Daily Archives: April 15, 2013

If commodities exporters were pinning hopes on an acceleration in Chinese growth, Monday was not a good start to the week. The disappointing gross domestic product statistics for the first quarter give the likes of Australia, Brazil and Indonesia plenty to be worried about.

As one investor put it: “For the global economy this data is bad news. Commodity exporters are screwed (especially those needing exports to China as key component). I would be very worried about places like Brazil, Indonesia, Australia and the like. The current level of GDP growth in China is OK with China but not OK for the currencies above.” 

Justin Trudeau with his wife Sophie Gregoire at a film premiere in September 2012 (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

Justin Trudeau with his wife Sophie Gregoire (Getty)

Historically, the legislative class has often liked to keep it in the family. And while hereditary titles have fallen out of fashion in most modern democracies, political dynasties appear to be thriving nonetheless.

The latest scion of a political leader to seek office is Justin Trudeau, 41-year-old son of Canada’s former prime minister, the swashbuckling Pierre Trudeau.

Justin was elected leader of Canada’s Liberal party on Sunday.

The ruling Conservative party greeted the news of Trudeau Junior’s victory somewhat sniffily, with Fred DeLorey, the Conservative party’s director of communications, saying:

“Justin Trudeau may have a famous last name, but in a time of global economic uncertainty, he doesn’t have the judgment or experience to be prime minister.”

Perhaps mindful of that kind of criticism, Justin Trudeau was careful in his acceptance speech to mix confidence – “More than one hundred thousand voters have sent a clear message: Canadians want better leadership” – with modesty: “I take nothing for granted. I understand that trust can only be earned. And my plan is to earn yours.

George W. Bush and his father George H.W. Bush in 2010 (Stephen Dunn/Getty)

George W. Bush and his father George H.W. Bush in 2010 (Stephen Dunn/Getty)

The Trudeaus are of course part of a long tradition of North American political clans, from the Kennedys and the Clintons to presidents Bush I and II – despite America’s Founding Fathers’ concerns around the implications of power flowing through blood.

But it is in Asia where political dynasties have really flourished. In India, the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty has provided three prime ministers since the country’s Independence in 1947. Rahul Gandhi, 42-year-old great-grandson of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, is tipped to be the Congress party’s candidate for India’s 2014 election. But the prospect of yet another Gandhi at the helm has met with criticism in some quarters.

“Essentially he has nothing besides his name,” Ramachandra Guha, a historian, said when Gandhi was promoted to the role of the Congress party’s vice president earlier this year. 

♦ Syria’s Jabhat al-Nusra has dealt a blow to the rebel cause.

♦ When it comes to the labour market, America is suffering from a rising case of ‘German envy’, writes Edward Luce. However, Germany’s labour market is not without its problems – reformers are keen to take action on the shortage of workers.

♦ The world’s top commodities traders have pocketed nearly $250bn over the last decade, making the individuals and families that control the largely privately-owned sector big beneficiaries of the rise of China and other emerging countries. The FT’s Javier Blas has done a comprehensive review of the sector.

♦ Bassem Youssef, Egypt’s Jon Stewart, has ignited a public debate over Qatar’s influence in Egypt.

♦ MJ Rosenberg looks back at negotiations over the Israeli-Palestinian issue in 1990 and explains why he thinks there is “no possibility of serious negotiation so long as Benjamin Netanyahu is prime minister of Israel.”

♦ The Senate begins debate next week on the biggest gun control bill in nearly 20 years, and the gun rights lobby is working with Senate allies on a series of amendments that could actually loosen many of the current restrictions.

♦ Anonymous has handed over to Canadian police what it claims are details about four boys linked to the alleged rape of Rahtaeh Parsons, whose funeral was held last week.

♦ A matriarch in her mid-50s with only $28 to her name is making a bid for election to the provincial assembly in Pakistan’s elections next month.

♦ The Economist writes on Bitcoin and how it is more than a passing frenzy: “chances are that some form of digital money will make a lasting impression on the financial landscape.” Meanwhile, Paul Krugman thinks that “Goldbugs and bitbugs alike seem to long for a pristine monetary standard, untouched by human frailty. But that’s an impossible dream… green pieces of paper are doing fine — and we should let them alone.”

♦ A row has flared between the London School of Economics and the BBC over the presence of journalists on a university-affiliated trip: “the BBC, which the university says actually sent three journalists, also later acknowledged that it had not told the students of the nature of the documentary, in what it characterized as a bid to keep them safe if the journalists were found out and the students were questioned about what they knew.”

Golf round-up
Adam Scott has become the first Australian to win the US Masters.
♦ The Guardian looks back at Guan Tianlang’s week and what he has gained from it – the teen golfer has changed the face of Chinese sport.
In the UK, the downturn means that golf clubs are trying to shed their stuffy, middle-aged image.

 

John Paul Rathbone

Nicolas Maduro celebrates with his wife, Cilia Flores, after being declared the winner of Venezuela's presidential election (Reuters).

Only six weeks in the grave, and Hugo Chávez’s socialist dream is fading fast. Last night, the chosen successor of “el commandante”, Nicolas Maduro, won Venezuela’s presidential election, but only by a whisker.

Maduro – “the self-proclaimed son of Chavez” – got 50.7 per cent of the vote, versus 49.1 per cent for Henrique Capriles, the opposition leader. That compares to an 11 point win for Chavez in October’s presidential election. Capriles has refused to accept the result until the votes are fully audited.

Assume, for now, that the result stands and no evidence is found of jiggery-pokery. That is still no kind of mandate for Maduro and Venezuela’s ruling socialist party. This is a country split down the middle. Such a close result will also undermine Maduro’s standing within the ruling socialist party. The 50-year old former foreign minister and bus driver will struggle to reconcile chavismo’s various factions, many of whom may think they could do a better job. But the country is in a mess, whoever comes to govern it.