January 2

FT Why the Sustainable Development Goals are a bad idea

In an op-ed the Africa editor of the newspaper deplores the UN SDGs as a wishlist, out of it completeness and complexity actually unsustainable. “The sustainable development goals prioritize everything. In the real world, that is to prioritize nothing.” https://www.ft.com/content/ceedd447-a6d1-4773-9a8a-e3b25a50645c

FT The child care system in the U.S.A. is broken

The government wants to be rebuilding America’s industrial economy, and rebuilding its care economy. The latter goal is still in danger, and that has potentially big implications for the labor markets and inflation. Essentially child care is only affordable for elites and government support is needed. The government has acknowledged that but the funding law is very unlikely to pass. https://www.ft.com/content/1cb8cce0-89d9-4be6-8994-8fd29f3425d9

FT West Bank economy ravaged by Israel war with Gaza strip

Palestinians are very limited in travel to Israel for work or shopping. Hostilities with the Israeli settlers and fear of being taken by the Israeli soldiers are also limiting movement. This comes in addition to the withholding of payments to the Palestinian Authority, see January 5. https://www.ft.com/content/d734002c-4377-4d1a-a4d1-02daea6a6189

FT Can the unpopular incumbent in the U.S.A. beat his contender again?

The president’s struggles have triggered a whirlwind of discussion among Democrats about his capacity to win re-election — and whether anyone can do anything to change the dynamic. The elderly president hails the facts about his first term, economically successful, but it does not show in the polls. His opponent is only three years younger but does not suffer from the discussion of being too old to run. The present campaign is only for the party leadership, but the president has now turned to his opponents extreme accusations. https://www.ft.com/content/00e33739-7d5d-4cda-9304-89700d2135c3

FT Rival of PM in Bangladesh handed 6 month jail sentence

The 83 year old Nobel Peace Prize laureate is convicted for a labor conflict. His supporters see it as a vendetta by the authorities of the country. The microfinance banker is not a candidate but the incumbent cracks down generally on dissent. She is known for having described the convicted as a “blood sucker of the poor”. https://www.ft.com/content/94c92a43-eeeb-4c00-b3bb-5abc56696ea2

January 3

FT Women in Afghanistan take education online

Digital education platforms note a surge in demand for online training from Afghanistan since the rulers, who are not recognized by any other government, curbed female education to apply their take of the Koran. UNICEF calculated that some 1 Mn girls are affected by this rule. https://www.ft.com/content/3ac4860f-02dc-4015-88af-e2be74c9d1b9

FT Germany stuck between legal debt brake and investment for prosperity

The court ruling on government debt (see December 14) continues to fuel public debate. The German word Schuld means both debt and guilt, a blurring of morality and finance that, according to the economic historian Holtfrerich, is unique among big trading nations. Back in 2008 the former chancellor evoked the image of the “Swabian housewife” to express the deep conscience that binds the Germans to sustainability of public finance. Politicians of the left and economists want to quit the legal limits but a recent poll showed 61 percent support for the present rule. Among economists, support is 48 percent. Only 6 percent want to abolish it completely. https://www.ft.com/content/90b0a2d0-a9b0-49a9-beac-f8c3bd1b2914

FT Closed copper mine in the midst of independence drive of autonomous island Bougainville, now part of Papua New Guinea

In 1989 a local rebellion against pollution killed 10 percent of the island’s population and caused the closure of the mine. The energy transition increases copper demand to double to 50 Mn tons a year by 2035 compared with 2021. The present autonomous government sees the revival of the project as critical to the island’s economic destiny following a referendum in 2019 that almost unanimously backed independence from PNG. https://www.ft.com/content/2887fcc6-6a54-47d8-9f2b-0c83519fabaa

FT In South Korea opposition leader stabbed with knife and in hospital

The incident happened ahead of the parliamentary election in April. The victim lost the presidential election of 2022 with a margin of less than 1 percent. While South Korean governments are appointed by the president, the outcome of the parliamentary election will determine the government’s ability to pursue its legislative agenda. Polling suggests a close race. The president and the opposition leader differ in their approach to neighbor and former invader Japan. https://www.ft.com/content/07ff559e-992f-41c6-b567-0103079d6471

TT King in Morocco defies civil authorities in his ties with convicted friend

Top officials have broken the rule of staying silent in crown matters and started a claim to the friends’ family, calling them “notorious crooks”. The reports were seen as an attempt to persuade the king, 60, to cool the relationship. On their part the family concerned has started three defamation cases against an authorities friendly news outlet. The case of this friendship has already lasted six years. By mid-last year elites were relieved that the king showed more activity in his reign (see August 21) but he kept a very low profile during the September earthquake. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/king-of-morocco-approved-legal-action-against-website-x7x3xq0wm

January 4

FT Can democracy survive 2024?

The newspaper: “It is the most intense and cacophonous 12 months of democracy the world has seen since the idea was minted more than 2,500 years ago.” It will start on January 7, when Bangladesh will cast the first vote in their national election. The statistics for 2024 are illuminating: 2 Bn people will have elections, eight out of ten of the most populous nations and in total 70 countries are involved. This seems a success for democracy but in reality illiberalism is spreading. There are four distinct electoral cultures at stake: tyrannical leadership (jailing opposition), “performative democracy” (opposition is not allowed to win), “subtle erosion” (genuinely free and fair elections of leaders overseeing illiberal policies) and what the newspaper calls “older democracies” (populism doing its work). The newspaper stresses that diversity of views in a country is important. https://www.ft.com/content/077e28d8-3e3b-4aa7-a155-2205c11e826f

FT In South Africa opposition splinters in battle with ruling party

The fragmentation of the opposition into a host of smaller groups will see them fighting each other and not the ruling party. The main opposition party joined several others in a “charter”, but this is judged as “too little, too late”. The charter members have ruled out a coalition with the ruling party and the third political power, an ultraleft group. https://www.ft.com/content/f1f70d65-7198-4601-aeec-9912771fbafa

January 5

FT President of Sierra Leone until 2018 in court for treason charges

Tensions run high in the country after nationally and internationally disputed elections in which the incumbent won (see June 24). Later, a coup was attempted (see November 29). The president until 2018 was under house arrest but ECOWAS is in the process of mediating his position. He would travel to Nigeria “on a temporary basis”, but the court case continues. https://www.ft.com/content/b339ea42-0a1b-4665-90f1-826504a33f0e

FT Will the election of January 7 turn Bangladesh into a de facto one-party state?

The PM from 1996 – 2001 and from 2009 until now seeks a fifth term. The 170 Mn citizens strong country has been transformed from one of the world’s poorest to a major global industrial hub. The country suffered from global inflation, triggering worker strikes (see November 3), factory owner complaints about the low customer prices (see November 16) but also a clamp down on the opposition. The main opposition party claims at least 20.000 of its members are arrested. It boycotts the election. Some minor opposition candidates seem to tacitly support the ruling party. https://www.ft.com/content/5d853f66-0937-4ea0-bddf-e8541dbeb3c5

FT West Bank Palestinian authority (PA) PM feels his government is pushed to the edge of the edge

Israel in the context of its war with the Gaza strip restricted the PA, withholding hundreds of millions of shekels in tax revenues that it collects on behalf of the PA. The PM said he fears Israel wants to separate Gaza and the West Bank. He said any lasting settlement would require consensus among the Palestinian factions. https://www.ft.com/content/dc9a9d80-7b71-4ece-b9c7-68ef968daf3b

FT In Brazil attempts are underway to revive the historic center of Sao Paulo and save it from its criminal dominance

The operation looks like what happened in European cities in the 18th and 19th century and in New York in the mid-20th century. The question is the economic motor of the efforts. The local administration has over 6 Bn saved from a pension reform in 2017, and years of privatizations and austerity budgets. But citizens also need to be able to benefit from economic opportunity. https://www.ft.com/content/d7d68afb-eb79-40a0-ade0-17d069649fd6

FT In Poland parliament becomes media hit with government change

The YouTube channel of the Sejm, the lower house of the Polish parliament, has attracted more than 650,000 subscribers, more than five times that of Germany’s Bundestag. The swearing in session of the new PM got 4.2 Mn views. Behind the success is the new speaker, the PM’s coalition partner and a former host of Poland Got Talent TV show. He got third in the last presidential election but wants to give it another try in 2025. https://www.ft.com/content/3d3bc484-b206-4383-b24b-408e50f9fc91

TT Vatican defends blessing of gay couples after protest of bishops

To placate traditional bishops, the Vatican note (see November 10) stressed the rule did not imply approval of gay marriage. It defined  the blessing as limited to morally acceptable behavior and a short act, 10 – 15 seconds. Bishops in Kazakhstan, Zambia and Malawi refused to adopt the new rule. The Vatican now warns priests of the danger and advises them to act prudently in situations where threats exist with regard to sexual orientation. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/vatican-defends-blessings-gay-couples-pope-francis-m3krr920d

January 6

FT Politicians in Germany concerned about protest violence

Following the debt brake ruling the government had to strike a budget deal with deep cuts in expenditure (see December 14). Farmers blocked a ferry with the Deputy Chancellor on board to protest the cuts, despite the already agreed concessions. This turned violent. The chancellor: “This violated all the rules of democratic coexistence”. His affected deputy stated: “The right to protest in Germany is a precious asset. Coercion and violence destroy this asset.” https://www.ft.com/content/2d0af8e4-d573-4bb6-a4c4-70e092802438

