Inter Press Service » Financial Crisis http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 01 Jul 2016 10:57:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.12 Post-Brexit blueshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/post-brexit-blues/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=post-brexit-blues http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/post-brexit-blues/#comments Wed, 29 Jun 2016 08:06:06 +0000 Mahir Ali http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145871 By Mahir Ali
Jun 29 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

AGITATED markets, a tumbling pound-sterling, a downgraded credit rating: none of these should have been an unexpected outcome of the British electorate’s decision last weekend to opt out of the European Union.

As for leadership turmoil in the main parties, it was more or less a given that David Cameron’s days as prime minister were numbered if his arguments for remaining in the EU were defeated by the popular verdict. But the concerted move by members of his own shadow cabinet to expel Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the opposition Labour Party was greeted with surprise.

Mahir Ali

Mahir Ali

It shouldn’t have been. The Daily Telegraph reported 10 days before the vote that “Labour rebels believe they can topple Jeremy Corbyn after the EU referendum in a 24-hour blitz”. The result of the referendum was unclear at the time, and it is reasonably clear that the “24-hour blitz” would have occurred even if the popular verdict had gone the other way.

The bulk of the Parliamentary Labour Party was extremely disconcerted by Corbyn’s landslide victory some nine months ago in a leadership contest that, under new rules, for the first time gave each party member an equal say. Corbyn was a backbench maverick in the PLP who frequently voted against New Labour when it was in power under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, and his triumph was anathema to the bulk of MPs who saw power primarily as a means of consolidating the Thatcherite agenda that Blair, with minor variations, had so blatantly pursued.

A clear majority of Labour members thought otherwise, though, and Corbyn’s ascendancy drew back into the party a substantial number of those who had abandoned it because they considered it too right-wing.

The PLP’s assault against Corbyn — led, somewhat ironically, by former shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn, whose dad, Tony Benn, a close comrade-in-arms of Corbyn was for decades the most coherent and consistent Labour opponent of the EU on the utterly plausible grounds of its depletion of national sovereignty — has ostensibly been based on the Labour leader’s lackadaisical approach to the ‘remain’ argument ahead of the referendum.

In fact, Corbyn, perhaps against his better judgment, campaigned extensively, if not always enthusiastically, in favour of Britain remaining in the EU. Sure, he was disinclined to rave like Boris (Johnson) and Dave. But that’s not his style. And, more importantly, he had qualms about the EU that his intrinsic honesty prevented him from disregarding.

Yesterday, as Cameron headed for a meeting where he would be obliged to face his EU counterparts, Corbyn faced a PLP vote of no-confidence that was expected to overwhelmingly go against him. Whether his position would remain tenable beyond that is open to question, but there is a fair chance that he could rely on a second leadership vote to retain his post. Where would that leave the conspirators, who until the time of writing had failed to come up with either an alternative candidate or a distinct set of policies?

The move to expel Corbyn was greeted with surprise.
Amid the inevitable turmoil among the Conservatives, commonplace logic pointed to Labour unity behind a democratically elected leader on the basis of a platform that challenged from the left the consequences of a Tory catfight between a pair of more or less equally contemptible former Eton classmates.

Labour’s MPs — and many of Corbyn’s most vociferous opponents belong to constituencies that voted overwhelmingly to leave the EU, but are unwilling to accept responsibility for that outcome — were, until the weekend, in a position to make their party electable in the probable event of a snap election. They have now squandered that chance. Were Labour to win power under a re-elected Corbyn, which is not an impossible dream, it would be despite Hilary Benn & co, caterers to the despondent elites.

Meanwhile, Cameron, who has decided to leave activation of Article 50 — which formally begins the process of UK withdrawal from the EU — to his successor, does not intend to step down until October. Not all of Europe empathises with that approach. France, in particular, wants the exit strategy to be put into action right away, whereas Germany has shown signs of greater patience.

Some constitutional lawyers — of whom there is no dearth in Britain, despite its lack of a formal constitution — have indicated that the nation’s parliament is under no obligation to abide by the referendum verdict, so the UK could remain part of the EU. Direct democracy has also come in for some flak — as, more appropriately, have younger voters who largely opposed a Brexit but did not turn out in sufficient numbers to produce a different verdict.

Amid a sharp rise in instances of racism and profound uncertainty in every sphere, including the UK’s integrity, the only thing Britons are clearly blessed with is the ancient Chinese curse: may you live in interesting times.

mahir.dawn@gmail.com

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

 

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Little Englandhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/little-england/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=little-england http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/little-england/#comments Mon, 27 Jun 2016 19:26:09 +0000 Zarrar Khuhro http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145843 By Zarrar Khuhro
Jun 27 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Sometimes you just have to lie back and think of England. But how can one think of England without thinking of Shakespeare? And when you think of Shakespeare, how can you ignore Macbeth, his most Scottish of plays, and in particular the line: “we but teach bloody instructions, which being taught, return to plague the inventor”.

zarrar_Finally, how can one think of that line in the context of Brexit and not consider the dramatic irony that a power, famous for dividing and ruling, stands divided by its own ruling?

That irony certainly isn’t lost on those of us who live in the much-partitioned parts of the world, with jokes like ‘the real Brexit was in 1947’ doing the rounds along with snide offers to repay colonial favours by helping divide up what’s left of the Empire with neat little lines and the quintessential disputed areas. Somewhere in an otherworldly bungalow, Mountbatten’s ghost is likely shuddering at all this schadenfreude.

Of course, this is less a partition than a parting of ways, but one that carries with it the promise of partitions to come. While the petition to declare London as an independent city-state is only semi-serious, Scotland is another matter entirely.

The Scots overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU and are now considering another referendum on whether to remain in the UK. In that great glen in the sky, William Wallace is probably raising a toast.

Scotland brings us back to Macbeth, and in particular the dismissal by his wife: “stand not upon the order of your going, but be gone”. There’s a sliver of that in the statement by the EU leadership for the UK to leave the union “as soon as possible, however painful that process may be.”

Brexit carries with it the promise of future partitions.

Then there’s the theatre of the absurd as a terribly hung-over UK woke as if after a midsummer night’s dream. It is there in David Cameron resigning due to a defeat in a referendum he did not even need to call. It is found in the tragicomic fact that hours after the referendum result came in, the top two googled questions in the UK were ‘what does it mean to leave the EU?’ and ‘what is the EU?’

Then there’s the family, ripe for lampooning on reality TV, who all voted to leave but who are ‘disappointed’ because now — and only now —“the facts are coming in”.

Facts didn’t stand much chance here anyway, with the Brexit camp playing on fears and shouting false promises loudly and often enough for them to be taken as the truth. Just take the strutting and fretting Nigel Farage, who immediately backtracked on his campaign pledge that leaving the EU would free up £350 million to be spent on the National Health Service — a promise that was emblazoned on his campaign bus and which he now calls a ‘mistake’.

Then there’s the media coverage which, according to a detailed Reuters study, was “heavily skewed in favour of Brexit” and you have a coup that Goebbels might have nodded at with approval.

He would also no doubt be amused that the UK had inflicted on itself what it had fought two wars against Germany to avoid: a united Europe with England on the outside. This scenario has been England’s strategic nightmare for centuries, preventing it from coming to pass the foremost plank of its continental policy — the pursuit of which occupied its greatest minds and claimed an even greater number of lives.

Over at the Kremlin, glasses must be clinking as Czar Putin toasts the first real splintering of the Western Alliance that has thwarted Russia’s ambitions for nearly a century now. After all, the EU was the political manifestation of European unity, just as Nato is the manifestation of its US-backed military might — and Nato was created to keep the Russian empire’s Soviet incarnation in check. Ironically, this moment comes mere weeks after Putin’s poking fun at how “200 Russian fans could beat several thousands of the British” in clashes during the Euro cup. Well, in football terms, this was England playing England with England losing thanks to an own goal.

There will be joy among the autocratic and generally anti-democratic the world over, who have already latched on to the vote as proof that giving people a say in how they are ruled is a silly idea, really.

There will be similar cheer in militant camps and right-wing party headquarters alike, a shared delight at the apparent dismantling of what they see as a corrupt and decadent construct.

Granted that referendums are always about more than what’s printed on the ballot paper. This was also a protest vote, a vote of fear, anger and — quite possibly — ignorance; granted that this may end in a reforming of the EU and perhaps even the eventual return of the UK. But before that happens, Lady Britannia will have to wake and realise that the handsome prince she dallied with the night before is, in fact, a fool with a donkey’s head.

The writer is a journalist. Twitter: @zarrarkhuhro

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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From Grexit to Brexit: Eurosceptics Claim their -Exithttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/from-grexit-to-brexit-eurosceptics-claim-their-exit/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=from-grexit-to-brexit-eurosceptics-claim-their-exit http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/from-grexit-to-brexit-eurosceptics-claim-their-exit/#comments Mon, 27 Jun 2016 18:46:17 +0000 Editor sunday http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145839 By Editor, Sunday Times, Sri Lanka
PARIS, , Jun 27 2016 (The Sunday Times - Sri Lanka)

AFP – It started with “Grexit” — the long trumpeted but never realised axing of Greece from the European Union. It was then reborn as “Brexit” as Britain started down the — this time voluntary — path of leaving the bloc.

The “-exit” formulation was coined by two economists from US financial giant Citigroup in February 2012 to describe the possible of departure of Greece from the EU.

It has now taken on a life of its own on social media, with eurosceptics across the continent all clamouring for their own vote on EU membership: – “Frexit “: French far-right leader Marine Le Pen called for a “Frexit” shortly after the results of Britain’s membership referendum were announced. “Victory for Freedom! As I have been asking for years, we must now have the same referendum in France and EU countries,” she declared on Twitter.

– “Nexit “: “Now it is our turn,” trumpeted Geert Wilders, the leader of the anti-Islam far-right Freedom Party (PVV) in the Netherlands, after Britain opted out of the EU. Wilders has promised to make a referendum on a “Nexit” a central plank of his party’s election campaign.

– “Oexit “: Austria’s version comes from Oesterreich, the country’s name in Austrian. And the idea is gaining ground in a country where far right party leader Norbert Hofer came within a hair’s width of being elected to the largely ceremonial but coveted post of president last month. “Outstria” has been suggested as an alternative.

– “Swexit “: The far right Sweden Democrats have floated the idea of a “Swexit”, with opinion polls suggesting support for leaving the EU stands at 31 percent.

– “Fixit “: Although the English version doesn’t quite hold the right connotations, a petition calling for a Finnish exit has garnered thousands of signatures.

– “Dexit “: The phrase has emerged in the Danish press, where the populist Danish People’s Party (DPP) has been calling for a renegotiation of its EU accords.

– “Gerxit “: It has appeared in French- and English-language media, but the idea of a “Gerxit” has little traction back at home in Germany. Though right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party Frauke Petry did describe “Brexit” as a warning to the EU. “If the EU does not abandon its quasi-socialist experiment of ever-greater integration then the European people will follow the Brits and take back their sovereignty,” he said.

– “Italexit “: A bid to leave the EU has also not gained much ground at home in Italy, a founding member of the union — apart from with the country’s most prominent far-right politician, Matteo Salvini. “Cheers to the bravery of free citizens,” the leader of the anti-immigration, anti-EU Northern League wrote on Twitter. “Heart, head and pride beat lies, threats and blackmail. THANKS UK, now it is our turn #Brexit”.

This story was originally published by The Sunday Times, Sri Lanka

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The Brexit Shock – Now All Is Up in the Air!http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/the-brexit-shock-now-all-is-up-in-the-air/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-brexit-shock-now-all-is-up-in-the-air http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/the-brexit-shock-now-all-is-up-in-the-air/#comments Sun, 26 Jun 2016 06:03:00 +0000 Jan Oberg http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145827 The author is TFF Director & Co-founder, peace studies professor. PhD in sociology, peace and future researcher. Associate professor (Docent) at Lund University, thereafter visiting or guest professor at various universities. Former director of the Lund University Peace Research Institute (LUPRI); former secretary-general of the Danish Peace Foundation; former member of the Danish government’s Committee on security and disarmament.]]>

The author is TFF Director & Co-founder, peace studies professor. PhD in sociology, peace and future researcher. Associate professor (Docent) at Lund University, thereafter visiting or guest professor at various universities. Former director of the Lund University Peace Research Institute (LUPRI); former secretary-general of the Danish Peace Foundation; former member of the Danish government’s Committee on security and disarmament.

