However, biological work is also undertaken by the US Geological Survey, forest services, and occasionally in military research (the US Army and Navy long operated a considerable snake venom research facility).

Teacher-Both primary and secondary school teachers have numerous opportunities to acquaint children with the natural world. In many states the teacher must hold a degree in a content area-say biology or zoology-while other states accept applicants whose degree is in education. Check carefully to determine the requirements for the state in which you wish to teach.

Community College Instructor-As tertiary schools have increased their dependency on lower-paid part-time instructors (who typically do not receive health or retirement benefits), the ranks of part timers has exploded. While the working conditions are extremely variable, part-timers can expect to have limited or no campus office space, no faculty standing, and perform the same teaching duties as full-time colleagues, but for 40% to 70% of the hourly pay rate . The rare full-time opening in this market is considerably more attractive, and carries no research, grant-seeking, or "publish-or-perish" responsibilities. Generally, the candidate must have a master's degree in biology, teaching experience, and the ability to teach some combination of general biology, microbiology, and anatomy and physiology.

Writers-Natural history writing has its ups and downs, but many a herpetologist has earned at least some money from commercial publication. Choose a niche, such as writing about herpetoculture or more broadly about a specific group of animals, to get started. Financial success will ultimately depend on reliability, excellent writing skills, and the ability to expand to reach broader audiences. The more biological or scientific topics you can cover, the more your potential income. Although herpetology is my grand passion, I have also published on the topics of education, philosophy, sub-micron electronics, non-metal conductors, evolution, venom research, and history.

Photographer / illustrator-Just as a financially successful nature writer must reach a wide audience, so too must the photographer or illustrator. Few, if any, of these professionals make a living wage by only illustrating reptiles; there is more security in animals and general nature shots.

Veterinarian-A secure field if you do not plan to care only for reptiles. Like graduate school in general, there are serious academic hurdles to meet, and competition for openings (there are fewer vet schools than medical schools) is fierce.

REFERENCES-
Ackerman, Lowell (ed.). 1997. The biology, husbandry and health care of reptiles. 3 volumes. TFH Publications, Neptune, NJ.

ASIH, no date. Career opportunities for the herpetologist. American Society of Ichthyologists
and Herpetologists, Washington, DC

Asma, Stephen. 2001. Stuffed animals and pickled heads: the culture and evolution of natural history museums. Oxford University Press.

Barthel, Tom. 2004. Cold-blooded careers. Reptiles 12 (12): 64-75.

Burcaw, G. Ellis. 1975. Introduction to museum work. American Association for State and Local History, Nashville.

Cato, P. and C. Jones (eds.). 1991. Natural history museums, directions for growth. Texas Tech University Press, Lubbock.

Janovy, John. 1985. On becoming a biologist. Harper & Row, NY.

Myers, George. 1970. How to become an ichthyologist. TFH Publications, Neptune, NJ.

Pietsch, T. and W. Anderson (eds.). 1997. Collection building in ichthyology and herpetology.
American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists Special Publication 3, Lawrence, KS.

Rajan, T. 2001. Would Darwin get a grant today? Natural History 110 (5): 86.

Sprackland, Robert. 2001a. To the parents of a young herpetologist. Bulletin of the Chicago Herpetological Society 36 (2): 29-30.

Sprackland, Robert. 1992. Giant Lizards. TFH Publications, Neptune, NJ.

Sprackland, Robert. 1990. College herpetology: is it for you? Northern California Herpetological Society Newsletter 9 (1): 14-15.

Sprackland, Robert. and Hans-Georg Horn. 1992. The importance of the contributions of amateurs to herpetology. The Vivarium 4 (1): 36-38.

Sprackland, Robert. and Sean McKeown. 1997. Herpetology and herpetoculture as a career. Reptiles 5 (4): 32-47.

Sprackland, Robert. and Sean McKeown. 1995. The path to a career in herpetology. The Vivarium 6 (1): 22-34.

SSAR. 1985. Herpetology as a career. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, Cleveland.

Winsor, Mary. 1991. Reading the shape of nature: comparative zoology at the Agassiz Museum. University of Chicago Press.