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

WEA Secretary General visits the Japan Evangelical Association. https://worldea.org/news/24531/wea-secretary-general-visits-the-japan-evangelical-association/

January 8

FT In Ireland political arm of former liberation army of Northern Ireland eyes power

With two other parties having led the country since partition in 1921, the progressive party is growing in the polls thanks to the charismatic leader. Her focus is on fixing a chronic housing crisis rather than on the party’s core pledge to reunite the island after a century of partition. And she declares to be talking to all other parties after the election, “because that is the democratic thing to do”. https://www.ft.com/content/89dd3b94-d2c8-495c-8be8-a610763e1422

FT Vice-president in Argentina seen as counterbalance to radical president

She built a career on cultural conservatism. She achieved an early win for the candidacy of senate leader, despite the ruling party’s minority in parliament. The president changed his mind on his promise to her and handed the security and defense posts to coalition parties. The vice-president is a gifted communicator and expected to become more vocal when the most rampant economic issues are settled. She is expected to pursue her vision of re-writing the recent history of the country. https://w.ft.com/content/aab162b5-ac73-4682-bc96-8c319eeac43b

FT Scandals surround PM in Japan

The government has just changed its pacifist policy in view of world events but at home nobody cares. Japan’s biggest political funding scandal in more than three decades, and the handling of the January 1 earthquake off the west coast that has killed more than 100 people is causing the ruling party to suffer in the polls. This puzzles the international partners. What will happen if the ruling party loses in elections? https://www.ft.com/content/7f1b0deb-bd0c-4370-a0c7-a2ea9e879ced

FT Elite university in U.S.A. has become ground zero in battle of academic direction

Harvard is a likely target in the country’s broader “culture wars” against higher education. Not only did its president fail to perform in a recent congressional hearing (see December 8), but the university is also accused of too much emphasis on diversity and insufficient breadth of political views. The presidents at more elite universities see strategy, communication and fundraising to be their most important roles, with crisis management an important consideration while far less time was being spent on student engagement. https://www.ft.com/content/16ded3c2-1894-4855-b939-a2b4b7902b04

FT Incumbent in Bangladesh wins fifth term in election

The government arrested thousands of opposition party supporters prior to the election. The main opposition party boycotted the election. Officials said about 40 per cent of eligible voters participated, down from around 80 per cent in 2018.  https://www.ft.com/content/e25fb885-8ddf-4361-99b1-1af393be6368

January 9

FT New government in Argentina faces test over court judgement in U.S.A.

The government has pledged it wants to stop being a notorious defaulter but faces meeting a looming deadline on the $16bn it owes to former private shareholders of a state energy company. The claim goes back to policy in 2012 and is handled by litigation funders. They might want to seize Argentina’s investments in the U.S.A., which is near to impossible as they are protected by U.S.A. law. https://www.ft.com/content/88731450-2019-4375-a544-24d2f511bf28

FT Brazil warns against surge in dengue mosquito-borne disease

The potentially fatal disease is increasing due to extreme weather conditions. It comes in four variants. All of them are now active in the country. Infection by one does not create immunity for the others. Vaccine supply is limited due to manufacturing bottlenecks. https://www.ft.com/content/2f3b9b80-7b9a-42d4-bf7f-ea8492a8da24

FT In Slovakia leader of coalition partner in new Eurosceptic government will run for presidency

The current president last June announced she would not seek another term. This changed the dynamics in the country. The Eurosceptics won the parliamentary election (see October 6). The presidential election will be on March 23 (with possible run off on April 6). https://www.ft.com/content/cde9bed8-d204-4c61-8748-9004d3b409b9

NYT Aide to former president of Gambia faces charges of crimes against humanity in Switzerland

The person is seeking asylum in the country. The former president himself resides in Equatorial Guinea and is also sought after. In recent years perpetrators of crimes against humanity have been convicted in Sweden and Germany. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/08/world/europe/gambia-switzerland-ousman-sonko.html

January 10

FT Violence erupts in Ecuador after drugs gang leader escapes from jail

The newly elected president had promised to reign in on surging violence, see November 28. He insists on continuing  to fight criminal gangs. The government yesterday declared a state of emergency for 90 days. Despite that, several violent incidents happened. https://www.ft.com/content/b40305cd-099b-42f4-a244-1ac16b8e9dd5

FT India grows faster than most larger economies

Extreme poverty has been reduced from 18.7 to 12 percent from 2015 – 2021. This was made possible partly by generous social transfers to the poorest by the government. The digitalization of the banking system was a factor to make this possible. Also the middle class is growing rapidly from 300 Mn in 2014 to 520 Mn now. Youth unemployment is still problematic and women employment actually reduced over the period. Infrastructure development has surged. https://www.ft.com/content/8299d318-7c35-49a0-9a9a-b8e5abeba7be

FT Pakistan top court paves the way for former PM to run in election

The ruling overturns a lifelong ban of politics for people with criminal convictions. The former PM returned from self-imposed exile in October. He was removed as prime minister by the Supreme Court in 2017 over “dishonest practices” following revelations of unaccounted family wealth. His successor as PM is now jailed. A general election is currently scheduled for February 8. https://www.ft.com/content/9e7448ec-caf1-4048-9b39-41ced13dd447

January 11

FT Government of France attempts a reboot to facilitate governance

The young, telegenic and quick-witted 34-year old education minister is appointed as PM by the president, by this favoring a popular politician over a technocrat. It is a risk against the backdrop of social discontent reflected in violent protests last year. The ruling party lacks a parliamentary majority. In an Editorial the newspaper concludes the president, despite a record of successes, is anxious to avoid his far-right opponent to win in 2027. This broader trend in Europe is more serious in France through its presidential system with its options to impose legislation. https://www.ft.com/content/aa96d572-4a49-4604-941c-311eb4d61178

FT Global minimum tax will boost tax havens, according to OECD

In those tax havens tax will increase. Companies will not easily relocate. The new regime, starting from January 1, will land multinationals taxed below a 15 per cent rate in one country to be charged a top-up levy in other countries. https://www.ft.com/content/9236c819-bdc7-401e-a9e2-fe59d06ebe29

NYT Papua New Guinea asks military to restore order after violent protests

Unrest started after hundreds of police and civil servants walked off their jobs to protest at the parliament building. Their wage had been reduced. The PM said that this was not an extra tax but due to a computer problem. The missing amount would be paid next month. The resource rich country suffers from high youth unemployment and other social issues. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/10/world/australia/papua-new-guinea-protest-military.html

January 12

FT The rising threat to democracy of Artificial Intelligence

Around half the adult population of the world can go to the polls in 2024. Online disinformation has been an issue for many years but is now strongly enhanced by AI, making it possible to fake others in a convincing way. The perpetrators remain mostly unknown and the precise impact on the result is impossible to gauge. The efforts of the US-based tech groups to invest in fact-checking and tackling misinformation has also become politicized. One scientist: “This will need a paradigm shift in our head.” https://www.ft.com/content/16f23c01-fa51-408e-acf5-0d30a5a1ebf2

FT Somalia is angry with Ethiopia over its deal to a de facto independent region

On January 1 Ethiopia opened dialogue to formally recognize Somaliland, in return for a 50-year lease of a 20km strip of land around the Gulf of Aden port of Berbera. At the moment Ethiopia exports 95 percent of its production via Djibouti. Having its own base at the sea would give the country more influence in the region. Somaliland declared independence in 1991 but is not recognized by any country. Ethiopia became landlocked in 1991 after Eritrea became independent. Behind the scenes UAE is exercising influence. https://www.ft.com/content/f1a7ffa3-03d8-46e4-a009-3710b4abc27d

FT Constitutional court in Poland shields central banker from prosecution with 3 vs 2 decision

At the same time the court validated the result of the October election. The current PM during election time has repeatedly criticized the central bank governor who reduced the interest rate. This was seen as support for the incumbent. This week two opposition parliamentarians were arrested despite a presidential pardon. https://www.ft.com/content/7e6c99cc-cc8c-47c9-af18-4361e3ff1667

January 13

FT Opposition politician in Serbia accuses secret service of maltreatment

He lodged a complaint with the UN committee against torture earlier this week. The secret service confirmed that the politician is in custody on charges of inciting ethnic hatred, but denied that any violence was inflicted upon him. The politician posted an apology for Serbian war crimes in Kosovo, where Serbians are a minority. He has pleaded for recognizing Kosovo as a sovereign nation. https://www.ft.com/content/46800b6f-e709-42e8-8efc-fe0290fe2367

January 15

FT National opposition party in South Africa  seeks to benefit from success on local level

The party still has the image of a white party and its main black politician deserted it five years ago. But as many of South Africa’s cities have fallen apart, Cape Town (run by them) has gained a reputation for economic growth and improved services. This is attributed to the local leadership but also to its stronger base in tax revenue and tourism. The Cape Town problems are all but solved and local efforts are limited due to the national gloom. https://www.ft.com/content/7acd9224-c5b1-4024-bc21-b3cc22b522c5

