The Global Misery of Banking Failures
The depths of economic misery which started with the banking
failures, reflected in so many national reports below, will not
quickly go away, but surely the main thing that those affected
(nearly everyone) want to see, is that the lessons are learned – and
that it won’t happen again…(see
Woe, Woe - and More Woe
February’s review of 24 nations in descending order of
‘concern’ includes updated reports on:
Syria, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan,
Bangladesh, Egypt, Iran, Turkey, Russia, Belarus, India, Kazakhstan,
Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Taiwan, Ukraine, Tajikistan, Romania,
Bulgaria, North Korea, Vietnam, Philippines, Bosnia.
A Race to the Bottom
There’s a race to the bottom between two neighbours, IRAQ and SYRIA
where the first is reacting (badly), to nine years of occupation by
a foreign power and the second, via the media friends of its
revolution, seems to be inviting just that. We offer a thoughtful
commentary on SYRIA, and after nine years covering IRAQ, a rather
‘resigned’ report on the near total and entirely predictable mess,
in which it finds itself, now the US has gone. (We urged a federated
state, given the barely reconcilable Sunni/Shia/Kurd protagonists,
but nobody was listening). Iraqi politics are now overlaid with
Saudi Arabian and Iranian proxy moves against each other.
Both upheavals need to be carefully followed. If IRAQ, as it easily
might, breaks down into armed fighting groups; and SYRIA remains in
just such a mess, it would bring this chaos into a contiguous
landmass all the way from the Persian Gulf to the shores of the
Mediterranean, indeed to the very borders of Israel, perhaps even
for a proxy Saudi – Iranian showdown.
To further illustrate ‘the Syrian problem’, reflecting on
well-meaning foreign intervention, our report on neighbouring LIBYA
shows it is now in a state of near anarchy following it’s civil war.
There is a weak, barely acknowledged leadership, confronted
currently by all power being in the hands of well armed militias
operating outside any rule of law or authority, other than their
PAKISTAN and AFGHANISTAN in neither case offer relief from this
misery except that in the doom laden case of Pakistan, since
Musharraf, so desperately in need of good leadership, a bright star
has emerged. Imran Khan, former captain of the excellent national
cricket team was elected last time and with his international
celebrity and unremitting attacks on corruption – and it has to be
said – the USA‘s military interventions in his country, he has a
tidal wave of support building up amid hopes that he can attract
elected followers and so provide an alternative to the present sorry
bunch, both in government and opposition.
BANGLADESH is featured because of the significance of the
suppression of a coup attempt by a group of (the banned)
Hizbut-Tahrir affiliated Islamic officers – foiled by the army
itself. Sixteen officers have been arrested. This nation (formerly
East Pakistan), has much in common both in politics and it’s
military, with Pakistan. It is exactly this kind of occurrence that
keeps intelligence services up worrying late at night, when looking
at the nuclear-armed Pakistan military situation.
EGYPT and MOROCCO report the two remaining ‘Arab Spring’ countries
(with completely different outcomes). Egypt is more politically
dramatic - and well reported by world media, but Morocco and its
neighbour Algeria have to contend with the appearance of the AQIM
(‘Al Qaida in the Islamic Mahgreb’) offshoot, in their southern
IRAN is still front page more days than not, and like many others we
are wondering if the Israelis are going to be quite so irresponsible
as to unilaterally bomb their hated rivals, just before the US
elections? We look at the sanctions moves against IRAN, also the
internal quarrels between the supreme Iranian priests and the civil
TURKEY has long impressed us with its sturdy independence, but
whilst we have gone along with their democratic claims, we are still
outraged that there are now 72 journalists in jail and more than
50,000 (42%) of the prison population are on remand, having not yet
been tried -bail is not a part of Turkish law – but nevertheless
they are in jail. Democracies do not behave like that!
RUSSIA with its presidential election coming up, is seething, at
least in the big cities, with concern about what is happening to
their politics. So recently they were massively supporting Putin,
but now they’re questioning that, particularly after the farcical,
fraudulent elections in December which we describe, that kept United
Russia in power.
BELARUS as our report shows, lives fully down to its reputation as
Europe’s last (and quite awful) dictatorship.
INDIA: We tell of the latest developments in the long struggle to
eradicate corruption: the bane of political life in India. Also a
look at Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state, and its elections.
Finally, the problem of the Naxalites, India’s ‘Maoist’ guerrillas.
KAZAKHSTAN: Despite the dictator buying western newspaper
advertising pages wholesale, rhapsodising about this central Asian
paradise, the fact as we are reminded in this issue, is that it is
just another police state with all the unsavoury trimmings. It’s
work force see themselves as exploited and their protests were duly
dealt with, as such tyrannies do deal with labour problems.
SAUDI ARABIA: The worsening relations with Iran will inevitably
translate to the Shiite population on the Arab side of the Gulf,
including Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Rumors of war will
impede foreign investment in the Gulf, which means that regional
governments will have to compensate the inevitable shortfall with
state investment. Gulf rulers, fearing the spread of the ‘Arab
Spring’ see the spending as part of their very security. State
budgets were already inflated last year to preempt social turmoil;
in fact the Saudi government allocated a record amount, some USD 214
billion, in welfare and job creation programs.
The Saudi monarchy is concerned that the security situation in the
Eastern Province, where the majority of its Shiite population
resides, could be compromised because of Iranian pressure.
TAJIKISTAN: President Ermomali Rahmon has never allowed a free
election and consequently is still in power. There has been an
agreement with Central Asian neighbours coached by Russia under the
aegis of CIS Collective Security, to never allow any foreign nation
(think USA), to have military bases in any of their territories,
without the approval of all member states. This obviously relates to
the winding down of the Afghan war and the fact that the US
currently has leased bases (at least for the duration), in three of
these central Asian states.
TAIWAN: The long awaited election showed no change, with President
Ma of the KuoMinTang obtaining another four year term. We opine that
Beijing was the big winner here.
UKRAINE: Endless quarrels with Russia over the quantities and price
of their fuel exports to Ukraine. Russia is playing its strategic
card of seeking to take ownership control of Ukrainian pipelines,
carrying Russian fuel to Europe.
ROMANIA: Badly feeling the effects of the financial collapse in the
USA and Europe and its consequences for small nations like them. The
austerity measures the government has had to impose on them are very
ill received. They were bailed out by the IMF and EU for 20 billion
euros, which is the reason why.
BULGARIA: Also suffering from drastic austerity measures, they have
just elected a new president. The OSCE gave cautious approval to the
election, but registered a widespread complaint about votes being
bought, on a big scale.
NORTH KOREA’s reports, after the significant events over the
Christmas break are fully up to speed with the current situation,
and the advent of the baby-faced Kim Jong-eun, the third generation
of this ‘hereditary communist’ leadership.
VIETNAM: Hoping they will be lucky in 2012 they have an optimistic
target for both inflation and economic growth. Many have done worse
in the past year. We wish them what they wish for themselves.
PHILIPPINES: Cautiously good news. Our conclusion is that their
president is living up to his promises in cleaning house, after many
years of corrupt failures.
BOSNIA: The best news for a long time. Suddenly the Bosnian Serbs
agreed to form a government with federal partners, the Bosniaks and
the Croats – the nation has been a year ‘ungoverned’ because of the
Serb posturing. The circumstances are interesting – ‘very Balkans’ -
but the effects of having had no ministries for a year in a poor
nation like this, means there is a lot of catching up to do. To
perhaps spoil the story, Dodik, the Bosnian Serb leader is now
threatening to pull out because of a central government enquiry into
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