By Jan Oberg
Lund, Sweden, Jun 26 2016 (IPS)

The UK, Europe and the rest of the world will be affected. But there has been no planning for this anywhere.

It’s now all up in the air what this Brexit vote will be the starting point of. All we can safely predict is that we are in for interesting times!

Jan Oberg

Jan Oberg

Why did it happen?

Arrogant corporate and other elites continuously enriching themselves against all common social sense and ignoring the legitimate needs and concerns of ordinary citizens, women in particular – so, class and gender.

So too that more highly educated people tended to vote for Remain and older people voting Leave – more interesting sociological analysis here.

Interestingly, the whole art world supported Remain – and now fear for the effects of Brexit on Britain’s cultural development.

An EU that has failed to create a new, better way of doing politics, merely growing its original democratic deficit – so, lack of real democracy.

An EU that has had a woefully inadequate, cynical response to a refugee crisis caused by leading EU member states’ warfare – so, (mis)management and lack of leadership.

Significantly, the leading Muslim Association of Britain, MAB, supported Remain with the argument that ”Exit from the EU runs the risk of perpetuating rifts in British society, which would increase levels of hate crimes against British Muslims.” So, Islamophobia.

A general sense (but sometimes denial) of insecurity about the future all over the Western world, a deep sense of failure, loss, sense of risk of war in Europe and the fact that the rest of the world is moving ahead and will surpass the West; a sense that of the West lead by the the US getting relatively weaker and lacking leadership – so, psycho-political-civilisational insecurity.

A fall-back to ”me and my home” and closing the doors to the wider world world’s problems – nationalism, xenophobia, right-wing, neo-nazism populism and all the things many of us hoped had visited Europe for the last time – so, populism/nationalism/regression.

What could it lead to?

An exit domino effect in a number of countries – referendums and eventually a quite small EU or no EU.

A punishment by Germany and other EU of the UK for leaving, depending somewhat on whether the post-EU Britain will not only move out of the EU but also closer to the US.

It could also, in the best of cases, lead to a re-think throughout the EU and a real effort to do things differently – but unlikely given the EU is already in crisis and lack visionaries in politics.

A referendum in Scotland, further reducing the unitedness of the Kingdom.

A reshuffling in the global economy – London being so much of a global financial centre. Where will the banks and investors go now? What will China do that had London as it’s major hub?

A tumbling of the British £ and turmoil on the financial markets, weakening of the US$?

A Britain in deep economic crisis – or perhaps starting out on a new course with a great future, speeding ahead of the average EU?

A Britain that ties itself (even more) to the US in security political terms and an increasing conflict between those two and EU/NATO countries – spelling the dissolution of NATO.

What does it signify?

That democracy works – and that it doesn’t. The referendum instrument is an utterly democratic method – as Switzerland continues to prove to the world.

But then, is it wise that such an important decision can be made with such a small majority? Wouldn’t it have been reasonable to demand, say, 2/3 majority for Leave?

To ignore now what over 48% wanted isn’t good. But, anyhow, nobody trusts politicians nowadays and perhaps the effects will be smaller than most fear today.

That the – Western centre – doesn’t hold anymore. Such an important country leaving the EU is a blow beyond imagination to the entire idea of that Union.

Basically that the West is getting weaker and while trying to ’divide and rule’ it is fragmenting from inside.

The EU is getting weaker in spite of still being the largest economic bloc in human history. Because of the rise of other economies, the 28 countries accounted for 30% of the world’s total output in 1980 and 16,5% in 2015. With the UK leaving, the EU loses 15% of its GDP.

That the EU construction and Lisbon Treaty, written up by three old men, was wrong and outdated from the outset and lacked every potential to appeal to the diverse citizenry throughout Europe, particularly the younger ones.

That there is no vision and strategy; no one – no one! – seems to have the faintest idea about what will happen now – as Ken Livingstone, London’ former mayor, expressed it on Russia Today the morning after.

Be sure that Brexit on June 23, 2016 will be remembered as a turning point. And be sure that, while we do not know what will happen after Brexit, it’s not a message of good things to come for the already crumbling, vision-losing Western part of our world.

”May you live in interesting times” as the English say, considering it a curse. The Chinese – to whom this phrase is often falsely attributed – expresses it differently: ”Better to be a dog in peaceful time, than to be human in a chaotic (warring) time.”

Both probably meaning that our time is more fraught with insecurity than ever…

 
Jan Oberg’s article was published on 24 June 2016 in: TFF – Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research. Go to Original.

The statments and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do nt necessarily represent those of IPS

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Brex’it, So Be’it; And Then What?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/brexit-so-beit-and-then-what/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=brexit-so-beit-and-then-what http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/brexit-so-beit-and-then-what/#comments Sun, 26 Jun 2016 05:19:41 +0000 Johan Galtung http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145824 The author is professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He has published 164 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.]]> Source: TRANSCEND Media Service

Source: TRANSCEND Media Service

By Johan Galtung
ALICANTE, Spain, Jun 26 2016 (IPS)

The vote turned out like the two referenda held in Norway in 1972 and 1994. And much for the same reason: Protestant break with Rome–Catholic, imperial–Henry VIII made himself head of the Anglican Church in 1534.

Religion was not the only reason, there are Protestant Nordic members of EU, closer to the continent and closer to Russia. World history, a short while after Pope Francis-Patriarch Kirill also made world history, bridging the Catholic-Orthodox 395-1054 gap.

The Disunited Queendom is now London with surroundings; England. The implications are enormous, for UK-GB and the British Isles in general, for EU and Europe in general, USA and the world in general. The US Trojan horse decided to leave the EU on 23 June 2016.

UK-GB and the British Isles in general.

Johan Galtung

Johan Galtung

Goodbye United Kingdom, UK, we may get United Ireland, UI, instead.

Goodbye Great Britain, GB, we may get Scotland in EU instead.

Welcome to Britain of England-Wales, if they care for that vocabulary.

Welcome to new-born England, 23 June being the Day of Independence.

Independence? Washington, having lost its inside EU ally, will soon remind London of their “special relationship” as unsinkable aircraft carrier also doing the killing job–maybe some wanted that.

And yet. England had the whole Global Establishment, if there ever was one, mobilized to pressure them to remain. They did not. There is something very impressive in that, however bad the campaign.

And yet. There is something to those British Isles, a shared and twisted history between Anglo-Saxons and Celts–Vikings, Normans–an enormous impact on the world now torn to pieces, torn into new pieces.

Maybe time has come for something this author proposed in an NGO encounter at the Houses of Parliament on Northern Ireland-Ulster right before the Good Friday Agreement: CBI, a Confederation of the British Isles, with United Ireland, Scotland, England-Wales and smaller islands.

EU and Europe in general.

On the possible positive side is EU independence of the USA, not choosing US foreign-military (and university system!) policy instead of working out its own. EU can now follow France-Germany in a Ukraine they know much better than the USA.

They nay one day meet Russia in some “European House”–may Gorbachev see that before he passes away–and they may one day, hopefully soon, have a European Parliament recognizing Palestine as a state, making it clear this is not anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, but pro the other Semitic, pro-Palestine.

On the possible negative side is Germany winning the two “world wars” in Europe over who shall run Europe: Germany or England-France.

Germany had visions of something close to an EU with economic center in Brussels and political in Berlin. After 1945 it was France, not England that stretched out a hand to beaten Germany, the 1950 coal and steel handshake that morphed into the Treaty of Rome (what a bad choice of name).

France will have to do that again, but this time not from the strong position of being on the winning side of a war, but the weak position of being in layer 3 of the present 5 in EU with Germany on top and Greece at the bottom, the Nordics no 3, then the Latins, then Eastern Europe.

This pyramid has to be flattened; many of the exit movements derive their momentum from that sad EU reality.

But also from a boring EU in spite of having to its credit, “acquis” open borders, the euro, a Europe with war held unthinkable.

Could some of that come from not being masters in their own house, always listening to His Master’s Voice?

Could healthy regionalism inspire a new deal, like healthy nationalism could for England? Freed from fighting US wars, liberated to build peace all over, like in EU?

Making an ever stronger or weaker union? Maybe stronger in peace policy. And maybe with the euro as common, not single currency, and not pressing members into a solidarity with no historical basis?

USA and the world in general.

This might be one more wake-up call for the USA, at a time with everybody but Hillary already awake.

Talk about NATO as out of date, Europe and the Middle East taking care of their own affairs, wars as non-affordable, as counter-productive, some awareness that there are other victims than Americans in the wars, had been unthinkable, unspeakable. But old addictive habits are hard to change.

That opens for a possible widening slit between USA-England and EU-Europe. There is a model: the split between the West Roman (Catholic) and East Roman (Orthodox) empires in 395, the former lasting about 81 more years, the latter more than a thousand.

This time the religious split would be between evangelical-protestant in the West and catholic-orthodox in the East, with a smart federation at the border, Ukraine, as a possible solution. A major test.

Another: defensive defense against IS brutality, negotiations with them, recognizing their right to have an IS when Europe has EU, and a Caliphate when Christianity has Vatican and the Patriarchy(ies).

Learning from Islam about togetherness and sharing, how to overcome loneliness and alienation, admitting that the West needs to learn.

And China? Learning from them like they do from the West, inviting them to join the world from “between heaven and earth”.

The world in general? Moving away from states, toward regions. Be a good, caring Mother of regions, sharing solutions and problems generously with other regions around the world.

With Latin America-Caribbean, Anglo-America–maybe with Mexico as MEXUSCAN–the African Union, the European House, SAARC, ASEAN. And the three badly missing ones in Asia: West Asia with Israel and Palestine, Iraq and Syria; Central Asia with Afghanistan, and Northeast Asia with the two Chinas, the two Koreas, Far East Russia and Japan now at nuclear logger-heads.

EU: a wake-up call! Don’t despair, grow, and help the world.

 
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 24 June 2016: TMS: Brex’it, So Be’it; And Then What?

The statments and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessariliy represente those of IPS.

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Brexit and EUexithttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/brexit-and-ueexit/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=brexit-and-ueexit http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/brexit-and-ueexit/#comments Sat, 25 Jun 2016 17:12:42 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145815 Roberto Savio, is founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News. ]]>

Roberto Savio, is founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News.

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Jun 25 2016 (IPS)

The Europeans went to bed Thursday night, with exit polls giving a comfortable margin of victory for those who wanted to Remain. The following morning they awakened to find that the real result was the opposite.

Specialists in polling say that this happens when electors do not feel comfortable to say how they will rally voters because they are not comfortable, on a rational level, with what they will do. In other words, voters act because of their guts, not because of their brain.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

Brexit was really based on gut feelings. It was a campaign of fear. The “Leave” campaign was about the Turks massively invading Great Britain, because of their admittance in the EU (totally false); that Great Britain was paying to the EU 50 million pounds a day (again, a false figure). But the central question raised, especially by Boris Johnson, was: we are not free any longer… Let us get our independence.

And he went to compare the EU to the Nazi Germany who wanted to take over Europe. Of course, his intention was simple: get prime minister David Cameron to resign and take his post. A good example of idealism.

This cry for independence stirred the nationalist nerve of the nostalgia of the imperial times… We are facing enormous tides of foreigners coming if we stay in the EU, and we have no control on our borders, etc. The fact that Great Britain in fact had got from the EU already the control of its frontiers, was totally lost.

But beside this specific trait of British identity, the reasons for Brexit were common to the xenophobic, nationalism and populism tide which is spreading all over Europe. The Brexit campaign did contain all three, plus an emerging fourth factor: the revolt of people against their elites.

The “Remain” campaign had all of them; from the leaders of the Tory and Labour party to all the industrial and financial sectors, from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to the European Central Bank, from Obama to Merkel, from the elite media (Financial Times, the Economist) to the Soccer League. Their campaign was also of fear: if we get out we will lose markets, our deficit will increase, and our welfare system is at risk.

What now finally analysts are beginning to grasp is that rational arguments are not important any longer. Fear is more important. And anything that smacks of elite and establishment creates an iconoclastic reaction, which is to throw away the icons of the elite. This call for a change is now a new factor of politics all over Europe.

A good example is the town of Turin, where a few days before the Brexit a honest, efficient and respected outgoing mayor Piero Fassino (who did a good job), lost to a young woman without any prior experience. People feel an urge to throw away all the old, because clearly it has failed to address their needs.

It is to soon to predict a dismembering of Great Britain, with Scotland calling this time for its independence. Brexit was decided by England, where a considerable number of citizens suddenly feel a reawakening of their identity.

