Archive for the ‘Topics’ Category

19
May

Argentina: A Smoother Ride

Written on May 19, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in Americas, Foreign Policy, Global Economy

Argentina is throwing itself back into the international economic community, after a 2002 default that thwarted the country’s access to world capital markets. The center-right Macri government, which came to power last December, is moving full speed ahead with economic reforms. And just last month, a U.S. appeals court cleared the way for Argentina to make payments on $9 billion in bonds – allowing the country to re-enter bond markets. This means big investment opportunities for Argentina’s northern neighbors.

The energy sector has extremely high growth potential. Argentina holds vast reserves of shale gas and oil and is seeking to bolster its renewables industry. However, unchecked energy subsidies swelled under the previous government – led by center-left President Cristina Kirchner – reaching 2.9 percent of GDP in 2014, according to the Argentine Budget Association. The association reports these subsidies accounted for more than 12 percent of 2014 federal spending, not including debt payments.

Just after taking office, President Mauricio Macri cut electricity subsidies to wholesale power distributors. A gradual and sustained increase in electricity and gas prices is planned for almost all sectors of the Argentine economy. Households that cannot afford the price hike will be able to continue paying a subsidized bill.

“The recent reforms in energy prices have sparked interest in investing in the energy sector, both on traditional and renewable energies,” says former Executive Director at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Cipher Brief expert Andrea Montanino. Read more…

 

Published on MAY 18, 2016 | KAITLIN LAVINDER in thecipherbrief.com

12
May

As the Philippines ushers in the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte, the longtime mayor of Davao, the country is poised for dramatic changes from the leadership of Benigno Aquino III. Aquino’s tenure was generally stable, and he oversaw the longest sustained period of growth the country had enjoyed in decades. Aquino rhetorically touted the need to retain strong democratic institutions, and he also used typical political methods of trying to achieve policy successes: he consulted with advisors, unveiled policy platforms, and then tried to build support for them in the legislature and with the public. His persona was rarely controversial. Yet even as he tried to combat corruption and oversaw high growth, Aquino achieved only modest success in reducing income inequality, long one of the most significant problems in the country. Despite new cash transfer programs, inequality in the archipelago has grown in the past three years, according to Patricia Abinales of the University of Hawaii. Indeed, she notes, despite consistent growth rates of six percent or above during Aquino’s tenure:

“Job-generation has not caught up. Unemployment continues to hover between 6 and 6.6 per cent. The Philippine poverty rate remains one of the highest in Asia at 16.6 per cent, while income inequality has worsened in the last three years, though the remittances of overseas Filipino workers-which rose to a high of US$28.4 billion in 2014-mitigate this sad portrait.” Read more…

By Joshua Kurlantzick

May 11, 2016; This piece was originally published by Asia Unbound, a blog by the Council on Foreign Relations, and Forbes Asia. Follow the author on Twitter.

10
May

In a Europe struggling with a rise in Islamophobia, riven by debates about the flood of Syrian migrants and on edge over religious, ethnic and cultural disputes, London has elected its first Muslim mayor.

Sadiq Khan — a Labour Party leader, a former human rights lawyer and a son of a bus driver from Pakistan — was declared the winner after a protracted count that extended into Saturday. He will be the first Muslim to lead Britain’s capital.

The victory also makes him one of the most prominent Muslim politicians in the West.

London is hardly representative of Britain: About a quarter of its residents are foreign-born, and one-eighth are Muslim. And Mr. Khan is not the first Muslim to hold prominent office in Europe: Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, has had a Muslim mayor since 2009, and Sajid Javid is the British secretary of state for business.

Nonetheless, Mr. Khan, 45, won a striking victory after a campaign dominated by anxieties over religion and ethnicity. Britain has not sustained a large-scale terrorist attack since 2005, and its Muslim population, in contrast to France, is considered well integrated. But an estimated 800 people have left Britain to fight for or support the Islamic State. Dozens of assaults on British Muslims were reported after the Paris terrorist attacks in November.

The Conservative candidate, Zac Goldsmith, attacked Mr. Khan’s past advocacy for criminal defendants, including his opposition to the extradition of a man who was later convicted in the United States of supporting terrorism. Mr. Goldsmith said Mr. Khan had given “oxygen and cover” to extremists. When the Conservative prime minister, David Cameron, repeated those assertions in Parliament, he was accused of racism. Read more…

; MAY 6, 2016

5
May

Should We Be Turning Japanese?

Written on May 5, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in Asia, Culture & Society, Political Economy

Walking among the open air cafés in Tokyo during an unseasonably warm November last year—just after the Paris terror attacks—I realized that something was different. Japanese almost never think twice about going into public places. Their streets are not filled with combat troops on wary patrol. Parents don’t fear when their children congregate at a concert or in the park. Japanese are the first to highlight their country’s problems, but when I talk with a group of young men and women at a tiny, crowded bar, their greatest fear for the future is growing old alone, not that they might not grow old at all.

Japan does face a demographic crisis—its population is actually shrinking—but there is another big positive dimension to life in modern Japan. The Japanese are not arguing (all that much, anyway) about social and economic inequality. Nor are the shops dark and the restaurants empty, at least not in Tokyo and other major cities. There is no Japanese Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders drawing on and stoking the anger of a disenfranchised middle class.

Japan has found a separate reality—a separate peace if you will—from the globalization paradigm that has dominated the West since World War II. The country’s experience over the past quarter-century raises the question: How open does a modern nation need to be in order to be “successful”? That should prompt us to ask, in turn, whether we in the West have been overstating the benefits of openness and globalization, and underestimating the virtues of social cohesion and stability.

All this warrants a fresh look at the long-tainted “Japan model.” At least as viewed by the West, Japan has spent the past quarter-century under a cloud. After the Japanese asset price bubble popped in 1989, the once-and-future “Pacific Superpower” (recall all those headlines from the 1980s, declaring things like “Your Next Boss May be Japanese”) no longer interested investors, pundits and the media. “Japanese” traits such as lifetime employment, so recently lauded, were quickly reinterpreted as rigidity, risk averseness, and a general inability to deal with a new era of innovation that valued the individual over the group. In particular, it became an article of faith in the West to decry Japan’s insularity, whether economic or socio-cultural. Japanese society, ethnically monolithic and anti-immigration, was derided as fatally parochial in the new, modern borderless world.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/04/globalization-japan-terror-insularity-213807#ixzz47naq4l7U 

 

April 12, 2016; Michael Auslin

29
Apr

If, in 2011, the West’s view of the Arab world was grounded in optimism and exhilaration, it’s an entirely different story in 2016. Five years ago, there was still the sense that something was afoot, that the region could change into something better. There was the promise of a region based more on respect for fundamental rights, better governance and freedom – rather than one where these elements were constantly sacrificed to nepotism, autocracy and the cynical exploitation of concerns around security.

Five years on, the situation looks very different.

Now it is far more about security than ever before. It used to be that different Arab leaders would privately and publicly argue that they were better than the alternative of Islamism and that would be enough to get any concerns around fundamental rights of the table for discussion. Today, the equation is the same but different: many simply argue that the alternative to their rule is chaos. And, of course, no one wants chaos – and so the cycle continues.

But the region is not simply a place where one makes short-term exchanges between security concerns and everything else. It is a catastrophic mistake to look at the region in those terms alone.

The region is in a state of flux and the outside world needs to be more, not less, engaged with it, as it goes through an incredibly critical part of its modern history. Read more…

 

Published on April 28, 2016  in the national.ae

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