Fidest – Agenzia giornalistica/press agency

Quotidiano di informazione – Anno 32 n° 53

Posts Tagged ‘the economist’

The Economist this week: Boris Johnson and the Conservative victory

Posted by fidest press agency su venerdì, 13 dicembre 2019

“We have published a special edition with our analysis of Britain’s astonishing general election. As we went to press, Boris Johnson was heading for a majority of around 80 seats, the largest Conservative victory since the days of Margaret Thatcher. Under Jeremy Corbyn, meanwhile, Labour has suffered its worst result since 1935. The vote marks a profound realignment in British politics. For the first time since the referendum of 2016, it is clear that Britain will leave the European Union. The party of the rich has buried Labour under the votes of working-class northerners and Midlanders. And, after a decade of weak or non-existent majorities, Britain has a prime minister with immense personal authority and a free rein in Parliament.” (by Zanny Minton Beddoes, Editor-in-Chief)

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The right way to help declining places

Posted by fidest press agency su venerdì, 20 ottobre 2017

the economistPOPULISM’S wave has yet to crest. That is the sobering lesson of recent elections in Germany and Austria, where the success of anti-immigrant, anti-globalisation parties showed that a message of hostility to elites and outsiders resonates as strongly as ever among those fed up with the status quo.
Economic theory suggests that regional inequalities should diminish as poorer (and cheaper) places attract investment and grow faster than richer ones. The 20th century bore that theory out: income gaps narrowed across American states and European regions. No longer. Affluent places are now pulling away from poorer ones (see article). This geographical divergence has dramatic consequences. A child born in the bottom 20% in wealthy San Francisco has twice as much chance as a similar child in Detroit of ending up in the top 20% as an adult. Boys born in London’s Chelsea can expect to live nearly nine years longer than those born in Blackpool. Opportunities are limited for those stuck in the wrong place, and the wider economy suffers. If all its citizens had lived in places of high productivity over the past 50 years, America’s economy could have grown twice as fast as it did.
Divergence is the result of big forces. In the modern economy scale is increasingly important. The companies with the biggest hoards of data can train their machines most effectively; the social network that everyone else is on is most attractive to new users; the stock exchange with the deepest pool of investors is best for raising capital. These returns to scale create fewer, superstar firms clustered in fewer, superstar places. Everywhere else is left behind.
What to do? One answer is to help people move. Thriving places could do more to build the housing and infrastructure to accommodate newcomers. Accelerating the reciprocal recognition of credentials across state or national borders would help people move to where they can be most productive. But greater mobility also has a perverse side-effect. By draining moribund places of talented workers, it exacerbates their troubles. The local tax-base erodes as productive workers leave, even as welfare and pension obligations mount.To avoid these outcomes, politicians have long tried to bolster left-behind places with subsidies. But such “regional policies” have a patchy record, at best. South Carolina lured BMW to the state in 1992 and from it built a thriving automotive cluster. But the EU’s structural funds raise output and reduce unemployment only so long as funding continues. California has 42 enterprise zones. None has raised employment. Better for politicians to focus on speeding up the diffusion of technology and business practices from high-performing places. A beefed-up competition policy could reduce industrial concentration, which saps the economy of dynamism while focusing the gains from growth in fewer firms and places. Fostering clusters by encouraging the creation of private investment funds targeted on particular regions might help.Perhaps most of all, politicians need a different mindset. For progressives, alleviating poverty has demanded welfare; for libertarians, freeing up the economy. Both have focused on people. But the complex interaction of demography, welfare and globalisation means that is insufficient. Assuaging the anger of the left-behind means realising that places matter, too. (abstract). This article appeared in the Leaders section of the print edition under the headline “Left behind” The Economist.

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Why so many African presidents are ditching term limits

Posted by fidest press agency su martedì, 8 agosto 2017

paul kagameRwanda’s president of 17 years, Paul Kagame (pictured), will be re-elected for a third term (the result is not in question). This concludes a process that began in 2015 when his party, the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front, proposed a constitutional amendment to allow Mr Kagame to outstay the two-term limit. In neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo the president, Joseph Kabila, has long been mulling a similar ruse. He should have left office last December. In nearby Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza announced in 2015 that he would stand for a controversial third term as president. A plan to amend or ditch term limits entirely is expected to be announced this autumn. And tomorrow, August 5th, Mauritanians will vote in a constitutional referendum that critics see as paving the way for a third term, too. If they succeed, these presidents will join the ranks of the 13 African heads of state who have successfully rolled back term limits. Why are they doing this? Term limits became common in Africa with the wave of democratisation that swept the continent in the 1990s. Most countries included them in their constitutions after pressure from America and African democracy activists. Today there is widespread support for them. Afrobarometer, a polling firm, found that about three-quarters of people in 34 African countries said that presidential mandates should be restricted to two terms. Rwanda is an exception: nearly 4m Rwandans signed a “spontaneous” petition to let Mr Kagame stay on, and only ten people openly opposed it. But Mr Kagame rules his country through fear. In other countries, such as Burkina Faso in 2014, street protests forced the then president, Blaise Compaoré, to backtrack and flee the country. In 2015 Mr Kabila’s neighbour across the river in Congo-Brazzaville, Denis Sassou-Nguesso, successfully won a referendum allowing a third term—but provoked violent unrest in the process. Burundi has been in bloody turmoil ever since Mr Nkurunziza’s declared his third-term intentions.
Presidents go ahead because they know the costs of doing so are low. Mr Kagame, still feted by foreign donors and prominent world leaders despite his growing authoritarianism, knew he could change the constitution without provoking a backlash from the international community. Mr Sassou-Nguesso made the same calculation. The Congolese president is seen by many, including France, the former colonial power, as a reliable partner, and the country is regarded as an island of stability in an otherwise troubled region. Moreover the rising influence of China means that African presidents know the West’s leverage is weaker than it once was. They also know that its priorities have shifted: combating jihadism is today more important than promoting democracy.
Term limits tend to be respected where democracy is already well established. Weak institutions make it easier for presidents to do away with them. Mr Nkurunziza was helped by a pliant constitutional court. Mr Kagame could count on his rubber-stamp parliament. And in many African countries where presidents have rolled back term limits the strongest institution is the army. Mr Kagame, Mr Nkurunziza and Mr Kabila are former rebel leaders who came to power through military victory; so too is the president of neighbouring Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, who successfully abolished term limits in 2005. The presidents of these central African countries where respect for term limits today is weakest are not by their nature democrats. Elsewhere on the continent, however, the picture is different: in Benin, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Nigeria recent attempts to sidestep term limits have failed. (photo: paul kagame) (font: The Economist)

