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Journal Cover The Economist - Leaders
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   Full-text available via subscription Subscription journal  (Not entitled to full-text)
   ISSN (Online) 1358-274X
   Published by The Economist Group Homepage  [4 journals]
  • Why governments should introduce gender budgeting
    • Abstract: IT IS easy to be cynical about government—and rarely does such cynicism go unrewarded. Take, for instance, policy towards women. Some politicians declare that they value women’s unique role, which can be shorthand for keeping married women at home looking after the kids. Others create whole ministries devoted to policies for women, which can be a device for parking women’s issues on the periphery of policy where they cannot do any harm. Still others, who may actually mean what they say, pass laws giving women equal opportunities to men. Yet decreeing an end to discrimination is very different from bringing it about.Amid this tangle of evasion, half-promises and wishful thinking, some policymakers have embraced a technique called gender budgeting. It not only promises to do a lot of good for women, but carries a lesson for advocates of any cause: the way to a government’s heart is through its pocket.What counts is what’s countedAt its simplest, gender budgeting sets out to quantify how policies affect women and men differently (see...
      PubDate: Thu, 23 February 2017 15:44:14
  • Fixing Brazil’s pension problem
    • Abstract: BLESSED with tropical beaches, bossa nova and balletic footballers, Brazil seems like a marvellous place to be young. It is an even better place to grow old. That is because Brazil has among the world’s most generous pension systems. Sadly, the past is now beginning to catch up with it.Brazilians start drawing their pensions when they are 58 years old on average, eight years younger than Americans and 14 than Mexicans (see article). Members of some groups can retire even earlier. Female teachers, for example, need to spend just 25 years in the classroom to get a full pension and even fewer for a partial one; many leave before they turn 50. Widows inherit their spouses’ full pension (provided they are 44 or older) without giving up their own. In the OECD, a club of mostly rich countries, pensions replace an average of around 60% of pre-retirement income; in Brazil, 80%.Plush pensions have their origins in the constitution adopted in 1988, which sought to confer as...
      PubDate: Thu, 23 February 2017 15:44:14
  • The waning power of the engagement ring
    • Abstract: PEACOCKS strut; bowerbirds build lovenests; spiders gift-wrap flies in silk. Such courtship rituals play an important role in what Charles Darwin called sexual selection: when the female of a species bears most of the costs of reproduction, males use extravagant displays and gifts to demonstrate their “reproductive fitness” and females choose between them. For human males, shards of a crystalline form of carbon often feature. A diamond engagement ring signals a man’s taste, wealth and commitment, all to persuade a woman that he is a good bet.This particular courtship gift was dreamed up by an ad agency for De Beers, the cartel that sold almost all of the world’s diamonds throughout the 20th century. In the 1930s it started to promote a link between diamonds and marriage. Diamonds’ unmatched hardness would symbolise love’s endurance and their “fire”, or brilliance, its passion. Two months’ salary, the firm suggested, was what the ring should cost—a good investment since, as the admen said, “A diamond is forever.”Now, that promise is dimming (see...
      PubDate: Thu, 23 February 2017 15:44:14
  • America’s growing toughness towards Iran
    • Abstract: AVIGDOR LIEBERMAN, Israel’s pugnacious defence minister, is not one to mince his words. Speaking on February 19th at this year’s Munich Security Conference, he described the challenges facing the Middle East as “Iran, Iran and Iran”. Delegates from the Arab states present might not have relished being seen to agree with the Zionist enemy, but that did not stop them. Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister reckoned that the Iranians have only “stepped up the tempo of their mischief” since the negotiation in 2015 of a nuclear deal between Iran and the world’s six leading powers. And the regional actors are hardly alone in their hostility. The Trump administration placed Iran “on notice” at the start of this month and imposed a limited new set of sanctions, following a medium-range ballistic missile test (see article); Iran responded by testing another one. Is a fresh confrontation, even a conflict, brewing again so soon after the deal of 2015 was supposed to have ushered in an era of peaceful coexistence?...