It is the same call of Marie Le Pen in France (another lost empire), which has opened a debate about French identity, and the need to not get diluted by multiculturalism, immigrants, especially Muslim, and get again the control of the borders, out from the domination of the European Union.

Next year, we have French and German elections. Le Pen is now the leader of the largest party in France, And it will be difficult to keep her out of power. Then elections in Germany will see a rise of Alternative fur Deutschland (AFD), which makes re-appropriation of German identity and sovereignty the basis for leaving Europe.

All the xenophobic right wing parties have expressed their enthusiasm for the Brexit, which is going to give them more push. Brexit comes after the Austrian elections, where the right wing lost for few votes. If elections were held today in the Netherlands, its xenophobic party would be the largest. And in total symmetry, Donald Trump has expressed his enthusiasm for the Brexit.

One of the few positive elements of Brexit is that there is now a growing chorus on the fact that globalisation has not kept its promises.: wealth for everybody.

On the contrary, it has created a dramatic social inequality, with few people having the bulk of national wealth, and many left out. According to OECD statistics, Europe has lost 18 millions of middle class citizens, in the last 10 years.

The fact that bankers were unanimously voicing for “Remain”, had quite the opposite effect on those 27% of British citizens who have difficulty to reach the end of the month, while they see over 1.000 bankers, and 1.500 CEO make more than 1 million pounds a year.

Now even the IMF is publishing studies on how social inequality is a draw to growth, and the importance of investing in welfare policies of inclusion and equal opportunities.

This is happening, some could say, because reaction to globalisation does not create only right-wing waves. With the feeling that all those in the system are ignoring their problems, new mass movements are coming from the left, like Podemos in Spain or Bernie Sanders in the US.

In the coming elections in Spain, the traditional social democrat party, PSOE, risks to be after Podemos. In Italy few days ago, after winning the provincial elections, the 5 Star movement now looks to take over the national government, held by a social democrat party, the PD. After two years in power, the young Matteo Renzi looks already an old establishment figure.

The EU suffers the same problem. Everybody talks of its marginal role in the world, of the fact that the unelected bureaucrats in Brussels live detached from reality and dedicate themselves to discuss rules on how to pack tomatoes, indifferent to the problems of the common European citizen.

We should pause to reflect that this is the same kind of criticism we hear about the United Nations. International organisations can only do what their members allow them to do. The EU is a supranational organisation (the only in existence), yet all the political power is in the hands of the Council of Ministers, where governments sits and take decision.

The Commission is left to implement these and the bureaucrats (the same number of those who run the town of Rome), have autonomy to decide the size of tomato packaging. Then the same national government that has taken the decisions, finds it convenient to denounce the EU inefficiency, and complain that there is an European external policy. This irresponsible game is now seeing the concrete result in Brexit, and governments should think now carefully about continuing on this double standard path.

Anyhow, the king now is finally without clothes. Europe is disintegrating, and a very large responsibility falls on German shoulders.

Germany has been blocking any attempt to create European economic and welfare measures, because they do not want to pay for the mistakes of the debtors countries, Greece, Italy, and the south of Europe. The Economy minister of Germany, Wolfgang Schauble, even went to attribute to Mario Draghi, the BCE governor, 50% of the success of the xenophobe Alternative fur Deutschland in the last elections. Draghi , was doing a policy in the interest of Europe, and not of the German voters. Germany is by far the most powerful country in the EU.

It is ironic to know that all the important posts in the EU bureaucracy have been taken by the British and Germans. In fact, those who control the bureaucracy and the debate on tomato packaging come from those two countries. And chancellor Angela Merkel is considered the one who runs the EU. In fact, the fateful agreement with Turkey on refugees, was decided by the German chancellor, without even consulting France

Now Germany has to decide: or continue on its path to germanize Europe, or to become again a European Germany, as it was when it’s capital was Bonn. Germany has consistently ignored all European and international calls for playing a different policy in the EU. She has refused to increase spending, to share funding of any initiative on European bonds or any measure of socialisation of the crisis.

But it would be a mistake to think that this is due to the peculiar personality traits of Schauble. The large majority of German citizens share the belief that they should not pay for the mistake of others. To be fair, the German government has never tried to educate them on European needs. And now, may be it is too late….

Therefore, the coming elections will be difficult for the government. An ever more insular party, the AfD is expected to have a large increase, and the two traditional parties are very worried. Merkel will try to take away some of the AfD banners further reducing her European policy. What is she Going to do now after the Brexit?

Attempt to start a Europe on two speeds, with Baltic countries, Poland, Hungary and all other Eurosceptics left out? Or she is ready to change her self-centred policy and play a real European role, in spite of AfD rise? Europe now depends clearly on Germany. Here we will see if Merkel is a states-person or just a successful national politician.

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To Be Fixed, Europe Needs a Wrecking Ballhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/to-be-fixed-europe-needs-a-wrecking-ball-3/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=to-be-fixed-europe-needs-a-wrecking-ball-3 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/to-be-fixed-europe-needs-a-wrecking-ball-3/#comments Fri, 24 Jun 2016 22:38:25 +0000 David Ignatius2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145810 By David Ignatius
Jun 24 2016 (Manila Times)

One-time shot exclusive for The Manila Times
WASHINGTON: Imagine a young Margaret Thatcher, a politician who deeply mistrusts the political establishment and identifies on a gut level with the frustrations of the middle class. That’s shorthand for what Britain will need as it picks up the pieces after Thursday’s “Brexit” referendum.

DAVID IGNATIUS

DAVID IGNATIUS

Friends of Britain (and Europe, too) need to stop pretending that support for withdrawal from the European Union is simply a product of xenophobic right-wing nationalism. Nearly half the country supports a British exit, according to pre-referendum polls, and these people are not all deluded reactionaries.

The European Union is unpopular in Britain for the same reason it is in many other parts of Europe: It’s seen as the project of a financial and political elite that often operates without regard for public sentiment. Nationalism may be a tarnished, retrograde sentiment, but the fact remains that many people feel deeply attached to their countries.

This patriotic feeling can’t be expunged. But it should be modernized. And that’s where a modern Maggie could do wonders. Think of a restless, mildly rebellious British politician who could find common cause with like-minded Europeans who are tired of being lectured by Brussels.

Thatcher took a wrecking ball to an earlier generation of entrenched, elite opinion in Britain. When she became prime minister in 1979, Britain was still encased in a class system that maintained the conservative status quo at both ends—the power of the aristocratic Tory elite and the Labor Party trade-union bosses, who in tandem resisted any reforms that might challenge their power.

Thatcher, a grocer’s daughter, despised this status quo. She defied a bitter 1983-84 strike by the National Union of Mineworkers where previous prime ministers, Labor and Tory, had caved. She deregulated the financial sector, in what was called the “Big Bang,” restoring the City of London to global primacy.

Britain in recent years has seemed to be slipping backward. David Cameron, the conservative leader, is an Old Etonian who, in form and function, is a latter-day embodiment of the Tory elite. Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn, similarly, is a throwback to the left-wing, union-cosseted yesterday of his party.

The most hopeful aspect of the Brexit debate is that most young British people seem to be instinctively European. They have grown up in a global economy where people move from job to job and country to country. A June 13 poll by ICM for the Guardian found that 56 percent of voters aged 18 to 34 want to remain in the EU, while just 39 percent favor leaving. By contrast, 55 percent of those over 65 favor withdrawal.

Other surveys make the same point: The older people get in Britain, the more they mistrust the EU. That’s the biggest danger of the pro-Brexit campaign, beyond the economic damage it has risked. It would tie the country’s future to the oldest, most conservative cohort of its population.

The EU leadership in Brussels deserves its bad reputation. Lacking the instruments of real governance, the Eurocrats have nibbled around the edges with rules and regulations that imply a common destiny but leave to others the hard questions, such as border security and fiscal discipline.

Germany sits uneasily atop this shaky enterprise. The Germans are lucky to have a chancellor who, no matter how wealthy and privileged her country may be, still acts like the Lutheran pastor’s daughter who was raised in East Germany. Asked once what was distinctive about Germany, she gave this sturdy, if unlikely, answer: “No other country can build such airtight and beautiful windows.” Her power comes in part from her ability to appear ordinary.

Europe is only beginning its process of change. A senior German official told me a few months ago that the strange thing about the Brexit vote was that “the best case and the worst case are so close together.” What he meant was that Germany understands that Europe’s institutions must change, regardless of whether Britain is in or out.

EU purists may still dream of a tighter federalism, but that would involve a surrender of national power that nobody, least of all the Germans or French, really wants. What’s more likely is a core EU that runs at German speed, and allows the periphery some of the leeway that Cameron won for Britain in the negotiation that preceded the wretched Brexit campaign.

Rather than crying crocodile tears for the old version of the EU, modernizing politicians in Britain and on the continent should be thinking about change. It’s time for “Maggie redux.” Bring on the wrecking ball.

©2016 THE WASHINGTON POST WRITERS GROUP

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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Cotton Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/cotton-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cotton-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/cotton-crisis/#comments Fri, 24 Jun 2016 21:09:30 +0000 Zubeida Mustafa http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145805 By Zubeida Mustafa
Jun 24 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Pakistan’s economy is in grave trouble. According to the Pakistan Economic Survey 2015-16, it failed to meet the growth target of 5.5pc in FY2016. GDP grew by 4.7 pc. This was mainly due to the ‘major setback’ (to use the finance minister’s words) in agriculture.

www.zubeidamustafa.com

www.zubeidamustafa.com

At the heart of the crisis was a massive decline of 27.8pc in cotton production. It should be remembered that cotton is the mainstay of our agriculture and textile industry. The cotton crisis has emerged as a very controversial issue. Well-informed farmers attribute this disaster to the widespread use of genetically modified seeds that were formally introduced in the country in 2010 but were being smuggled since 2005. Now BT cotton (a genetically modified variety) is grown in 88pc of the cotton-cultivated area.

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have been challenged all over the world as some giant seed multinationals have grown phenomenally thanks to their aggressive marketing. If unchecked, they could dominate global agriculture. GM seeds will undermine biodiversity as the manufacturers ensure their monopoly in the seed sector. Being vulnerable to pest attacks, GM crops need pesticides in large quantities that poor farmers cannot afford. It is no coincidence that the manufacturers of these seeds also produce pesticides which account for a big chunk of their revenues.

Farmers are predicting another year of difficulties

Some facts are indisputable. Cotton production has not increased as promised since BT cotton was introduced. The decline is not fully reflected in the data released by the government because it has changed the measure used to determine the output, which is counted in the number of bales. Previously, each cotton bale weighed 176 kilogrammes. Since 2011 it has been reduced to 150kg. Using the old measure we know that cotton production had hit a record figure of 14.6 million bales in 2004. That figure has never been reached again and last year it was less than 9m bales (by the old measure).

The per hectare yield as well as the area of cotton cultivation have been erratic. In FY2012, 2.8m hectares (about seven acres) were cultivated and the yield was 815kg per hectare. In FY2016, these figures were 2.91 hectares with a yield of 587kg per hectare respectively, which means the slight increase in acreage was offset by the lower yield.

The government blames the weather (frequent and excessive rains) and pest attack, mainly bollworms, for the fall in cotton output. In a recent notification, the Punjab government advised farmers to delay planting.

The farmers have another story to tell. They say it is the poor quality of seeds that has led to pest attacks and caused the decline in production. They are predicting another year of crisis. According to one media report this year, many farmers have switched to other crops and the area of cotton cultivation is considerably lower.

In spite of poor results, the government insists on approving GM cotton seeds. Thus in a meeting in February, the National Biosafety Committee (NBC) hastily approved the applications for nearly 100 GM seeds without following prescribed procedures. That is how Monsanto and Dupont were allowed commercialisation of GM corn without large-scale testing and biosafety risk assessment in open fields in Pakistan.

This was reconfirmed by the NBC in another meeting in April on the written orders of the prime minister. This is shocking to say the least. There has been a concerted effort to increase the private sector’s role and space in the seed market. Monsanto, an American biotechnology company, has been a big beneficiary of the changes in the government’s policies. In 2015, the Seeds Act 1976 was changed to “meet the requirements of the modern seed industry”.

Not surprisingly the pressure for change came from the US which wants Pakistan to meet its ‘obligations’ under WTO regulations and create a larger market for private seed producers. Previously, seed manufacturing and its price regulation was in the public sector. Now the private sector — mainly giant biotech companies — has entered the seed market in Pakistan.

WikiLeaks which brought into the open routine exchanges between US diplomatic missions in Pakistan and the State Department in Washington apparently revealed how Monsanto was in the picture in the formulation of cotton policies in the country.