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Why Germany’s current-account surplus is bad for the world economy

Posted by fidest press agency su domenica, 9 luglio 2017

germanyTHE battle-lines are drawn. When the world’s big trading nations convene this week at a G20 summit in Hamburg, the stage is set for a clash between a protectionist America and a free-trading Germany. President Donald Trump has already pulled out of one trade pact, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and demanded the renegotiation of another, the North American Free-Trade Agreement. He is weighing whether to impose tariffs on steel imports into America, a move that would almost certainly provoke retaliation. The threat of a trade war has hung over the Trump presidency since January. In contrast, Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor and the summit’s host, will bang the drum for free trade. In a thinly veiled attack on Mr Trump, she delivered a speech on June 29th condemning the forces of protectionism and isolationism. An imminent free-trade deal between Japan and the European Union will add substance to her rhetoric
There is no question who has the better of this argument. Mr Trump’s doctrine that trade must be balanced to be fair is economically illiterate. His belief that tariffs will level the playing field is naive and dangerous: they would shrink prosperity for all. But in one respect, at least, Mr Trump has grasped an inconvenient truth. He has admonished Germany for its trade surplus, which stood at almost $300bn last year, the world’s largest (China’s hoard was a mere $200bn). His threatened solution—to put a stop to sales of German cars—may be self-defeating, but the fact is that Germany saves too much and spends too little. And the size and persistence of Germany’s savings hoard makes it an awkward defender of free trade. At bottom, a trade surplus is an excess of national saving over domestic investment. In Germany’s case, this is not the result of a mercantilist government policy, as some foreigners complain. Nor, as German officials often insist, does it reflect the urgent need for an ageing society to save more. The rate of household saving has been stable, if high, for years; the increase in national saving has come from firms and the government. Underlying Germany’s surplus is a decades-old accord between business and unions in favour of wage restraint to keep export industries competitive (see article). Such moderation served Germany’s export-led economy well through its postwar recovery and beyond. It is an instinct that helps explain Germany’s transformation since the late 1990s from Europe’s sick man to today’s muscle-bound champion.There is much to envy in Germany’s model. Harmony between firms and workers has been one of the main reasons for the economy’s outperformance. Firms could invest free from the worry that unions would hold them to ransom. The state played its part by sponsoring a system of vocational training that is rightly admired. In America the prospects for men without college degrees have worsened along with a decline in manufacturing jobs—a cause of the economic nationalism espoused by Mr Trump. Germany has not entirely escaped this, but it has held on to more of the sorts of blue-collar jobs that America grieves for. This is one reason why the populist AfD party remains on the fringes of German politics.
But the adverse side-effects of the model are increasingly evident. It has left the German economy and global trade perilously unbalanced. Pay restraint means less domestic spending and fewer imports. Consumer spending has dropped to just 54% of GDP, compared with 69% in America and 65% in Britain. Exporters do not invest their windfall profits at home. And Germany is not alone; Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark and the Netherlands have been piling up big surpluses, too.For a large economy at full employment to run a current-account surplus in excess of 8% of GDP puts unreasonable strain on the global trading system. To offset such surpluses and sustain enough aggregate demand to keep people in work, the rest of the world must borrow and spend with equal abandon. In some countries, notably Italy, Greece and Spain, persistent deficits eventually led to crises. Their subsequent shift towards surplus came at a heavy cost. The enduring savings glut in northern Europe has made the adjustment needlessly painful. In the high-inflation 1970s and 1980s Germany’s penchant for high saving was a stabilising force. Now it is a drag on global growth and a target for protectionists such as Mr Trump.Can the problem be fixed? Perhaps Germany’s bumper trade surplus will be eroded as China’s was, by a surge in wages. Unemployment is below 4% and the working-age population will shrink, despite strong immigration. After decades of decline, the cost of housing is rising, meaning that pay does not stretch as far as it used to. The institutions behind wage restraint are losing influence. The euro may surge. Yet the German instinct for caution is deeply rooted. Pay rose by just 2.3% last year, more slowly than in the previous two years. Left to adjust, the surplus might take many years to fall to a sensible level.The government should help by spending more. Germany’s structural budget balance has gone from a deficit of over 3% of GDP in 2010 to a small surplus. Officials call this prudence but, given high private-sector savings, it is hard to defend. Germany has plenty of worthwhile projects to spend money on. Its school buildings and roads are crumbling, because of the squeeze on public investment required to meet its own misguided fiscal rules. The economy lags behind in its readiness for digitalisation, ranking 25th in the world in average download speeds. Greater provision of after-school care by the state would let more mothers work full-time, in an economy where women’s participation is low. Some say such expansion is impossible, because of full employment. Yet in a market economy, there is a tried and trusted way to bid for scarce resources: pay more.Above all, it is long past time for Germany to recognise that its excessive saving is a weakness. Mrs Merkel is absolutely right to proclaim the message of free trade. But she and her compatriots need to understand that Germany’s surpluses are themselves a threat to free trade’s legitimacy. (by The Economist) (photo: germany)

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What is at stake in Turkey’s referendum

Posted by fidest press agency su lunedì, 17 aprile 2017

eldoganTURKS go to the polls this Sunday, April 16th, to choose between the parliamentary system they have lived under for nearly a century and a new constitution that would concentrate all executive power in the hands of their president. A “yes” vote would overhaul the state in its present form, abolishing the post of prime minister, sidelining parliament, and formalising a system in which the president answers no one except voters. A “no” would mark a major setback for Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, though far from a fatal one. Yet there is much more riding on the outcome than one man’s political fortunes. What is at stake? Turkey’s judiciary would be among those to suffer the most. In the 2000s Mr Erdogan’s government allowed the Gulen community, a secretive Islamic movement, to pack the justice system with its sympathisers. All hell broke loose when the two allies turned on each other. Prosecutors and police officials close to the Gulenists implicated Mr Erdogan and his allies in a cascading corruption scandal in 2013; thousands of them were purged in response. When army officers close to the movement were accused of spearheading a violent coup in the summer of 2016, the purge intensified. Over the past nine months, the government has sacked a quarter of all judges and prosecutors over suspected Gulen links. More than 2,500 of them are currently behind bars, leaving the judiciary depleted and terrified of rubbing Mr Erdogan the wrong way. The new constitution would make the justice system even more beholden to Mr Erdogan and his party. At the moment, the president appoints four of the 22 members of the country’s most influential judicial body, the high council of judges and prosecutors. The rest are elected by their peers. The new constitution would decrease the number of members and allow Mr Erdogan and his allies in parliament to appoint all of them. None of the appointments would be subject to hearings.
The new constitution would also place the legislative branch at the disposal of the executive. A key change would allow the president to retain links with his party, handing Mr Erdogan the power to keep his Justice and Development (AK) party in check by choosing parliamentary candidates. Parliament’s powers of scrutiny would also change. According to current rules, MPs can address oral questions to the prime minister and cabinet members. The proposed amendments would allow only for written questions, and only to ministers and vice presidents, instead of the president. In areas where parliament has not passed any laws the president would have the right to issue decrees. A new provision would widen the scope for Mr Erdogan’s impeachment by parliament, though it would set the bar for removing him from office exceptionally high. Proposing an investigation would require a simple majority in pariament, but opening one would require 60% of MPs to agree. The final decision would rest with the constitutional court, composed almost entirely of the president’s appointees. Parliamentary and presidential elections would be held simultaneously every five years. In theory, each institution could keep the other in check by keeping a finger on the eject button: the president and the parliament would be able to cut short each other’s mandates, as well as their own, by calling early elections.
Mr Erdogan has been in power for 14 years, longer than any Turkish leader since the founder of the republic, Kemal Ataturk. The constitution would allow him to serve a maximum of two five year terms, beginning with presidential elections in 2019. There is a catch: if parliament were to call early elections during his second term, Mr Erdogan would be eligible to run for a third. In theory, this would allow him to remain in power until as late as 2034. As large an impact as Sunday’s vote might have on his future, it will have an even bigger one on his country’s. (by The Economist)

