Jeffery Sachs on his new book, Building the New American Economy


February 27, 2017

Jeffery Sachs on his new book, Building the New American Economy–Smart, Fair, & Sustainable

 

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Money is politics is a serious problem in America today–Jeffery Sachs

Professor Jeffery Sachs discusses his new book, Building the New American Economy– Smart, Fair, & Sustainable. I agree with this Columbia University don that America needs a make over by a progressive President like a President Bernie Sanders. Unfortunately, Americans have to learn to live with a Republican President Donald J. Trump and a Republican controlled  House of Representatives and the Senate. To these politicians, sustainable development is a Grecian nightmare.

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Trust (s0cial capital) is diminishing in the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. The last decade has been 10 years of greed and widening income inequality in American polity. Politics ought to return to the politics of IDEAS, says Sachs. Listen him and decide what you think of his book.  –Din Merican

Don’t be discouraged. Just click and you can watch it directly on youtube.com

The NEP:”A Magical Touch” or Systemic State-Sponsored Discrimination?


February 9, 2017

COMMENT: The objectives of the Tun Abdul Razak’s  New Economic Policy (1970)  were (1) to eradicate poverty regardless of race and (2) to create a Malay Commercial and Industrial Community to eliminate the identification of race with economic function. It was intended to deal the root causes of  the May 13 1969 riots that shook Malaysia and promote national unity.

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It was Tun Dr. Ismail Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak’s Deputy, who likened it to a golf handicap system to enable the Malays to compete against the more economically successful Malaysian other. It was  to  “serve as a temporary affirmative action policy with a 20 year lifespan but which now appears to have been extended ad infinitum.”(Lim Teck Ghee).

Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad used it to create a UMNO crony capitalism and make the Malays beholden to the UMNO state for handouts. In the name of “democratization of education” our fourth Prime Minister also lowered university entrance requirements to enable Malays to attend our public universities, the consequences of which are quite well-known to all of us.

If the Malays are to compete in a globalized world, they must learn to be self-reliant and resilient in the face of adversity. Like my friend Teck Ghee, I feel that empowerment of the Malays, not dependence on UMNO handouts, is the way forward  in the pursuit of national unity.–Din Merican

The  NEP –“A Magical Touch” or  Systemic State-Sponsored Discrimination against The Malaysian Other?

by Lim Teck Ghee

Surely our well informed Royalty must also be aware of the collateral damage that pro-Malay bumiputra policies have had on governance, economy, social cohesion and race and religious relations. Surely Sultan Nazrin, with degrees from Oxford and Harvard, must be aware of the vast literature available, in English and the national language, of the downside of maintaining the NEP past its original shelf-life of 1990.–Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

Recently the Sultan of Perak, Sultan Dr.Nazrin Shah, officiating at a religious discourse described the NEP (New Economic Policy) as a “magical touch”. The word “magic” is associated with the the power of influencing the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces. It is a word whose synonyms include “sorcery, witchcraft, wizardry, necromancy, enchantment,the supernatural, occultism, the occult, black magic,the black arts, shamanism” and the like.

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Malaysia’s Oxford and Harvard Educated Sultan

The “magical touch” of the NEP which gave more opportunities for the Malays to participate in mainstream development and encouraged the growth of youths especially from the rural areas to have a strong foundation of race and religion. of course, did not come from the waving of any supernatural or magical wand, although some of the superstitious in the audience may believe it.

It was a human and politically-crafted public policy in the aftermath of the racial violence in May 1969 and it was intended to serve as a temporary affirmative action policy with a 20 year lifespan but which now appears to have been extended ad infinitum.

The assertion that the the NEP benefited Malay individuals and families and also injected a new confidence and pride into the Malays is also well-known and is incontestable. No one can deny that the younger generation Malays, especially women, “filled Malay secondary classes in bigger numbers, held high positions in their careers, especially in the public sector, enjoyed influence and underwent a cultural transformation, including in the workplace and home” as a direct outcome of the NEP.

But there were other ripple effects from the application of the “magic” touch which the Sultan did not bring to the attention of his audience. These effects – principally relating to the non-Malay community but also now impacting on the Malays – are also important and necessary to bring to the attention of those who continue to advocate it as the panacea for the ills and shortcomings of the Malay community.

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Such a critical, empirically-grounded ]and non-romantic analysis is especially necessary to emphasise in religious and Malay-centric fora that are held ostensibly to instill “Islamic values” of justice, moderation, equality, and the other ethics deemed as central to the practice of the religion; or during events intended to uplift Malay pride and self-esteem.

Who Lost Out With The NEP

That magic wand waved to secure the employment of Malays in the public sector and their accelerated promotion and advancement in it, as well as in other sectors, has required the suppression and holding back of other citizens in their employment, career and even life prospects, however deserving or qualified they may have been, simply on account of their minority ethnic identity. Enough has been written about this for so long that even the most out-of-touch or uneducated in the country is fully aware of it.

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UMNO-BN Election Gimmick?

The loss has not only been to the many hundreds of thousands of non-Malays who have had to make personal sacrifice or have been denied fair treatment as a result of a policy pushed down their throats to ensure ‘national unity’ and so that Malay politicians (and Royalty) can have what these dominant groups consider to be a fair share of the nation’s wealth.

The loss is also that of the nation as a whole.

Surely our well informed Royalty must also be aware of the collateral damage that pro-Malay bumiputra policies have had on governance, economy, social cohesion and race and religious relations. Surely Dr, Sultan Nazrin, with degrees from Oxford and Harvard, must be aware of the vast literature available, in English and the national language, of the downside of maintaining the NEP past its original shelf-life of 1990.

Sultan Dr.Nazrin who is also the Financial Ambassador of the Malaysian International Islamic Financial Centre (MIFC) also said that Malaysia is always described as a modern Islamic nation which is developed, progressive, peaceful and moderate. According to him, “Islamic leadership in Malaysia is highly respected. The wisdom of the Malay leaders in implementing programmes for the development of the people and the country has been acknowledged throughout the world.”

OECD’s Damning Analysis

As Financial Ambassador, he would do well to read the recent Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Review of Innovation Policy report which categorially states that the NEP is among the causes of Putrajaya’s limited success in upgrading the economy through science, technology and innovation policies since the mid-1980s. The recently released Malaysia report noted that “[s]ocial equity rules associated with the New Economic Policy, affecting a wide range of domains including education and businesses, did not allow sufficient mobility of resources which, in the end, hindered innovation activities”.

The report also noted that the domination of government-linked companies (GLCs) and major family-owned conglomerates – all factors the Sultan should be very familiar with – have tended to block competition, innovation and entrepreneurship.

Finally the reported noted that “[e]ven the best initiatives have suffered from a lack of sustainable efforts, political interference or, in some cases, clientelism and corruption”.

The NEP and its successor policies need an open, rigorous and transparent stocktaking to ensure that the Malay community and other Malaysians do not continue to be led astray or become victims of an anachronistic, increasingly elite-favouring, corrupt and indefensible policy.

