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Deducted at source

Zafar Anjum | Nov. 7, 2008
If Obama is against outsourcing, why were Bangalore techies rooting for him?

Days before the US polls, there were reports in the Indian media that techies in Bangalore, Indias Silicon Valley, were rooting for Obama.

Apparently, the reason they were supporting this history-making Presidential hopeful did not have anything to do with technology or outsourcing. They supported him for his message of changechange that would eventually make the world a safer, better and more peaceful place.

Good intentions indeed and quite in line with global trends. People have been admiring and supporting Obamas bid for Presidency from all over the worldfrom Kenya to Finland to Indonesia.

But I was scratching my head in bewilderment looking at the support of the Indian techies.

Throughout his campaign, Obama had been indicating that he would discourage US companies from outsourcing jobs.

He would stop giving tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas, and start giving them to companies that create jobs in the US, he has often said. He reiterated this even in the acceptance speech.

Now, about 60 per cent of outsourcing jobs in India come from the US. So, shouldnt the techies be worried if Obama won? Why were they supporting him then?

Perhaps in their support, they were being magnanimous, rising above their narrow professional interests. Who does not want less terrorism in the world? Who does not want an end to the wanton (and often unilateral) way of US leadership that brought much damage to the world?

But there could be one more reason: Obamas ambivalence.

Ambivalent stand on outsourcing

Barack ObamaActually, even though Obama has been forceful about his arguments on outsourcing, he has also said things that make his stand on this matter, at best, ambivalent. He has sometimes uttered words to the effect that outsourcing of American jobs to India and China cannot be reversed.

Revolutions in communications and technology have sent jobs wherever theres an Internet connection, that have forced children in Raleigh and Boston to compete for those jobs with children in Bangalore and Beijing, Obama had said in a speech in Raleigh, North Carolina, US. We live in a more competitive world, and that is a fact that cannot be reversed.

So, where does he stand? Is he for outsourcing or against outsourcing? His ambivalent stand has left his messages on outsourcing amenable to different interpretations.

Nasscom president Ganesh Natarajan has noted that there are no specific tax breaks that a company gets in the US for doing work abroad so what exactly does Obama mean about stopping tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas?


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