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Japan’s cherry blossoms are emerging increasingly early

Posted by fidest press agency su lunedì, 10 aprile 2017

cherry bombHANAMI, the Japanese custom of contemplating the impermanence of life by gazing at the fleeting beauty of blossoming flowers, goes back a long way. “The Tale of Genji”, a tenth-century masterpiece that is perhaps the world’s first novel, devotes a chapter to the cherry-blossom festival staged in the emperor’s great hall. Diarists have keenly chronicled the comings and goings of cherry blossoms for centuries—records from Kyoto, the old capital, date back 1,200 years. This precious, ancient data set reveals a disturbing trend: in recent decades, the blossoms have emerged much sooner than they once did.From its most recent peak in 1829, when full bloom could be expected to come on April 18th, the typical full-flowering date has drifted earlier and earlier. Since 1970, it has usually landed on April 7th. The cause is little mystery. In deciding when to show their shoots, cherry trees rely on temperatures in February and March. Yasuyuki Aono and Keiko Kazui, two Japanese scientists, have demonstrated that the full-blossom date for Kyoto’s cherry trees can predict March temperatures to within 0.1°C. A warmer planet makes for warmer Marches. The usual full-blooming date in Washington, DC, whose cherry-blossom festival is a relative newcomer (it launched in 1927), has also moved up by five days since the first recorded date in 1921.Visitors hoping to catch a glimpse of the blossoms in all their splendour will now have to wait another year. Kyoto’s hotels are often fully booked six months in advance of sakura (cherry-blossom) season. Still, should you wish to celebrate from afar, we would suggest Motojiro Kajii’s delightful, oft-quoted poem “Under the Cherry Blossoms”, which begins with the less-than-cheery line: “There are bodies buried beneath the cherry trees.”
Correction (April 7th): An earlier version of this chart depicted cherry blossoms with six petals rather than five. This has been amended. Forgive us this botanical sin. (by The Economist) (photo: cherry bomb)

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France’s presidential election is tearing its left apart

Posted by fidest press agency su lunedì, 10 aprile 2017

poll.pngBACK in 2002, the French Socialists suffered such a stinging defeat at a presidential election that it gave birth to a new noun. Un 21 avril, referring to the date that their candidate, Lionel Jospin, was evicted in the first round, became a term used for any shock political elimination. Today, ahead of the first round of this year’s presidential election on April 23rd, the Socialists are bracing themselves not just for elimination from the run-off, but for a far greater humiliation, one which could call into question the party’s very survival. Current polls put Benoît Hamon, the Socialist candidate, in a dismal fifth place. He trails not only the nationalist Marine Le Pen, the liberal Emmanuel Macron, and the traditional right’s François Fillon. In the past fortnight, Mr Hamon has also been overtaken by a far-left firebrand, Jean-Luc Mélenchon (pictured), who promises a “citizens’ revolution”. A one-time Socialist now backed by the Communist Party, the fist-clenching 65-year-old has surged to 15%, against just 10% for Mr Hamon. This puts him only a couple of points behind Mr Fillon, and in a position—just possibly—to overtake the Gaullist candidate too.In the campaign’s second televised debate on April 4th, it was the wisecracking Mr Mélenchon who delivered the memorable lines. When Mr Fillon argued that industrial relations should be decentralised to firms, Mr Mélenchon snapped: “I am not in favour of one labour code per firm, just as I am not in favour of one highway code per road.” It was a difficult debate at which to shine. All 11 official candidates took part: the five front-runners plus six others, including a Ford factory worker, a Trotskyist high-school teacher, and a former shepherd. Each had a total of 17 minutes to speak, spread over three hours. In a poll, voters judged Mr Mélenchon the most convincing, followed by Mr Macron.In some ways, Mr Hamon’s disastrous campaign is surprising. An outsider, he seized the party’s primary in January with a handsome 59% of the vote, easing out a moderate former prime minister, Manuel Valls. His recent rally in Paris was packed. Backed by Thomas Piketty, an economist who worries about inequality, he has a programme which—though its finances do not add up—is based on creative thinking about the future of work and society in an era of automation. Mr Hamon promises, for instance, to bring in a universal basic income, which in time would pay out €750 ($800) a month to everyone, partly financed by a tax on robots. He promises a “desirable future”, in which consumerism, production and working hours are curbed, greenery flourishes and happiness, long scarce in France, breaks out everywhere.Yet as Matthieu Croissandeau of L’Obs, a left-wing magazine, put it, since Socialist primary voters “were convinced they would lose the presidential election…they chose an ideal rather than a programme of government.” The closer voting day gets, the less workable Mr Hamon’s ideas seem, even to some of his white-collar constituents. A poll suggested that only 7% of voters think Mr Hamon has “presidential stature”. Gilles Finchelstein of the Fondation Jean-Jaurès, a think-tank, argues that Socialist support has not collapsed: it is just not behind the party’s candidate. Fully 42% back Mr Macron; 15% support Mr Mélenchon. By positioning himself on the left of his party, Mr Hamon has scared off centrist voters, while failing to sound combative enough for those on the far left.Mr Hamon has lost the loyalty not just of Socialist voters, but of Socialist politicians. His protracted (and failed) efforts to do a deal with Mr Mélenchon exasperated the moderates. A former backbench rebel, he has refused to say anything nice about the past five years of Socialist government, dismaying ministers. Mr Valls and Jean-Yves Le Drian, the Socialist defence minister, have both thrown their support to Mr Macron. The upshot is a bitterly divided party. The Hamon camp called Mr Valls’s defection “pathetic” and “shameful”. It is a “very strange campaign”, says a Socialist parliamentarian loyal to Mr Hamon; party activists “don’t feel connected”.Mr Valls’s defection, says Guillaume Balas, a member of the Hamon team, implies “the death of the Socialist Party as conceived by (François) Mitterrand”. The party, which has supplied French presidents for half of the past 36 years, has long tried to bridge the differences between its moderates and its left wing. In the 1970s, Mitterrand managed to unify the left; he went on to serve as president for 14 years. Now, under the joint pressure of Mr Macron and Mr Mélenchon, old fractures are pulling it back apart.This article appeared in the Europe section of the print edition under the headline “The crack-up” (By The Economist) (photo: poll)