The magic has been long gone and will never return. Perhaps the Sultan’s next speech may see him provide some ideas on the replacement policy to the NEP.  Empowerment of the Malays, not dependence of UMNO handouts is the way forward  in the pursuit of national unity.

Untapped Women Power: The key to a brighter Malaysia


January 12, 2017

Untapped Women Power: The key to a brighter Malaysia

by Dr. Anas Alam Faizli*

Received via e-mail from the writer)

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Free them to pursue their dreams and they will make Malaysia great again

THE High Income Nation ambition or the “number game” has been our central economic discussion for the past seven years. Countless policies have been crafted for this end game but the solution remains elusive.

I have a revelation. The key and the secret to achieve this lies within humanity’s other half; Women. Let me explain.

Women empowerment could potentially unlock an additional income per capita of approximately US$2,300 for the country; which will easily enable an overnight achievement of our target.

The preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights mentioned that: “Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”

However, the world is not ideal. It is true that all humans are equal, but some are more equal than others, and none more unequal than the status of women itself and everyone must be held responsible.

Women form one half of humanity, and are as equal to men in every aspect, except physical strength — hence, weaker sex, and more beautiful to look at — hence, fairer sex. Unfortunately, in this modern and progressive era, gender discrimination and stereotyping is still alarmingly prevalent.

Women in Tertiary Education

Image result for women in universitiesThis is what they do in Iran and Malaysia too is heading in that direction, thanks to our Ulamaks and UMNO salaried  Mullahs

The society at large has always been fast to dismiss women’s achievements. This also include women’s remarkable achievements in tertiary education; where women have shattered a glass sphere that was once only available to men.

This is not surprising considering tertiary education has traditionally been dominated by men throughout the centuries. Some have even argued that this is due to the simple fact that there are more women nowadays compared to men.

Data, however, contradict this. According to the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM), as of 2016, Malaysia’s gender ratio indicates that there are 107 males to every 100 females. That brings the actual figure of 16.4 million males and 15.3 million females in Malaysia. Over the past decade, there has been a big shift in the gender balance; women have begun to outnumber men in university enrollments.

This global trend is seen not only in developed countries such America and Europe, but it also prevails in Asian countries such as Brunei, China, Philippines, and Indonesia; with Malaysia being an extreme case in the region.

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In 2015, close to 55 percent of higher education intakes (public and private universities, community colleges, and polytechnics) were dominated by females at 280,296 versus males at 230,858. Females showed a higher domination in public universities’ intake at 106,277; equivalent to 63 percent, versus males at 61,850.

Note: On November 4, Nancy Malkiel, Professor Emeritus of History at Princeton visited Churchill College to give a talk to launch her new book “Keep the Damned Women Out”: The Struggle for Coeducation — exploring the decision in the 1960s and 70s by several Ivy League universities in the USA and colleges in Cambridge and Oxford to ‘go mixed’.

Her research took her to the archives of the three Cambridge colleges that were the first to go co-educational: Churchill, King’s, and Clare.

Churchill College is proud of being the first men’s college in Cambridge to decide to admit women. So it is salutary to remember that it was the last Cambridge college to be founded for men only. What was unexceptionable in 1960 had become unthinkable by 1970. A wave of reforms swept through higher education, and coeducation was one element in a multilayered revolution. On the larger canvas, Churchill’s decision in 1969 was unremarkable. In just five years, 1969-74, dozens of colleges on both sides of the Atlantic ‘went mixed’, including Princeton, Yale, Dartmouth, and Vassar, and three Cambridge and five Oxford colleges. The momentous decision at Churchill is set in the wider context in an impressive new book by Nancy Weiss Malkiel, ‘Keep the Damned Women Out’: The Struggle for Coeducation (Princeton University Press).

Nancy Malkiel speaking to a seated audience in the Churchill Archives Centre

Professor Nancy Malkiel speaking at Churchill College, November 4, 2016.

She argues that, on both sides of the Atlantic, the move to coeducation was largely inspired, not by high principle, but a desire for positional advantage. Colleges were worried, as ever, about their competitive edge for the best students. Young people increasingly did not want to be at single sex institutions. In Britain, whereas Cambridge had just 10 per cent women among its undergraduates in 1965, the new universities reached ratios of around 40 per cent. Admitting women was part of a wider move toward diversifying student cohorts. In the USA that typically involved religion and race (Jews, Catholics, African Americans), in Britain it meant school background (grammar instead of public schools). There was little high-minded talk about justice and equality, and, in so far as general principles were expressed, it tended to be the language of national efficiency: avoiding wastage by exploiting a larger pool of young talent. The primacy of the competitive edge expressed itself nowhere better than in Princeton’s chaotic scramble to admit women in 1969 so as not to be upstaged by Yale.

According to Malkiel, the switch to ‘coed’ was more difficult in the US than in Oxbridge. The alumni were far more powerful and controlled purse strings, and the male dining clubs were more intransigent (it took the New Jersey Supreme Court to force the Princeton clubs to open up). Her book is depressingly rich in examples of visceral hostility. A Dartmouth alumnus expressed the sentiment which she uses for the title of her book. Women students experienced condescension from staff and horrendous misogyny from male students, especially in initiation rituals. She argues that the change in Oxbridge was much smoother (though I think she’s too roseate about the lack of sexism there). True enough, Oxbridge had been educating women for a century, and, similarly, Harvard and Radcliffe had been interacting for decades, whereas at Yale and Princeton the change was more abrupt. One thing certainly made things easier at Churchill: nobody could say that the College’s 600 year heritage was being betrayed. (At Clare, the Master wittily and accurately retorted that in 1870 it had been said that allowing Fellows to marry betrayed a 500 year heritage and would ‘distract’ men from scholarship.)

The relative impacts of college heads, faculty, and students varied as drivers of change. In Oxbridge, college heads sometimes set the pace, especially Sir Eric Ashby at Clare College. At Churchill, the decision was forced by the Fellows against the opposition of the Master, Sir William Hawthorne, with the Senior Tutor Dick Tizard leading the way. When Alison Finch became the second female Fellow in 1972 Sir William told her, ‘Well, Miss Finch, I voted against the admission of women’.

In the early coed years, Yale and Princeton maintained caps on female numbers, declaring that the production of ‘leaders’ (which meant men) must not be diminished. There was a cap at Churchill too, with the parallel case that the College had been founded to produce ‘leaders’ for industry and technology. But the quota, like single-sex staircases, and female tutors for female students, soon lapsed.

It is good to see a key aspect of Churchill College’s short career now becoming the stuff of history books. Malkiel’s Ch. 21 takes for its title a remark by Sir John Colville to Sir Winston Churchill when Winston dared to suggest that maybe his new College could have women. That would be ‘like dropping a hydrogen bomb in the middle of King’s Parade’.

