Here come the Brics, ready to bail out the eurozone. Really? We heard this before with China and Greece. It was implausible then – unless we are talking about China snapping up a few real assets going cheap rather than buying sovereign debt – and it is implausible now. Read more

Some concern among Republicans about the anti-China belligerence in Mitt Romney’s big jobs speech on Tuesday. (Ironically it was Greg Mankiw, one of Romney’s economic advisers, who said one of the bravest and most sensible things on economics to come out of the Bush administration, and was forced to apologise for it.)  Read more

Dominique Strauss-Kahn popped back into the headquarters of the International Monetary Fund Monday afternoon to say goodbye to staff. I am as supremely unqualified to comment on the events in New York which led to his resignation as were many of those who did chip in. But, with his successor making waves in Europe with a pointed speech on bank capital, here is a brief thought on his tenure.

The standard view (which I largely share) is that a smart political operator seized the opportunity of the global financial crisis to turn round an organisation bereft of purpose and beset by drift. But having adroitly manoeuvred the fund into involvement in the Greek bail-out, DSK also risked it being dragged along in a rescue programme driven – incompetently – by the eurozone. Read more

A parallel between the eurozone debt crisis and the London riots: calls on leaders to eschew holiday to “take control”. José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero delayed his vacation – patriotically taken, like a good Spaniard, in Andalusia – while David Cameron was forced to rush back from his summer holiday – patriotically taken, like an authentic Englishman, at a villa in Tuscany.

Cameron in particular, already getting a lot of public flak for the phone-hacking scandal, must have hoped the riots would blow over. Unfortunately he had to be seen to be doing his job, and that meant coming back into the thick of it, if only to mouth platitudes about the awfulness of crime. Read more

More on sovereign debt. This interactive graphic on the burden of public debt, which we published earlier this week, is fairly scary stuff, particularly the debt to GDP ratio between 2007 and 2016 comparing advanced and emerging countries.

The 2007 snapshot essentially shows two symmetrical worlds; the 2016 version has developed a huge bulge at the top end with seriously indebted advanced countries in bondage to their domestic and international creditors. Read more

Spanish and Italian 10-year bond yields are heading for 6.5 per cent, and it looks bad for the eurozone and IMF’s attempt to build a firewall round Greece.

Two competing explanations: 1. the private sector writedown in Greece wasn’t big enough to restore sustainability, and investors are worrying about the eurozone’s willingness to take tough decisions. 2. even a limited writedown has got investors worried about setting a precedent. Read more

Herewith an amateur sociological-political-cultural explanation for the eurozone policy shambles.

First, a new expression with which to impress your friends, the “polder model” of politics: a Dutch term for an iterative process where everyone gets their say and a consensus solution is worked out gradually. My intensive researches (Wikipedia) tell me it derives from the fact that villages in the “polder” tracts of land, below sea level but enclosed by dikes, were forced to cooperate over time if they weren’t all to drown. Read more

The space shuttle is in its last ever flight, and Washington is locked in debt talks that now resemble a Samuel Beckett play on which someone has forgotten to bring down the curtain. A good time to recall one of the fiscal follies from the heady spending days of the 2000s boom: George W. Bush’s idea of putting a man on Mars.

As plans go, the Mars programme was a particularly mad one: it would have cost about a trillion dollars, (over many years, admittedly, so the net present value would have been a lot lower) in an agency notorious for cost overruns. Best quote at the time came from the redoubtable Charles Schultze, former White House economist under Jimmy Carter: the price of keeping an astronaut safe in space means every crewed mission becomes a flying Ming vase. Read more

Want to see what an IMF managing director’s contract looks like? Here. Put out on Monday to mark Christine Lagarde’s first day in the job. (The public circus starts with her first press conference, which comes on Wednesday.) In case you wondered: $467,940 after tax and an annual after-tax allowance of $83,760 “to maintain … a scale of living appropriate to your position as Managing Director,” for which readers are invited to make their own judgments.