To reject new technologies in a knee-jerk reaction is unwise. But it is worse to accept them indiscriminately without testing them rigorously under local conditions.

The Kissan Board has gone to court to get justice for the farmers. It filed a petition in 2014 challenging the NBC meeting that allowed the commercialisation of BT cotton that year. Its plea was accepted but the government went into appeal and the matter was put on hold. The government has proceeded as usual. Now another case has been filed challenging the government on constitutional grounds and for violation of the Cartagena Protocol. BT’s fate now hinges on the court’s decision.

www.zubeidamustafa.com

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Brits Shouldn’t ‘Brexit’http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/brits-shouldnt-brexit/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=brits-shouldnt-brexit http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/brits-shouldnt-brexit/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 16:53:25 +0000 Editor Manila Times http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145778 By Editor, The Manila Times, Philippines
Jun 23 2016 (Manila Times)

Today the British will vote in their “Brexit” referendum whether to stay in or exit from the European Union.

The United Kingdom applied for the first time to join what was then called the European Economic Community, in 1961. The Brit movers for membership were afraid their country would get politically isolated from Western Europe. At that time the USA’s and its allies’ Cold War with the Soviet Union was still ablaze.

UK’s bid for EEC membership had strong US support but the French Government (with Gen. De Gaulle as President) vetoed it in 1963 and also the second British application in 1967. Only on Jan. 1, 1973 did the UK (along with Denmark and Ireland) get to join the EEC.

At first opposed to EEC membership, the UK Labour Party wanted to renegotiate the membership but settled for a referendum to determine if the people of Britain really wanted to remain in the EEC. In the referendum held in 1975, 67 percent of the Brits voted to remain.

These days, polls show only a slight majority of the British public to be in favor of remaining.

This is because the Brits are doing very well compared to the countries of the EU, whose only solidly rich country is Germany. Europe seems to be in one kind of economic crisis after another.

The problem of refugees flooding into Europe from the Middle East and North Africa has become too much for the EU countries to bear. It has caused anti-immigrant militancy among the poor in nearly every European country. Terrorist ISIS bombings in Paris and Brussels and false-alarm news of new attacks are agitating Europeans, who have lost their former sense of security.

These tensions in the continent have made the anti-Europe side in Britain restive. For decades now they have been calling for their country’s exit from the EU.

Today’s Brexit referendum, if won by the Yes side, would still have to be ratified by the British parliament. The majority and ruling Conservatives would not dare go against the winning public vote.

But for all the mess that Europe is in, it is still in the British people’s best interest to stay in the EU and keep it whole. For if the UK exits it, some other countries, also fed up with having to bear the continent’s troubles and having to share their wealth with the poorer European countries that are always in need of aid, would promptly follow the British lead. Europe would then break up.

The UK would also lose a lot of the economic advantages it has in the continent as an EU member. For one, a lot of the British products that are sold in Europe tariff-free would cost more to EU customers. And it is, despite any cultural protests from Frenchmen, looked up to as the country that is EU’s political leader, and shares EU’s economic leadership with Germany.

It is not true, as Brexit proponents argue, that Britain would become stronger by leaving the EU. It would instead become weaker. And it would begin to face problems in dealing with countries in Europe—as an outsider.

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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Rethinking Fiscal Policy for Global Recoveryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/rethinking-fiscal-policy-for-global-recovery/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rethinking-fiscal-policy-for-global-recovery http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/rethinking-fiscal-policy-for-global-recovery/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 14:42:37 +0000 Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145763 Anis Chowdhury was Professor of Economics, University of Western Sydney, and held various senior United Nations positions in New York and Bangkok. Jomo Kwame Sundaram was UN Assistant Secretary- General for Economic Development.]]>

Anis Chowdhury was Professor of Economics, University of Western Sydney, and held various senior United Nations positions in New York and Bangkok. Jomo Kwame Sundaram was UN Assistant Secretary- General for Economic Development.

By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Jun 23 2016 (IPS)

Global economic recovery is being held hostage by the ideological dogma of the last three and a half decades. After long contributing to neo-liberal conventional wisdom, in its October 2015 World Economic Outlook, the IMF identified the vicious circle undermining global recovery and growth. Low aggregate demand is discouraging investment; slower expected potential growth itself dampens aggregate demand, further limiting investment.

Investment in Europe, especially in crisis-ridden economies, has collapsed sharply despite very low interest-rates. The IMF also noted that prolonged recessions may have a permanent negative effect, not only on trend productivity levels but also on trend productivity growth as well as wage growth that, in turn, sustains low aggregate demand.

The rise of fiscal policy

From the mid-1930s until about the mid-1960s, fiscal policy has played a major role, both in developed and developing countries. The fiscal deficit was the main policy instrument to address the Great Depression of the 1930s and later, to maintain full-employment in developed countries. Deficits and surpluses were adjusted counter-cyclically over business cycles. In his 1936 budget speech, President Roosevelt noted, “the deficit of today … is making possible the surplus of tomorrow.”

Governments in developing countries have played a major role in building infrastructure and providing basic public services such as health-care and education. They often did not have the resources, domestic or foreign, as war-torn Europe had with the Marshall Plan, to rebuild their economies.

Thus, the main way to develop their newly decolonized countries was by running deficits, financed by printing money. This was also the case when the US emerged as a newly independent nation. Alexander Hamilton, the first US Treasury Secretary under President Washington, incurred debt to establish “sound credit”, laying the foundation for a robust future market in US debt.

There was a brief revival of fiscal activism when the 2008-2009 financial crisis hit the global economy. Developed countries responded with large fiscal stimulus packages, in addition to bailing out troubled financial institutions. Major developing countries also put in place carefully designed fiscal stimulus packages that included public infrastructure investment and enhanced social protection measures.

But instead of recognizing that deficits and surpluses should be adjusted counter-cyclically over business cycles rather than being held hostage by financial markets, this moment was soon lost to claims of ‘green shoots of recovery’ once the most influential financial interests had been saved.

The fall of fiscal policy

With the counter-revolution against Keynesian and development economics in the late 1970s and early 1980s, budget deficits became taboo. The fall from grace of fiscal policy followed the ascendancy of market-fundamentalist conservative politics with the election of Margaret Thatcher in the UK and Ronald Reagan in the US.

The conservative distrust of governments favoured rule-based policies to curb discretionary government spending, including the US Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit-control legislation and the EU’s Stability and Growth Pact that set a 60 percent debt-GDP ratio ceiling. In fact, debt is sustainable if government expenditure enhances both growth and productivity. The claim that government deficits will need to be ‘financed’ with higher tax rates in future is spurious as revenues are bound to rise in an expanding economy.

Understanding this requires abandoning the narrow concept of “sound” finance in favour of “functional” finance, which evaluates government finance based on its impact. Thus, for Abba Lerner, “The central idea is that government fiscal policy, its spending and taxing, its borrowing and repayment of loans, its issue of new money and its withdrawal of money, shall all be undertaken with an eye only to the results of these actions on the economy and not to any established traditional doctrine about what is sound or unsound.”

Crowding-out or -in

A lingering concern is financing the deficit. The first recourse for governments is to borrow domestically, raising the spectre of “crowding-out”, i.e. government borrowings driving up interest rates, adversely affecting private investment. This view ignores the consequences (e.g. low profitability, bankruptcies, etc.) of a depressed economy. After all, government action is necessitated, in the first place, by inadequate private spending.

Moreover, the immediate financial implication of expansionary policy action is to augment the cash reserves of private sector banks where government cheques are deposited. This, in turn, increases (net) liquidity if the central bank does not implement offsetting money market operations. Hence, the actual central bank discount rate should decrease, exerting downward pressure on retail interest rates. This should, therefore, encourage, rather than crowd-out private investment.

In its October 2014 World Economic Outlook, the IMF favoured an infrastructure push in the face of low borrowing costs and weak aggregate demand. It also observed that “debt-financed projects could have large output effects without increasing the debt-to-GDP ratio if clearly identified infrastructure needs are met through efficient investment”. Maintaining this favourable view of debt-financed public investment, the IMF’s October 2015 World Economic Outlook asserted that debt-financed public investment in infrastructure, education, health and social protection would boost aggregate demand and productivity.

As outgoing Reserve Bank of Australia governor, Glenn Stevens has pointed out, “the impediments… are not financial. The funding would be available, with long- term interest rates the lowest we have ever seen or are likely to…The impediments are in our decision-making processes and, it seems, in our inability to find a political agreement on how to proceed.”

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What is Missing on the Global Health Front?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/what-is-missing-on-the-global-health-front/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-is-missing-on-the-global-health-front http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/what-is-missing-on-the-global-health-front/#comments Tue, 21 Jun 2016 13:54:49 +0000 Martin Khor http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145722 Martin Khor is the Executive Director of the South Centre.]]>

Martin Khor is the Executive Director of the South Centre.

By Martin Khor
GENEVA, Jun 21 2016 (IPS)

The last World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva (23-28 May) discussed the manifold global health crises that require urgent attention, and adopted resolutions to act on many issues. We are currently facing many global health related challenges, and as such multiple actions must be taken urgently to prevent these crises from boiling over.

Martin Khor

Martin Khor

The WHA is the world’s prime public health event and this year 3,500 delegates from 194 countries took part, including Health Ministers of most countries. World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan gave an overview of some of the successes and further work needed on the global health front.

The good news includes 19,000 fewer children dying every day, 44% drop in maternal mortality, 85% of tuberculosis cases that are successfully cured, and the fastest scale-up of a life-saving treatment in history, with over 15 million people living with HIV now receiving therapy, up from just 690,000 in 2000. As a result, aid for health is now far more effective, and the issue of health has become an investment for stable and equitable societies, not just a drain on resources.

The recent Ebola and Zika outbreaks showed how global health emergencies can develop very quickly. There is a dramatic resurgence of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, which the world is currently not prepared to cope with. Dr. Chan gave three examples of the emerging global health emergencies: climate change, antimicrobial resistance, and the rise of chronic-communicable diseases as the leading causes of death worldwide.

Many of the issues addressed are largely anthropogenic, created by policies that place economic interests above health and environmental concerns. Fossil fuels power economies, medicines for treating chronic conditions are more profitable than a short course of antibiotics, and highly processed foods provide longer term profit than fresh fruits and vegetables.

Unchecked, these emergencies will eventually reach a tipping point and become irreversible and as regards antimicrobial resistance, “we are on the verge of a post-antibiotic era in which common infectious diseases will once again kill.” On moving ahead, Dr. Chan highlighted universal health coverage as an essential aspect of the Sustainable Development Goals. It is the ultimate expression of fairness that ensures no one is left behind, and to provide comprehensive care for all.

A question however, was not covered by Dr Chan in her speech; how can some governments- especially in underdeveloped countries, obtain enough funds to finance the idealistic goal of providing healthcare for their citizens?

The Assembly agreed that WHO set up a new Health Emergencies Programme, enabling it to provide rapid, consistent, and comprehensive support to countries and communities facing or recovering from various emergencies, disease outbreaks, disasters or conflicts.

The WHO has produced a new paper to set up a global stewardship framework to support the development, control and appropriate use of new antimicrobial medicines and diagnostic tools to counter the threat of a global increase in antimicrobial resistance. The Secretariat has made quite a lot of progress, but action on the ground is still slow, in the Asia-Pacific region so far, only six countries have completed their national plans and another five have plans that are being developed.

WHO assistant Director-General, Keiji Fukuda said that focus in the upcoming year will include: making progress on the Global Action Plan (established in 2015), further developing the global stewardship framework, and involving political leaders by meeting in the United Nations headquarters in New York in September.

There were two issues on childhood nutrition that highlighted the need to put health concerns above corporate interests. The first of these issues was childhood and adolescent obesity. In 2014, an estimated 41 million children under 5 years were affected by being overweight or obese, and 48% of them lived in Asia and 25% in Africa.

The Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity recommended the promotion of healthier foods, reducing the consumption of highly processed foods and sugar-sweetened beverages by children and adolescents. It proposed more effective taxation on sugar-sweetened beverages and curbing the marketing of unhealthy foods.

On the second issue, the Assembly welcomed WHO guidance on ending the inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children. According to the guidelines, to support breastfeeding, the marketing of “follow-up formula” and “growing-up milks” targeted for babies aged 6 months to 3 years should be regulated in the same manner as infant formula for babies below 6 months.

On access to medicines and vaccines, the WHA agreed on measures to address the global shortage of medicines and vaccines, including monitoring supply and demand, improving procurement systems and improving affordability through voluntary or compulsory licensing of high-priced medicines.

