Fidest – Agenzia giornalistica/press agency

Quotidiano di informazione – Anno 32 n° 302

Posts Tagged ‘the economist’

Welcome to the newsletter highlighting The Economist’s best writing on the pandemic

Posted by fidest press agency su sabato, 19 settembre 2020

Our cover this week examines the huge impact that the virus has had on the office and working life. Around the world employees, governments and firms are trying to work out if the office is obsolete—and are coming to radically different conclusions. Before the pandemic only 3% of Americans worked from home regularly; now vast numbers do. How much of this change will stick when a vaccine arrives? The emerging picture is of an “optional office”, which people attend, but less frequently. That will have huge economic costs, from the collapse of city-centre cafés to the $16bn budget shortfall that New York subway’s system faces. Still, rather than turning the clock back, governments and firms need to adapt.Although the plight of mega-cities gets much of the attention, the pandemic is changing suburbs, too. We report from the front line of Britain’s commuterland. Meanwhile the implications of lockdowns continue to extend far beyond work. Our sister publication, 1843, looks at the revival of the drive-in cinema. Latin America is in the midst of an education crisis: more than 95% of the region’s 150m pupils remain at home and most countries have set no date for school reopening. At least the coronavirus pandemic has eliminated the flu season in the southern hemisphere. As we explain in this week’s Graphic detail, lockdowns and social distancing have changed the pattern of this illness dramatically. In the first two weeks of August, the World Health Organisation (WHO) processed nearly 200,000 influenza tests, and found just 46 were positive. In a typical year the number would be closer to 3,500. The WHO itself has been the subject of bitter criticism, not least from the White House. But as we report from Geneva, it has done reasonably well against covid-19. And to perform better it needs more muscle and money. Alongside our analysis we have also published one of our periodic By Invitation essays, this time by Tedros Adhanom, the WHO’s director-general. He outlines the risks from vaccine nationalism but also strikes an optimistic note, as long as countries co-operate rather than fight. “Although we absolutely must not let down our guard, it is possible to imagine the beginning of the end of the health and economic crises caused by the coronavirus.” By Zanny Minton Beddoes Editor-In-Chief – Font: The Economist.

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This issue’s cover focuses on Vladimir Putin

Posted by fidest press agency su domenica, 6 settembre 2020

In Belarus, among scenes that recall the revolts of 1989, people are turning out in their hundreds of thousands after a blatantly rigged election. In the Russian city of Khabarovsk tens of thousands march week after week to protest against the arrest of the local governor and the imposition of Moscow’s rules. Mr Putin is rattled. Why else is Alexei Navalny, an anti-corruption crusader and his greatest popular rival for the Russian presidency, lying poisoned in a Berlin hospital bed? Regimes that rule by fear, live in fear—the fear that one day the people will no longer tolerate their lies, thieving and brutality. They try to hang on with propaganda, persecution and patronage. But it looks increasingly as if Mr Putin is running out of tricks, and as if Alexander Lukashenko, his troublesome ally in Minsk, is running out of road. That is why, despite the Kremlin’s denials, they are falling back on the truncheon and the syringe. And it is why, as the protests roll on, they must be wondering how long state violence can keep them in power.Zanny Minton Beddoes Editor-In-Chief The Economist

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Our coverage of the new coronavirus

Posted by fidest press agency su domenica, 30 agosto 2020

The Economist’s best writing on the pandemic. Our cover this week highlights the nature of viruses, life stripped down to its essentials of information and reproduction. Viruses have caused a litany of modern pandemics, from covid-19 to the influenza outbreak in 1918-20. However, the influence of viruses on life on Earth goes far beyond the tragedies of a single species. Recent research shows how viruses have shaped the evolution of organisms of all types since the very beginnings of life. For humanity they present a heady mix of threat and opportunity.As well as a six-page essay about viruses and their profound effect on creation, our coverage of the pandemic this week includes a detailed report on the many baffling chronic complications of contracting covid-19. Our sister publication, 1843, looks at what the history of the elevator reveals about social distancing. We have stories from Iran, about the failure to control crowds of worshippers during an important religious festival, and Britain, where the government has launched a shake-up of the health bureaucracy at a tricky moment. And our economists calculate the astonishingly high financial return to society from people wearing a mask.Our mortality tracker uses the gap between the total number of people who have died from any cause and the historical average for the time of year to estimate how many deaths from the virus the official statistics are failing to pick up.
We have also been focusing on covid-19 in Economist Radio and Economist Films. This week we feature a wide-ranging interview with Bill Gates, in which he shares his predictions for how and when the pandemic might end.As the summer draws on, I hope you are finding our covid-19 coverage useful and stimulating. By Zanny Minton Beddoes
Editor-In-Chief The Economist

