The Great Debate UK
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
Of the many comments I heard in Pakistan, one question particularly flummoxed me. Was democracy really the right system for South Asia? It came, unsurprisingly, from someone sympathetic to the military, and was couched in a comparison between Pakistan and India.
What had India achieved, he asked, with its long years of near-uninterrupted democracy, to reduce the gap between rich and poor? What of the Maoist rebellion eating away at its heartland? Its desperate poverty? The human rights abuses from Kashmir to Manipur, when Indian forces were called in to quell separatist revolts? Maybe, he said, democracy was just not suited to countries like India and Pakistan.
The question surprised me, in part because I had never really been forced before to defend democracy, possibly because in the West we take it so much for granted that we have forgotten why it matters. It also surprised me for the sheer conviction of the sentiment.
In Pakistan, this is not a mere academic debate. Just last week, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani said there was no threat to democracy and the army had no intention of taking power. Yet the very fact he had to say so at all spoke of deep disquiet in the country over the civilian government's handling of Pakistan's floods, which with it has brought new mutterings of an eventual return to military rule.
-Laurence Copeland is professor of finance at Cardiff University Business School. The opinions expressed are his own and do not constitute investment advice. -
The first chapter of the Eurozone crisis story has ended as expected, with the Germans (and Dutch and Austrians) left to foot the bill, repeating the pattern we have seen in the last couple of years, at the micro and macro level: savers bailing out borrowers, the solvent rescuing the insolvent, the responsible minority rescuing the feckless majority from the consequences of their irresponsibility. No wonder banks don’t want to lend and firms don’t want to invest.
-Laurence Copeland is professor of finance at Cardiff University Business School. The opinions expressed are his own-
The policy debate is hotting up. On one side, we have the expansionists, arguing that it’s the Nineteen Thirties all over again, that Keynes is right now as he was then – we need more, not less government spending, we are digging our own graves by cutting back, especially as the fiscal retrenchment is continent-wide, covering thrifty North Europe as well as profligate ClubMed. According to this view, fiscal contraction will exacerbate the situation by magnifying the fall in the level of economic activity, leading to a downward spiral and, incidentally, making it harder than ever to repay our debts.
from Africa News blog:
“We didn’t launch a coup,” said Colonel Djibril Hamidou Hima, spokesman for the military group which had days earlier overthrown the president of Niger, “We just re-imposed legitimacy.”
The statement was almost a carbon copy of the one I heard in Mauritania in 2008, where the soldier who had hustled an elected head of state out of the presidential palace spent the first few days denying his actions amounted to a coup d’etat.
- John Parkinson is Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of York, specialising in democratic theory and comparative democratic institutions. In a previous life he was a facilitator, internal communications and public relations consultant. The opinions expressed are his own. -
Last weekend 200 randomly-selected citizens got together in London for a “deliberative poll” to sort through ideas for transforming British democracy. Judging by the organizers’ blog – at www.power2010.org.uk – the participants were blown away by the experience, as ordinary people always are when they take part in serious discussion on big political questions. It’s brilliant stuff to be part of, and there should be more like it, I think.
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
A Supreme Court ruling striking down an amnesty given to politicians and officials by former president Pervez Musharraf has created havoc in Pakistani politics. Among those affected on a list of 8,000 politicians and bureaucrats who were protected by the amnesty are the interior and defence ministers, who are now no longer allowed to leave the country until they clear their names in court.
"Pakistan's interior minister today found himself in the unusual position of being asked to bar himself from leaving the country," wrote Britain's Guardian newspaper.
After the talk, Straw told Reuters that the most pressing issue in UK democracy is the need for politicians to restore public trust following an expenses scandal that forced the main political parties to work together to resolve the crisis.
If statements of concern were enough to influence the brutal dictatorship ruling my country, then opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the people of Burma would have been freed many years ago. It is impossible to count the number of statements from world leaders condemning the dictatorship, whether it be for imprisoning Aung San Suu Kyi, crushing democracy uprisings, or blocking aid after Cyclone Nargis last year.
- John Kampfner is chief executive of Index on Censorship and former editor of the New Statesman. His new book, “Freedom for Sale”, will be published by Simon and Schuster in September. The opinions expressed are his own. -
Squalid is the adjective that best describes the approach of our not-so-honourable members of parliament to their own expenses. But what about the journalism that has helped to all but destroy what remaining trust the public had in its elected representatives?