Zug, G., L. Vitt, and J. Caldwell. 2001. Herpetology: an introductory biology of amphibians and reptiles. Second edition. Academic Press, San Francisco.

Union Budget

Union Budget

Union Budget, in the language of a financial analyst, is the estimated sources and application of funds for a particular fiscal year. It is normally placed before the House of Parliament in the last week of February.

To the common citizens, budget is all about rise or fall in the prices of goods and services due to change in rate of taxes and duties. The purpose of Union budget is, however, much broader. It is a plan of the central Government for optimal allocation of the country's resources so as to achieve higher growth rates and make the economic development.

Two Broad Components

Two Broad Components of Union Budget are Revenue Budget and Capital Budget. Former is an estimate of short-term sources and applications of fund and the later is an estimate of long-term sources and application of funds.

Revenue budget comprises of revenue receipts and revenue expenditure. Sources of Revenue receipts are tax and non-tax revenues. Centre's Net Tax Revenue is gross tax revenue net of the amount transferred to the National Calamity Contingency fund / NDRF and State's share. Gross tax revenue are collected from corporation tax, income tax, other taxes and duties (including wealth tax, securities transaction tax, banking cash transaction tax and wealth tax), customs dutes, union excise duties, service tax and taxes of the union territories. Non-tax revenue are collected from interest receipts, dividends and profits, external grants, other non-tax revenue and receipts of union territories.

Revenue expenditure is of two types – plan and non-plan. Plan revenue expenditure includes central plan, central assistance for State and Union territory plans. Non-plan revenue expenditure includes interest payments and pre-payment premium, defence services, subsidies, grants to state and union territory governments, pensions, police services, assistance to states from National Calamity Contingency Fund, economic services (including agriculture, industry, power , transport, communications, science and technology etc), other general services (education, health, broadcasting etc), postal deficit, expenditure of union territories without legislature, amount met for National Calamity Contingency fund, grants to foreign governments etc.

Capital budget comprises of capital receipts and expenditure. Capital receipt includes non-debt receipts and debt receipts. Non-debt part comprises of recoveries of loans and advances and miscellaneous capital receipts and the debt receipts include market loans, short-term borrowings, external assistance, securities issued against small savings, state provident funds (net) and other receipts (net).

Like revenue expenditure, capital expenditure is also of two types – plan and non-plan. Plan capital expenditure refers to expenses on central plan and central assistance for state and union territory. Non-plan part includes defence services, other non-plan capital outlay, loans to public enterprises, loans to state and union territory governments, loans to foreign governments and other non-plan capital expenditures.

To sum up, one could understand a budget if it is presented in horizontal form as: SHORT TERM SOURCES OF FUND (Revenue receipt) + LONG TERM SOURCES OF FUNDS (Capital receipt) = SHORT TERM APPLICATIONS OF FUND (Revenue expenditure) + LONG TERM APPLICATIONS OF FUND (Capital expenditure). Like accounting equation, sources of fund have to be equal to application of fund. If this is not so, it is balanced from 'draw-down of cash balance'.

Impact of Union Budget on the India

The extent of the deficit and the means of financing it influence the money supply and the interest rate in the economy. High interest rates mean higher cost of capital for the industry, lower profits and hence lower stock prices.

The fiscal measures undertaken by the government affect public expenditure. For instance, an increase in direct taxes would decrease disposable income, thus reducing demand for goods. This decrease in demand will translate into a decrease in production, therefore affecting economic growth.

Similarly, an increase in indirect taxes would also decrease demand. This is because indirect taxes are often partially or completely passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices. Higher prices imply a reduction in demand and this in turn would reduce profit margins of companies, thus slowing down production and growth.

How to understand and interpret Union Budget

Union budget can be analysed in the same way as financial statement of a company is analysed. Revenue receipts are real income generated from internal sources of the country during a particular year. Revenue expenditures are those which a government is required to meet during the same year. In an ideal situation, there should be surplus of income over expenditure. This surplus could then be utilized either for increase in capital expenditure for long term development or for reduction of debt burden of the government.

