All posts filed under: Politics

Politics

Time to look closer to home

Time to look closer to home

Immigration is at the heart of the Brexit debate. It’s a large reason why economic arguments have failed to sway voters. Despite warnings of the high economic costs of leaving the EU (warnings supported by a majority of economists), immigration has continued to have a powerful influence – and is perhaps the major reason why the opinion polls have become so close in recent weeks. The immigration debate is quite polarised. On one side, the Remain campaign either ducks the issue or focuses on the benefits that immigration brings to the economy as a whole. On the other side, the Leave camp focuses on its costs and plays into fears (often in a cruel and cynical way) that migrants are putting pressure on public services that are already at breaking point. At least among Labour supporters intending to vote leave, immigration also appears to be a key issue. The need for a more even-handed assessment of the costs and benefits of immigration is sorely needed. While immigration brings undoubted benefits, it also places pressures on particular communities. It also feeds a sense of …

Emerging Markets Under Pressure

Emerging markets have come under a bit of pressure recently, with the combination of the dollar’s rise and higher U.S. ten year rates serving as the trigger. The Governor of the Reserve Bank of India has—rather remarkably—even called on the U.S. Federal Reserve to slow the pace of its quantitative tightening to give emerging economies a bit of a break. (He could have equally called on the Administration to change its fiscal policy so as to reduce issuance, but the Fed is presumably a softer target.) Yet the pressure on emerging economies hasn’t been uniform (the exchange rate moves in the chart are through Wednesday, June 13th; they don’t reflect Thursday’s selloff). That really shouldn’t be a surprise. Emerging economies are more different than they are the same. With the help of Benjamin Della Rocca, a research analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations, I split emerging economies into three main groupings: Oil importing economies with current account deficits Oil importing economies with significant current account surpluses (a group consisting of emerging Asian economies) And …

China Rebalancing?

China Rebalancing?

I increasingly suspect my view on Chinese “rebalancing” is at odds with the current consensus (or perhaps just with a plurality of the investment bank analysts and financial journalists who watch China). In two significant ways. One. I think China’s balance of payments position is fairly robust. In both a “flow” and a “stock” sense. The current account isn’t that close to falling into a deficit (and it wouldn’t be that big a deal if China did have a modest deficit). And China’s state is back to adding to its foreign assets in a significant way. The days of “China selling reserves” are long past. And two, I think the rebalancing that has lowered the measured current account surplus is more fragile than most think. It is a function of policies—call it a large off-budget “augmented” fiscal deficit or excessive credit growth—that some believe to be unsustainable, and many think are unwise. The IMF, for example, wants China to bring down its fiscal deficit and slow the pace of credit growth, policies that directionally would …

How different parts of the UK will suffer from Brexit more than others

How different parts of the UK will suffer from Brexit more than others

Impact studies have revealed how different parts of the UK will suffer from Brexit more than others. One irony, as many have pointed out, is that a lot of these regions voted for Brexit. Another irony, which is less talked about, is that these are also regions that benefit a great deal from EU regional policy. The UK is an unevenly developed state. Some territories (such as London) are much more well off than others (such as the northeast of England) as a result of decades of investment (or under-investment) in their economies. Others benefit from varying levels of devolution, which gives them a relatively greater autonomy to tailor policy to their own needs, and stronger political representation within Britain and the EU. Over recent decades, when the UK government has fallen short in terms of regional policy to address the needs of less economically favoured regions, the EU has provided much-needed support. So the key question now is what will happen to the regions which have relied on this in the event of any Brexit? So far this remains …

Disadvantaged family living in the United Kingdom

Disadvantaged family living in the United Kingdom

The UK has one of the widest attainment gaps in education within the developed world. This effectively means that if you are born in the UK to a family living in disadvantaged circumstances, you are much less likely to achieve your potential than your peers. And research shows it may take another 50 years to close this gap. Many young people who grow up in an area that is considered a “cold spot” of social mobility – like many of the UK’s seaside towns and former coal mining communities – are caught up in cycles of deprivation. This affects their aspirations, academic self-confidence and adult life choices. My recently published research looks at the realities of what it’s like to grow up in one of these areas. I spoke to 89 schoolgirls living in a former mining community – designated by the government to be within the UK’s worst 10% in terms of deprivation. In the community I looked at in my study, most men work locally, while women marry local men young, have children …