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Economic shocks are more likely to be lethal in America

Posted by fidest press agency su lunedì, 27 marzo 2017

the economist1AMERICAN workers without college degrees have suffered financially for decades—as has been known for decades. More recent is the discovery that their woes might be deadly. In 2015 Anne Case and Angus Deaton, two (married) scholars, reported that in the 20 years to 1998, the mortality rate of middle-aged white Americans fell by about 2% a year. But between 1999 and 2013, deaths rose. The reversal was all the more striking because, in Europe, overall middle-age mortality continued to fall at the same 2% pace. By 2013 middle-aged white Americans were dying at twice the rate of similarly aged Swedes of all races (see chart). Suicide, drug overdoses and alcohol abuse were to blame.
Ms Case and Mr Deaton have now updated their work on these so-called “deaths of despair”. The results, presented this week at the Brookings Institution, a think-tank, are no happier. White middle-age mortality continued to rise in 2014 and 2015, contributing to a fall in life expectancy among the population as a whole. The trend transcends geography. It is found in almost every state, and in both cities and rural areas. The problem seems to be getting worse over time. Deaths from drugs, suicide and alcohol have risen in every five-year cohort of whites born since the 1940s. And in each group, ageing seems to have worse effects. You might think that rising mortality is the flipside of falling incomes. Recent trends in median per-person income for households headed by white 50- to 54-year-olds mirror their mortality rate. Income rises in the 1990s and then falls in the 2000s, ending up roughly where it started. But split people out by education, and the reflection fades. The income of college graduates has followed a similar pattern (most of the surge in the value of a college education happened before 1990). But their mortality has steadily fallen. And deaths of despair are much rarer among blacks and Hispanics, whose incomes have been on similar paths.The authors suspect more amorphous, long-term forces are at work. The fundamental cause is still a familiar tale of economic malaise: trade and technological progress have snuffed out opportunities for the low-skilled, especially in manufacturing. But social changes are also in play. As economic life has become less secure, low-skilled white men have tended towards unstable cohabiting relationships rather than marriages. They have abandoned traditional communal religion in favour of churches that emphasise personal identity. And they have become more likely to stop working, or looking for work, entirely. The breakdown of family, community and clear structures of life, in favour of individual choice, has liberated many but left others who fail blaming themselves and feeling helpless and desperate.Why are whites the worst affected? The authors speculate that their misery flows from their crushed aspirations. Blacks and Hispanics face worse economic circumstances, but may have had lower expectations to begin with. Or they may have taken hope from progress against discrimination. Low-skilled whites, by contrast, may find many aspects of their lives perennially disappointing. That may push them towards depression, drugs and alcohol.(by The Economist)

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The fall of Sirte

Posted by fidest press agency su lunedì, 19 dicembre 2016

sirteTHE ground is shrinking beneath the feet of the jihadists of Islamic State (IS). Iraqi troops are moving closer to the centre of Mosul, the last big city under its control in Iraq, while Kurdish and Arab fighters eye Raqqa, its putative capital in Syria. How will IS react—and, perhaps, adapt—when it loses its remaining territory? To answer that question, look to Libya, where the jihadists have been pushed out of their stronghold in the coastal city of Sirte.Mired in civil war, Libya has become something of a hub for jihadists in the region. At its height earlier this year, IS controlled over 150 miles (240km) of the country’s coastline, according to the UN. Sirte, the hometown of Muammar Qaddafi, Libya’s former dictator, was even seen as a fallback capital for the group, should it lose Raqqa. But, after nearly seven months of intense fighting, it has been dislodged from its Libyan base.The campaign against the jihadists was nominally led by a UN-backed “government of national accord” (GNA) in Tripoli, the capital, though militiamen from Misrata, whose loyalty is decidedly fickle, did most of the actual fighting. They were backed by American air strikes. There have been more than 500 of those since August. IS was once thought to have several thousand local and foreign fighters in Sirte. But many, including several leaders, are now believed to be dead.Analysts warn that the group still poses a significant threat—to the West, the region and Libya itself. Jonathan Winer, America’s special envoy to Libya, told Congress last month that IS’s remaining fighters were probably forming underground cells around the country. “We believe they are waiting for opportunities to engage in further attacks in Libya or its neighbours, and if possible to reassert [IS] geographically,” he said. Nicholas Rasmussen, America’s top counterterrorism official, says he is concerned about attacks on foreign targets by the jihadists.Hundreds of jihadists are thought to have retreated south from Sirte during the fighting. Others were already there. IS has long had fighters scattered around Libya. In Benghazi they have attacked forces under the command of Khalifa Haftar, an anti-Islamist general, and may be linking up with other Islamist militants. IS fighters can also be found in the country’s vast stretches of desert, from where they have staged attacks on Sirte and elsewhere. Though weakened, they might find succour via the networks of various jihadist groups, such as Ansar al-Shariah and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.Beyond Sirte, the same conditions that allowed the group to flourish still exist. The GNA cannot even secure the capital, parts of which are controlled by armed groups that support a previous Islamist government. Yet another government in the east, this one supported by Mr Haftar, also refuses to stand down. His forces recently took control of several oil facilities, which should boost his leverage if the UN-backed peace plan that produced the GNA is renegotiated, as some have suggested.But many believe Mr Haftar, who paints most Islamists as terrorists, has no intention of laying down his arms. His forces recently repelled a coalition of militias (supported, some claim, by the GNA’s defence minister) that tried to take back the oil facilities under his control. Backed by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia, Mr Haftar might decide to push further west. His supporters hope that Donald Trump, America’s president-elect and a fan of anti-Islamist strongmen, will also take his side. But Mr Trump has shown little interest in Libya. Meanwhile, with the campaign in Sirte ending, America’s bombing of IS will soon fall under stricter rules of engagement.Despite the setback in Sirte, and reported tension between local and foreign fighters, IS will continue to benefit from the chaos in Libya. Arms are easy to obtain, the borders are porous and the disgruntled population provides ample recruits. The terrorists can operate and train in the country’s vast ungoverned spaces, producing attacks on neighbours such as Tunisia, which it has already hit. Until a broader peace is agreed upon and an effective government established, IS soldiers will cause trouble in Libya. The same will be true in Syria and probably Iraq, even after Raqqa and Mosul fall. (font: The Economist) (photo: sirte)

