Opinion

The Great Debate

Who will be Rockefellers of BRIC nations?

John D. Rockefeller’s immense wealth made “rich as a Rockefeller” part of the lexicon. But his legacy rests not on what he earned. As the founder of Standard Oil and the richest person in history, Rockefeller donated so much money during his life that he needed a team of philanthropy specialists to distribute it. The result was the Rockefeller Foundation, chartered in 1913 “to promote the well-being of mankind throughout the world.”

Much as the Gilded Age in the United States created titans like Andrew Carnegie, Cornelius Vanderbilt and Rockefeller, the economic success of emerging powers has produced a new class of multimillionaires and multibillionaires. Brazil, Russia, India and China are home to 276 billionaires, according to the most recent Forbes list, almost a quarter of the world’s total. Many have begun to focus on what Carnegie called “the business of benevolence.” This nascent trend is poised to grow. But it requires support if philanthropy is to meet its potential to tackle the developing world’s socioeconomic challenges.

Philanthropy is a powerful tool because its contributions can go well beyond money. Many emerging donors are prominent citizens because of their business success. This gives them familiarity with their countries’ economic and policy issues as well as an ability to influence the national agenda. They can invest not just financial resources but also expertise and connections that can bolster the projects they support.

The need for both is great. The same growth that has produced remarkable wealth in emerging countries has left many behind. According to the latest World Bank data, 22 percent of rural Chinese live on less than $1.25 per day — far fewer than in the past, but still alarming. In India, 34 percent of people in rural areas and 29 percent in urban areas live below the same threshold. And in Brazil, while acclaimed programs such as Bolsa Familia have drastically reduced poverty, the poorest 10 percent continue to earn less than 1 percent of all income. The richest 10 percent earn some 55 times as much. Organized philanthropy can play a central role in helping those who remain poor in increasingly rich societies.

Small-scale individual and community charity has a long history in the Global South. What is unprecedented is the number of people with the wealth necessary to tackle the root causes of major socioeconomic problems on a transformational scale. This capacity has existed in the West since Rockefeller, but developing economies have produced this level of private wealth only in the past two decades.

America’s path to alternative energy runs through Brazil

Mitt Romney alone can no longer be saddled with the label of most obvious flip-flopper among this year’s presidential candidates. That honor instead belongs to Barack Obama, whose 180 on the Keystone XL pipeline construction last week was sufficient to induce whiplash among oil industry executives and green advocates alike.

In an effort to actually make good on his “all of the above” energy policy, promoting both fossil fuel and renewable energy, President Obama had no choice but to pull off a neck-twisting reversal. Five months ago he postponed a decision on whether to build a controversial $7 billion pipeline to bring Canadian oil sands fuel down to Texas refineries. But it turns out that was only a temporary sop to the activists who see the structure as both an environmental threat as well as the embodiment of reckless Big Oil greed.

Now, with his opponents falsely equating current high oil prices with Obama’s perceived inaction on domestic energy development, Obama is acting differently. He’s scrambling to counter them by not only reconsidering the earlier postponement but actually accelerating the pipeline’s build as a national priority.

Brazil’s attack on Chevron is a dangerous error

A truly bizarre international incident has gone largely unnoticed, even though it is one of the most shameless shakedowns of an American company by another country in recent memory. What is happening now in Brazil could easily scare off U.S. companies that may be looking to do business overseas.

What happened was that a small amount of oil seeped from cracks in the ocean floor near an oil well that was operated by Chevron off Brazil’s coast. This oil seep occurred some 200 miles offshore, was successfully stopped in four days, has been fully contained, and caused no harm to the environment, wildlife or human health. The amount of oil that leaked from the cracks in the ocean floor was less than 0.1 percent the size of the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Instead of sitting down with Chevron in candid talks to find preventive measures against future incidents, discuss reasonable reparations and additional cleanup, Brazil’s prosecutors went after Chevron like a rabid hound lunging after a hotdog.

from MacroScope:

India’s central bank battles alone in inflation struggle

INDIA-ECONOMY/RATES What more does India's central bank have to do? Last week data showed March inflation rising to almost 9 percent on an annual basis. More importantly, core inflation is above 7 percent for the first time in 3 years meaning demand-side pressures are rising fast. And that's despite the Reserve Bank of India raising interest rates eight times since last March.

The inflation data comes just after a quarterly HSBC report based on purchasing managers indexes showed that inflation in India seemed impervious to monetary policy tightening.

The truth, is the inflation-fighting central bank has little backup from the government which remains stubbornly in spending mode. Its foot-dragging on reform and foreign investment contributes towards keeping food price inflation high. This year's fiscal deficit target is 4.8 percent of GDP and even this
is seen as optimistic.

Shifting wealth: does the developing world hold the key to building a stronger economy?

The following is a guest post by Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation Development. The opinions expressed are his own.

The world’s economic center of gravity is changing. Global GDP growth over the last decade owes more to the developing world than to high-income economies. If these trends continue, by 2030 developing countries will account for nearly 60% of world GDP on a purchasing-power parity basis, according to OECD calculations.

While high-income countries have been languishing in the worst recession since the 1930s, China and India have continued to power ahead. This is not a single stand-alone event, but a sign of an important structural transformation in the global economy, a process we call “shifting wealth.”

China and the world economy

gerard-lyons Dr. Gerard Lyons is chief economist and group head of global research, Standard Chartered Bank. The views expressed are his own.

The world is witnessing a shift in the balance of power, from the West to the East. This shift will take place over decades, and the winners will be:
- Those economies that have financial clout, such as China
- Those economies that have natural resources, whether it be energy, commodities or water, and will include countries, some in the Middle East, some across Africa, Brazil, Australia, Canada and others in temperate climates across, for instance, northern Europe
- And the third set of winners will be countries that have the ability to adapt and change. Even though we are cautious about growth prospects in the U.S. and UK in the coming years, both of these have the ability to adapt and change.

China is at the center of this shift.

The scale and pace of change in China is breathtaking. Against this backdrop of dramatic change, let me look at China’s impact on the global economy, especially in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

Financial crisis is greatest threat to international security

Paul Rogers is Professor of Peace Studies at Bradford University and Global Security Consultant to Oxford Research Group. Any views expressed are his own.

Paul Rogers

Unless global responses are made to the current economic crisis, the biggest threat to international security will be the impoverishment of hundreds of millions of people, leading to radical and violent social movements that will be met with force, resulting in still greater conflict.

Oxford Research Group’s 2008 International Security Report, The Tipping Point?, published on 13 November, points to some improvements in security in Iraq in the past year as well as the potential for major changes in US policy in South West Asia with an incoming Obama administration.  It also finds that the recent deterioration in East West relations after the Russian intervention in Georgia in August can be reversed, but its main conclusion is that it is the global financial crisis that is now the most dangerous threat to international security.

The world’s expanding top table

– Paul Taylor is a Reuters columnist, the views expressed are his own –

LONDON (Reuters) – Move over America! Make space Europe! The world’s top leadership table is expanding to bring in emerging powers from Asia, Africa and Latin America to help rescue the global economy.

This week’s Washington summit of 20 nations, called to discuss reforming the international financial system and avert a further worsening of the credit crisis that began in the United States, sets a precedent for a new international order.

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