India at Seventy


August 19, 2017

India at Seventy

By John Elliott@www.asiasentinel.com

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It’s an easy copout when talking about India to say everything and the opposite are both true and correct. That has never been more so than when assessing the country’s performance in the 70 years since it became independent on August 15, 1947.

Put simply, India is a huge success, tackling dire poverty, ethnic social religious and cultural divisions, building a strong private sector, developing infrastructure, excelling in research such as space and rockets technology, and breeding a new young and aspirational youth, all within a successful though turbulent and noisy parliamentary democracy.

It is also a dismal failure because it has done all those things far too slowly, encumbered by lethargy and a failure to grapple with challenges together with increasingly corrupt politicians, bureaucrats, judges, and police fed by greedy business people, criminals and members of the general public. Intolerance and ethnic and religious tensions, never far below the surface, are increasing.

Falling behind

Year by year, despite substantial successes, it falls more and more behind its regional rival and potential enemy China. It has been acting tough with its larger neighbor for the past two months in a military confrontation on the Himalayan border, but it has been increasingly losing out in terms of economic and infrastructure development, manufacturing competitiveness, defense preparedness, regional influence and international clout.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi–Making a Difference for India

Economic growth is around 7 percent, but it should be far more. Between 20 percent and 30 percent of the 1.3billion population are illiterate and live below the poverty line, and far more are badly fed with inadequate education, sanitation and health facilities and a serious lack of jobs for the million young people entering the job market every month.

This is the third time I have written a decade’s assessment. In 1997 I said that “Indians seem unsure what there is to celebrate” because there was a “belated realization of how far development has lagged behind the rest of Asia, plus despair with the decrepit state of the country’s corrupt politics.” The economic reforms of 1991 had sputtered to a virtual halt and their effect had not by then fed through the economy –  the major impact emerged in the following decade. I.K.Gujral, Prime Minister of a short-lived coalition government, said that India was “almost standing on the threshold of greatness”.

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The Giants of India–  Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi

In 2007, I recorded a marked change with a headline on this blog (then on Fortune magazine’s website) saying “A Nehru dream comes true.” That referred to the hopes of Jawaharlal Nehru who, as Prime Minister, heralded in India’s independence 70 years.

I noted that the country’s overall self-confidence and its economic performance were being transformed. In the previous four or five years, “a spirit of can-do” had inspired business people – big and small, ranging from names like Ratan Tata, Mukesh Ambani, Azim Premji and the Infosys founders to small niche players – who invested, managed, delivered, and grew both at home and abroad.

Many problems, especially social, were however little improved: “Vast proportions of the country’s 1.1 billion people are undernourished and hungry, as well as poorly educated and illiterate. Blighted by a lack of drinking water and proper sanitation, many are plagued with poorly-treated ill health.”

No one this time is using a Nehru headline in a positive sense, despite the many advances made in the last decade. The trumpets are blasting out the new India of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by the Hindu nationalist prime minister Narendra Modi and by Amit Shah, the tough party president. Together they are more interested in celebrating the 75th anniversary in 2022 after they have won (as it seems they will) the next general election in 2019.

They and their platoons of followers crave a Hindu-dominated society that replaces Nehru’s secularism and turns Muslims, Christians and others into the second class minorities than many increasingly feel they have already become.

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Vice President Hamid Ansari

Hamid Ansari, a veteran diplomat and government official talked tellingly when he retired recently as India’s Vice President about how “a feeling of unease, a sense of insecurity is creeping in” among Muslims.

Their “ambience of acceptance” was under threat and there were “enhanced apprehensions of insecurity amongst segments of our citizen body, particularly Dalits, Muslims and Christians”. No-one had any doubt about his target – Modi, Shah and their followers.

India is a harsher society than it was 10 years ago with rabid nationalism, violence and vigilantism adding to cruel policing and ruthless regional politicians – many encouraged by the existence of a BJP government that shuns the softer secular approach of less fundamentalist political parties.

Maybe these contrasts and contradictions are inevitable in a society that has undergone India’s massive social and economic changes of the past 26 years. The 1991 reforms have gradually transformed the face of much of India, hastened by cascading access to television, the internet and social media. There is an arrogance of success among the new rich, and feelings of bitterness and anger among those left behind.

