The new year is here, but it isn’t a happy one. It should have felt like the beginning of something new, but it feels, instead, like the end of all that might have been. And so, 2012 doesn’t look like it will be a good year for India.
Taking faith seriously
The term Arab Spring is already highly disputed. Do the revolutions across the Arab world presage the glory days of summer, or a passage through a bleak winter? One thing is certain: the influence of religion and faith in determining the outcome.
Consider the scale of what is now happening. Across the Middle East and North Africa, Islamist parties are ascendant. Sunni and Shia divisions are also at the fore. Terrorism, based on a perversion of religion, is disfiguring politics not only in familiar places, but also in Nigeria, Russia, Kazakhstan, the Philippines and elsewhere. More than half of today’s conflicts have a predominantly religious dimension.
Photo : AP
The fiscal-monetary conundrum
Even though growth is faltering and recession is staring hard at some European nations, they have been on an austerity drive—something India should strive to do. The New Year resolution of the government, if there’s one, should be to bring down the fiscal deficit. If indeed the government dares to do so and makes a short-term compromise with growth, the markets will reward India
Trapped between two worlds
It’s been four long years since the financial crisis started and there are still no signs it’s going to end anytime soon. If anything, the prospects for the world economy are worsening, with growth forecasts being toned down. Europe is sitting on a powder keg. The developing economies, which got through the aftermath of the Lehman blow-up relatively lightly, are now taking it on the chin. Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, recently said the crisis is “not only unfolding, but escalating”.
The economic imperatives of the Arab Spring
Almost a year has passed since revolution in Tunisia and protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square toppled ossified authoritarian regimes and ignited a much wider—and still raging—storm in the Arab world. No one can safely predict where these events will eventually take the Arab people and nations. But one thing is certain: there is no turning back. New social and political movements and structures are emerging, power is shifting, and there is hope that democratic processes will strengthen and spread across the Arab world in 2012
Asian women on top
India’s Indira Gandhi, Sri Lanka’s Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto, Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh, Corazon Aquino of the Philippines and Megawati Sukarnoputri of Indonesia—these women leaders dominated South and South-East Asia for much of the past four decades. Each belonged to a special class of women whose husbands or fathers were their country’s recognized founding father or long-standing political leader. But while their dynastic links brought them to power, that was not the sole factor keeping them there
Occupy the government
Too much of the talk nowadays about how social media has affected politics focuses on awareness: People adopt social media, discover they are not alone, start to protest, and eventually their “Facebook revolution” overwhelms those in power. But, even if such a revolution succeeds, that is only the beginning. What happens next?
The citizen bank
Soon after the financial crisis began in 2008, I was at a meeting in the US where a senior White House economic adviser put a question to me: “Do you think banks can be good citizens?” As I started to answer “Yes”, he interjected: “If your answer is ‘yes’, think about the fact that no one will believe you.”
Back to liberty, equality, fraternity
The fracturing post-World War II equations showed through the plaster in 2011. The 63-year period from 1945 to 2008 will be remembered as the time when two dominant ideas about people and money, and how we choose to organize ourselves around these ideologies, died. One version delinked people from money; the other put money before people. The first collapse was in 1991 when the dominant interpretation of collectivism shattered the Soviet Union into 15 shards.