FT Half a year after election the winner takes office in Guatemala

Since his shock victory (see August 22) prosecutors, with support from radical rightwing groups in the country, have filed a number of cases against the election winner and anti-corruption candidate. His party also needs coalition partners. The president won with 58 percent of the vote but the party only has 23 out of 160 seats in parliament, the third largest in the country. https://www.ft.com/content/9cb507a8-d6c6-4ea9-8557-7d2907f99107

January 16

FT Third largest party is king maker after election in Taiwan

The party of the new president has 51 of the 113 seats in parliament. The China friendly contender took 52 seats. For the first time a third party stood up to the traditional two big parties. It accepted the cause for Taiwanese independence from China and drew young voters in big numbers by housing pledges. It has 8 seats in parliament and is a new organization founded less than five years ago. The direction of the party is still insecure and will show only after parliament starts. https://www.ft.com/content/8d197c43-ce38-4f29-89e0-7137f08295ee

TT Pope in TV interview claims isolation after lifting gay blessing ban

He refers to the resistance of conservative and regional leaders of the global church towards the recent decision of the Vatican to allow blessing of gay couples (see January 5). https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/pope-francis-gay-blessings-same-sex-catholic-church-vatican-n6fdch60c

January 17

FT Poland struggles in its efforts to let democracy take root

The newspaper dedicates an editorial on the issue and concludes: “if democracy is to take root in Poland long-term, the new government has to act with responsibility and restraint”. The administration has turned from conservative to liberal during the election but the president is still from the conservative party and shows his conviction. He shielded two convicted MP’s in his palace. The highest court also came to the rescue of a conservative appointee, see January 12. https://www.ft.com/content/7132d087-a5c6-4188-a733-fb5411507439

FT In Brazil government wants to deliver but perhaps by leaning on the failed strategy of the past

It looks to strengthen the role of the state in its bid to lift stagnant living standards in the nation of more than 200mn. The president: “I want to transform this country into a middle-class country where people can eat well, dress well, live well, relax well, and take care of their family.” A new tax law has improved the credit rating of Brazil, but relaxed spending rules are looming and cast a shadow of failures in the past. https://www.ft.com/content/5c9d5735-639e-47c0-9eb6-a1fae26096e8

FT North Korea abandons constitutional aim of unification with South Korea

The president ordered officials to close state agencies dedicated to unification and inter-Korean tourism. All reminders of the unification goal, including monuments, will be demolished. An analyst says the country is trying to resolve a “tricky ideological contradiction” between nuclear ambitions and cherishing historic compatriotism. https://www.ft.com/content/206dd3e6-19db-4cdf-932a-033c92a1a221

January 18

FT Lack of transparency is a risk for emerging economies

Foggy statistics add risk for investors, and can raise the cost of capital for developing nations. The problems can arise from government secrecy. A big informal sector can also influence the quality of information. https://www.ft.com/content/187e4183-8e7c-44f3-88c0-444aa0594791

FT PM of India set to attend consecration of temple at place where Hindu God Ram was born

The 161ft tall pink sandstone shrine (see December 29) nicknamed the Hinduism’s Vatican was funded by donations from Indians and the diaspora. The authorities built the accompanying infrastructure, including a new airport. It is one of the three contested sites with the Muslim minority. A decision on a mosque in Varanasi, which sits alongside the Hindu Kashi Vishwanath temple, is expected by June. India’s PM: “No country can progress without securing its heritage along with development.” https://www.ft.com/content/de699b3e-1e47-4248-a036-ad744af0f0b1

FT Amnesty law for separatists in Spain (see December 12) creates uncertainty in business climate

Business leaders and politicians from other regions criticized the law and a radical separatist group issued new threats to businesses. https://www.ft.com/content/bcf55b6b-5531-4c2a-9df8-dea6b6f200a4

January 19

FT Arab nations develop plan to end Israel-Hamas war and create Palestinian state

Israel should allow for “irreversible steps” to form an independent state for the Palestinians. The plan would include western nations agreeing to formally recognize a Palestinian state, or supporting the Palestinians being granted full membership of the UN. In turn Saudi Arabia would recognize Israel. https://www.ft.com/content/11890426-0250-4a3c-ba48-d8523924eb9c

FT Minister in Singapore charged with corruption for accepting gifts

It is “a graft accusation in the city-state that prides itself on its reputation for clean governance and transparency.” The charges came about six months after the anti-graft agency arrested the minister and his donor. His donor is not charged. Singapore’s ministers are among the highest paid in the world, earning about S$1mn a year, in part to discourage corruption. The charges come shortly before the ruling party changes leadership ahead of the 2025 election. https://www.ft.com/content/6db108d8-f44c-4fdc-86ee-e70df8c3177f

January 20

FT Charismatic leaders and empty parties are a bad recipe for democracy

The author, a Princeton university professor, in an op-ed argues that today’s problems with democracy neglect the role of a seemingly old-fashioned institution: the political party. We do see issue based parties arise and they can be seen as part of innovation. But often they lack the essential role of political member based parties: provide consistent programs over time, and to restrain a leader when necessary. https://www.ft.com/content/9016754a-317a-4371-b3a1-c25165ca6400

FT Mystery politician in Ghana reveals himself as alternative to the two main parties

On billboards his image was hidden. The person behind it was revealed when he was stopped (as #TheNewForce) to hold a political meeting. The authorities said the location was booked by others. He is a successful businessman who wants to pursue value addition to the resources of the country. His attempt may fail as the existing parties are better financed and organized. Elections are due in December. https://www.ft.com/content/c18ba3a8-3b9c-4653-9856-498f9b0f058f

FT Government disagreements in Israel split into the open

A centrist minister and observer to the country’s war cabinet in a TV interview called for new elections and declined to declare his trust in the PM. This former military leader, whose son was killed in action last month, said that the government should stop “selling fantasies” about the result of the conflict with the opponents of his country. The conflict in which the country is engaged “cannot be solved in a military way alone”. https://www.ft.com/content/e1a54af7-2ee7-416c-af2b-e4af42621556

FT Finance minister of Germany typifies his country as tired, not sick

He said the country needed to improve its productivity through structural reforms to strengthen the supply side of its economy, such as by improving the availability of labor, energy and digital technology. He is afraid to start a subsidy race (with the U.S.A.) and raise taxes. https://www.ft.com/content/f6eb32e6-dd1d-4532-af2a-583b26597b99

NYT Thailand imposes longest-ever sentence for criticizing royalty

An activist received 50 years in prison for sharing TV and film content on social media that violated the country’s law against defaming its monarchy. Many other cases are still in court. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/19/world/asia/thailand-sentence-royalty-defamation.html

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

WEA selects new Youth Commission leader: https://worldea.org/news/25078/wea-selects-new-youth-commission-leader/

January 22

FT Insecurity in the Sahel threatens to spill over to coastal countries

The Accra Initiative, a grouping consisting of Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Togo, aims to prevent the spillover of violence from the Sahel to the coast. Some places in the north of Ghana are too dangerous to visit. Yet, the director of academic affairs and research at the Accra-based Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre, thinks the jihadi’s will not reach for the coast: “It’s lazy scholarship that doesn’t challenge this, and political expediency because it generates a lot of money from Europe.” https://www.ft.com/content/f9c0ca66-8c32-4906-9e22-f2d3fc0e8c67

January 23

FT First mass malaria vaccination campaign begins in Africa

The distribution of nearly 30mn jabs in the coming months marks a milestone. For now 12 countries are involved. In May or June a second type of vaccine will be distributed in 7 countries. In the latter campaign an industry from India is involved, making a bigger scale possible. https://www.ft.com/content/b6f03756-86ab-4912-aad0-9384198673ad

FT In Israel relatives of hostages held by Gaza military group storm parliament committee meeting

Discussion in Israel intensifies how the hostages can be freed and at what cost. https://www.ft.com/content/f59b908f-9d5b-473b-a0c7-9800811aabbf

FT Inauguration of major Hindu shrine turns into nationalism event with PM of India in key role

The giant complex, see also December 29 and January 10, sits on a disputed site. A 16th century mosque was destroyed there decades ago. Hindu’s cherish the site as the birthplace of their God Ram. The 73-year old PM hailed the opening and said that people would be talking about it “for thousands of years”. In the lead-up to the event, the PM had embarked on a nationwide tour of Hindu temples, during which he kept to an ascetic regimen, subsisting on coconut water and sleeping on a blanket on the floor for 11 days. https://www.ft.com/content/77258247-4db0-45d8-acae-5c6644f46c78

FT Japan rethinks business models as world’s fastest ageing society

It runs out of workers. The crisis happens despite the economy doing well or not. One way of tackling the demographic challenge is by introducing artificial appearances, robots and artificial intelligence to the workforce in key sectors. The country is scouting for new technologies all over the world. https://www.ft.com/content/ad850ad2-6752-4ca7-99f6-4b947d0b741e

January 24

FT Landmark genocide case against Israel seen as litmus test for rules based order in the global south