Image result for The Gandhis-India's Political FamilyThe Gandhi Family Dynasty

But if one is to pick a target to blame it should not be Modi and the BJP but the Gandhi family dynasty and its Congress Party that, having successfully led India into independence and beyond, has failed in the past 15 years to adapt to the aspirations of a changing India.

The Gandhis cling to power at the top of the party with a born-to-rule style that is no longer appropriate, preventing other politicians emerging to lead anti-BJP parties. Jairam Ramesh, an outspoken Congress politician, said recently that “the sultanate has gone but we behave as if we were sultans still.”

Modi an enigma

In all this, Modi is an enigma because he talks as if he is determined to build a strong and efficient India of which he can be nationalistically proud. Reforms have included efforts to curb corruption, a strengthened national identity system (Aadhaar), and the implementation of a long-planned national goods and services tax.

Yet he is also pulled into supporting or at least condoning the more extreme Hinduisation approach of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the BJP’s extreme right wing umbrella body, and its allied extreme organisations.

As India enters its 71st year of independence tomorrow, Modi is expected to talk about the target for 2022 in his annual prime ministerial speech (pictured last year) from the ramparts of the Red Fort in Old Delhi.

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“Let us pledge to free India from poverty, dirt, corruption, terrorism, casteism, communalism and create a ‘New India’ of our dreams by 2022,” he said in a recent speech that has been backed up with front-page government advertisements in leading newspapers headed Sankalp se Siddhi (pledge to achieve).

These are ambitious goals that have been on earlier governments’ agendas to little effect. Modi was elected in 2014 to implement developmental change and he has personally launched and driven countless campaigns that include his Swachh Bharat (Clean India Movement). The government claims that the number of people defecating in the open has dropped from 550million to 320million, even though many newly installed toilets do not have water or sewerage facilities. That is significant in a country where 100,000 children die each year from diarrhoea related diseases.

At the same time as examples of such developmental success are emerging, there also the glimmerings of the government softening its authoritarian line, presumably in order to quell criticism ahead of the 2019 general election.

One example is the appointment last week of Prasoon Joshi, a liberal screenwriter and poet, and the CEO in India of the McCann Erickson international advertising group, to head the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). He has replaced PahlajNihalani, a strong BJP and Modi supporter who was a controversially tough and insensitive censor, even shortening kissing scenes in a James Bond film.

Joshi’s appointment looks like a tactical move rather than a policy change, and 230million fewer people defecating in the open is only small change measured against India’s enormous needs for development.

But the first shows how India’s strident democracy does have an effect on governments, and the second shows that Modi recognises the need for action.

India’s future over the next decade depends on how this balances out.Will Modi and Shah’s Hindu nationalism be constrained by the need to operate within a parliamentary democracy, or will their likely victory in 2019 make their nationalism increasingly dictatorial and disruptive? And how successful will Modi’s government be at making India work?

Put another way, thanks to the failure of the Gandhis and Congress, India’s future development depends on the drive that will be given by Modi and the increasing number of BJP state governments. The price for that is the BJP’s Hindu nationalism.

The hope therefore has to be that India’s diverse democracy, which inserts its own unpredictable checks and balances, will somehow keep that in check.

John Elliott is Asia Sentinel’s New Delhi correspondent. He blogs at www.ridingthelepant.com

The Role of India and China in South Asia


July 27, 2017

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Number 389 | July 26, 2017

ANALYSIS

The Role of India and China in South Asia

by Christian Wagner

India and China have a long and complex bilateral relationship that oscillates between concepts of “Chindia” and great power rivalry. In South Asia, India seems to be a regional power by default. But a closer look reveals that China is gaining an upper hand in the region. The analytical framework of the regional power debate helps to explain the different approaches between the two countries towards South Asia. Developments in the fields of politics, economics, and security indicate that India is at a structural disadvantage to China in the region.Despite its superior material resources relative to other South Asian states, India has never managed to establish itself as a regional power.

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Attempts by Nehru and Indira Gandhi to portray the region as part of India’s national security and to secure the country’s foreign political interests through military, economic, and political interventions were mostly unsuccessful. Several factors have always undermined India’s regional power ambitions.

