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Weekly Summaries

16th of August – 22nd of August

Chaos at the airport in Kabul

Thousands of Afghans continue to try to flee the country, with some clinging on to departing planes and crowds at the airport trampling people to death. Britain and Canada have since announced that they will both take 20,000 Afghans each who had fled the country. Meanwhile, President Biden defended the “hard and messy” retreat from Afghanistan, claiming that he had to either follow through on the deal with the Taliban he inherited from President Trump or fight the Taliban, according to the New York Times.

Earthquake in Haiti

Haiti was already trying to cope with the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake and the murder of President Jovenel Moïse in July. Now, another earthquake has hit, the death toll of which has now increased to more than 2,200 people. The government also estimates that around 10,000 more people have been injured. Heavy rains have made rescue missions difficult and the people are turning to local churches for support.

Elections in Zambia

Hakainde Hichilema, the leader of Zambia’s main opposition party — the United Party for National Development — won the presidential elections, receiving 59.38% of the votes. His main opponent, Edgar Lungu, who was the previous President, received only 38.33% of the votes. It is only the third time in Zambia’s history that an opposition leader won the election.

Other News

  • Amazon has taken over Walmart’s position and become the world’s largest online retailer operating outside of China, according to the New York Times
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News

A Noisy Return to a Post-Pandemic Normal

Introduction

As COVID-19 infections throughout the world rise, especially with the Delta variant — a mutated version of the virus — it brings into question, when will we get back to a new ‘normal’. While parts of the world are already returning to a pre-pandemic norm, countries in Africa still lag behind in securing vaccines for their healthcare workers. Until the world can ensure a safe and equitable distribution of vaccines, there will be no normal — for a while. 

The United Kingdom

Dubbed “Freedom Day,” the United Kingdom is returning to pre-pandemic normalcy. All restrictions have been lifted, and with 68.8% of the population having received a 2nd dose, all is going well, until you start to take into account the steady rise in infections — especially with the transmissible Delta variant, which killed thousands in India a few months ago. Like Shakespeare’s play on words, this is another gamble with the economy. For the past few months, the British economy has been stagnating, recent consumer trends show that household expenditures decreased by 11% when compared to Q3 2020-2021, and a loss in consumer spending hurts aggregate demand in the UK. This has a negative effect on the GDP and led to a loss in income, rise in unemployment, and consistent failures to meet monetary policies set forth by the Bank of England. 

Downing Street is now trying to get people back out: partying, eating, drinking, and working; and throughout the western world, governments have taken similar approaches. Across the pond, the United States is, for the most part, open, while Canada is coming out of lockdown. Lockdowns have hurt local business, people are frustrated and government debts and deficits have taken a toll on the state. However, in most of the Western world, we see that vaccines are readily available, but most countries still do not have enough vaccines to return to a ‘new’ normal. 

Georgia

Countries such as Georgia, Ukraine, or Belarus for example are not relatively poor states — in comparison to the rest of the world — but lag behind in vaccination rates. Vaccine hesitancy is rampant among the public and even with government encouragement, few people volunteer to take it, and in order to save their economies, prematurely opened up. This leaves them vulnerable to COVID-19, which delays the world’s return to normal, and raises a philosophical question: do the ends justify the means for some countries that are opening up prematurely due to vaccine shortages? For example, the IMF predicts Georgia will grow at 7.7% this year due to opening up prematurely, but amid rising delta infections, hospital beds filling up, and exhausted medical and financial resources, it is very possible many will die in the next wave. 

However, Georgia isn’t alone. There are a hundred other countries facing the same question. Do the ends justify the means? What to prioritize? Nonetheless, getting the jab is important — no matter where you live — as it means you are one less person to vaccinate and more vials can be donated to other, lesser developed countries. The faster vaccines can be secured for poorer, lesser developed nations, the faster we will return to a ‘new’ normal because a dozen nations don’t represent the world. The longer it takes to vaccinate any human, the longer this pandemic drags on, and the longer you’ll wear a mask. So, if you have the opportunity to do so, take your dose as it’ll help strengthen the world from a virus which churned the world to a halt.

Sources

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Analysis

Singapore’s Economic Transformation

Introduction

In the 1960s, Singapore was an underdeveloped country with scarce resources after being a British colony for more than 100 years. Today, Singapore is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world and has transformed into a modern city with the second-highest population density in the world and a skyline full of skyscrapers. How was this possible?