For Palestinians and their supporters, particularly in the “Global South”, the case is a test of the credibility of an international system they have long regarded as stacked against them. Palestinians see Palestine as a case of oppression of them for the past three-quarters of a century. The case will take years but a decision on emergency measures can be expected soon. https://www.ft.com/content/68074594-c625-4f7a-a1b0-6715a7cfc919

FT Nigeria vows to promote democratic ideals

In an interview with the newspaper the foreign minister said: “We should not put more emphasis on the fight against terrorism than strengthening democratic norms”. The new administration wants to reclaim its regional importance. He admitted that the Ecowas role in the Niger coup failed, claiming the mediation involved too many actors. The minister said the country was eager to join the BRICS and deserves a permanent seat in the Security Council, “which should be democratized beyond the five current permanent members”. https://www.ft.com/content/27061214-0c37-4f98-ab44-bbf5423de7d9

FT In China Ministry of State Security pursues more public and political role

It has abandoned its low profile role and advertises itself as fighting “subversion, separatism, terrorism and espionage”. It also took an account at the country’s most active social media platform to highlight interventions. Its political role has grown too. https://www.ft.com/content/f78c7243-2ff5-4f77-93d0-91c20f6b5548

TT 160 nations speak up against Uighur persecution in China

The review is the first since a UN human rights office report from 2022 said the detention of Uighurs and other Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region may constitute crimes against humanity. China denies the accusations and praises itself as a country where human rights are cherished. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/nation-after-nation-condemns-chinas-persecution-of-uighurs-qmbgzd5tj

January 25

FT Indonesia looks into policy continuity after election of February 10

The constitutional terms of the president end. The17,500 islands nation with 204mn eligible voters was peaceful under his leadership. A ban on exporting raw nickel ore and bauxite forced industries to set up value addition onshore. The new president needs to find 50 percent of the vote. Otherwise there will be runoff in June. The leading candidate in the polls lost against the incumbent twice and has taken up the current president’s son as vice-president. For him the constitutional age limit was skipped (see October 21). https://www.ft.com/content/affa34ec-41ac-4b43-be4d-87ac9f5ae4f9

January 26

FT Nigeria anti-corruption watchdog raids office of richest African industrialist

This happens at the same time as his new oil refinery is to produce, promising a game changer for value addition of domestic resources. An anonymous official of the ruling party said that there must be a powerful hand behind the raid. The industrialist was close to the former president. https://www.ft.com/content/cd6c0dfa-eafc-4ff2-bcb9-772a6a11be5d

FT In Zimbabwe the opposition leader separates from his party

Following the August election where the party won 102 out of 280 votes the party showed internal struggles with a rival party leader taking hold as interim SG, a newly invented position (see December 20). An analyst pointed to infiltration of the opposition by the ruling party. The departed opposition leader now wants to start a new party. https://www.ft.com/content/08aaa76f-e681-4e02-94f4-34c35ee0d164

FT In France constitutional court rejects part of stricter immigration policy of government

The nine-member body consisting of former politicians and civil servants did base itself on procedural grounds, not on unconstitutionality. Among the rejections were stricter rules on family reunification and a yearly debate in parliament about immigration quota. They had been added to win support from the opposition, as the government lacks a majority in parliament. https://www.ft.com/content/1240bc9d-1e6f-4432-ae91-f8752d95be05

FT Government in Poland accuses opposition of coup attempt

The opposition leader has raised the point of legitimacy of the new government and called for a transition period for what he called an emergency situation (see also January 17). Two lawmakers of the now opposition were arrested and claimed to be tortured. https://www.ft.com/content/ee907f12-8670-4a09-8610-62b662d0381b

January 27

FT The IMF is an anchor adrift in a changing world economy

The western countries are over-represented but there are formidable obstacles to reform. The author considers it unlikely that the original nations will adjust to the relative weight of other stakeholders. https://www.ft.com/content/bd95f714-dc1c-4ee0-ba1b-af89c224c9ff

FT Critical industries and the battle for young talent

Sectors from oil and gas to defense face an uphill battle to find skilled staff. Young people are more value-oriented. There is also a communication gap between corporations and the labor market, according to the newspaper in an editorial. https://www.ft.com/content/3a743eee-b862-4e70-87d1-d8fe65ea5661

FT Sri Lanka raises hopes of resolution to $13bn debt stand-off

The bankrupt nation aims for restructuring soon, but private creditors say they have been left ‘in the dark’. A bondholder committee complained of “a significant lack of transparency” from government creditors about details of the terms that they offered Sri Lanka. https://www.ft.com/content/99333d04-7cba-4017-82cc-c98fd395407b

FT South Korean first lady’s $2,000 Dior handbag triggers graft accusations

The scandal sparks a row within the ruling party and criticisms of ‘authoritarian’ conduct ahead of the general election. She received the bag as a gift from a Korean-American pastor. Supporters of the president see him as a graft buster but this image is fading in his own party too. https://www.ft.com/content/0514da85-52f7-497a-b6ff-4fc97932c566

FT Italy’s central bank boss warns EU against ‘weaponizing’ euro

He says Europe should use the power of having a global currency wisely. If this is not done, other currencies will take up its role. https://www.ft.com/content/df4ac551-2668-410e-b8b5-7fda605602f4

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

WEA contributes to World Economic Forum report released at Davos on faith and business: https://www.weforum.org/publications/faith-in-action-religion-and-spirituality-in-the-polycrisis/

January 29

FT Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger quit Ecowas in escalation of tension

The African states accuse the regional block of being a threat to its members and under the influence of foreign powers. https://www.ft.com/content/3e043c84-dc85-43b5-8f84-c2b96b0774e1

FT India tells tech giants to police deepfakes under ‘explicit’ rules

The technology minister says New Delhi has ‘woken up’ early to the dangers of AI-generated content due to the size of its online population and will hold tech companies accountable for AI-generated deep fake content on their platforms through “very clear and explicit rules”. He said his country positions itself between completely market oriented and completely citizen oriented. https://www.ft.com/content/fc600196-f821-4397-92fc-364ed8d2608a

FT Ecuador rushes to raise cash for costly war against drug gangs

The government aims to refinance the national debt and increase VAT to fund operations against traffickers. The tough line has soared the popularity of the president to 80 percent in the polls. https://www.ft.com/content/d12eaa01-c37a-4e62-96c9-4b1e23878268

January 30

FT South Korea’s birth rate has become a national emergency

A professor of Law in Seoul University wrote this op-ed and concludes that the country’s twin expenses of education and housing is putting young couples off having children. This problem is difficult to fix because it is so intertwined with the country’s culture. South Korean society is deeply competitive. The birth rate is at a worldwide record low: 0,72. https://www.ft.com/content/444a637b-9712-475b-8c14-9b147f4ff244

FT Pakistan battles rising terror threat in Afghan border regions

The government blames the rulers in Afghanistan for harboring militants despite supporting the group during the occupation by the U.S.A. Pakistan had hoped that the Afghan rulers would help rein in the militants in Pakistan. https://www.ft.com/content/f739d848-5061-412e-b55a-027502925a64

FT Medical firm refuses to join Ireland’s mother and baby home compensation scheme

The forerunners of the concerned pharma company tested vaccines at notorious institutions for decades. Some 34,000 survivors of the Catholic institutions where tens of thousands of unmarried mothers were closeted for decades are eligible to apply for compensation by the government. The firm claims to support human rights. https://www.ft.com/content/83867376-ec79-4b79-bf48-a626411c6dd8

NYT Ruling party in South Africa suspends former president

After defending the former South African president during a slew of corruption scandals, the country’s powerful ruling party punished him for endorsing an opposition party. The new party bears the name of the apartheid-era armed wing of the ruling party. The current president said the former president’s walk out came as “a total surprise”. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/29/world/africa/south-africa-jacob-zuma-anc.html

January 31

FT Welcome to the era of the non-state actor

It isn’t China or Russia who will dominate the post-American world. If states are not strengthened from within they give way to sub-state, non-state and anti-state forces. Among them “armed groups with a humanitarian cause”. The International Red Cross calculates that some 195mn are under their control. https://www.ft.com/content/16ec4c4c-b5d6-4198-89be-d825f8d2efaf

FT Former PM sentenced to 10 years in prison ahead of Pakistan election

His party says the latest conviction of the popular former cricket star is an attempt to suppress its vote on the February 8 election. The powerful military in the country is seen as behind the development. https://www.ft.com/content/22001ea1-273e-46d7-90d6-18b10327d574

FT In Spain regional leaders amnesty deal falters as separatists revolt

The hardline faction pushing for independence votes against the bill drafted to protect them. They wanted to involve in the amnesty those who are under investigation for terrorism. https://www.ft.com/content/a5b4bfe8-7949-44c6-8826-7580ce428dc3

FT Government in Ukraine prepares to replace top general

His removal would mark the biggest shake-up of military command since Russia’s full-scale invasion of the country and comes after the failed counteroffensive. https://www.ft.com/content/aa9aacfc-c248-4550-bf28-d79ad4c553cb

February 1

FT The hidden cost of supermarket salmon in Europe

The fish sold by major retailers in Europe is harming the food security in west Africa. It uses fish oil and whole fish, crucially affecting west African diets. Locals say the price of sardines is soaring, while stocks of related species are on the verge of collapse. https://ig.ft.com/supermarket-salmon/

