Archive for the ‘Political Economy’ Category

14
May

On Monday 12 May, Dr. Casilda Güell, Professor of Political Science at the Universitat Internacional de Catalunya, addressed the MIR class in a very lively debate on regional integration. Quoting various authors including Barry Buzan and Richard Haas, Dr. Güell discussed the merits of regional integration in addressing the global challenges countries face today including financial crises, epidemics, terrorism, climate change. The nation state is now receding and no country alone can tackle these global problems, not even a superpower.  According to Buzan, the world is changing and we are evolving from a unipolar world dominated by a reluctant hegemon, the US, to a multipolar world with different poles composed of regional unions such as the EU, Mercosur, ASEAN…

Unlike what many pundits affirm, China will not be the next hegemon. It is unwilling to take on that role and should it rise to that position, other poles would counterbalance it.  Dr. Güell then discussed the 5 layers of integration, free trade, customs union, common market, economic union and political union. The EU is currently between the 4th and 5th layers. NAFTA is at the first stage while Mercosur is currently a customs union. Dr. Güell asked the students if economic integration was a prerequisite to political integration: peace through commerce. Opinions were divided even though history shows that political union when it is reached first goes through the stage of economic integration.

The seminar concluded with short student presentations on the pros and cons of NAFTA, Mercosur and the EU. The class was overwhelmingly in favor of regional integration with one of two dissenting voices that made for a richer discussion.

 

 

 

6
May

 

Four years ago yesterday, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, killing 11 men and spilling thousands of barrels of oil into the Gulf. This Thursday is the first anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh, which killed more than 1,100 garment workers.

What has happened in the time since these disasters? BP was barred from drilling in U.S. deepwater—until last month. Western clothing brands are upgrading Bangladeshi factories, but the fundamentals of their business haven’t changed: Brands outsource production to factories serving multiple clients in low-wage, low-regulation countries (not just Bangladesh).

The lack of fundamental change in these industries—and others, such as financial services after the 2008 crisis—suggests disasters like these are bound to happen again.

Indeed, every corporate crisis evokes a sense of déjà vu. The Rana Plaza catastrophe bore echoes of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. The unfolding story of General Motors’ faulty ignition switches brings back 1970smemories of the Ford Pinto, whose infamously fire-prone fuel tanks went unfixed because upgrading them would have cost more than the $200,000 Ford set for a human life.

Why does the corporate world fail to learn from its tragic past?  From 1999 to 2008, I worked for BP in Indonesia, China, and at the company’s London headquarters. It was my job to assess and mitigate the social and human rights risks to communities living near major BP projects, a role that existed because the executives I worked with understood that what was good for those communities was good for our business. I did innovative, progressive work bringing in experts and setting up partnerships and programs to benefit contract workers and neighbors of big BP projects in the developing world. But, obviously, I did not manage to prevent the Deepwater Horizon disaster, or the 2005 explosion of a BP refinery in Texas City that killed 15 people and injured many more.

I wanted an answer to that question, and I decided to write a book, reflecting on both my own experience and, also, documenting the experiences of my peers in other companies who similarly thought they were making progress mitigating risks to stakeholders, but then were faced with evidence to the contrary: supply chain managers in apparel companies who were sourcing at Rana Plaza; tech executives working to protect privacy but still seeing users persecuted with the data their companies collect.

Why, with this global invisible army of people working to prevent them do these disasters still happen? Why do they still happen when there are an unprecedented number of CEOs talking about corporate social responsibility (CSR)? More importantly, what does this “invisible army” need to succeed?

Here are some of the themes that emerged from my interviews and reflections:

1. People lie. More than one person I interviewed told me a story of touring a factory, doubling back on the pretense of forgetting something, and catching workers turning in their goggles or other protective gear. Factory owners will hide bad news if failing an audit means losing business. A few companies like H&M are said to have committed to multi-year contracts with suppliers, which are hoped to strengthen relationships between firms and suppliers, enabling them to address problems together, and remove incentives for suppliers to lie about conditions for fear of losing business. But in the meantime, as Jeremy Prepscius of BSR (Business for Social Responsibility), where I’m a human rights advisor, told me, “There’s always one good factory, and there’s always one that lies better than everybody else. So guess which one would have the cheaper price?”

