around the world in 80 minutes | 9 may 2013

TRADE

WELCOME TO THE POST-BRIC WORLD

The Economist

DECLARING an end to the BRIC era might seem the height of foolishness. Last year Brazil, China, India, and Russia accounted for a quarter of global output, a figure that is forecast to rise to about one-third by the end of the decade. China will probably become the world’s largest economy before then. India should continue to rise through the ranks as well. As the paper notes this week China, alongside many of the world’s populous emerging markets, is destined to regain its historical place among the world’s major economic powers.

That dominance is not inconsistent with the arrival of a major turning point for the world economy. In 1980, China and India together accounted for less than 5% of global output. Last year, the two were responsible for over 20% of world GDP. The transition from the one figure to the other was responsible for massive and highly disruptive changes across the global economy. The world trade order has been stood on its ear. The movement of hundreds of millions of new workers into global labour markets has had an enormous impact on real wage growth and real interest rates and, consequently, on innovation and investment. The strain on supplies of all sorts of goods and resources, from oil and gold to wine and art, has generated wild price gyrations and remarkable economic knock-on effects in producing and consuming countries.

It is this era of major and disruptive economic transformation that seems to be at an end. BRIC growth rates are slowing.

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MIDDLE EAST

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HOW SYRIA DIDN’T RUIN THE ARAB SPRING

Daniel Drezner | Foreign Policy

Your humble blogger has been traveling a lot, so it was only this a.m. that I got around to reading Marc Lynch’s blog post on “How Syria Ruined the Arab Spring.” It’s pretty gripping stuff:

[T]he Syrian nightmare has destroyed the spirit of fun, hope, and positive change of the early Arab uprisings. The promise of the Arab Spring has given way to Syria’s highly visible and protracted violence, divisive identity politics, focus on international intervention, crushing of expectations, fragmentation of the media landscape, state failure, and strategic proxy warfare.

Now, Marc knows way more than I do about the region and has literally written the book on understanding the Arab Spring. His points about the changing media landscape in the region are fascinating. But if I could go all blogger for a second, can I point out the ways in which I think there’s some gross exaggerating going on in this post?

First of all, let’s be clear that Syria was hardly the only Middle Eastern country to experience a violent blowback to the uprisings. Iran cracked down almost immediately after the first protest broke out in early 2011 — indeed, it cracked down so effectively that after that January the country disappeared from the Arab Spring narrative.

ISRAEL’S RED LINE

Dexter Filkins | The New Yorker

Which brings us to Israel. When it comes to Syria, Israel is fighting a different war than the one that the United States would likely involve itself in. If the U.S. were to intervene, it would almost certainly do so to stop the Assad regime from massacring its own people or from using chemical weapons on a large scale. Israel, in short, is trying to stop Hezbollah. Syria is the crucial bridge between Hezbollah and its patron, Iran. If you look at a map of the Middle East, you can draw a line, running east to west, from Tehran through Syria and into Lebanon, where Hezbollah resides. This is commonly known as “the Shiite Axis,” as Iran and Hezbollah are predominantly Shiite. (Syria is ruled by a minority Alawite sect, which is an offshoot of Shiism—but the country, like most of the rest of the Arab world, is majority Sunni.)

The Iranian regime helped create Hezbollah in the early nineteen-eighties, and it has sustained the group ever since. Indeed, without Iranian weapons, money, and advisers, it’s hard to imagine that Hezbollah could exist at all. Israel and Hezbollah fought a short, intense war in 2006; it was an unexpectedly difficult fight for Israeli forces, which were surprised by the sophistication of Hezbollah’s weaponry. Since 2006, both Israel and Hezbollah have been reloading, getting ready for the next war. (I wrote about Hezbollah for the magazine earlier this year.) Syria has been Hezbollah’s primary conduit for Iranian arms. Largely for this reason, Hezbollah has been intervening in Syria to save the Assad regime, sending advisers and even fighters, who are being killed there. At the moment, Hezbollah is estimated to have about fifty thousand rockets and missiles, including Scuds, which can hit targets across Israel. The next war will be very bad.

CHINA DIPS A TOE INTO MIDDLE EAST PEACE

Edward Wong & Chris Buckley | The New York Times

BEIJING — China took a modest step into Middle East diplomacy this week, hosting back-to-back visits from Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Authority, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.

But this was not exactly Camp David by the Forbidden City.

The fact that the visits were timed so the two leaders would not meet — Mr. Abbas left Beijing on Tuesday, and Mr. Netanyahu arrived Wednesday after a swing through Shanghai — signaled that neither they nor Xi Jinping, China’s leader, were ready for actual talks. But Mr. Xi did present a four-point peace proposal to Mr. Abbas, which, though it did not contain any breakthrough ideas, hinted that China had given some thought to playing a more energetic, if very limited, role as mediator in one of the world’s most protracted conflicts.