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The Economist’s best writing on the pandemic

Posted by fidest press agency su lunedì, 24 agosto 2020

Our cover this week looks at the resilience of the Chinese economy under Xi Jinping as confrontation between America and China escalates. China’s state capitalism is entering a new stage—call it Xinomics—involving tight control over the economic cycle, a more efficient state and a blurring of the boundary between state and private firms. America and its allies must prepare for a long contest between open societies and China’s ruthless mix of autocracy, technology and dynamism.
In our coverage on the pandemic, we report on how photographers who document the impact of covid-19 must grapple with thorny ethical problems. An online “By invitation” column by Nicholas Christakis sets out the epidemiological factors that make SARS-CoV-2 (as the virus is called) so much deadlier and harder to control than the other six coronaviruses that infect humans. Governments are pumping vast amounts of money to sustain crippled economies. In America, though, gridlock in Congress is holding up a second fiscal-stimulus bill. In the euro zone, the European Central Bank is testing the limits of monetary stimulus. And poor countries are suffering from a crunch in microfinance. The pandemic’s consequences for global demand are being felt by firms including Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil producer. Social distancing has profoundly changed the way people behave. Our writers bemoan the decline of the office romance and of gossip. In Economist Films, meanwhile, our experts analyse whether enough money is being spent on the development of vaccines .To keep up to speed, visit our coronavirus hub. We also track official cases and deaths in Europe and America. Separately, our mortality tracker estimates how many deaths from the virus the official statistics are failing to pick up.Zanny Minton Beddoes Editor-In-Chief The Economist

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Highlights from the latest issue

Posted by fidest press agency su domenica, 23 agosto 2020

As America’s confrontation with China escalates, our cover story looks at the resilience of the Chinese economy under Xi Jinping. A new stage of state capitalism is under way—call it Xinomics—involving tight control over the economic cycle, a more efficient state and a blurring of the boundary between state and private firms. Xinomics has performed well, but the real test will come over time. China hopes that its techno-centric form of central planning can sustain innovation; history suggests that diffuse decision-making, open borders and free speech are the magic ingredients. One thing is clear: any idea that confrontation will be followed by capitulation is misguided. America and its allies must prepare for a far longer contest between open societies and China’s ruthless mix of autocracy, technology and dynamism. By Zanny Minton Beddoes
Editor-In-Chief The Economist

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The Economist: The absent student

Posted by fidest press agency su martedì, 18 agosto 2020

“Our cover this week looks at universities in the age of covid-19. For students, the pandemic is making life difficult. Many must choose between inconveniently timed seminars streamed into their parents’ living rooms and inconveniently deferring their studies until life is more normal. For universities, it is disastrous. They will not only lose huge chunks of revenue from foreign students but, because campus life spreads infection, they will have to transform the way they operate. The universities’ troubles are piling up. China, the origin of many international students, is falling out with the West. Governments are suspicious of college politics—and doubt how much subsidised degrees benefit the economy. Students are sceptical that they get value for money. Although covid-19 will be painful for universities, it also presents a chance to set things right by embracing long-needed change”. By Zanny Minton Beddoes Editor-In-Chief

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A unique chance to steer the economy away from carbon

Posted by fidest press agency su lunedì, 25 maggio 2020

The Economist this week calls for a global effort to tackle climate change. Covid-19 creates a unique chance to steer the economy away from carbon at a much lower financial, social and political cost than before. Rock-bottom energy prices make it easier to cut subsidies for fossil fuels and to introduce a tax on carbon. The revenues from that tax can help repair battered government finances. The businesses at the heart of the fossil-fuel economy—oil and gas firms, steel producers, carmakers—are already going through the agony of shrinking their long-term capacity and employment. Getting economies back on their feet calls for investment in climate-friendly infrastructure that boosts growth and creates new jobs. Low interest rates make the bill smaller than ever. The world should seize the moment. (by Zanny Minton Beddoes, Editor-In-Chief – font: The Economist)

