The Great Debate UK

from The Great Debate:

Ukraine’s Protests: Not (yet) a revolution

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In the three weeks since Ukraine formally suspended talks aimed at signing an Association Agreement with the European Union, two important facts have become clear.

First, it is now apparent that Ukraine's president, Viktor Yanukovich, had no effective strategy to resist intense pressure against the EU deal from Moscow. The Kremlin promised big cash loans, a gas discount and debt forgiveness, while explicitly threatening to block Ukraine's access to the Russian market and implicitly threatening to stoke separatism in regions of the country.

Second, as street demonstrations gain momentum in Kiev and other cities, it has become clear that a strong, diverse and increasingly vocal plurality of Ukrainians will not accept their country's continued isolation from the West. The authorities have confronted street protestors with shocking violence, and have offered no significant political concessions. Yet the prospect of real reform driven by the EU association has now become a key symbol for Ukraine’s national identity.

Though these two basic dynamics may appear to confirm the cliche of Ukraine "caught between East and West," Ukrainians themselves do not see it this way.

from The Great Debate:

Mandela and De Klerk: Essential partners

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When Nelson Mandela and South African President F.W. De Klerk began their historic negotiations to end apartheid, each man professed respect for the other. Indeed their relationship appeared not only professional, but personal.

Yet as the negotiations dragged on through 1992 and 1993, tempers grew short, and South Africans grew increasingly frustrated with the slow progress toward the liberation that had seemed so promising just a few years ago. Most worrisome, violence was growing between the supporters of Mandela’s political party, the African National Congress, and Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Inkhatha Freedom Party.

from The Great Debate:

On meeting Mandela

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Journalists are not easily impressed. We pride ourselves on our skepticism. (Most advisable of us, may I add.)

But I confess to having been in awe of Nelson Mandela, and not just in theory. I met him, spent about an hour with him -- or, to put it more accurately, I spent about an hour in his presence.

from The Great Debate:

Mandela’s message of reconciliation

On the day that Nelson Mandela was elected as South Africa’s first black president, I drove across the fault lines of segregated suburbia to watch his fellow citizens vote him into office.

In the mixed-race “Malay Quarter” in central Cape Town -- named for the residents descended from the Malaysian and Indonesian slaves brought to the city in the 17th and 18th centuries -- joyous residents thronged the streets outside the polling stations.

Only paying teachers more will raise Britain to the top of the class

–Vikas Pota is chief executive of the Varkey GEMS Foundation. The opinions expressed are his own.–

It was results day yesterday for education ministers around the world, and where they’ve come in the class will affect their prospects just as surely as a sixth-former opening their brown envelope. Nowhere around the world will the wait have been more nail-biting than in Michael Gove’s Department for Education.

Bank of England’s focus on growth might stir ghost of inflation

–Darren Williams is Senior European Economist at AllianceBernstein. The opinions expressed are his own.–

The Bank of England appears to have moved the goalposts. After 30 years of focusing almost exclusively on inflation, monetary policy is now being more explicitly directed toward generating faster growth and lower unemployment.

from The Great Debate:

Longer lives would lead to better living

Last week, the United States Food and Drug Administration ordered the Google-backed genetic testing company 23andMe to stop selling its home testing kits, arguing that the possibility of false positive readings for potentially fatal or debilitating conditions could prompt people to take unnecessary and potentially fatal medical action. The FDA should now work quickly to develop standards so that 23andMe and companies like it can get back to their vital businesses of working to extend the human life span.

Looking at the challenges facing us, you’d be forgiven for thinking that long lives are a problem. Humans face food shortages, the effects of climate change, and potential overcrowding on a global scale, as well as developed world retirement and healthcare systems that are ill-equipped to serve the needs of too many Methuselahs. But these problems might be more the result of short-term thinking rather than long-lived lives. The economist John Maynard Keynes once remarked, “In the long run, we are all dead.” We may have taken that too much to heart.

Happy Birthday, texting: 21 today

–Iain Regan is global head of sales, marketing and customer management at Firstsource Solutions. The opinions expressed are his own.–

Text messaging feels like such a contemporary part of our lives that it is hard to believe that SMS is today marking its 21st anniversary. On 3 December 1992, Neil Papworth, a 22 year old test engineer for Sema Group in the UK used a PC to send the text message “Merry Christmas” via the Vodafone network to the phone of Richard Jarvis in Newbury.

from The Great Debate:

Don’t miss the boat on trade facilitation

Trade ministers open their meeting in Bali Tuesday with the aim of creating a new multilateral trade reform package worth more than $100 billion to the global economy. The deal -- focusing on measures to cut red tape at borders -- would be a welcome shot in the arm for both global trade and for the World Trade Organization itself.

This may come as a surprise to some. Indeed, you could be forgiven for thinking that the Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations had quietly died after a 10-year struggle. But in fact, work has continued in the World Trade Organization -- and in capitals around the world -- to capture some of the gains from what was once billed as the most ambitious trade round ever. The first multilateral trade agreement in almost 20 years now stands tantalizingly within reach.

Sterling destined for safe haven status (at least in the short term)

–Torben Kaaber is CEO of Saxo Capital Markets UK. The opinions expressed are his own.–

Sterling may not be a currency that investors immediately associate with safe haven status. Typically, safe havens in the currency world have been the triad of the U.S. dollar, the Swiss franc and the Japanese yen.

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