When all Political Leaders and Their Bankers Went to Brussels – Paul Krugman Went To Reykjavik In Order To Find True Wisdom – Of How To Allow Banks To Fail When They Commit Insolvency. The Verdict – Iceland did Better then Greece or Latvia.
Paul Krugman from REYKJAVIK, Iceland, October 27, 2011.
The Path Not Taken.
Financial markets are cheering the deal that emerged from Brussels early Thursday morning. Indeed, relative to what could have happened — an acrimonious failure to agree on anything — the fact that European leaders agreed on something, however vague the details and however inadequate it may prove, is a positive development.
But it’s worth stepping back to look at the larger picture, namely the abject failure of an economic doctrine — a doctrine that has inflicted huge damage both in Europe and in the United States.
The doctrine in question amounts to the assertion that, in the aftermath of a financial crisis, banks must be bailed out but the general public must pay the price. So a crisis brought on by deregulation becomes a reason to move even further to the right; a time of mass unemployment, instead of spurring public efforts to create jobs, becomes an era of austerity, in which government spending and social programs are slashed.
This doctrine was sold both with claims that there was no alternative — that both bailouts and spending cuts were necessary to satisfy financial markets — and with claims that fiscal austerity would actually create jobs. The idea was that spending cuts would make consumers and businesses more confident. And this confidence would supposedly stimulate private spending, more than offsetting the depressing effects of government cutbacks.
Some economists weren’t convinced. One caustic critic referred to claims about the expansionary effects of austerity as amounting to belief in the “confidence fairy.” O.K., that was me.
But the doctrine has, nonetheless, been extremely influential. Expansionary austerity, in particular, has been championed both by Republicans in Congress and by the European Central Bank, which last year urged all European governments — not just those in fiscal distress — to engage in “fiscal consolidation.”
And when David Cameron became Britain’s prime minster last year, he immediately embarked on a program of spending cuts in the belief that this would actually boost the economy — a decision that was greeted with fawning praise by many American pundits.
Now, however, the results are in, and the picture isn’t pretty. Greece has been pushed by its austerity measures into an ever-deepening slump — and that slump, not lack of effort on the part of the Greek government, was the reason a classified report to European leaders concluded last week that the existing program there was unworkable. Britain’s economy has stalled under the impact of austerity, and confidence from both businesses and consumers has slumped, not soared.
Maybe the most telling thing is what now passes for a success story. A few months ago various pundits began hailing the achievements of Latvia, which in the aftermath of a terrible recession, nonetheless, managed to reduce its budget deficit and convince markets that it was fiscally sound. That was, indeed, impressive, but it came at the cost of 16 percent unemployment and an economy that, while finally growing, is still 18 percent smaller than it was before the crisis.
So bailing out the banks while punishing workers is not, in fact, a recipe for prosperity. But was there any alternative?
Well, that’s why I’m in Iceland, attending a conference about the country that did something different.
If you’ve been reading accounts of the financial crisis, or watching film treatments like the excellent “Inside Job,” you know that Iceland was supposed to be the ultimate economic disaster story: its runaway bankers saddled the country with huge debts and seemed to leave the nation in a hopeless position.
But a funny thing happened on the way to economic Armageddon: Iceland’s very desperation made conventional behavior impossible, freeing the nation to break the rules. Where everyone else bailed out the bankers and made the public pay the price, Iceland let the banks go bust and actually expanded its social safety net. Where everyone else was fixated on trying to placate international investors, Iceland imposed temporary controls on the movement of capital to give itself room to maneuver.
So how’s it going? Iceland hasn’t avoided major economic damage or a significant drop in living standards. But it has managed to limit both the rise in unemployment and the suffering of the most vulnerable; the social safety net has survived intact, as has the basic decency of its society. “Things could have been a lot worse” may not be the most stirring of slogans, but when everyone expected utter disaster, it amounts to a policy triumph.
And there’s a lesson here for the rest of us: The suffering that so many of our citizens are facing is unnecessary. If this is a time of incredible pain and a much harsher society, that was a choice. It didn’t and doesn’t have to be this way.
Summer days in Vienna and life is fun – so former Vice Chancellor from the OEVP and Women’s Minister, Member of the Parliament, Ms. Maria Rauch-Kallat decided that time has come to change the National Anthem which in one of its lines says “Homeland of Great Sons” – what about daughters, she asked? Surely she was not the first to asks this, but always with so much else one has to worry about – nobody did stake out a position on this.
Ms. Rauch-Kallat persisted and her party managed to get the Parliament vote and these days an honored singer Ms. Ildiko Raimondi has sung three variations on this theme: “Homeland Great Daughters, Sons” or “Homeland Great Daughters and Sons” or “Great Daughters, Great Sons.” The verdict is that when Ms. Raimondi sings it is all great no matter what she says – so now the debate will continue after the people will listen to the U-tube presentations.
Why do we write about this?
Because this sort of public discussion makes people not notice that Austria has extended a friendly hand to some not so nice regimes – just so that there is some benefit for Austria in oil terms while some other European Nations or the US may shun doing so at this time – and that is one of our main interests as our readers know.
So what am I talking about?
First there was the issue of Mr. Rakhat Aliyev former Ambassador of Kazakhstan and former son in law of Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nasarbajew. The accusation is that he was involved in the abduction, extortion, and the killing of two bank directors from Kazakhstan. This happened in 2008 but the bodies were found only May 2011. The families of those killed have an Austrian lawyer – Gabriel Lansky – and he asks how is it that Aliyev lived peacefully in Austria after his former father in law fired him. What are the personal problems between the two? Whom were the Austrians owing a favor In the meantime Aliyev moved out of reach to Malta – he says it is all fabricated against him.
Then exploded the Lithuanian problem that pits now all three former Soviet Baltic Republic against Austria. It all started with a KGB murderer – Michail Golovatov – against whom was an international hold order, passing through the Vienna airport. He was correctly arrested but the Austrians did not wait to get the details of the order against him translated into German from the original – presumably Lithuanian – and let him continue to Russia. Lithuania, fellow members in the EU, withdrew their Ambassador from Vienna – the other two Baltic EU members – Latvia and Estonia are following same protest – but Austria’s Foreign Minister who is also Minister for Inter-European Affairs insists that the border people dealt correctly by not waiting to see the documents. Was this so that Austria avoids a confrontation with Russia, like it avoided confrontation with Kazakhstan in the previous case.
Now comes a third case – a tour of two Sudanese Ministers - Ali Ahmed Karti, Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Sudan and Yahia Hussain, State Minister for International Cooperation of the Republic of Sudan, that came to campaign for better relations with Austria after the split-of with South Sudan. The word oil was all over, and it is about the exports via Port Sudan. The problem that this was the wrong Sudan – it was the remaining North Sudan that has just lost to independence of South Sudan which has 60% of the oil and is much better advised to figure out its own pipeline to places like Djibouti, Mombasa, or some better located terminal in between. After all – South Sudan’s new allies will be to the East and West rather then to the North. Austria’s OEMV oil company will be in the running, like it is in relations with the States that were part of the former Soviet Union. Will Austria now run after the oil in complete disregard of who the partners are and what sort of behavior one can expect from them? Does Austria attribute importance to the concept of “Responsibility to Protect” – the all important R2P that asks States to act responsibly towards their own citizens?
To top all of this, an opposition leader Heinz-Christian Strache, a follower of Joerg Haider in the Austrian Freedom Party (FPOE) sends another party official, David Lasar, to meet right now with a son of Gaddafi – with whom and with Gaddafi’s oil-money, that party has long standing relationships. The argument was that they try to bring about peace – we ask for whom?
So, this is a little comment about weighty issues we see and do not like.