 — Mark Goldie, November 2016

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Nonetheless, their male counterparts have balanced out the numbers in private universities; where the ratio is close to 50:50. The same year also saw 169,198 females successfully graduating from higher education versus males at 120,596.

These numbers are showing that women are in the forefront in higher education. With over 50,000 more females whom have managed to graduate as compared to males in 2015 alone, imagine the existing disparity formed over the past decade.

Unfortunately, significant gains by women in tertiary education have not translated into better labour market outcomes. Aside from the teaching industry, women are not seen to be participating dominantly in the workforce nor as leaders in the corporate, legal, academic, economic or the political scene in proportion to the educational gain demonstrated.

Labour Force Participation Rate

In 2015, our women’s labour force participation rate was at a modest 54.1 percent (out of the total 9.9 million potential women labour force), a far cry from the men’s rate of 80.6 percent.

This number has improved only slightly from 47.2 percent in the year 2000.

Aside from the formal sector, women are seen to be prospering in the informal sector where they are offered more flexibility in working hours.

Aside from the formal sector, women are seen to be prospering in the informal sector where they are offered more flexibility in working hours.

Our neighbours are faring better where women’s labour force participation rate for Myanmar is at 75.2 percent, Cambodia 78.8 percent, Laos 76.3 percent, Vietnam 73 percent and Thailand at 75.2 percent.We are left questioning, “Where have the women gone to and where are they now in our society?”

The next set of questions would be, “what are the socio-economic benefits in empowering women?” and “What are the challenges and how should we address them?”

A study by the World Bank on Malaysian women participation in the workforce found a pattern that suggested Malaysian women older than the age of 26 are more sensitive to life-cycle transitions as compared to other countries in the world.

Married women both in urban and rural areas have the lowest participation rate. Additionally, Malaysian women also retire earlier than their male counterparts.

The World Bank attributes this factor to women being caught in a “double burden” syndrome of managing both the home and caring for their children or the elderly. Another contributing factor to the labour force participation rate gap is that women that leave the workforce after the age of 26 will never return.

This is called a “single-peaked” profile. As opposed to other countries in Asia, an example being in Japan and Korea, they have “double-peaked” profiles; where there is a recovery in labour force participation after women hit the age of 35.

These conditions leading to a woman’s decision to remain or withdraw from the labour force must be assessed within the context of Malaysian cultural and social values to determine the appropriate policy environment and incentives to retain a larger number of women in the labour force after marriage.

Aside from the formal sector, women are seen to be prospering in the informal sector where they are offered more flexibility in working hours.

One of the most popular routes taken by these women are by conducting businesses through social media platforms.

Women in Politics, Local, and State Governments

Since our independence, Malaysian women have had the right to vote in elections and to hold public office. Today, women comprise one half of the registered voters and are active in political life. However, instead of being political leaders themselves, a majority of women have continued the trend of only engaging themselves primarily in raising financial support, turning out in full force during elections, carrying out routine tasks related to daily campaigning, and facilitating voter participation during the election process for their political parties.

The old-fashioned gender roles remain where women are adherent of male leaders and retain traditional positions in political parties. The number of women gaining electoral office in the federal and state governments is also dismal. Gender inequality still persist in this sphere, as indicated by the extremely low percentage of women at all levels of political office.

Malaysia ranks number 156 out of 189 countries in the number of women representatives in the national parliament at a dismal 10.4 percent or 23 seats of the total 222 parliamentary seats. The state assemblies also indicate a similar trend at a measly 10.8 percent or 55 seats represented by women, of the total 505 state parliamentary seats.

Perhaps Malaysia should take a cue from our neighbours, Vietnam (24 percent), Lao (25 percent), Singapore (25 percent), and the Phillipines (27 percent) where women have higher levels of political participation.

The same situation in the Executive arm of the Malaysian Government also transpires in the Legislature. Since 1957, the number of women ministers has never exceeded three and that remains as of today where of the 35 members Cabinet; one is a Women Minister and the other two are ministers in the Prime Minister’s Office. This scenario is similar across the board for all state governments while Terengganu and Sarawak have never appointed a female Exco.

The Pakatan Rakyat State Government in Selangor made a breakthrough when they lined up four women of the total ten exco positions in 2008. However, they did not do the same for Perak when they were in power, failing to appoint any female excos despite having the second highest number of women to the State Assembly and Selangor reduced their women excos to two in 2013.

Women are also observed to be given limited appointments as local authority council members where they are only appointed to 362 (14.1 percent) of the total 2,567 positions.

Women Leaders in Civil Service and Corporations

As of 2015, there are 718,044 (57.1 percent) women civil servants from a total of 1,257,166 civil servants in professional and support services (Grade 1-54), however in the top management tiers (Grade Jusa C and above), only 1,498 (37.1 percent) women made it from the total of 4,041 government servants.

Subsequently only 5 (11.4 percent) were appointed as director of government’s statutory bodies, 13 (31.7 percent) as deputy secretary-general and 7 (29.2 percent) as secretary-general.

While in corporations, according to Bursa Malaysia for the year of 2015, women held 26.3 percent of top management positions across public listed corporations. However, women only form 15 percent of the total members of Board of Directors in MOF (Incorporated) companies.

Women have previously held high positions as the Bank Negara Governor, Chairman of the Securities Commission, Managing Director of a Bank, Bar Council Chairman, Chief Executive Officers of Air Asia X and SME Corp, and many others. Women remain an exception in these positions and not the norm.

Women as Educators and in the Legal System

There are 421,828 teachers in Malaysia and close to 72 percent of them are women. However, only 3,580 (37.2 percent) women made it as the primary school master, or secondary school principal or the residential school principal out of the total 9,615 positions. There is a sizeable gap here considering the number of women teachers who made it into decision-making positions.

The same disparities persist in Universities, while there are 11,931 (56.6 percent) women lecturers of the total 21,077, and only 13 (19.12 percent) of 68 are appointed as deputy vice-chancellors and four (20 percent) of 20 are appointed as vice chancellors.

Women in the legal system are growing in numbers, which hopefully will be the key to inducing reforms that will improve the legal status of women. Women represent 3 (27 percent) out of the 11 judges in the Federal Court, 12 (41.4 percent) judges from a total of 29 judges in the Court of Appeal and 29 out of the 58 (50 percent) judges in the High Courts.

The Syariah courts are lagging behind where women represent only 8 (10.8 percent) out of the total 74 judges. In the legal practice, women form 8,551 (51.7 percent) of the total 16,537 lawyers.

Like teachers, there still persists a disparity in the gender ratio between junior and senior lawyers as opposed to female lawyers in partner positions and even in the executive committee of Bar Councils in the country. More women should be placed in decision-making positions.

Empowering Women for Socio-Economic Benefits

A study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on Gender Inequality found that increasing the share of household income controlled by women changes spending in ways that benefit children and family as a whole. The study also found that increasing women and girls’ education contributes to a higher economic growth for about 50 percent in OECD countries over the past 50 years.

