The Great Debate UK

Could the Middle Eastern unrest start to unsettle financial markets?


-”Kathleen Brooks is research director at The opinions expressed are her own.”-

The peoples of the Middle East are rising up and letting their political views be known. In Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen protestors have taken to the streets to demand political change, and in the case of Tunisia they have succeeded. These tensions between the people and their governments have caught the global media’s attention. It has also set off something of a domino effect with other autocratic regimes in the region worrying that the same could happen to them.

The protests were sparked initially by rising food prices. They are a sensitive issue in the Middle East; in Egypt, for example, they have been rising at a 17 percent annual rate. With approximately 15 percent of Egypt’s population living in poverty, the rising price of food erodes living standards and fuels resentment at governments perceived as turning a blind eye to the plight of the poor.

However, as the protests gather momentum criticism of food policies has spread to criticisms of the ruling elite and charges of corruption and economic mis-management threaten to topple more than just Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Adding fuel to the protests are high youth unemployment rates – it’s running at 35 percent in Egypt. When more than half the population is under 25, the lack of opportunities for ambitious, energetic young people is a deeply de-stabilising force.

A new paradigm for inflation


-Kathleen Brooks is research director at The opinions expressed are her own.-

Looking through the minutes of the Bank of England’s policy meetings for the past year, there are a couple of patterns that you see emerge. Firstly, that rates are on hold, and secondly, that the UK’s elevated inflation rate is temporary. Now the European Central Bank has joined the chorus. ECB President Trichet recently sounded confident that prices will moderate, even though consumer prices rose above the ECB’s target rate of 2 per cent in December.

from Africa News blog:

Selling Africa by the pound

The announcement by a U.S. investor that he has a deal to lease a swathe of South Sudan for farmland has again focused attention on foreigners trying to snap up African agricultural land.

A few months ago, South Korea’s Daweoo Logistics said it had secured rights to plant corn and palm oil in an even bigger patch of Madagascar - although local authorities said the deal was not done yet. Investors from Asia and the Gulf are looking elsewhere in Africa too.