The names of... corporate big shots and industry lobbyists who helped shape the ... conclusions of the super-secret Cheney energy task force in 2001 are beginning to surface, thanks to a former White House aide... What this list really does is remind us how and why this administration has squandered six years that should have been devoted to finding innovative answers to the big questions of oil dependency and global warming. The report had immediate influence on Capitol Hill, where both the House and Senate produced alarmingly unbalanced energy bills, with billions in tax breaks and other subsidies for traditional energy producers and only peanuts, relatively speaking, for efficiency and alternative fuels. Fortunately, the energy debate itself has moved beyond the vice-president’s framing of it in 2001. The energy bill passed... last month is much less solicitous of big producers and much more favourable to cleaner fuels.
Lesson from India
As the landslide victory in the Indian presidential race on Saturday catapulted Pratibha Patil to prominence, there were mixed reactions from different quarters. Ruling Congress president Sonia Gandhi said it would boost the cause of gender equality and would be a “historic moment” while India Today put her picture on its front cover with the headline “Embarrassing Choice.” Leaving aside the debate whether Patil is the right person for the office of the President, generally perceived as ceremonial, and how she should conduct herself, it is significant that she has won with a higher margin than expected in a country known for having deep-rooted discrimination against women. India, rightly proud of its political pluralism, has certainly moved one notch up with a woman elected as head of the state... The proponents of “true democracy” need to learn a lesson from our neighbour if Pakistan is to emerge as a democratic polity.
The dragon puffs on
If the world of international political economy had been more romantic, the story of China’s meteoric economic rise would be recorded in the language of fables. The economy there continues to defy apparent economic laws and pundits alike, and has posted a second quarter growth of 11.9% year on year, phenomenal by any standards... China boasts a unique feature among resurgent developing economies. Whereas India, Pakistan and other regional economies are also on rebound growth trajectories (though not to the same tune), they invariably struggle with poverty statistics as the trickle-down remains as cruelly evasive as ever. China, on the other hand, not only maintains a tighter grip on inflation, but is also recording continuous successes in the unrelenting war on poverty. Therefore, the People’s Bank of China is commended for keeping a lid on inflationary trends, even if it is likely to shave some percentage points off the growth figure.
Ruling lights hope in Pakistan
The Supreme Court decision on Friday to reinstate Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, Pakistan’s top judge who was fired in March by Pervez Musharraf, its president and army chief, is a big chance for the country.
Rebuke though it is to General Musharraf’s overweening ambition, it could just prove his and Pakistan’s salvation—provided he uses the ruling to regroup around the constitution and the rule of law. There is, so far, no sign of that...
The truth is that Gen Musharraf fears political competition from the mainstream parties he needs to fight extremism more than he fears the risk of jihadist violence seizing hold of Pakistan... There are no risk-free policies in Pakistan. But better to back civil society mobilized around Chaudhry, and an open political contest to mobilize the nation against extremism, than continue betting on a general who is too clever by half and an army ambivalent about jihadism.