The Great Debate UK
By John Foley
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own
The Thaksins' surprise win in the Thailand elections already has investors' vote. As the opposition party of Yingluck Shinawatra -- sister of exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra -- took a surprise majority in elections on July 3, the baht strengthened, and the cost of insuring Thailand's debt against default fell some 20 percent. The local stock market benchmark index rose 4.1 percent. In truth, there is some way to go before Thailand attains enough stability to regain favour with global investors -- but it's a good start.
Thailand doesn't need a political about-turn. The deposed Democrat Party shepherded the Thai economy prudently. Even a bout of bloody violence between the red shirts, who back Thaksin, and the yellow shirts who favour the royal establishment and Democrats, failed to knock the country off its course towards 8 percent GDP growth in 2010. That's largely because both sides respected the importance of strong banks, moderate leverage and fiscal prudence, and ensured that a downturn did not turn into an economic crisis. A dependence on exports, equivalent to around three-quarters of GDP, has helped separate growth from politics too.
But instability has brought a cost. Investors haven't piled into Thailand in the way they have neighbours like Indonesia and Malaysia. For Morgan Stanley, the country is its biggest "underweight" among emerging markets, partly because of an elevated sense of political risk. Around $1 billion of investment drained away in the month before the elections. Ongoing concerns that the victorious Puer Thai party might create discord by calling for an amnesty for Thaksin over corruption allegations -- or vengeance on those who supressed red shirt protests in 2010 -- could linger for months.
Few things better sum up Egypt's uncharted future than the vague policy platform of the Muslim Brotherhood, a long-repressed Islamist movement poised to become a decisive force in mainstream politics. With the country's military rulers reluctant to push through major reforms without a popular mandate, all eyes are on the emerging political class set free by the overthrow in February of veteran leader Hosni Mubarak.
from The Great Debate:
-Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own-
President Barack Obama is close to the half-way mark of his presidential mandate, a good time for a brief look at health care, unemployment, war, the level of the oceans, the health of the planet, and America's image. They all featured in a 2008 Obama speech whose rhetoric soared to stratospheric heights.
"If...we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I'm absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs for the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last best hope on earth."
from Afghan Journal:
What is a worse prospect for an Afghanistan election – election fraud on an industrial scale or a quiet campaign of intimidation that keeps voters away from the polls, or forces them to vote for the most powerful candidate?
That seems to be the choice facing many Afghan voters ahead of the Sept. 18 parliamentary election, particularly those in the Pashtun tribal belt in the south and east where so much of the fraud that marred last year’s presidential ballot was committed.
Afghan voters can be excused for feeling ballot fatigue. The September vote will be their fourth in six years.
There have been some improvements but the key questions of poor governance, corruption and security remain unanswered despite the number of ballots they have cast. To turn out again will be a real test of their commitment to democracy, a right taken for granted by many in the West and grumbled about when they are asked to exercise it. It would hardly be surprising, given the risks, if many decided not to vote.
– James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –
To look at sterling and gilts, you would hardly know that Britain is sailing into a general election which will likely deliver a weaker government with a diminished ability, if not will, to grapple with high debts, an uncertain role in the global economy and an aging population.
– Hugo Dixon is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –
Breaking up the banks is no silver bullet. Politicians on both sides of the Atlantic — including two of the party leaders fighting the UK election — want to separate so-called casino investment banks from utility lenders. But such simple rules would create arbitrage opportunities and rigidities without curbing excess risk-taking.
from Matt Falloon:
If a car slams into a bus stop just yards away as you launch a last-ditch election offensive, you might be forgiven for thinking that the gods are
not on your side.
But even after the nightmare week British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has had, such portents of doom have little visible effect on the self-proclaimed underdog in this, one of Britain's most closely fought parliamentary elections for 25 years.
– George Hay is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –
The UK’s forced investments in the banking sector are in rude health. The 41 percent holding in Lloyds Banking Group and 70 percent stake in Royal Bank of Scotland are comfortably above where the government bought the equity. But that doesn’t mean whoever wins next week’s general election should charge into a sale.
– Ian Campbell is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –
A first estimate of UK first-quarter growth is a chilly 0.2 percent. Failure of government policy, the opposition will say. Shows the folly of proposed Conservative spending cuts and tax increases, Gordon Brown, the prime minister, will claim. But a colder financial look will see that enormous stimulus has so far produced the weakest of recoveries. Whatever the election outcome, the UK’s leaders are going to have to be grown-ups. In this emergency, cooperation – or coalition – is required.
– Peter Thal Larsen is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –
Britain’s bankers were already braced for an uncomfortable election. But the U.S. fraud allegations against Goldman Sachs, combined with the rise of the Liberal Democrats, have given bank-bashing renewed impetus. The popularity of the attacks means they could resonate well beyond the current campaign.