Additionally, another study by Dr Emmanuela Gakidou from University of Washington found that; for every one additional year of education for women of reproductive age, child mortality is decreased by 9.5 percent (based on historical data from 219 countries from year 1970 to 2009).

McKinsey & Company (2014) deduced that women’s economic equality is good for businesses. Companies reap bountiful benefits in terms of organisational effectiveness by increasing leadership opportunities for women.

Companies with three or more women in senior management functions score higher in all the measured dimensions of organizational effectiveness.

Women are able to perform better in this particular arena as they generally have higher aspirations and emotional intelligence.

If we are to be on par with the women labour participating rate of Singapore which is at 63 percent; an additional 1.4 million more women in the workforce are needed and if we are to use Canada as a model at 74 percent; that’s an additional 2.3 million women needed in the workforce. That’s only half from the total missing women in action of 4.5 million.

The World Bank estimated that the 2.3 million women missing in action from the workforce can leapfrog our income per capita by 23 percent from entrepreneurial activities (six percent) and “absent” women workforce (17 percent) translated to about US$2,300 per capita, which will enable an overnight achievement of the high-income status for Malaysia.

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Working Mothers Produce Better Sons and Daughters

A comprehensive study of 50,000 adults from 25 different nations by the Harvard Business School inferred an interesting result contrary to popular and admittedly traditional beliefs. The study found that growing up with a working mother improves future career prospects for daughters and sons and is unlikely to harm children socially and economically when they become adults.

Women growing up with working mothers show better performance in the workplace. They are more likely to hold supervisory responsibility at those jobs, and earn higher wages than women whose mothers stayed home full time.

But the study found no effect to their sons’ performance at work as men are naturally expected to work. However, sons of working mothers do better in domestic duties and spend more time caring for family members.

The study also found that sons who have working mothers spend nearly twice as many hours on family and child care as those hailing from more traditional households; a weekly average of 16 hours compared to 8.5 hours.

Barriers and Challenges in the Workforce

Where do we rank in the gender inequality charts? Malaysia ranks 111 out of 145 in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index. In contrary, based on the UNDP’s Gender Inequality Index (GII), Malaysia did better; coming in at 62 out of 188 countries. Regardless, there is still much to be improved.

A study by the United Nations have found that women bear disproportionate responsibilities for unpaid care work. Women devote one to three hours more a day to housework than men; two to 10 times the amount of time a day to care (for children, elderly, and the sick), and one to four hours less a day for paid labour.

This is similar to Malaysia. These differences, deeply rooted in gender roles, reduced women’s leisure, welfare, and well-being. As a result of these different domestic responsibilities, men and women have different patterns of time usage; periods of leisure and high activity.

These patterns have implications for women’s ability to invest in education, their ability to take up economic opportunities and entrepreneurship, and to participate more broadly in current economic, political, public and social life.

In Malaysia, 67 percent of women cite care and other familial and personal responsibilities as the reason for not being in the labour force, versus only two percent of men. This is a wide difference from EU’s 25 percent. This directly and negatively impacts women’s participation in the labour force in Malaysia.

Women are also more vulnerable to economic shocks considering a majority of women are employed in low and semi-skilled positions.

Salary disparity between men and women is still prevalent in Malaysia where women earn less than men in all occupational sectors, notably in elementary occupations in the range of between 10-40 percent compared to men. (Source: Salaries & Wages Survey, 2014)

Additionally, a safer environment for women to commute to work is also a challenge considering crimes, especially snatch thefts, are on the rise; with women being their primary target.

Discrimination against Pregnant Women

The Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)’s Workplace Discrimination Survey found that 40 percent of women polled have experienced job discrimination due to their pregnancy.

The survey revealed that the top five ways used by employers to discriminate pregnant women are by making their positions redundant, denying them promotions, placing them on prolonged probation, demoting them, and terminating their jobs.

The survey also showed that about 20 percent of women have had their job applications rejected or job offers revoked after they disclose their pregnancy.

Survey results indicate that 30 percent of women are likely to delay their pregnancy plans because they fear losing their job or promotion. But only about one in eight women who have lost their jobs or have been looked over for promotions due to pregnancy, have actually lodged formal complaints.

Majority of women do not know their rights or fear backlash and harassment for speaking up. Additionally, both the Employment Act 1955 and the Industrial Relations Act 1967 provide very minimal relief, if any at all. Existing legal safeguards are insufficient and there are no specific laws in Malaysia that deal with pregnancy related discrimination.

Sexual Harassment against Women

Sex-based discrimination takes on many forms at the workplace and in public. Sexual harassment may include verbal, non-verbal/gestural, visual, psychological, and physical harassment.

As with pregnancy discrimination, there is no specific law in Malaysia that deals with sexual harassment. Currently, women can lodge a complaint under The Employment (Amendment) Act 2012 which has expanded the definition of sexual harassment and put into place legal ramifications for sexual harassment at the workplace.

Unfortunately, the law only applies for harassment in the workplace; which is, at most, limited. The act only covers women in employment and excludes those working in the informal sector.

Provisions in the Act also excludes many sections of the female community, such as Member of Parliament (MP)s who are sexually harassed by fellow male MPs, domestic workers by employers, students by teachers, nurses by patients, patients by doctors, and passengers by bus drivers.

The Federal Court in June 2016 made a landmark ruling paving the way for sexual harassment suits to be heard in civil courts beyond the current narrow limits dictated by the Employment Act and the judges too agreed that the Employment Act is insufficient.

Barriers and Challenges in Politics

There are five major obstacles that stand in the way of women who wish to participate in politics, namely, social perception of women’s leadership abilities, role conflicts, religious and cultural constraints, structural constraints within political parties, and finally, limited financial resources.

Structural constraints within political parties exist, where the existence of women are in subordinate status modes confined to the women’s wing within the parties; being only party auxiliary. The real power remains within the firm grasp of men who hold the gate to party positions and electoral candidacy.

Parti Keadilan Rakyat is paving the way for change with its woman party president and one woman vice president who is also in charge of its electoral candidacy. For supreme council members, Parti Keadilan Rakyat and Parti Maju Sabah are leading at 26.7 percent and 23.1 percent women representation while BERSATU, UMNO, MIC, DAP behind at 13 percent, 11.7 percent, 10.3 percent, 10 percent respectively and both PAS and MCA at 8.6 percent. AMANAH and UPKO most behind at 6.9 percent and 4.5 percent.

Furthermore, in politics, women face the same problem as in the workforce, carrying “double burden” which remains an inhibiting factor to their full political participation. These challenges result in lower women representatives in both federal and state legislature; providing direct causal effect to the number of executives in the government. So how do we move forward to face all the barriers and challenges in women empowerment?

Women’s Institutions and Decision Making

The Malaysian government in 1975 introduced the National Advisory Council on the Integration of Women in Development (NACIWID) as a machinery to mobilise women’s participation in development. It was tasked with advising the entire government on women’s issues.

