Category: Current affairs

Where is Japan on the Abenomics trajectory?

Where is Japan on the Abenomics trajectory?

  • Japan economy faces big structural problems after 20 years of recession, i.e. decreasing population, ageing society, slow investment and low productivity.
  • Abenomics = PM Abe's plan for sorting out the economy, and has "Three Arrows": [1] Fiscal stimulus, [2] Monetary easing and [3] Structural reforms (i.e. addressing government debt).
  • [1] and [2] have been fired with mixed results - now [3] needs to happen big-time if Japan wants to avoid either fiscal collapse or a drop in living standards over the next few decades.

Poland 2015 parliamentary election result?

  • Swing to the right - conservative opposition Law and Justice party wins big victory.
  • First time since 1989 (when democracy was restored) that there's no left-wing party in parliament, and that a single party has won enough seats to govern alone.
  • Expect Poland to become a more socially conservative country, mildly Eurosceptic and more inward-looking.

Explain South Africa’s student protests?

  • Widespread protests against proposed higher tuition fees - President Zuma capitulates and agrees to a cap of fee increases.
  • Protests seen as barometer of broad dissatisfaction with post-Apartheid government's apparent failure to address economic inequalities.
  • Economic backdrop unsupportive: Growth still weak, unemployment high, fiscal deficit widening.

Main global consequences of China’s slowdown?

  • Depresses global commodity prices (i.e. China is a huge consumer of global commodities).
  • Which results in big swings of emerging market currencies (i.e. countries which export to China).
  • Which in turn makes it more difficult for the US Fed to raise interest rates (as it might provoke unwanted volatility in global markets, as investors leave emerging markets to seek higher and more stable returns in the US).

What is Peronism?

  • Populist Argentine political movement based on the legacy of former President Juan Domingo Perón and his 2nd wife Eva.
  • Still dominates politics in Argentina today, traditionally drawing its support from the working class and unions.
  • Half of candidates in first round of 2015 Presidential poll (25 Oct) were Peronists.

Are Palestinians Sunni or Shia?

  • Estimates of total (Gaza + West Bank + diaspora):
  • Sunni 85%, Shia 7%, Christian 6%, Druze 1%, other 1%.
  • Gaza is significantly more homogenous than the West Bank.

Explain the looming potential US debt default?

Explain the looming potential US debt default?

  • Government doesn't have enough dosh to pay for stuff, so will need to borrow more on 3 Nov, beyond a pre-agreed debt ceiling.
  • So either the US defaults (i.e. stops paying for things like interest obligations on previous borrowings), or it raises the debt ceiling.
  • Only way to avoid default is if Congress agrees to raise or suspend the debt ceiling.

Describe what Republicans & Democrats are thinking re a potential 03 Nov default?

  • Republicans don't want to raise debt ceiling, i.e. they want smaller and not bigger government.
  • So they are proposing prioritising payment of some (but not all) obligations (i.e. debt service, military and some welfare), or a raising of the debt ceiling in exchange for a reduction in social spending (Medicare, food stamps, social security).
  • The Democrats simply want the debt ceiling raised.

Is Russia pushing the US around now?

  • Might look like it (e.g. Crimea & Syria) but Russia is a lot weaker than it appears: feeble economy, few international partners/allies, and no decisive institutional influence on the international order.
  • By contrast, the US stands centre-place in a global network of international institutions, alliances, military and strategic partnerships.
  • Arguably, prudent foreign policy dictates managing this network with care, which, when compared to Putin's boldness, might create an impression of indecisiveness.

ISIS, al-Qaeda and territory?

  • Broadly similar aims: Impose Sharia law worldwide, destroy infidels, hasten the arrival of the prophesied redeemer of Islam.
  • But ISIS, unlike al Qaeda, consolidates control of territory, and then immediately sets about building the fundamental pillars of a genuine state on that territory.
  • al-Qaeda, in its early form, showed little interest in/capacity for controlling territory.
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