Singapore immediately after gaining independence

After gaining independence in 1965, Yusof bin Ishak served as Singapore’s first president and Lee Kuan Yew was Singapore’s first prime minister. At the time Singapore was facing many problems. Most of Singapore’s 3 million inhabitants were unemployed and more than two-thirds of Singaporeans were living in slums or so-called squatter settlements in the fringe part of the city. Singapore’s immediate neighbors, Malaysia and Indonesia, were initially not friendly towards Singapore. Additionally, Singapore lacked access to natural resources, a clean water supply, proper sanitation, and infrastructure. Originally, the prime minister at the time, Lee Kuan Yew, hoped to modernize Singapore through foreign aid, but no country showed interest in helping Singapore.

Singapore and globalization

While a member of the British colonies, Singapore’s economy was focussed mainly on the entrepôt trade. However, there was very little perspective for the future of this industry. Therefore, politicians decided to focus on industrialization, specifically developing labor-intensive industries. This was a big step as Singapore had undergone very little industrialization before. Once production started, Singapore was forced to adapt once again as its neighbors (Malaysia and Indonesia) did not want to trade with it. Therefore, Singapore started looking into globalization as an opportunity to trade with the “developed” world. To attract foreign investment, Lee Kuan Yew worked to create a Singapore that was safe, corruption-free and had low taxes, putting in place harsh penalties — even including the death sentence — for people who disobeyed the law. Furthermore, all independent labor unions were also meshed to form the National Trade Union Congress (NTUC). These new measures helped Singapore become attractive for multinational corporations, especially because Singapore’s political system was very stable.

Singapore and foreign direct investment

Singapore was hugely successful in attracting multinational corporations. In fact, by the end of 1972, “one-quarter of Singapore’s manufacturing firms were either foreign-owned or joint-venture companies” (according to ThoughtCo.). Among the foreign investors, Japan and the U.S. were especially influential. All of the cash flowing into Singapore meant that between 1965 and 1972, Singapore was able to achieve annual double-digit GDP growth every single year. In order to maintain their growth, the government decided to start heavily investing in education. Technical schools were set up and the multinational corporations investing in Singapore were encouraged to train their unskilled workers. People who couldn’t find jobs were given jobs in sectors such as the tourism and transportation industry by the government.

Singapore today

Today, Singapore’s port has become the second-busiest in the world, only behind Shanghai. Before the outbreak of COVID-19, more than 10 million visitors came to Singapore annually. Aside from the shipping and tourism industries, Singapore’s medical industry has also grown significantly, alongside the banking industry. Despite its small size and comparatively recent economic transformation, Singapore is now the 15th largest trading partner of the United States. In 2019 there were over 3,000 multinational corporations that operated in Singapore. If you don’t mind abiding by some comparatively strict laws, Singapore is one of the best places to live these days, offering its citizens the third-highest life expectancy in the world. Singapore really has become a “powerful and financial center” (according to the BBC) of the world.

More recently, Singapore has had to grapple with an increasing number of unemployed due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Aid packages and policies have been put in place by the government to protect jobs and create opportunities for people. However, Leila Lai states that in order to survive, “Singapore will need to accelerator economic transformation and establish itself as a key player in the Asian and global realms of technology, innovation, and enterprise.” Although there is hope, only time will tell to what extent Singapore will be able to recover from the effects of the pandemic.

Sources

  1. https://www.thoughtco.com/singapores-economic-development-1434565
  2. https://www.bbc.com/news/business-32028693
  3. https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/government-economy/economic-transformation-must-speed-up-for-singapores-survival-beyond-covid-19

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News

The G7 Summit in Cornwall

What is the G7?

The G7 is a political establishment, founded in 1975, that addresses current and potential future challenges that can affect the growth of the global economy, including the impacts of fluctuating oil prices and of emerging markets. The G7 is made up of some of the wealthiest economies across the world — the US, the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan (China is not a member of the G7). The organisation is not an official, formal entity and therefore has no legislative or authoritative power to enforce policies or laws around the world. However, due to the powerful nature of the countries involved, policies can be introduced within said countries, helping to resolve global issues.

What is the purpose of the G7? 

The intergovernmental organisation meets periodically to assess economic and monetary issues that have developed throughout the world between each summit. They discuss and sometimes act in order to assist in resolving global issues, particularly those that concern the global economy.  Their efforts have allowed the organisation to launch initiatives, which fund issues and relieve crises, including several aimed at relieving debt within developing nations. For example, the establishment provided $300 million in 1997 to help construct the containment of the reactor meltdown at Chernobyl, following the nuclear disaster. 

What did they discuss in Cornwall last week? 

