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Journal Cover The Economist - Leaders
  [16 followers]  Follow
    
   Full-text available via subscription Subscription journal  (Not entitled to full-text)
   ISSN (Online) 1358-274X
   Published by The Economist Group Homepage  [4 journals]
  • India’s biometric identity scheme should not be compulsory
    • Abstract: WHAT would Gandhi have made of Aadhaar, the ambitious scheme to provide each of India’s 1.3bn residents with a unique, biometrically verifiable identification? There is much that might have impressed the great pacifist. Before Aadhaar’s launch in 2010, many Indians had no proof of identity that could be recognised across the sprawling, multilingual country; now 99% of adults do. A cheap, simple and accurate way to know who is who, it helps the state channel services, such as subsidies, to those who really need them, thwarting corruption and saving billions. Linked to bank accounts and mobile phones, the unique 12-digit numbers can be used for swift, easy transfers of money. In time, they should help hundreds of millions of Indians enter the formal, modern economy.Yet Gandhi might also have been alarmed. After all, he cut his political teeth resisting a scheme to impose identity passes on unwilling Indians. That was over a century ago, in South Africa. Aadhaar could scarcely be further removed in intent from colonial racism: it is designed to include and unite, not exclude. Still, many Indians worry that a programme billed as voluntary is increasingly, with...
      PubDate: Wed, 12 April 2017 14:51:04 GM
       
  • How Chinese schools discriminate against 65% of the population
    • Abstract: LAST year some images went viral on the internet in China. They showed children descending an 800-metre (2,600-foot) rock face on rickety ladders made of vines, wood and rusty metal. Their destination: school. The photographer was told by a local official that “seven or eight” people had died after losing their grip. Yet the children did this regularly—there is no school at the top of the mountain in Sichuan province where they live. The photographs conveyed two striking aspects of life in the Chinese countryside: a hunger for education so strong that children will risk their lives for it, and a callous lack of government attention to the needs of rural students.In many ways, education in China is improving. Since 2000 the annual tally of students graduating from university has increased nearly eightfold, to more than 7.5m. But many rural students are neglected by China’s school system, and they are not the only ones. So, too, are the children of migrants who have moved to the cities from the countryside and poor students who want to go to senior high school.This is not only unfair; it is also counterproductive. China faces a demographic crunch: its...
      PubDate: Wed, 12 April 2017 14:51:04 GM
       
  • Donald Trump’s Syria strategy is confused
    • Abstract: THERE are good reasons to cheer the missile attack ordered by Donald Trump on a Syrian air base on April 6th. It sent a message to Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s despot, that America would not tolerate his use of chemical weapons. It also showed that Mr Trump, despite many indications to the contrary, was prepared to act to uphold an international norm and to do so for humanitarian reasons: he was outraged by a nerve-gas attack that killed more than 80 people in the rebel enclave of Idlib. But one barrage doesn’t make a strategy.Before Mr Trump saw television pictures of poisoned children, he had said that getting rid of Mr Assad was no longer a goal of American policy, as it had been, at least notionally, under Barack Obama. In the week before the chemical attack, both the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, and America’s UN ambassador, Nikki Haley, had confirmed that shift, thus possibly increasing Mr Assad’s sense of impunity. The priority for Mr Trump was the defeat of Islamic State (IS). Wider questions about Syria’s future would come later.Inevitably, those questions are now back to the fore. When military force is used, it is reasonable to ask: what next?...
      PubDate: Wed, 12 April 2017 14:51:04 GM
       
  • Silicon Valley’s sexism problem
    • Abstract: “BOOBER” is the nickname Travis Kalanick, the boss of Uber, used to describe the effect that the ride-hailing startup had on his attractiveness to the opposite sex. Mr Kalanick’s wisecrack seems to have been emblematic of a deeply macho culture. An investigation is under way into allegations from a former employee that Uber refuses to promote capable women or to take complaints about harassment seriously. The results are due to be released in the coming weeks.Uber is not the only technology star in the spotlight for its treatment of women. Google has been accused by America’s Department of Labour of paying female employees significantly less than male ones (see article). Google flatly denies the charge. But that technology in general, and Silicon Valley in particular, has a gender problem is not in doubt. A survey of 210 women in the valley found that 60% had experienced unwanted sexual advances and that two-thirds felt excluded from important social and networking opportunities. PayScale, a research firm, has found...
      PubDate: Wed, 12 April 2017 14:51:04 GM
       