First, because of the common religious, linguistic, and ethnic ties, foreign policy debates in the neighboring countries are often linked with debates about national identity which emphasize the distinctions from India. Hence, Indian interventions in the neighboring countries have often been perceived as threats to their respective national identities. In Sri Lanka, Buddhist nationalist groups have always been critical of India, in Bangladesh, the debate on Bengali and Bangladeshi nationalism is closely related with India, and in Nepal there is a controversy in most parties on the relations with the bigger neighbor to the South. The common religious, ethnic, and linguistic traditions that seem to bind the region have also acted as a counterbalance against India’s regional ambitions.

Second, India has not pursued its foreign policy interests vis-à-vis its neighbors in a consistent manner, nor has it applied political, economic, and military capacities to achieve sustainable outcomes. The military victory over Pakistan in 1971 was not followed by a permanent settlement of the Kashmir issue. India supported Bangladesh after its independence in 1971 but could not prevent Bangladesh’s economic and political realignment after the military coup in 1975. India’s attempts to mediate in the Sri Lankan civil war in the late 1980s ended in political and military disaster.

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Finally, all neighbors have used the strategy of internationalizing their bilateral disputes with India, more or less successfully. Pakistan is the most obvious case, but Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka have also played the “China card” at various times.Since the economic liberalization in 1991, India has put its South Asia policy on a new foundation. Since then, South Asia is not only seen as an area of significance to India’s national security, but also as a market that can contribute to India’s economic development. The Gujral doctrine has emphasized the principle of non-reciprocity vis-à-vis India’s smaller neighbors.

The government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh promoted bilateral and multilateral initiatives in order to provide regional public goods, like better connectivity and made unilateral economic concessions to the weaker states in order to expand intra-regional trade. India has also improved its security collaboration with most South Asian countries in recent years, except for Pakistan. This indicates that the threat perceptions among most South Asian governments have converged. The transnational networks of different militant groups are now seen as a common security challenge, leading to more cooperation among the security forces.

Despite India’s changing South Asia policy, China has strengthened its position in the region. Politically, China has the advantage of being regarded as a “neutral” player in most South Asian countries, except for India.  China has never been part of the discourse on nation-building in South Asia; therefore, China’s bilateral relations with most countries of the region are not marred by the baggage of socio-cultural ties and previous interventions. Economically, China is also a more attractive partner for South Asian countries than India.

The massive Chinese investment in India’s neighborhood in the context of its “One Belt One Road (OBOR)” Initiative will increase Beijing’s influence in South Asia. China has also expanded its trade relations and has surpassed India in some cases. Even in India, China has emerged as a significant economic actor. In the field of security, China has increased its military cooperation, supplying arms to many South Asian countries.  The Chinese infrastructure investments and security cooperation in the region have fostered apprehensions in India about encirclement by China.

India seems to be caught in a catch-22 in South Asia. On the one hand, the religious, linguistic, and ethnic ties bind India with the region. On the other hand, those ties separate India from its neighbors with regard to nation-building. Such structural links, and their effects, are difficult to address. Hence, India will hardly be able to overcome resentments in the neighboring countries and to counter the advantages that China enjoys in many South Asia countries in politics, economics, and security.China remains an economically more attractive and politically more reliable partner for most of India’s neighbors.

Despite their bilateral problems and tensions from respective engagement in South Asia, India and China have also increased their collaboration on the global level, for instance in the BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa). In the regional context, both countries are cooperating on initiatives like the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar corridor (BCIM), and China has also promised to make large scale infrastructure investment in India.

“The Chinese infrastructure investments and security cooperation in the region have fostered apprehensions in India about encirclement by China.”

 

But these joint collaborations should not obscure the fact that India is structurally in a weaker position in South Asia compared to China. India is therefore losing its influence in South Asia vis-à-vis China. But it remains an open question how far the growing dependence on China will be a better deal for South Asian countries in the long term perspective.

About the Author

Christian Wagner is Senior Fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), Berlin. He can be contacted at Christian.Wagner@swp-berlin.org.