17 States of Europe, starting October 8, 2010, will be part of an ongoing Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers covering pollutants to air, soil and water, from industry, traffic, agriculture and other enterprises. Surprise – it requires also data on Green-house Gasses.
New pact to let European public track pollutants.
The 17 states that have ratified the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers are: Albania, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland. The European Commission is also a party.
GENEVA (Reuters) – Friday, July 2, 2010 – European citizens will be able to find out what dangerous substances are emitted in their neighborhoods under an environmental treaty to go into effect in 17 countries in October, the United Nations said on Friday.
Participating states will have to issue public inventories of major pollutants that their industries, traffic, agriculture and enterprises spew into the air, soil and water, including greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.
Some 86 categories of substances — ranging from mercury and other heavy metals, benzine, asbestos, pesticides including DDT, and dioxins — are covered under the pact.
“These inventories are made available to the public over the Internet and generally also through a downloadable map that helps people identify major pollutants that are traveling through their neighborhoods to discover what is in their backyard …,” Michael Stanley-Jones, an environmental expert at the U.N. Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), told reporters.
“It doesn’t cover all chemicals, but it does cover the major releases of chemicals,” he said.
The pact, signed in 2003 by 36 countries, enters into force on October 8 after being ratified recently by a 17th country (France), according to the Geneva-based agency. It is open to all U.N. member states for ratification.
“It is truly a global instrument, part of a global movement initiated in the 1980s after the major accidents in Bhopal and Chernobyl,” said Stanley-Jones.
A catastrophic industrial accident in central India killed nearly 8,000 people in 1984 when tons of toxic gas leaked from a pesticide plant of Union Carbide, a subsidiary of Dow Chemical Co, the largest U.S. chemical maker.
The Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine in 1986, the world’s worst civil nuclear accident, sent radiation over most of Europe.
The protocol to the 2001 Aarhus Convention enables citizens to voice concern over pollution to industry or regulators.
“As the major greenhouse gas pollutants are included in the protocol, this will give decision-makers and the public powerful new tools for identifying the major industrial sources of greenhouse gas emissions,” Stanley-Jones said.
“Major exceptions are for national security (facilities) and also the nuclear industry — radioactive substances are not covered by the protocol,” he said, noting that countries may add further substances and facilities to their national registers.
Countries outside of Europe, including Chile and Mexico, have developed their own registers and China’s industrial region of Shanghai is also drawing one up, according to the expert.
The 17 states that have ratified the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers are: Albania, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland. The European Commission is also a party.
New at www.wdev.eu – The World Economy & Development site:
The Baltic Future of Greece. Likely consequences of IMF and EU conditionality
Greece: A European Crisis Needs European Solutions. Open letter to European policymakers
While The US GOP Plays at Presidential Games – Europe Faces A Chinese Economic Invasion (see Chinese Airline Hainan Attempting to Buy Brussels Charleroi Airport and Brussels Airlines) and Russia’s Troops Invasions of Georgia and The Ukraine (Try a New State of Crimea for the Russian Naval Base at Sevastopol); Travels by Oil’s Cheney Are Not The US Policy That Europe Is Waiting For. Why Not Try At This Time Also US Disengagement From Oil?
Chinese company wants to buy Brussels Airlines and its Airport.
But shareholders in Brussels Airlines believe the carrier is worth at least â‚¬200 million. Brussels Airlines is the heir to the bankrupt Sabena, with a 30 percent share having been taken over in 2006 by Richard Branson’s Virgin Express.
Hainan’s interest in Brussels Airlines is fortified by its bid for Charleroi airport, a low-cost hub 46 km south of the Belgian capital.
The newspaper draws a comparison with the aid offered by the Charleroi airport and the Walloon region to the Irish carrier Ryanair, aid deemed illegal by the European Commission in 2004.
La Libre Belgique reported that the contract involved some â‚¬400,000 being payed to Hainan for “marketing support” and â‚¬200,000 for language training for the pilots of the company. Only â‚¬900,000 were allocated to promoting the region in China, the newspaper says.
[Comment / Opinion on EUobserver] After Georgia: is Ukraine next?
EUOBSERVER / COMMENT - The war in Georgia began by exposing the security vacuum in the surrounding region. Now it has claimed its first collateral victim, after the fall of the Ukrainian government on 2 September.
The crisis has been brewing over the summer recess, but came to a head in late August after President Yushchenko’s administration accused Prime Minister Tymoshenko of trading her relative silence over Georgia for Russian support in a campaign to supplant him as president.
Ukraine president Viktor Yushchenko – the 2004 Orange Revolution feels a long time ago (Photo: timoshenko.com.ua)
Many Ukrainians now hear domestic echoes of the lead-up to war in Georgia. Ukraine has its own potentially separatist region in Crimea, and the country’s Russian minority numbers some 8.3 million (the largest minority in Europe).
Russia is Stationing Its Black Sea Fleet in Crimea (now the Ukraine) Since 1783; It Has Also Other Claims On Ukraine Territory. What Stand Should The EU Take at Meetings September 5 and 9, 2008? Are They Ready to a Georgia-Type Situation When Backing The Ukraine? Was The UN Involved In Post-Independence Aid to Georgia’s Leaders? Has The UN Done For Once Under-the-Table Positive Backbone Strengthening Charity?
EU – save Ukraine from Russia, The European Foreign Policy Council (ECFR) NGO says.
Philippa Runner, from Brussels for the EUobserver, August 25, 2008.
The European Union should formally recognise Ukraine’s right to join the EU and offer it a “solidarity clause” to help prevent Russia from undermining Kiev’s pro-democratic government in the wake of the Georgia conflict, a European foreign affairs think-tank has said.
“The next focal point for security tensions – although not for war – might be Ukraine,” the European Foreign Policy Council (ECFR) warned in a flash report on Monday (25 August), urging Brussels to make a strong show of friendship with Ukraine at an EU foreign ministers’ meeting on 5 September and the EU-Ukraine summit on 9 September.
Russian cruiser – the Black Sea fleet has been stationed in Crimea since 1783.
In the “mid-term,” the ECFR advised the EU to make a political declaration endorsing Ukraine’s EU perspective, draft a road-map for a visa-free travel deal, and help Ukraine to ready itself for NATO membership and the ejection of Russia’s Black Sea fleet from its old home in Crimea.
www.SustainabiliTank.info thinks this is a very raw idea – not even half backed. We have seen Sevastopol and neighboring towns and waters. They are filled with old and newer Russian warships and the people in the towns are mainly Russian. Talking of the people – also in the Eastern part of Ukraine most people are Russian transplants, they speak Russian and feel they want to be part of Russia. We said this many times – to save Ukraine from Russia, the solution is an amicable divorce – so the best the EU could do is to advise the Ukraine to go for their own good to a marriage/divorce councillor and promise them the EU membership if they agree to severance from some of the heavily Russian territories. Surely, the EU can say to the Russian Prime-Minister that moving in with force will be dealt with in economic terms, but we all know that if ,and when, these statements are put to test, the EU will not go to war because of the Ukraine. Further, in the Ukraine case there is not even an argument like we had for Ossetia, where we said that if one opts for independence – this should lead to an Ossetia State that includes both – South and North Ossetia. There is no similar condition in the case of The Ukraine.}
The ECFR study sees Russia’s assault on Georgia as part of a wider plan to rebuild the old Soviet sphere of influence, noting that some pro-Kremlin analysts such as Sergei Markov recently floated the idea of a Russia-led “East European Union,” which would mimic EU integration and include countries such as Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Turkey.
