The Great Debate UK

A bet against Castro’s immortality

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REUTERS– Neil Collins is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

LONDON, April 23 (Reuters) – “Practically everyone who follows Latin American events agrees that Castro’s end is near.” Thus one Laurence W Tuller, writing in 1994 in his manual on high-risk, high-reward investing. Defaulted Cuban government bonds had jumped on hopes of a settlement to allow the country back into the international capital markets.
Today, former leader Fidel Castro’s end is 15 years nearer, but he’s still there, albeit in semi-retirement, and holders of these pre-Castro bonds with a face value of around $200 billion are still waiting. Castro’s regime kept good records, but have paid no interest, and ignored redemption dates since his revolution half a century ago.
Few Americans can remember why their administration has been so beastly to Cuba for so long.
Those who can mostly live in Florida, a key swing state, and many risked everything to get out of Cuba. They do not want to see their investment devalued by hordes of their former compatriots simply walking off the Delta Airlines flight from Havana.
Last week U.S. President Barack Obama eased the squeeze somewhat. Americans can now visit Cuba, but only if they have relatives there.
This gesture has re-ignited the bondholders’ old hopes. Past settlements of defaulted sovereign bonds have tended to pay about half the total of accrued interest plus principal, so the buyers see plenty of upside.
Exotix, a specialist trader in “frontier markets”, says its price for a typical Cuban bond instrument has risen from around 9 cents on the dollar at the start of this month to 14 cents on April 23.
Mind you, the spread is wide, the market thin and as events crowd in on the President, he might feel there are more pressing problems than to risk upsetting those key-voting Floridian Cubans.

from The Great Debate:

Obama mulls cap-and-trade by decree

John Kemp Great Debate-- John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

Senior U.S. administration officials have indicated that if Congress does not pass comprehensive legislation providing for a cap-and-trade system to regulate greenhouse gas emissions they will press ahead unilaterally with proposals using the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s existing authority under the Clean Air Act.

This is an attempt to gain political leverage after deep divisions within the Democratic Party appeared when 26 Democratic senators rebelled earlier this month and voted for an amendment to the budget resolution barring cap-and-trade being considered as part of the budget.

from The Great Debate:

G20 ends Anglo-Saxon era

Paul Taylor Great Debate

-- Paul Taylor is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

Thursday's G20 summit may not mark the end or even the beginning of the end of the global recession. It did mark the end of the ascendancy of the unfettered, Anglo-Saxon model of capitalism.

What comes next is far from sure, but it will be different from the headlong dash for individual enrichment, short-term profit and financial acrobatics that began with the dominance of U.S. President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. The widespread acceptance of increased regulation would have been anathema for U.S. President Barack Obama's predecessors.

from The Great Debate:

Obama honeymoon ends in Europe

Robin Shepherd

-- Robin Shepherd is Director, International Affairs at the Henry Jackson Society. His areas of expertise are transatlantic relations, American foreign policy, Middle Eastern relations with the West, Russia, eastern Europe, NATO and the European Union. The views expressed are his own. --

It is to be hoped that President Obama has a developed sense of humour. The man heralded by many as the new Messiah of political renewal lands in London this week not to the chorus of approval he might have expected on his first official trip to Europe but to crowds roaring with anger and frustration at the global economic system which his country underpins.

from The Great Debate:

World stuck with the dollar, more’s the pity

jimsaftcolumn5-- James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

The dollar is, and will remain, the U.S.'s currency and its own and everyone else's problem.

The idea of creating a global currency, as espoused by China earlier this week, is interesting, has a certain amount of merit and is simply not going to happen any time soon.

from The Great Debate:

First 100 Days: What not to do in public diplomacy

Kristin Lord-- Kristin Lord is a fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of the recent report, “Voices of America: U.S. Public Diplomacy for the 21st Century.” The views expressed are her own. --

As Senate confirmation hearings approach, America’s next public diplomacy leaders will get abundant advice about how to improve America’s standing in the world. The Obama administration’s nominees (an under secretary and at least two assistant secretaries in the State Department alone) would be wise to listen.

from The Great Debate:

Setback for America’s pro-Israel hawks

Bernd Debusmann - Great Debate-- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. --

"The brutal oppression of the Palestinians by the Israeli occupation shows no sign of ending ... Israel no longer even pretends to seek peace with the Palestinians, it strives to pacify them ... American identification with Israel has become total."

from The Great Debate:

U.S. cap-and-trade choice inferior to carbon tax

John Kemp Great Debate-- John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own --

President Barack Obama's first budget puts climate change at the heart of the administration's long-term economic plan. But despite the clear theoretical advantages of a simple carbon tax, he seems set to follow the EU and California in opting for a cap-and-trade system.

The budget plan commits the administration to work with Congress on an economy-wide emissions reductions program, based around cap-and-trade.

from The Great Debate:

In Cuba, low-hanging fruit for Obama

Bernd Debusmann - Great Debate-- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. --

A look at a list of the foreign policy problems facing U.S. President Barack Obama could send the sunniest optimist into depression.

from The Great Debate:

Let housing find its clearing price

James Saft Great Debate -- James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

The U.S. government should just get out of the way and allow the crash in U.S. housing; the market is too big, has too far to fall and Americans' finances are too strained.

President Barack Obama's measures, unveiled on Wednesday, are part of a $275 billion plan to try and stabilize the housing market and prevent foreclosures. It aims to encourage lenders and their agents to cut repayments for homeowners in difficulties to lower, more affordable levels as well as other steps.

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