The East-West Center promotes better relations and understanding among the people and nations of the United States, Asia, and the Pacific through cooperative study, research, and dialogue.Established by the US Congress in 1960, the Center serves as a resource for information and analysis on critical issues of common concern, bringing people together to exchange views, build expertise, and develop policy options.

The Asia Pacific Bulletin (APB) series is produced by the East-West Center in Washington.

APB Series Editor: Dr. Satu Limaye, Director, East-West Center in Washington
APB Series Coordinator: Peter Valente, Project Assistant, East-West Center in Washington

The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the East-West Center or any organization with which the author is affiliated.For comments/responses on APB issues or article submissions, please contact washington@eastwestcenter.org.

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Trump’s enfeebled America stands alone


July 20, 2017

Trump’s enfeebled America stands alone

Economic change has affected other countries, but they have managed globalisation

by Martin Sanbu@www.ft.com

Image result for Trump Go it Alone Foreign PolicyDonald Trump with his Foreign Policy Novice, SIL Jared Kushner

The US President used to be thought of as the leader of the free world. America’s western friends are finding that they can no longer rely on it. But the truly transforming change is that they may find they no longer need to — and that the US needs the world more than the other way around.–Martin Sandbu

The greatest challenge posed by Donald Trump’s presidency is not that he will deploy American strength against the global common good. It is that he demonstrates how weak the US has become.

Recall Mr Trump’s inaugural address. The phrase that has resounded around the world is “America first”. But the more significant phrase he used is that other, more inward-looking one: “American carnage”. What sort of country describes itself, in the words of its highest leader no less, in such terms? Not one that feels strong.

Some Americans may not recognise the dystopian conditions his speech described. But a large group surely does. American decline is not a figment of Mr Trump’s imagination. The US economy has left large numbers of people with stagnant wages for decades. It is an economy in which millions fewer people have a job than at the peak in 2000, and which still leaves tens of millions without secure, decent healthcare.

It is an economy dotted with towns that were thriving within living memory, but have been devastated by the loss of factory jobs — lost because automation made plants too productive to need as much human labour as before, or because a failure to automate made them uncompetitive against rivals.

Above all, it is an economy in which centuries-old progress against mortality has gone in reverse for middle-aged low-educated Americans, who are dying from the afflictions of broken lives and broken communities: drug overdoses, liver disease and suicide.

Deep economic change has affected other advanced economies too. But others have not let globalisation get in the way of managing it. The US is weak not because it has uniquely been cheated out of a golden age of factory jobs by foreigners, but because it has failed to create a prosperous new future for all at home.

Mr Trump’s railing against Washington is therefore not without foundation. Economic dysfunction has long been matched by glaringly inadequate governance. The devastation of the global financial crisis — which was at its core a US financial crisis, unsuspected by its regulatory system — followed the gross incompetence of the George W Bush administration’s handling of Hurricane Katrina and its adventurism in Iraq.

Mr Trump’s speech in Poland before the G20 summit was the international version of his American carnage speech. Just like the US, in his telling, is a landscape of decay at the mercy of corrupt leaders, he presented the western world as mortally threatened by destructive forces because of decadence within.

But while he may be a fiery prophet of US decline, he is wrong about the wider world. If other western countries display a quiet confidence vis-à-vis Mr Trump, it is because they have reason to. Their unrepentant globalism is striking. Canada’s reconsecration of its globalist destiny matches its ambitious welcome of refugees. Europe and Japan are creating one of the world’s largest free trade areas. The EU vows not to withdraw from globalisation but to shape it to its values of solidarity. Japan is leading the other spurned partners from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Mr Trump has pulled out of, in an effort to complete trade liberalisation without US participation.

What lessons can we draw from this contrast? First, take the theatrics of populism seriously. Populism paradoxically mixes machismo with an incessant focus on weakness — but blames weakness on elements that must be expelled, allowing the true representatives of the forgotten people a free hand.

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A revitalised Franco-German Partnership for a Strong EU–Macron and Merkel

Second, this worsens the problem populists promise to solve. It deepens existing divisions and paralyses democratic politics. For aspiring totalitarians that may be part of a plan. For others, it is simply a self-fulfilling prophecy. Look no further than Britain for a nation that has acted on a mistaken belief that its strength has been sapped by the global liberal order (in the form of the EU), only to throw itself into true political disarray and indecision.