FT Nigeria devalues the naira in a bid to attract foreign investors

The new policy leaves the official exchange rate close to the black market rate and follows the removal of the fixed currency exchange rate that crippled free capital flow. https://www.ft.com/content/1729aa7c-3f92-4ff7-9310-c79b5e5cdb84

FT El Salvador’s gang inmates will face life in prison, vows president’s deputy

He is running for re-election as vice-president and defends the government’s sweeping crime crackdown. The country declared a state of emergency two years ago and arrests all people suspected of being part of criminal extortion gangs. https://www.ft.com/content/5ae644b9-8c07-40fd-acfb-2018c88db510

FT The UN agency in Gaza is in crisis. Palestinians may pay the price

The organization helping displaced people could shutter operations in weeks after funding was withdrawn over claims that staff members took part in Hamas attack on Israel. https://www.ft.com/content/bd8c3786-496a-41d2-b001-3b67cd7fe020

FT President of Poland asks top court to review the government budget

The new PM had warned against such an ‘irrational’ move that could lead to snap elections. See also January 17 & 26. https://www.ft.com/content/b509333a-0f4e-4689-9b17-e215997c6e66

FT ‘Dexit’ move would destroy Germany’s wealth, says the chancellor

He calls Brexit an ‘economic disaster’ for Britain in strong criticism of the far-right party’s proposal for Germany to leave the EU.  https://www.ft.com/content/14221be9-4daf-41ca-98c2-5459799499fd

TT Young rebels manage to drive back junta forces in Myanmar

Displaying unusual planning, three ethnic armies calling themselves the Brotherhood Alliance carried out coordinated attacks that took control of 150 junta outposts. A ceasefire brokered by the Chinese government has brought a halt to their advances. But according to Myanmar Peace Monitor, an NGO, ethnic armies and PDF groups have taken control of at least 35 towns across the country. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/the-teenage-rebels-vowing-to-defeat-myanmar-junta-5kqxvxx7f

NYT Court in Thailand rules that reform push for royal defamation law violates the constitution

Critics call the verdict against the attempt to change the law another blatant attempt to block the people’s will. The court sees the proposed law as an attempt to overthrow the monarchy. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/31/world/asia/thailand-move-forward-loses-verdict.html

February 2

FT Former PM taps A.I. and TikTok to fight Pakistan election from jail

He is barred from next week’s vote, but the former prime minister is using chatbots and social media to energize his party’s supporters. A.I. voice generation is used to deliver his speeches from notes passed to his lawyers. Digital rallies are hosted and the chatbot on Facebook provides information about local candidates for the February 8 polls. https://www.ft.com/content/7c3c5827-c965-453c-8bd1-d1312e90669a

FT India government outlines record capital expenditure in final pre-election budget

The government plans to raise infrastructure spending and trim fiscal deficit as it touts an economic record. The fraying opposition will try to attack the government for failing to create more jobs for labor market entrants, despite the economic growth. https://www.ft.com/content/c668f539-1717-4c4b-b4d2-e0096ecef16e

February 3

FT The professor vs the PM: a political funding probe shakes the government in Japan

A campaigning academic exposed a scandal that threatens to topple the government. The law professor was able to spot discrepancies between the reporting of money raised by political organizations linked to ruling party politicians through fundraising parties and the revenue that the groups declared to the authorities. https://www.ft.com/content/24ca6ce5-8415-4523-ab49-7ea86615cf82

FT IMF chief expresses confidence in ‘pragmatic’ government of Argentine despite setbacks

The IMF managing director says she is “satisfied” by the libertarian plans of the government amid a congressional pushback. The official sees a capable economic team installed and said the new president recognized the need for “more social protection” for poorer Argentines. https://www.ft.com/content/79b4e7e2-9b1a-4b1b-8ff6-efc6f1bd960c

FT The ‘cult’ of a president: El Salvador’s bitcoin-loving strongman heads for second term

The millennial incumbent president is polling at 82 percent amid a crackdown on alleged gangsters. Critics say thousands are jailed without clear gang links. The former marketing manager has focused on changing the image of the country as poor and violent with headline-grabbing moves. He is a descendant of Palestinian Christian immigrants who built a textiles company.  https://www.ft.com/content/9ec562bd-4aef-4867-9ff0-3bd3194dca3d

FT The president of Slovakia is under pressure to ditch the plan to close the anti-corruption office

The Eurosceptic PM faces street protests and opposition from the parliament and the EU over his judicial overhaul. The president called the plan “inadmissible”. The president can overturn a decision of parliament but a second vote can undo that decision. https://www.ft.com/content/ffcf64bb-0b28-4514-87b1-d70b8601ae8c

FT Yes or no to PM?’: the looming choice for voters in Israel

The political class is positioning for an early election as the veneer of October 7 unity begins to fade. The PM would benefit from success in Gaza. If that does not happen, elections may be forced, particularly if the fighting in Gaza reduces. https://www.ft.com/content/d5693fc7-7c13-4509-a45d-db14423dfe77

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

The February 2024 issue of Evangelical Review of Theology is available via this link: https://theology.worldea.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/ERT-48-1_web.pdf

February 5

The influence of Iran’s leading moderate leader is waning

The pro-reformist’s absence from the running for the Assembly of Experts highlights the hardliner’s grip on power. https://www.ft.com/content/0dcf0275-a271-442f-b69b-f058b0f6a434

FT Burst pipes and freezing flats plague Russia

Soviet utilities are failing in dire need of investment but the government is focused on defense spending. https://www.ft.com/content/81985842-e20a-4f2a-96b6-69aeddbe5109

FT The government in Argentine clashes with a province over its plans to issue its own currency

The olive-growing region of La Rioja issues a bold challenge to the libertarian central government austerity agenda. https://www.ft.com/content/1258d346-87ca-4c6b-9075-e9e741a51708

February 6

FT Ethiopia food crisis threatens ‘humanitarian catastrophe’

According to a western development minister the crisis has been provoked by drought as well as by a two-year civil war. The head of the federal government’s Disaster Risk Management Commission, said: “The information that the drought has escalated to famine is unfounded and is being propagated by entities with hidden agendas.” https://www.ft.com/content/7f2656fd-1dcd-4f5e-9ea9-5554710899c6

FT A constitutional crisis looms in Senegal after the president delays the election

Opposition groups denounce the ‘constitutional coup’ that jeopardizes democracy in the stable west African country. The delay was announced on Saturday “because of concerns over how the candidates were approved by the Constitutional Council”. Several opposition candidates cannot run as they are imprisoned for “insurrection”. https://www.ft.com/content/68e1959a-91ec-43d8-9b44-9503a46186d6

FT Container cities: Turkey’s earthquake zone one year on

Huge numbers of people still live in temporary shelters despite the pre-election pledge of the president to ‘heal the wounds to a considerable extent’ within 12 months. Engineers and urban planners say that the devastation worsened by lax enforcement of building codes and Turkey’s long history of amnesty programs providing forgiveness for faulty construction. https://www.ft.com/content/8f931f38-7952-44fd-8527-1ef1e402c5e3

FT Government in Poland moves ahead with plans to sack top court judges

The justice minister claims the overhaul is part of Warsaw mending ties with the EU over rule of law. The president (part of the biggest party, now in opposition) can still block a decision of parliament. The reform would then have to wait until presidential elections next year. https://www.ft.com/content/a990c360-e1d1-4554-8444-7c81a0159cc9

FT Russia moves to ban presidential candidate from running against incumbent

The anti-war candidate is in a long-shot bid that has enough supporters ahead of the election in March. The Central Election Commission found a 15 percent error rate in the collected signatures of endorsement. The candidate is going to challenge this. https://www.ft.com/content/54f3ffa0-78a0-4977-968a-78fa66a70e6a

February 7

FT in Italy tensions are flaring over migrant workers

As its population declines and ages, the country is confronting the increased cultural diversity that comes with a dependence on foreign labor. In one town tensions between the mayor and Muslim residents came to a head last year, when the city banned prayers at the local Islamic center that had been held for 20 years. https://www.ft.com/content/45d12b10-1485-4f30-a7c5-1718a11022aa

FT In Thailand the PM clashes with the central bank governor over $14bn handout plan

The stalemate over the move to issue one-off payments to low-income citizens complicates the forecasts for the country’s economic recovery. This e-wallet system has been plagued by questions over how to pay for it and its rollout is delayed. https://www.ft.com/content/4cb030db-32fa-4cae-947a-8905f87d359d

FT In Pakistan political dynasties jockey for power in an election lacking the popular frontrunner

The incoming government will face an economic crisis but lacks a popular mandate for much-needed reforms, analysts warn. Last month, the Supreme Court overturned a lifetime ban on people with criminal convictions from contesting elections, a decision widely seen as paving the way for a former PM to return to power (see January 10). https://www.ft.com/content/6982fea8-e619-4574-b9ea-fda2abcb684c

FT In Senegal the police ejects opposition MPs from parliament after a vote to delay election

The government’s move to postpone the election sparks protests in the capital. The delay bill was introduced by an opposition lawmaker from a party that voted alongside the ruling coalition in the eventual vote. https://www.ft.com/content/e8364da9-90d4-4c2c-86ab-5b2a67b3a4ac

