Monthly Archives: May 2006

Stiglitz on China-US trade imabalances

The task of assessing trade imbalances – whom to blame and what should be done – involves both economics and politics. Trade imbalances are the result, for instance, of household decisions about how much to save and how much – and what – to consume. They are also the result of government decisions: how much to tax and spend (which determines the amount of government savings or deficits), investment regulations, exchange-rate policies, and so forth. All of these decisions are interdependent.

For example, America’s huge agriculture subsidies contribute to its fiscal deficit, which translates into a larger trade deficit. But agricultural subsidies have consequences for China and other developing countries. Were China to revalue its currency, its farmers would be worse off; but in a world of free(r) trade, US farm subsidies translate into lower global agricultural prices, and thus lower prices for Chinese farmers. By extending its largesse to rich corporate farms, the US may not have intended to harm the world’s poor, but that is the predictable result.

This poses a dilemma for Chinese policymakers. Subsidizing their own farmers would divert money from education, health, and urgently needed development projects. Or China can try to maintain an exchange rate that is slightly lower than it would be otherwise. If the IMF is to be evenhanded, should it criticize America’s farm policies or China’s exchange-rate policies?

Ascertaining whether a country’s trade imbalances are the result of misguided policies or a natural consequence of its circumstances is also no easy task. A country’s trade deficit equals the difference between domestic investment and savings, and developing countries are normally encouraged to save as much as they can. Evidently, China’s population has more than responded to such admonitions. Stronger safety net programs might reduce the need for precautionary savings in the future, but such reforms cannot be accomplished overnight. Investment is high, but further investment growth risks misallocating money, so reductions in China’s trade imbalance may be hard to achieve.

Moreover, a change in China’s exchange rate would do little to alter the multilateral trade deficit in the US. Americans might simply switch from buying Chinese textiles to imports from Bangladesh. It is difficult to see how a change in China’s exchange rate would have a significant effect on either savings or investments in the US – and thus how it would redress global imbalances.

With the US trade deficit the major global imbalance, attention should focus on how to increase its national savings – a question that US governments have struggled with for decades, and one that was frequently debated when I was chair of President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers. While it’s true that tax preferences might yield slightly higher private savings, the loss of tax revenues would more than offset the gains, thereby actually reducing national savings. We found only one solution: reduce the fiscal deficit.

In short, the US bears responsibility both for trade imbalances and the policies that might quickly be adopted to address them. The IMF’s response to its new mission of assessing global imbalances will thus test its battered political legitimacy. At its spring meeting, the Fund failed to commit itself to choosing its head on the basis of merit, regardless of nationality, and it did not ensure that voting rights are allocated on a more limited legitimate basis. Many of the emerging-market countries, for example, are still underrepresented.

If the IMF’s analysis of global imbalances is not balanced, if it does not identify the US as the major culprit, and if it does not direct its attention on America’s need to reduce its fiscal deficits – through higher taxes for America’s richest and lower defense spending – the Fund’s relevance in the twenty-first century will inevitably decline.

Migració a Europa: entre Espanya i Holanda

Sorprenent oi que Holanda sigui un “exportador net de persones” i en canvi Espanya el principal importador… Com s’explica que Hollanda perdi població? Doncs és l’efecte jubilació. Molta gent gran marxa cap a zones com Espanya per a retirar-se.

Aquí penjo el què diu al blog Demography Matters:

The Netherlands is the only country in Western Europe where emigrants outnumber immigrants. In 2005, an unprecedented 121 thousand persons left the country. Immigration totalled 92 thousand persons. Such a large negative netmigration is found nowhere else in Europe.

Emigrants outnumber immigrants since 2003
For decades, the number of people who came to settle in the Netherlands outnumbered those who were leaving the country permanently. This situation changed in 2003, when emigrants outnumbered immigrants for the first time. There seems to be no end to the emigration increase in the foreseeable future. In the first quarter of 2006 29 thousand persons left the Netherlands, 5 thousand more than in the same period one year previously and the negative net migration trend appears to continue and grow.

Of course details matter, while most people migrating fall in the 20-30 category there are some other trends. Some emigrants are getting older. This trend started in the 90´s as well.

Emigrants more often older people
Emigration increased in all age groups, but has particularly grown among older people. The population is ageing and the number of older people who consider emigration is also on the increase. The amount of emigrants over the age of 55 increased from 6 thousand in 1995 to 10 thousand in 2005. Spain and France in particular are popular destinations among older people. The majority of emigrants, however, are in their twenties and thirties.

On voodoo dolls ban

When I first read the news about the governmental ban of the voodoo dolls in China I thought it was not that scandalous and I’m now surprised there has been so much blogs writing and debating about it. Why?

The best post I found is this one that also has many links to other related news and gives us more important information.

1- Those dolls were for teenagers to introduce themselves to black magic and to symbolically harm other people. I don’t think it’s a very educative practice for young people so I can understand the parents concern.