Third, the clash between populism and globalism is theatrical all right, but it is a theatre of the grotesque that expresses reality by transmogrifying it. Those who most try to project strength are those with the most domestic weakness to hide. Leaders of harmonious countries have no need to brag.

Fourth, it is in countries where US-style social and economic decay is most visible that the global liberal order is most contested: above all the UK, but also France and Italy. The rest of the west must redouble efforts to improve the social protections that have kept decay at bay for now.

Germany is of particular importance: its labour reforms 15 years ago have produced a worrying increase in inequality and precarious work. It must not repeat the US’s mistakes.

Finally, the global liberal order is more than the US. Its remaining supporters aim to carry on by forging the unity of purpose collectively that the US cannot even muster at home. A few decades ago that would have been unthinkable. Today, it may just be true that US isolationism will most harm the US itself.

The US President used to be thought of as the leader of the free world. America’s western friends are finding that they can no longer rely on it. But the truly transforming change is that they may find they no longer need to — and that the US needs the world more than the other way around.

martin.sandbu@ft.com

In the Post Lee KuanYew Era, can Singapore still walk tall on Global Stage?


July 19, 2017

In post-Lee Kuan Yew era, can Singapore still walk tall on global stage?

By  Bhavan Jaipragas

Singapore has a Lee Kuan Yew conundrum, and it has little to do with his house.

As the late independence leader’s three children this week continued their bitter public quarrel over his century-old bungalow, the Lion City’s leading diplomats were having a slug out of their own debating his foreign policy legacy.

The rift among the foreign ministry top guns was sparked when one of them publicly lamented in a July 1 op-ed that the respected statesman’s demise two years ago meant the city state no longer wielded an outsized influence in the global arena.

In a political career spanning six decades – including 31 years as premier – Lee’s counsel on geopolitics was sought by dozens of world leaders from Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) to Barack Obama.

Upon the patriarch’s death in March 2015, Obama led global platitudes, hailing him as a “true giant of history… and one of the great strategists of Asian affairs”.

Dean KIshore Mahbubani, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public  Policy

In the Straits Times commentary, Kishore Mahbubani, a former Singaporean envoy to the United Nations (pic above), cautioned that without Lee’s diplomatic heft, Singapore now needed to “exercise discretion” in foreign policy. He suggested the Lion City could become like Qatar – now mired in a stand-off with its larger Gulf neighbours – if it imprudently stepped on the toes of major powers.

“We are now in the post-Lee Kuan Yew era,” wrote Kishore, currently the Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

“As a result, we should change our behaviour significantly … exercise discretion. We should be very restrained in commenting on matters involving great powers,” wrote the former diplomat.

That stance did not sit well with Kishore’s peers in the highest echelons of the foreign ministry. On Facebook, Bilahari Kausikan, a fellow diplomatic grandee, lambasted him for his “muddled, mendacious and indeed dangerous views”.

A SLIGHT AT PM LEE?

“Independent Singapore would not have survived and prospered if they always behaved like the leaders of a small state as Kishore advocates,” wrote the ambassador-at-large, who has an impressive following on social media. “I don’t think anyone respects a running dog.” Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam, a former foreign minister, also took aim, describing Kishore’s writing as “questionable, intellectually”.

The nub of the blowback from the establishment was that Kishore’s views appeared to be a slight aimed at the current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong – Lee Kuan Yew’s eldest son – for lacking the diplomatic finesse of his father and predecessor Goh Chok Tong.

Responding to one commenter who defended Kishore, Bilahari said: “I disagree, it’s a thinly disguised attack on the PM”. Premier Lee, in power since 2004, has faced some domestic criticism over his foreign policy, but the fact that this time the dissent was from within – and at a time when the government is facing questions over its China policy – appeared to touch a raw nerve.

 

The erudite Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong

Local blogs have increasingly blamed the premier for the city state’s troubled relationship with Beijing in the last year.

Last August, Lee angered Chinese leaders after he said he backed arbitration as a way to peacefully resolve international disputes. Beijing took offence as the comments came soon after an arbitral ruling on the South China Sea dispute largely went against its favour.