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The Economist: The Trump era

Posted by fidest press agency su sabato, 12 novembre 2016

the-economist-trumpBy Zanny Minton Beddoes, Editor-in-Chief. THE fall of the Berlin Wall, on November 9th 1989, was when history was said to have ended. The fight between communism and capitalism was over. After a titanic ideological struggle encompassing the decades after the second world war, open markets and Western liberal democracy reigned supreme. In the early morning of November 9th 2016, when Donald Trump crossed the threshold of 270 electoral-college votes to become America’s president-elect, that illusion was shattered. History is back—with a vengeance.
The fact of Mr Trump’s victory and the way it came about are hammer blows both to the norms that underpin politics in the United States and also to America’s role as the world’s pre-eminent power. At home, an apparently amateurish and chaotic campaign has humiliated an industry of consultants, pundits and pollsters. If, as he has threatened, President Trump goes on to test the institutions that regulate political life, nobody can be sure how they will bear up. Abroad, he has taken aim at the belief, embraced by every post-war president, that America gains from the often thankless task of being the global hegemon. If Mr Trump now disengages from the world, who knows what will storm through the breach?
Anger has sown hatred in America. Feeling themselves victims of an unfair economic system, ordinary Americans blame the elites in Washington for being too spineless and too stupid to stand up to foreigners and big business; or, worse, they believe that the elites themselves are part of the conspiracy. They repudiate the media—including this newspaper—for being patronising, partisan and as out of touch and elitist as the politicians. Many working-class white voters feel threatened by economic and demographic decline. Some of them think racial minorities are bought off by the Democratic machine. Rural Americans detest the socially liberal values that urban compatriots foist upon them by supposedly manipulating the machinery in Washington (see article). Republicans have behaved as if working with Democrats is treachery.
Mr Trump harnessed this popular anger brilliantly. Those who could not bring themselves to vote for him may wonder how half of their compatriots were willing to overlook his treatment of women, his pandering to xenophobes and his rank disregard for the facts. There is no reason to conclude that all Trump voters approve of his behaviour. For some of them, his flaws are insignificant next to the One Big Truth: that America needs fixing. For others the willingness to break taboos was proof that he is an outsider. As commentators have put it, his voters took Mr Trump seriously but not literally, even as his trumpcritics took him literally but not seriously. The hapless Hillary Clinton might have won the popular vote, but she stood for everything angry voters despise.The hope is that this election will prove cathartic. Perhaps, in office, Mr Trump will be pragmatic and magnanimous—as he was in his acceptance speech. Perhaps he will be King Donald, a figurehead and tweeter-in-chief who presides over an executive vice-president and a cabinet of competent, reasonable people. When he decides against building a wall against Mexico after all or concludes that a trade war with China is not a wise idea, his voters may not mind too much—because they only expected him to make them feel proud and to put conservative justices in the Supreme Court. Indeed, you can just about imagine a future in which extra infrastructure spending, combined with deregulation, tax cuts, a stronger dollar and the repatriation of corporate profits, boosts the American economy for long enough to pacify the anger. This more emollient Trump might even model himself on Ronald Reagan, a conservative hero who was mocked and underestimated, too.Nothing would make us happier than to see Mr Trump succeed in this way. But whereas Reagan was an optimist, Mr Trump rails against the loss of an imagined past. We are deeply sceptical that he will make a good president—because of his policies, his temperament and the demands of political office.
Abroad Mr Trump says he hates the deal freezing Iran’s nuclear programme. If it fails, he would have to choose between attacking Iran’s nuclear sites and seeing nuclear proliferation in the Middle East (see article). He wants to reverse the Paris agreement on climate change; apart from harming the planet, that would undermine America as a negotiating partner. Above all, he would erode America’s alliances—its greatest strength. Mr Trump has demanded that other countries pay more towards their security or he will walk away. His bargaining would weaken NATO, leaving front-line eastern European states vulnerable to Russia. It would encourage Chinese expansion in the South China Sea. Japan and South Korea may be tempted to arm themselves with nuclear weapons.
The election of Mr Trump is a rebuff to all liberals, including this newspaper. The open markets and classically liberal democracy that we defend, and which had seemed to be affirmed in 1989, have been rejected by the electorate first in Britain and now in America. France, Italy and other European countries may well follow. It is clear that popular support for the Western order depended more on rapid growth and the galvanising effect of the Soviet threat than on intellectual conviction. Recently Western democracies have done too little to spread the benefits of prosperity. Politicians and pundits took the acquiescence of the disillusioned for granted. As Mr Trump prepares to enter the White House, the long, hard job of winning the argument for liberal internationalism begins anew. (abstract from The Economist) (photo: the economist)

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L’ Europa degli Stati

Posted by fidest press agency su martedì, 28 aprile 2015

europa-261011-cE’ noto che la Gran Bretagna non ha adottato l’euro ma e’ rimasta con la sua sterlina e non coglie occasione per rilevare le criticita’ della moneta europea. Nel 2011 il settimanale The Economist pubblicava un articolo dal titolo “Vicini alla fine?” e iniziava l’articolo stesso con “Mentre l’eurozona sembra avviata al tracollo…” Insomma, la fiducia dei britannici nell’euro e’ stata sempre messa in dubbio. Le difficolta’ della nostra moneta, o meglio dell’economia europea, tra inadeguatezze e interessi particolari dei governi nazionali ed europeo, sono note, e il cittadino non comprende come una economia di vasta scala, come quella europea, non riesca ad affrontare e risolvere i problemi che si presentano, sia strutturali che contingenti. L’esempio relativo alla immigrazione dal Nord Africa e’ in questo senso illuminante: ognuno pensa a se e se c’e’ un problema si cerca di scaricarlo sugli altri. Non e’ questa l’Europa che avevamo sognato e tentato di realizzare. Serve, ancora oggi, un progetto per una federazione europea. Purtroppo, non vediamo chi lo possa realizzare. (Primo Mastrantoni, segretario Aduc)

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The Economist in edicola domani