Russia-Ukraine tensions flared in recent weeks after Moscow accused Kiev of supplying arms to Georgia, and Kiev tried to limit Russia’s use of its Crimea-stationed warships against Georgia.
Inside Ukraine, pro-western President Viktor Yushchenko’s senior aide, Andriy Kyslynskiy, last week accused Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko of striking a secret deal with the Kremlin in return for Russia’s support when she runs in the next Ukrainian presidential elections in 2010.
Mr Kyslynskiy also said political “interference” by pro-Kremlin elements in the Ukrainian establishment has reached levels unseen since the run-up to the 2004 Orange Revolution, adding that Russian intelligence is funding and steering Crimean separatist groups.
Some 60 percent of the 2 million people who live in Crimea are ethnically Russian, hundreds of thousands of whom secretly hold Russian passports, the ECFR says.
Crimea was historically Russian and has been home to the Black Sea fleet since 1783. It became part of Ukraine when Ukraine won independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, with the Russian fleet set to leave by 2017 under a bilateral deal.
In the wider Ukraine, about 25 percent of the 50 million-strong population are Russophone, most of whom live in the east of the country and many of whom oppose Ukraine’s integration with NATO and the EU.
Warning shots already fired:
Georgian rebels in Abkhazia seek greater EU recognition.
Sukhumi, the capital of Abkhazia, on the Black Sea – is a once a popular holiday spot for Russian elite.
The Georgian breakaway region of Abkhazia is keen to get EU recognition as an independent country, after the Russian parliament passed a resolution urging the Russian president to endorse Georgian rebels’ ambitions of statehood.
“We are not interested in only Russia recognising us,” Abkhaz deputy foreign minister, Maxim Gunjia, told EUobserver on Monday (25 August), adding that he expects Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to shortly back the pro-independence vote by Russian MPs.
“We want the European Union and all states to recognise our independence. This is a very positive moment for the EU – it could follow Russia’s example and also recognise Abkhazia. It is the only way to preserve stability and peace in the region.”
“We recognise that full recognition is a very big demand of Abkhazia for the EU at the moment,” Mr Gunja added, indicating that Abkhazia would also be interested in other ways of increasing its presence on the international stage.
“The EU could instead give a voice to Abkhazia in various European forums and institutions,” he said. “Only Georgia is invited to such forums while discussing the Caucasus, which is why the information the EU is receiving is biased, and why the conflict became possible.”
The lower house and the upper house of the Russian parliament on Monday both unanimously voted through a resolution urging Mr Medvedev to recognise Abkhazia and a second Georgian rebel territory, South Ossetia, as independent states.
The resolution has a largely symbolic value so far, as the legal decision resides solely with the Russian president, with some western experts doubting the Kremlin will follow through.
“The game is completely open, but it would be much more reasonable for Medvedev not to do so. If he doesn’t, he holds onto a very powerful bargaining chip with regards to the EU and US, and Georgia itself,” conflict prevention think-tank, the International Crisis Group (ICG), analyst, Alain Deletroz, said.
“If he wants to turn a military victory into a diplomatic victory, he will not recognise [the rebel enclaves], because it will then become extremely difficult for the EU to keep an open dialogue with Moscow,” Mr Deletroz explained. “What Russia wanted was a division within NATO. If they go too far, they will only achieve the opposite – a unification within the alliance.”
The China angle:
“Even for the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation [the China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan security alliance], recognition would create problems. For the same reasons that China was not happy with the West’s recognition of Kosovo, Beijing would also not be happy with Russian recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia,” the ICG expert added, pointing to China’s discomfort over its own separatist problems, such as Taiwan.
The European Commission was reluctant to issue any reaction to the Russian parliamentary vote ahead of next week’s extraordinary summit on EU-Russia relations, but the EU has repeatedly said it supports Georgia’s “territorial integrity.”
“The debate is ongoing in Russia, and we will not react as long as the debate is ongoing,” European Commission spokesperson, Ton Van Lierop, told reporters in Brussels.
Abkhazia and South Ossetia broke away from Tbilisi in civil wars in the 1990s, setting up de facto states with their own mini-parliaments and paramilitary forces within Georgia’s internationally-recognised borders during a tense, 15-year long ceasefire that erupted into open conflict on 7 August.
Tbilisi has accused Russia of giving the rebels financial and political backing, as well as arms, in order to keep NATO and EU-aspirant Georgia divided. It also accuses the separatist and Russian forces of “ethnic cleansing” in pushing out the last remaining ethnic Georgians from the two territories during the recent war.
UNDP Releases Information on a UN Angle:
Please see - www.innercitypress.com/undp1georg…
It seems that Inner City Press came up with information, acknowledged by UNDP, that together with the George Soros Open Society International, and the Swedish Government, there was a very modest supplemental funding of Georgian officials, including the President, to make it possible for them to run a rather non-corrupt government in the National interest of Georgia, and perhaps also in the interest of the oil buyers of the West.
Above link leads to an article that starts:
UN’s Engagement with Saakashvili Included $1500 a Month, Soros and Sweden Also Paid.
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
UNITED NATIONS, August 25 — Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was paid $1500 a month by the UN Development Program earlier this decade, on top of his official presidential salary, UNDP has told Inner City Press. UNDP says the goals of these payments, in which the Swedish government and financier George Soros joined, were to allow the Georgian “government to recruit the staff it needed and also to help remove incentives for corruption.”
While receiving these $1500 monthly payment, Saakashvili committed to increase tax collection in Georgia. Deals were signed with , among others, British Petroleum, for the Baku – Tbilisi – Ceyhan oil pipeline. UNDP, and presumably its two co-funders, applauded this development.
This last article mentions also the old UNDP problem with having helped with injecting hard currency to North Korea that, as the claim goes, has helped them finance the acquisition of nuclear know-how. So, UNDP is a tool for covert actions and not just a victim of side effects in what they consider to be development work? In the tape attached to the article, Matthew Russell Lee points out at the unevenness of the way, North Korea, Sudan, and Zimbabwe were dealt with, and surfaces the idea that the treatment is in relation to the interest of internal politics in the US. So back to our posting, how will the UN be used in the case of the Ukraine – which is rather more of an EU then a US problem?
This weekend, as expected, the TV was plastered with the Russians in Georgia and the Beijing Olympics.
President Bush and Secretary Condaleezza Rice said that Russia will not get away with this like it happened in Hungary.
On CNN, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, the man with the Kosovo and Bosnia experience, said this was not Kosovo. The Russians were ready to stage this action already two years ago. It happened now because there was a Russian provocation and there has been indeed a real ethnic cleansing going on in Ossetia and in Abkhazia that caused many thousands of refugees pouring continuously into Georgia. The US says the number is 150,000 displaced people.
Holbrooke looks back into history and thinks of Budapest of 19956, Prag of 1966, Afghanistan of 1968 – so this is the invasion of Georgia that was executed in similar methodology.
Dmitry Simes, President of the Washington DC Nixon Center, and Rose Gottemoeller, Director of Carnegie, Moscow, agree to the above and say that the fact that this happened again at the time of the Olympics, just shows the Putin self confidence and that Putin does not worry that this will harm Russia’s Sochi Winter Olympics of 2014. That area is in fact just across the border from were fighting was going on now.
Governor Bill Richardson stressed that this is not time for high US talk, simply, “we have no leverage on Russia,” so we have to engage them and not isolate them. He knows the area, problems, has been there – all as part of his UN Ambassadorship.
Georgia was incorporated into Russia in 1801 and stayed under Russian rule for 190 years. They re-emerged as an independent state only in 1991. The Ossentians always considered themselves different from the Georgians – and also not similar to the Russians. The same goes for Abkhazia and Azaria as per Rick Stengel, editor of Time Magazine, who was this Sunday’s coordinator of the GPS program that is usually brought out by Fareed Zakaria.