In practice, it does hardly happen. What we see is 'revenue deficit' (revenue expenditure exceeds revenue receipts). To finance such a deficit, government needs an increase in capital receipts over capital expenditure by borrowings and from market loans. A revenue deficit thus causes more debt burden of the government.

Any government would aim at meeting its total application of fund (ie both revenue and capital expenditure) in a year from its entire revenue receipts and from the amount recovered from loans given by it and receipts of capital nature other than borrowings and other liabilities. This means, entire short term sources and a part of long term sources should be either equal to or exceeds its total application of funds. If this is not so, there will be another kind of deficit, which in the language of an economist, is 'fiscal deficit'. Now, arithmetically, 'fiscal deficit' occurs when [Revenue expenditure (RE) + Capital expenditure (CE)] is> [Revenue receipt (RR) + Loan recoveries (LR) + other receipts (OR)]. Knowing that both sources and application of fund has to be equal, we can write: [(RE + CE) – (RR + LR + OR0] = [Borrowings (B) + Draw-down of cash balance (DDCB)]. Or Fiscal deficit = B + DDCB. Thus, one could understand that fiscal deficit is met from additional borrowings and DDCB.

Primary deficitwhich is less than the fiscal deficit by the amount to be paid on account of interest on borrowings is also met from additional borrowings and DDCB.

An analyst would not be interested only in finding out various types of deficit and how such deficit is financed. He would relate various kinds of deficit with core economic parameters, namely, estimated GDP and GNP. He would also calculate the amount of fiscal deficit and revenue deficit as percentage of estimated GDP and whether the estimated increase in revenue receipt in the coming years resulting from the estimated increase in GDP growth rate would be able to contain the incremental portion of both the deficit . Other important parameters which one must calculate are:

(A) the debt servicing capacity (DSC) and
(B) interest servicing capacity (ISC) of the government.

If revenue receipts are divided by sum of 'repayment of debt and total interest payments', one would get DSC. More would be the ratio (ideal ratio being 2) it is better. If revenue receipt is divided by only the amount of total interest payments, one would get ISC. Ideal ratio is 3. More is better. Other important issues which need to be addressed are:

(A) nature and amount of allocation of fund and whether these allocation of funds would ensure inclusive growth with equitable and fair distribution of funds for various sections of citizens of the country and
(B) variance analysis.

Overview of Zimbabwean Banking Sector (Part One)

Entrepreneurs build their business within the context of an environment which they sometimes may not be able to control. The robustness of an entrepreneurial venture is tried and tested by the vicissitudes of the environment. Within the environment are forces that may serve as great opportunities or menacing threats to the survival of the entrepreneurial venture. Entrepreneurs need to understand the environment within which they operate so as to exploit emerging opportunities and mitigate against potential threats.

This article serves to create an understanding of the forces at play and their effect on banking entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe. A brief historical overview of banking in Zimbabwe is carried out. The impact of the regulatory and economic environment on the sector is assessed. An analysis of the structure of the banking sector facilitates an appreciation of the underlying forces in the industry.
Historical Background

At independence (1980) Zimbabwe had a sophisticated banking and financial market, with commercial banks mostly foreign owned. The country had a central bank inherited from the Central Bank of Rhodesia and Nyasaland at the winding up of the Federation.

For the first few years of independence, the government of Zimbabwe did not interfere with the banking industry. There was neither nationalisation of foreign banks nor restrictive legislative interference on which sectors to fund or the interest rates to charge, despite the socialistic national ideology. However, the government purchased some shareholding in two banks. It acquired Nedbank's 62% of Rhobank at a fair price when the bank withdrew from the country. The decision may have been motivated by the desire to stabilise the banking system. The bank was re-branded as Zimbank. The state did not interfere much in the operations of the bank. The State in 1981 also partnered with Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) as a 49% shareholder in a new commercial bank, Bank of Credit and Commerce Zimbabwe (BCCZ). This was taken over and converted to Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe (CBZ) when BCCI collapsed in 1991 over allegations of unethical business practices.