Posted by fidest press agency su giovedì, 22 settembre 2011

I temi della settimana:
Nella sezione Europe, l’articolo sul vacillante governo italiano e l’ostinazione di Berlusconi Slipping into darkness.
Nella sezione Europe, la rubrica Charlemagne High noon over Palestine sulla posizione dell’Europa di fronte alla richiesta palestinese di riconoscimento dello stato palestinese, tema che viene ripreso anche nella sezione Leaders con l’articolo Yes to Palestine statehood.
Nella sezione Leaders, la copertina sulla tassazione alle persone più agiate Hunting the rich.
Nella sezione Leaders, l’articolo sulle economie emergenti e sulla difficoltà di replicare la straordinaria crescita dell’ultimo decennio Catching up is so very hard to do.
Across the rich world the horns have sounded and the hounds are baying – and the wealthy are the quarry. In our cover leader we argue that, even though deficit cutting governments should focus on public spending, the rich will have to pay more tax, but we make clear that there are good and bad ways to make them do so.
The Palestinians at the UN Efforts to stop them winning statehood at the UN are misguided and self-defeating
Silvio Berlusconi’s last stand How much longer can the old lothario go on?
China’s leaders v Happy Girl The Communist Party shuts down a television programme where viewers chose the winner
A special report on the World economy The consequences of the accelerating shift in economic power from West to East
Reading the runes of red gold What copper tells you about the future

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The Economist in edicola oggi

Posted by fidest press agency su venerdì, 16 settembre 2011

I temi della settimana:
• Nella sezione Leaders, la copertina di questa settimana How to save the euro, un’analisi approfondita dello stato di crisi crescente della moneta unica, delle soluzioni disponibili e della disponiblità ad affrontarle.
• Nella sezione Europe, la rubrica Charlemagne In the Brussel bunker che analizza la situazione politica dell’UE e le difficoltà verso una maggiore integrazione.
• Nella sezione Leaders, l’articolo sulla riforma del sistema bancario nel Regno Unito Good fences.
• L’articolo sul terremoto de L’Aquila Scientists at the dock – Scienziati al banco degli imputati, nella sezioneSciences&Technology a disposizione su richiesta.
So grave, so menacing, so unstoppable has the euro crisis become that even rescue talk only fuels ever-rising panic. As credit lines gum up and outsiders plead for action, it is not just the euro that is at risk, but the future of the European Union and the health of the world economy. This week we devote our cover and a two-page leader to “how to save the euro”. In our view it requires urgent action on a huge scale – and a lot of painful choices. But unless Germany in particular rises to the challenge, disaster looms Also this week
• The global schools revolution Change is happening, thanks to technology and politicians embracing reform
• The Middle East and Barack Obama Israel and the American president look increasingly isolated
• Bank of America’s road to recovery A long journey for a battered bank
• Tinker, tailor, solider, actor A cold-war masterpiece comes to the screen (Cristina Canepone)

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Anticipazioni “The Economist” di domani

Posted by fidest press agency su giovedì, 1 settembre 2011

This image shows Angela Merkel who is the Chan...

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Nella sezione Europe:
• L’articolo sul caos e le proteste suscitate dalla manovra proposta dal governo Berlusconi; il dilemma è se l’Italia possa davvero affondare l’euro: Trashing the lifeboat.
• L’articolo sulla leadership politica traballante di Angela Merkel e la perdita di fiducia nei suoi confronti: Angst over the euro.
Mentre nella sezione Leaders:
• L’analisi della politica difensiva americana degli ultimi dieci anni alla vigilia dell’anniversario dell’attacco alle torri gemelle: Ten years on.
• L’articolo sulla Libia e la necessità che siano i libici a gestire tutto il processo di liberazione del Paese: Let them get on with it.
• L’articolo che invita a ripensare gli investimenti sull’alta velocità ferroviaria in Gran Bretagna ed Europa: The great train robbery.

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The Economist in edicola questo week-end

Posted by fidest press agency su giovedì, 14 luglio 2011

Rupert Murdoch - World Economic Forum Annual M...

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Questa settimana nella sezione Leaders:
La copertina sulla settimana di crisi per l’Italia che mostra una moneta unica sul filo del rasoio: On the edge.
L’articolo sullo scandalo News of the World, in cui si auspica che la legge faccia il suo corso: An empire at bay.
L’articolo sul risveglio democratico nel mondo arabo: It can still come right.
Mentre nella sezione Europe:
La rubrica Charlemagne dedicata ai problemi dell’Euro, più politici che economici: The euro’s real trouble.
L’articolo sull’eccezione estone, Paese che in tempo di crisi per l’Eurozona ha registrato invece una sostanziosa crescita dell’economia: Estonian exceptionalism.
L’articolo sui successi degli Indignados spagnoli cui viene contestata l’assenza di obiettivi: Europe’s most earnest protesters.
L’articolo sul “nuovo” governo di Erdogan in Turchia: The lofty Mr Erdogan.
L’articolo sulla vendita di carri armati tedeschi all’Arabia Saudita: Tanks for sale.
Seguono in fondo alla mail gli highlights dell’editore.
The news is moving quickly this summer. In barely two weeks Rupert Murdoch’s empire has suffered a dramatic reversal in fortunes. In our British cover leader we argue that the humbling of News Corporation will have many welcome consequences – but it may also have some less wholesome ones. Elsewhere we analyse a development that could have ruinous effects on the world economy, not just one company: the fact that this week the euro crisis moved on to Italy. In our cover leader outside Britain, we argue that the single currency itself is now at risk.
The Arab spring, six months on The fall of the regions worst two dictators would give a terrific boost
Jamie Dimon’s worldThe challenges for the boss of Americas least tainted large bank
The last manned fighter planeAmerica should cut back orders for the F-35
Remembering the Orgasmatron A book on the era when the United States thought sex was as dangerous as communism
Farewell to a good Habsburg Our obituary of Otto, the son of the last Austro-Hungarian emperor.