As expected, the main topic of conversation was resolving the current global crisis, COVID-19. The leaders within the establishment debated the importance of a stronger global health system and reviewed a potential plan of action which could reduce the global health inequality that could protect us from future pandemics.  Their agenda further included discussion on actions taken towards climate change, e.g. the unsuccessful Paris Agreement of 2015, and trade agreements. This was a big topic for Britain in particular, since talks regarding Brexit began in 2016 when Britain decided to leave the European Union.

What were the outcomes of the meeting? 

The meeting had three major outcomes: “A Billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine (1)”, “no more coal (2) ”, and “tech giants and tax havens targeted (3)”.

  1.  The leaders at the conference pledged to deliver over 870 million vaccine doses to the developing world, on top of the 250 million already promised by the US and the 100 million from the UK. This action will not only allow the HIC’s to recover from the pandemic but allow LIC’s to recover, also. This will have a rather large impact as the lower-income countries are more at risk of an unrecoverable economic depression than higher-income countries. 
  2. There was a unanimous agreement in which the G7 leaders pledged to phase out coal-fired power generation at home and reduce/end funding for new coal-burning power plants in the developing world. Furthermore, the leaders committed to offering developing nations $2.8bn to help them switch to cleaner fuels. These plans will not only help reduce carbon emissions but will consequently reduce climate change. A large issue within climate change is that developing countries do not have funding to provide renewable sources of energy. Therefore, this initiative is of great importance as it will allow countries to take a global stance against global warming.
  3. The summit agreed to take steps towards dissuading MNC’s (multinational co-operations) from shifting profits to low tax-havens. The leaders signed up to levy a minimum 15% corporate tax rate. This will help boost economies especially following the pandemic, which has caused severe economic instability globally. Furthermore, the leaders have also moved to help protect the global financial system from the impact of climate change by agreeing on rules which require companies and financial institutions to disclose the extent to which their business is exposed to climate change risks.

Sources

  1. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/06/g7-summit-covid19-tax-environment/
  2. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/g/g7.asp

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Analysis News

The UK’s Fossil Fuel Move

The Background

In late 2020, the UK government announced plans to completely ban the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030 – previously aimed at 2040. These efforts are a step towards Boris Johnson’s 10-point environmental “green industrial revolution” plan and are part of a global effort to phase out fossil fuels. This plan is approximated at £12 billion and aims to create over a quarter of a million jobs nationwide. Apart from the fossil fuel vehicle phase-out, it also vows to quadruple offshore wind farms (which essentially increases the UK’s wind power capacity to power all households), boost hydrogen production, invest in small and advanced nuclear reactors, and several other efforts to curb the climate crisis. 

Problems with Lobbyists

Although the plan may seem like a massively scaled initiative to accelerate the move towards sustainable development, many are not too pleased with the efforts made. Firstly, the car industry has been lobbying the government this month to urge a delay in the implementation of this ban; this is not surprising at all. Major car manufacturers such as BMW, Ford, Honda, Jaguar Land Rover, and McLaren all argued against these bans in written submissions, and BMW stated that there is “no scientific evidence to support such ambitious market uptake in the UK” for the previous 2040 ban, let alone this new and earlier date. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) is a UK lobby group, which aims to support and promote the interests of the automotive industry. SMMT calculated that this ban would cause a drop in car sales from £2.3m in 2025 to only about 800,000. Furthermore, SMMT’s chief executive is also worried that 9 years is not enough time to convince the public to switch to the greener electric vehicles and believes that many drivers would find it much more convenient and cost-efficient to stick to their regular way of life. However, moving this ban date to 10 years earlier would make the UK the fastest G7 country to do so. Although it would reduce the UK’s emissions significantly earlier than initially planned, it also severely impacts the marginal costs and research & development plans of several car manufacturing firms. It also puts them in a difficult position in terms of developing their supply of different vehicles and being able to adapt to changing market conditions and demand.

Apart from the car industry, other parties are dissatisfied with the announcement of this plan – including the Labour party. They claim that this plan is deeply disappointing in ambition, and say that it won’t effectively mitigate the current environmental concerns or the unemployment caused by COVID-19. Labour is striving for a green stimulus package, and is referring to Johnson’s 10-point plan as a “pale imitation” of what the country really needs.

Conclusion

Despite the divergent views on this new announcement, it is undoubtedly a step towards a greener future. This ban still works to catalyse the country’s plans to net-zero emissions and the phase-out of fossil fuels. What will actually provide assurance, however, is proper evidence to the public that Downing street and the UK government will pledge and commit to turning these ambitions into a transformative, yet urgently needed reality to curb the harrowing effects of climate change and also provide the UK with the jobs they need.