2- Is Voodoo that bad? As you can read in Wikipedia : “The cultural values that Vodou embraces center around ideas of honor and respect — to God, to the spirits, to the family and society, and to oneself. Since Vodou has such a community orientation, it is sometimes seen as an extention of the beliefs in the old Soviet Union, and, since the dissolution of the USSR, has drawn many Russian initiates. There are no “solitaries” in Vodou, only people separated geographically from their elders and house. A person without a relationship of some kind with elders will not be practicing Vodou as it is understood in Haiti and among Haitians.”

3- The ban started in Beijing after parents complains isn’t that civil society participation?

4- There are strong commercial interests from Saen Ha Co Ltd, the company (from Thailand) that was selling them. The dolls, made in 70 styles, generated around Bt3 million for her company and the more than 250 villagers in Chiang Mai’s Doi Saket, Chaiya Prakarn and Mae Rim districts who produce the dolls.

5- The old fashioned excuse realised by the government in order to ban them was also a mistake: the dolls encourage superstition and “promote feudalism and feudal beliefs.”

The problem is not really Voodoo nor the children education… but the same debate we also have in the western world between state and parents duties in educating children. Even if we accept that Voodoo is bad for children, I’ll not ban them but just make them only available to adult. Or even better, if you are the concerned parent, don’t buy them to your children or educate them better. The state doesn’t need/can be in charge of everything…

Musical thought-crime in Uzbekistan

Not content with arresting its critics, the government is cracking down on those who listen to dissident views – even when these are set to music.
By IWPR staff (29/05/06)

Following the jailing of two men for listening to a song criticizing the government’s role in the Andijan violence last year, there are concerns for the safety of the poet who wrote the words.

After security forces opened fire on thousands of demonstrators in the city of Andijan on 13 May 2005, poet and singer Dadakhon Hasanov felt impelled to write something the very next day.

In the days following the Andijan violence, listeners to Radio Liberty’s Uzbek-language service, which is beamed into the country from Prague, heard a series of angry songs written and performed by Hasanov.

“Don’t say you haven’t heard….There was a massacre in Andijan,” one of them began, before accusing President Islam Karimov of presiding over an indiscriminate massacre.

While the government insists that fewer than 200 people died – few or none of them innocent civilians – human rights groups inside and outside the country say that based on eyewitness accounts, many hundreds of men, women and children were killed in cold blood by the security forces.

The official refusal to allow an independent investigation to clarify matters has led to a rift with the West, which President Islam Karimov previously courted.

Using images redolent of the Central Asian landscape, Hasanov sang of people being shot down like mulberries shaken from a tree, and children lying dead and bloodied like red tulips.

Karimov was described as an unjust “Shah” who ordered Kalashnikov bullets to fly and ignored his subjects’ “cries of suffering”.

Hasanov is a well known figure in Uzbekistan and his songs are widely circulated even though they never get airtime on the tightly controlled state broadcasting outlets.

He has an impressive track-record as a dissident – his works were first banned in the eighties at a time when no one would have believed Uzbekistan would ever be a separate country. Throughout the transition from Soviet republic to Uzbek nation-state, he has continued to use his songs, accompanying himself on a traditional lute or “tar”, to comment on events and criticize the powers that be.

“Hasanov only sings political, revolutionary songs about Uzbekistan – about how instead of becoming independent, the country has grown dependent on its dictator,” said Alisher Saipov, a journalist in southern Kyrgyzstan where there is a large ethnic Uzbek community.

“These songs raise people’s spirits. He’s singing about what ordinary people are thinking… [the songs] create euphoria and excitement, and sometimes make you want to cry.”

“That’s the reason the authorities persecute people who listen to these songs and pass them around.”

Hasanov was called in for questioning on 12 April and a criminal case has been opened accusing him of actions undermining the constitutional system – a grave charge which amounts to an accusation of plotting a coup d’etat – and “producing and distributing materials that threaten public safety and order”, presumably the music tapes.

He has not been detained but has been ordered not to leave the country, and his Tashkent home and car have been seized as security.

“He’s been arrested a few times [already], but he still stands up and expresses his views on every historic event, such as Andijan,” said a local human rights activist who remains anonymous because of fears for his safety.

In a recent interview with the AFP news agency, Hasanov said, “Why should I be afraid? If they shoot again, I will answer with songs.”
As in the Soviet days of “samizdat”, cassettes with Hasanov’s recordings are passed privately from hand to hand.

To date, it has been unusual for the post-Soviet Uzbek authorities to jail someone for possessing dissident music, although other literature such as leaflets from the banned Islamic group Hizb-ut-Tahrir has been used to secure convictions of Muslim extremists, real or imagined.

Last month two men – Hazrat Ahmedov, a 68-year-old pensioner, and pediatrician Jamal Kutliev, 58 – were sentenced to four and seven years respectively the western city of Bukhara. They were arrested in November last year, reportedly on the basis of an anonymous denunciation to the secret police.

They were then charged under the same “constitutional system” and “illegal materials” clauses as Hasanov, plus an additional provision which bans the illegal formation of public associations and religious organizations. This is likely to relate to their membership of the outlawed opposition party Erk.