  • Turkey is sliding into dictatorship
    • Abstract: TURKEY matters not just for its size, but also as a bellwether of the political forces shaping the world. For centuries it was the seat of a great empire. Today, as a frontier state, it must cope with the violence spewing out of war-ravaged Syria; it is a test case of whether democracy can be reconciled with political Islam; and it must navigate between Western liberalism and the authoritarian nationalism epitomised by Russia. In recent years under Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey has gone backwards. This weekend it can begin to put that right.On April 16th Turks will vote in a referendum over whether to abandon their parliamentary system for an executive presidency. A Yes is likely, but far from certain. There is nothing wrong with a strong president, but Turkey’s new constitution goes too far. The country would end up with a 21st-century sultan minimally curbed by parliament (see Briefing). A Yes would condemn Turkey to the elected dictatorship of President Erdogan. A No might just let Turks constrain him....
      PubDate: Wed, 12 April 2017 08:42:22 GM
       
  • Britain’s brutal encounter with reality
    • Abstract: NINE tumultuous months after Britons voted to leave the European Union, the real Brexit process is at last under way. Theresa May’s dispatch of a letter to the European Council on March 29th, invoking Article 50 of the EU treaty, marked the point at which Britain’s withdrawal from the union became all but inevitable. For half the country’s population this was a moment to celebrate; for the other half, including this newspaper, it marked a bleak day. The future of both camps—and of the EU itself—now depends on what Mrs May does next.The negotiations are sure to be difficult (see article). Time is short, since Article 50 comes with a two-year deadline. The task of unwinding Britain’s membership of the club is fearsomely complex. Neither side is well prepared. In Britain, where Brexit increasingly resembles a faith-based initiative, voters have been given wildly unrealistic expectations of the Utopia ahead. Their first contact with the reality of losing preferential access to their main market will be traumatic....
      PubDate: Thu, 30 March 2017 14:48:19 GM
       
  • The Trump presidency is in a hole
    • Abstract: DONALD TRUMP won the White House on the promise that government is easy. Unlike his Democratic opponent, whose career had been devoted to politics, Mr Trump stood as a businessman who could Get Things Done. Enough voters decided that boasting, mocking, lying and grabbing women were secondary. Some Trump fans even saw them as the credentials of an authentic, swamp-draining saviour.After 70 days in office, however, Mr Trump is stuck in the sand. A health-care bill promised as one of his “first acts” suffered a humiliating collapse in the—Republican-controlled—Congress (see Lexington). His repeated attempts to draft curbs on travel to America from some Muslim countries are being blocked by the courts. And suspicions that his campaign collaborated with Russia have cost him his national security adviser and look likely to dog his administration (see article...
      PubDate: Thu, 30 March 2017 14:48:19 GM
       
  • India becomes more active in the fight against global warming
    • Abstract: COALMINERS cheered this week when Donald Trump issued an executive order to start unwinding Barack Obama’s flagship climate policies; the new measures include ending a moratorium on the leasing of federal land for mining. “My administration is putting an end to the war on coal,” declared Mr Trump. Yet the black stuff is still in a heap of trouble. In America cheap natural gas has surpassed coal as a source of power generation; no White House ceremony can do much about that. And for all the attention on America, much the more important chapter in the tale of coal’s decline is being written on the other side of the world.India is the third-largest carbon emitter, after China and America. No fuel matters more to it than coal: it fires up 61% of India’s power-generating capacity and Coal India is the world’s biggest coal company. Since coal generates more carbon emissions when it is burned than other fossil fuels—to say nothing of its effect on air quality—India is a crucial protagonist in the battle against climate change (see...
      PubDate: Thu, 30 March 2017 14:48:19 GM
       