In 2001 the Ministry of Women’s Affairs was formed with Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil acting as the Minister to solely focus on the development of women.

Three years later, the scope of the Ministry was widened to include family development and social welfare and the name was changed to its current name, Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development.

NACIWID has then been placed under this ministry and is called as Majlis Wanita. Instead of advising the entire government, it now only advises this one ministry.

To begin addressing women’s challenges and spearheading a way forward, the “toothless” Majlis Wanita must be revamped as the National Women’s Commission given the prime authority and power to direct, oversee, and monitor national implementation of Gender Equality and Woman Empowerment.

In accelerating women’s political leadership, an independent, non-partisan Women’s Political Institute must be set up to flourish and nurture women leadership abilities. More studies and institutes for women like the Kanita (Institut Kajian Wanita) at USM and the Gender Studies department at UM must be established and supported.

More women should be placed in decision-making positions in all spheres of life; politics, civil service, corporations and the general public.

The current simplistic target of having at least 30 percent women in decision-making positions in both the government and the private sector is beneficial. Unfortunately, we end up with an hourglass structure.

Women’s participation is observed to be heavy on top management (within the 30 percent target) and entry-level positions with hollow participation in between. More measures are required to strengthen the occupational pipeline.

Unleashing Women for a Brighter Future

While current initiatives to leverage and highlight women’s talent are laudable, other policy options must be explored, evaluated, and tailored, to enable Malaysian women to fully contribute to Malaysia’s transformation towards a high-income, inclusive, and sustainable economy.

Initiatives must be taken to end all forms of discrimination against women, to eliminate all forms of violence against women, to ensure women’s full and effective participation in all political, corporate and public affairs, to undertake reforms to equal rights to economic resources, and most importantly, to recognise and value unpaid care and domestic work.

Women are leading both in class and extracurricular activities over their minority men cohort within the higher education environment and it is pertinent for this to continue after leaving universities. A change in the stereotype of women as only housewives and child bearers must take a paradigm shift.

The status quo has been broken. Women are fast becoming income earners and providers equivalent to men but at the same time unpaid care work is not recognised. Women are tasked to work and at the same time no efforts are made to lessen their care burden. This is not healthy and is not sustainable.

In the long-term, prevailing social norms need to evolve for gender gaps to be bridged. A social re-engineering and going back to the drawing board is required to formulate the best solution for this new emerging social dynamic.

Gender sensitive education must start from school, enforced by the legal system, engendering government institutions, and also the authorities; including the police force.

Legal Support for Women

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly, is synonymous as an international bill of rights for women.

It has a prominent preamble and 30 articles, defining what constitutes discrimination against women and measures to end such discrimination.  As a ratifying member to CEDAW, Malaysia must integrate these articles into domestic legislation and enact the Gender Equality Act.

A revisit on existing legislation must be conducted to amend legislations which are discriminatory against women. Subsequently, every state must establish its own Gender Policy guided by pressing national concerns.

This will ensure Gender Equality will be mainstreamed in all policies and programmes from federal to state governments. Comprehensive laws must be in place to protect women from sexual harassment by enacting the Sexual Harassment Act.

Gender discrimination must be halted at all cost by penalising government departments or companies found to condone such acts and its perpetrators.

We need to protect pregnant women by adopting the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Both Acts will provide legal protection to women and ensure that they feel secure at their workplace and in society, as a whole. Remember, anything that makes a woman feel inferior and takes away her self-respect is abuse.

Making Work Family Friendly

The existing tax relief for enrolling children aged 6 years and below to registered nurseries and preschools is not enough. Free nurseries at all government agencies and linked companies are severely required to assist in reducing the burden of childcare and to assist families in achieving work-life balance. This must be implemented in achieving a family friendly workplace.

As of 2015, there are 3,193 registered private child care institutions, and on top of that there’s 118 government offices and 24 private offices that provided child care. This illustrates a huge demand of private child care institutions that the government and private offices should be providing.

The government sector is slightly ahead compared to the corporate sector. Both are lacking in initiative and is largely failing to provide working mothers with better access to child care, flexible working hours and longer maternity and paternity leaves.

Childcare is a shared responsibility; which means that the attitude and treatment towards fathers will also need to change. More measures must be undertaken to ensure women have more social protection in the informal sector. This would drastically reduce the number of women leaving the workforce. Support must also be given to inculcate more women entrepreneurs.

To address the different needs between women and men, these issues have to be reflected in public transportation policy, healthcare delivery, women in politics, and strengthening corporations in promoting gender diversity.

Stakeholders’ Responsibility

All of the above calls for every stakeholder to relentlessly push for changes with full support from the government; including the agencies and the private sector.

Third party players from the civil society must be supported as they will be able to dive deep into the grassroots level, increase the awareness of Malaysians at large, and will be supplementing both the government and the private sector.

A prime example would be The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG), formed in 1985, a coalition of 12 non-governmental organisations that work towards gender equality by the Association of Women Lawyers (AWL), Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), All Women’s Action Society (AWAM), Women’s Centre for Change (WCC), Tenaganita and others.

JAG must be credited for spearheading multiple campaigns and legal reform efforts, leading to the enactment of the Domestic Violence Act 1994 and the inclusion of “gender” under Article 8(2) of the Federal Constitution in 2001.

Emerging NGOs such as Lean In Malaysia, Women: girls, The G-Blog, and also a social media initiative like the Leading Ladies of Malaysia and others must also be supported and sustained.

There exists a huge socio-economic benefit of tapping into and unlocking women’s potential that this country badly needs.

*Anas Alam Faizli holds a doctorate in Business Administration. He is a construction and an oil and gas professional, a concerned Malaysian and is the author of Rich Malaysia, Poor Malaysians and tweets at @aafaizli‎

 

2017 — A Thunderous Clash of Politics, Economies and Policies


January 6, 2017

2017 — A Thunderous Clash of Politics, Economies and Policies

Martin Khor is Executive Director of the South Centre, a think tank for developing countries, based in Geneva.

The Paris agreement, which was adopted in December 2015 and which came into force in record time in October 2016 as a demonstration of international concern over climate change, may face a major test and even an existential challenge in 2017, if Trump fulfils his election promise to pull the US out. Credit: Diego Arguedas Ortiz/IPS.

The Paris agreement, which was adopted in December 2015 and which came into force in record time in October 2016 as a demonstration of international concern over climate change, may face a major test and even an existential challenge in 2017, if Trump fulfils his election promise to pull the US out. Credit: Diego Arguedas Ortiz/IPS.

PENANG, Jan 2 2017 (IPS) – Yet another new year has dawned.   But 2017 will be a year like no other.

There will be a thunderous clash of policies, economies and politics worldwide.   We will therefore be on a roller-coaster ride, and we should prepare for it and not only be spectators on the side-lines in danger of being swept away by the waves.