This should not be viewed as nationalisation but in line with state policy to prevent company closures. The shareholdings in both Zimbank and CBZ were later diluted to below 25% each.
In the first decade, no indigenous bank was licensed and there is no evidence that the government had any financial reform plan. Harvey (nd, page 6) cites the following as evidence of lack of a coherent financial reform plan in those years:

– In 1981 the government stated that it would encourage rural banking services, but the plan was not implemented.
– In 1982 and 1983 a Money and Finance Commission was proposed but never constituted.
– By 1986 there was no mention of any financial reform agenda in the Five Year National Development Plan.

Harvey argues that the reticence of government to intervene in the financial sector could be explained by the fact that it did not want to jeopardise the interests of the white population, of which banking was an integral part. The country was vulnerable to this sector of the population as it controlled agriculture and manufacturing, which were the mainstay of the economy. The State adopted a conservative approach to indigenisation as it had learnt a lesson from other African countries, whose economies nearly collapsed due to forceful eviction of the white community without first developing a mechanism of skills transfer and capacity building into the black community. The economic cost of inappropriate intervention was deemed to be too high. Another plausible reason for the non- intervention policy was that the State, at independence, inherited a highly controlled economic policy, with tight exchange control mechanisms, from its predecessor. Since control of foreign currency affected control of credit, the government by default, had a strong control of the sector for both economic and political purposes; hence it did not need to interfere.

Financial Reforms

However, after 1987 the government, at the behest of multilateral lenders, embarked on an Economic and Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP). As part of this programme the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) started advocating financial reforms through liberalisation and deregulation. It contended that the oligopoly in banking and lack of competition, deprived the sector of choice and quality in service, innovation and efficiency. Consequently, as early as 1994 the RBZ Annual Report indicates the desire for greater competition and efficiency in the banking sector, leading to banking reforms and new legislation that would:

– Allow for the conduct of prudential supervision of banks along international best practice
– Allow for both off-and on-site bank inspections to increase RBZ's Banking Supervision function and
– Enhance competition, innovation and improve service to the public from banks.

Subsequently the Registrar of Banks in the Ministry of Finance, in liaison with the RBZ, started issuing licences to new players as the financial sector opened up. From the mid-1990s up to December 2003, there was a flurry of entrepreneurial activity in the financial sector as indigenous owned banks were set up. The graph below depicts the trend in the numbers of financial institutions by category, operating since 1994. The trend shows an initial increase in merchant banks and discount houses, followed by decline. The increase in commercial banks was initially slow, gathering momentum around 1999. The decline in merchant banks and discount houses was due to their conversion, mostly into commercial banks.

Source: RBZ Reports

Different entrepreneurs used varied methods to penetrate the financial services sector. Some started advisory services and then upgraded into merchant banks, while others started stockbroking firms, which were elevated into discount houses.

From the beginning of the liberalisation of the financial services up to about 1997 there was a notable absence of locally owned commercial banks. Some of the reasons for this were:

– Conservative licensing policy by the Registrar of Financial Institutions since it was risky to licence indigenous owned commercial banks without an enabling legislature and banking supervision experience.
– Banking entrepreneurs opted for non-banking financial institutions as these were less costly in terms of both initial capital requirements and working capital. For example a merchant bank would require less staff, would not need banking halls, and would have no need to deal in costly small retail deposits, which would reduce overheads and reduce the time to register profits. There was thus a rapid increase in non-banking financial institutions at this time, eg by 1995 five of the ten merchant banks had commenced within the previous two years. This became an entry route of choice into commercial banking for some, eg Kingdom Bank, NMB Bank and Trust Bank.

It was expected that some foreign banks would also enter the market after the financial reforms but this did not occur, probably due to the restriction of having a minimum 30% local shareholding. The stringent foreign currency controls could also have played a part, as well as the cautious approach adopted by the licensing authorities. Existing foreign banks were not required to shed part of their shareholding although Barclay's Bank did, through listing on the local stock exchange.