As a small state, should Singapore hide when ‘elephants’ fight?

Some have also taken issue with Lee’s actions years earlier. In 2013, the premier sparked a mini controversy over light-hearted jibes he made at China’s expense during an after-dinner speech in Washington.

“Beijing residents joke that to get a free smoke all they have to do is open their windows,” Lee had said.

‘NO LINK TO SIBLING FEUD’

Kishore – facing an onslaught of rebuttals from within the establishment – did not back off from his original stance.

“I wrote this article as I believe that some of our senior officials have been imprudent in their public statements,” the 68-year-old wrote in a statement following the string of responses.

“As a result there have been some serious mishaps in our external relations,” he said in the statement posted on the Channel NewsAsia website. “The hard work by our founding fathers has been squandered. Our geopolitical space has shrunk.”

The diplomat said officials who viewed his commentary as an attack on the premier in the midst of his highly publicised family feud were mistaken. The article was published two days before the premier was to address parliament over abuse-of-power allegations made against him by his siblings Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Wei Ling.

“This argument is flawed because my article was submitted to the ST [Straits Times] several weeks ago. It was the ST that chose to run it this weekend,” Kishore wrote.

Foreign policy observers said the open tiff put on full display internal debates within the country’s diplomatic complex, amid growing pressure to accommodate the rise of China as a superpower alongside the United States. Officials have long stressed that the Lion City would not waver from publicly supporting the international rule of law, even if that means angering bigger powers.

BALANCING ACT

“Singapore has a vested interest in standing up for a rules-based international order, as it is the framework that underpins the Lion City’s success,” said Hugo Brennan, an Asia-focused analyst with the global risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft. “But it will always be a balancing act between taking a principled stand and refraining from tickling the dragon’s tail,” he said.

Mustafa Izzuddin, a Southeast Asia politics researcher at the ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute, said the “Kishore-Bilahari kerfuffle should be viewed in a positive light as it illustrates that there is no danger of groupthink in Singapore’s foreign policy”.

Why the Lee Kuan Yew family feud is a metaphor for Singapore

The Straits Times, which published the commentary kick-starting the saga, on Friday said in an editorial that Premier Lee’s invitation to the G20 summit in Berlin this week illustrated the Lion City’s continued diplomatic prowess.

Image result for bilahari kausikan at the university of cambodia

Ambassador at Large Bilahari Kausikan

https://publichouse.sg/role-small-states-bilaharis-criticism-kishore-wrong-misleading/

Despite not being a leader of a G20 nation, Premier Lee has been a fixture at the summits as a guest of the host nation. Bilahari meanwhile pointed to Lee’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) on the sidelines of the summit to bolster his argument that the Lion City should stick to its foreign policy guns. “The moral of the story for us is keep calm: things are never as bad as they may seem,” he wrote in a Facebook post about the meeting. “Do not mistake noise – shouting – for substance. Psy-ops do not work if you keep calm.”

 

 

The G20 and the Inequality Crisis


July 13, 2017

The G20 and the Inequality Crisis

by Helle Thorning-Schmidt*

https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/g20-solutions-to-ending-inequality-by-helle-thorning-schmidt-2017-07

Image result for Helle Thorning-Schmidt*

*Former Prime Minister of Denmark, is the Chief Executive of Save the Children and a Commissioner on the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity.

Almost a decade ago, facing a near-collapse of the financial system and the risk of a depression, the world needed a new form of leadership to navigate and restore confidence in the global economy. That’s why, in 2009, at his first global summit as US President, Barack Obama joined then-British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to spearhead the G20’s upgrade, making it the world’s preeminent economic forum. What they created helped solve one immediate problem, but it let linger another global challenge.

With the Obama-Brown upgrade, the G20 – comprising 19 of the world’s largest advanced and emerging economies, plus the European Union – took over the role played by the G7 (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the US). Obama and Brown knew that a group that did not include rising economic powers, like China and India, could not propose effective solutions to the global economy’s biggest problems.