So, can one ostracize Russia from world business? Will this bring about a renewal of the Cold War?
He does not think that Russia has become a revisionist State and that it is fighting for a larger Russia. His idea is that the area is specially complicated – something like the Balkans, and that there were many reasons to what went on.
Cold Friends, Wrapped in Mink and Medals.
By BILL KELLER
Writing in The Financial Times last week, Chrystia Freeland recalled Francis Fukuyama’s 1989 essay “The End of History?,” which trumpeted the definitive triumph of liberal democracy. The great nightmare tyrannies of last century — the Evil Empire, Red China — had been left behind by those inseparable twins, freedom and prosperity. Civilization had chosen, and it chose us.
Chrystia Freeland’s Article: The New Age of Authoritarianism www.ft.com August 12, 2008)
So much for that thesis. Surveying the Russian military rout of neighboring Georgia and the spectacle of China’s Olympics, Ms. Freeland, editor of The Financial Times’s American edition and a journalist who started her career covering Russia and Ukraine, proclaimed that a new Age of Authoritarianism was upon us.
If it is not yet an age, it is at least a season: Springtime for autocrats, and not just the minor-league monsters of Zimbabwe and the like, but the giant regimes that seemed so surely bound for the ash heap in 1989.
The Chinese have made their Olympics an exultant display of athletic prowess and global prestige without having to temper their impulse to suppress and control. From the dazzling locksteps of that opening ceremony, to the kowtowing international V.I.P.’s, to the carefully policed absence of protest, this was an Olympics largely free of democratic mess.
Individualism has been confined between lane markers. The pre-Olympics promises that attention would be paid to international norms of behavior went unredeemed. The New York Times’s Andrew Jacobs followed one citizen who decided to take up the government’s Olympic offer of designated protest zones for aggrieved parties who had filed the proper paperwork. Zhang Wei applied for the requisite license and was promptly arrested for “disturbing social order.” Take that, International Olympic Committee.
The striking thing about Russia’s subjugation of uppity Georgia was not the ease or audacity but the swagger of it. This was not just about a couple of obscure border enclaves, nor even, really, about Georgia. This was existential payback.
It turns out that if 1989 was an end — the end of the Wall, the beginning of the end of the Soviet empire, if not in fact the end of history — it was also a beginning.
It gave birth to a bitter resentment in the humiliated soul of Russia, and no one nursed the grudge so fiercely as Vladimir V. Putin. He watched the empire he had spied for disbanded. He endured the belittling lectures of a rich and self-righteous West. He watched the United States charm away his neighbors, invade his allies in Iraq, and, in his view, play God with the political map of Europe.
Mr. Putin is, in this sense of grievance, a man of his people, as visitors to the New York Times Web site can see in the sampling of breast-beating commentary from Russian bloggers. It is safe to assume that Mr. Putin’s already stratospheric popularity at home has grown to Phelpsian proportions, not least among the long-suffering military.
In China, 1989 was the year that a spark of liberal aspiration flickered on Tiananmen Square, and was decisively extinguished. That was another beginning, or at least a renewal: of Chinese resolve. In May of that year, in the midst of the Tiananmen euphoria, Mikhail S. Gorbachev visited Beijing, and two visions of a new communism stared each other in the face.
The protesters on the Chinese pavilion held banners welcoming Mr. Gorbachev as a champion of the greater freedom they sought. Meanwhile, the visiting Russian delegation marveled at the abundance in Chinese stores, the bounty of a policy that chose economic liberalization without political dissent.
The Chinese and Russians scorned each other’s neo-Communist models, but in some ways they have evolved toward one another. Both countries now tolerate a measure of entrepreneurship and social license, as long as neither threatens the dominion of the state. Both countries have calculated that you can buy a measure of domestic stability if you combine a little opportunity with an appeal to national pride. (The Chinese “street” felt no more sympathy for restive Tibetans than the Russian blogosphere felt for Georgia.) And both have discovered that if you are rich the world is less likely to get in your way.
President Bush was mocked from both sides for his seeming impotence. Neoconservatives were appalled by photos of President Bush sharing a laugh with Mr. Putin in Beijing while Russian armor gathered at the Georgian border. For a president who has made the export of democracy his signature doctrine, that looked to the stand-tough crowd like a “Pet Goat” moment.
Others argued that this was a crisis Mr. Bush tacitly encouraged by talking up Georgia’s rambunctious president as a friend and NATO candidate. By midweek, possibly goaded by the wailing of neoconservatives and the aggressively anti-Putin rhetoric of Senator John McCain, Mr. Bush had abruptly amped up his opprobrium and dispatched an American airlift of humanitarian aid. And by the weekend there was a cold war chill in the air.
But Mr. Bush’s predicament is not just his. The question of how to deal with these reinvigorated autocracies bedevils the Europeans and will surely rank high among the legacy issues that confound Mr. Bush’s successor.
This time it is not — or not yet — the threat of nuclear apocalypse that limits the West’s options toward our emboldened Eastern rivals. The Chinese, in fact, are acting as if they have gotten past the saber-rattling stage of emerging-power status; they lavish diplomacy on Taiwan and Japan, and deploy the might of capital instead. The Russians may be in a more adolescent, table-pounding stage of development, but Mr. Putin, too, prefers to work the economic levers, bullying with petroleum.
The United States, meanwhile, is mired in Iraq and Afghanistan, estranged from much of the world, and bled by serial economic crises.
History, it seems, is back, and not so obviously on our side.
Bill Keller, executive editor of The Times, covered the last years of the Soviet Union for the newspaper.
The New Age of Authoritarianism.
In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell, democracy was on the march and we declared the End of History. Nearly two decades later, a neo-imperialist Russia is at war with Georgia, Communist China is proudly hosting the Olympics, and we find that, instead, we have entered the Age of Authoritarianism.
It is worth recalling how different we thought the future would be in the immediate, happy aftermath of the end of the cold war. Remember Francis Fukuyama’s ringing assertion: “The triumph of the west, of the western idea, is evident first of all in the total exhaustion of viable systematic alternatives to western liberalism.”
Even in the heady days of 1989, that declaration of universal – and possibly eternal – ideological victory seemed a little hubristic to Professor Fukuyama’s many critics. Yet his essay made such an impact because it captured the scale, and the enormous benefits, of the change sweeping through the world. Not only was the stifling Soviet – which was really the Russian – suzerainty over central and eastern Europe and central Asia coming to an end but, even more importantly, the very idea of a one-party state, ruthlessly presiding over a centrally planned economy, seemed to be discredited, if not forever, then surely for our lifetimes.
That collapse brought freedom and prosperity to millions of people who had lived under Soviet rule. Moreover, the implosion of Soviet communism inspired hundreds of millions of others around the world to embrace freer markets and demand more responsive governments. The great global economic boom of the past 20 years, which has brought more people out of poverty more quickly than at any other time in human history, would not have been possible had the Soviet way of ordering the world not been discredited first.
Yet today, in much of the world, the spread of freedom is being checked by an authoritarian revanche. That shift has been most obvious in the petro-states, where oil is casting its usual curse. From Latin America to Africa to the Middle East, the black-gold bonanza has given authoritarian regimes the currency to buy off or to repress their subjects. In Russia, oil has fuelled an economic boom that prime minister Vladimir Putin, and some of his foreign admirers, mistakenly attribute to his careful demolition of the chaotic democracy of the 1990s.