      PubDate: Thu, 23 February 2017 15:44:14
  • Wind and solar power are disrupting electricity systems
    • Abstract: ALMOST 150 years after photovoltaic cells and wind turbines were invented, they still generate only 7% of the world’s electricity. Yet something remarkable is happening. From being peripheral to the energy system just over a decade ago, they are now growing faster than any other energy source and their falling costs are making them competitive with fossil fuels. BP, an oil firm, expects renewables to account for half of the growth in global energy supply over the next 20 years. It is no longer far-fetched to think that the world is entering an era of clean, unlimited and cheap power. About time, too. There is a $20trn hitch, though. To get from here to there requires huge amounts of investment over the next few decades, to replace old smog-belching power plants and to upgrade the pylons and wires that bring electricity to consumers. Normally investors like putting their money into electricity because it offers reliable returns. Yet green energy has a dirty secret. The more it is deployed, the more it lowers the price of power from any source. That makes it hard to manage the transition to a carbon-free future, during which many generating...
      PubDate: Thu, 23 February 2017 09:18:09
  • Brexit is an argument for Scotland to remain in Britain, not to leave it
    • Abstract: THIS was meant to be the week when a proud, sovereign nation served notice that it wanted to leave the overbearing, unrepresentative union to which it had long been shackled. And so it was—but not in quite the way that Theresa May had imagined. Britain’s prime minister had planned to trigger Article 50 of the European Union treaty, beginning the two-year process of Britain’s exit from the EU. But she was forced to delay her plans when Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, upstaged her by announcing that she would seek a new referendum on Scottish independence.The threat of a second constitutional earthquake in as many years is the latest reminder of Brexit’s unintended consequences (see article). The English-led move to leave a 40-year-old union with Europe is pulling at the seams of its 300-year-old union with Scotland. Mrs May’s fundamentalist interpretation of the Brexit referendum—that it requires departure from the EU’s single market and an end to free movement to and...
      PubDate: Thu, 16 March 2017 15:55:04 GM
  • The very poor are now concentrated in violent countries. Aid policy must
    • Abstract: DAVID CAMERON lost his job as prime minister because he could not reconcile Britons to Europe. He might have sulked on the backbenches. Instead, Mr Cameron has a new (unpaid) job as the chairman of a commission on fragile states. Having failed to persuade Britons to stick with countries where they like to holiday, whose wine they happily imbibe and where many own homes, he will now try to convince them to send more money to some of the world’s poorest, most corrupt and most violent places.If Mr Cameron has lost his mind, he is not the only one. Britain’s Department for International Development (DfID) plans to spend half its budget on fragile states and regions. It is nagging others to do the same, with some success. The World Bank plans to double to $14bn the money it allocates to fragile states over the next three years. The war-scorched Central African Republic (CAR) will get as much as a third of its GDP in assistance from the World Bank over the next three years (see article...
      PubDate: Thu, 16 March 2017 15:55:04 GM
  • What Narendra Modi should do with his victory in Uttar Pradesh
    • Abstract: THREE years ago Narendra Modi led his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to the most resounding victory in a national election in India since the 1980s. This week, in India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, the BJP capped that by chalking up the biggest majority in the state assembly since 1977 (see article). The result leaves Mr Modi and his party utterly dominant—and almost certain to win the national elections in 2019. It is also a test. Mr Modi could use his growing power to reignite India’s culture wars, as some of his supporters wish. Instead, he ought to use it to unshackle India’s economy.Lucknow and for a long time to comeUntil the 1970s India was virtually a one-party state, with Congress, the party of independence, ruling over politics—including in Uttar Pradesh. Today the country seems to be heading that way again, but this time with the BJP in the ascendant. Congress came out on top this week in elections in Punjab, a middling state. In places such as West...