An interesting and well-attended side event was organised by India on behalf of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) on the effects of free trade agreements on access to medicines. After remarks from the health ministers of these, the main speaker, American law professor Frederick Abbott, spoke about why the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) could make it very difficult for the TPPA members to have access to affordable medicines.

His warning was complemented by the head of UNAIDS Michel Sidibé who estimated that the annual cost of treating 15 million AIDS patients could increase from US$2 to US$150 billion without the availability of generic drugs, costing about US$10,000 per patient annually.

Air pollution and the use of chemicals were other important environmental issues highlighted by the Assembly. Every year, 8 million deaths are attributed to air pollution – 4.3 million indoor and 3.7 million due to outdoor air pollution. The Assembly has also welcomed a new WHO roadmap to respond to the adverse health effects of increasing air pollution.

Since 1.3 million deaths worldwide are caused by exposure to extremely harmful chemicals, among them lead and various pesticides. WHA would like to ensure that the use and production of chemicals is regulated to minimize adverse health and environmental effects by 2020. Some agreed actions include the transfer of expertise, technologies and scientific data, and exchanging good practices to manage chemicals and waste between cooperating countries. WHO will develop a roadmap to meet the 2020 goals and the associated SDG targets.

A controversial issue that has taken two years of negotiations was how WHO should cooperate with non-state actors. The WHA finally adopted the WHO Framework of Engagement with Non-State Actors (FENSA), which provides WHO with policies and procedures to engage with NGOs, private sector entities, philanthropic foundations and academic institutions.

On the one hand, there is the aim to strengthen WHO’s engagement with non-state stakeholders. On the other hand, there is the need for WHO to avoid conflicts of interest that may arise when corporations and their foundations, associations and lobbies wield large and undue influence if they are allowed to get too close to WHO. Many NGOs and several developing countries are concerned about how this corporate influence is undermining WHO’s public health responsibilities, and that FENSA will worsen rather than reverse this trend.

On the health-related Sustainable Development Goals, the Assembly agreed to prioritize universal health coverage; to work with actors outside the health sector to address the social, economic and environmental causes of health problems, including antimicrobial resistance; to expand efforts to address poor maternal and child health, infectious diseases in developing countries; and to put a greater focus on equity within and between countries.

The WHA also adopted many other resolutions on international health regulations including; tobacco control, road traffic deaths and injuries, HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections, Mycetoma, integrated health services, the health workforce, the Global Plan of Action on Violence, Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases, the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health, and healthy ageing.

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Asia’s Rising Prosperity, Climate Change Taking Toll on Food Securityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/asias-rising-prosperity-climate-change-taking-toll-on-food-security/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=asias-rising-prosperity-climate-change-taking-toll-on-food-security http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/asias-rising-prosperity-climate-change-taking-toll-on-food-security/#comments Tue, 21 Jun 2016 10:15:24 +0000 Graham J. Dwyer http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145718 If production stagnates, caloric availability declines & child malnutrition rises to 20% in Asia-Pacific. Credit: ADB

If production stagnates, caloric availability declines & child malnutrition rises to 20% in Asia-Pacific. Credit: ADB

By Graham J. Dwyer
MANILA, Jun 21 2016 (IPS)

Asia’s economic growth over the last decade has been relentless, bringing with it a rising population and an influx of people from the countryside to the cities in search of prosperity. These trends are not expected to abate.

By 2025, the total population of Asia and the Pacific region should reach about 4.4 billion. And over the next 40 years, Asia’s urban population is projected to increase from 1.9 billion to 3.2 billion.

In another significant trend, the middle income population will also grow to about 2 billion by 2050. Such demographic shifts bring benefits, but many problems also—whether providing jobs, services, or a clean environment.

Asia and Pacific is home to the largest numbers of the food and nutrition insecure people in the world, accounting for almost two thirds of the world’s total of 800 million - Mahfuzuddin Ahmed, ADB's Technical Advisor on Rural Development and Food Security
The accompanying rising incomes and rapid urbanization bring about other less obvious pressures, such changes in dietary preferences, which cause a shift toward more land and water intensive meats and foodstuffs.

Food conundrum: increase production, avoid waste

Without a significant increase in food production above current trends, declines in caloric availability and an increase in child malnutrition by up to 20% are anticipated.

“Asia and Pacific is home to the largest numbers of the food and nutrition insecure people in the world, accounting for almost two thirds of the world’s total of 800 million,” says Mahfuzuddin Ahmed, ADB’s Technical Advisor on Rural Development and Food Security.

“The region faces new challenges to produce and access more nutritious and safe food for its growing populations. Thus, achieving food security for all, now and into the future, is at the core of the post-2015 development agenda.”

In this regard, climate change and disaster risks, financing gaps, poor logistics and infrastructure deficits are among the other major constraints to realize the Sustainable Development Goals to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture by 2030.

For example, projections to 2050 for Asia and the Pacific show that with temperatures rising, yields of rice, wheat, and soybeans may decline by 14 per cent-20 [er cent, 32 per cent-44 per cent, and 9%-18%, respectively.

Meanwhile, post-harvest losses account for about 30 per cent of the total harvest in the Asia and Pacific region.

About 42 per cent of fruits and vegetables and up to 30 per cent of grains produced across the region are lost between the farm and the market caused by inadequate infrastructure such as roads, water, power, and market facilities, as well as a lack of post-harvest-facilities such as pack-houses and cool and dry storage facilities; lack of dedicated transport systems for food; and poor quality bulk packaging that result in spillage and damage.

Safe, nutritious, and affordable food for all

It is against this backdrop that the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is hosting a Food Security Forum on June 22-24. Taking the theme Safe, Nutritious, and Affordable Food for All to echo the inclusive nature of global food security goals, the forum will tackle transformations, trends, and future direction from food production to consumption.

At the event, partner institutions, government leaders, private sector champions, civil society organizations, experts, farmers, youth leaders, and development practitioners will discuss strategies, and share experiences and innovations to engineer new approaches and investment while consolidating the existing ones.

Sessions will tackle such major topics as the region’s agriculture transformation challenges, value chains in agribusiness, safe quality and nutrition in food, and a farmers’ roundtable. Books on Water-Saving Rice Technologies in South Asia and Improving Logistics for Perishable Agricultural Products in the People’s Republic of China will be launched.

Apart from the panels, network and partnership events, the forum will also feature a TechnoShow showcasing innovative, clever, and/or state-of-the art agricultural and food processing technologies.

Working for food security

ADB has committed 2 billion dollars annually to meet the rising demand for nutritious, safe, and affordable food in Asia and the Pacific. ADB work recognizes the significant role of smallholder farmers, agribusinesses, connectivity, and value chains in advancing the food security agenda and will prioritize business approaches for sustainable and inclusive agriculture.

But this is not ignoring the need for increased productivity and reduced food losses as well as enhanced food safety, quality and nutrition to meet the growing and evolving demands of the population, while ensuring the improved management and resilience of natural resources and ecosystems.

“ADB’s support to agriculture and natural resources in the future will emphasize investing in innovative and high-level technologies, for which partnership building, experiential learning and knowledge sharing will be crucial,” said Mr. Ahmed.

“To this end, the Food Security Forum aims to be a platform to exchange knowledge and work together for safe, nutritious and affordable food for all.”

 

 

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Unmet Expectationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/unmet-expectations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=unmet-expectations http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/unmet-expectations/#comments Mon, 20 Jun 2016 17:49:58 +0000 Umair Javed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145710 By Umair Javed
Jun 20 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Donald Trump’s rise in America, a wave of pro-Brexit and xenophobic sentiment in the UK, mass demonstrations in France and Brazil, a political crisis in South Africa, communal polarisation in India, and religious zealotry coupled with anti-corruption agitation in Pakistan. On the face of it, there’s very little that connects these disparate events. Each appears unique to a country’s history and its contemporary interaction of domestic and global events.

faccione_However, strip away the details, and the names and faces of the actors involved, and a common theme emerges. At the heart of this decade of political crises, marked by conflict and disruption across the world, is a story of unmet expectations.

In 1962, James Davies published an article in the American Sociological Review titled ‘Towards a theory of revolution’. He borrowed the J-Curve model from non-linear mathematics to develop an understanding of why mass social disruptions, such as revolutions, take place.

His answer was that a period of prolonged prosperity followed by a sharp reversal in fortunes creates a crisis of unfulfilled expectations. By triggering sentiments of relative deprivation amongst upwardly mobile population segments, economic shocks or other exogenous factors (such as war) generate anger towards the established political order. In contemporary times, this order rests in the hands of the state and the political elite.

In a world where it takes little effort to see how the wealthy live, expectations from the state will be high.

In the 54 years since this article was published, we know human beings don’t function as angry automatons. Institutions, politicians, and ideological and cultural issues are very important in determining the scale and outcome of public anger and acquiescence. But perhaps there is a kernel of truth in the story of boiling frustrations.

For the last three decades, deindustrialisation and a complementary shift towards the services sector characterises the economies of many high- and low-income countries. The wake of this transformation has left behind a burgeoning mass of underemployed, semi-skilled labour, ruptured communities, and decaying cities. Over the same period, conservative political elites have capitalised on this crisis by shoring up support using scaremongering tactics and cultural markers such as gender roles, religion, and racial and ethnic identity.

Trump, for example, polls highest in areas, and amongst population segments (such as the white working class), ‘left behind’ by economic transformations of the last three decades. Unsurprisingly, these are the same areas where conservative cultural politics by the Tea Party and other radical fringes ran amok for the last two decades. The outcome? A heady combination of protectionist economic populism with visceral hatred towards racial minorities.

In the UK, a legitimate debate over immigration and a prolonged economic downturn has taken on ugly xenophobic contours. At its core, as John Hariss puts it, the anti-EU, anti-immigration movement is tapping into the frustrations of the precariously perched middle and working classes. Its support is loudest amongst those who have no space in London’s glamorous ‘knowledge economy’ and are now left at the mercy of whimsical, short-term employment contracts, a burdened social welfare system, rising house prices, and an increasingly inaccessible path towards social mobility.

The prosperity-followed-by-apocalypse model doesn’t just hold true for the US and UK. Brazil was jerked out of a decade of relatively egalitarian growth by a slump in commodity and oil prices, thus pushing the economy into recessionary free fall. The result is public anger over government corruption, directed towards the now-suspended president, Dilma Rouseff, and her party. The desire for a way out of relative or absolute deprivation has pushed many into the hands of politicians equally (and in some cases, even more) hollow only because they offer some element of change.

Similarly, Imran Khan and PTI are the prime beneficiaries of sentiments of relative deprivation amo-ngst Pakistan’s urban middle classes. As the heady days of consumption and mobility of Musharraf’s era gave way to expensive oil and incompetent governance under the PPP, anger became the most natural response. Even now, as the economy shuffles towards some semblance of stability, the anger hasn’t completely subsided. In a world where it takes very little effort to see how the wealthy live, and how the rest of the world progresses, expectations from the state will always remain high.

To this point, I’ve focused on unmet material expectations because, historically speaking, these have triggered the greatest unrest. However, unmet cultural and moral expectations are also potent factors for agitation. In India, provoked religious sentiment has led to the Hindutva right-wing asserting itself as a victim of Congress-ite secularism and minority appeasement. They now hold a prime seat at the BJP’s table, and will push the government’s supposed developmental agenda into one that caters to their communal demands as well.

For Pakistan, the biggest threat comes from a combination of material and cultural frustrations. The state pays lip service to its Islamic foundation, yet retains a comparatively secular orientation towards governance. Its existing political elite exhibits no intentions of turning the country into a Sharia-compliant state. However, decades of top-down soft-Islamism and cultural propaganda have resulted in an organic demand for a version of faith that stands proudly and violently on its own.

With fundamentalism and communal conflict rampant, the onus is on political elites and activists to construct an alternative cultural worldview that channels away and dilutes some of the moral anger. Similarly, politicians need to do a far better job of managing expectations by being better at delivering services and also by avoiding making unrealistic promises to the electorate.

So far, the country’s authoritarian history — with its patronage-tied political parties and a largely demoblised, cynical population — has acted as an inadvertent bulwark against mass Islamist mobilisation. Yet without adequate safeguards taken on an urgent footing, there is no guarantee that this ossified condition will persist indefinitely.