  • The case for an efficiency tax
    • Abstract: EFFICIENCY is at the heart of progress. Yet just as too much of a good thing (travel, say) can yield a bad (congestion), so excessive ease in transactions can generate costs, known in the jargon as a “facile externality”, such that less efficiency would actually be more efficient. In academic circles, especially Scandinavian ones, the notion is well established that innovations which eliminate too much hassle could do society harm.True to their cause, the high-minded theorists of facile externality go out of their way to make their ideas hard to understand. The effort required to master them has the happy effect of increasing their value, as intended. But it has also held them back from broad application. The good news is that this may at last be about to change.In the past year facile externality has started to gain traction (a term that, in itself, demonstrates the centrality of friction to progress). This is in part thanks to some well-placed disciples, such as Danilov P. Rossi of the UN’s “Don’t Nudge—Tell” office (DoNuT). But it is also because technology is prompting an exponential loss of friction. Some experts fear a slippery slope.Firms...
      PubDate: Thu, 30 March 2017 14:48:19 GM
       
  • Corporate-bond markets need a reboot
    • Abstract: STOCKMARKETS are the public face of finance; indices like the S&P 500 are widely reported proxies for economic health. But they are dwarfed by the corporate-bond markets. In 2016 American equity issuance amounted to just under $200bn; for corporate bonds the total was $1.5trn.The market for corporate debt is not just vast, at $50trn globally, it has also been growing fast as a result of ultra-cheap borrowing. Issuance in America has risen by half over the past five years. Yet despite its importance as a source of financing for companies, the corporate-bond market is shockingly archaic. Even basic price data are hard to come by. Whereas stocks can be traded at the click of a button, buying and selling corporate bonds often requires a phone call to a trading desk at an investment bank. This method of trading still accounts for over 80% of volume in America. Processes are correspondingly slow: 8% of trades in Europe fail to settle in the allotted two days.Such inefficiencies partly reflect the particularities of bond markets. An individual firm may have one or two types of shares, but issue dozens of bonds that differ by maturity, date and...
      PubDate: Thu, 20 April 2017 14:49:01 GM
       
  • A lack of competition explains the flaws in American aviation
    • Abstract: DECADES ago travelling by air in America was a glamorous affair. Today it signals delays, discomfort, extra charges and the threat of violence. A video of a passenger being forcibly dragged from a United Airlines flight on April 9th, after too few people volunteered to give up their seats, has sparked an outpouring of complaints about flying in America. Passengers are right to moan. America’s airlines really do compare badly with foreign ones. European carriers are the best point of reference.Air fares are higher per seat mile in America than in Europe. When costs fall, consumers in America fail to enjoy the benefits. The global price of jet fuel—one of the biggest costs for airlines—has fallen by half since 2014. That triggered a fare war between European carriers, but in America ticket prices have hardly budged. Airlines in North America posted a profit of $22.40 per passenger last year; in Europe the figure was $7.84.Standards of service are also worse. Only one operator based in America can be found in the world’s 30 best carriers, as rated by Skytrax, an aviation website, compared with nine from Europe. When Ryanair, currently Europe’...
      PubDate: Thu, 20 April 2017 14:49:01 GM
       
  • Indonesia has been mercifully resistant to extremism—until now
    • Abstract: FIRST came the fake news: a doctored video, making it look as if the governor of Jakarta, an ethnic-Chinese Christian, was disparaging the Koran. Next, mass protests flooding the city centre with outraged Muslims. Then came blasphemy charges that the police, under public pressure, eventually lodged against Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, usually known as Ahok. Before long a seemingly pedestrian election became a referendum on the role of Islam in Indonesian politics. Was it permissible for a Christian to hold the second-most prominent elected office in an overwhelmingly Muslim country?On April 19th voters delivered their verdict: no. Ahok, once the clear front-runner, had won the first round of the election, in February, by a slim three percentage points. But supporters of the eliminated candidate appear to have plumped for Ahok’s remaining rival, Anies Baswedan, who won the second round by 58% to 42% (see article). Although Mr Baswedan praised Ahok in his victory speech, he had openly wooed the chauvinist vote during the...
      PubDate: Thu, 20 April 2017 14:49:01 GM
       