      PubDate: Thu, 16 March 2017 15:55:00 GM
  • What Geert Wilders’s poor showing means for Marine Le Pen
    • Abstract: IN THE run-up to its election on March 15th the international media descended on the Netherlands, speculating that the country might become the third “domino” to fall to nationalist populism, following the vote for Brexit and the election of Donald Trump in America. The Dutch themselves, excited by the unaccustomed attention, seem to have taken the idea to heart. The performance of Geert Wilders and his far-right Freedom Party (PVV), it was said, would be a portent of Marine Le Pen’s chances in France’s presidential election and of the prospects for populism right across Europe.On the night, Mr Wilders came a poor second, winning just 13% of the vote and 20 seats—far behind the Liberals, led by the prime minister, Mark Rutte, who won 21% of the vote and 33 seats (see article). Understandably, Mr Rutte was jubilant, proclaiming that his country had “said ‘whoa’ to the bad sort of populism”. Jesse Klaver of the GreenLeft party, which had its best result ever, eclipsing Labour (see...
      PubDate: Thu, 16 March 2017 10:48:18 GM
  • The global economy enjoys a synchronised upswing
    • Abstract: ECONOMIC and political cycles have a habit of being out of sync. Just ask George Bush senior, who lost the presidential election in 1992 because voters blamed him for the recent recession. Or Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, booted out by German voters in 2005 after imposing painful reforms, only to see Angela Merkel reap the rewards.Today, almost ten years after the most severe financial crisis since the Depression, a broad-based economic upswing is at last under way (see article). In America, Europe, Asia and the emerging markets, for the first time since a brief rebound in 2010, all the burners are firing at once.But the political mood is sour. A populist rebellion, nurtured by years of sluggish growth, is still spreading. Globalisation is out of favour. An economic nationalist sits in the...
      PubDate: Thu, 16 March 2017 09:33:23 GM
  • In praise of quinoa
    • Abstract: PEOPLE are funny about food. Throughout history they have mocked others for eating strange things. In 1755 Samuel Johnson’s dictionary defined oats as “a grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people”. Nineteenth-century Japanese nationalists dismissed Western culture as bata kusai, or “stinking of butter”. Unkind people today deride Brits as “limeys”, Mexicans as “beaners” and French people as “frogs”. And food-related insults often have a political tinge. George Orwell complained that socialism was unpopular because it attracted “every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer [and] sex-maniac…in England”. In many countries today, politicians who wish to imply that their rivals have lost touch with ordinary voters sneer that they are latte-drinkers, muesli-munchers or partial to quinoa.This South American grain gets a particularly bad rap. To its fans, it is a superfood. To its detractors, it is like the erotic sci-fi murals found in Saddam Hussein’s palaces—pretentious and tasteless. An advertisement for Big Macs once riffed on this prejudice. “Foodies and gastronauts kindly...
      PubDate: Thu, 09 March 2017 16:30:06 GM
  • Why the absurd one-China policy must be upheld
    • Abstract: FEW diplomatic sophisms are as skilfully worded as America’s “one-China policy”. Mere repetition by American officials that their country sticks to it has helped more than anything else to keep the peace between two nuclear-armed powers. Were America to reject the policy, mainland China would be enraged. Anti-American riots would erupt. The government in Beijing might even respond by launching a military attack on Taiwan, or American forces in the region. The global economy would shudder. Millions of lives would be threatened.Small wonder, then, that pulses quickened on both sides of the Pacific when Donald Trump, as president-elect, questioned the policy. (“I don’t know why we have to be bound by a one-China policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade,” he said.) Last month he changed his mind and reassured China’s president, Xi Jinping, that he would, in fact, uphold it. Yet the one-China policy is in a fragile state. Far from casting doubt on it, Mr Trump needs to make America’s support for the status quo clearer than ever.The one-China policy is a fudge. At the time it was...