2. People don’t talk to each other. Big organizations often operate in distinct, siloed divisions, and multi-disciplinary issues like human rights and sustainability often fall through the cracks. As director of corporate citizenship at Microsoft, Dan Bross oversees assessments that cut across multiple functions like legal and product development to identify potential risks to users. He told me, “I have a horizontal job in a vertical world.” Read more…

By Christine Bader; Published on April 21, 2014 in the Atlantic:  http://www.theatlantic.com

2
Apr

Is le tea party brewing in France?

Written on April 2, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Europe, Op Ed, Political Economy

Steeped in conservative rage and tasting of grass roots, a political backlash has traditional politicians and the news media asking the once-unthinkable: Is le tea party brewing in France?

If it were, it would be populated by the likes of Catherine Mas-Mezeran, a Parisian mother of three who wrinkles her nose at the mention of President François Hollande. She calls him “the Socialist,” which, technically, he is. But if President Obama had the birthers, Hollande now has the baptismists.

 

French President Francois Hollande has made Interior Minister Manuel Valls his new prime minister, replacing Jean-Marc Ayrault, who, with other ministers, took the blame for the Socialists' defeat in local elections.

French President Francois Hollande has made Interior Minister Manuel Valls his new prime minister, replacing Jean-Marc Ayrault, who, with other ministers, took the blame for the Socialists’ defeat in local elections.

Like others in a growing movement here, she firmly believes an unsubstantiated rumor emanating from conservative circles that Hollande may have secretly renounced his Christianity. “He has rejected his baptism,” she said. “This is really shocking.”

An Elysee Palace spokesman responded, “This rumor is as ridiculous as it is unfounded.”

The movement’s strength in numbers, however, cannot be ignored. Initially a reaction to a same-sex marriage law passed last year, the movement has morphed into the most sustained mobilization of social conservatives here in more than a generation.

A reinvigorated right delivered a devastating blow to Hollande in Sunday’s local elections across the country, prompting a humbled Hollande to reshuffle the French government on Monday. He replaced Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault with Interior Minister Manuel Valls, a politician considered more palatable by some on the right.

Results of the runoff vote showed the far-right National Front scoring its biggest victory ever, taking 11 towns and a major district in Marseille in part by appealing to outraged residents. The left ceded more than 150 other cities to the center-right Union for a Popular Movement (UMP).

Losses by the Socialists also reflected economic doubts and disenchantment with Hollande. But across Europe — a continent often viewed on the other side of the Atlantic as a bastion of liberal thought — several nations are in the throes of their own full-blown culture wars, and perhaps nowhere are they raging quite as fiercely as in France.

Tens of thousands of people are taking to the streets in repeated protests, many for the first time in their lives. They are organizing assemblies and social-media campaigns even as some angry newcomers run against incumbents on the right whom they consider not socially conservative enough.

A show of strength on French streets in February led Hollande to backtrack on a measure that opponents feared could have helped same-sex couples have children through in vitro fertilization and surrogacy.

Scores of social conservatives took their children out of public schools for one day in January to protest new lessons being tested in some French schools aimed at dispelling gender stereotypes. The social conservatives said the lessons could lead to boys wearing dresses and girls playing mechanic, or even masturbation classes for children.

“We are witnessing the rise of a tea party of the French,” Valls warned in the newspaper Journal du Dimanche.

A continent already hit by economic upheaval is confronting a wave of bitter societal polarization over a host of issues such as euthanasia, abortion and same-sex marriage.

In Spain, the conservative government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is seeking to push through legislation that would greatly limit abortion rights, unleashing a bitter confrontation with the left and reversing the steady march of liberal social policies there since the death of Gen. Francisco Franco. In Poland, a measure that would grant same-sex civil partnerships failed last year because of major opposition, prompting Prime Minister Donald Tusk to say he saw no chances of such unions passing within the next 10 to 15 years.

