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On the Global Financial and Economic Crisis
The Economist on the global financial and economic crisis 2008-2009
From The Economist - 21 May 2009
Buying farmland abroad
Outsourcing's third wave

Rich food importers are acquiring vast tracts of poor countries' farmland. Is this beneficial foreign investment or neocolonialism?

EARLY this year, the king of Saudi Arabia held a ceremony to receive a batch of rice, part of the first crop to be produced under something called the King Abdullah initiative for Saudi agricultural investment abroad. It had been grown in Ethiopia, where a group of Saudi investors is spending $100m to raise wheat, barley and rice on land leased to them by the government. The investors are exempt from tax in the first few years and may export the entire crop back home. Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) is spending almost the same amount as the investors ($116m) providing 230,000 tonnes of food aid between 2007 and 2011 to the 4.6m Ethiopians it thinks are threatened by hunger and malnutrition.

The Economist on the global financial crisis
An anatomy of Asian economic woes
Jan 29th 2009
IT SEEMS so unfair. Most Asian economies have been models of prudence. While American and European households were borrowing up to the hilt, Asian ones were tucking away their savings. While rich-country banks were piling into ever-riskier assets, Asian banks kept their holdings of such assets small. And while America and Britain were sucking up the world’s savings, Asian governments piled up vast stocks of foreign reserves.

Yet many of Asia’s tiger economies seem to have been hit harder than their spendthrift Western counterparts. In the fourth quarter of 2008, GDP probably fell by an average annualised rate of around 15% in Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan; their exports slumped more than 50% at an annualised rate. Share prices in emerging Asia have plunged by almost as much as during the Asian financial crisis a decade ago. That crisis was caused by Asia’s excessive dependence on foreign capital. This time the tigers have been tripped up by their excessive dependence on exports.

Unemployment in China
Jan 29th 2009
AS THE lunar new year holiday winds down in China, millions of workers are expected to stream back from the countryside to jobs in the cities. But in Xinji, a fur- and leather-processing city in northern China and a big producer of holiday fireworks, there will be little to go back to. The global economic crisis has dealt a hefty blow to this once booming city.
China’s leaders are struggling to cope with the biggest upsurge of unemployment the country has faced in years. Migrants from the countryside, the main source of labour for export-oriented industries and construction sites, have been the hardest hit so far. Millions have been thrown out of work. Urban white-collar workers, for years pampered by double-digit growth, speak of shrinking bonuses and frozen wages. Some are losing jobs, too. Students, whom the government always fears upsetting, face the most difficult employment prospects since the upheaval in Tiananmen Square 20 years ago. As the Communist Party prepares to celebrate 60 years in power on October 1st, it worries that citizens will be in a fractious mood.
East Asia's economic crisis
Jan 29th 2009
CHINA’s lunar new year sees the world’s largest migration, as tens of millions of workers flock home. Deserting for a few days the factories that make the goods that fill the world’s shops, they surge back to their native villages. This week, however, as they feasted to the deafening rattle of the firecrackers lit to greet the Year of the Ox, their celebrations had an anxious tinge. Many will not have jobs to go back to.
China’s breakneck growth has stalled. The rest of East Asia, too, which had hoped that it was somehow “decoupled” from the economic trauma of the West, has found itself hit as hard as anywhere in the world—and in some cases harder. The temptation is to see this as a plague visited on the region from outside, which its governments are powerless to resist or cure. In truth, their policy errors have played their part in the downturn, so the remedies are partly in their hands.
The scale and speed of that downturn is breathtaking, and broader in scope than in the financial crisis of 1997-98. China’s GDP, which expanded by 13% in 2007, scarcely grew at all in the last quarter of 2008 on a seasonally adjusted basis. In the same quarter Japan’s GDP is estimated to have fallen at an annualised rate of 10%, Singapore’s at 17% and South Korea’s at 21%.
Burger-thy-neighbour policies
Attacks on China’s cheap currency are overdone
Feb 5th 2009
CHINA has been accused of “manipulating” its currency by Tim Geithner, America’s new treasury secretary, and this week Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the managing director of the IMF, said that it was “common knowledge” that the yuan was undervalued. You would assume that such strong claims were backed by solid proof, but the evidence is, in fact, mixed.
Of course China manipulates its exchange rate—in the sense that the level of the yuan is not set by the market, but influenced by foreign-exchange intervention. The real issue is whether Beijing is deliberately keeping the yuan cheap to give exporters an unfair advantage. From July 2005, when it abandoned its fixed peg to the dollar, Beijing allowed the yuan to rise steadily, but since last July it has again been virtually pegged to the greenback. And there are concerns that China may allow the yuan to depreciate to help its exporters—with worrying echoes of the beggar-thy-neighbour policies that exacerbated the Depression. But American politicians are wrong to focus only on the yuan’s dollar exchange rate. Since July the yuan has gained 10% in trade-weighted terms. It is up 23% against the euro, and 30% or more against the currencies of many other emerging economies.



A special report on the future of finance
Greed—and fear
The golden age of finance collapsed under its own contradictions. Edward Carr asks why it went wrong and what to do next
Jan 24th 2009

THE monument to Soviet central planning was supposed to have been a heap of surplus left boots without any right ones to match them. The great bull market of the past quarter century is commemorated by millions of empty houses without anyone to buy them. Gosplan drafted workers into grim factories even if their talents would have been better suited elsewhere. Finance beguiled the bright and ambitious and put them to work in the trading rooms of Wall Street and the City of London. Much of their effort was wasted. You can only guess at what else they might have achieved.
When the financial system fails, everyone suffers. Over the past 22 months the shock has spread from American housing, sector by sector, economy by economy. Some markets have seized up; others are being pounded by volatility. Everywhere good businesses are going bankrupt and jobs are being destroyed. For the first time since 1991 global average income per head is falling. Even as growth in emerging markets has come to a halt, the rich economies look set to shrink. Alan Greenspan, who as chairman of America’s Federal Reserve oversaw the boom, calls the collapse “a once-in-a-half-century, probably once-in-a-century type of event”. Financial markets promised prosperity; instead they have brought hardship.

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From The Economist - 12 March 2009
The jobs crisis
The world economy faces the biggest rise in unemployment in decades. How governments react will shape labour markets for years to come

Achille Mbembe
What is post-colonial thinking?

An interview with Achille Mbembe The faults in Europe's universalism, especially when confronting its colonial history, have nurtured a variety of critical perspectives in the West. Talking to French magazine Esprit, theorist Achille Mbembe says that postcolonial thinking looks so original because it developed in a transnational, eclectic vein from the very start. This enabled it to combine the anti-imperialist tradition with the fledgling subaltern studies and a specific take on globalization, he says.

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