Harvey argues that financial liberalisation assumes that removing direction on lending presupposes that banks would automatically be able to lend on commercial grounds. But he contends that banks may not have this capacity as they are affected by the borrowers' inability to service loans due to foreign exchange or price control restrictions. Similarly, having positive real interest rates would normally increase bank deposits and increase financial intermediation but this logic falsely assumes that banks will always lend more efficiently. He further argues that licensing new banks does not imply increased competition as it assumes that the new banks will be able to attract competent management and that legislation and bank supervision will be adequate to prevent fraud and thus prevent bank collapse and the resultant financial crisis. Sadly his concerns do not seem to have been addressed within the Zimbabwean financial sector reform, to the detriment of the national economy.

The Operating Environment

Any entrepreneurial activity is constrained or aided by its operating environment. This section analyses the prevailing environment in Zimbabwe that could have an effect on the banking sector.

Politico-legislative

The political environment in the 1990s was stable but turned volatile after 1998, mainly due to the following factors:

– An unbudgeted pay out to war veterans after they mounted an assault on the State in November 1997. This exerted a heavy strain on the economy, resulting in a run on the dollar. Resultantly the Zimbabwean dollar depreciated by 75% as the market foresaw the consequences of the government's decision. That day has been recognised as the beginning of severe decline of the country's economy and has been dubbed "Black Friday". This depreciation became a catalyst for further inflation. It was followed a month later by violent food riots.
– A poorly planned Agrarian Land Reform launched in 1998, where white commercial farmers were ostensibly evicted and replaced by blacks without due regard to land rights or compensation systems. This resulted in a significant reduction in the productivity of the country, which is mostly dependent on agriculture. The way the land redistribution was handled angered the international community, that alleges it is racially and politically motivated. International donors withdrew support for the programme.
– An ill- advised military incursion, named Operation Sovereign Legitimacy, to defend the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1998, saw the country incur massive costs with no apparent benefit to itself and
– Elections which the international community alleged were rigged in 2000,2003 and 2008.

These factors led to international isolation, significantly reducing foreign currency and foreign direct investment flow into the country. Investor confidence was severely eroded. Agriculture and tourism, which traditionally, are huge foreign currency earners crumbled.

For the first post independence decade the Banking Act (1965) was the main legislative framework. Since this was enacted when most commercial banks where foreign owned, there were no directions on prudential lending, insider loans, proportion of shareholder funds that could be lent to one borrower, definition of risk assets, and no provision for bank inspection.

The Banking Act (24:01), which came into effect in September 1999, was the culmination of the RBZ's desire to liberalise and deregulate the financial services. This Act regulates commercial banks, merchant banks, and discount houses. Entry barriers were removed leading to increased competition. The deregulation also allowed banks some latitude to operate in non-core services. It appears that this latitude was not well delimited and hence presented opportunities for risk taking entrepreneurs. The RBZ advocated this deregulation as a way to de-segment the financial sector as well as improve efficiencies. (RBZ, 2000: 4.) These two factors presented opportunities to enterprising indigenous bankers to establish their own businesses in the industry. The Act was further revised and reissued as Chapter 24:20 in August 2000. The increased competition resulted in the introduction of new products and services eg e-banking and in-store banking. This entrepreneurial activity resulted in the "deepening and sophistication of the financial sector" (RBZ, 2000: 5).

As part of the financial reforms drive, the Reserve Bank Act (22:15) was enacted in September 1999.

Its main purpose was to strengthen the supervisory role of the Bank through:
– Setting prudential standards within which banks operate
– Conducting both on and off-site surveillance of banks
– Enforcing sanctions and where necessary placement under curatorship and
– Investigating banking institutions wherever necessary.

This Act still had deficiencies as Dr Tsumba, the then RBZ governor, argued that there was need for the RBZ to be responsible for both licensing and supervision as "the ultimate sanction available to a banking supervisor is the knowledge by the banking sector that the license issued will be cancelled for flagrant violation of operating rules ". However the government seemed to have resisted this until January 2004. It can be argued that this deficiency could have given some bankers the impression that nothing would happen to their licences. Dr Tsumba, in observing the role of the RBZ in holding bank management, directors and shareholders responsible for banks viability, stated that it was neither the role nor intention of the RBZ to "micromanage banks and direct their day to day operations."

