Daily Archives: December 4, 2013

Gideon Rachman

Marco Rubio in Washington DC (Getty)

Marco Rubio is running for president. Or, at least, that is the conclusion I drew from watching him give a speech on foreign policy at Chatham House in London, on Wednesday. The senator from Florida has not actually declared his candidacy yet. But giving “statesmanlike” speeches on world affairs in London is the kind of thing you do, if you want to burnish your credentials as a potential commander-in-chief.

So how did Rubio go down? Well, the audience was satisfyingly large – people were literally standing in the aisles. The senator himself gave a performance of two halves: a terrible speech, but a confident performance in the Q&A. Read more

(Getty)

Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s centrist president, last week marked his government’s 100th day in office by releasing a report on the economy. It painted a grim picture, but rather than blame this on international sanctions Mr Rouhani said the populist policies of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, were largely responsible for the mess.

Mr Ahmadi-Nejad’s government enjoyed a record $600bn in oil revenues during eight years in office – the equivalent of what the country had earned in the century since it first discovered oil.

Despite the boost in income, Mr Rouhani said he inherited an empty treasury, at least $80bn in debt and a combination of high inflation (40 per cent) and economic stagnation (the economy shrank by 5.8 per cent), which was unprecedented in the past 50 years. “The previous government was the wealthiest and most indebted government,” he said.

Many economists are asking how any government can inflict such damage on an economy during an oil boom, with some saying Mr Ahmadi-Nejad’s policies should be taught in economics courses to show how a populist president can turn golden opportunities into disasters. Read more

♦ Indian women are showing a new confidence and combativeness – a sign of India’s first genuinely popular feminist awakening.
♦ World Child Cancer helps bring birthday hopes to a young girl with cancer in Ghana – the FT’s Xan Rice tells her story and looks at how the work of the organisation.
♦ Count Anton-Wolfgang von Faber-Castell explains how his mid-size family firm, which makes wooden pencils, stays globally competitive against threats from sophisticated Chinese competitors, the stagnant euro zone economy and shifts in technology.
♦ Independent news website Mada Masr looks back at the life of dissident Egyptian poet Ahmad Fouad Negm who died yesterday: ” He seemed to never stop loving life and hating dictators and making jokes through the darkest of conditions.” Read more

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Familiar calls rang out this week to halt the decline in western countries’ performances in global education rankings. It seemed on first glance that the rise of the intensive east Asian model of schooling has only accelerated. However, the results from PISA (The Programme for International Student Assessment) come with plenty of caveats – as amply summarised by Sam Freedman of TeachFirst here.

Along with statistical shortcomings – only about 10 per cent of students answered all the questions on reading – there are also broader critiques. Accurately comparing the educational systems of countries with staggeringly different cultural norms, school systems and input hours may be an impossible task. The rankings also focus narrowly on the maths, science and reading skills of students in everyday situations. There is no evaluation of students’ ability to master technology for instance – surely a key skill for the knowledge economy. Read more