With his extreme views and bulldozing style, Donald Trump is set to create an upheaval if not revolution in the United States and the world.

He is installing an oil company chief as the Secretary of State, investment bankers in key finance positions, climate sceptics and anti-environmentalists in environmental and energy agencies and an extreme rightwing internet media mogul as his chief strategist

US-China relations, the most important for global stability, could change from big-power co-existence with a careful combination of competition and cooperation, to outright crisis.

Trump, through a phone call with Taiwan’s leader and subsequent remarks, signalled he could withdraw the longstanding US adherence to the One China policy and instead use Taiwan as a bargaining card when negotiating economic policies with China.  The Chinese perceive this as an extreme provocation.

He has appointed as head of the new National Trade Council an economist known for his books demonising China, including “Death by China: Confronting the Dragon”.

Trump seems intent on doing an about-turn on US trade and investment policies, starting with ditching the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement and re-negotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Other measures being considered include a 45% duty on Chinese products, extra duties and taxes on American companies located abroad, and even a 10% tariff on all imports.

Martin Khor

Thus 2017 will see a rise in protectionism in the US, the extent still unknown.  That is bad news for those developing countries whose economies have grown on the back of exports and international investments.

Europe in 2017 will also be preoccupied with its own regional problems.  The Brexit shock of 2016 will continue to reverberate and several European countries facing elections will see challenges to their traditional values and established order from xenophobic and narrow nationalist parties.

As Western societies become less open to the world and more inward looking, developing countries should revise their development strategies and rely more on domestic and regional demand and investments.

As North-South economic relations decline, this should also be the moment for expanding South-South cooperation, spurred as much by necessity as by principles.

2017 may be the year when resource-rich China, with its huge Road and Belt initiative and its immense financing capacity, fills in the economic void created by western trade and investment protectionism.

But this may not be sufficient to prevent a finance shock in many developing countries now beginning to suffer a reversal of capital flowing back to the US, attracted by the prospect of higher interest rates and economic growth.

Several emerging economies which together received many hundreds of billions of dollars of hot money in recent years are now vulnerable to the latest downturn phase of the boom-bust cycle of capital flows.

Some of these countries opened up their capital markets to foreign funds which now own large portions of government bonds denominated in the domestic currency, as well as shares in the equity market.

As the tide turns, foreign investors are expected to sell off and transfer back a significant part of the bonds and shares they bought, and this new vulnerability is in addition to the traditional external debt contracted by the developing countries in foreign currencies.

Some countries will be hit by a terrible combination of capital outflow, reduced export earnings, currency depreciation and an increased debt servicing burden caused by higher US interest rates.

As the local currency depreciates further, the affected countries’ companies will have to pay more for servicing loans contracted in foreign currencies and imported machinery and parts, while consumers suffer from a rapid rise in the prices of imports.

On the positive side, the currency depreciation will make exporters more competitive and make tourism more attractive, but for many countries this will not be enough to offset the negative effects.

Thus 2017 will not be kind to the economy, business and the pockets of the common man and woman.  It might even spark a new global financial crisis.

The old year ended with mixed blessings for Palestinians. On one hand they won a significant victory when the outgoing President Obama allowed the adoption of a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories by not exercising a veto.

The resolution will spur international actions against the expansion of settlements which have become a big obstacle to peace talks.

On the other hand the Israeli leadership, which responded defiantly with plans for more settlements, will find in Trump a much more sympathetic President.  He is appointing a pro-Israel hawk who has cheered the expansion of settlements as the new US ambassador to Israel.

With Trump also indicating he will tear up the nuclear power deal with Iran, the Middle East will have an even more tumultuous time in 2017.

Some countries will be hit by a terrible combination of capital outflow, reduced export earnings, currency depreciation and an increased debt servicing burden caused by higher US interest rates.

In the area of health care, the battle for affordable access to medicines will continue, as public frustration grows over the high and often astronomical prices of patented medicines including for the treatment of HIV AIDS, hepatitis C, tuberculosis and cancers.

There will be more powerful calls for governments to curb the excesses of drug companies, as well as more extensive use of the flexibilities in the patent laws to counter the high cost of medicines.

Momentum will also increase to deal with antibiotic resistance which in 2016 was recognised by political leaders meeting at the United Nations to be perhaps the gravest threat to global health.

All countries pledged to come up with national action plans to counter antibiotic and anti-microbial resistance by May 2017 and the challenge will then be to review the adequacy of these plans and to finance and implement them.

The new year will also see its fair share of natural disasters and a continued decline in the state of the environment.  Both will continue to be major issues in 2017, just as the worsening of air pollution and the many earthquakes, big storms and heat-waves marked the previous few years.

Unfortunately low priority is given to the environment.  Hundreds of billions of dollars are allocated for highways, railways and urban buildings but only a trickle for conservation and rehabilitation of hills, watersheds, forests, mangroves, coastal areas, biodiversity or for serious climate change actions.

2017 should be the year when priorities change, that when people talk about infrastructure or development, they put actions to protect and promote the environment as the first items for allocation of funds.

This new year will also be make or break for climate change.  The momentum for action painfully built up in recent years will find a roadblock in the US as the new President dismantles Obama-initiated policies and measures.

The Paris agreement, which was adopted in December 2015 and which came into force in record time in October 2016 as a demonstration of international concern over climate change, may face a major test and even an existential challenge in 2017, if Trump fulfils his election promise to pull the US out.

But Trump and his team will face resistance domestically including from state governments and municipalities which have their own climate plans, and from other countries determined to carry on without the US on board.

Indeed if 2017 will bring big changes initiated by the new US administration, it will also generate many counter actions to fill in the void left in the world by a withdrawing US or to counter its new unsettling actions.

Many people around the world, from politicians and policy makers to citizen groups and community organisers are already bracing themselves to come up with responses and actions.

Indeed 2017 will be characterised by the Trump effect but also the consequent counter-effects.

There are opportunities to think through, alternatives to chart and reforms to carry out that are anyway needed on the global and national economies, on the environment, and on geo-politics.

Most of the main levers of power and decision-making are still in the hands of a few countries and a few people, but there has also been the emergence of many new centres of economic, environmental and intellectual capabilities and community-based organising.

2017 will be a year in which ideas, policies, economies and politics will all clash, thunderously, and we should be prepared to meet the challenges ahead and not only be spectators.

Thomas Piketty’s Capital–A Book Review


September 30, 2016

BOOK REVIEW

Capital in the Twenty-first Century by Thomas Piketty

Image result for piketty capital in the 21st century

by Stephanie Flanders

There has been an intense debate about this surprise bestseller. What is the upshot?

This is a VIB – very important book. Nearly everyone agrees about that. But the reasons for its importance have changed in the months since it was published. At first it was important because it was a big book on a big subject: a book of grand ambition about inequality, written not by the latest “thinker” but a respected academic economist with real numbers to go with his theory. We hadn’t had anything like that in ages. This was the “Piketty as rockstar” phase, when the book was an “improbable hit” and people wrote breathless articles about the modern successor to Marx who could crunch the numbers but also quote Balzac, The Simpsons and The West Wing.