  • How to deal with the world’s most dangerous regime
    • Abstract: NORTH KOREA can be as confusing as it is alarming. It is a hereditary Marxist monarchy. It has the world’s youngest supreme leader and also its oldest. The reigning tyrant, Kim Jong Un, is in his 30s; and his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, is the “eternal president” despite having died in 1994. To celebrate grandpa Kim’s birthday on April 15th, his grandson ordered warplanes to fly past in a formation spelling out his age: 105. He also ordered a gigantic parade, with goose-stepping soldiers and missiles on trucks. A male-voice choir belted out “Peace is guaranteed by our arms”, even as the regime threatens to rain nuclear destruction on its enemies and is building a missile designed to reach the continental United States.Dealing with the bellicose junior god-king will be one of Donald Trump’s trickiest tasks. It will also be the first big test of how he handles relations with China, which are shifting as the rising superpower challenges the Pax Americana in Asia (see our special report). There are no good options, but...
      PubDate: Thu, 20 April 2017 09:03:28 GM
       
  • A consequential choice for France—and an uncertain one
    • Abstract: FRANCE is not just deeply unhappy, it is at war with itself. The first round of the presidential election, on April 23rd, could send any two of four candidates into a run-off on May 7th. They range from the odious right to the vicious left, with two pro-market reformers in the middle. Seldom has a European democracy been so torn between progress and disaster.After votes for Brexit, Donald Trump and, last week in Turkey, for a constitution that cements Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s power (see article), the battle over liberal internationalism has moved to the cradle of the Enlightenment. The fate of France is not all that is at stake. The European Union will stall if one of its driving forces is in chaos or hostile. It may even fail, wrecking the organising principle of an entire continent.Outright victory on May 7th for Marine Le Pen, on the far right, or Jean-Luc Mélenchon, on the hard left, would be a catastrophe. On that count alone, either of the two pro-market candidates would be a blessing. But...
      PubDate: Thu, 20 April 2017 09:03:24 GM
       
  • Why an election offers the chance of a better Brexit
    • Abstract: FOR an event that was supposed to settle a big political question once and for all, last year’s referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union has proved spectacularly disruptive. First it did for the government of David Cameron, who had called it expecting a win for Remain. Then it provoked renewed calls for separation in Scotland and Northern Ireland, which opposed Brexit. Now Theresa May, who entered Downing Street only last summer, has called a snap general election for June 8th, having previously insisted that such a course would cause further “instability”. Britons are facing their third national poll in two years.Mrs May says the election is necessary to protect the Brexit process from mischievous opposition parties that plan to derail it. That is nonsense: although most MPs, including her own, campaigned to Remain, they have dutifully upheld the referendum result in Parliament. Surely more important in the prime minister’s calculation are the opinion polls that show her Conservative Party more than 20 percentage points ahead of the Labour opposition, which is hamstrung by its ineffectual leader, Jeremy Corbyn (see...
      PubDate: Thu, 20 April 2017 08:48:24 GM
       
  • South Africa’s ruling party should dump Jacob Zuma
    • Abstract: “AMANDLA” (“power” in Zulu and Xhosa), comes the cry from the podium. “Ngawethu” (“to us”), the crowd roars back. The old chants that once rumbled from South Africa’s townships are again ringing out. But this time they are directed not at apartheid but against a reckless attempt by Jacob Zuma, a president who faces 783 charges of fraud and corruption, to tighten his grip on power and install a pliant successor.The protests were sparked by a cabinet reshuffle last week. Mr Zuma fired Pravin Gordhan and Mcebisi Jonas, the finance minister and his deputy. Both are well-regarded by investors and economists. They are credited with putting a lid on public debt and resisting the biggest of the president’s boondoggles, a plan to spend as much as 1trn rand ($73bn) building nuclear power plants that South Africa does not need and cannot afford (see article). This is not the first time Mr Zuma has tried to mount a hostile takeover of the Treasury. Last time, in 2015, the markets forced him to backtrack. On this occasion he...
      PubDate: Thu, 06 April 2017 14:42:01 GM
       