Whatever one thinks of the G20 – and it is by no means perfect – this more inclusive grouping helped to overcome the consequences of the 2008 global financial crisis. With an expanded coterie of world leaders taking charge, jittery financial markets stabilized, and the G20 then helped launch, and sustain, a global economic stimulus, led by China, which reversed the downward spiral.

Today, the G20, now meeting in Hamburg for its annual summit, must confront the challenge of inequality. With the world’s richest 1% now owning 40% of its assets, the benefits of growth are not being shared in a way that is either economically efficient or politically sustainable.

This crisis had been building for many decades, but it accelerated sharply after the global financial meltdown that the G20 helped stem. As a result, disillusioned and disaffected voters in advanced economies are challenging established political parties to find solutions or cede power, while millions of people from poor countries, unable to envision a future at home, are risking their lives by crossing deserts and seas in search of economic opportunity.

Image result for G-20 Leaders in Hamburg, Germany

 

It is up to the G20 to deal with the global inequality crisis with the same urgency it showed during the Great Recession of 2008-2009. Just as Obama and Brown led the way then, German Chancellor Angela Merkel must respond purposefully and powerfully to the widening divide between rich and poor, which has become an acute danger to the world economy, and to social cohesion and political stability.

The G20, which Germany now leads, could take many steps to address the crisis of inequality, but three are most important.

First, the G20 needs to get serious about accelerating work on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The SDGs set a bold but achievable agenda for addressing poverty, reducing inequality, improving education and health, and protecting the planet. But almost two years after their launch, a business-as-usual approach prevails in most countries, and accountability has been reduced to exercises in collecting data. The G20 countries, which collectively account for most of the world’s population and resources, should lead by translating the SDGs into national policies, and by harnessing government budgets and their private sectors to drive implementation.

Second, the G20 must crack down on economic abuses that weaken states and markets, and erode public trust. Tax avoidance by big corporations and wealthy individuals, which by some estimates cost poor countries $200 billion a year, is a case in point. Many business leaders do understand that the future of the world economy, and their own companies, depends on reducing poverty, and that this is becomes harder to achieve as inequality widens. But to tackle a crisis of this scale, the entire business community must be on board.

Finally, the G20 should lead the way toward giving every child access to quality education by 2030. This is the real game changer when it comes to addressing inequality. For example, teaching all students in poor countries to read could help pull more than 170 million people out of poverty, equal to a 12% decline in the number of poor people worldwide.

But this would require a dramatic increase in education spending, including more funding for existing programs, like Education Cannot Wait, which supports the continuation of schooling for children in disaster areas, and the Global Partnership for Education, which provides grants to support education in countries with the most need. It must also include investment in proposed initiatives, like the International Finance Facility for Education, which aims to bring public and private donors together to increase global education financing by more than $10 billion dollars a year.

The G20 is still the world’s leading forum when it comes to the global economy. It helped us through the global financial crisis. Now is the time for the G20 to step up again, and to act with genuine resolve, to address the global inequality crisis.

Let us face it: Donald Trump is No Harry S. Truman


July 12, 2017

Let us face it: Donald Trump is No Harry S. Truman

by Jeffery Frank

http://www.newyorker.com

Image result for Harry S Trump and Donald Trump

On April 17, 1945, five days after Franklin D. Roosevelt’s sudden death, of a cerebral hemorrhage, in Warm Springs, Georgia, his successor, Harry S. Truman, the nation’s thirty-third President, held his first press conference. Between then and the end of his Presidency, he held three hundred and twenty-four of them, during which he tried, usually with good humor, to answer what he was asked. In that first outing, he said, “If you want to ask me anything, I will try to answer, and, if I don’t know, I will tell you.”

Three months later, Truman was on his way to Potsdam, Germany, to attend a summit, which lasted more than two weeks, with the other members of the “Grand Alliance” that had defeated Nazi Germany: the Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin, and the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill (who was about to be voted out of office and replaced at the conference, by Clement Attlee). Before Potsdam, Truman crammed, as if for the biggest exam of his life. “Have been going through some very hectic days,” he wrote in the journal he kept intermittently throughout his Presidency. “Eyes troubling somewhat. Too much reading ‘fine print.’ Nearly every memorandum has a catch in it and it has been necessary to read at least a thousand of ’em and as many reports. Most of it at night.” The conference wore everyone down, but Truman returned to Washington with generally good reviews from his peers. “He seems a man of exceptional charm and ability, with an outlook exactly along the lines of Anglo-American relationships as they have developed,” Churchill remarked.

