When the South Korean military killed hundreds of pro-democracy protesters and laid siege to the southwestern city of Gwangju in May 1980, few people outside the city knew what was happening. Martial law had been declared, the already censored press was completely gagged, and all communications with Gwangju were cut off. The end of the 10-day siege marked the beginning of a seven-year period of military repression and terror under Gen. Chun Doo-hwan, who outdid his predecessor, Gen. Park Chung-hee, in brutality and corruption.
One generation later, millions of Korean citizens took to the streets in dozens of cities across the country for 20 continuous weekends of “candlelight rallies,” from the autumn of 2016 to the spring of 2017.… Seguir leyendo »
The US stock market has just had the worst start to a year in its history. At the same time, European and Japanese stock markets have lost around 10% and 15% of their values respectively; the Chinese stock market has resumed its headlong dash downward; and the oil price has fallen to the lowest level in 12 years, reflecting (and anticipating) worldwide economic slowdown.
According to the dominant economic narrative of recent times, 2016 was the year when the world economy would recover fully from the 2008 crash. The US would lead this recovery by generating growth and jobs via fiscal conservatism and pro-business policies.… Seguir leyendo »
Just as people started to think that things were getting calmer – if not exactly brighter – in the rich countries, things have become decidedly slower and more volatile in the so-called «emerging market» economies. At the centre of the (unwanted) attention at the moment is India, which is seeing a rapid outflow of capital and thus a rapid fall in the value of its currency, the rupee. But many other emerging market economies, other than China, have also seen similar outflows and weakening of currencies recently.
This is not necessarily a bad development. The currencies of many emerging market economies, especially those of Brazil’s real and South Africa’s rand, had been significantly over-valued, damaging their export competitiveness.… Seguir leyendo »
The world did not end this year, as some people thought it would following a Mayan prophecy (well, at least one interpretation of it), but it seems pretty certain that next year is going to be tougher than this one.
We are entering 2013 as the Republican hardliners in the United States Congress does its utmost to weaken the federal government, using an anachronistic law on federal debt ceiling. Until the Republicans started abusing it recently, the law had been defunct in all but name. Since its enactment in 1917, the ceiling has been raised nearly a hundred times, as a ceiling set in nominal monetary terms becomes quickly obsolete in an ever-growing economy with inflation.… Seguir leyendo »
Throughout the 1980s and 90s, when many developing countries were in crisis and borrowing money from the International Monetary Fund, waves of protests in those countries became known as the «IMF riots». They were so called because they were sparked by the fund’s structural adjustment programmes, which imposed austerity, privatisation and deregulation.
The IMF complained that calling these riots thus was unfair, as it had not caused the crises and was only prescribing a medicine, but this was largely self-serving. Many of the crises had actually been caused by the asset bubbles built up following IMF-recommended financial deregulation. Moreover, those rioters were not just expressing general discontent but reacting against the austerity measures that directly threatened their livelihoods, such as cuts in subsidies to basic commodities such as food and water, and cuts in already meagre welfare payments.… Seguir leyendo »
Last week saw a string of bad economic news reports. The eurozone leaders seem unwilling or unable to change from their austerity policies, even as Greece and Spain fall apart and the core eurozone economies contract. Britain watches on as its economy is heading for the third consecutive quarter of contraction, with an unexpectedly sharp fall in manufacturing. Last week’s jobs figures confirmed that the US recovery is stuttering. The largest developing economies that have so far provided some support for world demand levels – especially India and Brazil but even China – are slowing down too. Four years after the financial crisis began, many rich capitalist economies have not recovered their pre-crisis output levels.… Seguir leyendo »
My native South Korea is something of a star performer. With per capita income of around $20,000 (on a par with Portugal), it is not one of the richest countries, but we are talking about a country whose income was less than half that of Ghana’s until the early 1960s. With an annual per capita income growth rate of just under 4%, it is one of the fastest-growing OECD economies.
Once a byword for hyper-exploited sweatshop labour, churning out cheap transistor radios and trainers, the country now possesses the only thing that stands between iPhone and world domination (the Samsung Galaxy).… Seguir leyendo »
Newt Gingrich, the leading Republican candidate for the forthcoming US presidential election, recently shocked his nation by calling for the re-introduction of child labour. His brightest idea was to «get rid of the unionised janitors, have one master janitor and pay local students to take care of the school». This way, he argued, «the kids would actually do work, they would have cash, they would have pride in the schools, they’d begin the process of rising [above their poverty]».
Although he later qualified his statement by saying that «kids shouldn’t work in coal mines» (what a softie!), the proposal reflects his conviction that restrictions on the free workings of the labour market – imposed by trade unions and child labour laws – are the main causes of poverty and inequality in the United States.… Seguir leyendo »
The world economy is in turmoil again. We have seen two weeks of near-universal falls in major stock markets, prompted by the spread of the eurozone crisis to Spain and Italy, the phony fiscal crisis in the US manufactured by the Republicans, and the economic slowdown around the world. The first ever downgrading of the US debt by Standard & Poor’s last weekend has certainly added to the drama of the unfolding events.
The debate focuses on how budget deficits should be controlled, with the dominant view saying that they need to be cut quickly and mainly through reduction in welfare spending, while its critics argue for further short-term fiscal stimuli and longer-term deficit reduction relying more on tax increases.… Seguir leyendo »