The writer is a freelance columnist. umairjaved@lumsalumni.pk
Twitter: @umairjav

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Unfounded Debt Fears Block Economic Recoveryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/unfounded-debt-fears-block-economic-recovery/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=unfounded-debt-fears-block-economic-recovery http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/unfounded-debt-fears-block-economic-recovery/#comments Thu, 16 Jun 2016 13:58:46 +0000 Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145649 Anis Chowdhury was Professor of Economics, University of Western Sydney, and held various senior United Nations positions in New York and Bangkok. Jomo Kwame Sundaram was UN Assistant Secretary General for Economic Development. ]]>

Anis Chowdhury was Professor of Economics, University of Western Sydney, and held various senior United Nations positions in New York and Bangkok. Jomo Kwame Sundaram was UN Assistant Secretary General for Economic Development.

By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Jun 16 2016 (IPS)

Debt anxieties are not new, often fanned by political competition. But so is a double dip recession due to premature deficit reduction. For example, to seek re-election, President Roosevelt backed down from his New Deal in 1937, promising that “a balanced budget [was] on the way”. In 1938, he slashed government spending, and unemployment shot up to 19 per cent.

Deficits and debt

Many countries had huge public debts when World War II ended. Despite such anxieties and calls for drastic spending cuts, governments continued to spend. Had they caved in, Europe would not have been rebuilt so soon. As governments continued with massive expenditure to rebuild their countries, economies grew and the debt burden diminished rapidly with rapid economic growth. Clearly, debt is sustainable if government expenditure enhances both growth and productivity.

When the debate about deficits and public debt was raging during the Great Depression, Evsey Domar, growth theory pioneer, noted, “Opponents of deficit financing often disregard … completely, or imply, without any proof, that income will not rise as fast as the debt… There is something inherently odd about any economy with a continuous stream of investment expenditures and a stationary national income.”

After the 2008-2009 financial meltdown brought many OECD economies to a standstill, there was a brief revival of fiscal activism. Many OECD governments initially responded with large fiscal stimulus packages, while bailing out influential financial institutions. Major developing countries also put in place well designed fiscal stimulus packages including public infrastructure investment and better social protection.

Hence, there were sudden increases in debt/GDP ratios, mainly due to large financial bail-out packages and some fiscal activism. But with the first hints of “green shoots” of recovery from mid-2009, fiscal hawks stepped up their calls for winding back, sounding dire warnings about ballooning deficits. They argued that rapid fiscal consolidation would boost confidence, particularly in the finance sector, creating an expansionary impulse.

Thus, the affected countries undertook rapid fiscal consolidation measures with large cuts in public expenditure, especially in the areas of health, education, social security and infrastructure. Yet, their debt-GDP ratios continue to rise as they struggle to reignite growth. Meanwhile, the IMF has admitted that its initial fiscal consolidation advice was based on erroneous ad-hoc calculations.

Overwhelming recent research findings, including from the IMF, indicate that discretionary counter-cyclical fiscal policy in recessionary periods augments and catalyses aggregate demand, encourages private investment and enhances productivity growth, instead of raising interest rates and crowding-out private spending.

Optimal debt-GDP ratio?

The fixation with a particular debt-GDP ratio lacks any sound basis. The 60 per cent debt-to-GDP ratio, used by the European Commission and the IMF as the upper threshold for fiscal sustainability by 2030, was simply the median pre-crisis ratio for developed countries and the median debt-GDP ratio of EU countries at the time of the Maastricht Treaty. Similarly, the 3 per cent budget deficit rule of the EU happened to be the median budget deficit ratio at the time of the Treaty. None of these ostensible bench-marks imply optimality in any meaningful, economic sense.

Public debt in Japan soared to well over 200 per cent of GDP over two and a half decades of deflation. Yet, interest rates have remained low for many decades. In 1988, Belgium had the highest public debt, and Italy’s debt rose above 100 per cent of GDP during this period. Neither of them experienced spiraling inflation or very high interest rates as ‘austerity hawks’ claim will happen when government fiscal deficits rise. Meanwhile, studies of public finance in the United States do not find any significant relationship between debt-to-GDP ratios and inflation or interest rates during 1946-2008.

However, real interest rates may be adversely impacted by whether the debt is denominated in domestic or foreign currencies. In other words, a sovereign country should have the option to monetize debt. The problem arises when that option does not exist, as with countries in the Euro zone. This is clear from the contrasting experiences of Spain and the UK during the recent rapid public debt build-up.

The UK public debt-GDP ratio was 17 percentage points higher than the Spanish Government debt (89 versus 72 per cent) in 2011. Yet, the yield on Spanish government bonds rose strongly relative to the UK’s from early 2010, suggesting that international bond markets costed Spanish risk much more than UK government bonds.

As a member of a monetary union, Spain does not have control over the currency in which its debt is issued, while UK public debt is mostly in its own currency, as in the US and Japan. Therefore, much of the problem in the Euro zone is not really about high public debt or deficits. Rather, it is rooted in the currency union that limits its members’ policy space with regard to money creation and exchange rate policy. Hence, the only way they can improve what is seen as competitiveness is by cutting wages!

Then and now

Since 2014, even the IMF has changed its stance. In its October 2014 World Economic Outlook, it advised that “debt-financed projects could have large output effects without increasing the debt-to-GDP ratio, if clearly identified infrastructure needs are met through efficient investment”.

There is, of course, one difference between now and the 1930s. The finance sector and rating agencies are much more influential and powerful now than then. Democratically elected governments have become hostage to money-market investors who shift money from one place to another in search of quick profits.

Governments should not be driven by superficial diagnoses of complex economic issues by rating agencies. The record of rating agencies before the 2008 global economic crisis was abysmal, and the US Congress has seriously debated whether they should be prosecuted. Trying to win their confidence is futile, and trying to anticipate them is hazardous, but they nevertheless hold finance ministries and central banks to ransom.

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Brexit and Its Economic Fallouthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/brexit-and-its-economic-fallout/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=brexit-and-its-economic-fallout http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/brexit-and-its-economic-fallout/#comments Wed, 15 Jun 2016 15:33:00 +0000 Abdullah Shibli http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145633 By Dr. Abdullah Shibli
Jun 15 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

The United Kingdom is now in the midst of a Shakespearean dilemma, “to stay or not to stay”. Voters will decide in a referendum on June 23 whether to stay in the European Union or to break the four decades old relationship they forged, i.e. opt for “Brexit” as it is popularly known. If the majority decides to leave, it will have implications for Britain across the spectrums, political, economic, and social. While in the last referendum on this issue in 1975, an overwhelming 68 percent of the electorate had decided to stay, this time the margin will be narrower, one way or the other. Britain’s departure from the EU will also undoubtedly set a bad example for advocates of Customs Union, an economic arrangement of sovereign countries set up to facilitate trade and economic integration through trade.

While there are many issues relating to the current mood of disillusionment with Britain’s ties with EU, they are not all economic. The most important ones are: immigration, excessive EU regulations, budgetary contributions, loss of sovereignty, and EU social policy. However, all of them have economic side-effects, including the non-economic ones, immigration and EU’s regulatory influence. Prima facie, Brexit appears to be a dramatic move; nonetheless most analyses show that the most important long-term impact could be minor in terms of GDP and unemployment rate. As one meta-analysis points out, the decision to leave the EU appears to be mainly a political consideration about sovereignty and self-determination.

From the policymaker’s perspective, the most important lesson is that the forecasts on GDP are very uncertain. Nine out of ten economists surveyed indicate that in the short-run the economy will experience a downward adjustment, but the loss of income is small. But in the long run, there is a potential for greater loss, and the risk of bigger losses is large.

Fortunately, Britain is not in the same shoes as Greece, since the former has its own currency – the pound sterling – and has not embraced the Euro. It has also been doing much better than its EU partners in recent years. However, EU is Britain’s most important trading partner, accounting for half of all UK exports and imports. UK exports to the EU correspond to almost 15 percent of national output (GDP). Eurosceptics, i.e., those who believe that membership in EU is hurting the UK, counter that “membership of the single market imposes too many regulations on Britain in exchange for too little opening of European markets and that Britain’s trade with countries outside Europe would be higher if it left”.

Unfortunately, should Brexit occur, the UK will need to negotiate a new trade relationship with the EU, and outcomes will depend on the terms of the subsequent trade arrangement and the regulatory framework that it adopts once it is free of EU’s regulatory framework. And there are many alternative trade regimes that have been circulating in the research and media world to capture the short and long-term economic impacts in the post-Brexit world. A sampling of these include joining the European Economic Area (EEA, like Norway), entering into a Customs Union (like Turkey), negotiating a Free Trade Agreement (that eliminates export tariff barriers, like Canada), and the Swiss model (continued bilateral negotiation). Some of the core metrics include GDP growth, trade volumes, inflation, household spending, employment, property values, and assets prices.

A quick survey of economic forecasts based on quantitative models indicates that Britain might benefit or lose from breaking up with the EU. However, the most important conclusion seems to be that the magnitude of the economic impact is hard to predict. Any divorce lawyer will tell you that. Most domestic relationships don’t go sour for economic reasons, rather due to social or personality conflicts. But, any breakup affects both parties and other family members. Britain’s mood until June 23 is captured by a song “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by the English punk rock band The Clash written in 1981. The latest opinion poll indicates that there is a greater than even chance that the Brits will decide to leave, unless Prime Minister Cameron can get the voters out in droves.

The writer is an economist, and writes on public policy issues for this newspaper.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Conjuring Growth from the Trans-Pacific Partnership TPPhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/conjuring-growth-from-the-trans-pacific-partnership-tpp/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=conjuring-growth-from-the-trans-pacific-partnership-tpp http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/conjuring-growth-from-the-trans-pacific-partnership-tpp/#comments Thu, 26 May 2016 14:58:50 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145317 Jomo Kwame Sundaram was an Assistant Secretary-General responsible for analysis of economic development in the United Nations system during 2005-2015, and received the 2007 Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought. ]]>

Jomo Kwame Sundaram was an Assistant Secretary-General responsible for analysis of economic development in the United Nations system during 2005-2015, and received the 2007 Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought.

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, May 26 2016 (IPS)

It is now generally agreed that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has served US foreign policy objectives well. For this purpose, the Peterson Institute of International Economics (PIIE) has provided the fig-leaf for the empire’s new clothes with exaggerated projections of supposed growth gains from the TPP.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

The only US government study, by the Economic Research Service of the US Department of Agriculture, also uses a computable general equilibrium (CGE) model to find modest growth gains from TPP tariff reductions. Needless to say, the PIIE studies have nothing to say about the more pessimistic findings of US government analysis.

In a timely update of its 2012 study, the PIIE has conjured up even greater gains from the TPP by claiming more, albeit still modest growth gains. Both PIIE studies claim greater benefits by assuming that the TPP will catalyse much more growth from non-trade measures (NTMs) which will, in turn, trigger foreign direct investment (FDI). They have also resorted to other novel methods to inflate its ostensible benefits.

Modest trade gains

To make the case for the TPP, the PIIE underplays costs and risks, and exaggerates benefits. Very diverse TPP provisions are fed into its economic model as simple cost reductions, with little consideration of downside risks and costs. Although associated costs and risks are not seriously considered, such projections are nonetheless presented as cost-benefit evaluations.

The new PIIE study estimates real income growth due to the TPP over 2015-2030 to average 1.1% for all TPP members, i.e. about 0.06% annually over 15 years, instead of the earlier finding of 0.4% growth over a decade, which remains modest by any standards. While this represents an increase over their earlier projections by about half, it is more than ten times what the USDA-ERS exercise yielded.

Most gains would go to the TPP’s Southeast Asian four (Vietnam 8.1%, Malaysia 7.6%, Brunei 5.9% and Singapore 3.9%), followed by Peru (2.6%), Japan (2.5%) and New Zealand (2.2%). NAFTA members (US, Canada, Mexico, Chile) would only gain 0.6% on average.

The biggest loser is expected to be Thailand (-0.8%), ahead of the ASEAN trio of Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos (collectively -0.4%), with Indonesia and the Philippines only slightly worse off (both -0.1%). Thus, the TPP is likely to jeopardize the future of the ASEAN Economic Community as well as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

Most of the additional growth attributed to the TPP in 2016 is due to revisions of data and assumptions where the devil is in the detail. For instance, despite reduced and delayed tariff and non-tariff liberalization, the new data supposedly yield greater growth gains.

As before, most of their purported gains from the TPP are not from goods trade liberalization, but due to non-tariff barrier reductions and measures promoting services trade. Only 15% of the GDP increase would be due to tariff cuts, whereas non-trade measures (NTMs) account for 85% of total growth attributed to the TPP.