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Le anticipazioni di The Economist in edicola domani

Posted by fidest press agency su giovedì, 7 luglio 2011

Questa settimana nella sezione Europe:
• L’articolo sulla manovra finanziaria di Berlusconi definita “senza vergogna”: Berlusconi’s bung.
• L’articolo sull’eventuale ritorno di Dominique Strauss-Kahn alla vita politica: He can’t hide, but can he run?
• L’articolo sul tracollo economico della Bielorussia guidata da Lukashenko: No applause, please.
Mentre nella sezione Leaders:
La copertina dello Special Report sul futuro del mondo dell’informazione che nell’era di internet e dei social network è tornata al vivo fermento dei caffè dell’Ottocento: Back to the coffee house.
La copertina sullo scandalo di News of the World che invoca la necessità di un’inchiesta giudiziaria che rimetta a posto il giornalismo britannico: Street of Shame.
L’articolo sulla riduzione del debito come principale preoccupazione di tutti i governi occidentali nei prossimi anni: Handle with care.
L’articolo sul gioco all’ostruzionismo dei Repubblicani che mettono troppi paletti all’accordo con i Democratici sullo sfondo di un allarmante debito USA: Shame on them.
Seguono in fondo alla mail gli highlights dell’editore.
This week we have two covers on the media but of a very different nature. Outside Britain we highlight our special report on the future of the news industry. We explain how the internet is taking our business “back to the coffee shop”, to the vibrant, conversational culture of the era before mass media began with the New York Sun in 1833 – and in general we argue this is a good thing. In Britain, however, we look at a deplorable old-media scandal centred on phone hacking at Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World: a full judicial inqury is needed immediately to clean up British journalism.
Also this week
• What next for Dominique Strauss-Kahn?
• More extraordinary twists grip France – and torture its Socialist Party
• Thailand’s new princess The consequences of Yingluck Shinawatra’s stunning victory
• Understanding Chinese consumers What makes the Middle Kingdoms shoppers tick?
• Minnesota shuts down Will the Federal government be next?
• How robots are turning into animals A new generation is about to emerge from the laboratory
(Cristina Canepone)

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The Economist in edicola

Posted by fidest press agency su venerdì, 1 luglio 2011

Questa settimana segnalo nella sezione Leaders: La copertina si dedica all’ultimo volo della navetta spaziale, previsto per l’8 luglio, che segna la fine del programma spaziale americano. Questo non significa che l’uomo smetterà di avventurarsi nello spazio, ma sarà sempre più utilizzato lo spazio “interno”, grazie all’utilizzo di satelliti, rispetto a quello esterno. La corsa allo spazio è sempre stato simbolo distintivo della guerra fredda tra America e Russia, putroppo gli alti costi hanno portato questo sogno a sbiadirsi sempre più. Oggi c’è chi sostiene che la Cina o l’India possano prendere il testimone: The end of the Space Age – Inner space is useful. Outer space is history
L ‘articolo sulla necessità di intensificare, in Libia, la pressione nei confronti di Muammar Queddafi: Keep calm, keep going -The world must intensify the pressure against Muammar Qaddafi and help plan for the future
In questa sezione e nella sezione Europe ad essere analizzato è il tema della Grecia. Nei Leaders il nuovo piano per tagliare il debito della Grecia sembra destinata a fallire: The abuses of austerity – A new plan to cut Greece’s debt looks doomed to fail, mentre la sezione Europe titola: What have we become? – Some Greeks are angry about their paralysed, corrupt country. Others just want the good times to come back
L’articolo sulla Cina e sul suo interesse per gli investimenti in Europa, le conseguenze sono sia un cambiamento enorme nella bilancia del potere, e con esso come sempre, un rischio. Le opportunità però sembrano maggiori rispetto ai pericoli, e così l’Europa sta dando il benvenuto alla Cina, mentre l’America vi lotta contro: Welcome, bienvenue, willkommen -America needs to worry about the contrast between its attitude to China and Europe’s Mentre nella sezione Europe:
• L’articolo sull’entrata in politica di Mikhail Prokhorov, oligarca miliardario: A rich man’s game – Why is Russia’s third – wealthiest man entering politics?
• L’articolo sulla politica francese: Down, but far from out – The French president may be unpopular, but don’t write him off
• L’articolo sulla situazione turca dopo le elezioni, nulla è cambiato: Business as usual – It has not taken long for rancour to return to Turkish politics
• La rubrica Charlemagne: The sevenyearly war – There will be much blood and tears over the EU budget, but little will change. What a waste
Editor’s highlights
This week we look ahead to the last flight of the space shuttle, which is due on July 8th. It marks, we reckon, the end of the Space Age. Not that humanity is going to stop using space: inner space will increasingly be packed with satellites. But the dream of venturing ever further into outer space has faded. The space race between America and Russia was the product of the cold war, and the high costs and limited benefits have discouraged those countries from crossing the final frontier. It is possible that China and India may take up the baton; but we suspect that humanity will never recover its enthusiasm for space exploration Also in this week’s issue : China abroad: Red carpet in Europe, red mist in America Greece: Why the austerity plan is doomed Syria: Assad’s regime totters Who’s overheating: Our analysis of emerging markets Business books: Our new quarterly review appears (Beatrice Mozzi)

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The economist this week

Posted by fidest press agency su venerdì, 24 giugno 2011

The Economist di questa settimana nella sezione Leaders:
• La copertina che riprende l’argomento principale trattato in questa edizione: la restrutturazione del debito Greco, l’analisi sottolinea la necessità che i leader europei strigano i tempi per evitare il disastro e ironizza sul comportamento dell’unione europea: “Sembra che l’unione europea abbia adottato una nuova norma: se un piano non funziona, attenersi a quello”(“The European Union seems to have adopted a new rule: if a plan is not working, stick to it”). L’editoriale titola: If Greece goes…. – The opportunity for Europe’s leaders to avoid disaster is shrinking fast
• Lo special report sul futuro Cina, quest’ultima viene considerata un paese difficile da governare nel prossimo decennio a causa delle continue tensioni tra la prospera classe media cinese ed i suoi poveri: Rising power, anxious state – Tensions between China’s prosperous middle classes and its poor will make it a harder country to govern
• L’articolo sugli EFT strumenti semplici, fondi comuni di investimento negoziabili, che permettono di diversificare a basso costo. L’espansione sconsiderata di questi fondi necessità l’introduzione di nuove regole, l’articolo prende in esame i rischi ad essi legati e le possibili azioni da intraprendere: A good idea in danger of going bad – The reckless expansion of “synthetic” funds requires a few new rules
• L’articolo sulle riforme economiche del Medio Oriente: Open for business? – Economic reform in the Middle East could prove harder than in eastern Europe. The West needs to help it along
Mentre nella sezione Europe:
• Anche questa settimana un articolo sulla politica italiana, Lega Nord e Berlusconi: Still in league – The Northern League is growing restive inside Italy’s government. This poses a new problem for Silvio Berlusconi
• L’editoriale sulla Polonia, al primo turno della presidenza dell’unione europea, e sui loro obbiettivi nei prossimi sei mesi:Presidential ambitions – What the Poles have in mind for the EU
• L’articolo sul governo francese: Les quangos – The French have an unusually large number of pointless committees
• La rubrica Charlemagne: Default options – The euro zone’s leaders are seeing their political choices narrow.

