19
Mar

The Saudi-Spanish Center for Islamic Economics and Finance takes great pleasure in inviting you to this Lecture.

SCIEF invite

Agenda:

12.30h    Welcome & Opening
                H.E. Rafael Puyol,Chairman of the Board of Directors, IE University

12.35h    Presentation of the book “Islamic Finance in Western Higher Education”
                Dr. Ahmed Belouafi, Dr. A. Belabas & Dr. Cristina Trullols

12:50h    Introduction of Shaikh Saleh A. Kamel,Chairman of Jeddah Chamber
                Dr. Celia de Anca, director of the SCIEF

12.55h    Islamic Finance: Instruments and Applications.
                Shaikh Saleh A. Kamel,Founder and President of Dallah Al Baraka Group,Chairman of Jeddah Chamber of Commerce & Industry

13.35h    The importance of Islamic Banking for IE Students
                 Ignacio de la Torre, IE Academic Director Master in Finance

13.40h    Q&A session

13.55h    Final remarks
                H.E. Prof. Osama Tayeb,H.E. Prof. Osama Tayeb,Chairman of the Board of Directors of SCIEF,President of KAU University

14.00h    Networking

(The conference will be available in Arab, English and Spanish)

Register here

Click here for further information

15
Mar

What would Alex George say about coercing Iran?

By Stephen M. Walt

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Will the U.S. effort to coerce Iran succeed? For the past ten years or more, the United States has been engaged in coercive diplomacy with the Islamic Republic. Specifically, it has imposed increasingly punitive economic sanctions, repeatedly threatened to use force, and engaged in various covert acts of pressure, such as the Stuxnet virus attack. The campaign of escalating pressure has been accompanied by the demand that Iran end its nuclear enrichment program or, at a minimum, restrict it in ways that would make it impossible for Iran to even contemplate building a nuclear weapon.

This is precisely the sort of question that the late Alexander George and his colleagues examined in the book The Limits of Coercive Diplomacy, first published back in 1971. George defined “coercive diplomacy” as the use of military force or military threats “to persuade the opponent to do something, or to stop doing something, instead of bludgeoning him into doing it or physically preventing him from doing it.” The book examined three cases of this approach — the Laos crisis of 1961, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Rolling Thunder bombing campaign in Vietnam and identified eight conditions that are associated with successful coercive diplomacy by the United States.

I studied with George as an undergraduate at Stanford and wrote my senior thesis on the same subject (my cases, if you’re curious, were the Gulf of Tonkin incidents, the seizure of the Pueblo, and the seizure of the Mayaguez.). So I thought I’d go back and look at George’s eight conditions and see what they might predict about the success/failure of U.S. efforts to coerce Iran today. Here goes:

1. Strength of U.S. motivation. Coercion is more likely to succeed when the coercer is highly motivated and resolved. It’s clear that the United States is pretty serious about this issue, even though Iran’s nuclear enrichment program doesn’t pose a direct threat to the United States itself (i.e., it’s not like Soviet missiles in Cuba in 1962). And while the U.S. might be highly motivated to prevent Iranian development of an actual weapon, it is not clear how much the U.S. really cares about Iran having the theoretical potential to acquire a bomb as opposed to a real weapon. Among other things, denying them the theoretical capacity in perpetuity would be almost impossible. Washington would like Tehran to be as far away from a “breakout” capability as possible, but just how far is that? A month away? A year? In short, the actual strength of U.S. motivation here isn’t entirely clear, despite the tough talk we’ve heard from Obama and Biden in recent weeks. But let’s be conservative and score this in the plus column.

2. Asymmetry of motivation favoring the United States. Even assuming we care a lot, it is hard to believe that we care more about this issue than Tehran does. Iranian politicians of all kinds have expressed support for their nuclear energy program, and the history of bad blood between our two countries makes them especially reluctant to cave in to U.S. pressure. Moreover, as I argued a week ago, they have the additional incentive of proving to us (and others) that they can’t be blackmailed, because they don’t want to invite additional pressure by showing that blackmail works. Lastly, repeated U.S. threats (and the presence of nuclear arms in Israel, Pakistan, India, and Russia) gives Iran ample reason to seek at least a latent capability. Bottom line: This condition is not satisfied in this case. Read more…

Stephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.

As published in www.foreignpolicy.com on March 14, 2013.

14
Mar

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The surprise selection on Wednesday of an Argentine, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, as the new pope shifted the gravity of the Roman Catholic Church from Europe to Latin America in one fell swoop, and served as an emphatic salute to the growing power of Latinos across the Americas.

The new pope took the name Francis and is the 266th pontiff of the church. He is the first pope from Latin America, and the first member of the Jesuit order to lead the church.

“I would like to thank you for your embrace,” the new pope, dressed in white, said in Italian from the balcony on St. Peter’s Basilica as thousands cheered joyously below. “My brother cardinals have chosen one who is from far away, but here I am.”

The selection electrified Latinos from Los Angeles to Buenos Aires, and raised the hopes especially of those in Latin America, where 4 of every 10 of the world’s Catholics now live.