It appears though as if the view of his successor differed significantly from this orthodox view, hence the evidence of micromanaging that has been observed in the sector since December 2003.
In November 2001 the Troubled and Insolvent Banks Policy, which had been drafted over the previous few years, became operational. One of its intended goals was that, "the policy enhances regulatory transparency, accountability and ensures that regulatory responses will be applied in a fair and consistent manner" The prevailing view on the market is that this policy when it was implemented post 2003 is definitely deficient as measured against these ideals. It is contestable how transparent the inclusion and exclusion of vulnerable banks into ZABG was.

A new governor of the RBZ was appointed in December 2003 when the economy was on a free-fall. He made significant changes to the monetary policy, which caused tremors in the banking sector. The RBZ was finally authorised to act as both the licensing and regulatory authority for financial institutions in January 2004. The regulatory environment was reviewed and significant amendments were made to the laws governing the financial sector.

The Troubled Financial Institutions Resolution Act, (2004) was enacted. As a result of the new regulatory environment, a number of financial institutions were distressed. The RBZ placed seven institutions under curatorship while one was closed and another was placed under liquidation.

In January 2005 three of the distressed banks were amalgamated on the authority of the Troubled Financial Institutions Act to form a new institution, Zimbabwe Allied Banking Group (ZABG). These banks allegedly failed to repay funds advanced to them by the RBZ. The affected institutions were Trust Bank, Royal Bank and Barbican Bank. The shareholders appealed and won the appeal against the seizure of their assets with the Supreme Court ruling that ZABG was trading in illegally acquired assets. These bankers appealed to the Minister of Finance and lost their appeal. Subsequently in late 2006 they appealed to the Courts as provided by the law. Finally as at April 2010 the RBZ finally agreed to return the "stolen assets".

Another measure taken by the new governor was to force management changes in the financial sector, which resulted in most entrepreneurial bank founders being forced out of their own companies under varying pretexts. Some eventually fled the country under threat of arrest. Boards of Directors of banks were restructured.

Economic Environment

Economically, the country was stable up to the mid 1990s, but a downturn started around 1997-1998, mostly due to political decisions taken at that time, as already discussed. Economic policy was driven by political considerations. Consequently, there was a withdrawal of multi- national donors and the country was isolated. At the same time, a drought hit the country in the season 2001-2002, exacerbating the injurious effect of farm evictions on crop production. This reduced production had an adverse impact on banks that funded agriculture. The interruptions in commercial farming and the concomitant reduction in food production resulted in a precarious food security position. In the last twelve years the country has been forced to import maize, further straining the tenuous foreign currency resources of the country.

Another impact of the agrarian reform programme was that most farmers who had borrowed money from banks could not service the loans yet the government, which took over their businesses, refused to assume responsibility for the loans. By concurrently failing to recompense the farmers promptly and fairly, it became impractical for the farmers to service the loans. Banks were thus exposed to these bad loans.

The net result was spiralling inflation, company closures resulting in high unemployment, foreign currency shortages as international sources of funds dried up, and food shortages. The foreign currency shortages led to fuel shortages, which in turn reduced industrial production. Consequently, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has been on the decline since 1997. This negative economic environment meant reduced banking activity as industrial activity declined and banking services were driven onto the parallel rather than the formal market.

As depicted in the graph below, inflation spiralled and reached a peak of 630% in January 2003. After a brief reprieve the upward trend continued rising to 1729% by February 2007. Thereafter the country entered a period of hyperinflation unheard of in a peace time period. Inflation stresses banks. Some argue that the rate of inflation rose because the devaluation of the currency had not been accompanied by a reduction in the budget deficit. Hyperinflation causes interest rates to soar while the value of collateral security falls, resulting in asset-liability mismatches. It also increases non-performing loans as more people fail to service their loans.