For Russians, that argument is strengthened by the fact that the rising economic power of the moment – China – is unashamedly sticking to its faith in one-party rule. The end of the cold war made it tempting to believe that as countries opened up their markets, and became richer in the process, they would inevitably open up their societies, too. George W. Bush, US president, reiterated that hopeful thesis on his Asia tour last week, insisting: “Young people who grow up with the freedom to trade goods will ultimately demand the freedom to trade ideas.”
But the Chinese mandarins and the Russian siloviki are taking a different view – and acting on it. As China scholar David Shambaugh recounts in his new book, China’s Communist Party: Atrophy and Adaptation , the CCP studied the collapse of Soviet communism with great care. And rather than seeing it as proof of the inevitable, global triumph of western liberalism, the Chinese comrades treated the Russian example as a textbook case of what a ruling Communist party ought not to do.
In this version of history, sinologist Andrew Nathan tells me, 1989 is also a turning point, but not because that was when communism’s most notorious wall came down. Instead, the key event of that year was the bloody suppression of protesters in Tiananmen Square: “As a propaganda position they have put it out that we had a crackdown in 1989 and we saved the party and we saved the country,” he says. “We didn’t have a failure of will like the Russians. Without that, we wouldn’t have been a great, modern power.” That’s a point of view Mr Putin has embraced, too, describing the collapse of the Soviet Union as a tragedy and his own reconstruction of a neo-authoritarian state as the only way to restore Russian “greatness”.
The west has been remarkably sanguine about this resurgence of authoritarianism, and one reason is that, this time, the comrades have money. Even as the Kremlin repeatedly confiscates the assets not just of its own businesspeople but of foreign ones, too, investment bankers, and plain old investors, are flocking to a Moscow flush with petro-roubles. The same is true of the Gulf states. China, on a path to become the world’s largest economy, is the most attractive of all.
But the Age of Authoritarianism is bad news for all of us, not just the human rights campaigners that businesspeople and practitioners of realpolitik love to dismiss. Like all overly rigid objects, authoritarian regimes conceal a tremendous fragility in their apparent strength – and their leaders know it. It is this realisation that has driven Mr Putin’s systematic destruction of all forms of civil society – an eminently pragmatic measure, although it has mystified some outside observers, who wonder why so popular a leader needs to be so heavy-handed. China’s chiefs have figured this out, too, hence their anxiety about everything from the Muslim Uighurs to the internet to the former Soviet Union’s “colour revolutions”.
Of course, another way to ensure popular support for your authoritarian regime is by playing up nationalist sentiment. We are more tolerant of our home-grown bullies if we think we need them to fight our enemies abroad – as even democratic America has demonstrated in recent years. Mr Putin has understood this all along, launching a brutal attack on Chechnya even before his coronation as president in 2000.
Russia’s expert taunting of the hotheads in Georgia, followed by immediate and massive retaliation the moment Tbilisi took the bait, is the latest evidence that, for the Kremlin, neo-imperialism is an essential bulwark of neo-authoritarianism. Bringing down the walls really did make the world safer. Now that so many leaders are building them back up again, figuring out how to contain the 21st century’s monied authoritarians is our most pressing foreign policy dilemma.
The Americas in the Mercer Ranking of 143 world cities in regard to cost of living for expatriates with New York City as a benchmark at 100 points.
The only North American city to feature in this year’s top 50 is New York in 22nd place – score 100 – dropping seven places – from 15th place – in one year.
“The decline in the ranking of all US cities is due to the weakening value of the US dollar against most major world currencies,” said Mitch Barnes, principal at Mercer in the US. “The dollar has been declining steadily for the past several years, which has resulted in an overall decrease in the cost of living in 19 US cities, relative to other major global cities studied.
“On the bright side, the US dollar’s loss of value may serve to attract globally mobile executives to business centres such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. The difference in cost of living can be significant, particularly for those executives with families.”
In 54th place (score 88.1), jumping 28 places from last year, Toronto is the most expensive city for expatriates in Canada. All other Canadian cities in the survey have experienced similar rises, with Vancouver moving from 89th to 64th (score 85.8), Calgary from 92nd to 66th (score 85.4) and MontrÃ©al from 98th to 72nd with a score of 83. This reverses last year’s trend which saw Canadian cities decline, and places them back where they have traditionally been rated. The Canadian dollar has appreciated nearly 15% against the US dollar, the main reason for these movements.
The two top-ranking cities in South America are SÃ£o Paulo in 25th place (score 97) and Rio de Janeiro in 31st place (score 95.2), jumping 37 and 33 places, respectively. The Brazilian real appreciated nearly 18% against the US dollar last year, causing these Brazilian cities to rocket up the list. Another high-riser in this region is Caracas, jumping 40 places from 129th to 89th (score 79.3). High inflation in Venezuela has caused a sharp increase in the price of food and household products.
South America also has some of the lowest ranking cities globally. AsunciÃ³n is the least expensive city for the sixth consecutive year (score 52.5), followed by Quito in Ecuador in 142nd (score 54.6), Buenos Aires in 138th (score 62.7) and Montevideo in 136th (score 63.2).
The UK currency has changed the least among the European currencies in relation to the US dollar – this led to decreases in the cost of living ratings of British cities’ ranking in the list of 143. Thus, from the London point of view:
Worldwide Cost of Living survey 2008 â€“ City rankings.
United Kingdom, London, 24 July 2008
Moscow is still the most expensive city for expatriates; AsunciÃ³n in Paraguay is the cheapest for the sixth consecutive year.
Moscow is the world’s most expensive city for expatriates for the third consecutive year, according to the latest Cost of Living Survey from Mercer. Tokyo is in second position climbing two places since last year, where as London drops one place to rank third.
Oslo climbs six places to 4th place and is followed by Seoul in 5th.
Mercer’s survey covers 143 cities across six continents and measures the comparative cost of over 200 items in each location, including housing, transport, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment. It is the world’s most comprehensive cost of living survey and is used to help multinational companies and governments determine compensation allowances for their expatriate employees.
Yvonne traber, a principal and research manager at Mercer, commented: “Current market conditions have led to the further weakening of the US dollar which, coupled with the strengthening of the Euro and many other currencies, has caused significant changes in this year’s rankings.”
She added: “Although the traditionally expensive cities of Western Europe and Asia still feature in the top 20, cities in Eastern Europe, Brazil and India are creeping up the list. Conversely, some locations such as Stockholm and New York now appear less costly by comparison.
“Our research confirms the global trend in price increases for certain foodstuffs and petrol, though the rise is not consistent in all locations. This is partly balanced by decreasing prices for certain commodities such as electronic and electrical goods. We attribute this to cheaper imports from developing countries, especially China, and to advances in technology.
“In some cases, cost of living increases may be correlated to countries with a high rate of economic growth. Companies may assign high priority to expansion in these economies but may have to deal with inflationary pressures due to competition for expatriate-level housing and other services, as observed in our surveys,” she noted.
For example, Latvia had real GDP growth of 10.2% in 2007, well above the global average growth rate of 5.2%, and its capital, Riga, jumped to 46th place in the latest Mercer ranking, up from 72nd a year ago. Cities in India all rose in the cost of living ranking, with New Delhi climbing to 55th place from 68th a year ago, as India posted a real GDP growth rate of 9.2% in 2007. Bogota jumped to 87th place from 112th, reflecting Colombia’s 7% real GDP growth.
Top 50 cities: Cost of living (including rental accommodation costs)
The Cost of Living Indices below have been prepared specifically for the purpose of the press release.