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The Economist: speciale dedicato all’Italia

Posted by fidest press agency su venerdì, 10 giugno 2011

The Economist pubblica uno speciale dedicato all’Italia, il quale analizza le ragioni della mancata crescita del Paese negli ultimi 20 anni e si chiede se questa situazione possa cambiare a breve, in modo particolare con la prossima uscita di scena di Silvio Berlusconi dal ruolo di primo ministro. Quest’anno ricorre il 150esimo anniversario dell’unità d’Italia, un evento a cui molti fanno risalire gli attuali problemi del Paese. Secondo l’analisi di The Economist, invece, questi problemi non sarebbero tanto da imputare a fattori storici quanto all’attuale situazione. In particolare, l’Italia ha difficoltà nell’affrontare grandi questioni tra cui l’impatto della globalizzazione e dell’immigrazione in un Paese caratterizzato da un severo protezionismo, gli effetti della gerontocrazia istituzionalizzata che rende difficile per i giovani costruirsi una carriera e il mancato rinnovamento delle istituzioni che risentono dei conflitti di interesse che coinvolgono magistratura, politica, media e imprese. Il risultato è che l’Italia ha avuto il più basso tasso di crescita di tutti gli altri Paesi del mondo occidentale. Tra il 2000 e il 2010, il PIL italiano è cresciuto in media dello 0,25% all’anno – un dato allarmante, migliore solo rispetto a quello di Haiti e dello Zimbawe. Nonostante l’Italia abbia saputo evitare il peggio durante la recente crisi finanziaria globale, non ci sono segnali di una possibile inversione di tendenza rispetto alla crescita zero. Scritto da John Prideaux di The Economist, il report sottolinea che, nonostante i problemi, l’Italia non è affatto un Paese in crisi. E’ ancora un Paese civilizzato, ricco, senza conflitti, con molti elementi apprezzabili, e non solo per la bellezza dei suoi paesaggi e delle sue città. Tuttavia, con Berlusconi che ipotizza di dimettersi nel 2013 dopo circa due decenni al potere, è ragionevole chiedersi se le cose possano cambiare per il meglio. Il report analizza anche le numerose mancanze dell’attuale primo ministro nel suo lungo periodo al potere, in modo particolare l’ulteriore indebolimento delle istituzioni italiane e l’eccessiva tolleranza nei confronti dei conflitti di interesse. Sicuramente il successore di Berlusconi potrebbe introdurre alcuni semplici e immediati miglioramenti con poco sforzo. Il report sottolinea la necessità di cambiare la legislazione del lavoro che favorisce gli anziani e l’urgenza di richiamare migliaia di giovani di talento che sono emigrati e che potrebbero avere un impatto positivo per il Paese. Tuttavia, The Economist trae la conclusione che, nonostante questi cambiamenti siano possibili, è poco probabile che l’Italia cambi. Nonostante la bassa crescita, tale è la sua forza economica che l’attuale situazione potrebbe protrarsi quasi per sempre, il Paese diventerebbe poco a poco più povero e più vecchio, riuscendo però comunque a mantenere uno standard confortevole. (
With a growing global circulation (worldwide: 1,473,939*) and a reputation for insightful analysis and opinion on every aspect of world events,The Economist is one of the most widely recognised and well-read current affairs publications. The paper has sections about each region of the world, plus science and technology, books and arts, and the weekly obituary. The website (, with its 5.9m unique readers, is also accessible through devices including the iPhone and iPad.

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The Economist: Silvio snubbed

Posted by fidest press agency su giovedì, 2 giugno 2011

From the Economist this week. What could be worse for the euro than political instability in Italy? How about a government trying to buy popularity with higher public spending and/or tax cuts? That was the spectre conjured by Silvio Berlusconi after the local election run­ on this week, when his conservative government lost control of Milan, his home city and an unassailable fortress of the Italian right for two decades. The main reason Italy has escaped the euro­zone crisis is that Mr Berlusconi’s finance minister, Giulio Tremonti, has curbed his boss’s easy­spending, populist instincts and imposed strict fiscal discipline. He has done little to get the economy growing (Standard & Poor’s, a rating agency, has cut its outlook on Italy from stable to negative). But Mr Tremonti has reassured investors that Italy can finance its huge public debt (almost 120% of GDP). Yet soon after the elections it became clear that Mr Berlusconi wanted to change fiscal policy. Asked what he would do if his finance minister refused to loosen the purse strings, he replied: We’ll make them open. Tremonti doesn’t decide. Later he made a statement rearming his confidence in Mr Tremonti. But this is his third such disclaimer in a month. The pressure on him to splash out is severe. Milan was among 90 Italian towns and cities with run­on votes. Mr Berlusconi’s candidates took a beating. In Naples the opposition candidate won over 65% of the vote. The centre­right lost Arcore, the town near Milan where Mr Berlusconi has his main private residence and, it is alleged, held his Bunga Bunga parties. A trial in which he denies paying an underage prostitute to attend such a party resumed the day after the vote. The loss of Arcore was one of several that made these elections a personal calamity for Mr Berlusconi. Milan is his home city, from which he launched him­ self into politics 17 years ago, and the place he could rely on to back him in the darkest moments of his career. By putting himself on the slate of the outgoing mayor and declaring the election a national one, he turned it into a vote of confidence in his management of Italy. Two other things must worry Mr Berlusconi. One is that Milan is Italy’s bellwether: conventional wisdom has it that what the Milanese do today the rest of the country does tomorrow. Second, his Northern League coalition partners also took a thrashing. The loyalty of Umberto Bossi’s movement, which combines regionalism with populism and Islam homophobia, is vital to the government’s survival. Its poor showing in the frst round had persuaded many in the League that the time had come to sever links with Mr Berlusconi’s People of Freedom movement. The second round, in which the League lost control of the north­eastern city of Novara, will make that view more widely shared. Some of Mr Berlusconi’s opponents hailed the results as a sign that his long ascendancy in Italian politics was drawing to a close. But that is to jump to conclusions. As the prime minister quipped, even his successful AC Milan football team loses sometimes. These were mid­term elections that produced typical mid­term vic­ tors. The new mayor of Milan, Giuliano Pisapia , was not the choice of Italy’s biggest opposition group, the centre­left Democratic Party, but of the smaller and more radical Left, Ecology and Freedom movement, led by the governor of Puglia, Nichi Vendola. The winner in Naples was a maverick former prosecutor, Luigi de Magistris, who ran for the anti­corruption Italy of Principles party, founded by another former prosecutor, Antonio Di Pietro. Not the least of the questions posed by these elections was whether they presage a shift not just on the right, but also on the left. 7 Italy’s beleaguered prime minister.

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