      PubDate: Thu, 09 March 2017 16:30:06 GM
  • Britain’s budget is prudent and brave but ducks the big questions
    • Abstract: AT JUST 68 pages, the spring budget Philip Hammond published on March 8th was less than half the length of last year’s. Blessedly short on the gimmicks favoured by many of his predecessors in the Treasury, its most significant chapter was on official forecasts. The economy has done much better than expected since the Brexit referendum last June (see article): it is forecast to grow by 2% this year, up from the 1.4% predicted in November and well ahead of the recession many feared.Yet the modest, good-news budget got a dreadful reception. Mr Hammond announced higher taxes for self-employed people, which broke a manifesto pledge and infuriated an important Conservative constituency. The criticism is unjustified. The tax plan makes economic sense, and with Brexit on the horizon it is right to fund any spending increases with tax rather than more borrowing. The bigger worry was the chancellor’s repeated refrain that urgent questions, from housing to health care, were still under review—a reminder of how...
      PubDate: Thu, 09 March 2017 16:30:06 GM
  • Are stockmarkets in a bubble?
    • Abstract: HAVE investors become irrationally exuberant? That is the biggest question hanging over global stockmarkets. Despite tumultuous politics across much of the rich world, share prices are reaching ever loftier heights. After breaking the 20,000 barrier in January, the Dow Jones Industrial Average swiftly passed 21,000 earlier this month. In Britain the FTSE 100 has been notching up fresh records, too. The MSCI World Index has hit an all-time high.At first sight, the warning signals are flashing. The recent flotation of Snap, an internet firm that is yet to make a profit, brought back memories of the dotcom boom; its shares soared by 44% on their first day of trading (although they have fallen back since). By historical standards, valuations in the American market are worryingly dear. The cyclically adjusted price-earnings ratio, which averages profits over ten years, is just under 30, according to Robert Shiller of Yale University. Only twice has it been higher—in the late 1990s, during the internet boom, and just before the crash of 1929.There are three reasons why investors are ignoring the alarm bells, each of them...
      PubDate: Thu, 09 March 2017 16:30:06 GM
  • Quantum leaps
    • Abstract: A BATHING cap that can watch individual neurons, allowing others to monitor the wearer’s mind. A sensor that can spot hidden nuclear submarines. A computer that can discover new drugs, revolutionise securities trading and design new materials. A global network of communication links whose security is underwritten by unbreakable physical laws. Such—and more—is the promise of quantum technology.All this potential arises from improvements in scientists’ ability to trap, poke and prod single atoms and wispy particles of light called photons. Today’s computer chips get cheaper and faster as their features get smaller, but quantum mechanics says that at tiny enough scales, particles sail through solids, short-circuiting the chip’s innards. Quantum technologies come at the problem from the other direction. Rather than scale devices down, quantum technologies employ the unusual behaviours of single atoms and particles and scale them up. Like computerisation before it, this unlocks a world of possibilities, with applications in nearly every existing industry—and the potential to spark entirely new ones.Strange but true...
      PubDate: Thu, 09 March 2017 09:33:31 GM
  • The right way to get rid of it
    • Abstract: WHAT does the Republican Party, led by Donald Trump, agree on? In addition to an enthusiasm for power, two things unite the conservatism of Stephen Bannon, the president’s consigliere, with the conservatism of Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, the Republican leaders in Congress. One is tax cuts, on which he has thus far been vague. The other is deregulation, which matters more to Republicans now than debt or deficits.The president promised “a historic effort to massively reduce job-crushing regulations” when he spoke to a joint session of Congress on February 28th. Mr Bannon has announced nothing less than “the deconstruction of the administrative state”. That project began with an executive order requiring federal agencies to get rid of two regulations for every new one they issue. It continued this week when the White House proposed slashing the budgets of many federal agencies. Under Barack Obama, CEOs grumbled constantly about burdensome new regulation and more zealous enforcement of existing rules. Stockmarkets have soared, possibly on a belief that undoing all this will bring much faster growth.Something has indeed dampened...