FT In war torn Gaza citizens search in vain for medicines

Cancer, diabetes and heart disease patients are among those facing chronic shortage of treatments. “Like other kinds of humanitarian supplies, medicines do not enter Gaza in sufficient quantities to meet the need,” said the International Committee of the Red Cross in Gaza. https://www.ft.com/content/1cd7faf1-5850-474c-b3e2-98b25ff00061

TT India prepares to pass uniform civil code overturning sharia law

The draft “uniform civil code” forces Indians of all faiths to subscribe to the same laws on marriage, divorce and inheritance — banning polygamy and giving women and men equal rights to inherit. It is rolled out in a 10 mn citizens state but a federal minister wants to bring it to the federal parliament as “promoting the unity of the country”. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/india-prepares-to-pass-law-overturning-sharia-in-muslim-crackdown-3fxngt3fg

NYT Cult leader in Kenya is charged in the deaths of 191 children

When he preached that the world was about to end, many of his believers starved themselves to death. He has now been charged along with 29 others. The country’s interior minister last week declared the pastor’s church, Good News International Ministries, “an organized criminal group”. The accused was a taxi driver who reinvented himself as an evangelical pastor about two decades ago. The president of the country, an evangelical Christian, compared the episode to “terrorism” and appointed a commission to investigate the deaths. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/06/world/africa/kenyan-cult-leader-charged.html

February 8

FT The U.S.A. should not allow its trade program with Africa to die

In an Op-ed a director of an NGO Africa program argues that the so-called Growth and Opportunity Act should be reimagined and made fit for an era of renewed great power competition. The author proposes to rebrand the program to “Strategic Economic Partnership with Africa” to convey the shift from a quasi-aid instrument to a strategic trade partnership fit for today’s geopolitical realities. https://www.ft.com/content/9a758373-4c5b-40e7-859e-04e5beaa7e4f

FT Zambia raises hopes it will complete its long-delayed debt restructuring

The finance minister says that the dispute over the bondholder deal could be resolved in the first half of the year. Setting a time-line would be imprudent. Creditors complain on the terms offered for relieving their debts. The country works with a company from the gulf to finalize the debt problem. https://www.ft.com/content/6120619e-899c-4262-8580-36778850493c

FT Argentina’s congress deals a setback to the new government’s reform bill

The government withdrew legislation from the lower house’s floor after the opposition lawmakers rejected measures, whereas the week before they agreed to the whole package. The government called that “betrayal”. https://www.ft.com/content/d916ff3e-b9a8-4ce9-b4a8-6de350106863

FT China removes its head of market regulator as it battles a stock meltdown

The securities commission chair is seen as a ‘scapegoat’ for the plunge in share prices in recent months. The senior party official is replaced by an official who made a name for himself cracking down on brokerages. https://www.ft.com/content/d4b5d691-8a45-4545-9b31-86e1bccbe116

FT In the Netherlands rightwing election winner struggles to find coalition partners for government

One of the other parties walked out of the talks after new information emerged about the financial position of the country. https://www.ft.com/content/099f0264-78a9-4fe4-8053-45d055975929

TT Ecuador becomes the second Latin American state to allow euthanasia

The move came as a response to a legal claim of a terminally ill patient that was passed by the constitutional court. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/ecuador-becomes-second-latin-american-state-to-allow-euthanasia-wxm3p05ss

February 9

FT West Africa should protect its fisheries from foreign fleets

Responding to a newspaper “Big Read”, see February 1, the Chief Scientist of the NGO Oceana in a letter to the editor advocates for protection of indigenous fishery. This will help rebuild critical fish stocks, protect artisanal fishers and processors, and work towards long-term sustainability of the sector, ensuring livelihoods and nutrition security. https://www.ft.com/content/5ffdf85b-a25d-4ff2-b55e-1af0184c50fc

FT Senegal’s ‘constitutional coup’ is part of a global democratic backsliding

The west African country is missing its election deadline. This has repercussions beyond its borders. The coup was milder than those of neighbors where weak leaders were elbowed aside by soldiers. The author, the newspaper’s Africa editor, concludes that perhaps that makes it even more significant. https://www.ft.com/content/c650b8cb-23b0-43a2-be9f-8243336642ca

FT Turkey central bank chief warns of new short-term price pressures

The official says some of the government’s policies are complicating the task of taming inflation. His predecessor resigned last Friday, blaming a smear campaign against her in the domestic media. https://www.ft.com/content/7200a1a9-f8d9-4161-bdf9-e215b76c4175

FT Ecuador arrests 6,000 people in month-long gang crackdown

The government escalates the ‘internal armed conflict’ as violence continues to roil the Andean country. The president can be compared with his colleague in El Salvador, see February 3, also a millennial and very popular among the population. https://www.ft.com/content/2a61dacb-0ec0-489a-9c12-8adb5b45aec7

FT In Brazil the former president is ordered to surrender his passport in a ‘coup plot’ probe

Three aides to the former president were arrested as the police set out details of an alleged plan to prevent the current administration taking office after the 2022 polls. https://www.ft.com/content/e51a8b98-96e1-4b2f-bdd0-e2439cd8cef4

FT Government in Ukraine dismisses the head of the armed forces

The move follows months of tensions between the president and the top commander. https://www.ft.com/content/b48ddc17-9384-490e-b3c4-a9d2ae2a72db

February 10

FT The incumbent kicks off the pivotal South Africa election campaign

In his State of the Nation address the president promises land for the poor and action on infrastructure ahead of an expected close-fought election. Though the president did not announce the date of the election, the country’s 27.5mn registered voters could head to the polls as early as May or as late as August. An opposition politician called the announced plans “a work of fiction”. https://www.ft.com/content/cc950b43-fbb5-4e84-8506-210b1ffd6665

FT Senegal cast into turmoil by  a ‘shockwave’ constitutional crisis

One of Africa’s most stable democracies reels after the election postponement to replace the president who served his maximum terms. With the opposition favorite in jail the president reiterated his “solemn commitment” he would not stand again. On the streets there were riots, while parliament voted to delay the election until December. https://www.ft.com/content/a6ca92be-52a1-4f2e-aae3-a1f748ec5294

FT Ivory Coast’s football ‘Zombies’ eye an improbable Afcon victory

The team of the host country overcame the odds to take their place alongside Nigeria in the African Cup of Nations final. The Afcon tournament, which cost an estimated $1bn to organize, has been a celebration of African football at its most dynamic, with a new record for goals scored in the competition’s history. https://www.ft.com/content/3939399b-ca6a-41f4-8253-ccf0a28b288e

FT Loyalists of the jailed former president win a shock victory in the Pakistan election

The so-called independents from the jailed former PM’s party will be the largest group in parliament but will struggle to form a government . They defied a military-backed campaign of arrests and harassment to mount an unexpected bid for power in the country of 240mn. They won 97 seats, compared to 66 seats for the party of the competing presidential candidate and 51 seats for the party of an assassinated former PM. https://www.ft.com/content/35a6dd5b-2924-40ad-a650-004ec6379e00

NYT A friar became the Vatican’s go-to guy on A.I.

He advises the Roman Catholic Church on the tricky questions, moral and otherwise, raised by the rapidly advancing technology. At a conference organized by the ancient Knights of Malta order, an observer to the UN, the ethics professor told a crowd of ambassadors that “global governance is needed, otherwise a social collapse is risked ”. He does not believe in the industry’s ability to self-regulate and thinks some rules of the road are required in a world where deep fakes and disinformation can erode democracy. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/09/world/europe/italy-artificial-intelligence-ethics.html

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

The International Institute for Religious Freedom launches the Violent Incidents Database. https://iirf.global/news/the-iirf-launches-the-violent-incidents-database/

February 12

FT Greece set to defy the Orthodox tradition and legalize gay marriage

The law backed by the center-right government will formalize same-sex unions and parenthood. The government needs the support of the opposition since part of the ruling party is against the new law. And so is the Orthodox church to which 80 percent of the Greeks belong. The church decided to abandon the protest plans as it “did not want to divide the country”. https://www.ft.com/content/6fddfacf-5eca-4a5c-95fb-b49f08d3ceb2

FT Outgoing president in Indonesia still rises high in approval ratings

After a decade of stability in a country not known for it, his performance will be a hard act to follow. He could have run his terms on his populist features, like his modest youth, but he chose to focus on the country’s unity. https://www.ft.com/content/1e1179f6-1977-4b01-82a2-4ea32b3393ae

FT Pakistan plunges into power vacuum after former PM defies election odds from jail

The success for the former PM’s supporters standing as independents as their party was banned, deals a blow to the military establishment and heralds more instability for the nuclear power in financial trouble. It is said that the election result represents a rare repudiation of the powerful army’s long-running manipulation of elections. The other parties swiftly began coalition talks. https://www.ft.com/content/4b38857e-ffcd-46fe-aa90-6c4b3551fda4

FT In the U.S.A. gambling city Las Vegas diversifies itself as a sports arena

Back in 1970 the city decided otherwise but now it is pushing to expand the economy into higher-productivity sectors. The recent Super Bowl and attending girlfriend of a player, also an entertainment superstar, pushed publicity to the highest levels. https://www.ft.com/content/566bbcd8-4f94-42f4-9b40-1ccaef37fd39

February 13

FT Is football in Brazil the next frontier in global sport?