Mercer is a leading global provider of consulting, outsourcing and investment services. Mercer works with clients to solve their most complex benefit and human capital issues, designing and helping manage health, retirement and other benefits. It is a leader in benefit outsourcing. Mercer’s investment services include investment consulting and multi-manager investment management. Mercer’s 18,000 employees are based in more than 40 countries. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc., which lists its stock (ticker symbol: MMC) on the New York, Chicago and London stock exchanges. For more information, visit www.mercer.com
(updated) At the five years’ mark, we still think that deposing Saddam was right – staying in Iraq for oil was wrong. Investing that well over a half trillion strong dollars in creating an economy less dependent on oil would have been a much more reasoned choice. What now? What About The Split The War Caused With and Within the EU?
At the five years’ mark, we still think that deposing Saddam was right – staying in Iraq for oil was wrong. Investing that over half trillion dollars waisted (costs are already over $800 billion considering also the fight to depose Saddam) in creating an economy less dependent on oil would have been a much more reasoned choice. What now?
www.SustainabiliTank.info posts the following Washington Post article as a memorial to what we were saying since the start of our website. Sure – the surge has started to work, but to what end? Will the US be able to hold Iraq together as one state common to all its communities? Is it really important to have it as one integrated oil exporting source, at a time that we will anyway start to decrease our economy’s dependence on oil? After removing Saddam we could have left the Iraqi’s to sort out their future by themselves. Had they come up with a Saddam-alike, the US could have gone in a third time – less cost and nothing lost. If the US still insists in keeping Iraq in one piece – will this not push the country even more into future collusion with Iran? The Shiia are the majority and the only part of Iraq that really seeks independence are the Kurds. Why hold them back from achieving their goal? Even Turkey starts to understand that a secure Kurdistan, cards played right, could be to their advantage, and the EU, without pressure from the US, would also shine some light in that direction. The Sunni monarchs of the League of Arab States are yet years away from understanding the emerging new neighborhood in which extreme religious interpretation is bound to highjack also their own states – this because they had that false hope that the oil-money can help them deflect the ire of their own people to targets abroad – the likes of Israel, and even their own benefactor – the United States. This sounds sick – but sick it is. It was that oil-money, that to different degrees, paved the way and paid for the radicalization of the world’s two billion Muslims.
And what did all of this do to the value of the dollar and to US economy at large?
Surely, The Washington Post does not make our points, but then it presents a reasonable description of how sad America feels on this day – after five years of war and just one year after the start of a real attempt to manage that war.
The EU Observer looks into the damages the continuation of the war did to EU-US relations and to the split it created within the EU. What is the value loss to the US from above? How long will take the healing process?
Terrorism, Social and Economic Challenges, and Climate Change Are The Main Issues To Be Discussed At A REFLECTION GROUP PANEL OF THE EU during 2008-2010, With EU Enlargement To Come In Through The Back Door.
EU reflection group to be headed by former Spanish PM.
By Renata Goldirova for the EUobserver, December 14, 2007.
The group will also have two vice-chairs, Latvia’s former president Vaira Vike-Freiberga and Nokia’s chief Jorma Ollila. The three are to choose the remaining nine personalities during the second half of 2008, under the French EU presidency.
According to Czech deputy prime minister Alexandr Vondra, the group of about nine members, including the three top figures, is expected to kick off its work during the French presidency in 2008.
The timeframe was suggested by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a bid to avoid the group interfering with the upcoming ratification process of the Treaty of Lisbon, formally signed off on Thursday (13 December).
One of the main concern in the negotiations leading to the formation of the reflection group was that it should not affect public discussion on the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland.
Ireland is the only member states so far to say that it will have a referendum on the document, which needs to approved by all 27 member states before it can come into force. The Irish referendum is set to take place in the early summer of 2008.
The panel is expected to report its findings in June 2010, although it should avoid discussing “the EU’s finances, enlargement and institutional issues”, according to Mr Vondra.
“This group can’t take the decision-making powers away from politicians. It can put forward proposals”, he stressed.
Other names tipped for the group members include former president of the European Parliament Pat Cox as well as Austria’s former chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel.
French president Nicolas Sarkozy has said that the committee will discuss the future borders of the bloc, despite its mandate having been watered down expressly to avoid this sensitive topic.
Speaking after a meeting of EU leaders, where it was formally agreed to establish the ‘wise group’ â€“ the brainchild of the French president â€“ Mr Sarkozy said that while it will not talk about “EU institutions” or “specific policies” it could talk “about a new European dream.”
“At some point” it should be asked whether “there is a contradiction between integration and enlargement,” said Mr Sarkozy, who has made no secret of his opposition to Turkey’s EU membership bid.
German chancellor Angela Merkel also indicated that the group will probably end up discussing enlargement saying that “you can group anything under that category” referring to the part of the group’s mandate that says it should look at ways to reach out to citizens and address their expectations and needs.
But she said it would “not affect the continuation of [Turkey's] accession talks, pointing out that ultimately it will be politicians that take decisions and not such a committee.
Mr Sarkozy’s lobbying to set up the group was widely interpreted as a way of putting the brakes on Ankara’s progress towards the EU.
But other member states thwarted his more ambitious aims for the discussion topics by severely limiting the mandate of the group.
WORLD BANK DECLARES BOTSWANA IS LEADING AFRICA IN DEVELOPMENT. Only African Country on a list of positives that includes also – Slovenia, Chile, Estonia, Czech Rep, Latvia, Lithuania, and Costa Rica. ON POLITICAL STABILITY BOTSWANA SCORED HIGHER THEN ALL OF THE G8 and except Finland and Luxemburg, all of the EU, and most of Asia and Latin America.
From: Republic of Botswana (15/7/07): TAUTONA TIMES no 23 of 2007
July 16, 2007 – President’s Day in Botswana.
Today is the eve of President’s Day celebrations in Botswana. Like “Botswana Day”, which every year falls on the anniversary of our nation’s independence, President’s Day is an annual occasion for Batswana to reflect on the fruits of their political sovereignty. The creation of the State Presidency at the time of independence brought to an end a period of eighty-one year’s in which the British Crown had claimed and exercised sovereign rights over Botswana’s territory, much of which was thus demarcated as “Crownlands”.
During the colonial period, imperial sovereignty over Botswana was annually celebrated by the British administration as either “King’s” or “Queen’s” day, an Empire wide tradition that dated back to the time of Queen Victoria (“Mmamosadinyana”). Replacing Queen’s Day with President’s Day thus represented a break from foreign rule to self-rule.
From the President’s Statement:
14. Our government has championed citizen empowerment for the past 41 years, and we will continue enthusiastically to do so. A plethora of empowerment schemes exist and have existed as individual projects or as sectoral programmes in our development plans. Since they have not been isolated and highlighted in one document, some people, including members of the BDP have erroneously assumed that we do not have a policy on citizen empowerment.
15. The bottom line is that an enabling environment should exist, wherein all Batswana are empowered with requisite opportunities and skills to enable them to optimise their standard of living. Furthermore, it should be clarified, that most proponents of a stand alone citizen economic empowerment policy often refer to countries that have a preferential treatment policy for a specific segment of their society.
16. In most cases the segment that is being singled out for targeted empowerment tends to be a historically disadvantaged group, but in Botswana our empowerment efforts should and must focus on every single Motswana and not a specified segment of the population as we have all been previously disadvantaged.
17. The BDP Governments have over the years focused aggressively in resourcing the poor in our society. Not only has poverty dropped from 60% in our population in 1985/86 to 28% in 2002/03; a clear indication of our success in our poverty eradication efforts, but we have also very effective safety nets which ensure, that not one Motswana can perish because of hunger.
18. Our safety nets include schemes for the poor, the aged, remote area dwellers, orphans, the disabled and war veterans. As I speak, my government has allocated some P395m to drought relief projects for this year alone. This will provide part time employment for some 180, 000 Batswana the majority of whom would have depended on agriculture had the rains been good.