      PubDate: Thu, 02 March 2017 15:56:46 GM
  • Talk of a bad bank in India
    • Abstract: IF YOU owe a bank a hundred dollars, it is your problem. If you owe a hundred million, it is the bank’s problem. If you are one of many tycoons borrowing billions to finance dud firms, it is the government’s problem.That is roughly the situation India finds itself in today. Its state-owned banks extended credit to companies that are now unable to repay. Like the firms they have injudiciously lent to, many banks are barely solvent. Almost 17% of all loans are estimated to be non-performing; state-controlled banks are trading at a steep discount to book value. After years of denial, India’s government seems belatedly to have grasped the threat to the wider economy. Plans are being floated to create a “bad bank” that would house banks’ dud loans, leaving the original lenders in better shape. The idea is a good one, but it must be properly implemented and is only the starting-point for broader reforms.The bad-loan mess has been years in the making. India skirted the financial bust of 2007-08, but then complacency ensued. Banks went on to finance large-scale projects—anything from mines and roads to power plants and steel...
      PubDate: Thu, 02 March 2017 15:56:46 GM
  • The right way to deport people
    • Abstract: TO IMMIGRANTS who live in the shadows, or in the interminable half-light of the asylum system, the signals in two large countries are ominous. Germany’s government is seeking to make it easier and quicker to deport failed asylum-seekers. America promises to “take the shackles off” its immigration officers and boost their numbers. In a speech to Congress on February 28th, Donald Trump mentioned two illegal immigrants—both of them murderers.In both countries, politics is lubricating the deportation machine. Mr Trump is delivering the crackdown he promised on the campaign trail; Germany is gearing up for elections in September, in which the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany party threatens to do well. In both countries, civil-rights groups call deportation brutal and unfair. In both, the federal government has clashed with local officials. But the differences are instructive, too. Germany’s actions are proportionate and sensible. America’s are not.Pick your targets carefullyIn principle, deporting people who fall foul of immigration rules is wise, even liberal. It is the corollary of a generous...
      PubDate: Thu, 02 March 2017 15:56:46 GM
  • Get well soon, Mr Buhari
    • Abstract: EVER since word trickled out that Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s 74-year-old president, was not just taking a holiday in Britain but seeking medical care, his country has been on edge. Nigerians have bad memories of this sort of thing. Mr Buhari’s predecessor bar one, Umaru Yar’Adua, died after a long illness in 2010, halfway through his first term. During much of his presidency he was too ill to govern effectively, despite the insistence of his aides that he was fine. In his final months he was barely conscious and never seen in public—yet supposedly in charge. Since he had not formally handed over power to his deputy, Goodluck Jonathan, his incapacity provoked a constitutional crisis and left the country paralysed.There is nothing to suggest that Mr Buhari is as ill as Yar’Adua was. But that is because there is little information of any kind. His vice-president, Yemi Osinbajo, insists that his boss is “hale and hearty”. Mr Buhari’s spokesman says his doctors have recommended a good rest. Yet even members of Mr Buhari’s cabinet have not heard from him for weeks, and say that they do not know what ails him or when he will return.Such...
      PubDate: Thu, 02 March 2017 15:56:46 GM
  • The vote that could wreck the European Union
    • Abstract: IT HAS been many years since France last had a revolution, or even a serious attempt at reform. Stagnation, both political and economic, has been the hallmark of a country where little has changed for decades, even as power has rotated between the established parties of left and right.Until now. This year’s presidential election, the most exciting in living memory, promises an upheaval. The Socialist and Republican parties, which have held power since the founding of the Fifth Republic in 1958, could be eliminated in the first round of a presidential ballot on April 23rd. French voters may face a choice between two insurgent candidates: Marine Le Pen, the charismatic leader of the National Front, and Emmanuel Macron, the upstart leader of a liberal movement, En Marche! (On the Move!), which he founded only last year.The implications of these insurgencies are hard to exaggerate. They are the clearest example yet of a global trend: that the old divide between left and right is growing less important than a new one between open and closed. The resulting realignment will have reverberations far beyond France’s borders. It could...
      PubDate: Thu, 02 March 2017 10:18:19 GM
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