Last week, shortly after the seventy-second anniversary of Potsdam, Donald J. Trump, the nation’s forty-fifth President, attended a summit meeting of the G-20 leaders in Hamburg. But, after six months in office, Trump looked, and acted, like an awkward, uninformed outsider, the guest at the dinner with whom no one wants to converse. On Friday, upon his first confirmed in-person meeting with the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, Trump’s initial thoughts were that “President Putin and I have been discussing various things. I think it’s going very well. We have had very, very good talks. We are going to have a talk now, and obviously that will continue. We look forward to a lot of positive things happening between Russia and the United States and for everybody concerned.” While a new ceasefire agreement in Syria, announced after their meeting, sounded like welcome news, it also sounded a lot like several earlier ceasefire agreements in Syria. It’s far from clear what actually was said, or agreed to, in the leaders’ more than two hours of “very, very good talks,” though Trump soon tweeted this: “Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded.” Before Sean Spicer or Sarah Huckabee Sanders got a chance to translate the idea, which was widely judged to be silly and unworkable, Trump untweeted himself: “The fact that President Putin and I discussed a Cyber Security unit doesn’t mean I think it can happen. It can’t-but a ceasefire can, & did!”

Image result for donald trump and vladimir putin at G20

America First versus Russia First–Screw Europe and the Rest of the World

It is to be hoped that Trump, at his next press conference, will be able to give a better sense of what went on in Hamburg. Perhaps he’ll begin to show that he intends to master big issues as well as the minutiae of the job. Since taking office, Trump has held eleven press conferences—ten of them in the company of other world leaders. In his only solo appearance, on February 16th, he rambled, and digressed; he boasted, as he often has, about what he viewed as his demonstrable greatness and enormous string of successes. “We have made incredible progress,” he said then. “I don’t think there’s ever been a President elected who, in this short period of time, has done what we’ve done.” His hostility to his interrogators was ever present, with references to “fake news,” “the failing New York Times,” and the pioneering cable-news network CNN, which led to this odd exchange with the correspondent Jim Acosta:

ACOSTA: And, just for the record, we don’t hate you, I don’t hate you.

TRUMP: O.K.

ACOSTA: So, just wanted to pass that along.

TRUMP: Ask [the President of CNN] Jeff Zucker how he got his job, O.K.?

Privately, in frustration, Truman sometimes referred to the “sabotage press,” or “the traitors and sabotage press,” or “character assassins.” He had a particular animus toward a few columnists, among them Westbrook Pegler, whom he called a guttersnipe; and a few newspapers, among them the Chicago Tribune, which several times called for his impeachment, and once described him as a “nincompoop” and a “vote-stealing, graft-protecting, gangster-paroling” President who, to boot, had been a “catastrophic failure as the director of foreign policy.” But, unlike Trump, Truman never lost sight of the tradition he was part of, and honored.

At Truman’s final press conference, on January 15, 1953, he said, “This kind of news conference where reporters can ask any question they can dream up—directly to the President of the United States—illustrates how strong and how vital our democracy is. There is no other country in the world where the chief of state submits to such unlimited questioning. I know, too, from experience that it is not easy to stand up here and try to answer, off the cuff, all kinds of questions without any advance notice. Perhaps succeeding Presidents will be able to figure out improvements and safeguards in the procedure. I hope they will never cut the direct line of communication between themselves and the people.”

Through seven years, Truman, for all his flaws, embodied patriotism, spine, personal dignity, and, as he demonstrated at Potsdam, a determination to assume the responsibilities of world leadership, the reverse image of what the world saw last week in Germany. Even in the worst moments of the postwar Presidency, that standard was always met. But that was another world, and another time; regarding it from the distance of the present age only increases alarm at what the nation, and the world, is trying to get used to.

Jeffrey Frank, a former senior editor of The New Yorker and the author of “Ike and Dick: Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage,” is working on a book about the Truman era.