Sources:

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Discussion

Has the British history education system been ‘white-washed’?

Throughout my education, I was given a wealth of knowledge, or so I believed, surrounding many influential and pivotal moments within history. However, on reflection, I noticed that the whole story had not been told, whether this be a missing key person that influenced a decision that changed history or an unknown warrior that helped fight for Britain, one way or another.  The British education system focuses mainly on the achievements of those who are Caucasian. Therefore, I believe that not only is our education system failing us, but it is also one of the reasons that systemic racism exists in such a progressive time period. I hope that we can one day live in a world where everyone and their achievements can be celebrated equally, no matter their race, ethnicity or background, a world where equality is commonplace. 

Today I leave you with this poem by John Agard, who wrote “Checking out me history”, to remind us to explore the influence of a variety of people, to fill the gaps, that our education system left out so carelessly.


Checking Out Me History:

Dem tell me
Dem tell me
Wha dem want to tell me

Bandage up me eye with me own history
Blind me to me own identity

Dem tell me bout 1066 and all dat
Dem tell me bout Dick Whittington and he cat
But Toussaint L’Ouverture
No dem never tell me bout dat

Toussaint
A slave
With vision
Lick back
Napoleon
Battalion
And first Black
Republic born
Toussaint de thorn
To de French
Toussaint de beacon
Of de Haitian Revolution

Dem tell me bout de man who discover de balloon
And de cow who jump over de moon
Dem tell me bout de dish ran away with de spoon
But dem never tell me bout Nanny de Maroon

Nanny
See-far woman
Of mountain dream
Fire-woman struggle
Hopeful stream
To freedom river

Dem tell me bout Lord Nelson and Waterloo
But dem never tell me bout Shaka de great Zulu
Dem tell me bout Columbus and 1492
But what happen to de Caribs and de Arawaks too

Dem tell me bout Florence Nightingale and she lamp
And how Robin Hood used to camp
Dem tell me bout ole King Cole was a merry ole soul
But dem never tell me bout Mary Seacole

From Jamaica
She travel far
To the Crimean War
She volunteer to go
And even when de British said no
She still brave the Russian snow
A healing star
Among the wounded
A yellow sunrise
To the dying

Dem tell me
Dem tell me wha dem want to tell me
But now I checking out me own history
I carving out me identity

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Analysis

Brexit – Another issue that the British Government must resolve?

Brexit, as many will know, is the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, a motion that has caused a dramatic divide within the British Public, one that will not be healed for many years to come, due to the overwhelmingly negative economic impacts of the deal. As the LSE Blogs correctly states, “The more the UK distances itself from the EU’s economic institutions and policies, the greater the increase in trade barriers and the higher will be the costs of Brexit.” It is debateable as to whether the British government can afford the cost of Brexit, especially when this economic crisis has been exacerbated by the current pandemic, which has caused irreparable damage to the British economy.  When discussions about leaving the European Union sparked, the HM treasury analysis on the immediate economic impacts concluded that within just two years: the GDP (gross domestic product) of the UK would decrease by at least 3%; Britain would experience a year of negative growth, placing the country into a recession and most importantly, over half a million of jobs would be lost. Knowing this, why did the British government go forth and encourage this plan of action? Many would argue that this was a simple answer . Polls conducted by the British government concluded that those who voted ‘Leave’  believed “the principle that decisions about the UK should be made in the UK’ and that leaving ‘offered the best chance for the UK to regain control over immigration and its own borders’, a social, economic and political issue that had been debated in parliament for many years. But how has Brexit changed these immigration laws? Previously, EU laws stated that one of the four freedoms enjoyed by EU citizens was the free movement of workers. This meant that workers could move to a country within the EU, with his/her family, taking up another job within said country. This was a key issue that the majority of the British public opposed. When Britain left the EU on December 31st 2020, the government finally put an end to the act of free movement, via the Immigration Bill.  As stated on the governments website, the Bill consists of 7 clauses and three schedules which apply to entire UK population. While the Bill would repeal free movement in UK law, it would not set up the future UK immigration system. The future system will be implemented in the Immigration Rules. Although this movement would potentially create jobs for the British public, it is not without its economic challenges. A study conducted by Warwick Business School concluded that the UK economy relies on migrants, many of which fill low-skilled, but necessary jobs around the country. Migrants from the 10 central and eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004 and 2007 made a net contribution of almost £5billion to the UK economy in a decade- money that the UK government cannot afford to lose in such pressing times. The economists who conducted the study claimed that the South East would be the hardest hit due to the fact that 35% of all UK migrants live in London.  The WBS website states that “the Government could have to abandon austerity and its cap on housing benefits to convince people to move from the north to the south of the UK, or introduce more draconian benefit sanctions to force workers to relocate” in order to accommodate for the loss of the working immigrants. Now that Brexit has “resolved” the important conflict of immigration laws that the British government opposed so strongly, it is up for debate as to whether the UK citizens are relieved and still agree that leaving the EU was the best plan of action for Britain.