ME CHANNEL SURFING: YEMEN

Stephen Walt | Middle East Channel | Foreign Policy

We try to keep a close eye on Yemen here at the Middle East Channel. So I’m happy to post the latest video in the POMEPS Conversations series (subscribe here to the podcast), where I sit down with Stacey Philbrick Yadav of Hobart and William Smith Colleges for a short conversation about Yemen’s National Dialogue. She really has some interesting points to make about the changing roles, identities and attitudes of Yemeni protestors and the nature of the emerging political transition.

GUARDIAN: PICTURE DESK LIVE 8 MAY 2013

dan kitwood - afp - getty
Morning all. Could be a busy Picture Desk Live blog today. We’ve got the State Opening of Parliament in London, any moving photos from the Sir Alex Ferguson announcement and lots more besides. Here Yeomen of the Guard arrive through the Norman Porch ahead of the State Opening of Parliament. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/AFP/Getty Images

toby melville - reuters
Itchy! Judges sit in the House of Lords as they wait for the start of the State opening of Parliament, in the Palace of Westminster in London. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

suzanne plunkett - reuters
Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall are the first Royals to show. Here they are riding in a carriage. Photograph: Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters

wpa pool - getty
“Did you see that last picture?” Ladies sit in the House of Lords for the State Opening of Parliament in London, England. Photograph: WPA Pool/Getty Images

State opening of Parliament 2013
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh leave Buckingham Palace ahead of the State Opening of Parliament in London. Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA

richard pohle - the times
The wait’s nearly over for these members of the House of Lords. Photograph: Richard Pohle/The Times

wpa pool - getty - throne
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II delivers her speech next to Prince Charles during the State Opening of Parliament in London, England. Queen Elizabeth II unveils the coalition government’s legislative programme in a speech delivered to Members of Parliament and Peers in The House of Lords. Photograph: WPA Pool/Getty Images

dan kitwood getty - crown
It’s all over. Queen Elizabeth II has made her speech. If you’d like to read an overview of the key points and find out what it all means, read Andrew Sparrow’s analysis. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

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INDIA

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INDIAN ECONOMY: AN UNFINISHED PROJECT

James Crabtree and Victor Mallet | The Financial Times

At a private meeting in Mumbai’s seafront Taj Mahal hotel last month, finance minister Palaniappan Chid­ambaram made corporate India an unusual offer.

Sitting in the hotel’s ballroom were most of the country’s leading industrialists, including billionaires Anil Ambani and Kumar Birla, who were gathered to discuss how to re-energise their nation’s flagging economy. “I’ve come here with one mission: to understand your problems and to fix them,” Mr Chidambaram said, according to one of those present.

The finance minister then offered a bouquet of flowers to any participant able to report that none of their big investments was held up by bureaucratic obstacles linked to the government. As the conversation progressed round the table, and one tycoon after another complained of multibillion-dollar projects lying unfinished for the want of some official clearance or other, the flowers went unclaimed.

Indian gross domestic product grew only 5 per cent last year, a respectable performance by the standards of the developed world but still the country’s lowest rate for a decade. Public finances have deteriorated. Inflation and interest rates remain high, while the current account deficit has swollen and industrial output is stagnant.

A CONVERSATION WITH ASIAN DEVELOPMENT BANK’S CHIEF ECONOMIST CHANGYONG RHEE

Hari Kumar | India Ink | International Herald Tribune

Q.How is India performing in delivery of public services to its citizens?
A. India not only continues to be one of the fastest-growing economies in the 
world since early 1990s, it has also successfully reduced poverty,
 considerably brought down illiteracy and significantly improved health 
conditions.

However, publicly provided basic services such as health care, 
education, water and sanitation, and power have not improved at the same
 pace.

 India has made enormous strides in expanding access to education in the
 past two decades. More children attend primary schools and those who
 attend spend more years in school. However, concerns remain about the
 quality of education, availability of text books, school infrastructure,
 and pupil-teacher ratios.

 With respect to health, fewer children die young and adults live longer.

However, India’s health services need strengthening. Inequality in access
 to health services persists. For example, only 52 percent of the poorest 20 percent of women
 in India have access to skilled health personnel during child delivery, compared to 96 percent of the richest 20 percent. 

Sanitation services are a particular concern.

Q. Can you tell us about some good public service delivery changes introduced in India in the recent years?
A. India has been a good source of inspiring stories of improved public service delivery. Its Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (Education for All) as well as the Education Guarantee Act have had a very positive impact on expanding access to schooling, especially among girls and disadvantaged populations.