The PIIE and, since January, the World Bank claim other gains, mainly from investment surges from abroad. Much of the benefits projected have been attributed to foreign direct investment (FDI) booms, justified by the assumption that the TPP will place all participating countries in the top 10% of the World Bank’s Doing Business ranking, despite ambiguous evidence of such effects. The studies arbitrarily assume that every dollar of FDI within the TPP bloc would generate additional annual income of 33 cents, divided equally between source and host countries, without any theory, modelling procedure or empirical evidence for this supposition.

Provisions allowing foreign investors to sue governments in private tribunals or undermining national bank regulation, become trade-promoting cost reductions, ignoring the costs and risks of bypassing national regulations and taxation. Again, the huge gains claimed have little, if any, analytical bases in economic theory, past evidence or experience.

By understating crucial costs, projected benefits have been exaggerated. For example, provisions to strengthen, broaden and extend intellectual property rights (IPRs) become simple cost reductions that will increase the trade in services, ignoring impacts on consumers or governments subsidizing the availability of medicines besides the reduced trade in medicines due to higher prices and the prohibitions on importing generics.

Paltry gains

Thus, the studies greatly overstate benefits from the TPP. While most of its claims lack justification, the only quantified benefits consistent with mainstream economic theory and evidence are tariff-related trade benefits that make up a seventh of the projected gains. Even these gains need to be compared against the costs ignored by the study as well as the actual details of the final deal.

Even unadjusted, the gains are small relative to the GDPs of TPP partner economies. Many benefits are mainly one-time gains, with no recurring annual benefit, i.e. they do not raise the economies’ annual growth rates. Also, while projected trade benefits are expected to take some time, the major risks and costs will be more immediate.

Not surprisingly, the TPP goes much further into redefining the role of government than is necessary to facilitate trade. TPP ‘disciplines’ will significantly constrain the policy space needed for governments to accelerate economic development and to protect the public interest.

The unjustified benefits projected by TPP advocates make it all the more critical to consider the nature and scale of costs currently ignored by available modelling exercises. After all, the TPP will impose direct costs, e.g. by extending patents and by blocking generic production and imports.

The TPP’s investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions will enable foreign investors to sue a government in an offshore tribunal if they claim that new regulations reduce their expected future profits, even when such regulations are in the public interest. As foreign investors are already well protected, ISDS provisions are completely unnecessary for the TPP.

Advocates as well as critics of free trade and trade liberalization have criticized inclusion of such non-trade provisions in free trade agreements. Instead of being the regional free trade agreement it is often portrayed as, the TPP seems to be “a managed trade regime that puts corporate interests first”.

Thus, the TPP, offering modest quantifiable benefits from trade liberalization at best, is really the thin edge of a wedge which will undermine the public interest in favour of powerful, often foreign, corporate interests. Net gains for all in TPP countries are a myth. Only a full, careful and proper accounting based on the full text can determine who benefits and who loses.

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The Caracas Crunchhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/the-caracas-crunch/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-caracas-crunch http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/the-caracas-crunch/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 17:37:16 +0000 Mahir Ali http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145303 By Mahir Ali
May 25 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

After Uruguay`s former president José Mujica last week declared that Nicolás Maduro was `mad as a goat`, the latter chose to wear the insult as a badge of honour, announcing at a rally: `Yes, I`m as mad as a goat, it`s true. I`m mad with love for Venezuela, for the Bolivarian revolution, for Chavez and his example.

In other words, he pretty much bore out Mujica`s diagnosis. With most Venezuelans embroiled in a daily struggle to obtain commonplace necessities, amid dire shortages and a rate of inflation purportedly in the vicinity of 500pc (by any measure the highest in the world), whatever remains of the Bolivarian revolution clearly isn`t delivering the goods. And the example of Hugo Chavez, notwithstanding his various flaws, can only be sullied by association with the unsustainable state of affairs in Venezuela today.

Small wonder, then, that even long-standing Chavistas are expressing their disenchantment with Maduro in increasing numbers. As one of them told a foreign correspondent earlier this month, `We voted for Maduro because of a promise we made Chavez, but that promise has expired. Either they solve this problem, or we`re going to have to take to the streets.

A little more than three years af ter Chavez sadly succumbed to cancer, there can be little question that his designated successor`s administration has been an unmitigated disaster. This may not purely be a consequence of poor governance, but the latter has undoubted contributed considerably to the current disarray.

Among oil-producing nations, Venezuela has been worst hit by the precipitous decline in the international price of the commodity.

The failure to diversify is a key culprit here: it was never wise to assume that oil prices would remain high. The energy sector has also been hit by a particularly grievous drought, leading to increasingly common power blackouts and pleas from Maduro that women should relinquish hairdryers for the time being.

A 60-day emergency the president instituted at the start of the year remains in place.

The working week for many government servants has been cut down to two days. There were, meanwhile, huge military exercises last week, amid hints from Maduro that the army would be deployed to maintain law and order.

There has thus far been no indication of military disloyalty despite overtures from the opposition which won a decisive majority in last December`s parliamentary elections amid spiralling popular dismay over the government`s spectacularineffectiveness-butthere can be no guarantee this won`t change, especially if Maduro proves to be stupid enough to contemplate a direct blow against democracy.

He has hinted that parliament can be overridden, amid an opposition effort to curtailMaduro`s six-year term by instituting a recall referendum. Chavez, too, faced such a move, and was able to emerge triumphant from a popular vote. His successor is presumably well aware that he would fail to pull off a similar victory, and his administration apparently is keen to put off a vote until next year, past the halfway mark of Maduro`s presidency, when defeat would merely lead to his replacement by his deputy whereas his loss in a recall referendum this year would automatically lead to a fresh presidential election.

Maduro is doing his ostensible side of polltics no favours by clinging on to power, though. That`s not to suggest that the opposition is a desirable alternative. Many of its components represent forces that resisted Chavez`s policies precisely because they were progressive: they saw nothing advantageous in initiatives to abolish illiteracy or to bring healthcare, with large-scale Cuban assistance, to the favelas where many families had never before encountered a doctor. Theydetested the social programmes that kept Chavez afloat: the beneficiaries of his government`s reforms were sufficiently numerous to guarantee anunprecedented string of electoral successes.

Last December`s result wasn`t so much an anomaly as an indication that something had gone very wrong. And almost everything Maduro has attempted since then merely reinforces that impression. Were he to face up forthwith to a recall referendum and promptly bow out thereafter, the seeds sown during the heyday of Chavismo may well survive to bear fruit in the aftermath of the next inevitable failure of neoliberalism.

Anti-democratic measures, on the other hand, would merely serve to bury whatever remains of the so-called Bolivarian revolution.

The comment by Mujica cited at the outset came in the context of a spat between Maduro and the secretary general of the Organisation of American States, Luis Almagro, Mujica`s formerforeignminister,whomtheVenezuelan leader derided as a traitor and a CIA agent after he warned Maduro against dictatorial tendencies.

The CIA was, no doubt, once keen to depose Chavez and would be delighted to see the back of his successor. And it may well be taking a keen interest in the current goings-on in Caracas, but the fact is that the Maduro administration has effectively dug its own grave.

mahir.dawn@gmail.com

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Rousseff Is (kind of) Gone. What Now?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/rousseff-is-kind-of-gone-what-now/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rousseff-is-kind-of-gone-what-now http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/rousseff-is-kind-of-gone-what-now/#comments Tue, 17 May 2016 15:38:32 +0000 Fernando Cardim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145155 Fernando J. Cardim de Carvalho, economist and professor at the Federal University of Río de Janeiro, ]]>

Fernando J. Cardim de Carvalho, economist and professor at the Federal University of Río de Janeiro,

By Fernando J. Cardim de Carvalho
RIO DE JANEIRO, May 17 2016 (IPS)

As expected and widely predicted- Brazil’s Federal Senate has begun the impeachment process against President Dilma Rousseff. According to Brazilian Law, the president is likely to be suspended for up to six months while arguments are put forth in the Senate, presided over by the Chief Justice. At the end of the proceedings, the president may be acquitted of all charges and returned to power or if convicted and found guilty, be deposed and banned from political activity for eight years.

Fernando J. Cardim de Carvalho

Fernando J. Cardim de Carvalho

Even though the process has just begun, very few expect Rousseff to survive the political upheaval. The overwhelming result of the impeachment vote make her conviction almost certain. Thus, the transfer of power to Vice-President Michel Temer is widely seen as definitive, and who will serve as president until 2018.

What can one expect of Temer’s presidency? The answer seems to be, very little. The best bet is that the political crisis will continue and, if anything, deepen in the following months and years up to the 2018 elections. The deepening economic crisis will likely continue, possibly mitigated by a “natural” cyclical recovery, which is expected to be minimal due to the probable inability of the newly appointed government to reach some degree of political stability.

Much of the political instability may be due to the peculiar nature of the political support behind the new government. Temer is only the nominal leader of the largest political party in the country, Partido do Movimento Democrático Brasileiro (PMDB). He is the nominal leader because PMDB is a federation consisting of regional interest groups not consistently loyal to a central leadership. A party traditionally adept at deal making, it never gives its full support to a government unless it is done with all the regional interests in mind. Temer as president of PMDB has yielded very little effective power over the party as a whole. The first order of business for a government he leads will be to acquire (and to acquire is the exact term) the support of a number of PMDB groups large enough to provide him with sufficient support in Congress.

The difficulties in such political negotiations have been illustrated by the failures of former presidents Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Lula da Silva, besides Rousseff herself. Every president tries to buy the support of the party by involving its national leadership only to discover that the party must negotiate the support of each group regardless of the national leadership.

There are ofcourse other parties that were part of Rousseff’s coalition until the eve of the Senate vote. They are small parties devoid of any political ideology or consistent program, they tend to adhere to any government that can further their own interests. Their commitment to any given government is highly dependent on the likelihood of an administration remaining in power. When the government’s chances of survival deteriorate, it’s demise is often accelerated by mass defections from the above mentioned parties.

In the end, the only difference between the coalition that has been dislodged and the coalition that takes over is the substitution of PSDB for Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) and its satellites. PSDB is as incapable of stabilizing a government coalition as PT was. The “new” political configuration is therefore just as unstable as the one that is being replaced.

Temer’s new cabinet is promising tough liberal economic.The rhetoric is clearly conservative but the only difference with respect to Rousseff’s post-re-election rhetoric is the proposal of new privatizations as means to improve the financial situation of the federal government. The new finance minister (that Lula da Silva wanted Rousseff to nominate for her second term) has announced the need to control the fiscal deficit even though he is likely to be aware that very little can be done in the short or even mid-term. There has been talk of age limits for retirement, about the need to increase tax revenues (albeit without raising the necessary taxes) and cuts to subsidies for businesses which had increased dramatically during Rousseff’s first term in office. The political viability of these proposals is poor and in a conservative coalition is unlikely to yield any positive results.

The government is perhaps likely be helped by the fact that there are many signs that the economy is bottoming out. Once the economy has reached stagnant levels, there are only two results that can follow: the economy may either remain there, and governments will point to the recently acquired “stability”, or it may begin to recover, and governments will celebrate the wisdom of their policies in promoting this “recovery”. There can be no doubt that any such stability or recovery will be celebrated by the political groups in government and its friends, but nothing of substance will really have changed and the chances of resuming growth any time soon remain slim.

At the other end of the spectrum, there may be a heightening of political conflicts led by organized groups like MST and unions, particularly in the public sector, that will test the resolve of the new government. If the government is unsuccessful in its negotiations with them, its tenure may be reduced and a new period of crisis may begin. If the government relies on violent repression, it will only strengthen the charges that it is the product of a right-wing coup-d’état, with local voters and with the international community, which seems to be responding cooly to the new government’s attempts to legitimize the change of guard.

Rousseff was removed from the presidency shortly after her re-election. Despite attempts by her followers to present her as the victim of a right-wing conspiracy, the facts suggest that she was largely, if not exclusively, responsible for her downfall, as has been argued in earlier posts on this site. The new government will struggle with problems that are very similar to the ones that plagued Rousseff’s first year-and-a-half of her second term. Temer’s chances of success are exceedingly slim, the political crisis will almost certainly continue, and perhaps, deepen, despite any political advantages that may be provided by the ailing economy.

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OPINION: Fear Is not a Good Counsellorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/opinion-fear-is-not-a-good-counsellor/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-fear-is-not-a-good-counsellor http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/opinion-fear-is-not-a-good-counsellor/#comments Mon, 16 May 2016 15:27:46 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145135 Roberto Savio, founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News.]]>

Roberto Savio, founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News.