Couple of notable changes from previous versions, including that of Dominique Strauss-Kahn. 1. Tighter rules on ethics, including attendance at internal IMF ethics training (not a course for the half-hearted, by the sound of it) 2. Ban on political activism including attending party meetings. Read more

With all the suspense of a North Korean municipal election, Christine Lagarde becomes managing director of the IMF .

 Let’s take all the bad stuff as read: continuation of ludicrous decades-old stitch up of the MDship by the Europeans; increased likelihood that the US will try to hold on to the counterpart piece of patronage i.e. the presidency of the World Bank; conflict of interest from French banks and taxpayers’ exposure to Greece, akin to putting a debtor in charge of a bank, etc. Read more

First in a potentially infinite series. Former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva given world food prize for undoubtedly impressive Brazilian domestic welfare programme; advances radical notion that hungry people need food; co-opts, or is co-opted by, the aid agency Oxfam.

This must be a different Lula to the one who just got a new head of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation installed who defends land-hungry biofuels and whose government helped to block legal restrictions on agricultural export bans, a big cause of volatile food prices in the developing worldRead more

Alan Beattie’s blog post for the Financial Times looks at the outbreak of peace in the banana trade wars.  Read more

By Alan Beattie, world trade editor

Nothing to gladden the heart of a reporter* more than a good row about development aid. It’s got everything: political posturing about rich versus poor; blindingly complex arguments about “additionality”; dire warnings that everything will fall apart without it; George Soros punting some version of his Special Drawing Rights plan for the twentieth time. And so it came to pass with the Copenhagen summitRead more

By Alan Beattie, world trade editor

Horrendously remiss of me not to have linked to Vox’s new e-book on how trade collapsed at the end of last year and early this, but fortunately Clive was on the case. Read more

This post by Alan Beattie looks at the WTO’s ministerial in Geneva. Read more

By Alan Beattie, world trade editor

If anyone can explain this to me, I’d be very grateful. I have been reading everywhere that Dubai has no modern bankruptcy law, meaning you can go after your debtors with criminal sanctions if they default. Read more

By Alan Beattie, the FT’s world trade editor

Look, not my specialist subject, but here’s my eurocent’s-worth on the appointment of the Baroness High Representative and the Lord High Everything Else.

(Incidentally, I’d have stuck with the classic original song for this blog post title, but if there’s one thing Brussels isn’t short of, it’s lawyers.)

The biggest problem with these posts isn’t the final personnel decision, though that’s certainly in the top two. It’s that no matter who fills them, there’s no there there. Pick any important foreign policy question of the last twenty years – Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel/Palestine – and it’s clear that what you need for influence is one or all of:

1. veto power on the UN Security Council

2. troops you can send into battle (a shooting war, not peacekeeping)

3. foreign/military aid big enough to matter that you can use for political ends Read more

By Alan Beattie, the FT’s world trade editor

The Copenhagen conference will agree no treaty; the WTO ministerial in two weeks’ time will not even discuss the Doha round – roughly equivalent to staging Hamlet without the prince, Horatio, Ophelia, Rosencrantz or Guildenstern; the UN food security summit this week removed even a largely rhetorical pledge to end hunger and boost agricultural aid; Barack Obama has so far failed to elicit anything but vague hints on currency cooperation from Beijing. Read more

By Alan Beattie, FT World Trade Editor

Hoping to deflect anger during Barack Obama’s tour of Asia, his people have been out peddling the familiar line that, in effect, protectionism is not protectionism. In other news: war is peace, cats reject “feline” tag and Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia. Read more

By Alan Beattie, FT World Trade Editor

To the usual putdowns of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation – “four adjectives in search of a noun” and “A Perfect Excuse to Chat” – my colleague Kevin Brown has added another ahead of this week’s big meeting: “a grouping that speaks for half the global economy but decides almost nothing”. If anything, this is a mild understatement. Read more