Kutliev has led the local branch of Erk since 1990. Both he and Ahmedov were reportedly placed under heightened surveillance as part of the general post-Andijan crackdown, as the authorities pursued both open critics of the regime and other potential dissident voices.

“The two arrested in Bukhara belonged to the opposition, so other charges are brought against them accordingly,” said Ghofurjon Yoldashev, a former correspondent with Radio Liberty correspondent in Andijan, who pointed out that “even the police in Bukhara have their own cassettes of Hasanov recordings”.

Kutliev and Ahmedov are well-known and respected figures in the Bukhara area, so despite the secrecy surrounding the trial, many residents have heard what happened to them.

Before his arrest, Kutliev was the head of a children’s hospital in the town of Gidjuvan, where residents describe him as a decent and educated man. They also expressed shock that a pensioner like Ahmedov should be imprisoned.

As the human rights activist said, “His songs express the pain of the Uzbek people. And anyone who publicizes the feelings and pain felt by the people is persecuted by the dictatorship.”

There Was a Massacre in Andijan
(Translation of a song by Dadakhon Hasanov)

Don’t say you haven’t heard,
You well-dressed princesses.
Hey, you deaf and blind ones
-There was a massacre in Andijan.
On the president’s orders,
With Kalashnikov bullets
The people were shot at by his servants.
There was a massacre in Andijan

The Padishah [Shah] did not listen to the people,
He did not hear their cries of suffering,
He has not chosen the path of justice.

There was a massacre in Andijan
He let the armoured vehicles open crackling fire,
Killing young and old, Shooting,
shooting, shooting terribly.

There was a massacre in Andijan.
Shooting, cutting people to ribbons,
Hunting them down in the streets,
Like dogs biting their prey.

There was a massacre in Andijan.
Children died on the streets,
Bright red like tulips,
Shattered mothers were weeping,
There was a massacre in Andijan.

He destroyed a local community,
Shaken like fruit from a mulberry tree,
Both men and women.

There was a massacre in Andijan.
Women with babes in arms,
Pregnant women too,
Died begging for mercy.

There was a massacre in Andijan.
The whole world found out about this massacre,
Everyone was filled with anger.

There was a massacre in Andijan.
Fatherless sons born in the street
-That’s who did the shooting.
There was a massacre in Andijan.
The bastards who fired the shots
Are the kind who sleep with their mothers,
And are mired in their own excrement.

There was a massacre in Andijan
We tested our ruthless leader,
And found him a terrorist.
We were filled with hatred and sorrow.
There was a massacre in Andijan.
Uzbeks will not awaken,
Sunk in their fear,
Dictators will continue to shoot.

There was a massacre in Andijan.
Don’t say you haven’t heard,
You well-dressed princesses.

Hey, you deaf and blind ones
-There was a massacre in Andijan.

This article originally appeared in Reporting Central Asia, produced by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR). Reporting Central Asia is supported by the UK Foreign Office and the US State Department

Commupolitan


It’s a good job, don’t you think so? I specially like the “free speeck give you herpes”? The problem is that chinese youth are not having fun with it… see this blog.
Is this the chinese version of the mohammad cartoons?

Toxic dumpling warning in China

Monday, May 29, 2006; Posted: 2:20 a.m. EDT (06:20 GMT)

BEIJING, China (AP) — China’s government is warning that dumplings being sold for a popular festival this week might contain toxic chemicals used to keep their bamboo leaf wrappings bright green.

A spot check of merchants selling steamed dumplings for the Dragon Boat Festival on Wednesday found that many used copper sulphate or copper chloride, the China Daily newspaper said.

The dumplings, known as zongzi, are made of glutinous rice filled with red bean paste and wrapped in bamboo leaves. Chinese eat millions of them to mark the Dragon Boat Festival.

“The worst chemicals might lead to cancer or renal failure” Shen Xiangkun, an expert from the Food Research Institute in the populous central province of Henan, was quoted as saying.

The official China Consumer Association warned that normal leaves used to wrap dumplings for steaming are dark green, while bright green leaves might contain dangerous chemicals, the report said.

The newspaper didn’t say whether the government was taking any action to keep tainted dumplings off the market.

China suffers frequent cases of injuries and deaths from tainted or counterfeit food, ranging from bean curd made with paint to fake whiskey that contains industrial alcohol.

The Diene Report on Discrimination and Racism in Japan

Browsing the web, I read about the publication of the so called ‘Diene Report’, an initiative of the Commission of Human Rights of the United Nations, with the goal to ‘map’ the practices of discrimination and racism throughout the world, and the measures taken by the governments to avoid them.

In this framework, I found an special report (you’re welcome, Lluc!), focused only in Japan.

You can read about which is the present situation of Ainu, Burakumin, People from Okinawa, Korean, and Foreign Workers, and (very interesting!), ‘hear the voice’ from the representatives of those communities, explaining how are they suffering this situation, and which are their biggest problems.

An English version is available here. Other publications of the Commission of Human Rights, are available clicking here…