Writing a bestselling economics book is usually a good way to make other economists hate you. But at first even they heaped praise on Thomas Piketty for casting fresh light on inequality – an area where the official statistics are notoriously weak. Say what you like about the theory, the argument went, you had to thank him for the numbers.

At this point you didn’t need to read it to have an opinion about it. Indeed for some, not having read it was a badge of pride. Ed Miliband unashamedly told people he hadn’t got beyond the first chapter – and kept on saying that for several weeks. Maybe he has now. Or maybe he’s just decided that the debate about the book is more important than the book itself. That’s certainly the conclusion I have come to, and not just because several of its central arguments have now been questioned.

There are many claims in the 700-odd pages, but let me highlight some of the important ones, before moving on to whether – and why – any of this matters.

Image result for piketty capital in the 21st century

Claim one is that income inequality has increased sharply since the late 1970s, with a particularly dramatic rise in the share of total income going to the very highest earners. The most quoted Piketty statistic here is one that no one, to my knowledge, has questioned: that 60% of the increase in US national income in the 30 years after 1977 went to just the top 1% of earners. The only section of the US population that has done better than the top 1% is the top 10th of that 1%. The top 100th of the 1% have done best of all.

These are remarkable numbers. Uncovering and bringing together this data for the US and a handful of other countries using tax returns is a major achievement, which some say merits a Nobel prize on its own. Piketty goes on to show that this dramatic rise in income inequality hasn’t happened in all rich economies, and, oddly, does not really have much to do with capital. Even in the US, it has been driven by soaring salaries at the top end of the pay scale, not rising incomes from capital.

That rather large complication to the story does not stop Piketty focusing the rest of the book on capital, which he says has also become more unequally distributed since the 1970s, not just in the US but in Europe too. He believes this trend toward greater wealth inequality is very likely to continue, because the returns from capital are likely to grow faster than the economy itself, and faster than the owners of that wealth are likely to be able to spend it.

This is the “central contradiction of capitalism”, which he summarises with a Marxian turn of phrase: “the entrepreneur inevitably tends to become a rentier, more and more dominant over those who own nothing but their labour. Once constituted, capital reproduces itself faster than output increases. The past devours the future.”

This is where things get tricky, not just for Piketty but for the general reader, who simply wants to know whether he’s right. Let me cut to the chase and say that the evidence for rising wealth inequality is not nearly as clear as the evidence for rising inequality of incomes. Further, even some of Piketty’s biggest fans in the academic world have their doubts whether the forces pushing the economy in that direction are as strong as he suggests. Most would agree that the developed economies are likely to grow more slowly as their populations get older. This might have the “terrifying” consequences for wealth inequality that he suggests, but it’s also possible that slower growth will be as costly to the owners of capital as it is for everyone else. Their share of the total pie might even decrease.

That is actually what has happened in the UK recently. In the boom years after the mid 90s, the owners of capital took a larger share of national income, and the labour share tended to decline. But the trend reversed itself when the economy hit the skids in 2007, and the labour share is back to where it was in the early 70s. Income inequality has also fallen slightly over this period, at least in the UK. So, whatever terrible things have happened to our economy in the past five years, they haven’t followed the long-term path sketched out by Piketty. Rather the opposite.

There is some evidence that the top 10% in the US is sitting on a higher share of total wealth now than in the 70s. But it’s difficult to draw similar conclusions about Britain or France because the data is so patchy. From what we can tell, the share of total wealth held by the top 1% – and 0.01% – hasn’t changed much at all.

Piketty has some interesting analysis demonstrating that wealth begets more wealth: the richer university endowments, for example, tend to earn the highest returns on their investments, not just in absolute but percentage terms. This rings true and also has some economic logic to it. The more money you have to invest, the more – in cash terms – you can afford to spend on finding the best opportunities, without materially cutting into your returns. As a force for rising wealth inequality this makes sense and probably merits a book of its own, given that individuals across the developed world are increasingly having to take greater responsibility for saving for their retirement. It matters if small investors are going to be systematically disadvantaged in making these long-term investments.

But the concentration of wealth at the top doesn’t seem as inexorable as all that. As the economist and former US treasury secretary Larry Summers has pointed out, most of the people on the list of 400 wealthiest Americans in 1982 would have had enough to money to qualify in 2012 if they had simply earned a return of 4% a year. But fewer than a 10th actually did so. The proportion of the top 400 who inherited their wealth has actually been falling – not rising, as Piketty’s theory would also suggest.

Given what has been happening to incomes at the top, you would expect to have seen more concentration of wealth than we can find in the data. That might be – as Piketty suggests – because rich people are good at hiding their money from the taxman. But it might also be because they are very good at spending their money, and their children even more so. I was at a conference recently for advisers and trustees to family estates, and was amused to hear speaker after speaker assert that the “biggest threat” to a family fortune was “not the taxman or the markets but the family itself”.

Say we agree with Piketty, and conclude that wealth has become more concentrated, his own numbers show this is a fairly recent phenomenon. As he admits, the single most important structural change in the distribution of wealth in the past 100 years has been in the other direction. That is the emergence of a new “patrimonial class”, somewhere between rich and poor, owning 25%-35% of the nation’s wealth.

He describes the emergence of this class in the middle years of the 20th century as a transformation that “deeply altered the social landscape and the political structure of society and helped redefine the terms of distributive conflict”. That may well be true. But for me, what’s more interesting about this shift is not what it might or might not have done for “the terms of distributive conflict”, but what it did for households – and the broader economy. Piketty really doesn’t go into that at all, which is a shame because if you don’t have a clear understanding of the benefits of broader capital ownership it’s difficult to explain why it’s so “terrifying” if things are now moving back in the other direction.

The latest official survey of UK household incomes and wealth shows that around a third of all UK households has either negative net worth – debts greater than their assets – or net financial assets worth less than £5,000. I am more worried about that lack of wealth at the bottom and in the middle of the income scale than about the squillions being amassed by a very few.

We know that families with that little to fall back on are much more likely to fall into long-term cycles of dependency and poverty. We also know – and if we didn’t know we could learn from reading the Daily Mail that Piketty’s “patrimonial middle class” feels more squeezed these days, whatever might have happened to the financial value of their home. He seems to assume that all these things are connected, that the greater income flowing to the 1% is making things worse for everyone else. But he never really makes the case. That is remarkable omission for a book of such magisterial sweep.

When I was first learning economics in the late 80s and 90s, the UK was just getting used to the free-market idea that higher incomes at the top did not have to mean lower incomes at the bottom. To ensure growth in the economy, the message went, you had to give the “wealth creators” the incentive to increase both the pie and their slice of it. Economists still believe that, up to a point. But in the wake of the financial crisis there has been broader acceptance of the view that very high levels of income inequality can increase the risk of such crises, and so hurt the economy. We also have evidence – from the IMF, of all places – that in unequal economies, more redistributive taxes might promote faster growth. As with most things, it’s a matter of degree.