By Roberto Savio
ROME, May 16 2016 (IPS)

A new spectre is haunting the world. It is not the spectre of communism, as Marx’s Manifesto famously proclaimed. It is the spectre of fear, which has increasingly become the rationale behind politics. And, as the old proverb says, fear is not a good counselor.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

Let us take, for example, the last elections in the Philippines. In a country where the of memory of the Marcos dictatorship are still relatively recent (Marcos was forced by a popular revolution to quit in 1986), people have elected by a large margin as their president Rodrigo Duterte, who made his campaign motto: “Let us kill them all”. He was referring to criminals, thieves, drug dealers and others whom he prosecuted using paramilitary gangs, when he was mayor of Davao City. In his campaign, he said that once president he would kill some of them himself. The outgoing President, Benigno S. Aquino III, tried to stop him, saying that was tantamount to return to the dictatorship of Ferdinando Marcos. He asked the other candidates to unite to defeat Duterte, but nobody agreed.

Despite strong economic growth, the Philippines still has a high level of poverty and unemployment, a raging war in the southern part of the country against insurgents and kidnapping gangs. Polls found that there was a general sense of fear: from those unemployed and looking for work, to those who were already working but were concerned with being able to keep their jobs. It was generally believed that this very sense of uncertainty in the population was an important element in the final vote.

On the other side of the world, in Brazil, President Dilma Roussef, elected less than two years ago by 50 million voters, has been deposed by the Congress. She has not been accused of stealing, (in a giant corruption scandal), but of falsifying the budget, a practice commonly used everywhere. A surveyby a specialized Brazilian firm, found that the hundreds of thousands of people who took to the streets calling for her impeachment, were from the middle class, and they knew that over 50 percent of parliamentary Deputees and Senators voting for her impeachment were under criminal investigation, and for far worse crimes than falsifying a budget. While the glue uniting the demonstrators was to eradicate corruption (though Rousseff has not been accused of this), citizens were upset by the growing economic crisis, which has put Brazil in a dramatic situation, where the government is incapable of facing the crisis.

It is important to know that the Workers Party (PT) under the Presidency of Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, has lifted 30 millions from poverty into middle class. Those millions fear that they will go back to where they come from, and are the large majority of those who have taken to the streets. What is impressive is that another poll found that close to 32 percent of the demonstrators were actually dreaming of the period under the military regime,( 1964-1985) when order was guaranteed.

Looking now at the current situation in the United States,a country that that many consider ‘the’ example of democracy, the last book from two noted social scientists, John Hibbing and Elizabeth Theiss-Morse, “Stealth Democracy”, uses results from a Gallup poll carried out in 1998, and updates it today. Incredibly, a surprising number of Americans dislike the messiness of democracy. Sixty percent of respondents believed that government would “run better if decisions were run like a business”. Thirty-two percent were convinced that the US government would “run better if decisions were left up to successful business people”, 31 percent believed it would run better if decisions were instead left to “non-elected experts”.

Some time ago, the NY Times published the results of a striking poll, where one third of respondents would have accepted a military government, if this were more efficient. The two authors think that those data are a good explanation for Trump’s success. But they also concur that the main support base for Donald Trump comes from people that feel that they have been left behind by the system and have fears for the future.

No wonder: the American middle class has shrunk by less than 50 percent of the adult population, compared with 61 percent at the end of the 1960. The Pew Research Centre, together with the Financial Times, has come to a startling conclusion. Society splinters, as the bedrock of post-war economy is “hollowed out” – the American middle class has shrunk by half. For the first time, those in lower and upper incomes households outnumbered those in the middle class. Just to give an example, the number of adults in the upper two tiers has grown by 7.8 million, while those in the middle class by 3 million. Those in the lower two tiers, increased by 6.8 million. In this trend, the most important wedge has been education. Those with a university education were eight times likelier to live in the upper income tiers, than adults who did not finish high school, and twice as likely as an adult who has only a high school diploma. Therefore, those who cannot afford higher education are now becoming excluded from a successful labour market. Many who work in low paying jobs, do not earn enough for a normal living.

Let us now go to Europe. The only country that has made a study about what is happening to its middle class is Spain: but it is certainly representative of many countries in Europe. Between 2007 and 2013, (the years of the great recession, from which Europe has not yet escapted), the lower class grow from 26,6 percent of the population, to 38.5 percent. A study from the Foundation BBVA has found three essential trends: 1) income per capita and for families has now reverted to levels not seen since the end of the last century; 2) the distribution of income has become worsened, increasing economic inequity; and 3) the unstoppable increase of this inequality combined with the decline in income” has created situations of poverty and social exclusion that, a few years ago, appeared to have disappeared from our society”.

In China, the middle class is frantically trying to place savings abroad; China has lifted 600 million people out of poverty but these same people are obviously worried about slide backwards again. The Chinese economy is in the middle of a change of economic model, from the export to the internal market. This is accompanied by the closure of many inefficient factories and companies, just the beginning of a radical process. Individuals and companies have moved about 1 trillion dollarsout of the country in the last year and a half. Economic insecurity adds to the list of daily worries which include pollution, tainted food and water, millions of faulty vaccines, the lack of a real retirement system, coupled with the lack of medical support. Social media now carry articles on “the anxiety of the middle class”, “will the middle class become the new poor?”. The Financial Times found that 45.5 percent of middle income earners wanted to take at least 10 percent of their savings abroad, and another 29 percent has already done so. In 2014, 76.089 Chinese were awarded permanent residency coupled with solid financial requirements, compared with 4.291 the previous year. In the 2014-15 scholastic year, 304 040 Chinese were studying in the US, compared with 110 000 in 2011-12. Meanwhile, according to official figures, there were over 850 000 public demonstrations last year.

All economists agree that we are entering into a post-industrial world, where the share of labour in value-added to products is going to continue to diminish. Automation will rise from the present 12 percent of industrial production, to 40 percent within ten years. The total number of refugees is now close to 20 million, according to the United Nations and will keep growing. The giant fire in Canada, that almost destroyed an entire town, is one of the many sign of climate change. Newspapers in every country devote growing space to corruption, the Panama Papers, youth unemployment, and to the threat of terrorism, just to quote a few elements that lead people to feel fearful. Therefore, the Trump, the Dutertes, the Le Pens, the Erdogans are a mechanic reaction to fear. But is fear a good counsellor?

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The Real Heresy of London’s New Mayor Is that He Is a Liverpool Fan?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/the-real-heresy-of-londons-new-mayor-is-that-he-is-a-liverpool-fan/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-real-heresy-of-londons-new-mayor-is-that-he-is-a-liverpool-fan http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/the-real-heresy-of-londons-new-mayor-is-that-he-is-a-liverpool-fan/#comments Mon, 16 May 2016 14:56:36 +0000 Farhana Haque Rahman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145133 By Farhana Haque Rahman, Director General, Inter Press Service
ROME, May 16 2016 (IPS)

Sadiq Khan is not just the new mayor of London, but happens to have individually won more votes than any other politician in British history.

Prime ministers and members of Parliament run in their home districts, where the total number of ballots are fewer.

Farhana Haque Rahman

Farhana Haque Rahman

Municipal elections don’t always draw global interest, but London is London, and what the world’s pundits and media has said, and as a result what the bulk of public opinion has heard, is that Mr. Khan is a Muslim, born to a family whose ancestral roots are in Pakistan. The general reaction to a Muslim mayor of London is, thankfully, one of praise for the city’s cosmopolitan spirit and tolerance. Abroad, the tone has been one of great respect, with a few spoonfuls of feigned envy.

Other points could have been made about a vote in which the Labour Party, which last won the general elections 11 years ago, dislodged the Conservatives in the U.K.’s largest city. There’s plenty to muse over the fact that Mr. Khan does not appear entirely on the same page as Jeremy Corbyn, Labour’s new national leader. And then there’s the detail about how Mr. Khan grew up in council housing to parents who worked as a bus driver and a seamstress, went on to become a lawyer and a member of Parliament, and whose victory speech included the assertion that: “I want every single Londoner to get the opportunities that our city gave to me and my family.”

Or there are the photographs, now viral and appearing in the Times of India, of Mr. Khan visiting the Shri Swaminarayan temple in Neasden, wearing a flower garland and with a red bindi dot on his forehead. How frequent are such interdenominational visits in the rest of the world?

On top of that, Mr. Khan voted for the Same-Sex Marriage act, for which he was subject to menacing fatwas from local Islamic clergy. As noted by an editorial in Dawn, Pakistan’s oldest newspaper: “The plain truth is that Sadiq Khan would not have survived in Pakistan, not as a Muslim and not as a non-Muslim.”

Why, in short, does it even register what faith London’s new mayor may profess? One might add that saying “Muslim” is not very informative, given the multiplicity of interpretation of Islam.

Perhaps it should be made standard practice to emphatically mention the religions adhered to by all public figures. That could get difficult. Was Spinoza, the philosopher, a Jew? It’s widely said he was but he was excommunicated in no uncertain terms. Or what about George W. Bush? He was brought up Episcopal but converted to Methodism – does that explain some of his political views? Or Angela Merkel, the one major politician to have openly declared that she is an atheist. Should that adjective be mentioned every time she is?

While such identity tags may carry useful information, they are all divisive by nature. That may be important, as many wars have been fought in the name of religion. But Mr. Khan doesn’t seem interested in fighting any such battles.

And he was baited, notably by the billionaire Conservative candidate he battled, Zac Goldsmith, whose campaign sought out “Hindu-sounding surnames” for a direct-mail effort aimed at sparking fear of Islam. Some say Zac is Jewish, although his mother was an Anglo-Irish aristocrat. Other politicians have mentioned their religion; Ed Miliband said he wanted to be Britain’s first Jewish prime minister. Others say he can’t, as Benjamin Disraeli held the post in the 19th century. Disraeli, however, was a baptized and practising Anglican. More importantly, Miliband didn’t become prime minister at all.

There is a feel-good sentiment for many when someone from a minority group wins an election. The U.S. media duly noted recently when elections in Hawaii sent Mazie Hironi, a Japanese-born woman who practises the Jodo Shinshu strand of Buddhism, to the Senate and Tulsi Gabbard, to Congress. Gabbard, born to a Samoan Catholic father , a veteran who served in Iraq, practises Hinduism, a religion to which her mother converted. Muslim, Buddhist and Sikh men have held elected office in Washington for more than half a century.

It’s probably mostly benign in intent, spun by the chattering class in hopes of sounding modern and convincing the indigenous masses to get with the program. But maybe not. Consider Barack Obama, who is identified far more by the colour of his absent father’s skin than his Kansas-born mother’s. His religion is regularly called into question, along with his birth certificate and anything his adversaries can latch onto.

Hailing Mr. Khan’s Islamic faith may begin as well-meaning but degrades over time into something more sinister. IPS’ founder Roberto Savio recently wrote an eloquent warning of how Islamophobia is used as a political tool. His point is that it is a proxy for xenophobia, an old propaganda trick. But that’s just it: London’s new mayor is guilty of numerous offences he’s a Liverpool fan, for example, and admits that some of his campaign staff had been born in Yorkshire – but he is not a foreigner.

Immigration exists, and is obviously on people’s minds, not only in the affluent West. But it is rarely religion that is the worry; language barriers, unemployment and other forces – including kinship networks are more likely the reason for confusion and fear. Indeed, the U.K. Electoral Commission published a report in 2015 looking at why some communities – Pakistani and Bangladeshi in particular – might be vulnerable to electoral fraud due to internal patriarchal cultural patterns. Such situations are cause for concern, but instead of coded dog-whistling to stoke individual and collective phobias – one case in London involved a very prominent conservative intentionally failing to distinguish between “Islamic state” and “an Islamic state” — public chastising of those who seek to exploit them are in order.

That’s especially the case with highly multicultural populations, and not just in London. Hamtramck, a township near Detroit, Michigan, used to be 90% Polish and as of this year has a majority-Muslim city council – with stronger policing being high on the municipal wish list. But the population no longer has a dominant ethnicity, with the two largest groups, Bangladeshis and Yemenis, accounting for less than half the formerly dominant Poles once did and more than 30 languages are spoken in local schools. The Muslim call to prayer is broadcast from public loudspeakers, but that decision was made almost 15 years ago in a unanimous vote after a compromise was reached on when the noise could be made.

It was another politician from a faraway state– of Asian origin, for the record – who referred to the town as a hotbed of radicalism that other faraway people fear.

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