Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

Giving in to Ali Baba

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I once paid a cop 30 ringgit (about $10 then) for making an apparently illegal left-hand turn in Kuala Lumpur. Scores of drivers in front of me were also handing over their “instant fines”, discreetly enclosed within the policeman’s ticketing folder. It was days ahead of a major holiday and the cops were collecting their holiday bonus from the public.

Malaysia opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim holds a disc he says contains evidence of judge-fixing in Malaysia 

I felt bad about this, of course. What I was doing was illegal, immoral and perpetuating an insidious culture that goes by many names in the East — “baksheesh” in India, “Ali Baba” (and his 40 thieves) in Malaysia, “swap” in Indonesia (means “to feed”).  But the policeman pointed out I would have to take off the good part of a day to go to court and pay 10 times as much to the judge. So I rationalised: “When in Rome…”

Alas it was not the first time, nor would it be the last that I have (ahem) paid an “informal levy” to officialdom. I’ve given baksheesh to the phone company in India to get a telephone installed, and to get a driver’s license without a test (no wonder there are so many accidents in India.)  I’ve paid the immigration officer at Jakarta airport to let me in with a nearly expired passport.

What will be the shape of the world’s new financial order?

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A man protests outside the New York Stock Exchange October 13, 2008. Governments around the world bet hundreds of billions of dollars to rescue failing banks on Monday, sending world stocks soaring and giving Wall Street its biggest one-day gain ever. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton (UNITED STATES)The global financial crisis has produced broad agreement that the world needs a new financial architecture, but world leaders are a long way from reaching agreement on what shape it should take.

Many countries have rescue plans to support banks and unfreeze credit markets. The United States has set in motion reforms to change the relationship between Washington and Wall Street.

Does crisis give China new opportunity in Africa?

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chinese-workers-in-kenya.jpgWith the West reeling from the financial crisis and pulling back some of its investment in Africa, could China step into the breach and expand its footprint on the continent - a presence that already worries Western powers?

On the face of it, China, which is relatively unscathed by the crisis, has a golden opportunity to exploit Western disarray and increase its financial and political penetration of the continent. Already there are signs that Africans are starting to look away from the West and towards other emerging markets, especially China, as they watch the banking chaos in the traditional capitalist markets.

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