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By Mark Goldring of Oxfam

From the IMF to the Pope, from President Barack Obama to the World Economic Forum, there is a growing consensus that extreme economic inequality is one of the defining challenges of our time and that failure to address it is both economically and socially damaging. Yet despite this consensus, very little is being done.

The number of billionaires in the world has more than doubled since 2009. But while those at the top have recovered from the recession quickly, the benefits of economic growth are not being shared evenly. This means that while the wealthy are getting richer, we are not eradicating poverty at the speed that we could. 

By Michael Hasenstab of Franklin Templeton

A key dynamic that we have observed during 2013 and 2014 is periods of short-term panic and contagion followed by longer periods of differentiation. These periods of volatility are often characterized by an inability to understand differentiation between countries; however, they offer unique opportunities for truly unconstrained global investors to generate strong returns.

We are definitely not strangers to contrarian trades – our views are anchored by a combination of fundamental bottom-up research, deep country analysis and macro modelling which allows us to identify these high-conviction investment opportunities. 

By Samuel George and Cornelius Fleischhaker

On October 26, 108m Brazilians voted in the second and final round of the country’s presidential election. Incumbent Dilma Rousseff defeated challenger Aécio Neves by a slim but definitive margin (52 per cent to 48 per cent) and she will now remain in office until 2018. The results suggest that this election was not about change but rather the continuation of helping Brazil’s new middle class pursue upward mobility. 

By Timi Soleye of CRYO Gas

Seated on the dais at an investment conference in one of Lagos’s posher hotels are the luminaries of the Nigerian power sector: the minister of power, the head of the national electricity regulator, the chairman of the presidential task-force on power and chief executives of the newly privatised electricity generation companies and distribution companies. They are desperate for the money of the reluctant foreign private equity managers and local investors who mill about the room.

It is a tough call. On November 1 a year will have passed since the effective privatisation of electricity generation and distribution in Nigeria and it must now be acknowledged that the privatisation is on the brink of collapse. Yet this is a good thing for Nigerians and for future investors. 

By Taras Kuzio of the University of Alberta

Ukraine’s pre-term parliamentary election on October 26 will elect a new parliament that will be undoubtedly pro-European but the jury is still out if it will lead to long overdue reforms and a strong fight against corruption. Three factors will influence the election results. 

By Paul Hodges of International eChem

Two months ago, very few people believed that markets were about to tumble. But on 18 August we published our Great Unwinding analysis. Since then, its forecasts have begun to come true, as the impact of policymaker stimulus begins to unwind.

Oil and commodity prices are falling sharply as supply/demand once again becomes the key driver for prices; the US dollar is strengthening and liquidity is tightening across the world; equity markets risk sharp falls, as investors realise they have overpaid for future growth and rush for the exits; China’s economy is slowing fast as the new leadership implements the World Bank’s ‘China 2030’ plan; interest rates are becoming volatile as some investors seek a ‘safe haven’, while others worry that stimulus policy debt may never be repaid. 

By Amitabh Dubey of Trusted Sources

Elections this week in the states of Maharashtra and Haryana offered the first popular gauge of India’s reformist government since it won its big parliamentary majority in May, and underscored its dominance of Indian politics. But an equally important test has emerged in one of the country’s most troubled sectors, coal, after the Supreme Court’s mass cancellation of captive coal block allocations last month. How Prime Minister Narendra Modi handles the issue will be the first major test of his capacity for reform affecting a vital industry which finds itself in a dire situation. 

By Chris Weafer of Macro-Advisory

Since the start of this year the Russian rouble has collapsed by 20 per cent against a basket of dollars and euros, by far the worst performing of the major emerging market currencies except for the Argentine peso. But Argentina defaulted on debt obligations, while Russia has less than 11 per cent sovereign debt to GDP and is running a triple budget, trade and current account surplus. It is therefore tempting to link the rouble’s demise with the country’s actions in Ukraine and the resulting sanctions imposed by western countries. A prevalent theme in many western political commentaries is that the rouble slide, in tandem with the steep oil price fall, will lead to a collapse in the economy which, in turn, will undermine public support for President Vladimir Putin and force the Kremlin into a more accommodating geo-political stance. Both of those assumptions are very wide of the mark. The reasons for the decline in the rouble are more serious than just sanctions and, at the same time, the central bank’s response and the oil price slide offer cause for some optimism that some positives may yet emerge from this crisis. 