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Welcome to the newsletter highlighting The Economist’s best pandemic coverage

Posted by fidest press agency su giovedì, 7 maggio 2020

“Our cover this week looks at what to expect from life after lockdowns. What we call the 90% economy will be missing large chunks of everyday life—at least until a vaccine or a treatment is found. People are weighed down by financial hardship and the fear of a second wave of covid-19. Businesses are short of money. The unemployed could face a lost decade.Our coverage of the disease this week sleuths into the genetic origins of the virus. SARS-CoV-2 almost certainly travelled from a bat to a person via an animal in the wet market in Wuhan—but it could conceivably have escaped from one of the town’s biological laboratories. We estimate how many years victims lose to covid-19 and weigh up the costs and benefits of closing schools. We look at the immune system, China’s determination to stamp out the disease and how nicotine may affect the rate of infection by competing with the virus to bind with human cells.We also have a mortality tracker, which uses the gap between the total number of people who died from any cause and the historical average for the time of year to estimate how many deaths from covid-19 the official statistics are failing to pick up.We have been focusing on the pandemic in Economist radio and Economist films, too. In Babbage, our science podcast, Pascal Soriot, chief executive of the pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, talks about potential treatments. We ask whether people who have recovered from covid-19 can catch it a second time. And Sonja Lyubomirsky, of the University of California, Riverside, tells us how acts of kindness can boost the immune system. For those of us chafing under lockdown, perhaps her words will offer some encouragement”. (by Zanny Minton Beddoes, Editor-in-Chief)

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The Economist this week

Posted by fidest press agency su lunedì, 4 maggio 2020

Our cover this week looks at what to expect from life after lockdowns: what we are calling a 90% economy. Since China began to ease up in February, its factories have become busier and its streets are no longer empty. But it is missing large chunks of everyday activity. Rides on the metro and on domestic flights are down by a third. Spending on such things as restaurants has fallen by 40%. Across the post-lockdown rich world, life will be tough—at least until a vaccine or a treatment is found. People are weighed down by financial hardship, businesses are short of money and the unemployed could face a lost decade. The longer the world has to endure the 90% economy, the less likely it is to snap back after the pandemic. The popular demand for change could radicalise politics faster than it did after the financial crisis in 2007-09. By Zanny Minton Beddoes, Editor-In-Chief

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The Economist: A special edition on the coronavirus pandemic

Posted by fidest press agency su martedì, 28 aprile 2020

Welcome to the newsletter highlighting The Economist’s best pandemic coverage. We have two covers this week. In our Asian and European editions, we look at how no fewer than 84 governments have taken extra powers since covid-19 began to spread. In some cases these are necessary and will be relinquished when the crisis is over. But in others they are not, and won’t be.
In our American and British editions we analyse the looming problem of government debt. As the economy falls into ruins, governments are writing millions of cheques to households and firms and tax revenues are collapsing. Long after the covid-19 wards have emptied, countries will be living with the consequences. What should they do?Our coverage of the disease this week is led by Bill Gates, the co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who has written for us on how to get out of the pandemic. We also look at how to do mass-testing and the worrying vulnerability to covid-19 of the southern United States. We report on an enigma surrounding the Spanish flu, how New Zealand has avoided the worst of the disease and why Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, which claim to be covid-free, are probably living in denial.You can also see our mortality tracker, which estimates how many deaths from covid-19 the official statistics are failing to detect. It goes about this using the gap between the total number of people who died from any cause and the historical average for the time of year. The results, broken down by country and region, show that the virus is more lethal than many had feared.
And we have also been focusing on the pandemic in Economist Radio and Economist Films. This week we produced a film analysing what lies behind the death toll in America, which has suffered more fatalities than any other country.As the epidemiological curves flatten and the easing of lockdowns beckons, I hope that you enjoy our coverage. (Zanny Minton Beddoes, Editor-in-Chief by The Economist)

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The Economist this week: Our coverage of the new coronavirus

