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I Told You So...

Posted by: pjeanty

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pjeanty

Inspired by Tunisia and Egypt, Yemenis join in anti-government protests. Thousands of Yemenis took the streets Thursday demanding an end to the government of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has ruled this impoverished Middle Eastern nation for more than three decades. The rally--one of the largest demonstrations this capital has seen in recent memory-- unfolded in four different neighborhoods and was inspired by the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. The unrest here represented a widening of the upheavals unfolding across the Arab world, and poses yet another threat to the stability of this U.S. ally, which Al Qaeda militants are using a base to target the West and its allies. "Look at Tunisia with pride," the crowds chanted. "Yemen has strong people, too."

But unlike the protests in Tunisia and Egypt, Thursday's rally here was peaceful, fueled by boisterous opposition party members, from socialists to Islamists, and youth activists. Protesters shut down streets, sang songs and shouted patriotic slogans, as soldiers and riot police wearing helmets and carrying batons and shields watched. Security was tight around the capital. "The people want the president replaced," the crowds chanted. "Live free, Yemen." 

The poorest country in the Middle East, Yemen is struggling with many of the same problems faced in other Arab nations, including high unemployment, low wages, rising prices and widespread corruption. In addition to the threat posed by Al Qaeda, the weak government is grappling with a rebellion in the north and a secessionist movement in the south. 

In the wake of the Tunisian rebellion and growing tensions here, Saleh raised the salaries of the army and denied accusations that he was trying to anoint his son as his successor. He also ordered income taxes cut in half and sought adequate controls on inflation. But despite his efforts to defuse the unrest, Yemenis from all walks of life have taken to the streets over the past two weeks, calling for Saleh's removal--a demand that few citizens in the past would have dared to utter.


Lessons for both the Ruler and the Ruled

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pjeanty

Both the rulers and the ruled in the Arab world are carefully observing the revolution in Tunisia. For the ruled in countries like Egypt, Libya, Algeria, etc.,  it gives hope of achieving what the Tunisian people did in their countries while for the rulers, it brings fear of getting their dictatorships coming to an end. 

Most Arab citizens are young and many of them are well educated as well and conversant with social media like Twitter which was extensively used during the revolution to share info among themselves with action from the field.  The youth crave for a change to democracy across Jordan, Algeria, Egypt, Libya and Morocco.

The Tunisian revolution may also be a warning/reminder to the West to not continue supporting political repression anywhere. Algeria and Jordon had allowed democracy for some time and finding the system to be a threat to their power, pulled back from democracy.

What needs to be seen is if those who have overturned the last government succeed in ensuring stable, progressive and corruption-free governance. Inflation and weak economy have also been among the reasons for movements rising in the Arab world.


Europe’s Crisis Still Alive in 2011

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Recovery in Europe might take longer than expected. The stability perceived in December 2010 no longer seems to be visible, if the events of the first 7 days of the New Year are taken into consideration. There is political crisis in Belgium amidst high indications of slowing growth in European economy and a falling euro currency.  Belgium’s failure in having a government since june has raised concerns that the debt might go out of government control. The government bond markets have slumped and the insurance cost of most western European bonds have hit record highs. 

Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and now Belgium- Risk seems to be rising gradually in Europe despite emerging consensus in the response to the debt crisis. European Commission’s new framework making bondholders share the burden of failure seems to have triggered the new fear. Also, the commission wants to strengthen the hands of the national regulators in times of economic crisis, over-riding the bank’s leadership. Current liquidity may not support the faltering governments for long.

Portugal’s auction next week would determine whether the country needed IMF to come in or not. 10 year yields at spain, Italy and Ireland were higher on Thursday while credit swaps in Belgium hit record highs.