But the choice also may provide a strategic boost to the church in the United States, where its following would have lost ground in recent decades were it not for the influx of Latino immigrants, who have increasingly asserted themselves as a cultural and political force, and played a critical role in President Obama’s re-election.

The significance of the choice was not lost on church leaders. “It’s been more than 500 years since the first evangelization, and this is the first time that there is a pope from Latin America,” said Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, who is originally from Mexico.

“It’s a huge role that we never had before,” he said.

The new pope, known for his simple, pastoral ways and his connection to the poor, is in some ways a contrast to his predecessor, Benedict XVI, an aloof theologian who resigned the office — the first pope to do so in 598 years — saying he no longer felt up to the rigors of the job. Read more…

As published in www.nytimes.com on March 13, 2013 (a version of this article appeared in print on March 14, 2013, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: New Pope Shifts Church’s Center of Gravity Away From Europe).

14
Mar

By Diego Sánchez de la Cruz, alumnus of the Master in International Relations (MIR)

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Renaming Venezuela’s currency as the “strong bolivar” sounded like a bad joke back in 2007. Fast forward to 2013 and that “rebranding” seems almost grotesque in light of how weak the Latin American currency really is.

In February of 2013, the Hugo Chávez regime devalued its currency for the seventh time, bringing the fixed exchange rate from 4.3 to 6.3 bolivars to the dollar. The real market exchange rate, though, gives Venezuela’s currency a much lower valuation, closer to closer to a 25/1 rate.

Now, with the socialist leader dead, his legacy will still hunt Venezuela in many ways. In terms of monetary policy, his regime managed to accumulate an inflation of 528% between 2003 and 2011. Such scandalous figure was followed by a 20% inflation rate in 2012. The outlook for 2013 is even worse, with estimates of a 30% rise in prices.

Food shortages are the norm, and price controls only make matters worse. The government has avoided popular unrest by extending subsidies and government programs, yet such scheme is simply not sustainable without historically high oil prices.

What should Venezuela do next in order to contain inflation and have a more stable monetary scenario? Ideally, the denationalization of money would be the best way to allow families and businesses to conduct their day-to-day operations in whichever currency they so desire.

Besides that best case scenario, two other options come to mind: on the one hand, imitating Ecuador’s experiment with dollarization; on the other hand, pegging the currency to a basket of U.S. dollars and oil prices. Both would be steps in the right direction, but they would have to be adopted along with three key reforms: end of price controls, reduction of public expenditures and economic liberalization.

Diego Sánchez de la Cruz is an analyst at Libertad Digital. His work on international economics has been published in different media outlets.

13
Mar

My search for a smartphone that is not soaked in blood

Phone companies do too little to ensure the minerals they use are conflict-free. Here’s what you can do to hold them to account

By George Monbiot

Nokia And Windows Announce New Lumia Handset

If you are too well connected, you stop thinking. The clamour, the immediacy, the tendency to absorb other people’s thoughts, interrupt the deep abstraction required to find your own way. This is one of the reasons why I have not yet bought a smartphone. But the technology is becoming ever harder to resist. Perhaps this year I will have to succumb. So I have asked a simple question: can I buy an ethical smartphone?

There are dozens of issues, such as starvation wages, bullying, abuse and 60-hour weeks in the sweatshops manufacturing them, the debt bondage into which some of the workers are pressed, the energy used, the hazardous waste produced. But I will concentrate on just one: are the components soaked in the blood of people from the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo? For 17 years, rival armies and militias have been fighting over the region’s minerals. Among them are metals critical to the manufacture of electronic gadgets, without which no smartphone would exist: tantalum, tungsten, tin and gold.

While these elements are by no means the only reason for conflict there, they help to fund it, supporting a fragmented war that – through direct killings, displacement, disease and malnutrition – has now killed several million people. Rival armies have forced local people to dig in extremely dangerous conditions, have extorted minerals and money from self-employed miners, have tortured, mutilated and murdered those who don’t comply, and have spread terror and violence – including gang rape and child abduction – through the rest of the population. I do not want to participate.

None of the campaigning groups wants companies to stop buying minerals from eastern Congo. Global Witness and FairPhone, for example, point out that mining supports many families in a country where 82% are considered underemployed. But they also insist that the trade can be dissociated from violence: if, and only if, companies ensure they’re not buying minerals which have passed through the hands of militias. Given the potential damage to their reputations, you might have expected these firms to take the issue seriously. With a few exceptions, you would be wrong.

I began with the retailers, and the results were disappointing. Vodafone, for example, claims to have developed a social and ecological rating system, enabling its customers “to make informed decisions about the mobile phone they choose to buy”. Its website says this system “was launched in the Netherlands in 2011 and will be introduced to other European markets in 2012″. But all you get when you click on the link is “page not found”. In Dutch. As for its claim that an ethical score “is displayed next to the product, whether you are buying online or in store”, I have been unable to find any such scores on its UK site. Read more…

As published in www.guardian.co.uk on March 11, 2013.

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