China’s impossible trinity

Written on September 10, 2015 by Waya Quiviger in Asia, Global Economy, News

Chinese bank notes

This weekend’s meeting of the G20 group of countries sounded a relatively optimistic note on the global economy, in sharp contrast to the recent price falls in world asset markets.

So who is right: the markets or the ministers? The swing factor between a continuing stable but uninspiring global recovery and relapse into a global downturn is China.

The big question is: how steep is China’s economic slowdown? Those looking for an answer have pointed to China’s surprise decision to devalue its currency in early August.

Does this suggest that policy-makers are panicking and trying to boost exports?

The fundamental problem that China faces is that its economy is deeply unbalanced – both internally and externally – at a time that it is also slowing.

Economists tend to look at an economy for internal balance (a state of affairs in which neither employment nor inflation is too high or too low) and external balance (a situation in which a country’s current account (its borrowing or lending to the rest of the world) is neither too high nor too low.

China is currently struggling to achieve both kinds of balance.

Chinese policy-makers have a tricky task ahead but not unmanageable one.

It’s a challenge that could be made much easier by some global policy co-ordination and co-operation. Read more…

Published on Sept. 8th in http://www.bbc.com/


THOSE of us outside Europe are watching the unbelievable images of the Keleti train station in Budapest, the corpse of a toddler washed up on a Turkish beach, the desperate Syrian families chancing their lives on the night trip to the Greek islands — and we keep being told this is a European problem.

The Syrian civil war has created more than four million refugees. The United States has taken in about 1,500 of them. The United States and its allies are at war with the Islamic State in Syria — fine, everyone agrees they are a threat — but don’t we have some responsibility toward the refugees fleeing the combat? If we’ve been arming Syrian rebels, shouldn’t we also be helping the people trying to get out of their way? If we’ve failed to broker peace in Syria, can’t we help the people who can’t wait for peace any longer?

It’s not just the United States that keeps pretending the refugee catastrophe is a European problem. Look at countries that pride themselves on being havens for the homeless. Canada, where I come from? As few as 1,074 Syrians, as of August. Australia? No more than 2,200. Brazil? Fewer than 2,000, as of May.

The worst are the petro states. As of last count by Amnesty International, how many Syrian refugees have the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia taken in? Zero. Many of them have been funneling arms into Syria for years, and what have they done to give new homes to the four million people trying to flee? Nothing.

The brunt of the crisis has fallen on the Turks, the Egyptians, the Jordanians, the Iraqis and the Lebanese. Funding appeals by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees have failed to meet their targets. The squalor in the refugee camps has become unendurable. Now the refugees have decided, en masse, that if the international community won’t help them, if neither Russia nor the United States is going to force the war to an end, they won’t wait any longer. They are coming our way. And we are surprised?

Blaming the Europeans is an alibi and the rest of our excuses — like the refugees don’t have the right papers — are sickening. Read more…

Published on 5 Sept. in http://www.nytimes.com; Michael Ignatieff is a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School.


La metamorfosis de Alexis Tsipras

Written on September 4, 2015 by Waya Quiviger in Europe, Op Ed

Por Jose Piquer

Al jurar su cargo el 26 enero de 2015, Alexis Tsipras, el ex primer ministro de Grecia, sabía que su mandato no iba a ser fácil, pero llegar hasta aquí tampoco había sido un camino de rosas. Forjado en la las juventudes comunistas, la carrera de este político sin corbata de 41 años puede resumirse en pocas líneas. En 2006 quedó en tercer lugar en las elecciones para la alcaldía de Atenas. Dos años después fue elegido líder de Syriza, entonces una coalición formada por 13 grupos de izquierda radical, y en 2009 entró en el Parlamento como diputado, pasando a dirigir el grupo parlamentario de Syriza.

Un año después de ser elegido diputado en el Parlamento, Grecia solicitaba el primer rescate. Los acreedores (los países miembros de la zona euro y el FMI) aprobaron prestar a Grecia 110.000 millones de euros (equivalente al 48% del PIB griego) a cambio de que los gobernantes griegos se comprometieran a implementar un programa de ajuste económico sin precedentes en la historia.