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PAKISTAN

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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH NOAM CHOMSKY ON PAKISTAN ELECTIONS

Ayyaz Mallick | Dawn | via 3 Quarks Daily

As a country which has spent almost half of its existence under some sort of direct military rule how do you see this first ever impending transition from one democratically-elected government to another?

Noam Chomsky: Well, you know more about the internal situation of Pakistan than I do! I mean I think it’s good to see something like a democratic transition. Of course, there are plenty of qualifications to that but it is a big change from dictatorship. That’s a positive sign. And I think there is some potential for introducing badly needed changes. There are very serious problems to deal with internally and in the country’s international relations. So maybe, now some of them can be confronted.

Coming to election issues, what do you think, sitting afar and as an observer, are the basic issues that need to be handled by whoever is voted into power?

NC: Well, first of all, the internal issues. Pakistan is not a unified country. In large parts of the country, the state is regarded as a Punjabi state, not their (the people’s) state. In fact, I think the last serious effort to deal with this was probably in the 1970s, when during the Bhutto regime some sort of arrangement of federalism was instituted for devolving power so that people feel the government is responding to them and not just some special interests focused on a particular region and class. Now that’s a major problem.

Another problem is the confrontation with India. Pakistan just cannot survive if it continues to do so (continue this confrontation). Pakistan will never be able to match the Indian militarily and the effort to do so is taking an immense toll on the society.

REUTERS: ELECTION RALLIES IN PAKISTAN

REUTERS-Akhtar Soomro
A supporter of the political and religious party Jamaat-e-Islami takes pictures with a mobile phone as he holds Pakistan’s national flag during an election campaign rally in Karachi, May 5, 2013. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro
reuters-mian khursheed
A supporter of the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) party shouts slogans with others waving the party flags during a speech by the party’s leader Nawaz Sharif (not in picture) at an election campaign rally in Islamabad, May 5, 2013. REUTERS/Mian Khursheed
reuters - mani rana
Christian supporters of Imran Khan, Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician and chairman of political party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), hold placard as they light candles next a portrait of Khan in Lahore, May 8, 2013. Khan injured his head after falling off a mechanical lift raising him onto a stage at the rally four days before national elections. REUTERS/Mani Rana
reuter - zohra bensemra
Nighat Orakzai (R), a Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) candidate for the upcoming election, attends a clandestine campaign rally on a roof of a building in Peshswar, May 1, 2013. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
reuters - akhtar soomro
Veero Kolhi, a freed bonded labourer turned election candidate, along with her supporters makes a victory sign as they chant slogans during an election campaign on the outskirts of the city of Hyderabad in Pakistan’s Sindh province, April 5, 2013. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

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MAURITANIA

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TORTURE AGAINST TERRORISM

Hannah Armstrong | Latitude | International Herald Tribune

NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania — Outside our tent on a beach about 100 miles north of the capital, the Atlantic Ocean was glittering under the midday sun and a fresh tuna was searing on a grill. Inside, the conversation with my Mauritanian friends turned to torture and detention. One described how he’d been chained up naked for weeks; another talked about his brother who had a pin inserted under his fingernails. Both victims had been arrested during a crackdown on political dissidents in 2003, in the twilight of the 21-year dictatorship of Maaouya Sid’Ahmed Ould Taya.

Taya was deposed in 2005, but torture, which has been moored in Mauritania’s security apparatus for decades, has continued. Last year, under pressure from France and other Western states, the government of President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz ratified international conventions against torture and enforced disappearance. But this has not stopped Mauritania from using the same brutal techniques — or France and the United States from feeding it intelligence on suspected terrorists and helping it upgrade its security capacities.

. . . Seeing in Mauritania a key partner for their own counterterrorism efforts, France and the United States have provided it with logistics, training, equipment and intelligence, according to Western and Mauritanian security sources in Nouakchott.

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NEPAL

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NEPAL STRUGGLES TO CONTAIN HUMAN TRAFFICKING PROBLEM

Rachel Williams | The Guardian

Raji speaks softly, her small, cross-legged frame fitting neatly into a plastic garden chair. “When we felt weak and couldn’t work, they would beat us with metal rods,” she says.

There is a cluster of rusty steel reinforcement bars sticking out of the concrete above us; it becomes clear those are the kind of rods she is talking about.

Raji thinks she was beaten five or six times during the seven months she spent in India working on building sites after being trafficked from her village in mid-western Nepal, lured by promises of a well-paid job as a domestic help. She was 16 at the time.

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ARGENTINA

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LIE TO ME

Daniel Politi | Latitude | International Herald Tribune

BUENOS AIRES — How much inflation is there? Who can buy dollars legally? Who really runs the economy? All are simple questions, but in Argentina they can be major puzzles.