By Andrey Petrushinin of the Central European Aluminum Company

In a guest post published here on October 10, Milo Dukanovic, Montenegro’s prime minister, asserts that his country is “proving its commitment to Euro-Atlantic values”. This would be funny if it were not so tragically ironic. It seems that Dukanovic is desperately scrambling to make the best of his recent bad scorecard from the European Commission. 

By Milo Đukanović, president of the Government of Montenegro

Although Montenegro is one of the smallest of the Balkan states, with a population of just over 600,000, we are ambitious. Since regaining our independence in 2006, through a referendum held according to the highest European standards, we have made far-reaching economic and political reform our foremost goal. 

By Marcos Buscaglia of BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research

In a recent article in Project Syndicate titled Should Venezuela Default?, Ricardo Hausmann of Harvard University argued Venezuela’s government is facing a difficult trade-off between providing basic goods to its people and paying Wall Street. So far, Venezuela has opted for the latter. My BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research colleague Francisco Rodriguez argued in an FT beyondbrics column that this is a false dichotomy, as there is another policy solution to Venezuela’s dilemma: fix relative prices.

We argue that Argentina’s situation is analogous to that of Venezuela’s. Its government has also faced a dilemma, between preserving international reserves to service local law public debt, particularly the Boden 2015, or giving them to importers. Like Venezuela, Argentina has decided in favour of Wall Street thus far, at the expense of its population. This is also a false dilemma, in our view. We believe Argentina needs instead to implement a sustainable macroeconomic adjustment and act to reopen capital markets. 

By Taras Kuzio of the University of Alberta

Vladimir Putin’s strategy of creating a “New Russia” from eight Russian-speaking regions in Urkaine has failed. Russia’s president has covertly and overtly supported violent separatism in Donetsk and Luhansk (known collectively as the Donbas), where over 10,000 combatants and civilians have died, with the aim of controlling eight Ukrainian regions. Yet Putin currently controls only a third of the Donbas that was never part of historic, Tsarist “New Russia”.

Putin faced – and continues to face – five obstacles to his initial goals. 

By Gustav F Papanek of Boston University

Indonesia has a once-in-a-century opportunity to reach economic growth of 10 per cent and give 20m families regular jobs with a steady income. This opportunity is the result of increasing costs of production in China, the world’s leading exporter of labour-intensive manufactured goods. Over the next five years other countries will take a share of China’s export markets for these goods. Indonesia could benefit from this reallocation of industrial capacity because of its large and rapidly growing labour force. Two million workers join the labour force every year but under current policies, only half of them will find stable, formal sector jobs. Indonesia already has millions of “surplus” labourers, currently working in low productivity jobs in agriculture and the informal sector. Moving these workers into productive jobs in manufacturing would double their income, increase exports and raise economic growth to a record 10 per cent. 

By Michael Power, Investec Asset Management

“Are we nearly there yet?” Most of us have faced – and in our younger days probably asked – the same question. As with children on long car journeys, this question is also posed by investors who cannot wait for bear markets to be over.

Commodity investors – and recently this has expanded from the metals and coal complexes to include oils – are wondering aloud when their recent ordeal will all be over. The same can be said for investors in those commodity-rich countries, as they survey their currency-ravaged portfolios. And this phenomenon is not confined to emerging markets (EM) – investments in Australia, Canada and even Norway have suffered the same fate. 

By Catherine Blampied of the ONE Campaign

For the first time, an end is in sight to the injustice of extreme poverty. The proportion of people surviving on less than $1.25 a day has halved since 1990 and could fall to almost zero by 2030. Contemplating this, governments the world over are about to enter the final stage in a UN process to hammer out a new set of aspirational ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ aimed at accelerating this progress over the next 15 years. But this new global development agenda has little hope of succeeding unless those same governments – together with private-sector partners and many others – also agree an effective strategy to finance it.

While sustained aid investments will still be necessary in supporting vital services and providing the building blocks of growth in the poorest countries, the vast bulk of money will come – and is already coming – from developing countries themselves. Yet, despite this fact being widely acknowledged in development circles, there is remarkably little discussion about exactly how countries are actually spending their resources.