Russia’s bo-toxic president returns
When a tsar is treated not with awe but mockery, it is time for him to consider retirement, or to prepare for a palace coup. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who intends to stage a glorious return to the Kremlin as president in the election scheduled for March, should reflect on that choice
Reinvigorate the rich to help the poor
For the third time in five years, the world’s poorest countries are at risk of being hit by a crisis not of their making—a prospective downturn brought on by financial turmoil in the world’s most advanced economies. Having gone through the food and fuel shock of 2007-2008 and the global financial crisis that followed, low-income countries may now face even larger disruptions in 2012. And, given the interdependence of today’s globalized world, poor countries’ distress will invariably have unwelcome consequences for everyone, rich and poor alike
2011: The end of status quo
Looking back at an amazingly chaotic 2011, it is difficult to pick out one outstanding strain. Rather, it is easy to be swept away by the maelstrom of images and events that unfolded with such bewildering frequency globally. Yet, if one stepped back for a moment, there is a very important message that comes from what was certainly the year of globalization of protest: it is the end of status quo
Europe’s year of indecision
The dire economic situation in which most of the rich world found itself in 2011 was not merely the result of impersonal economic forces, but was largely created by the policies pursued, or not pursued, by world leaders. Indeed, the remarkable unanimity that prevailed in the first phase of the financial crisis that began in 2008, and which culminated in the $1 trillion rescue package put together for the London G-20 meeting in April 2009, dissipated long ago. Now, bureaucratic infighting and misconceptions are rampant.
Europe’s challenges in 2012
For more than six decades, Europe’s integration process has been steadily evolving. Each step, from the European Coal and Steel Community to today’s European Union (EU), was taken with the common good in mind and based on shared values (democracy, human rights and social justice) and goals (economic growth, prosperity and the consolidation of Europe’s international prestige). In the coming year, the result—the common rules and institutions that we Europeans have painstakingly forged—will be tested like never before.
After the promised land
At the height of the Arab uprisings last spring, many Europeans were gripped by nightmare visions of a tsunami of migrants crashing against the continent’s shores. The wave never hit, but its spectre fed a tenacious anti-immigrant populism that has concealed an important new trend: migration to Europe—and to the US—has largely stalled. In many countries, more immigrants are leaving than are arriving, owing mainly to the economic crisis that has drained jobs in the West
Obama the statesman
The world may see Barack Obama as a leader weakened by the intractability of American domestic politics, but, as the 2012 presidential campaign heats up, the American public still sees him as a strong, capable leader in foreign affairs. Some 49% of Americans approve of his overall handling of foreign affairs, with 63% approving of his approach to terrorism and 52% approving of the withdrawal from Iraq. Contrast that with the 30% of Americans who approve of his handling of the economy, or the scant 26% who back his approach to the federal budget deficit
Year of rational pessimism
Someone recently quipped that the best thing about 2011 was that it was likely better than 2012. By the same token, while there has been much concern about America’s political gridlock, something worse for America, and for the world, could have happened: the Republicans could have prevailed in their programme of austerity-cum-redistribution to the wealthy. Automatic cuts won’t happen until 2013, which means that the economy in 2012 will be spared, ever so slightly.
Joseph E. Stiglitz
Asia enters the storm
As 2011 comes to an end, there are growing signs that Asia is becoming caught up in the global slowdown, dashing hopes that the region’s economies would “decouple” from the prolonged recession in Europe and America’s lacklustre recovery. China’s export growth is slipping, owing to faltering demand in Europe, which has surpassed the US as China’s largest foreign market. Indeed, China’s manufacturing activity is contracting for the first time in almost three years. Reverberations are already evident in other emerging Asian economies that depend on exports both to China-based manufacturers and to the US and Europe
The Europe of the future
Whenever people seek a justification for European integration, they are always tempted to look backwards. They stress that European integration banished the spectre of war from the old continent. And European integration has, indeed, delivered the longest period of peace and prosperity that Europe has known for many centuries
Industrialization’s second golden age
“The golden age of finance,” the economist Barry Eichengreen has said, “has now ended”. If that is true—and let us hope that it is—what follows will most likely be a new golden age of industrialization
Justin Yifu Lin
What China wants in 2012
With economic globalization and the advent of a multipolar world, China and other emerging countries are clearly set to play much more important roles not only in 2012, but in the coming decades, too. As China’s economic power and influence in the world economy have increased following the financial crisis of 2008, the idea has been floated that China and the US should co-lead the world under some sort of “G-2” arrangement.