This all helps to explain why Piketty’s book has been such a smash. Many people are worried about the slow rate of growth in the developed economies since the financial crisis in 2008. Many are also worried about rising inequality. At first glance, Capital seems to offer an elegant way to explain both. But, by his own admission, the world is a lot more complicated than talk of a “central contradiction to capitalism” might suggest. So is the relationship between capital accumulation and growth.

Like Miliband, Piketty sees a clear difference between the wealth creators and the asset strippers – between the fat cat “rentier” capital that devours the future and the more socially useful capital of the entrepreneur. But his own broad definition of capital doesn’t really help us draw that kind of distinction. It’s all thrown in together, along with all of our houses, and everything else with a financial value that can be bought or sold. That’s a pity because if there’s one thing that policymakers around the world are looking for it’s a way to channel a bit more money into productive investment – and a bit less into house prices and stocks and shares.

Piketty deserves huge credit for kickstarting a debate about inequality and illuminating the distribution of income and wealth. But when it comes to the forces driving growth and wealth accumulation in our modern economy what he has probably done most to bring out into the open is our collective ignorance and confusion.

Stephanie Flanders is chief market strategist for Europe, JP Morgan Asset Management.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jul/17/capital-twenty-first-century-thomas-piketty-review

 

Hillary Clinton gets gored


September 5, 2016

by Paul Krugman

Americans of a certain age who follow politics and policy closely still have vivid memories of the 2000 election — bad memories, and not just because the man who lost the popular vote somehow ended up in office. For the campaign leading up to that end game was nightmarish too.

You see, one candidate, George W. Bush, was dishonest in a way that was unprecedented in U.S. politics. Most notably, he proposed big tax cuts for the rich while insisting, in raw denial of arithmetic, that they were targeted for the middle class. These campaign lies presaged what would happen during his administration — an administration that, let us not forget, took America to war on false pretenses.

Yet throughout the campaign most media coverage gave the impression that Mr. Bush was a bluff, straightforward guy, while portraying Al Gore — whose policy proposals added up, and whose critiques of the Bush plan were completely accurate — as slippery and dishonest. Mr. Gore’s mendacity was supposedly demonstrated by trivial anecdotes, none significant, some of them simply false. No, he never claimed to have invented the internet. But the image stuck.

And right now I and many others have the sick, sinking feeling that it’s happening again.

Image result for the clinton foundation

True, there aren’t many efforts to pretend that Donald Trump is a paragon of honesty. But it’s hard to escape the impression that he’s being graded on a curve. If he manages to read from a TelePrompter without going off script, he’s being presidential. If he seems to suggest that he wouldn’t round up all 11 million undocumented immigrants right away, he’s moving into the mainstream. And many of his multiple scandals, like what appear to be clear payoffs to state attorneys general to back off investigating Trump University, get remarkably little attention.

Meanwhile, we have the presumption that anything Hillary Clinton does must be corrupt, most spectacularly illustrated by the increasingly bizarre coverage of the Clinton Foundation.

Step back for a moment, and think about what that foundation is about. When Bill Clinton left office, he was a popular, globally respected figure. What should he have done with that reputation? Raising large sums for a charity that saves the lives of poor children sounds like a pretty reasonable, virtuous course of action. And the Clinton Foundation is, by all accounts, a big force for good in the world. For example, Charity Watch, an independent watchdog, gives it an “A” rating — better than the American Red Cross.

Now, any operation that raises and spends billions of dollars creates the potential for conflicts of interest. You could imagine the Clintons using the foundation as a slush fund to reward their friends, or, alternatively, Mrs. Clinton using her positions in public office to reward donors. So it was right and appropriate to investigate the foundation’s operations to see if there were any improper quid pro quos. As reporters like to say, the sheer size of the foundation “raises questions.”

True, there aren’t many efforts to pretend that Donald Trump is a paragon of honesty. But it’s hard to escape the impression that he’s being graded on a curve. If he manages to read from a TelePrompter without going off script, he’s being presidential. If he seems to suggest that he wouldn’t round up all 11 million undocumented immigrants right away, he’s moving into the mainstream. And many of his multiple scandals, like what appear to be clear payoffs to state attorneys general to back off investigating Trump University, get remarkably little attention.

Image result for the clinton foundation

Meanwhile, we have the presumption that anything Hillary Clinton does must be corrupt, most spectacularly illustrated by the increasingly bizarre coverage of the Clinton Foundation.

Step back for a moment, and think about what that foundation is about. When Bill Clinton left office, he was a popular, globally respected figure. What should he have done with that reputation? Raising large sums for a charity that saves the lives of poor children sounds like a pretty reasonable, virtuous course of action. And the Clinton Foundation is, by all accounts, a big force for good in the world. For example, Charity Watch, an independent watchdog, gives it an “A” rating — better than the American Red Cross.

Now, any operation that raises and spends billions of dollars creates the potential for conflicts of interest. You could imagine the Clintons using the foundation as a slush fund to reward their friends, or, alternatively, Mrs. Clinton using her positions in public office to reward donors. So it was right and appropriate to investigate the foundation’s operations to see if there were any improper quid pro quos. As reporters like to say, the sheer size of the foundation “raises questions.”

But nobody seems willing to accept the answers to those questions, which are, very clearly, “no.”

Consider the big Associated Press report suggesting that Mrs. Clinton’s meetings with foundation donors while secretary of state indicate “her possible ethics challenges if elected president.” Given the tone of the report, you might have expected to read about meetings with, say, brutal foreign dictators or corporate fat cats facing indictment, followed by questionable actions on their behalf.

Image result for muhammad yunus grameen bank and Bill Clinton

But the prime example The A.P. actually offered was of Mrs. Clinton meeting with Muhammad Yunus, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize who also happens to be a longtime personal friend. If that was the best the investigation could come up with, there was nothing there.

So I would urge journalists to ask whether they are reporting facts or simply engaging in innuendo, and urge the public to read with a critical eye. If reports about a candidate talk about how something “raises questions,” creates “shadows,” or anything similar, be aware that these are all too often weasel words used to create the impression of wrongdoing out of thin air.

And here’s a pro tip: the best ways to judge a candidate’s character are to look at what he or she has actually done, and what policies he or she is proposing. Mr. Trump’s record of bilking students, stiffing contractors and more is a good indicator of how he’d act as president; Mrs. Clinton’s speaking style and body language aren’t. George W. Bush’s policy lies gave me a much better handle on who he was than all the up-close-and-personal reporting of 2000, and the contrast between Mr. Trump’s policy incoherence and Mrs. Clinton’s carefulness speaks volumes today.

In other words, focus on the facts. America and the world can’t afford another election tipped by innuendo.