Daily Archives: September 5, 2012

Alan Beattie

The World Bank has a new chief economist: Kaushik Basu, currently chief economic adviser to the Indian finance ministry and otherwise a professor at Cornell. He follows China’s Justin Lin, another high-profile appointment from the Brics.

With the Bank playing a smaller role than formerly in financing development, its views on economics also carry less weight. The flagship World Development Report used to host some fierce ideological disputes, one of which a decade ago caused another Cornell economist to quit as head of the report (and produce a remarkably illuminating paper describing the unnecessarily polarised debate within the discipline).

But the Bank still has the capacity to start debates, and one particular idea of Basu’s seems a likely candidate. He created a stir by publishing a proposal on the highly charged (particularly in India) question of corruption, suggesting that giving bribes be legalised and only bribe-takers prosecuted. There are sound incentive-based reasons for this – it encourages those asked for bribes to report them to the police – but one can imagine why it might be controversial to let bribers go free. 

Edward Luce

There is no name for people whose job it is dissect the choreography of US conventions. It involves the kinds of skill Kremlinologists used to deploy.

Take the Democratic show in Charlotte this week. Any hardcore politico watching before prime time (between 10pm and 11pm eastern standard time), would see an unabashed celebration of liberal values.

Speaker after speaker defended gay marriage and abortion among other themes guaranteed to get an ovation. They even boasted about Barack Obama’s signature healthcare bill – a reform rarely highlighted in campaign events. Every time Mitt Romney’s name was cited, it seemed to be followed by “Swiss bank account”. According to Ted Strickland, the former governor of Ohio: “If Mitt was Santa Claus he’d fire the reindeer and outsource the elves.” 

Police surround fallen miners near the Marikana platinum mine on August 16 (AFP/GettyImages)

by Ruona Agbroko

Mining has always been a dangerous business. But the tragedy that unfolded last month in Marikana, South Africa, threw a new and harsh light on the lives of those who spend their days toiling in the dark. On August 16, 34 workers were killed and 78 were wounded when police opened fire during clashes over pay at a platinum mine in Marikana, South Africa. The violence evoked painful memories of state brutality during the apartheid era, and prompted a debate around how much progress the country has made in tackling inequality. As South Africa produces about 80 per cent of the world’s platinum supply, the unrest continues to spook global commodities markets, pushing up platinum prices and dragging gold futures up too. Three weeks after the killings, crisis resolution talks have restarted, but will they succeed? And what will be the long term legacy of Marikana? 

Esther Bintliff

The stories that grabbed our attention today:

Gideon Rachman

One day somebody might write a dissertation on the role of Ferraris in the downfall of the Chinese Communist Party.

The scandal surrounding Bo Xilai featured lurid rumours about the high-living of his son, Bo Guagua – who was said to have driven around Beijing in a red Ferrari. Bo Guagua denied the story. But the notion that he spent his time roaring around in fast cars has stuck; and it played its part in the discrediting of his father.

Now another senior figure in the party has experienced a serious setback after a story has surfaced about a Ferrari-driving son. Like Bo Xilai, Ling Jihua was a high-flying official, who was expecting to be promoted in the coming all-important party reshuffle. But now he has missed out on his expected promotion; apparently, after his son was involved in a car crash, which was rumoured to feature a Ferrari. This story has a tragic element since, (rumour again), somebody died in the accident. 

John Paul Rathbone

FARC commander Mauricio Jaramillo, is flanked by FARC rebels Ricardo Tellez (left) and Andres Paris, during a press conference in Havana, Cuba, on Sept. 4. Photo AP

For many FT readers, the guerrilla conflict that Colombia has suffered over the past 50 years, and the possibility that it may now end, probably seems like a sordid tropical war taking place in a corner of the world of little interest, and less importance. It is otherwise. In this corner of the Americas there is, in fact, a great and complex geopolitical game at work, in the same way that there was a great game at work in central Asia in the 19th  century.

Only 12 years ago, Colombia was considered an “almost failed” state. That is why the United States – under an initiative begun under President Bill Clinton, and continued under President George W Bush and President Barack Obama – launched “Plan Colombia”: a program of military and development aid that constitutes one of the US’s biggest, and one of its most controversial, foreign policy initiatives. To date, the US has committed some $8bn under this plan, which is designed to combat insurgent guerrilla forces in Colombia and curb drug trafficking.