If how the railways run is a guide to the state of a nation, then it tells you something that Britain is in the middle of its biggest railway strike since 1994. Not coincidentally, that was the year the national rail network was privatized by the Conservative government of Prime Minister John Major.

A labor dispute has been simmering for nearly a year on the routes managed by Southern, a train operator that, as the name suggests, runs crucial commuter services between London and the South Coast. In December, the crisis escalated when around 1,000 train drivers joined in a strike action against Southern’s parent company, Govia Thameslink Railway, whose network also includes the Gatwick Express airport line.…  Seguir leyendo »

At the end of November, a group of young Serbian artists and activists burst into an abandoned cinema in Belgrade called Zvezda. The theater was to be demolished, and the “Movement for the Occupation of Cinemas” was determined to save it. Over six weeks later, they’re still there, putting on films and attracting worldwide attention for their stand — but also raising questions about what, exactly, cinema means in today’s society.

Zvezda, whose name means “Star” in Serbian, isn’t just any theater. Before it was closed, it was one of the crowning symbols of the propulsive and world-famous Yugoslav film industry.…  Seguir leyendo »

In almost every country, the availability and exploitation of oil are essentially economic issues — every country, that is, except Mexico, where it is a matter of secular theology. For many Mexicans, the question of whether to open the national oil industry to private investment is much more than a practical decision: It is an existential dilemma, as if permitting foreign investment were to bargain away the country’s soul.

Over the next few weeks, the Mexican Congress is likely to become a kind of theological council to discuss the so-called Energy Reform proposal put forward by President Enrique Peña Nieto. The measure would modify Articles 27 and 28 of the Constitution and allow contracts between the Mexican government and private companies to share profits from the extraction of oil and gas throughout the country as well as deep-water sites in the Gulf of Mexico.…  Seguir leyendo »

In May, a deputy mayor of a midsize city in central China flew down to see me in Shenzhen, where I sit on a government advisory panel for financing small and medium-sized businesses. He wanted a favor. “Can you help arrange financing for our sports center?” he asked. It’s going to be one of the largest in central China.”

It was another tale of woe about a half-finished project in desperate need of more money. I’d heard this song before.

After Lehman Brothers fell in 2008, the Chinese government panicked and unleashed an ambitious stimulus program by expanding public works projects to build roads, railroads and municipal buildings.…  Seguir leyendo »

La decisión del Gobierno de privatizar el 49% de Aeropuertos Españoles y Navegación Aérea (AENA) y abrir la puerta a la gestión privada de los aeropuertos de El Prat y Barajas mediante empresas concesionarias se toma en el contexto de una delicada situación financiera de AENA. El operador aeroportuario pierde anualmente más de 400 millones de euros y acumula una deuda de más de 11.000 millones de euros. Las recientes ampliaciones de Barajas y, en menor medida, El Prat con nuevas pistas y terminales han contribuido de forma sustancial a este desequilibrio de las cuentas. La necesidad urgente de obtener liquidez puede ser una posible explicación de la medida anunciada.…  Seguir leyendo »