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Analysis

The Economic Consequences of Brexit

The UK exit (Brexit) from Europe can be considered a major negative shock to the UK economy with the economic fallout in the rest of OECD (organization for economic Co-operation and Development). Brexit is akin to a tax on GDP, imposing a rising cost on the economy which would not be incurred if the UK remained in the EU. The shock can be transmitted through several sectors that would change in relation to the time’s horizon. In the near term, the UK economy is hit by tighter financial conditions and weaker confidence; after a formal exit from the European Union, there will be higher trade barriers and the mobility of labor forces will be restricted. By 2020, GDP is over 3% smaller than otherwise (with continued EU membership), equivalent to a cost per household of GBP 2200. So, structural impacts can take hold through the channels of capital, immigration, and lower technical progress. In particular, there is the possibility that labor productivity will decrease because of a drop in foreign direct investment and a smaller base of skills. The extent of foregone GDP is increasing over time. By 2030, in a central scenario, GDP would be over 5% lower than otherwise – with the cost of Brexit equivalent to GBP 3200 for households. The effects would be larger in a more pessimistic scenario but remain negative even in the optimistic scenario. Brexit would also hold back GDP in other European economies, particularly in the near term resulting from heightened uncertainty about the future of Europe. In contrast, continued UK membership in the European Union and further reforms of the Single Market would enhance living standards on both sides of the Channel. This way the UK would: 

  1. Continue to have preferential access to thor-country markets, which will be lost as a result of Brexit. Negotiating new trade treaties with countries will take time.
  2. Most likely have a stronger economy. Due to Brexit, the economic incentives for people to migrate to the UK will gradually decrease.
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Weekly Summaries

28th of December 2020- 3rd of January 2021

Brexit Deal

More than four years after British citizens first voted to leave the EU, Brexit is really happening: something that many people did not believe until the last minute. The UK’s transition period ended with a “Christmas Eve trade agreement.” This means that Britain is now no longer a part of the EU’s customs union and common market. However, the trade agreement means that British financial firms will lose their biggest benefit of being an EU member: the advantage of offering services across the EU from a UK base. Although at the moment it looks like the Conservatives are for the agreement, the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson may still face opposition from hard-liners and businesses. This past Wednesday, the deal was easily approved by Parliament. 

Earthquake in Croatia

A 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck in Croatia on Tuesday afternoon, killing at least six people, wounding dozens more, and leaving several towns in ruins. Tens of thousands of people were left homeless.

Other news:

  • President Trump signed a $900 billion pandemic relief deal
  • Argentina voted to legalize abortion
  • At least 16 people were killed and 60 more wounded at an airport attack in Aden, Yemen. The attack happened at the same time as an airplane with members of the newly-formed government onboard came in.
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Weekly Summaries

7th of December – 13th of December

Brexit Updates

Time is running out for the UK and the EU to reach a deal before the UK is supposed to leave the EU on the 31st of December this year. This past Monday the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had announced that he would travel to Brussels in a final attempt to reach a trade agreement with the EU. On Wednesday the European Commission then published no-deal contingency measures in an attempt to prevent chaos on the 1st of January 2021 if no agreement is reached till then.

Vaccinations in Britain against the Coronavirus

In Britain the first people have now received a vaccine against the coronavirus, which was developed by two companies called Pfizer and BioNTech. However, two of the people who received the shot so far have had serious allergic reactions to the vaccine, but they both have a history of severe allergic reactions. The vaccine will be administered by health care workers, the military, volunteers, and even first-aid workers. The National Health Service is aiming to vaccinate tens of millions of people in a matter of months. Furthermore, Canada has now also approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for people older than 16 years.

Other News:

  • Morocco joined the ranks of Arab countries who have normalized relations with Israel
  • Almost 50,000 Ethiopians from the Tigray region have sought refuge in Sudan
  • European Union leaders agree on a $2.2 trillion stimulus package