EMPOWERMENT IN EDUCATION AND LOCAL TRAINING PROGRAMMES
19. Education has been either heavily subsidized or totally free for all Batswana from primary to secondary education. All deserving Batswana continue to get substantial assistance for their education even at tertiary level. These subsidies on education are a targeted investment by the BDP government, intended to provide Batswana, with a springboard they could use to empower themselves.
20. The expansion of the University of Botswana; the planned Botswana International University of Science and Technology; and the Medical School and Training Hospital are recent examples of projects in education aimed at further empowering Batswana for employment and higher calibre job creation. Recently the Ministry of Education started to sponsor students at local private tertiary institutions for Diploma and Degree courses. Over 7000 are now so sponsored. This is empowerment.
21. Health care is virtually free in Botswana. Even expensive medications such as ARV’s are availed free of charge. The BDP government is cognisant of the relationship between an individual’s health and their overall ability to command an acceptable living standard.
22. For this reason, we have ensured, on a sustained basis, that our people have the best healthcare we are capable of providing as a nation. The evidence is overwhelming! Our commitment and determination to arrest the spread of HIV/AIDS is total and unshakable – hence the modest success we have registered in reducing the rate of infection.
40. Our ultimate objective is to achieve full employment for all our citizens as reflected in our Vision 2016 statement. As Democrats are aware, the rate of unemployment was around 10% in the early 1990′s. However, as a result of a combination of chronic droughts and the plateauing of minerals growth with a concomitant depression in the construction industry unemployment rose to 24% and it hovered around that level for many years, until recently, when we were able to reduce it to 17.6%.
41. The big projects which your government has initiated should force unemployment to go down further. I must express my concern though, about the rather lax attitude of some of our people. Many jobs in the agricultural sector remain unmanned for a long time because Batswana are not interested in working in that sector. This is regrettable. If we are to fight unemployment successfully we must become less choosy.
51. This is the penultimate congress before the next General Elections in 2009. This means by the time we get to the 2009 Congress it will be too late to fine tune or sharpen our thinking in various policy areas. This congress is, therefore, the most important opportunity to do so.
52. Our election preparedness starts right now with the preparations for “Bulela Ditswe” our primary elections. The Central Committee has appointed a Task Force, which in turn has sent teams around the country to clean up our membership registration hitches. This is very important, as it will determine that we have a clean, peaceful primary election, not adulterated by incomplete voters’ rolls and allegations of rigging.
53. Of course ultimately the business of any political party that wants to run the country is to win elections. It is for this reason that everything that we do must be aimed towards – the attainment of that objective – the 2009 elections. I shall never tire of reminding you, to channel all your energies towards making sure, that the BDP not only wins those elections but does so convincingly.
54. A scenario where we win the majority of seats but fail to command a comfortable majority in the popular vote is not a good one. Let us face it, it would undermine our mandate. Although in other countries it is not uncommon for a party to win elections sometimes with numbers as low as 30%, our opponents seem to think our 52% gives them some hope and even reason to celebrate.
55. I know we can legally and legitimately exercise a mandate even with less than half of the popular vote, but this we should never aim at. If all Batswana who were carrying our cards in 2004 had voted for their party, we would have won with more than 60% of the popular vote.
56. As for the opposition, we should remember, that they still present no alternative to ourselves, united or separately. This is why Batswana look to us as their only hope. Our policies, programmes and projects are well thought out. I still do not know what our opposition stands for. This situation is further compounded by the very public disunity that currently plagues the main opposition party, the BNF.
57. Anyone who thinks their recent special congress has healed their rift has got another surprise coming. To begin with, the one group did not even accept the results and we are receiving reports of a divided and disenchanted opposition membership around the country.
58. We should not, however, just sit here and celebrate their current state of disarray. We must work hard to exploit it to our benefit. We should graphically point out their current state of affairs.
59. This is why it is laughable for an organization like the BCP, which is not even running for state power, to lampoon Botswana’s democracy. Our democratic credentials are impeccable. They constitute the foundation of our political culture. And as such they do not belong to a single party but to all Batswana.
60. An entity that dissociates itself from this democratic culture runs the risk, of being driven into the political wilderness by our voters. I would not be surprised if the lonely member the BCP has in Parliament, who is there by dint of our generosity, went into extinction after 2009.
61. Madomi a Mantle, as I mentioned at the recent Women’s Wing Congress, the Constitution of our country, quite properly decrees that I retire by the 31st March 2008. I thank you most sincerely for the support that you have always given me during my tenure as Party leader. I have no doubt that you will extend similar support to my successor, His Honour the Vice President, Lt General Seretse Khama Ian Khama. I should enjoy my retirement immensely if you would do so.
62. In conclusion, let me wish you well in your Congress and encourage you to be level headed in your discussions if you are to come up with meaningful resolutions. May I also ask that we end our Congress in the spirit of love and mutual respect that must reflect our current theme: Unity and hard Work: Towards 2009 and beyond. Those elected and their supporters must, as they celebrate their success, do so with the utmost restraint and have consideration for the feelings of those who will have been less fortunate.
63. Much as I will spend as much time with you as I can, the immediate affairs of the country require that I, as is usual, leave you at some point to join the people of Goodhope on President’s Day. I join Batswana in different parts of the country every year for these celebrations at this time.
64. It is now my singular honour and privilege to declare this the 32nd National Congress of the Botswana Democratic Party officially open. TSHOLETSA! TSHOLETSA!
10/7/07 – from the World Bank Institute launches 2007 World Governance Indicators (WGI) Report:
With reference to the above, please find below [a] Statement by this Office, as well as [b] the full text of a media release received earlier this evening from the World Bank. The World Bank media release had been embargoed for forward transmission until 19hOO local time (CAT) (13h00 EST – Washington D.C.). Both statements’ can thus be understood as breaking news.
[a] “Botswana praised in latest World Governance Indicators Report
This Office is pleased to note that Botswana was once more been singled out for special praise by World Bank researchers in the context of today’s launch of the 2007 World Governance Indicators (WGI) Report, the full title of which is: “Governance Matters, 2007: Worldwide Governance Indicators 1996-2006″.
The launch was held at the World Bank Institute in Washington D.C.
In a statement released by the World Bank to coincide with the launch, Botswana has been singled out by researchers as being among a select group of developing countries that score higher on key dimensions of governance than a number of leading industrialized countries.
Botswana is the only African country to be so singled out in the statement. The other high achievers among those classified as “developing countries”, which are listed along with Botswana in the statement are Slovenia, Chile, Estonia, Uruguay, Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, and Costa Rica.
The 2007 World Governance Indicators Report is said to represent a decade-long effort by a global network of researchers to build and update the most comprehensive cross-country set of governance indicators currently available to the public.
The latest indicators are further reported to cover a total of 212 countries and territories, drawing on 33 different data sources to capture the views of tens of thousands of survey respondents worldwide, as well as thousands of experts in the private, NGO, and public sectors.
This Office is also pleased to note that Botswana has performed well in all six of the Report’s identified components of good governance, which are:
1. Voice and Accountability – measuring the extent to which a country’s citizens are able to participate in selecting their government, as well as freedom of expression, freedom of association, and a free media.
2. Political Stability and Absence of Violence – measuring perceptions of the likelihood that the government will be destabilized or overthrown by unconstitutional or violent means, including terrorism
3. Government Effectiveness – measuring the quality of public services, the quality of the civil service and the degree of its independence from political pressures, the quality of policy formulation and implementation, and the credibility of the government’s commitment to such policies
4. Regulatory Quality – measuring the ability of the government to formulate and implement sound policies and regulations that permit and promote private sector development
5. Rule of Law – measuring the extent to which agents have confidence in and abide by the rules of society, and in particular the quality of contract enforcement, the police, and the courts, as well as the likelihood of crime and violence
6. Control of Corruption – measuring the extent to which public power is exercised for private gain, including both petty and grand forms of corruption, as well as “capture” of the state by elites and private interests.