During Germany’s national election campaign last year, center-right Chancellor Angela Merkel sparked outrage among progressives after expressing doubts about full adoption rights for same-sex couples. “To be completely honest with you, I’m having difficulty with full equality,” she told public TV. Read more…

 

Published on March 31st in the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com

24
Mar

diego

El pasado miércoles 19 de marzo el IE School of International Relations acogió la presentación del libro “Sin medias tintas” de Diego Sánchez de la Cruz (MIR 2011). El autor, además de antiguo alumno, es también periodista y profesor asociado de IE University. Junto a él intervinieron en el evento Arantza de Areilza, Decana de IE School of International Relations, Carlos Rodríguez Braun, Catedrático de Historia del Pensamiento Económico en la Universidad Complutense y participante de la obra, y  Manuel Llamas, Director de Libre Mercado y responsable del prólogo de la obra.

“Sin medias tintas” está compuesto por 20 entrevistas a figuras relevantes del liberalismo  sobre la Gran Recesión, recogiendo diferentes medidas económicas y políticas para reforzar tanto a la sociedad española como a sus instituciones. La presentación detalló tanto aspectos de su elaboración como su crítica frente a cierto tipo de políticas económicas. Comenzó con  una introducción en la cual el Catedrático Rodriguez Braun relató la problemática detrás de la gran politización de la economía española y el periodista Llamas criticó la falta de conocimiento de gran parte del periodismo económico nacional. Tras ello, el autor Diego Sánchez compartió con la audiencia algunas de las reflexiones que le han supuesto creación de la obra.

Durante su ponencia ofreció un recorrido por diferentes anécdotas y lo que le ha aportado la obra a nivel personal. Mostró su visión de cuáles son los desequilibrios crónicos económicos de España. También destacó la falta de autocrítica y la escasa preparación de la clase política española. Tras una animada de rueda de preguntas la Decana de Areilza dio por finalizado el evento y se procedió a la habitual firma de ejemplares.

5
Nov

It is unclear whether a system that is geared to growth can also provide clean air and water

By Gideon Rachman

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Foreign commentators and local bloggers regularly predict that China is heading for an economic and political crisis. But the country’s leaders are in strikingly confident mood. They believe that China can keep growing at more than 7 per cent a year for at least another decade. That would mean the country’s economy – already the second-largest in the world – would double in size. And, depending on the assumptions you make about US growth and exchange rates, it would probably mean that China becomes the world’s largest economy by 2020.

Nobody embodies the leadership’s confidence better than the burly, imposing figure of Xi Jinping, China’s president. Last week, I was part of a group of foreign visitors – brought together by the 21st century Council, a think-tank – who met the Chinese leader in Beijing. Mr Xi’s manner is warmer and less formal than that of Hu Jintao, his slightly robotic predecessor. Yet the staging of the meeting had faint echoes of Chinese history, in which foreign barbarians paid tribute to the leader of the Middle Kingdom.

The president sat in an armchair in a cavernous meeting room in the Great Hall of the People, with a vast mural of the Great Wall of China behind him. Arranged in a semi-circle in front of him was a group of former presidents and prime ministers from other nations, including Gordon Brown of Britain and Mario Monti from Italy. In the semi-circle behind them were some western business leaders, and a smattering of “thinkers”. President Xi started his remarks by pronouncing himself “deeply moved by the sincerity you have shown”. He then proceeded to give a confident presentation of his vision for the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”.

In remarks that were widely picked up by the Chinese media, Mr Xi dismissed the idea that China risks falling into a “middle-income trap” that stalls its development and said he was confident that rapid growth could continue, without the need for further stimulus measures.

Exactly how China will sustain its growth and strengthen its global position is, however, the subject of intense discussion among the country’s leadership – as became clear in a series of other meetings arranged for our group with top military, diplomatic and economic policy makers. Read more…

As published in www.ft.com on November 4, 2013.

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