Posted by fidest press agency su martedì, 21 aprile 2020

Welcome to the newsletter highlighting The Economist’s best coverage of covid-19. Our cover leader this week asks whether China will be the pandemic’s big geopolitical winner. After a disastrous cover-up, China has brought the number of newly reported cases to a virtual halt. Factories there are reopening and researchers testing potential vaccines. By comparison Britain, France, Spain, Italy and America look as if they are struggling. Some warn that the disease will be remembered not only as a human catastrophe, but also as a geopolitical turning-point away from the West. Are they right?Our covid-19 coverage in this week’s issue reports on the race for a vaccine—and the challenge of making it in sufficient quantities. We examine plans to relax lockdowns and look at how apps might make the job easier. We describe how South Africa is drawing on its bitter experience with HIV/AIDS. Our science team asks you not to blame the bats and our Middle East specialists report on the anti-covid-19 quack remedies doing the rounds in Iran: please don’t try them at home.We have also been focusing on the disease in Economist Radio and in Economist Films. In our science podcast, Babbage, this week we delve further into the global search for a vaccine. We speak to Dr Seth Berkley, the chief executive of GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance. And Dr Trevor Drew of the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness tells about two trials that have reached the animal-testing stage.I hope you enjoy this taste of our coverage of the new coronavirus. For more reporting of how it is touching almost every part of our lives–from Brazilian soap operas to corporate fraudsters–please visit our website. (by Zanny Minton Beddoes, Editor-in-Chief)

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The economist: A special edition on the coronavirus pandemic

Posted by fidest press agency su mercoledì, 1 aprile 2020

Welcome to this week’s newsletter highlighting the best of our coverage on covid-19. In an issue dominated by the disease, we had two covers. In most of the world we looked at the spread of the virus in poor countries. So far, recorded cases are few. But make no mistake: they are mounting and societies are terrifyingly underprepared.In America and Britain we wrote about how the pandemic has led to the most dramatic increase in state power since the second world war. For believers in limited government and open markets, covid-19 poses a problem. Only the state can deal with this crisis. Yet history suggests that the state will not give up all the ground it takes—with implications for the economy and surveillance.We develop those themes in this issue. We have in-depth reporting on the threat from the disease in Africa. We also examine the use of personal data to enforce quarantines, track the epidemic and pounce on new outbreaks. We look at how wars and the Depression led to a permanently bigger state with many more powers and responsibilities, and the taxes to pay for them. We describe the unprecedented global collaboration among medics searching for the best way to treat the disease. We look at how China is slowly returning to normal. And for all those long-suffering workers stuck at home, our Bartleby columnist shares the pain.
We have also been reporting on the disease on Economist radio and in Economist films. This week we highlight our science podcast, Babbage. It features items on how some people with covid-19 lose their sense of smell, the scramble to make ventilators and the effect of the pandemic on the environment.We hope that our coverage helps make you better informed, and your isolation more tolerable. By Zanny Minton Beddoes, Editor-In-Chief.

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The Economist: A special edition on the coronavirus pandemic

Posted by fidest press agency su lunedì, 16 marzo 2020

“Welcome to a special edition of our weekly newsletter dedicated to covid-19, which the World Health Organisation has now declared a pandemic. In the past two weeks, the focus of the disease has shifted from China to the rest of the world—and increasingly Europe and the United States. Over 135,000 cases have been registered, more than a third of them outside China. There have been over 5,000 deaths in 116 countries, up from 3,200 deaths and 85 countries and territories just a week earlier.In our cover leader this week we looked at what this means for politicians. They have struggled to come to terms with the pandemic and how to talk about it. As they belatedly realise that health systems will buckle and deaths mount, leaders are beginning to grapple with how they should weather the storm. Three factors will determine how they cope: their attitude to uncertainty; the structure and competence of their health systems; and, above all, whether they are trusted.Here we present seven articles that tell the story of the disease and its astonishing march around the world. We start with a portrait of an individual virus particle, how it hijacks the body’s cells and how it might be vulnerable to therapeutic drugs. We sketch how different countries have tried to use lockdowns to fight the spread of the disease and we look into the slow response in America. We take the measure of the markets, and analyse the threat to the world economy. We examine how China has begun to exploit its progress against the disease for propaganda. And we present our own back-of-the-envelope calculation of countries’ unreported cases.The pandemic is about to take the world by storm. We hope that this selection of our coverage helps to prepare you for what is to come”. (by Zanny Minton Beddoes, Editor-In-Chief)

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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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