The aggregate indicators as well as data from the underlying sources will be available at the website www.govindicators.org, which currently posts last’s year’s aggregate data.
According to the World Bank statement measuring various countries’ governance performance, and their improvements over time, is both a key item on the international governance agenda and a complex challenge, as governance has many dimensions, each with inherent measurement challenges. It goes on to state that the Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI) project shows how this challenge can be met.
E2) 11/7/06: “Botswana a global leader in Political Stability”
The World Bank Institute report “Governance Matters, 2007: Worldwide Governance Indicators 1996-2006″, which was released yesterday, has ranked Botswana among the global leaders for Political Stability and the Absence of Violence.
With a score of 92.8% Botswana was ranked number 16 in the category out of the 212 countries and territories covered by the study, as well as number one in Africa. The score also placed Botswana above:
* all of the G8 nations, i.e. Canada (80.3), France (61.5), Germany (75.0), Italy (56.3), Japan (85.1), Russia (23.6), UK (61.1), and USA (57.7);
* all but 2 of the member states of the European Union, i.e. Finland (99.0), Luxemburg (99.5);
* all but 2 countries/territories in the Western Hemisphere, i.e. Aruba (95.7), St. Kitts & Nevis (94.2);
* all but 3 countries/territories in Asia, i.e. Bhutan (95.2), Brunei (93.3), and Singapore (94.7).
The 2007 World Governance Indicators Report is said to reflect a decade-long effort by a global network of researchers to build and update the most comprehensive cross-country set of governance indicators currently available to the public. Its composite indicators for 212 countries and territories have been drawn from 33 different data sources to capture the views of tens of thousands of survey respondents worldwide, as well as thousands of experts in the private, NGO, and public sectors.
Botswana scored exceptionally well for all six areas identified by the Report as being the key components of good governance. As labelled in the report itself, these are:
1) “Voice and Accountability” – measuring political, civil and human rights;
2) “Political Stability and Absence of Violence” – measuring the likelihood of violent threats to, or changes in, government, including terrorism;
3) “Government Effectiveness” – measuring the competence of the bureaucracy and the quality of public service delivery;
4) “Regulatory Quality” – measuring the incidence of market-unfriendly policies;
5) “Rule of Law” – measuring the quality of contract enforcement, the police, and the courts, including judiciary independence, and the incidence of crime; and
6) “Control of Corruption” – measuring the abuse of public power for private gain, including petty and grand corruption and state capture by elites.
With a composite score for all of the above categories of 74 Botswana occupies first position in Africa, followed by Mauritius (72) Cape Verde (66), South Africa (65), Namibia (62) and Seychelles (55).
According to a now widely circulated news article, originally published in the New York Times, Africa has been portrayed “as a continent of great variety, with some countries making extraordinary progress over the past decade” in the latest World Bank Institute study “Governance Matters, 2007: Worldwide Governance Indicators 1996-2006″, which was released earlier this week in Washington D.C.
The article further cites the World Bank’s own descriptions of the study as providing strong evidence to contradict the notion of “Afro-pessimism”, while, moreover, establishing that wealthy, industrialized nations must also struggle with challenges of corruption and bad governance. In this respect the study is seen as a credible counter to negative media stereotypes of Africa as a whole as somehow being a continent that is uniquely mired in corruption, misrule and violence.
When combined, the World Bank Institute Report’s indicators place Botswana among the global leaders, as well as number one in Africa, for good governance. At the Report’s launch Botswana was thus singled out as being among an emerging group of developing countries that had scored higher on key dimensions of governance than many leading industrialized countries.
Described as the world’s most comprehensive database on governance issues, the Report incorporates composite indicators for a total of 212 countries and territories, which have been drawn from 33 different data sources. These are said to capture the views of tens of thousands of survey respondents worldwide, as well as thousands of experts in the private, NGO, and public sectors.
Botswana’s composite WGI score was 74, while Africa’s other top ten overall performers were, as ranked, were: Mauritius (72), Cape Verde (66), South Africa (65), Namibia (62), Ghana (55), Seychelles (55), Tunisia (53), Madagascar (48) and Lesotho (48).
In achieving its top score Botswana was also ranked well above the international norm, as well as in first, second or third position for Africa in each of the sub-category indexes for the six areas that were identified by the Report as being key components of good governance.
Botswana score and rank among Africa’s top ten for each of the six is reproduced below:
I. “Political Stability and Absence of Violence Index”, which is a composite of indicators measuring the likelihood of violent threats to, or changes in, government, including terrorism:
Botswana (93), Seychelles (84), Mauritius (79), Cape Verde (79), Namibia (75), Mozambique (64), Benin (59), Zambia (57), Libya (55), and Ghana (55). (In this index Botswana was also ranked 16 out of the 212 countries and territories surveyed.)
II. “Voice and Accountability Index”, which is a composite of indicators measuring political, civil and human rights:
Mauritius (75), Cape Verde (74), Botswana (67), South Africa (67), Benin (66), Namibia (61), Ghana (60), Mali (58), Lesotho (56), Seychelles (54).
III “Government Effectiveness Index”, which is a composite indicators measuring the competence of the bureaucracy and the quality of public service delivery:
South Africa (77), Botswana (74), Mauritius (72), Tunisia (71), Cape Verde (62), Namibia (59), Ghana (57), Morocco (56), Seychelles (53), Madagascar (50).
IV. “Regulatory Quality Index”, which is a composite of indicators measuring the incidence of market-unfriendly policies;
South Africa (70), Mauritius (67), Botswana (63), Tunisia (58), Namibia (57), Ghana (51), Morocco (48), Cape Verde (45), Madagascar (43), Senegal (42).
V. “Rule of Law Index”, which is a composite of indicators measuring the quality of contract enforcement, the police, and the courts, including judiciary independence, and the incidence of crime:
Mauritius (76), Botswana (67), Cape Verde (66), Tunisia (60), Namibia (57), South Africa (57), Seychelles (55), Morocco (53), Ghana (51), Lesotho (49).
VI. “Control of Corruption Index”, which is a composite of indicators measuring the abuse of public power for private gain, including petty and grand corruption and state capture by elites:
Botswana (78), Cape Verde (72), South Africa (71), Mauritius (66), Tunisia (62), Namibia (61), Seychelles (61), Lesotho (58), Morocco (57), Rwanda (56).
11/7/07: Report from VOA News www.voanews.com) – “Six African Countries Win High Marks in New Study of Religious Freedoms”
Six African countries – Botswana, Mali, Namibia, Senegal, South Africa, and Kenya – rank among the world’s most tolerant societies in terms of religious freedoms. That’s according to the latest study by the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom. It measured the amount of government regulation, government favouritism toward a particular religion, and the amount of social pressures and constraints imposed by other faiths and organized groups in the country.
“Sub-Saharan Africa scores lower than western Europe and the North Atlantic countries, all of which tend to score pretty highly with ones, twos, or threes. It scores better than North Africa and West Asia (sometimes called the greater Middle East),” he says……”The study shows that religious freedom correlates very well with firstly economic freedom, and the development of markets. Secondly, it correlates with economic well-being, that income levels measure equality. It actually correlates even better than income with indexing, as measured in this context, by numbers of cell phones in use. And we have grounds to believe that we can actually show, in general, religious freedom helps development. This is true in Sub-Saharan Africa especially,” he says.