  • Trump and Xi have evidence at home that openness works
    • Abstract: IT USED to be much easier to spot the difference between the presidents of America and China. One would argue for free markets and economic liberalism, the other for centralised control. One would endorse democracy and the rule of law, the other freedom from outside interference. As Donald Trump geared up to meet Xi Jinping for the first time this week, in a summit in Florida that was due to start after The Economist went to press, those differences have narrowed (and in some areas, such as climate change, the positions have flipped).This is partly a matter of style. Both Mr Trump and Mr Xi adhere to a personalised, “strongman” view of leadership. The American president is literally a brand; the Chinese are being encouraged to pledge personal fealty to Mr Xi (see article). But it is also a question of substance. Both men claim to be supporters of free trade but subscribe to a doctrine of economic nationalism. Chinese regulators use tariffs, antitrust laws and state media to target foreign firms...
      PubDate: Thu, 06 April 2017 14:42:00 GM
       
  • Why Russia and Iran should ditch Bashar al-Assad
    • Abstract: THE horror in Syria is never-ending. Its civil war, now entering a seventh year, has claimed about half a million lives, pushed 5m refugees out of the country and displaced millions more within it. Yet the chemical attack that killed at least 85 people in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun (see article) stands out as an act of infamy. In a murky conflict with few angels, it casts the spotlight on the worst perpetrator: the regime of Bashar al-Assad, backed by Russia and Iran.The footage of choking children suggests the use of a nerve agent, probably sarin. Its manufacture, storage and use as a weapon usually requires the wherewithal of a state. No militia in Syria—not even the jihadists of Islamic State (IS), who have used chlorine and mustard gas—is credibly reported to have used nerve agents on the battlefield. Israeli newspapers cite intelligence that the chemical air strike was ordered by the “highest levels” in Syria. Russia’s claim that the gas was released when a rebel arms dump was bombed is almost certainly a lie. As Mr Assad’s protector-in-chief,...
      PubDate: Thu, 06 April 2017 14:42:00 GM
       
  • The perilous politics of parking
    • Abstract: IN IRELAND people ask St Anthony to help them find parking spaces. In Chicago, if you shovel the snow from a space, it belongs to you. In Shanghai people beg their parents to reserve spaces by sitting in them. Everywhere parking is a big reason law-abiding people pay fines to the government and a cause of screaming rows between strangers. More important, it profoundly shapes cities—usually for the worse.Parking spaces seem innocuous, just a couple of lines painted on asphalt. Multiplied and mismanaged, though, they can create traffic jams, worsen air pollution and force cities to sprawl. The cost and availability of parking affects people’s commuting habits more than the rapid buses and light-rail lines that cities are so keen to build (see article). Next to other worthy policies like congestion-charging and road-tolling, parking is also easy to change. The fast-growing metropolises of Africa and Asia, especially, need to get it right, before they repeat the West’s debilitating mistakes.In many cities...
      PubDate: Thu, 06 April 2017 14:42:00 GM
       
  • How to manage the computer-security threat
    • Abstract: COMPUTER security is a contradiction in terms. Consider the past year alone: cyberthieves stole $81m from the central bank of Bangladesh; the $4.8bn takeover of Yahoo, an internet firm, by Verizon, a telecoms firm, was nearly derailed by two enormous data breaches; and Russian hackers interfered in the American presidential election.Away from the headlines, a black market in computerised extortion, hacking-for-hire and stolen digital goods is booming. The problem is about to get worse. Computers increasingly deal not just with abstract data like credit-card details and databases, but also with the real world of physical objects and vulnerable human bodies. A modern car is a computer on wheels; an aeroplane is a computer with wings. The arrival of the “Internet of Things” will see computers baked into everything from road signs and MRI scanners to prosthetics and insulin pumps. There is little evidence that these gadgets will be any more trustworthy than their desktop counterparts. Hackers have already proved that they can take remote control of connected cars and pacemakers.It is tempting to believe that the security problem can be solved with yet more...
      PubDate: Thu, 06 April 2017 08:18:33 GM
       
 
 
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