Effectively, by 2001 most banks had adopted a conservative lending strategy eg with total advances for the banking sector being only 21.7% of total industry assets compared to 31.1% in the previous year. Banks resorted to volatile non- interest income. Some began to trade in the parallel foreign currency market, at times colluding with the RBZ.

In the last half of 2003 there was a severe cash shortage. People stopped using banks as intermediaries as they were not sure they would be able to access their cash whenever they needed it. This reduced the deposit base for banks. Due to the short term maturity profile of the deposit base, banks are normally not able to invest significant portions of their funds in longer term assets and thus were highly liquid up to mid-2003. However in 2003, because of the demand by clients to have returns matching inflation, most indigenous banks resorted to speculative investments, which yielded higher returns.

These speculative activities, mostly on non-core banking activities, drove an exponential growth within the financial sector. For example one bank had its asset base grow from Z $ 200 billion (USD50 million) to Z $ 800 billion (USD200 million) within one year.

However bankers have argued that what the governor calls speculative non-core business is considered best practice in most advanced banking systems worldwide. They argue that it is not unusual for banks to take equity positions in non-banking institutions they have loaned money to safeguard their investments. Examples were given of banks like Nedbank (RSA) and JP Morgan (USA) which control vast real estate investments in their portfolios. Bankers argue convincingly that these investments are sometimes used to hedge against inflation.

The instruction by the new governor of the RBZ for banks to unwind their positions overnight, and the immediate withdrawal of an overnight accommodation support for banks by the RBZ, stimulated a crisis which led to significant asset-liability mismatches and a liquidity crunch for most banks . The prices of properties and the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange collapsed simultaneously, due to the massive selling by banks that were trying to cover their positions. The loss of value on the equities market meant loss of value of the collateral, which most banks held in lieu of the loans they had advanced.

During this period Zimbabwe remained in a debt crunch as most of its foreign debts were either un-serviced or under-serviced. The consequent worsening of the balance of payments (BOP) put pressure on the foreign exchange reserves and the overvalued currency. Total government domestic debt rose from Z $ 7.2 billion (1990) to $ 2.8 trillion Z (2004). This growth in domestic debt emanates from high budgetary deficits and decline in international funding.

Socio-cultural

Due to the volatile economy after the 1990s, the population became fairly mobile with a significant number of professionals emigrating for economic reasons. The Internet and Satellite television made the world truly a global village. Customers demanded the same level of service excellence they were exposed to globally. This made service quality a differential advantage. There was also a demand for banks to invest heavily in technological systems.

The increasing cost of doing business in a hyperinflationary environment led to high unemployment and a concomitant collapse of real income. As the Zimbabwe Independent (2005: B14) so ​​keenly observed, a direct outcome of hyperinflationary environment is, "that currency substitution is rife, implying that the Zimbabwe dollar is relinquishing its function as a store of value, unit of account and medium of exchange "to more stable foreign currencies.

During this period an affluent indigenous segment of society emerged, which was cash rich but avoided patronising banks. The emerging parallel market for foreign currency and for cash during the cash crisis reinforced this. Effectively, this reduced the customer base for banks while more banks were coming onto the market. There was thus aggressive competition within a dwindling market.

Socio-economic costs associated with hyperinflation include: erosion of purchasing power parity, increased uncertainty in business planning and budgeting, reduced disposable income, speculative activities that divert resources from productive activities, pressure on the domestic exchange rate due to increased import demand and poor returns on savings. During this period, to augment income there was increased cross border trading as well as commodity broking by people who imported from China, Malaysia and Dubai. This effectively meant that imported substitutes for local products intensified competition, adversely affecting local industries.

As more banks entered the market, which had suffered a major brain drain for economic reasons, it stood to reason that many inexperienced bankers were thrown into the deep end. For example the founding directors of ENG Asset Management had less than five years experience in financial services and yet ENG was the fastest growing financial institution by 2003. It has been suggested that its failure in December 2003 was due to youthful zeal, greed and lack of experience. The collapse of ENG affected some financial institutions that were financially exposed to it, as well as eliciting depositor flight leading to the collapse of some indigenous banks.