The country is unrivalled as a talent factory, but its clubs are barely known overseas. International investors hope a new league could change that. It would include a new league modelled on English football and is aimed at tapping the potential of sport as a peaceful and profitable activity. https://www.ft.com/content/eea1962a-ae17-4d92-9fe8-d5407c17f2a6

FT Anatomy of a coup plot: how Brazil’s former president tried to cling to power

The police say the far-right former leader and his allies had a detailed scheme to prevent his successor from taking office. After his competitor won the vote in October 2022, the plot fizzled out because the outgoing president feared that he did not have enough support from the army. https://www.ft.com/content/97582a42-cad7-467a-8f52-9b02d6d5dc16

FT How low will rates go? The hunt for the elusive ‘neutral’ level

Economists debate whether the real interest rate seen as key to balancing economies has risen from the pre-Covid lows. The so-called neutral rate, defined as keeping economies growing steadily, with full employment and inflation around 2 per cent, is not a holy grail. In the past decade it was influenced by productivity growth, savings and in the west ageing population. https://www.ft.com/content/e0f27da0-b735-4b73-b5a9-06dbc186842f

FT Finland elects a new president

“This is the greatest honor of my life,” he said as he declared victory. “We are facing a new era in foreign policy where rules are being challenged, and there is a war next door.” https://www.ft.com/content/ce3aa2f8-c77a-4a0a-8f22-9113ffbe4608

February 14

FT From banned general to dancing grandpa: how Indonesia’s favorite to lead the election emerged

The support from his popular predecessor has lifted the 72-year-old, once barred from the U.S.A. over human rights concerns. Polls indicate he may win without a runoff among the more than 204 Mn citizens eligible to vote, about half of them younger than 40. He is the son-in-law of a past dictator and ran a soft campaign focusing on the young. He took the 36 year old son of the incumbent as running mate, see also January 25. https://www.ft.com/content/0e365a05-e87e-4cd1-a2b9-09e843e9403a

TT Farmers tear gassed by drones in fight to reach capital of India

The police and paramilitaries have ringed the city with concrete to prevent a siege by the protesters. The protests are a repeat of action in 2020 and 2021 against agricultural reforms, when farmers camped on the city’s borders for a year, to demand, among other things, that the government set a minimum price for their crops. The government promised to repeal planned reforms, but did not keep this promise. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/delhi-behind-barricades-as-farmers-march-on-capital-again-fwnpdvkqt

NYT Its forces depleted, Myanmar junta says it will enforce a military draft

Three years after it took power in a coup, the regime appears to be on the defensive. The shadow civilian government, the National Unity Government, headed by ethnic leaders and ousted elected officials, says that its forces have seized hundreds of military outposts and 41 cities and towns in upper Myanmar since late October. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/13/world/asia/myanmar-junta-military-draft.html

February 15

FT India opposition alliance (INDIA) fractures as support for incumbent soars

The coalition seeking to unseat the successful PM is hit by infighting, defections and arrests. While the ruling party aims at a “super majority” in the next election, the opposition complains that the government weaponizes the judiciary. Lack of unity is a sure threat to the opposition. https://www.ft.com/content/890aec31-fa87-405c-a5d4-d9f10687dac8

FT Ghana replaces finance minister who negotiated $3bn IMF bailout

The dismissal is seen as the ruling party’s attempt to draw a line under the economic debacle. It is linked to the election of December. Protesters focus on the economic problems. Inflation is on the rise. https://www.ft.com/content/34ce1229-94d4-44ef-a4d0-d491e67fbb56

NYT Opponents of jailed former PM in Pakistan reach a deal to shut his allies out of government

After days of wrangling, two parties run by political dynasties joined forces and will nominate a formerly acquitted PM to be the country’s PM. In a stunning upset, candidates allied with the jailed former PM routed the two longstanding major parties, defying a months long military crackdown on their own party and delivering a sharp rebuke to the country’s military. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/14/world/asia/pakistan-election-coalition-government.html

February 16

FT Supreme Court in India strikes down fundraising scheme in a blow to the government

The envisioned electoral bonds could lead to ‘quid pro quo’ relationships between donors and politicians, according to the top court. The court decision struck down the country’s main legal mechanism for corporate and individual donations to political parties, introduced in 2017 to fight corruption. Opposition politicians and an NGO had petitioned the ruling. https://www.ft.com/content/cbc04ebd-2faf-48f2-917f-1e5a2bb64dd8

FT What the presidential election win in Indonesia means

The former general is expected to adopt a more populist stance than his predecessor, Analysts said the relationship with the incumbent — former electoral foes turned allies — would be critical for the direction of the incoming administration. https://www.ft.com/content/77c92c62-68a1-48b0-9c8b-73ba85e56f74

February 17

FT Pakistan’s old guard confronts shock upset to jailed PM in Punjab heartland

The surge for the jailed former PM’s candidates in the traditional base for dynastic parties could weaken the incoming ruling coalition of minorities. https://www.ft.com/content/74e278ac-8a4c-4c10-a899-7a16d38f38de

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

WEA contributed to the Global 2033 International Leaders’ Summit in Poland: https://worldea.org/news/25523/global-2033-international-leaders-summit-in-krakow-poland/

February 19

FT Citizens in Russia risk arrest to mourn death in custody of opposition leader

The small, unsanctioned Moscow gathering was just one of the many spontaneous vigils for the opposition leader that sprung up in hundreds of cities over the weekend. Across Russia, more than 340 people had been arrested at memorials in the 24 hours following the news of the death. In St Petersburg an Orthodox priest was detained after he announced he would hold a memorial service for the deceased. https://www.ft.com/content/236e5702-5fff-4bf8-aa00-aadf91e36bf9

FT South Africa central bank chief signals caution on rate cuts

The banker says inflation still poses a risk, even as other emerging markets start to loosen policy. “The growth challenges that South Africa is facing have nothing to do with the demand side but instead reflect supply-side and structural problems”, he said. https://www.ft.com/content/b9e4e476-80a5-4334-b986-234dc53a3766

FT Inside the divisive campaign of the new government to restore democracy in Poland

The PM is using an ‘iron broom’ to sweep aside the influence of the previous government, but critics question whether he is going too far. The change of administration has become a case study for how a newly elected administration can restore the norms and institutions that got reshaped or erased by the previous government. The new PM claimed a moral victory as soon as he saw the exit poll, closing the door on any kind of reconciliation and dealmaking. https://www.ft.com/content/e3b10baf-c508-4af1-ad25-8188cf60b174

February 20

FT The wife of Haiti’s assassinated president is accused in his killing

The widow was charged by a Haitian judge with conspiring in his assassination. She was seriously injured in the attack. The 122 page indictment states that she and other accomplices gave statements that were contradicted by other witnesses, suggesting that they were complicit in the killing. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/19/world/americas/haiti-assassinated-president-wife-accused.html

FT Can the Olympics rejuvenate one of the poorest corners of France?

The authorities hope an Olympic Village can transform a Paris suburb known for poverty, crime and violent riots. “The issue is how do you transform no-go zones into welcome zones,” said the Socialist mayor. There is heavy investment in the area to accommodate the games. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/20/world/europe/france-olympics-paris-st-denis-poverty-immigrants.html

February 21

FT Scale of crisis created by Sudan’s ‘hidden’ war alarms refugee chief

The internal conflict has been largely ignored due to the Ukraine and Gaza wars, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council chief: “This is mind-boggling if you believe in human civilization and progress. Those who wage war do not lack resources.” The head of OCHA, the UN humanitarian arm, recently told the FT that: “Sudan is probably the place of the greatest suffering” in the world because of what he called a “hidden war”. https://www.ft.com/content/d06c3638-c1d9-45e2-8661-16f0e4100ef0

FT Widow of opposition leader takes on the struggle against the government of Russia

After two decades of shunning the limelight, the widow becomes the face of her late husband’s activist movement. In a video she stated: “I was by his side all these years: elections, protests, house arrest, searches, detention, prison, poisoning, protests again, arrest again and prison again.” https://www.ft.com/content/3810f09d-2a21-4bc4-84a7-7bfde547a2a1

February 23

FT South Africa to tap $8bn from foreign currency account to pay down debts

The move comes ahead of a general election as the ruling party seeks to quell unease at its handling of the economy. The government heads into general elections on May 29 with public finances strained by weak growth and a shortfall in revenue due to the impact of rolling blackouts and blockages at South African ports. https://www.ft.com/content/e1df3bc2-f6ef-4169-a396-5ad926fdf3b5

FT Pirates in Somalia and West Africa are targeting ships diverted from the Red Sea, warns the UN shipping chief

The maritime body fears resurgence of vessel seizures in the Gulf of Guinea and off the Somali coast after fresh piracy incidents. “We don’t have the capability to provide security ourselves,” the CEO of the IMO said. “We’re reliant on support from member states.” https://www.ft.com/content/a4abcbac-a608-4450-908b-a8d903c8d884