Lately they’ve tripped up even some top officials who are otherwise well-trained at giving shifty answers to uncomfortable issues.

First up, the economy minister. A Greek journalist got the usually recalcitrant Hernán Lorenzino to sit down for an interview late last year as part of a TV documentary that compared Argentina’s 2001 economic collapse to the current situation in Greece. The footage aired in Greece on April 23 and quickly went viral in Argentina

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ITALY

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THE CHAOS IN ITALY

Alexander Stille | News Desk | The New Yorker

In some ways, the newly formed government of Enrico Letta, an alliance of left and right that includes both the main center-left party, the Democratic Party, and the former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right People of Liberty party, seems new: at forty-six, Letta is one of Italy’s youngest Prime Ministers; his cabinet contains more women than any before it, along with the country’s first minister of color. In other aspects, it is eerily familiar. Letta himself began his career as a member of the Christian Democrats, the party that governed Italy from 1946 until 1993, and his uncle, Gianni Letta, is one of Berlusconi’s closest advisers and an old Christian Democrat himself. And the country’s President is still Giorgio Napolitano, an eighty-seven-year-old who’s been in office since 2006. More troubling than the government’s content is the means by which it was formed: the usual bargaining among the big parties, exactly the kind of self-interested insider power politics that Italians have come to hate. Coupled with all of this is the death, on Monday, of seven-time Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti—a pillar of post-Second World War Italy—which makes the old political order, itself no picnic, seem like a golden age of ordinary dysfunction compared to today’s new hyper-dysfunction.

NBC PHOTOBLOG: THOUSANDS FOLLOW EX-HAITI PRESIDENT ARISTIDE AFTER COURT APPEARANCE

dieu nalio chery  - ap
Dieu Nalio Chery / AP | Supporters of Haiti’s former President Jean Bertrand Aristide stand around Aristide’s car as he leaves the courthouse in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Wednesday, May 8, 2013. The two-time president showed up at the courthouse to testify before a judge investigating the 2000 slaying of Jean Dominique, one of the Caribbean country’s most prominent journalists.
dieu nalio chery  - ap - cup
Dieu Nalio Chery / AP | A supporter of Haiti’s former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide holds up an image of Aristide and yells “Aristide is king!”
dieu nalio chery  - ap - supportersDieu Nalio Chery / AP | Flanked by body guards, former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, center, greets supporters as leaves the courthouse in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

THOUSANDS FOLLOW EX-HAITI PRESIDENT AFTER COURT APPEARANCE

Trenton Daniel | Associated Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide made a rare public appearance Wednesday and thousands of supporters shadowed the ex-leader’s motorcade following a court hearing.

The swelling crowd of backers who chanted songs and waved posters of Aristide in Haiti’s capital pointed to the level of influence the two-time president still holds among the poor more than two years after his sudden return from exile.

It also underscored the strong possibility that his political party could prove a serious contender in legislative elections that are supposed to be held before year’s end.

REUTERS: Brazil’s Azevedo wins race to head WTO.
THE GUARDIAN: Russia and US pledge Syria conference with both sides.
THE GUARDIAN: Syrian rebels react coolly to Russian-US proposal for peace conference.
THE AGE: China trade data improves, but data questionable.
BUSINESS INSIDER: NOMURA: That Strong Chinese Trade Data Was Bunk
THE GUARDIAN: China welcomes Binyamin Netanyahu.
FP PASSPORT: Why is a decades-old poisoning case taking Chinese social media by storm?
BUSINESS INSIDER: Australia’s Central Bank Would Like To Weaken Its Currency.
THE SEATTLE TIMES: 2 women announce plans to run for Iranian presidency.
THE GUARDIAN: Furore deepens over Stephen Hawking’s Israel boycott.
BUSINESS INSIDER: German Industrial Production Comes In Much Better Than Expected
THE GUARDIAN: Kurdistan Workers’ party: is the war really over?
THE GUARDIAN: Nigeria’s love of champagne takes sales growth to second highest in world.
THE GUARDIAN: Nigeria extremist attacks leave many dead.
ZIMEYE: Mugabe Sets Tasks For African Spies.
THE GUARDIAN: Liberia natural resources deals not compliant with law, find auditors.
THE GUARDIAN: In UK Female genital mutilation campaigners face death threats and intimidation.
REUTERS: Analysis: From the fringe of Europe, Romania and Bulgaria seek EU acceptance.
REUTERS: Pakistan’s Sharif calls for warmer ties with India.
REUTERS: Recriminations over post-vote violence stoke Venezuela tensions.
THE INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Congress Party Sweeps Karnataka Elections.

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