Reducing Training Costs With One-Point Lessons

One-point lessons are a simple yet powerful learning and operational tool. When applied systematically throughout the work site, one-point lessons provide many benefits. They can help deploy just-in-time knowledge and skills across an organization. They also positively affect employees' abilities to perform daily tasks as well as improve an organization's cost efficiency and product quality.

As an aid for spreading best practices company-wide, one-point lessons can support and enhance improvement efforts such as Lean Management, Just-In-Time (JIT) Production, Total Quality Management (TQM), and Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) .

One-Point Lessons

One-point lessons are short visual presentations on a single point. One-point lessons have three purposes:

o They sharpen job-related knowledge and skills by communicating information about specific problems and improvements.

o They easily share important information just-in-time.

o They improve the team's performance.

Characteristics of One-Point Lessons

One-point lessons are:

o Short visual presentations on a single point

o Detailed on one or two pages

o Supported by diagrams, photographs, or drawings

o Generated and used at the point of need

A one-point lesson is a learning tool for communicating standards, problems, and improvements about work processes and equipment. Workers and supervisors use one-point lessons to provide key information about everyday work and improvement opportunities. Thus, one- point lessons may contain information on a wide range of topics.

Types of One-Point Lessons

Three types of one-point lessons exist; each type has a distinct purpose:

o Basic Knowledge

o Problem Case Study

o Improvement Case Study

Basic Knowledge

Basic Knowledge one-point lessons fill a knowledge gap. This ensures that team members have the knowledge they need to do their job or participate in improvement activities.

Problem Case Study

Problem Case Studies use actual examples of breakdowns, defects, and other abnormalities to illustrate how to identify and / or avoid a workplace problem.

Problem Case Studies are most effective when presented immediately after a problem occurs, while the issue is still fresh in everyone's mind.

Improvement Case Study

Improvement Case Studies summarize the concepts, contents, and results of improvements that result from team activities. This helps teams in other areas to make similar improvements.

Where to Us One-Point Lessons

Examples where one-point lessons may be applied are:

Quality

o Defective incoming material or products

o Causes and prevention of defects

o Materials or product specifications

o Methods for finding and discovering abnormalities in equipment and materials

Inventory

o Materials inventory control specifications

o Product inventory control specifications

Equipment operation

o Changeover operation

o Startup sequence

o Monitoring and inspection methods

o Shutdown and lockout / tagout sequence

o Cleaning and maintenance protocols

Safety

o Emergency stopping methods

o Safety standards for use of tools and equipment

o Reliable methods to prevent accidents

Maintenance

o Cleaning procedures

o Adjustment procedures

o Inspection procedures

o Lubrication procedures

Inspection

o Methods of inspection

o Acceptance inspection specifications

o Product inspection specifications

Improvement tools

o Checklists

o Cause-and-effect diagrams

o Control charts

o Red tags

In other words, whenever workers need key information to perform their jobs, one-point lessons can be an effective tool for delivering that information.

Sharing Knowledge Among the Team

Team leaders and members who have acquired special skills or knowledge need a way to share their knowledge with their teammates. Rather then merely repeating what they have learned, they should put it in a form that suits their workplace. One-point lessons translate knowledge into practical information that teammates can use to effectively perform their jobs.

Additionally, one-point lessons are an effective training tool because:

o They are short and focused on a topic that team members need to know about.

o Information can be presented in bite-size chunks, when and where it is needed.

o They offer a simple vehicle for going over the material until everyone has mastered it.

o They offer a flexible way to deliver training on the floor, during meetings, during production activities, as well as during formal training.

o The act of teaching develops communication and leadership skills on the team.

o They are good tools for training new employees or transfers.

Conclusion

We have discussed how companies use one-point lessons to eliminate waste and improve operations by providing just-in-time information. We have described the kind of information contained in a one-point lesson and how this information can be used as a training tool to sharpen the knowledge and skills of the entire team. We have discussed the three types of one-point lessons: Basic Knowledge, Problem Case Study, and Improvement Case Study, and have reviewed examples of each. Finally, we have briefly discussed the steps involved in one-point lesson development.