Catalonia’s independence referendum

Catalonia’s independence referendum

An old refrain often used about Spain is that in the country “everything is politicised”. This became apparent following the terrorist attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils in mid-August 2017. As the nation sought an explanation for the attacks, the debate rapidly became wrapped up in the ongoing dispute between Madrid and the regional Catalan government in Barcelona. The blame game became framed in Catalan or Spanish terms. For some, the Catalan police became national heroes, while for others they had, through negligence, apparently failed to prevent the attacks. The disagreement is only partially about the aftermath of the attacks. It’s also part of the push for independence in Catalonia, which has become a permanent feature of the political landscape in Spain. The Catalan parliament passed a measure in September officially announcing its plan to hold a referendum on October 1. If Yes won on the day, the parliament said, it would declare independence from Spain within 48 hours. The Madrid government responded by declaring the vote illegal. The Spanish government is now attempeting to prevent …

New government in Spain and what it means for Catalan's

New government in Spain and what it means for Catalan’s

Spain’s new prime minister Pedro Sanchez rose to office against a backdrop of unprecedented drama. But now he could capitalise on the circumstances that landed him the top job to resolve the conflict with Catalonia. Sanchez successfully ousted his predecessor Mariano Rajoy by passing a motion of no confidence against the Partido Popular government. Seizing on the unique opportunity offered by the sentencing of several prominent PP officials in a long-running corruption trial, the opposition leader moved quickly. Sanchez needed at least 176 votes but his Socialist party (PSOE) only had 84 seats and Ciudadanos, a centrist-liberal formation with a strong Spanish nationalist rhetoric, wouldn’t endorse a new left-wing government. So, Sanchez needed to muster the support of all other parties in the Spanish parliament. This included the left-wing party Podemos, and several nationalist parties from the Basque country and Catalonia, such as Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC). Sanchez takes office after his bold move in parliament. EP/Emilio Naranjo At the same time, in Barcelona, Quim Torra – a Catalan nationalist hand-picked by the exiled …

The flaw in Press Review announced by Theresa May

There are two ways of looking at the new Press Review announced by Theresa May, the UK prime minister: a genuine attempt to inject some badly needed funds into the failing business model of journalism, or another backhander to the mainstream corporate press to keep them sweet. Depressingly, history suggests the latter. The prime minister was effusive about the importance of journalism as a “huge force for good” – and anyone who has seen Spielberg’s The Post could scarcely disagree. That film encapsulated everything noble about great reporting and the vital importance of a free and independent press to a healthy democracy. May chose to highlight the crisis in local journalism – where the journalism may be less dramatic than that portrayed by Tom Hanks et al, but is just as vital: the leaders of local institutions such as hospitals, police forces, local courts or local councils can be equally susceptible to corruption or incompetence and also require the kind of scrutiny which keeps them accountable to local people. At a more mundane level, communities …

Why Democratic governments regularly supply weapons to oppressive regimes

Democratic governments regularly supply weapons to what are sometimes called “outlaw states” – oppressive regimes that violate the basic rights of their own citizens, or aggressive regimes that wrongfully threaten the security of outsiders. Sometimes democratic governments sell the weapons themselves; sometimes they issue export licenses to private arms firms within their jurisdiction. Both practices are frequently condemned on moral grounds. But how might governments who help to arm outlaw states try to defend themselves? What arguments could they appeal to in an attempt to justify their actions? Politicians sometimes claim that their acts make no difference to the degree of suffering inflicted by the regimes that they arm – that if they didn’t sell weapons to the regimes in question, some other government would. For example, when it was revealed in 2014 that Hong Kong’s riot police had used British-made tear gas against unarmed pro-democracy protesters, then foreign secretary Philip Hammond remarked: “CS gas is available from large numbers of sources around the world. To be frank, I think that is a rather immaterial …

A Likely Dictatorship

Term limits for the leadership are not usually found in dictatorships. The Chinese Communist Party’s proposed abolition of China’s presidential term limit means that it has forgotten one of the main lessons of Mao’s long despotism. The two-term limit was inserted into the People’s Republic of China Constitution after the Cultural Revolution ended and reflected a widespread desire to prevent the return of one-man dictatorship. Its abolition signals the likelihood of another long period of severe repression. This should prompt us to think of Chiang Kaishek as well as Mao and Yuan Shikai and, in a comparative Asian vein, of Marcos and Park among others. Of course, some recognize that Putin’s example may also have significantly influenced Xi Jinping. Xi’s move will have a profound effect on world order. It will enable him to move more boldly and increases the risk of his acting arbitrarily and perhaps mistakenly in international relations. It will surely hinder China’s efforts to be respected for “soft power” as well as military and economic prowess. Xi decided to strike while the iron is hot …