FT How Pakistan’s economy fell into crisis

High debt, low growth and raging inflation will challenge a new government lacking a public mandate, as was demonstrated in the election. The newspaper reveals a detailed economic oversight. https://www.ft.com/content/fbdf57c2-cce4-4c35-827a-1528899f5fb7

February 24

FT The troubling decline in the global fertility rate

The newspaper dedicates an editorial to this issue. Developed economies need to be better prepared for a drop in younger workers. But by the end of this century almost every country in the world could have a shrinking population. All this despite people getting much older. Immigration could be a solution, but the politics of it remains difficult. And it is only a short-term option to propping up workforces with developing countries set to age too. https://www.ft.com/content/008a1341-1882-4b98-83d4-0d7dc08a4134

FT Senegal leader vows to step down at end of his term in April

The president aims to set a date for the election next week after his decision to delay the poll sparked a constitutional crisis (see February 10). In a televised interview late on Thursday, the president vowed to leave office at the end of his second term on April 2. Earlier parliament voted to extend his term until December 15, but the constitutional council last week declared the decision making unlawful. https://www.ft.com/content/e50b07be-a835-4251-9e76-4b9d074a1ad8

TT Who owns the moon? Lawyers are getting nervous

The landing of the private spacecraft Odysseus this week highlights a vacuum in humanity’s lunar rules. “Anything goes on the moon for peaceful exploration right now,” said one space law expert. The Outer Space Treaty of 1967, negotiated by the United Nations, requires its 114 signatories to show due regard to one another and exercise responsibility in space. The expert said the treaty contained “so many gaps”. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/who-owns-the-moon-lawyers-are-getting-nervous-h8h32l2nv

NYT Africa’s donkeys are coveted by China. Can the continent protect them?

Governments are seeking to curb donkey skin exports to China, where demand for traditional medicine and other products is threatening animals that rural households in Africa need. For years, Chinese companies and their contractors have been slaughtering millions of donkeys across Africa, coveting gelatin from the animals’ hides that is processed into traditional medicines, popular sweets and beauty products in China. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/23/world/africa/africa-donkey-china.html

News from the World Evangelical Alliance

The WEA children network will gather from the 29th in Thailand: https://www.christiandaily.com/asia/forum-to-address-key-issues-provide-hope-amid-global-crises.html

February 26

FT Citizens’ assemblies could help repair toxic political cultures

Reflecting on political polarization in Britain in an Op-ed the author discusses citizens’ assemblies. They do not replace parliaments — and certainly shouldn’t allow politicians to swerve accountability. But they could help forge a braver politics, in which parliament works with the public to navigate the trickiest questions of a nation. https://www.ft.com/content/6de680af-834e-4a14-a3f3-38b277b5d472

FT The forgotten war in Sudan

The newspaper dedicates its editorial to the conflict that is a threat to regional stability — and millions of lives. Some 2mn people have fled Khartoum alone. In all, some 8mn Sudanese have been driven from their homes, nearly a quarter of whom have left the country. Diplomatic efforts are stalled, not least through the fact that the conflict is influenced by foreign powers. The newspaper refers to what it calls “a side show”: a report in The Guardian that Ukrainian forces are fighting Russian mercenaries in the country. https://www.ft.com/content/2c02cb6a-552b-478a-9b66-0d0bd5fe92d5

FT In India ruling party taps influencers ahead of India election

The party is ‘massively ahead’ of its rivals in using social media stars to boost support among the young. Social media stars offer a particularly valuable chance to connect with young people in India, a country where two-thirds of the 1.4bn population is under 35 and that has more YouTube and Instagram subscribers than any other country. https://www.ft.com/content/dc383dfa-6d94-4a21-b2b7-0bb49daedfde

FT Controlled Belarus elections set to cement regime’s grip on power

The exiled opposition and pro-democracy groups condemn the local and parliamentary polls as farcical. It is the first time in four years the ballot is cast after the contested 2020 presidential elections which prompted large-scale protests that confronted the dictator president. A brutal crackdown followed. The choice this week is between four regime friendly parties. https://www.ft.com/content/651c1766-7237-4e3d-ab3c-6f1f7c76cc92

February 27

FT Ecowas fails to persuade Niger junta to release former leader

He remains under house arrest despite the bloc lifting sanctions on the country. Ecowas is seeking to dissuade the three junta-controlled countries of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger from leaving the bloc after they threatened a joint withdrawal last month. https://www.ft.com/content/f531f38d-ab12-4f87-87be-8b4ee7c1ccf1

FT Nigeria’s economic crisis puts fuel subsidies removal under scrutiny

Many are questioning the wisdom of abruptly eliminating the subsidies without a shock-absorbing plan. The IMF had advised compensation measures for the poor. https://www.ft.com/content/29752a06-adea-4175-b278-22e0632c375a

FT China’s plans to reshape world trade on its own terms

Friction with the west has prompted the country to build its own alternative system focused on developing nations. At the accession of the country to the WTO in 2001 its president warned that America’s real motive was to “westernize and divide socialist countries”. Based on the Belt and Road Initiative the country builds alternatives. The EU warned against unfair trade policies. https://www.ft.com/content/c51622e1-35c6-4ff8-9559-2350bfd2a5c1

FT Glitch leaves U.S.A. university students in the dark about cost of studies

The malfunctions in the financial aid system raises the fears that lower income applicants will pull out of university. Nearly 400 universities have delayed the traditional May 1 deadline for accepting places for the next academic year. https://www.ft.com/content/be80dc02-a439-4f5e-99e7-0dafe384b813

FT PM of Palestinian Authority resigns

The politician says different arrangements are necessary to address the ‘new reality in Gaza’ and the need for national consensus. The two Palestinian territories split apart after Hamas’s violent takeover of the coastal enclave in 2007. The president instructed the PM and his ministers to continue in a caretaker capacity until a new government is formed.  https://www.ft.com/content/495b0a48-9f90-4ddd-9c7b-1efb148d3f3d

FT Israel plans $60bn debt raising and tax rises to fuel defense spending

The country also plans to freeze government hiring. The war shrank the economy by 20 percent. The finance ministry accountant general says the demobilization of reservists will boost the economy. https://www.ft.com/content/b84aae92-3bbb-49db-b021-befbeb0fb0f1

FT Chairperson of Republican party in U.S.A. resigns as former president solidifies his party control

The resignation sets up the prospect of a leadership team that could include the former president’s daughter-in-law. She is said to be destined for co-chair. https://www.ft.com/content/0c7d62af-dc28-4697-93cd-2e1eb1d1bc77

FT Brazil rolls out dengue vaccines as cases rise sharply

Infections have quadrupled from last year after warnings that warming temperatures will increase cases. Argentina and Paraguay have also reported a surge in dengue cases. The number of dengue cases typically peaks in April before tapering off. https://www.ft.com/content/bb78b972-83d9-4809-9fd2-84c6af42904a

February 28

FT Nigeria raises interest rates to 22.75%

The new central bank governor aims to tackle the soaring inflation after the cut back of fuel subsidy and stem the national currency slide. He also advocated to improve agricultural production. Security concerns caused by jihadist insurgents, criminal gangs and conflict between nomadic herders and farmers have driven many farmers from their plots in northern Nigeria. https://www.ft.com/content/708812c0-34a3-469e-ada5-038ff0f48831

FT The problem with the U.S.A. politico-entertainment complex

Why moderate to win power when life is cushier in opposition? In most western democracies, the defeated can go on to make a living in business. America is almost unique in being able to keep election-losers in handsome employment within politics. There is more income, less stress and often larger audiences to be had as a touring windbag than as a minister. This makes an important check on extremism fall away. https://www.ft.com/content/61829797-170b-4194-8579-35b9b8f71887

FT Russia jails activist as government widens crackdown on critics

The former head of the banned rights group Memorial is handed a 30-month sentence for an anti-war article. The convicted: “The state controls not only the public, political and economic life. It also seeks total control over culture, over scientific thought and invades private life.” https://www.ft.com/content/7e69a3e4-b3df-449c-ac66-89e59271d9a8

NYT Hunger, terrorism and the threat of war: Somalia’s year of crises

Terrorism, hunger and devastating floods have roiled the Horn of Africa nation. The country recently signed security deals with Turkey, the U.S.A. and Uganda. It faces an even bigger challenge: the prospect of war with a neighbor, Ethiopia. This country signed a preliminary deal with Somaliland, a province and self-declared breakaway republic. It allows landlocked Ethiopia commercial and naval access to the sea. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/27/world/africa/somalia-ethiopia-al-shabab-conflict.html

February 29

FT Billionaire forms an unlikely alliance with Mexico’s leftist leader

The telecoms magnate and the president share their interest in history, baseball and mega-projects. Over decades the two aging men have formed a close, if unlikely, partnership. It enabled the entrepreneur to benefit hugely as a monopolist or oligopolist. He successfully avoided claims after a construction collapse implicated his company. https://www.ft.com/content/9f61d2f5-e973-4933-a9ac-1baa9d5e73fe

FT South Korean doctors’ strike exposes tensions over ageing population

The physicians complain of overwork and low pay as the healthcare system faces a looming demographic crisis. The country has among the lowest number of doctors per head in the developed world. https://www.ft.com/content/6ceebcc4-558d-4bd2-b347-cb7b42c86ebf