The Debt status in some key European nations:

Hungary - 120.6%
External debt (as % of GDP): 120.6%
Gross external debt: $224.36 billion
2009 GDP (est): $186 billion
External debt per capita: $22,650

Italy - 141.3%
External debt (as % of GDP): 141.3%
Gross external debt: $2.456 trillion
2009 GDP (est): $1.74 trillion
External debt per capita: $42,267

Greece - 167.2%
External debt (as % of GDP): 167.2%
Gross external debt: $557.4 billion
2009 GDP (est): $333.4 billion
External debt per capita: $51,916

Germany - 176.8%
External debt (as % of GDP): 176.8%
Gross external debt: $4.97 trillion
2009 GDP (est): $2.81 trillion
External debt per capita: $60,357

Spain - 176.9%
External debt (as % of GDP): 176.9%
Gross external debt: $2.40 trillion
2009 GDP (est): $1.36 trillion
External debt per capita: $59,459

Norway - 208.8%
External debt (as % of GDP): 208.8%
Gross external debt: $558.4 billion
2009 GDP (est): $267.4 billion
External debt per capita: $119,805

Finland - 215%
External debt (as % of GDP): 215%
Gross external debt: $383.7 billion 2009
GDP (est): $178.8 billion
External debt per capita: $73,082

Portugal - 231.2%
External debt (as % of GDP): 231.2%
Gross external debt: $537.85 billion
2009 GDP (est): $232.6 billion
External debt per capita: $50,230

France - 244.3%
External debt (as % of GDP): 244.3%
Gross external debt: $5.23 trillion 2009
GDP (est): $2.09 trillion
External debt per capita: $79,982

Austria - 251.4%
External debt (as % of GDP): 251.4%
Gross external debt: $809.2 billion
2009 GDP (est): $321.8 billion
External debt per capita: $98,554

Sweden - 269.7%
External debt (as % of GDP): 269.7%
Gross external debt: $893.86 billion
2009 GDP (est): $331.4 billion
External debt per capita: $98,664

Denmark - 307.3%
External debt (as % of GDP): 307.3%
Gross external debt: $607.818 billion
2009 GDP (est): $197.8 billion
External debt per capita: $110,502

Belgium - 326.7%
External debt (as % of GDP): 326.7%
Gross external debt: $1.253 trillion
2009 GDP (est): $383.4 billion
External debt per capita: $120,267

Netherlands - 369.6%
External debt (as % of GDP): 369.6%
Gross external debt: $2.44 trillion
2009 GDP (est): $660 billion
External debt per capita: $145,928

Switzerland - 378.6%
External debt (as % of GDP): 378.6%
Gross external debt: $1.191 trillion (2009 Q3)
2009 GDP (est): $314.7 billion
External debt per capita: $156,694

United Kingdom - 428.8%
External debt (as % of GDP): 428.8%
Gross external debt: $9.12 trillion
2009 GDP (est): $2.128 trillion
External debt per capita: $149,281

Ireland - 1,305%
External debt (as % of GDP): 1,305%
Gross external debt: $2.25 trillion
2009 GDP (est): $172.5 billion
External debt per capita: $535,529

 

Source: US Treasury, US Federal Reserve, US Office of Debt Management


Jobs Scarcity in Asia for Skilled Graduates

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China is producing around 6 million graduates every year but is finding it hard to provide employment to them. The reasons are varied because there is a supply glut and there are not enough jobs for professionals. In contrast, there are many jobs for less skilled labor. Forced to survive, the highly skilled workforce is making do with whatever jobs they can lay their hands on in the urban centers.

Higher Education has been an aspiration zeal in Asia, be it in India or China. Families want their children to have the best possible education and spend a lot, depleting even their last savings to ensure good education for their children. They do not want their children to struggle like they did and this develops high expectations. It is not just the recession that is the dampener; it is that the jobs for the engineers in India or China are not sufficient to meet the ever increasing supply of engineers coming into the market every year.

In contrast, the blue collar wages have been rising in both the countries since the younger generation has preferred to move into the high skills area. Hence even for those who have retired, there is still plenty of work in manufacturing and other less skilled areas. These people are in more demand in the two nation’s factories, farms and other labor oriented vocations.  In both countries, while the salaries for the professional class has not risen in double digits over the past 5 to 6 years, the daily wages for the blue collar workers have increased tremendously.

This is harder for the youth who come in from rural backgrounds or whose parents are semi-skilled or less skilled. Because of the cultural differences in their upbringing and the lack of standards in their local schooling, they lose out in the competitive race for jobs against urban born youth. In India, reservations based on caste help these youth gain government jobs and this mitigates the problem to some extent, but these youth fail to replicate the same success with private companies.