The word "talent" become fashionable after a report printed by the management consultancy firm, McKinsey entitled "The War for Talent". The report said that "talent" is the most important corporate resource for the next 20 years.
I wondered what happened to the world before "talent" was discovered. Did we get into trouble? Was the world stuck in the dark ages, with no progress? Was there no scientific discovery and progress, before talent was discovered?
Anyway, what is a "talent"? I thought that it referred to the small number of remarkable people who were able to create wealth and give a better standard of life to the billions of people in the world. But, this was not to be the case!
Who were the talents that were sought after by the corporations? They seem to be the smart people who created the sub-prime mortgages, structured products and financial derivatives, or engaged in humongous bets on the financial markets. If they get the bets right, they make billions in profits. If they got it wrong, they will be bailed out by Uncle Sam.
The talents included the top CEOs who increased the profits of their companies by reducing the cost through global outsourcing, leading to the destruction of countless jobs and high unemployment. They included the talents who created accounting frauds, ponzi schemes, investments scams and the biggest asset bubbles of all times. Before they were discovered, they were lauded as talents who created wealth (a.k.a asset bubbles and large bets).
They included the CEOs who make super profits by exploiting their monopolistic power or through a hidden cartel (e.g. look at the high charges for banking and telecommunication services). These super profits were extracted from the high prices paid by the consumers who were paid depressed wages for their work.
They included the lawyers and doctors who charged large fees for providing their services to the clients, i.e. fees that would make the many families bankrupted for a generation.
It is easy to make super profits by betting, by cheating and by exploiting the weak. It need talent to do all of these and avoid getting caught by the law.
What is the value of talents, if they are not backed by ethical behavior and the spirit of public service, of doing good for the ordinary people?
Tan Kin Lian
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