Hasta este momento la crítica incendiaria de Syriza hacia la troika y la oligarquía griega y sus diatribas contra el capital y el imperialismo financiero habían suscitado, salvo algunas excepciones, indiferencia, sorna o desprecio. Sin embargo, tras el fracaso de las negociaciones para formar un gobierno de coalición en mayo de 2012, muchos comenzaron a mirar a Tsipras y a Syriza con otros ojos.


Seguir leyendo en Política Exterior

Publicado el 4 de septiembre en http://www.politicaexterior.com/


By Madeleine Albright

I teach my students that foreign policy is persuading other countries to do what you want. The tools available to accomplish this include everything from kind words to cruise missiles. Mixing them properly and with sufficient patience is the art of diplomacy, a task that for the United States has proved challenging even with our closest allies, and altogether necessary with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The United States and Iran have been locked in an adversarial relationship since the 1979 hostage crisis. Having worked for President Jimmy Carter, I viewed the country through the prism of that experience when I served in the Clinton administration. Nevertheless, as secretary of state I felt it important to explore the possibility of developing a less chilly relationship with Iran.
During my time in office, we offered to engage in dialogue, but the Iranians were not ready. In the end, although we improved the relationship on the margins, we failed to make much of a dent in the thick wall of mistrust separating our two countries.

These experiences lead me to be wary of the Iranian regime and realistic about the prospects for an overnight change in U.S.-Iranian relations. But it is dangerous not to pursue dialogue, and experience convinces me that the nuclear agreement between world powers and Iran is a wise diplomatic initiative.

After careful review of its provisions, I have given the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action my strong endorsement.

The prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran has rightfully earned a place at the top of the long list of threats to global stability. No diplomatic agreement or military action could guarantee that Iran will never obtain a nuclear weapon, but even most opponents agree this accord puts that goal firmly out of Iran’s reach for a decade or more. From any vantage point, that is a positive development, but at a time of great turmoil in the Middle East it is especially welcome. Read more…


Published in cnn.com on Aug. 31st; Madeleine Albright served as U.S. secretary of state from 1997 to 2001. She is chair of the Albright‎ Stonebridge Group, a global strategic advisory and commercial diplomacy firm, and professor of diplomacy at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service.


A man withdraws money from an Orange Money cashier in Abidjan. About $104bn of African incomes currently flow outside the formal banking system annually. (Issouf Sanogo, AFP)

Making the world a better place – noble in theory, but expensive in practice and ambitious to sustain.

Financing the United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SDGs), for example, will require more than the combined GDP of Africa’s 30 biggest economies in additional funds every year. A big ask – so where should the money come from? Given that the funding needed is nearly 20 times last year’s official international aid flows, it’s safe to say that more aid from international donors cannot continue to be the primary focus.

So what if we tapped into the considerable resources of the developing countries themselves? Often overlooked, these countries’ tax revenues, natural resource revenues, private domestic savings, pension funds, private equity markets, stock markets, and remittances, taken together, are significantly larger than aid flows – and are growing rapidly. If harnessed to finance development, these resources could enormously accelerate the rate at which the SDGs are achieved.

Take sub-Saharan Africa. As a conservative estimate, at least 20-30% of the $2.6-trillion funding gap will be needed in this region alone. This is a massive amount – but our estimates show that sub-Saharan Africa can get part of the way there, and unlock approximately $90-billion for development per year, with just four actions: lowering the cost of remittances and using them as collateral for loans, banking more of the unbanked, and unlocking pension funds for investment in private equity. Taken together the four suggestions illustrate a broader point: what if the way we fund development propelled development itself? Read more…

Published on 26 Aug. in the Mail and Guardian. Yana Watson Kakar is the global managing partner of Dalberg, Matthew MacDevette is a Dalberg consultant and James Mwangi is executive director of the Dalberg Group. Follow @DalbergTweet on Twitter.

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